"Have you ever heard of the Totem Pole in Tasmania?" One quick telephone call and a mere five weeks later, Sebastian was on his way to a breathtaking climbing trip. His story tells of his unforgettable climbing experiences!

Up ahead, in the near distance, we occasionally get a glimpse of the cliffs that we’re meant to be climbing. Getting through this seemingly impenetrable rainforest first however, doesn’t appear likely!

So far I have not seen much of this corner of the island. In the last twelve hours there’s only been darkness, fog, wet clothes, leeches and no dinner. We’re shimmying along on a precipitous in the fog. At home, in Guffert, Germany we’d be called the “six dwarfs”. There are plants to be found here in Tasmania that you would normally find growing in a terrarium and pre-historic animal life that I suspect are man eating – more than likely though, I suspect that we have driven off any deadly creatures with our constant swearing. Heaving yet another jungle branch up and low and behold – there it is! Right before our eyes: One heck of a conglomerate composition (and a good measure of quartzite), razor sharp and what looks as tough as nails.

I can hardly believe what I’m seeing: Here, at the other end of the world, are two beautifully glued rock anchors guiding us down. How the hell did I get here?

In Tasmania there are gigantic destinations for climbers. | Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter
In Tasmania there are gigantic destinations for climbers. | Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter

Climbing in Tasmania with only five weeks to spare? As they say Down Under..no worries!

Flashback to five weeks prior: Our marketing director Hendrik calls me into his office. “Wastl, ever heard of the Totem Pole in Tasmania?” I’d hardly had a chance to take my next breath, when he burst out with: “We’re climbing it in five weeks!”

Our Australian partner in merino wool, AWI, had invited us to visit sheep farms, to meet farmers, see for ourselves the animals and working conditions and to generally shape our own opinions of the working structure. Five weeks later, we land in Hobart, Tasmania with a camper van already awaiting us – our home for the next ten days. Our Ortovox team consisted of; Marketing chief Hendrik, Photographer Franz, drone freelancer Markus from Berlin, Ortovox PR manager Martina and I – Sebastian – from the Ortovox graphics department.

 Wild island creatures

First stop of the trip is a key partner for Ortovox-merino wool: the sheep farm Ashby. Besides the impressive vastness of landscape and sense of freedom that the sheep are privileged to, I meet completely different “creatures” that make even more of an impression: the Ashby children, Alice (10), Percy (7) and Dougal (5).

Over the summer months all three helped out, shoveling sheep dung and with their sizable pocket money earned, bought themselves motocross bikes (a personal childhood dream of mine). I can still picture how crazy it must have appeared, me being chauffeured around on these bikes by the little ones!

After a drone/tree collision and a hole in the roof of our camper van, we then take on the other Ortovox partner farms – Montecute and Rothamy. Conclusion: We are more than ecstatic about the life that these sheep enjoy in wild Tasmania. Time to start our climbing trip!

Fascinating rock formations in Ben Lomond Mountain Range

Impressive crack lines are to be had climbing in Ben Lomond Mountain Range in Tasmania. | Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter
Impressive crack lines are to be had climbing in Ben Lomond Mountain Range in Tasmania. | Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter

The Ben Lomond mountain range with Legges Tor is 1,572 meters high, the second highest peak in Northeast Tasmania and is distinguished by its rust red dolerite rock. Breathtaking walls and cliffs that stretch as high as 200 meters, seem to appear by magic, with their soldier straight columns. This is where the Frews Flutes are to be found – Australia’s Nr 1 crack climbing area and our first climbing mission. For a nice gentle introduction and even nicer photos, we start out with a few lengths of top rope and are more than happy about our decision in view of the challenging routes.

On the east side of Tasmania a milder, warmer climate dictates. The landscape is reminiscent of the rolling hills of Scotland or the foothills of the Alps. However, the constellation of gumtrees, Wallabies and herds of sheep is a reminder that we are indeed not anywhere near Europe! Heading towards west Tasmania is yet a whole different, wilder world again!

 Far removed from civilization – lonely west Tasmania

We pass places with names such as Interlaken, Flintstone, Little Pine Lagoon and Lake King William and come to an ever increasing dense jungle in the former Tasmanian mining area. The few sparse cities that we come across, with their empty swept streets, are reminiscent of a film set !

In Tasmania (not only when climbing) is one often the only person in sight. | Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter
In Tasmania (not only when climbing) is one often the only person in sight. | Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter

Tasmania’s west is even more remotely populated than its east side – only occasionally do we see signs of life with scatterings of a fence or the odd sign post. The feeling of travelling to the other end of the world, has true meaning here in its omnipresence!

The climate here is also harsher, nature more serious, rugged, and wilder. The wind phenomena of so-called Roaring Forties that incessantly roars from west to east, can be felt not only in one’s joints and right to the marrow, it can also be seen clearly, in the way the trees and shrubs bend ferociously towards the east. Rocky landscapes that on the east coast of the island are broken up with sweet grasses, gumtrees and bush, show here in west Tasmania as steep and rugged. They are also covered with lichens, dwarf shrubs and other plants that often resembles Europe’s alpine flora.

In the middle of nowhere – the Tyndall Ranges

Back to our original climbing plan: We are on our way to the Tyndall Range. A three and a half hour ascent through swamp followed by a cave stay is upon us. Our starting point: A parking lot in the middle of nowhere, in the rain forest. Frantically we pack our gear – and head off into the swampy thicket. Dusk has already settled in, clouds and rain as well and for the first time in two hours, we take a break on a rock to free ourselves from the onslaught of leeches …

The black body of water below us provides a stunning backdrop. | Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter
The black body of water below us provides a stunning backdrop. | Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter

City boy from Berlin, Markus, with his first time truly ever in the mountains, is quickly becoming fatigued from carrying heavy luggage (each of us needs to pack quite a load on our shoulders – batteries for the drone, water, food, climbing gear and film equipment) and also from the ascent. We need to forge on though so we can make it to our wet, uncomfortable bivy night in the rainforest.

The next morning the first sunrays reach the cave through an almost endless, dense sea of cloud and lands straight at our feet. We warm ourselves while we reflect on all that’s happened over the hours just recently spent.

Incomparably beautiful climbing location

"I'm yet to witness, something as incomparably beautiful as this. Below me - approx.300 meters of air, then a dark green, almost black lake "| Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter
“I’m yet to witness, something as incomparably beautiful as this. Below me – approx.300 meters of air, then a dark green, almost black lake “| Photo: Ortovox / Franz Walter

The bivouac was located approx. 30-40 meters from the base – the start and finish of the Tyndall Range’ climbing routes. Hendrik and Franz had, the evening before, already checked the topography to find out which route would be best for the upcoming photography and film work. The choice was made with the “How hard can it be?” route; 165 meters, 22 degrees in the Australian review, e.g. UIAA 7 + / 8-. Still feeling exhausted from the night before, we still managed to climb over rock slabs toward the abyss with exuding motivation. Scrub, slippery ferns, palms, overhanging and entwined vines and all manner of undergrowth were blocking our path. We continued though with a determination to make it to the cliffs!

It doesn’t take long before we see them – the prized anchors that show us the way down. Time to take out our approach shoes and put our climbing shoes on. To check our gear again, organize an abseil stand, climbing harness and knot controls – and…GO!

Something so incomparably beautiful as this I have, as yet, never experienced! Below me – approx. 300 meters of air, then a dark green, almost black body of water combined with massive climbing rock and endless rainforest. The only way out is up! The climbing is spectacular. We are jubilant, cheering at almost every pull and already melancholy as we know its short lived, the climbing in this spectacular environment. The absolute seclusion of Tasmania is awesome…

No rope team above or below us – rock and cliffs so rough and virgin as though no man ever laid a hand on them. As we sit after the climb at a rocky outcrop “Summit”, we gaze out into the vastness of Tasmania, perfectly content. What a trip!

 More climbing reads: