Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sarcophilus Satanicus



Sarcophilus Satanicus. Satanic meat lover. Better know as the Tasmanian Devil. We did all we could to ski with the devil, like we did with the kangaroo, but alas, it was not to be. Turns out the devil is in trouble. The numbers of this previously common animal are down at least 80% and maybe as much as 99% from 1990s, due to a mysterious infectious cancer.

We saw devils in captivity, but despite skiing through areas where they usually would have been active, we saw none in nature.

This article is a report of my four day excursion through Tasmania's mountains with my friend Tero. Despite not seeing the devils, we succeeded in seeing red neck wallabies and opossums, hit the biggest snowfall in recent history, and skied a number of interesting routes - including a possible first descent of the Jacobs Ladder road, an infamous route to the second highest mountain in Tasmania.





Ben Lomond

I always seem to end up in places that are listed under "world's most dangerous roads". The road leading to the Tasmania's premier ski area - Ben Lomond - has steep switchbacks at the Jacobs Ladder. This section of the road first caught our attention when we tried to enter the ski area after heavy snowfall. The road was closed, and it needed to be cleared with a grader. However, the grader had lost a tire. And the tire repair truck was stuck in snow. After a couple of hours and some amount of digging and pushing the truck was where it needed to be, the grader was back in action, the switchbacks were cleared, and we could proceed.

 

 

However, the lifts were not running. Due to the amazing snow fall? It turned out not. The lift system is antiquated and mostly out of action even when the customers queue up on sunny days. What a shame. This nice ski area badly needs a ski lift update. The Facebook page for the place keeps lamenting the situation. 

But no problem. Tero and I decide to skin/hike up in freezing snowstorm with zero visibility, until the GPS and altimeter say we have reached the top of Legges Tor (1570 m), the second highest mountain in Tasmania. The base of the ski area is at 1460 m. We ski down and call it a day.





Jacobs Ladder

Our climbing at Ben Lomond had taken a lot of time, and we were the last ones to come down Jacobs Ladder that evening. Just in time. A few more minutes, and the road would have been impassable due to too much snow. A bit earlier and it would not have had enough snow. And I needed snow, because I wanted to ski the road. The snow fall on that day was exceptional; the locals said they had not seen similar amount of snow in over a decade. I have been unable to find reports of anyone skiing the road. Though it seems easy, if the snow is there. It is possible that it has been done before. Any Tasmanians know this?

So I skied the road in heavy snowfall and darkness, with Tero following me in the car and providing light. Note that I did not ski straight down the steep face, just the road. A metal net has been laid out on top of the face to prevent rock fall. Even with the heavy snowfall, the net was still mostly visible above the uneven rock. I do ski steep runs, might even ski as steep ones as this is. But I will not ski 50+ degree metal net. Oh well, even without the metal net or with more snow, avalanche danger would have been considerable.









 


Ben Lomond Facilities

On a sunny day Ben Lomond is a very nice place. The views are wonderful. The mountain is wide and open for skiing in any direction, assuming you have the ability to get back on your own. I saw the kangaroos on my way down the backside, shortcutting the mountaintop and the road to Jacobs Ladder. (Tero was kind enough to drive our car down while I had my fun. Thanks Tero!)

The backside:



There are several ski lifts in the area, although most are indeed very old. There is a bar and a cafeteria, and a sports shop. And plenty of accommodation and cabins. This ski area has potential once the lifts are put back into action!



 

Cat or opossum or something else?



Mount Field

The other ski area in Tasmania is Mt. Mawson, located within the Mount Field national park. Mt. Mawson is a ski-club operated and tiny. To get to it one must hike 200 meters higher from the parking lot to the base of the ski area. This takes good 45 minutes, even if the wiki says 20 minutes. And more if you choose the longer route by accident (as we did).

We got to the area late in the day, just as the lifts were closing. The nature around is amazing, but we did not get to do the actual ski runs. However, just returning back to the parking lot from the base was a nice ski experience.

The national park would have been a good place to spot some devils, but we did not see any. The park has also been the last place where a thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) has been spotted in the wild. Now they are extinct.



With the lifts closed, we had no energy or daylight left to try to the official ski runs by climbing. Here is one of the main slopes (with more behind the ridge at the top):



Hiking to the ski area:



Road to the ski area:

 


Launceston Afterski

Our base for Ben Lomond was Launceston. The city has a good number of restaurants and some bars, but has a sleepy feeling to it.

Oh, and about Launceston Before-ski: The place to acquire chains is autObarn. It usually makes sense to buy rather than rent, particularly if you are not returning to the same point after the end of journey.



Hobart Afterski

Our base for Mount Field was at Hobart. This is the biggest city in Tasmania and has extensive night life. Most of the bars right next to each other on Salamanca Pl near the waterfront. Much recommended!

More Pictures

Kangaroos (or really, red necked wallabies):




 Soup at Ben Lomond:


Me installing chains (with an instruction manual in hand):


More about the devils:






For the Swedish authorities: you need to go search for the Pirate Bay from Tasmania:


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Photo and video credits (c) 2013 by Jari Arkko and Tero Kivinen

3 comments:

  1. Great post! I highly enjoy your blog and check back every few months to see your new adventures!

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