Western Arthurs

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Introduction

The Western Arthurs is a small mountain range in South West Tasmania. The range was heavily glaciated during recent ice ages and is an almost continuous series of steep cirque headwalls. While it is only 15km long, the range contains 22 major peaks and 30 lakes. The scenery is spectacular with glacial tarns surrounded by towering cliffs. The range is the best example of glaciated scenery in Tasmania (and Australia).

Along the range there is an established walking route. This follows the serrated crest of the range from one end to the other. The route follows a complicated path and at first glance it looks highly improbable that anyone could pass through.

The track is very rough and at times dangerous. It ascends and descends many steep gullies which are at times more like a rockclimb than a walk. There are no handrails, ladders or any safety aids as this is a wilderness area and such improvements are contrary to the area. The distances may seem short but a typical 4km day will take from 4 to 7 hours to walk.

There have been some changes made by management in recent years to the route. These are all aimed at reducing environmental impacts and not for walker safety. Such improvements range from stepping stones across boggy moorland, timber platforms for tents and fly out toilets.

Many experienced bushwalkers rank this as Tasmania's greatest walk. It is undoubtedly the most spectacular but it is also one of the most dangerous walks in Tasmania. The weather is also a major factor. The weather graphs show that fine days are indeed the exception and walkers must expect it to rain for about 6 out of every 10 days in summer. There are also days where the range is shrouded in cloud but with no significant rainfall. Overall, expect only about 1 in every 4 days to be clear.

The weather is highly variable, there are periods of a week where it's always clear then it will rain every day for the next 10 days. Walking here is like a lottery, you can be lucky with great weather but you can also see almost nothing. Because of the highly variable nature of the weather, this range is not recommended for your first Tasmanian walk. For those who have already seen the great scenery found on the Overland Track and the South Coast Tracks (and found those tracks easy) then a visit to the Arthurs is a logical step.

History

The Western Arthurs is the most obvious range in South West Tasmania and as such was an early attraction. The higher peaks were probably regularly climbed by the aborigines. The first recorded ascent of the range was by Robinson in 1830 and he climbed Mt Hayes with the assistance of the aborigines. He was travelling around the coast of the south west collecting the aborigines for re-settlement.

The early explorers and bushwalkers climbed the main peaks many times from the plains. Some walkers wondered if a traverse of the crest of the range was possible and in December 1960 the first full traverse of the Western Arthur Range was completed. This became an instant classic walking route and has remained popular ever since. In the late 1960's, the Hobart Walking Club put forward the proposal to name the un-named peaks, lakes and mountains after the planets, moons, and constellations. This was accepted and resulted in names like Mt Orion, Mt Procyon, Mt Sirius, Lake Mars, Lake Oberon and Crags of Andromeda.

In the early 1960's, a visit to the Western Arthurs was about a 3 week bushwalk as the closest roads were way down the Huon River or at Maydena. The entire south-west was unknown to the general population of Tasmania and was not protected or reserved in any way. In 1968, after the controversial flooding of Lake Pedder, the South West National Park was created. This contained the Western Arthur Range as the core feature of the area. A side effect of the flooding of Lake Pedder was the creation of the road to Scotts Peak Dam. This provided a close access point to the Western Arthur Range and a traverse of the range was shortened to a 7 to 10 day bushwalk. In 1982, the national park obtained further protection and recognition when it was listed as part of the World Heritage Area.

Location

The Western Arthur Range is located in the centre of the South West National Park, about 90 km south-west of Hobart.>

Access

From Hobart, follow the main roads west through New Norfolk and Maydena to Scotts Peak Dam at the end of the road, 154 km from Hobart. During summer a small bus operates 4 days each week to Scotts Peak Dam. During other seasons, a service runs once a week if there are bookings.

Maps and Track Notes

Detailed track notes for the entire range are available in the guide book, South West Tasmania by John Chapman. The TASMAP 1:100,000 Old River map covers the entire range. A new series of TASMAP 1:25,000 maps are being produced. 'Crossing', 'Razorback' and 'Glovers' cover all of the range. These maps indicate the route but do have a few location errors. The guide book contains colour topographic maps showing the correct track location.

Suggested Itinerary

1 Bus to Scotts Peak, walk to Junction Creek, 7km, a half day
2 Up Moraine A to Lake Oberon,11km , a long day
3 Over Mt Pegasus & Mt Capricorn to High Moor, 4km
4 Along the Beggary Bumps to Haven Lake, 4km
5 Over Mt Scorpio to Promontory Lake, 5km
6 Over West Portal to Lake Rosanne, 10km
7 Descend to Arthur Plains and walk to Cracroft Crossing, 5km
8 Walk along plains to Junction Creek, 19km
9 Return to Scotts Peak, 7km, and catch bus back to Hobart

 

Permits

A general entry permit to a Tasmanian National Park is required. The best value for bushwalkers is the 2 month Backpacker Pass for $27 which provides entry to all national parks. There are no bookings or quotas on numbers of bushwalkers visiting the park.

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Photographs and text are copyright © 2000-2015 John Chapman.
Last updated : December 8th 2015