Travels in Tasmania

The island of Tasmania, generally abbreviated to "Tassie” is 240 km (150 mi) to the south of the Australian mainland. It has a population of around 520,000 with over 60% living in or around the cities Hobart or Launceston. Large parts of the island are still wild, untouched, forested hills and wilderness, although there are also vast areas of controversial forestry plantation and logging - and less controversial wine growing areas.

The island is believed to have been occupied by indigenous peoples for 40,000 years before British colonisation. It is thought Aboriginal Tasmanians were separated from the mainland Aboriginal groups about 10,000 years ago when the sea rose to form Bass Strait. The Aboriginal population was estimated to have been between 3,000 and 7,000 at the time of colonisation, but was almost wiped out within 30 years by a combination of violent conflict with settlers and the spread of infectious diseases to which they had no immunity. The near-destruction of Tasmania's Aboriginal population has been described by some as an act of genocide by the British.

Janet and I had previously visited the remote west of the Island, the Pie Man River area. It's famed for its colourful history: escaped convicts who in desperation allegedly became cannibals; prospectors who found nuggets of gold the size of rugby balls or nothing; an impenetrable forest inhabited by Tasmanian Devils and perhaps the previously numerous but possibly now extinct Tasmanian Tiger (or correctly called the Thylacine - Tasmania’s yeti?).

Trekking along Wineglass Bay

This time we headed south to the rugged peninsulas south of Hobart. New access walking routes have recently been opened giving stupendous cliff top and forest walking and staggering coastal exploration. As the Skipper of our boat heading out of the former prison settlement at Port Arthur said looking south, “On a clear day from a high vantage point on the boat, with some good binoculars... you still can’t see anything“. The next land is 2500km away.

Climbers in action on the south coast pillars

The sea cliffs in the other direction are however the thing to see. The North Face Pro Team has attempted some of the pillars that rise out of the churning waters and of course there is the famous Totem Pole, the scene of Paul Pritchard’s accident and the name of his book.

Totem Pole

From the land it is pretty exciting too, with forest trails leading through rain forest and conifers to exposed headlands, leading to the top of massive cliffs. On three separate days, I had an encounter with a snake. I mentioned it to our local guide (an Aussie environmental campaigner/activist called Jeff), He brushed the experience aside. “Oh, that’ll be just a Tiger snake, it doesn’t really want to kill you!" Most reassuring.


(L) Warning was too late. (R) Putting on rain jackets. Jeff was right.

Later we also had an evening close encounter with penguins coming on land to feed their young and not so close encounters with migrating whales.

We walked the Three Peninsulas route in a couple of days and the suggested 3-day wild camping Freycinet Circuit, in a very long hot single day, but for me the highlight was an ascent of Mount Amos. Before we parted company, Jeff gave us warnings not to go up if it was raining. In typical fashion we thought, “How hard can it be? It’ll be fine”. Imagine soloing up the Idwal Slabs in walking boots, but they are higher than the Glyders Mountains from the sea, with the only possible scrambling route marked with arrows glued onto the rock. Tricky on the way up, very tricky on the way down, especially as it did rain!

Jeff was right.

By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

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Primo Scottish Winter Climbing

It’s February, it’s cold and I have been looking at conditions and sharpening my axes since December when it first started snowing. I was lucky enough to land myself in a good week with ‘primo connies’ and felt very excited for my first play in the snow in Scotland!

This season in Scotland has been good so far (the occasional thaw) but conditions seem to be holding up quite well. The scenery was quite extraordinary. Postcard style snowy mountain tops and dry walk-ins made the walking and climbing just that little bit more special.

Throughout the week we climbed Twisting groves - IV5+ Scabbard Chimney V6 on Stob Coire nan Lochan, East Buttress on Beinn Eighe - IV5 and Point Five Gully V5 on Ben Nevis. Thanks to Andrew Marshall for the photos, patient belays and putting up with my scared/slow climbing!

Warm up day on Twisting Groves - easy ground at the top

East Buttress - easy snow slopes on the top

Crux corner on East Buttress

Rogue Pitch on Point Five Gully (without spindrift)

Rogue Pitch on Point Five Gully (with spindrift!)

By Michael Morrell

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Women with Altitude

Recently I was asked “Why are there no women featured in the café photographs?” It was a valid question from a customer who was concerned that female climbers were under-represented and sometimes not at all. Although I could offer a reasonable justification, I could not argue with the facts. Therefore, I am grateful to Becky Bull for drawing my attention to this naïve omission and I hope that she and others will be happy to see our new display, ‘Women with Altitude’.

While women climbers were historically fewer in number and did not necessarily attract the attention of their male contemporaries, they were most certainly present across every climbing era. Some may not be household names but they all deserve recognition for their pioneering spirit and skill whether as rock climbers, alpinists or authors.

Women with Altitude includes portraits of:

Beatrice Tomasson (1859-1947)

An English mountaineer who climbed extensively in the Dolomites, Beatrice Tomasson is best known for her first ascent of the south face of the Marmolada in 1901.  This 2500’ climb on the biggest face on the highest Dolomite peak was her inspiration and was completed with her guides Michele Bettega and Bartolo Zagonel.

Beverly Johnson (1947-1994)

At 24, Beverly Johnson was an established member of the Camp-4 community in Yosemite. She was part of the first all-female ascent of El Capitan and the first woman to solo Dihedral Wall in 1978. Johnson also skied across Greenland, windsurfed across the Bering Straits, was the first person to cross the Straits of Magellan solo in an open kayak and the first person to pilot an autogyro in Antarctica.

Junko Tabei (1939-2016)

Junko Tabei was a Japanese mountaineer who founded the Ladies Climbing Club: Japan (LCC) in 1969. The club's slogan was "Let's go on an overseas expedition by ourselves", and was the first of its kind in Japan. She was the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, and the first woman to ascend all Seven Summits by climbing the highest peak on every continent.

Josephine Flood née Scarr (1936-)

An English-born Australian archaeologist, mountaineer, and author, Josephine Flood led the Women’s Kulu Expedition in 1961, and the following year joined the Women’s Jagdula Expedition to Lha Shamma in Nepal. Her book Four Miles High tells the story of these two expeditions and overland drive to India to reach them. In 1961 she was the first woman to lead Cenotaph Corner.

Wanda Rutkiewicz (1943-1992)

Wanda Rutkiewicz was a Polish mountain climber and the first woman to successfully summit K2, which she did without supplemental oxygen. Her goal was to become the first woman to summit all fourteen of the 8000m peaks. She successfully climbed eight before dying on Kangchenjunga. It’s not known whether she reached the summit.

Lynn Hill (1961-)

For most climbers, Lynn Hill needs little introduction. She was widely regarded as one of the world’s leading sport climbers from 1986 to 1992, winning over thirty international titles. She is famous for making the first free ascent of The Nose on El Capitan, Yosemite in 1993, and for repeating it the following year in less than 24 hours. Hill has been described as both one of the best female climbers in the world and one of the best climbers of all time.

Elizabeth Coxhead (1909-1979)

Elizabeth Coxhead wrote the classic novel, One Green Bottle, now acknowledged as one of the best British mountain-climbing novels ever published. It centres on 18-year-old Cathy Canning, a working-class girl from Birkenhead who escapes into climbing in North Wales. Coxhead was a proficient climber herself and according to historians in her hometown, her motto for climbing was, `A sport is advanced by the handful of people who do it brilliantly, but it is kept sweet and sane by the great numbers of the mediocre, who do it for fun’.

Henriette d’Angeville (1794-1871)

Henriette d'Angeville was a descendant of a French aristocratic family. Following her grandfather’s execution and father’s imprisonment in the French Revolution, the family moved to the mountains, where she became an enthusiastic walker. In 1838, she became the second woman to climb Mont Blanc (Maria Paradis was the 1st in 1808). Her book My Ascent of Mont Blanc was not translated into English until 1992.

The photographs in the Women with Altitude display were sourced from the Ken Wilson archive. Most of these are black & white images taken during the 1960s and 1970s at the time he was editor of the influential magazine Mountain. He was particularly good at producing detailed crag shots, fine portraits and being in the right place at the right time e.g. first ascents at Gogarth including the likes of Joe Brown and Peter Crew. The Wilson Archive also contains an excellent collection of slides and prints sent in by climbers from all around the world, many of which were included in Mountain or in books published by Wilson under the banner of Diadem or Bâton Wicks.

The Outside Café also exhibits artwork and photography by Phil Gibson, Tim Hulley, Stuart Johnson, Katherine Rhodes and Sarah Tasker. Their work can be purchased through the shop. 

By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Underground Madness

The days have got shorter, evening climbing is a summer memory, and the attractions of caving take hold. I say ‘attractions’ but in between hysterical giggles (of fear or joy?) I often find myself asking what the hell am I doing here?

This usually happens when:

  •  I’m lying in a pool of water kissing the ceiling of a rocky squeeze.
  • Passing by a mountainous pile of precariously balanced mining detritus (appropriately termed ‘deads’).
  • Abseiling through the frigid spray of an underground cataract.
  • Emerging into the hypothermia inducing wind chill of a frosty Derbyshire moor.
  • Teetering through a maze of scaffolding or wooden props engineered by exploratory cavers.
  • Ascending a never-ending pitch on a single free-hanging rope whilst lugging a heavy bag of caving tackle.


abseiling through the frigid spray

teetering through a maze of scaffolding

Am I selling it to you yet?

However, reward really must equal effort otherwise surely there is no sense to it?

One cannot help but:

  • Wonder in awe at the ingenuity and hardiness of our mining forebears who must have suffered unimaginable working conditions.
  • Enjoy the thrill of going to unfrequented places.
  • Be absorbed by the intricacies and technical wizardry of setting up single-rope systems that allow vertical progress up and down.
  • Be fascinated by the beauty of nature’s decorations – spindly and fragile stalactites, bulbous and penitent stalagmites, frozen cascades of pristine white calcite, curly gravity-defying helictites…
  • Be just a little smug while drinking that well-earned pint afterwards knowing that you didn’t waste your evening watching the TV.

the beauty of nature’s decorations

The tally so far this winter season has been 7 caves/mines of which 4 have been new to us:

  • Streaks Pot, Stoney Middleton Dale: a tight and wet through trip.
  • Owl Hole, near Earl Sterndale: a relatively short excursion to some well-decorated caverns.
  • Waterways Swallet, near Waterhouses: an exciting 125m scramble down through some incredible scaffolding.
  • JH, head of Winnats Pass: big 60m pitches that eventually connect with the Peak Cavern /Titan systems.

With thanks to Mick Langton for his ever-present company and Martin Bunegar for occasionally joining our madness.

By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Chris Harle
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Mentok Kangri A Peak in the Land of Passes

Ladakh is a region of northern India that forms the borderland with Pakistan and China/Tibet. In the distant past it was called “Little Tibet” with what we now know as Tibet being “Greater Tibet”. The name Ladakh means The Land of Passes, and it is well named. Politically, it is an area in a state of constant alertness because the never-ending conflicts in Kashmir and the Karakoram border with both China and Pakistan are also not far away.

After acclimatising and sightseeing in the capital Leh (3500m) and visiting some of the areas unspoiled Buddhist monasteries, we set off into the heart of this remote area. It is only inhabited during the summer by nomadic herders and by rare animals such as wolf and kiang (wild ass) year-round. In this area porters are not used to carry gear but rather ponies or mules. They cope brilliantly with the conditions, whether it is altitude, rocky terrain or river crossings. We coped less well than all of them.

Our mules crossing the Yalung Naula Pass (5400m)

After a week of inspirational trekking crossing many high passes and camping in remote valleys, we reached the Yalung Naula Pass (5400m) where we got our first views of the glowing azure blue, 20-kilometre long lake Tso Morari, whose colour famously changes with the colour of the sky and whose surface frequently reflects the image of one of the higher peaks in the area, Lungser Kangri (6600m). These days, sadly, the peak is closed to climbers and trekkers due to its proximity to the Chinese border.

Our goals were on the opposite side of the lake, the 6000m+ summits of Mentok Kangri that provide steep snow/ice slopes that lead to an easier sinuous ridge linking the summits of Mentok Kangri 1, 2 and 3. We made a high camp at 5300m at the only water source on the mountain this year. We were alone there for 3 nights.

Mentok Kangri from high camp

The ice face of Mentok Kangri 2 above us looked steep, so initially we explored a couloir further down the ridge that one of our climbing Sherpas had climbed some years ago. It turned out to be low on snow and high on rock fall, so we abandoned that plan and returned to the original ice face route.

The route initially climbed a series of moraine ridges to about 5600m. Above that a steepening glacier lead to an ice wall of about 45 degrees where we fixed ropes for several rope lengths. Above the ice wall the angle eased but still gave a long uphill pull to the rounded summit. The view from the summit was magnificent, we could see peaks in China in one direction, Pakistan in the other and far below the shining waters of Tso Morari lake.

On the way to the summit of Mentok Kangri 2. The headwall descends on the left

A classic mountain adventure.

Climb Mentok Kangri with KE Adventure Travel. If you're lucky you may even have Tom himself guiding you!

By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

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Tom Richardson
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