Saturday, 16 Nov 2019

Ben Lomond Snow Pole

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Ben Lomond
- A man with a seven-inch (18 cm) penis may proudly compare his organ to the average man’s five to six inches (12-15 cm) but be intimidated when learning another wields an eight-inch (20 cm) rod.

Crowning Tasmania’s north-east, and towering over its namesake in the Scottish Highlands, Ben Lomond is an adventure playground suited to lovers of alpine summers as much as it is to snow-play enthusiasts. This lasso-shaped half-day return walk catches the top of the state’s second-highest peak (after Mount Ossa, on the Overland Track). Tread the Plains of Heaven and climb Tasmania’s second-tallest mountain on a great day out in the north-east. See more interesting information https://bennevis.co.uk

Ben Lomond Snow Pole - photo 1

Ben Lomond. The track traverses a field of red-hued rocks.

Walk:

11.5km out-and-back

Time required:

3–5 hours

Best time:

Mild, clear day; snow can fall at any time of year. The alpine heath is prettiest when in flower, during spring and early summer.

Grade:

Moderate

Environment:

Eucalypt forest, boulder fields, alpine plains, ski village

Best map:

This one

Toilets:

Toilets in the Ben Lomond ski village

Food:

None

Tips:

After your walk, if you are confident on gravel roads and conditions are dry, drive 5km further up Ben Lomond Road and navigate remarkable Jacobs Ladder, a steep switchback onto the plateau. For safety reasons, stopping is prohibited (as are pedestrians) so check out the view of this remarkable road and its dolerite-cliff frame from Watchtower Lookout at the top before coming down.

Ben Lomond Snow Pole - photo 2

Ben Lomond

Some hiking guides describe a loop walk that follows the road from Ben Lomond ski village back to your car. Many bushwalkers do this but the Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service prohibits pedestrians on Jacobs Ladder for safety reasons and if rangers are on duty there they will stop you proceeding, leaving you no option but to retreat up the road and return via the Car Villa track. (Wire-meshed slopes, wired rocks and metal bands around cracked dolerite columns are some of the safety measures in place on the slopes of Jacobs Ladder but sometimes there is no stopping nature doing what it wants and pedestrians are too slow to escape a landslide or rock fall.)

Ben Lomond. By shuffling cars or arranging for a drop-off (sensibly at Ben Lomond ski village so you can walk down the mountain) and pick-up, you could walk only one way; otherwise you’ll need to tread the route described.

The walk starts at Car Villa Scout hut and car park, on the tree line, 3km into Ben Lomond National Park and an hour’s drive (47km) south-east of Launceston. The park is accessible from White Hills or Evandale via Blessington Road (C401) (and other backroads). About 3.5km before Upper Blessington, turn right onto unsealed Ben Lomond Road, the park’s only road and subject to ice and snow from June until September. The Car Villa junction is 11km up the mountain and as you drive the next looping kilometre to the scout hut a dolerite ridge appears through the alpine gums. Ben Lomond. 

Ben Lomond Snow Pole - photo 3

Ben Lomond

The walking track starts to the right of Car Villa hut, available for private bookings through the Northern Area Rover Crew (NARC). But before starting up Ben Lomond, crest the low, rocky rise beyond the track signs for views and photos of Ben Nevis (1367m) and the Upper Esk valley, often filled with cotton-wool cloud. The mountain west/left of Ben Nevis, topped with towers, is Mount Barrow (1413m), which you can summit via unsealed road.

Ben Lomond. Well-formed and easy to follow, the walking track climbs immediately, traversing a rocky slope and then dissecting a field of red-hued boulders embellished with rosettes of grey, black and white lichen at the foot of dolerite parapets. It’s a good track, with areas of compacted earth and jigsaw stonework, and you climb quickly towards the first snow poles (see point 1 on map), on a saddle (called Big Opening) in the dolerite ridge.

The snow poles are old, weathered, wooden ones poking from piles of rocks, most lacking the all-important red arrow or reflector, and shaggy with old man’s beard. Follow the snow pole line for the next two kilometres or so, through the Plains of Heaven, an exposed, rocky plateau subject to whatever the weather gods unleash and carpeted with tough groundcovers. Here grows pineapple grass, mountain rocket, scoparia, yellow-centred white daisies and snow gentians. There isn’t a tree in sight; occasional small rocks and boulders, some performing balancing acts, provide the only height. The overall effect is of unfurled tweed, woven from greens and browns and seasonally shot through with red, white and yellow flowers and fruits. Ben Lomond.

Ben Lomond Snow Pole - photo 4

Ben Lomond

About 700m from the first snow pole you cross a 50m-wide river of stone; note the interesting fracturing underfoot as you step from rock to rock. Continue on unformed footpads in places worn through to base rock but otherwise spongy underfoot. Scoparia has formed prickly domes and great rafts, some of which have been opened up, exposing gnarled trunks indicative of long life. The going can be boggy but wherever possible avoid footfalls on plants, in particular the fragile cushion plants further on. Small-scale, ski-tow infrastructure comes into view ahead as the track climbs slightly left; follow the snow poles to locked old ski huts.

Ben Lomond. The track (and the snow-pole line) forks here. This walk will bring you back up the left-hand side so keep right for now, uphill across the foot of dolerite Legges Tor, high point of the Ben Lomond range. When the snow-pole line branches again, follow the left line along the foot of the mountain ridge and then hard left about 80m up a gully of sorts piled with fabulously cracked and fractured rocks. The summit cairn is a few metres more hard left from the saddle.

The 360° view from the second highest point in Tasmania (1572m) is a visual feast over the ski field, Plains of Heaven and ridgelines beyond. In a gentle wind, there’s no better lunch spot.

Ben Lomond Snow Pole - photo 5

Ben Lomond

Ben Lomond. When you’re fed, retrace your steps down the last rocky climb, swing left and walk cross-country to the main snow-pole line. Continue towards the ski tows (see point 2 on map) and walk down a tow line to a row of shiny new, high-vis red-and-white snow poles and follow them left (north-west). Initially there is no formed track, only footpads through spongy groundcovers, but they lead downhill into the Ben Lomond ski village (about a dozen chalets).

From here, tread the road down the Ford River Valley (the river is not visible but it runs along the base of the dolerite cliffs on your right). About 1km down you’ll see a walking track on the left. This track takes you about 800m uphill back to the Summit Hut area so you can retrace your steps to the car. Ben Lomond.

Ben Lomond Snow Pole - photo 6

Ben Lomond

Ben Lomond. If you are up for an additional 3km, continue another 1.5km down the valley road to Watchtower Lookout (see point 3 on map) for an aerial view of the Ford River gorge, Ben Nevis (a sign identifies the landmarks, including Flinders Island, which is visible on clear days), and Jacobs Ladder snaking down the face of Ben Lomond plateau.

From the lookout, walk back up the road to the walking track junction, climb the hill, and retrace your steps through the Plains of Heaven to Car Villa.

“Top Walks in Tasmania”

Melanie Ball 

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