Faith Dickey - Tasmania 2016
At some point in the history of the earth Tasmania slowly floated away from mainland Australia; taking with it a wealth of sheer cliffs, crack climbing, alpine peaks, dense forests and white sandy beaches. Unnoticed by tourists for some time because of it's dark prison history and aboriginal extinction, Tasmania developed slowly and seemed to evade the usual exploitation that beautiful islands experience. This history allowed for half of the island to become nature preserves and national parks, and it evolved into a nature-lovers dream. Often considered remote and hard to get to, Tasmania seems to only be frequented by the adventurous; the climbing is difficult and traditional, and there is little sport climbing to invite any kind of climbing tourism. For highlining, on the other hand, the island has mega potential.
No bolts, all naturally
Knowing there are a number of sheer, high cliffs as well as alpine peaks and rocky peninsulas, a highline trip came together this March for some friends and I. We made it through the fifteen-hour flight to Australia, caught our next one to Hobart, and landed with glee amongst rolling hills and beautiful bays. We then set out to establish new highlines in as many locations as we could in our short three-week time frame.
The difficulty of exploring new terrain with only a few pictures from google is often finding out to actually rig a highline. In the case of Tasmania, a special aspect of the trip was rigging all naturally; meaning we placed no bolts to build anchors, and once our highlines were removed there was no trace they ever existed. This was important for us because of the ethics of the island; the climbing is traditional and bolting is forbidden. The amount of gear increases substantially when slinging boulders and extending anchors is involved, and we had to carefully consider what we needed on each project and what could be used for multiple purposes.
Most of the highlines we established or repeated in Tasmania involved a minimum one-day approach, and we often camped near the lines to wait out bad weather or to allow enough time for rigging and walking. In addition to the climbing gear, highlining gear and camping supplies we often had to pack enough food and at times water. Camping a top a plateau with two hundred meter cliffs, we wanted a climbing rope in case we needed to scale a tower, and it became useful when we scouted a number of towers in a formation called the Wedding Cake, searching for potential gaps. In order to minimize the gear we carried, we often used the same climbing rope as backup on the highline, which serves as redundancy in case the main line broke.
On this particular trip I was using the TENDON 8.9 dynamic rope. This is one of my favorite ropes because it is lightweight but strong enough to be a single rope. It has wonderful handling; a soft supple feel and it passes easily through belay devices or grigris. As a highline backup, I prefer a dynamic rope to avoid the loud, slapping that static ropes have a habit of doing. I was confident taking the Lowe up a few crack climbs in Tasmania while scouting new highlines, and even after being exposed to the extreme friction of Tassie Dolerite, there was no evidence of rope abrasion. We even rappelled on the rope during our last project, and I will happily continue to climb with it in the future.
Four new highlines
After almost a month we managed to establish four new highlines on the island, and we repeated two beautiful lines our friends had opened a few months prior to our arrival. Despite this, we barely scratched the surface of Tasmanian stone, and I look forward to returning for more climbing, more highlining, and more experience in the unusual wilderness of the Australian island. The highlines we did were incredibly real; often with several hundred meters of exposure and drop beneath them. The air is pure, the sky clear, and when it isn't raining the island has so much more to be explored.