Far-reaching mountain quests – aka peak bagging – are universal. Scotland famously has its Munros (mountains above 3000 metres in height), Colorado has its 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet) and Japan has its 100 Famous Mountains. Even tiny Tasmania has a stake in this world of mountain missions, with its own list of chart-topping peaks known as the Abels.
Named after Abel Tasman, the first European to sight the island, and modelled directly on the Munros, the Abels are a list of Tasmanian peaks above 1100 metres with a drop of at least 150 metres on all sides. Made up of 160 summits, they were created in the 1990s for inclusion in Bill Wilkinson’s two-volume guide to the mountains and have become one of the grand goals for walkers in the state.
There are simple mountains on the list – you can drive to the summit of Mt Wellington – but there are also peaks like Mt Anne.
Mt Anne is one of the most prominent mountains in Tasmania. The highest peak (1423 metres) in the state’s Southwest Wilderness, its topography is essentially rock standing on the shoulders of rock, with a bit of rock thrown in. Cliffs guard its summit, and boulders are strewn across its shoulders like heavy dandruff.
Many attempt to reach Mt Anne’s tip, but not so many get there, spooked by the exposed scrambling through its escarpments or defeated by the fierce weather that so often smashes into it from the west.
As I climbed the long spur to the plateau that rolls out beneath Mt Anne a few weeks ago, four fairly burly blokes descended. Only one of them had reached the summit, despite the perfect conditions. The other three coughed, hemmed and hawed a few war-wound-type excuses.
I did some calculations as I walked, tallying the people I knew who’d come to climb the so-called Queen of the Southwest. I quickly came to 11 attempts for just one summiteer. Mt Anne packs more slap than her regal name suggests, but if you want to be an Abels bagger, welcome to Mt Anne…