Friday Foto: Hidden Tongariro Valley

Tong valley

Walking on a trail can be like threading a line between words in a book – you only see part of the story. Move off the line – read the entire page – and a place expands and changes, developing new shapes, angles and experiences as you step through untracked land.

In a forest or in heavily mountainous country, you quickly sense the possibility of this change if you were to step away from the trail. On my recent visit to New Zealand, however, I discovered there can be just as much shift in an open, barren landscape such as that around the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. Continue reading

Friday Foto: Blyde River Canyon

Three Rondavels

How long is a piece of string? How large is a canyon?

Visit almost any great or grand canyon in the world and there’ll be some kind of chest-beating claim about its size. It’ll be the largest in the world, or on the continent, or its depth will be compared to the Grand Canyon since we’re all desperate to know how it measures up against the most famous slot of all. Continue reading

Friday Foto: Mt Roland

View along the summit plateau of Mt Roland, Tasmania

Think of great mountains across northern Tasmania and most people think only of Cradle Mountain. But to reach Cradle Mountain, you invariably drive past another imposing and isolated line of rock that is the breastplate of Mt Roland, a mountain that’s arguably the equal of its more famous neighbour.

To most who drive through here, Mt Roland is just windscreen scenery, a moment of ‘I wonder what that mountain is called’, before it’s forgotten in the quest to reach Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. Continue reading

Top 10 Mountain Treks: (#1)

It seems suitable to wrap up the year with the final, and top, pick in my selection of the 10 finest mountain trails I’ve had the privilege to trek. My favourite trek over the many pairs of boots I’ve worn out is in Ethiopia, atop the mountain range known as the Roof of Africa.

The Simien Mountains aren’t the highest peaks in Africa, though at 4550m Ras Dashen is often claimed as the fourth-highest on the continent (which conveniently overlooks a few unnamed peaks in the Ruwenzori). But it’s not the head-spinning glory of altitude that elevates the Simiens to the head of my list. It’s the headiness of its escarpment, combined with the life – both human and animal – that’s scratched out on its plateau. Continue reading

Top 10 Mountain Treks: (#2) Monte FitzRoy

It’s a pretty short journey from No 3 in my list of mountain treks to No 2. From Torres del Paine National Park you need only skip across the border into Argentina to find yourself at the foot of Monte FitzRoy, less than 200km away. Perhaps the single-most impressive mountain I’ve had the pleasure to ogle, FitzRoy is an enormous bubble of rock – its summit escarpment is more than 1km in height – rising out of the fierce Patagonian Andes.

It’s been 10 years since I hiked here, and still the walk and the landscape live with me. It was a hike of both expectation and frustration, since I walked for almost a week in FitzRoy’s shadow before the clouds parted to grant a glimpse of the mountain I’d travelled half the world to see. Continue reading

Top 10 Mountain Treks: (#3) Torres del Paine

I’m getting towards the pointy end of my list of favourite mountain treks…and quite literally with this entry. Chile’s multi-pronged Torres del Paine are one of South America’s pin-up images, with the massif’s sharp peaks rising as bent and broken as a fisherman’s fingers. Continue reading

Top 10 MountainTreks: (#4) Larapinta Trail

My amble through the world’s great mountain treks continues, and finally I come close to home. Cross the Great Dividing Range along Australia’s east coast and the continent flattens into a vast and empty plain. But it’s not universally flat. There are mountain ranges dispersed through the deserts, and few are more spectacular than the West MacDonnell Ranges. It took a long time before somebody realised the West Macs were almost custom designed for a multi-day hiking route, but eventually the Larapinta Trail was born. It was worth the wait. Continue reading

Top 10 Mountain Treks: (#5) Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc – No 5 in the list of my 10 favourite mountain treks – takes me back to my origins, to my first real extended hike. It was an accidental kind of journey that sprang from the desperation of the ABC – Another Bloody City – of my European backpacking days. This walk truly cured all, introducing me to one of the world’s classic mountain hikes and seeding my passion for mountains and the outdoors. Continue reading

Top 10 Mountain Treks: (#6) Nelson Lakes to Lewis Pass

The journey through my favourite mountain trails continues, closer to home now, on New Zealand’s South Island. But not among the usual roll calls of famous tramps. Continue reading

Friday Foto: Bathurst Harbour, Tasmania

Forest Lagoon

In Lonely Planet’s newly published 1000 Ultimate Adventures, Tasmania’s Bathurst Harbour has been named among the world’s 10 ‘epic sea-kayak paddles’. It’s not difficult to see why, in this place that belies numbers. Deep inside the state’s World Heritage-listed Southwest wilderness, it’s little more than 100km from Hobart and yet you feel centuries away. When I kayaked here two summers ago, we paddled for a week and didn’t see another person or boat until the final day – and then it was a barge carrying in a bulldozer to grade the remote airstrip at Melaleuca. Continue reading