Off-Track Navigation in the Tyndall Ranges of Tasmania’s Wild West

Have you ever had a burning desire to just walk where no one else has? Or avoid the crowds of people on popular hikes, in hopes of finding solitude for self-reflection? Picture yourself crossing vast plains of unmarked and untouched territory. The raw landscape of the Tyndall Ranges is calling and inviting you to take a glimpse into the wild west: a region about to become Tasmania’s newest adventure hotspot.

This micro adventure takes you into the backcountry of the Tyndall Ranges, north of historic Queenstown and into an up and coming trekking heartland for the next bold adventurer. This 2-day peak bagging trek will have your feet itchy to cover more ground and navigate off-track territory.

Expect to traverse vast open plains that are home to Tasmania’s native Nothofagus gunnii, cushion plants (Abrotanella forsteroides), and scoparia (Richea scoparia) bush. Navigate around tarns and glacial deposits, and climb to 1191 meters above sea level, to take in the 360 degree views of the ocean to the west and the rugged Overland mountains to the east.

Highlights

  • The Views – 360 degree views to Mt Murchison, Mt Eldon, the ranges all around Cradle Mountain National Park
  • The Camping – on vast plains, or in a cave, or by the alpine tarns
  • The Alpine Tarns – opportunities galore for glacier cold dips 
  • Autumn – around March/April the fagus bushes begin to turn yellow – it’s a beautiful time to experience autumn in the bush

Note: All trail statistics were measured using a Suunto9 GPS watch, which may vary from route information published by Tasmania Parks.

Alright, let’s dive into the trail notes. 

Day 1 – Lake Tyndall + summit attempt of Mt Tyndall

Trail Stats: 10 March 2020 / 5.81km / 4.07hrs / 855m up / 243m down

Lauren sent me an IG message and asked me if I had ever heard of the Tyndall Ranges. Before I even looked them up, I had already said yes to an adventure brewing. We started looking up blogs for this wild western region of Tasmania that doesn’t have too much literature or trail notes on it just yet. We consulted the Abels book (a series of 2 books designed for avid peak baggers), practiced off-track navigation and compass reading in the living room, and set off on our first off-track hiking expedition.

A 4.5 hour winding road took us northbound of Queenstown. We parked off Anthony road, 20 minutes or so past the town. Trail parking here is limited.

We began a marked trail through thick scrub and mud before the track changed to an open rocky path marked by cairns. The trail is marked by small cairns all the way to Lake Tyndall. But if you head down to Lake Tyndall first, like we did, you will need to backtrack to where you turned right for the lake, and head left for the summit for another 500m. The next 500m however, is unmarked and actually difficult to identify, hence we missed it.

Instead, we climbed two other high points right beside what ended up being Mount Tyndall. Though we didn’t stand on the Tyndall Summit, we admired it from out epic camp spot. The Tyndall summit does not have a Trig Point on it, contrary to what the Abel’s book states. Having recently spoken to a Tassie local (thank you Simon), I learned that not every Abel will have a Trig Point and that the Trig Station doesn’t necessarily demarcate the highest point on the summit! So, if you are a peak bagger, be aware that you may still need to walk a few hundred metres from the Trig Point to reach the summit point for other peaks.

Though Lauren and I were disappointed that we had not actually summited Mt Tyndall, we did celebrate all our other wins! Our camp set up was epic. As the sun set behind Mt Tyndall in front of us, we enjoyed a simple dinner, admired the stars with complete silence around us. There was no wind but as we drifted off to sleep, we heard crunching noises around our tents, so there was definitely a critter enjoying their nocturnal and late dinner.


Day 2 – Mt Geikie Summit

Trail Stats: 11 March 2020 / 13.61km / 7.22hrs / 465m up / 1075m down

We woke up nice and early to make it out of out tents for sunrise, but as we simultaneously stuck our heads out, taking in a breath of wet and crisp morning air, we collectively agreed that an extra morning snooze was in order.

A slow morning ensued thereafter. We packed up our camp, had a light breakfast and then embarked on our proper off-track trek towards Mt Geikie Summit. We had clear weather all day, which is not the usual in this region. As a safety precaution, this walk should not be attempted in unfavourable weather conditions, due to exposed plains that require proper navigation if there is no visibility.

There are no direct routes or foot paths, and the summit comes in and out of view as you cross the valley. As the landscape and environment under our feet is sensitive to human activity, it’s imperative to watch your step and be mindful that while you are off-track, you can still avoid stepping on sensitive flora.

We made our way to the summit in silence and admiration of every view around us. We were soaking in the fresh air of the high ranges. I was stoked to share this experience with Lauren, an incredible new friend and outdoor adventuress! We were in the middle of untouched beauty and crossed vast plains of fagus leaves slowly turning, cushion plants galore, and regularly filling our water bottles from fresh alpine tarns.

After lots of rock hopping and avoiding prickly scoparia bush, we reached the summit of Mt Geikie. This summit was marked by a Trig Station that we could see from Lake Tyndall. Views spanned to Mount Murchison, Lake Margaret, Eldon Peak, and the ranges of Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair National Park.

From here we turned back and made our way back to Lake Tyndall. It was a hot day and the sun exposure in the plains was intense. Upon reaching the lake, I enjoyed a refreshing dip before we continued back to the carpark via the Lake Tyndall foot path. The trail from the lake follows the same path taken in.

Essential Gear

  • Tasmania Parks Pass
  • Guy Rope – a good item to have for shelter set up in various environments
  • Rain Pants and Rain Jacket – re-treat your rainproof gear with Nikwax – get a tech wash & DWR re-proofing spray
  • A sleeping bag liner – the liner adds warmth and keeps the bag clean 
  • Peak Design Capture Camera Clip (for the photography buffs!)
  • 1-2 extra days worth of Emergency Food
  • Gaiters – good snake protection 
  • Camper’s Pantry – local Tasmanian Freeze-dried food! 

How to Get Here

Personal or Hired vehicle 

  • Parking coordinates: 41°56’03.4″S 145°33’46.3″E
  • 4.5 hours northwest of Hobart, off Anthony Road. Upon passing through Queenstown, follow the main road (A10) towards Burnie, past the Strahan turnoff. 13km past Queenstown, you will turn right following signs for Lake Plimsol (B28), 11km later turn right on a gravel road. Park before the gate.
  • Trailhead Start41°56’01.2″S 145°34’09.9″E
  • Walk past the gravel gate & over the bridge. Continue for another 600m before turning left to follow the power lines. After 200m you will see a Tasmania Parks walking registration box on the right and the track.

Concluding Thoughts

We found that the off-track walking was easy because our weather was on point. We could see the point which we needed to get to for the majority of the way which made navigation easier.

We did feel rather more mentally exhausted from concentrating on calculating our routes and navigating more precisely, especially around large ledges and drop offs. It was nonetheless an excellent introduction to off-track walking and we look forward to adding more of it into our hiking repertoire.

Skill Level

– Advanced –

Trail consists of thick bush, steep ascent, boulder hopping, off-track navigating