Despite being Tasmania’s second-highest peak, Legges Tor is – after Mt Wellington – arguably one of the most easily accessed. It’s under an hour from Launceston and you can literally drive to the top – almost! Which of course begged the question– why on earth hadn’t I climbed it yet?
Date: 23rd June 2019 – Summit: 1572m
Distance: Approximately 10km return.
Time taken: 2 hrs, including stops.
Difficulty: easy, even in winter with snow. The initial climb is stout but levels off across the plateau to the actual summit. Just watch out for ice!
Type of track: Rocky, turning to alpine heath over the plateau. Well defined with ski markers and posts.
Access from: Carr Villa, off Ben Lomond Road just after the lower car park and gates.
It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – hiking in elevated, exposed areas in winter in Tasmania is serious business. Especially in snow, and doubly so again when going in minimalist trail running gear as described here. Weather conditions can and often do change quickly, so be prepared. Carry the appropriate gear including a PLB or Satellite Communicator, know your route, be realistic about your abilities to navigate and cover the terrain and don’t be afraid to turn back if the weather turns sour. The mountain will always be there tomorrow!
I’d moved up north from Hobart a full decade ago, but it was a nearly six years before I went anywhere near the mountain. That was a training day spent running with friends that started all the way at the Blessington Road turn off, and literally went all the way up the mountain road – including the infamous and much-feared Jacobs Ladder – to the ski village. Then, rather than head for the summit (a seemingly obvious choice, no?) we instead ran around the Little Hell cross country track and down to the impressive non-Abel Ossian’s Throne… and then headed back down to our cars at the base of Ben Lomond Road. From memory it was well over 30km in total; I’d only just started getting in longer distance running, so was quite an effort.
This, of course, was in the time before I even knew what an Abel was. These days, such an opportunity would not be allowed to slip! Tracey had already bagged Legges Tor with her walking group prior to our relationship, so it had remained a lesser priority, one to chase when I had some time free on my own.
Eventually, opportunity would present itself. Tracey had been suffering this winter’s particularly nasty brand of lurgy all week and was in no mood for anything other than a long sleep-in come the weekend. The winter sky was clear and crisp however, and with recent snowfalls down to the 1000m mark, the pull of a morning snow mission was too much to resist, as was the need to recommence regular run training after an extended break post-UTA100. Oh, and a shiny new pair of Saucony Peregrine’s purchased earlier in the week were begging to be broken in too!
As mentioned, it is possible to drive within a kilometre of the Legges Tor summit, though in winter PWS wisely restrict access to 4WDs with snow chains only beyond the lower car park some 6km before the ski village. Of course, this is hardly considered sporting in the world of Abel bagging – some effort must be made for a summit to be worthy – so I left the car alongside the car park and commenced running up the short side road to Carr Villa Lodge, where the Summit Pass track proper begins.
The formal track is clear and wide but with plenty of stones – not the easiest for running on. The track soon starts to gain serious elevation as it headed for the curiously named “Big Opening” and with it came the first patches of snow. Numerous footprints were embedded in the (by my guess) three-day old snow.
Even within the first half-hour of run-walking, the quick rise produces some stunning views, with Blessington and Ben Nevis filling the view below.
After an increasingly steep climb through the “Big Opening” the terrain levels off to a more moderate climb through the “Land of Little Sticks”. Here the track follows a swamp-like drain which, unsurprisingly, was frozen solid. The frosty blue ice looked rather pretty, but obviously offered no traction whatsoever, so care was made to step on the edges of the track and more often than not, through the short alpine scrub alongside.
With the snow cover increasing as altitude was gained, the track continued up a short pinch and onto another flatter section known as the ‘Plains Of Heaven’. With total snow cover over the ground and the morning sun making its presence felt in otherwise deep blue skies above, I tended to agree.
Following a few pairs of footprints along the row of ageing ski poles that mark the track, the snow underfoot was firm and crunchy, not much chop for skiers, but for running it was perfect. The new Peregrines were proving to be quite an adept snow shoe, despite their light and decidedly ‘road shoe’ uppers.
Further elevation is gained at a very comfortable rate for the best part of another kilometre until arriving at a pair of old, weathered ski huts that sit just below the northern edge of the summit.
From here the route to the summit follows a pronounced gully south – on the appropriately titled ‘Summit Pass’ track – for a few hundred metres, then turns sharply east up another steep gully for hundred more. The sizeable summit cairn then finally reveals itself.
The photos above don’t do the views justice. On such a clear and bright day, the entire north-east of the state was visible. The photos also don’t convey how peacefully serene and quiet it was up there; nary a breath of wind, and equally strange, no other human activity to be seen or heard of. Granted, it was very early winter and the snow cover was decidedly thin, but I would have expected more snow seekers making the most of the glorious weather. Quite a thing to have a whole snow-capped mountain to yourself on a perfect winter’s day.
Approximately 300m to the south-west of Legges Tor stands Giblin Peak. At 1569m elevation it ranks as Tamania’s third highest peak, yet due to the minimal prominence between it and Legges Tor, it misses out on Abels status. Nonetheless, being a short skip across the relatively flat ski field, there was no reason not to summit it too.
A bee-line was made across the field towards yet another ski lodge, which nestles comfortably within the base of Giblin’s rocky summit, no doubt providing some welcome protection when the prevailing weather isn’t quite so wonderful. Behind the lodge it was just a matter of negotiating the large and snow covered boulders towards the highest point where – unfortunately – a ski lift terminates. Ugly infrastructure aside, the views of Norman’s Folly and down across Giblin Fells to Stacks Bluff at the southern end of Ben Lomond were quite spectacular.
With both high points conquered it was time to simply retrace my steps – footprints in the snow, as it were – across the plateau and down off the mountain. This was quite a joyous affair, the gentle downhill slope providing very easy and enjoyable running, though on more than one occasion I clearly over-tested my abilities to negotiate the icy patches of track and found myself sliding along flat on my backside! No doubt the sight would have been comically amusing had anyone been around to witness it.
Within two hours elapsed I was back at the car. All in all a short but very enjoyable first play in the snow for winter, and another Abel ticked off the list to boot.