Mount Murchison lies on the west coast of Tasmania. Loved by tourists and locals alike for its “relatively short” climbing time and spectacular views, it had until recently eluded us. Why? Because every single time we have driven to its trail head we have been met by typical west coast weather of rain, snow or hail. Usually a combination of all three! There was one thing Bender and I agreed on, when it came to Mt Murchison, was that was that we wanted fine weather to soak up its views. Boy, are we glad we held out for sunshine and blue skies.
Date: 27th February 2021 Summit: 1275m
Distance: Approximately 5.5km return
Time taken: Even stopping every few minutes for photos we were easily at the summit in 2.5 hours. Return to the car took 1.5 hours. Total time 4 hours. The Parks sign suggests 5hrs which, including a lazy hour-long lunch at the summit, was bang on.
Difficulty: Moderate. Whilst most of the walk is well tracked with little to no exposure, there are small sections where those nervous around heights may take extra care. A short section of rock uses a fixed rope to assist you up but we found it unnecessary. It could be useful in wet or icy conditions, however. Though fairly short, the track climbs upwards steadily along almost the entire route. Like most mountains on the west coast of Tasmania, Mt. Murchison is very exposed to the prevailing and highly variable weather conditions of the region. Be prepared for rapid changes of weather and don’t hesitate to turn back if conditions deteriorate.
Type of track: Obvious pad, reflective markers and cairns all the way to the summit. A handful of braided tracks and rerouting has occurred, but otherwise an easy to navigate climb in fine weather.
Access from: Anthony Road.
When it takes longer to drive there than summit.
With both of us still recovering from big adventures the weekend prior (Bender fastpacking Mt. Ossa, and me soloing Mt. Shakespeare) we wanted a wander – but something on the easier side! Family commitments also meant we had one day only for our nature fix. With the west coast weather looking mighty fine – a rare occurance – we decided on Mt. Murchison.
It would take us about three hours from home to the trailhead, so we enjoyed a small sleep in and as such arrived at the trail head around 9am. Three cars already filled the short car parking area, and another pulled up behind us within minutes of our arrival. Clearly a popular spot!
Light daypacks on our backs felt indulgent compared to our big packs from a string of multi-day adventures over summer. We realised it had been seemingly forever since we had done a simple day walk. Even though a small amount of mist covered the upper reaches of Mt. Murchison, we were positive it would clear as the day wore on. Entering the trail head, the first thing that we noticed is how pretty the dense surrounding forest was.
Dogs, drones and darts!
A few stone steps inlaid into the path wound their way up to the log book, and just past that the usual Parks & Wildlife Service sign warning of steep inclines, falling rock, cliffs and extreme weather. It’s a pity that PWS also don’t include warnings against dogs, drones and darts, as we witnessed all those things during our climb. It’s disappointing that people either don’t know the rules – or simply don’t care? More on this later…
The initial 500m of trail led us thorough delightful rainforest, its canopy shielding us from the sunlight above. Softly padded by leaf litter, the track led through the forest, climbing upwards without break, but small switchbacks in the route took some of the sting out of the climb. Soon enough, the canopy began dropping in height, and we found ourselves stepping into the sunlight.
With the dense forest canopy now gone, we were treated to our first views – and boy were they lovely. Far in the distance to our east, Barn Bluff rose in the horizon. Its profile looked more like shapely, pointed Mt. Ida from this vantage point. To the north of Barn Bluff, we could just make out Cradle Mountain aswell, but the real superstar was Mt. Pelion West’s formidable bulk dominating the horizon. Looking south, we could see Anthony Road snaking in and out of view. The noise of the many motorbikes we had passed earlier in the morning still echoing through the hills.
Our pace dropped from relaxing saunter, to decidedly indulgent. How could we not take our time and soak up the views that seemed to get better with every step towards the summit? Particularly as the trail was levelling out somewhat, and the consistent upwards climb had eased (for now).
Down to our south west, I could make our a beautiful tarn being fed by a small waterfall. I am certain that in winter the waterfall would be a lovely sight to see. We pressed on ever so slowly, enjoying the views far too much to rush, the shutter on Bender’s camera clicking away near-constantly behind my back. Once again, the trail was climbing. Even though it was still weaving through shorter vegetation, rock was predominately the terrain under our feet.
After a steep but short-lived climb, we reached the section of steep, damp rock slabs where a fixed rope hangs, waiting to assist bushwalkers up. Thick, knotted and weathered, it has clearly been there some time! Whether it’s strictly necessary or not is dependent on the user. We both felt it would have been just as easy to free climb up the few metres. But, it was there and it was a bit of fun – so why not! I’m sure plenty of people will find it a confidence boost, and in winter or when the rock is very wet and slippery it would not doubt be very handy.
Don’t drone drongo.
As we approached the rope climb we met a few gentleman who were coming down the rope. They too were enjoying a day out but alas their day included using their drone from the summit. Please don’t use drones – in National Parks or other Reserves or Conservation Areas. It is not allowed for several important reasons, particularly to protect wildlife. It disturbs nesting birds and other wildlife, as well as annoying walkers and risking everyone’s safety! We have and very occasionally use a drone – but never in a National Park or Conservation Area.
From this point forward, the remaining track before breaching the ridgeline was easy going. Although we were still gaining elevation, there were enough short sections of relatively flat walking that made the hike upwards seem easier. Just prior to reaching the small saddle before the final climb, we stopped to look down into the unnamed tarn literally below our feet towards our east, as a fellow walker had mentioned seeing platypus in there! Alas for us there was no such joy – we could however, make out the trig point in the distance!
The only “sketchy” bit – and it’s not even sketchy.
I kept waiting for the sketchy narrow ridge section that seems to always appear in people’s Mt. Murchison photos. Given we had recently completed the Western Arthurs and they put the sketchy in sketchy, I wasn’t too worried about what Mt. Murchison could offer up. Well, dear readers, I can reassure you that even if – like me – you have a fear of exposed heights, you will be able to confidently complete the few steps necessary or even bypass the “ledge”.
Just prior to the last saddle, you dip onto the “old” path that leads down towards the outer ledges of vegetation. There are stones across the old path indicating not to go that way, and a second trail leading up and away, marked with a small orange reflector. Take that one! A few moments, later it reconnects you to the trail and a few more moments after that, you have two options.
The high or the low road.
As the path narrows and the exposure increases, we were presented with two choices. A short climb, and I mean short – like a metre or so -up a few rocks with a bit of exposure. Or – for those scare-dee cats among us – just prior to the climb, a path leads through the vegetation on your left and avoids the exposure. Choose your own adventure!
The “danger” zone passed (and I say that tongue in cheek) we could see our target – the trig point – in the distance at the end of Mt. Murchison’s sloping rock façade. The track drops down quite steeply briefly before turning back towards the summit area. Up ahead, I could see a walker that had just made a beeline for the summit trig, trying to negotiate the sloped slab, and having to back track a little. The track actually leads you off to the left after the short descent and is marked by cairns.
The cairns led quickly up the rock to the summit trig point. There would be no silent reflection on the mountain for us today. Instead, it was party central! A popular place indeed! We spent a generous amount of time up top chatting to walkers from QLD and SA, as well as locals. Bender even got roped into pointing out some of the Overland Track mountains for the “interstaters”. We couldn’t name them all – where was our mate Mr. Lucas Chamberlain when we needed him! Sadly, there was however one disappointment at the summit – someone earlier had obviously been smoking up there, and just left cigarette butts laying on the ground. I don’t understand why you would come to such a beautiful place and leave rubbish? Disgusting.
Looking down to our north we could see the mining town of Roseberry. Across to our east the superstars of the Overland Track dominated the views – Cradle Mountain, Barn Bluff, Mt. Pelion West, Mt. Ossa, Mt. Inglis and Mt. Thetis. Further afield we could make out Frenchmans Cap and the Eldon Rage! All of this paled in comparison to the views to our south, down into the gully below. Alpine tarns surrounded by a bowl of craggy rock. This is why we wanted views for Mt. Murchison – it was totally worth the wait.
Don’t make baby wombats orphans guys.
Heading down off the mountain some time later we crossed paths with another group of lovely walkers with a beautiful black dog in tow and off-lead. Bender and I love dogs, but there are multiple reasons why they are banned from National Parks and the majority of other reserves and conservation areas. Not least is if they toilet in the park, but because even the most well behaved dog might chase native wildlife and frighten them or hurt them. Dogs also leave strange scents which may make native animals reluctant to go back to their burrows, food and water sources. Your dog may be lovely, but it’s not your dog’s home. It’s the home of native animals. Please respect that.
All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend a day (dogs, drones and darts aside) and we are already planning a winter trip to Mt. Murchison. As there is one thing better we think than Mt. Murchison in fine weather and that is Mt. Murchison in the snow!
Route taken to Mt. Murchison