We visited Ben Lomond today, just outside of Launceston. Ben Lomond is one of three large mountain that we see in the view from our house-sit at Trevallyn.
The weather was perfect, and the scenery was dramatic and beautiful with views of the many mountains to the east, the Central Highlands to the west, and Bass Strait to the north.
Ben Lomond is an alpine plateau that includes the second highest peak in Tasmania, Legges Tor, at 1572 metres.
Ben Lomond is Tasmania’s number one ski field – it has several ski tows and a small ski resort. We are here in the summer, so there’s no snow and no skiing activity.
The escarpment cliffs
While Ben Lomond is generally an impressive place, the most singularly spectacular part of the visit is the drive up to the plateau. The road passes up through stunning cliffs of tall dolerite crystals.
The cliffs are so expansive that it’s difficult to take a photograph that really expresses their scale and grandeur. A video does a much better job:
Driving up Ben Lomond
The road up onto the summit is amazing – it runs along the base of steep, high, dolerite cliffs, and then zig-zags up a series of hairpin bends through a very steep pass.
With its switchback turns, loose surface, towering cliffs on one side, and steep drop offs on the other side, the road is almost overwhelming to drive on. It’s the only access road to the ski resort – I can’t imagine using it in the winter, when it has snow and ice on it.
The views on the way up was spectacular. The air was generally clear, with a bit of haze on the distant horizon that stopped us from being able to see Flinders Island to the north, and kunanyi/Mt Wellington to the south once we got to the top.
Walking to Legges Tor
We did a fairly short and quite easy walk from the ski resort to the top of Legges Tor, which is where the ski tows run from. The walk was about 4.5 kilometres with an 80 metre ascent.
The environment was the usual dolerite columns that form many of Tasmania’s mountains, covered with low alpine heath.
The dolerite columns decompose over millions of years forming scree fields.
There was quite a bit of water moving around, but nothing like on Hartz Mountain or kunanyi/Mt Wellington in southern Tasmania.
Beautiful alpine heath covers the plateau, which is relentlessly battered by the weather and covered in snow in the winter, leaving it gnarled, stunted, and sculptural.
Despite the fact that it’s the middle of summer, we also found snow! It was quite a surprise as we were walking around in tee-shirts and shorts and feeling comfortably warm. Snow is resilient stuff!
We hope to come back up to Ben Lomond in the winter to check out the snow when it's really here – snow is always enigmatic to sub-tropical Queenslanders. We won’t be doing any skiing, but we want to do this walk again in the snow.
The thick alpine heath probably supports plenty of animal life, such as snakes, but much of it is out of sight amongst the shrubbery. I know wombats live here, but we didn’t see any on this walk. We still saw some animals, though.
There were a few wallabies hopping around on the rocks.
The wallabies are here all year round, so they have particularly thick coats to handle the snowy cold in winter.
The summit of Legges Tor has the usual cairn, which was covered in little red and green beetles.
This short walk is a very enjoyable experience, getting us close to the alpine heath, and giving us great views across the plateau out to the surrounding peaks. If the conditions are clear enough you're able to see the Tasman Sea to the east, and Bass Strait to the north.
The walk starts in the ski village, here. At the top of the car park look for the sign to the Summit Link Walking Track. The track passes between the ski lodges in the village and continue on to the Summit Pass Track, which winds around to the top of Legges Tor.
Here's a Google Earth aerial view of our route:
The starting point, in the ski village, is on the left of the picture.
The highest peak in Tasmania
While Legges Tor on Ben Lomond is the second highest peak in Tasmania, the highest peak in Tasmania is Mount Ossa at 1617 metres. Mount Ossa is out in the middle of the Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Claire National Park.
You can climb Mount Ossa in a day walk – if you don’t mind leaving before dawn and getting back after dusk. More commonly, Mount Ossa is climbed as part of a multi-day bushwalk, so it’s not somewhere I’m likely to get to any time soon. Legges Tor is only 155 metres shorter than Mount Ossa, but you can drive to within a vertical eighty metres of the summit, which makes it a much better deal!
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