Faith Dickey in Tasmania
The adventure of exploring a new land with a backpack full of climbing (including 1B SLIGHT
)and highlining gear and a few friends is hard to beat. This was no exception on my recent excursion to Tasmania; a far away island in Australia that easily attains a list on most beautiful places I've traveled to. Carpeted in Eucalyptus forest or coastal white sands, the island boasts a diversity of landscapes and animals like none other.
I spent one month with a group of friends exploring this diversity and seeking gaps to string a highline across. There was no special story behind our expedition other than a desire to see the sheer cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula or to summit some of the many sea stacks standing tall in the ocean. With a bit more research we learned of the many sub-alpine environments the landscape offered, and our first destination was very similar to the mountain environment I'm familiar with, sans a long approach. Ben Lomond National Park is a vast plateau off of which sheer cliffs drop down hundreds of meters to the scree fields below. A beautiful crystalline tarn reminded me that this was an alpine landscape despite no snowy peaks. Three days of sideways rain made the highline a slow process, but finally we managed to establish our first new highline in Tasmania and the exposure was beautiful.
Opening this new line set the precedent for the entire trip. Rigged all naturally, we didn't place a single bolt on our expedition and were happy to engineer some very interesting rigging in order to stay au natural.
Our exploration of the Tasman peninsula was eye opening as we realized just how many projects were there, far more than we had time for. We still managed to find a beautiful new highline in an alcove with at least three hundred meters of drop below it. The sun was relentless and the wind howled up the corridor but I fought the vibrations until I crossed the sixty-meter highline, and I immediately began dreaming of the huge highlines that could be rigged there in the future.
The next alcove we discovered on the coast had a ninety-meter drop to the ocean, and was surrounded by a much larger alcove, carpeted on top by a Eucalyptus forest. We set up a loose ninety-meter highline. As I am currently transitioning from tension to sag, I did not send the line but I had a wonderful time training on it as it swung beneath my feet.
Following this, we traveled to an incredible national park called Lake St. Claire. Famous for it's rugged wilderness, we packed heavy backpacks and trekked for two days to reach Mount Geryon, where we repeated some Russians highline of forty meters in length. The landscape was magical, with beautiful lakes reflecting the sky as if the earth were flat and they were holes in the crust. A top the peak, we were surrounded by cliffs in every direction, endless potential if you don't mind bush bashing and making your own trails. In the distance the big lake laid silver and still, a metallic plate amidst eucalyptus and conifers. The clouds floated up to our highline and visibility was greatly reduced, making the send extremely difficult. Paired with two days of hard hiking, I was not sure success would be mine. After a hard fight, I crossed! The following day we set up a new sixty-seven meter long highline in an alcove nearby. Supposedly a rest day, I took my turn walking on the line but enjoyed napping on mossy tufts far more.
The last highline I had the privilege of repeating was from an iconic tower called the Moai. I climbed the easy route to the top, enjoying the excellent friction of Dolerite, the most common rock on Tasmania. A type of basalt, chalk is unnecessary and I was reminded of Czech sandstones, which will eat your skin if you are not careful! From the tower we set up an incredible seventy-meter highline, one that is sure to be considered a classic by future highliners. Beneath the line the Pacific Ocean laps at the rocks, spraying sea foam in the air and creating a strange sensation of swaying. The weather did us no favors, raining and gusting strong winds the entire time.
Tasmania lived up to its reputation as a place of constantly shifting weather and immense beauty. In just under a month we rigged six different highlines, four of which were new to the island. Seeing that part of the world has peaked my interest for a return trip to establish even bigger, more impressive highlines, and to explore the islands mother country of Australia. While so much of our trip involved heavy packs and hiking, I was thankful to have my Rock Empire 1B harness which is ultra light and barely noticeable when I wear it. It is the perfect highlining harness when much of my time spent in it is standing and balancing, rather than hanging off of a wall.