MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 313

Words and Photos by Shaun Mittwollen @shaunmittwollen

Summer quickly transitions into winter down here in Tasmania. The change is always in late March or early April. One week it's sunny and hot, then the first significant low pressure rolls through, and we can say goodbye to high-pressure regimes and hello to the roaring forties as a constant progression of fronts crosses the island.

After a solid season of guiding on the Overland Track, I had one final opportunity to do a lightweight fastpacking adventure in warm weather. Mark, the ever-enthusiastic marketing dude at Hyperlite Mountain Gear, had sent me a new and very intriguing pack to try. The Elevate 22 promised to be a great candidate for fastpacking–an exciting combination of trail running and overnight camping.

The Acropolis is an iconic mountain of the Cradle Mountain/Lake St Claire National Park, and after walking past it over 60 times guiding punters without summiting, I decided that I needed to change. In fact, I owe this ascent to ranger Darren after he told me it was the best view in the park. It had to be done. I decided that rather than walking the boring 17km around Lake St Claire each way to access the trailhead, I would paddle my sea kayak, a classic multisport adventure.

Gear stashed in the kayak's hatches, I eased the sleek craft into the unusually balmy waters, looking forward to a swim at the other end. The lake was glassy, with huge eucalypts piercing above the rainforest canopy and mirrored over the abyssal depths. Lake St Claire is the deepest lake in Australia, with surveyed depths of 200m within 150m offshore. Such depths were carved during the last glacier maximum, where an immense sheet meandered down from the summits to the north, one of which being The Acropolis.

I often imagine the landscape during the ice age. Searing wafer-thin dolerite ridges reaching above the creaking ice reminiscent of the Patagonian Ice Cap. As I traversed the shore, huge fallen trees reached downwards under the kayak until they disappeared into the inky blackness. Despite being slightly stained by tannin, the lake was extremely clear, and I made a mental note to take a snorkel and wetsuit next time. Two-thirds into the crossing, a white quartzite beach appeared—an idyllic lakeside camp. Soon, brushed by a light afternoon southerly, I was rounding into the Narcissus River and reaching the end of stage one of the adventure.

I hauled the kayak up onto the grassy bank and set about packing the new Elevate 22 pack. I'd had a lot of experience with the Summit 30, which to this day remains a personal favourite for light and fast missions. It was going to be a test to fit everything into 22L, but I knew the side pockets would be able to house my tripod and water, and the flexible front pocket was jammed with meager food supplies. A radix dehy meal, some bars, gels, and a sachet of coffee.

In the main compartment, I had the mat along the back panel and plonked the quilt at the bottom with the bivy loosely stuffed around it. Then the stove/pot was contained with loosely stuffed mid layers and a rain jacket, along with the camera at the top of the pack. To save weight, I brought along my DIY tuna can stove with about 15ml of metho, just enough to boil the required water for dinner and coffee in the morning (it turned out to be not quite enough, ha). I'd estimate the total weight would have been around 5-6kg, not including water, which I'd fill up from the rainforest stream before the final ascent. Water is so common in Tasmania that I typically hike carrying no water and fill up/ drink from passing streams or the last stream before camp.

Starting the run along the relatively flat track, the pack carried beautifully and didn't bounce around like larger and thicker packs. Making my way smoothly along the narrow single track, I passed through buttongrass plains, woody eucalypt forests, and trickling streams for the first 5km before turning off towards Pine Valley. Pretty soon, I rounded a corner, and right there was a huge Tiger Snake basking in the afternoon sun.

Screeching to a halt and almost treading on the highly venomous snake was a pretty common occurrence trail running in Tassie. I heard a story about a fellow trail runner being bitten twice on an overgrown run in the SW (on different occasions). Luckily, carrying an InReach, she was able to arrange a medivac heli and survived the ordeal both times. Looking for the characteristic s-shaped stick on the ground is a constant process. It may sound hectic, but I know that when trail running, I'd much prefer snakes to bears or mountain lions!

Continuing along, the trail entered stunning myrtle rainforest with trees older than time itself, incandescent blue and red fungi emerging from fallen logs arrested with the deep green of verdant moss. A rainforest stream wound its way gradually south to later meet the deep waters of Lake St Claire, and the air was cool and damp. From here, the real vertical began climbing steeply onto a sub-alpine bench and then again steeper still up towards the final summit of The Acropolis that appeared ahead as an impenetrable cliffy massif of narrow dolerite pillars.

Here, the track became more of a scramble, working its way around and about, gaining head-high ledges through bands of cliff, and then traversing far wide to avoid the most improbable route. Breaking out onto the summit plateau in golden afternoon light, it was a final boulder hop to one of the classic mountain views of Tasmania. A wafer-thin ridge of dolerite pillars no more than a few meters wide with precipitous drops on either side. I sat and admired the view. Below me a perfect bivy ledge with a grand vista to the north, Mt Geryon bearing a striking resemblance to the Fitz Roy Massif in Patagonia, albeit on a much smaller scale.

As the sun crested below the horizon, I spent time photographing the spectacular scenes before me, jumping from boulder to boulder, scouting different compositions. The golden light faded quickly, and a thick dew began to settle as the temperature plummeted. It was clear that the seasons were changing. I set about boiling water on the rock slabs, reflecting on the summer gone. With each passing season there is always the excitement of the next. Perhaps a ski descent of The Acropolis? I imagined the towering dolerite pillars cloaked in windblown rime ice–perfect for photography. Winter is my favourite time for adventure, and who knows what winter 2024 will bring!

Gear List

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Elevate 22
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 40-Degree quilt
Thermarest Neoair xlite
The North Face Futurelight bivy
Tyvek groundsheet 1m
Nikon Z7
Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 Z
Nikon 40mm f2 Z
Sirui Traveller 5C carbon tripod with Leofoto MBC-20 micro ballhead
The North Face Futurelight jacket
The North Face Futurefleece hoodie
No-name thin down jacket from Taiwan
Le Bent thermal pants
Le Bent gloves (very thin)
Running t-shirt and shorts (wearing)
The North Face Vectiv Sky trail runners (wearing)
Tuna can stove with 15ml of metho
500ml titanium pot
2.5l water carrying capacity