West Arthur Range
Only 15km long, the West Arthurs are the best example of glaciated scenery in Tasmania (and Australia). The scenery is spectacular with 30 glacial tarns surrounded by towering cliffs and 22 major peaks. The Western Arthurs extends generally East West from Mount Hesperus to West Portal. This section of the range was first traversed in the early 1960s.
The climate in the Arthur Range is extremely unstable weather predictions are virtually useless here, as it is very common to have sun, heavy rain, cloud, strong winds, even snow all in the same day. The top of the range is classed as Sub-Alpine or Alpine. During winter these mountains are snow-capped. Snow has been experienced every season, with regular snowfalls during summer, though many of these snowfalls don't settle. The climate is mostly decided by the wind. The temperature can change very quick with warm air from Northern Tasmania, or very cold from the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.
The range was named after the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), Sir George Arthur, by George Augustus Robinson who climbed Mount Frederick (now Mount Hayes) in March 1830 with the assistance of some local aborigines. Robinson acted was employed by Gov. Arthur as a conciliator between settlers and Aborigines. He climbed the West Arthur Range during his attempt to round up the estimated 300 Aborigines remaining to resettle them at the camp of Wybalenna on Flinders Island.
Where Is it?: The Western Arthur Range is located in the centre of the South West National Park, about 90 km south-west of Hobart. From Hobart, follow the main roads west through New Norfolk and Maydena to Scotts Peak Dam at the end of the road, 154 km from Hobart. During summer a small bus operates 4 days each week to Scotts Peak Dam. During other seasons, a service runs once a week if there are bookings.
The range was heavily glaciated during recent ice ages and is an almost continuous series of steep cirque headwalls.
Many experienced bushwalkers rank a trek through the West Arthurs as Tasmania's greatest walk. It is undoubtedly the most spectacular but it is also one of the most dangerous walks in Tasmania. The weather is also a major factor. The weather graphs show that fine days are indeed the exception and walkers must expect it to rain for about 6 out of every 10 days in summer. There are also days where the range is shrouded in cloud but with no significant rainfall. Overall, expect only about 1 in every 4 days to be clear.
Because of the highly variable nature of the weather, this range is not recommended for your first Tasmanian walk. For those who have already seen the great scenery found on the Overland Track and the South Coast Tracks (and found those tracks easy) then a visit to the Arthurs is a logical step.
As with other parts of Tasmania's south-west, the trails are extremely muddy very frequently it is more than ankle deep. The mud does not dissipate with altitude up the mountain range either, except where there is bare rock.
Like many other parts of Tasmania, this area is susceptible to Phytophthora (root rot). To avoid spreading it, walkers are encouraged to stay to the main trail. In order to reduce mechanical damage to plants, walkers are also encouraged to wade through the middle of muddy track sections. Hikers should ensure they are well prepared for any weather conditions, and have enough food for one or two extra days.