Federation Peak is one of Australia’s most recognisable and distinctive mountains. With sheer cliffs of solid quartzite dropping an impressive 600 metres (the biggest cliff in Australia) into the coffee coloured waters of Lake Geeves, ‘Federation’ is the major goal of many serious bushwalkers around Australia and the world.
While not the highest mountain in South West Tasmania, Federation Peak is probably Australia’s most recognisable and distinctive mountain. The top is only 1300 metres above sea level, but with its sharp spire and 600 metre cliffs, this is the most highly desired summit to climb in Tasmania. Today, there are well worn tracks to the mountain but the weather and the steep terrain deter and often stop many would-be ascent parties.
While the peak is visible from much of Tasmania, it was not named until 1901. This was probably because many thought it was already named The Obelisk as some maps showed this. It was officially named in 1901 after the year of federation for the Commonwealth of Australia. For decades, Federation Peak remained unclimbed. After World War II, a small group of determined walkers, mainly from Tasmania, explored routes to the peak. They pooled their knowledge and in 1949, the peak was first climbed by a party from Victoria. This was only four years before men first reached the pinnacle of Mount Everest. Gradually, the tracks were improved and the peak became easier to approach. The tracks to the peak, such as they are, are still very rough climbing, and many cliffs are without any ladders or other aids.
Climbing Federation Peak
There are a number of graded climbing routes to the summit made by rock climbers, most notably Blade Ridge (grade 18), which is a steep knife edge ridge rising out of the cool temperate forest at the foot of the mountain. The ridge joins the main face of the peak a few hundred metres beneath the summit. The climb from the end of the ridge is then up an exposed but well protected face to the summit, some 600 metres (2,000 ft) above the valley floor.
Most bushwalkers with minimal or no climbing gear take the exposed ‘Direct Ascent’ scramble from the Southern Traverse of the peak above a drop of 600 m into Lake Geeves. Access to the base of the peak is generally from Geeveston via Farmhouse Creek and Moss Ridge or Scotts Peak via the Eastern Arthurs. The first route is the shorter of two – generally three days to the peak. The Eastern Arthurs via Scotts Peak Dam takes at least 7 days finishing at Farmhouse Creek; up to 10 days with bad weather.
Website: climbing Federation Peak (John Chapman) >>
In the area
Lake Geeves: one of 30 or so lakes nestled high and deep in the heart of south-west Tasmania’s World Heritage Area. The lake is quite literally at the foot of Federation Peak – the drop from the top of this rocky crag to the lake below is an awe-inspiring 600 metres; this jagged chunk of solid quartzite is the biggest cliff face in Australia. Lake Geeves, like the country town 45 Km south of Hobart on the Huon Highway, was named after an Englishman, William Geeves who arrived in the colony in 1842, and settled in Geeveston in response to a request from Lady Franklin for somebody to establish a church in the district.
Lake Pedder: The major feature of the Upper Gordon River Hydro-Electric Scheme, is named after Sir John Pedder, the first Chief Justice of Tasmania. The name of the original lake has been transferred to the new man-made impoundment. Although the new Lake Pedder incorporates the original lake, it does not resemble it in size, appearance or ecology. It consists of a large water catchment contained by three dams – the Serpentine, Scotts Peak and Edgar Dams. The dams were built as part of the Upper Gordon River power development scheme to provide hydro-electricity. These dams were completed in 1972. The new impoundment is joined with Lake Gordon by McPartlan Canal, and together both lakes are the biggest water-storage catchment in Australia.
Lake Oberon: like Lake Geeves, Lake Oberon is situated high in the West Arthur range in the wilderness area of south-western Tasmania. Many of the mountain lakes in the Arthurs are named after the planets and their satellites, the smaller after the asteroids and peaks after the constellations. For though who brave the elements and trek though the range, these names seem appropriate, given the extra-terrestrial feeling one gets when hiking across the mountain tops of this breathtaking region. Few return believing there is another walk in Australia that can top this one. The serenity of alpine lakes nestling below some of the most awesome and jagged skyline is a sight one never forgets. Lake Oberon itself seems to capture the mood of the Arthurs, peaceful enough at first, but an Antarctic storm can be conjured up within hours, and then it becomes a Darth Vader-like gatekeeper for the jagged ridges of Mt. Pegasus, Mt. Capricorn and Tilted Chasm.