Mount Roland is found near the village of Sheffield on the northern edge of the Great Western Tiers region of Tasmania, Australia. Like many of its cousins, at first sight it would appear to be a difficult climb. From most angles it presents the onlooker with the steep bastions of seemingly impregnable cliffs. Moreover, these ramparts form the containment walls of a huge dolerite plateau of which the summit tor is but a small part. Half the time spent climbing Roland is spent on level or gentle uphill walking across the plateau to the summit. Perhaps this is the source of its attractiveness? The majority of Tasmanian mountains seem to conform to this geological pattern. Classic “sharp” summits like Barn Bluff or Cradle Mountain are a comparative rarity.
Although not exactly a challenge, Roland unquestionably offers a rewarding short day out. The lovely walk through scented eucalyptus forest with all that strange (to N.American ears) birdsong, the steep pull up onto the plateau to get the heart rate going, the stroll across the flats with the chance of seeing snakes (see the "cautionary note" below) and wallabies and the final views from the summit all combine to make Roland a worthwhile objective.
Mt Roland is well off the usual tourist track in Tasmania and, as such, isn’t as easy to get to as say, the Lake St Clair or Cradle Mountain areas. I’m not aware of public transport options, so the following assumes you have a car available.
From Launceston to the east approach the tiny village of Elizabeth Town on the A1. From Elizabeth Town take the B13 to Railton, then the B14 to Sheffield. From Devonport in the north travel directly to Sheffield on the B14. From Sheffield take the C136 to Claude Road and Gowrie Park. Go through Claude Road (from where there is also a route up Mt Roland) to the Gowrie Park’s campground on O’Neills Creek. Immediately after the campground turn left into O’Neills Road and drive 1km to the parking lot and new trailhead. All roads are sealed except for O’Neills Road.
Approach and Route
From the trailhead at 310m altitude walk 200m on the old once-upon-a-time sealed road to a track junction with a gravel forest road and turn left. Walk the forest road up through the lovely eucalyptus forest to its end in about 1 hour and at an altitude of 660m. Almost every hairpin on the road has a signboard with a name on it such as “Charlie’s Corner” etc.
Start of the route
Plateau view south
I don’t know the origin of this but am sure there’s a good story here somewhere. After the road peters out, go up a set of wooden steps onto an increasingly rough track, which takes you up through the last of the forest to a track junction at about 940m altitude. The right hand track goes up Mt Vandyke. Turn left (north) for Mt Roland. The trail soon emerges from the last of the trees and the high plateau opens up ahead of you. To your left, as you walk across the plateau are a series of apparent summits. These are all various high points on the ramparts you looked up at as you began the walk. The route gains the final ~300m of altitude very gently on a well marked trail, sometimes on old disintegrating wooden boardwalk and arrives in a little over an hour at a saddle where another trail comes up from the north. This is the route up Mt Roland from Claude Road. Note this point and then scramble up the bushy/bouldery summit tor with its trig in about 5 minutes from the track junction.
Summit tor from the plateau
Summit view south west to Cradle Mountain
The Roland/Vandyke massif has no immediate neighbours, so, if the weather is clear, you’ll have uninterrupted 360° views. South west is the northern part of Cradle Mountain/Lake St Claire National Park. South and you’re looking down the layers of the Western Tiers. North to Sheffield, Devonport and Bass Strait and east to Launceston and the huge Ben Lomond plateau.
Descend by reversing the above. Or, if you don’t mind a road walk or hitching, go down to Claude Road from the track junction 5 minutes from the summit. It’s 5km on the road back to Gowrie Park from Claude Road and then another 1km up O’Neills Road to your car.
The total distance as an out-and-back from Gowrie Park is approximately 16km with an elevation difference of ~900m. Round trip time from the carpark; 5-7 hours including breaks.
Poisonous snakes are a fact of life in Tasmania or anywhere else in Australia for that matter. Whereas you should be alert to possible harm from snake bite, it shouldn't put you off getting "out there" into the Aussie bush. Incidences of fatal snake bite are about as rare as those of cougar attacks in North America. They happen - but does that stop you going? Nevertheless be aware of the possibility and do what the locals do. Wear long pants and/or gaiters. You will even see road crews wearing ankle gaiters while clearing bush next to Aussie thoroughfares. Most poisonous snakes in Australia have short fangs and this precaution usually suffices. Mt Roland seems to be particularly popular with snakes. I saw more here than on all the rest of my Aussie hikes combined; including a large copperhead. They all slithered off before I was anywhere near them but that isn't to say I felt comfortable with the situation particularly when alone. A local told me that some snakes make a barking noise on the approach of a threat by inflating themselves and expelling the air rapidly and, I must say, I often heard what I thought was a stray dog in a few unusual places in Tasmania. However, knowing Aussie humour, this could be entirely apocryphal.
None. However, there is an intentions book at the trailhead information booth that you’re encouraged to use.
Any map you may need for Tasmania can be obtained at TasMaps
120 Walks in Tasmania, First Edition, Tyrone Thomas, Michelle Anderson Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0-85572-322-X. If you use this book note that Mr Thomas has you start from a trailhead 2.5km up O’Neills Road from the C136. This was always a private road and is now (2006) formally closed to the public. You must now start from the trailhead described above. This adds a little to the overall distance to be covered but has the advantage of being 100% on public land. I believe that Mr Thomas' description merges with that above about where the forest road peters out.