By no means a high mountain by world standards, Mount Ossa can still lay claim to being the highest mountain in the Australian island state of Tasmania. Located in the Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park, Ossa is composed mainly of dolerite, as is nearby Cradle Mt.
Ossa requires a 2-3 day walk in from the nearest carpark and facilities, either at Dove Lake in the north, or Lake St. Clair in the south. The 65km walk between these 2 points, known as the Overland Track, also offers access to the summits of Cradle Mountain, Mt. Pelion, and numerous others.
The main summit route starts and finishes at a point on the Overland Track known as Pelion Gap, at 1180m elevation, and nestled between Mt. Ossa and Mt. Pelion East. The route involves mainly boulder hopping, which can be slippery when wet. Some small sections of snow may be encountered towards the top in summer, but can be easily crossed or avoided altogether. In winter, the snow can be found at lower altitudes, and more care should be taken during the scramble / climb.
Nearest International Airport: Melbourne (on the mainland, a 14-hour ferry ride away or about 30mins by air to Launceston or Devonport). Note: Although Hobart is an “international” airport, overseas routes are very limited and unlikely to be of any interest except to travelers coming from or via New Zealand.
Nearest Domestic Airport: Devonport 110km Launceston 140km, Hobart 210km
From Launceston: Take the Bass Highway (Route Marker 1) west to Deloraine. From here, take the B12, then the C132. The area is well signposted to Cradle Valley / Cradle Mountain.
Alternatively, continue along the Bass Highway to Devonport (where the ferry from Melbourne arrives), then turn south to Spreyton, and beyond that, Sheffield. Turn west to Cradle Valley (again, well signposted). A shuttle bus runs from the main carpark at the visitor’s center to the track head at Dove Lake. Follow the signs for the “Overland Track.”
From Cradle Valley, depending on how fast you want to go and how many other side trips you wish to take, the walk along the Overland Track to Mt. Ossa takes 3-4 days.
From Hobart: Follow Brooker Ave / Brooker Highway (Number 1) to the northern suburb of Granton. Before crossing the bridge, turn left onto the Lyell Highway (A10), and continue through New Norfolk, Ouse and Tarraleah to the small town of Derwent Bridge. Here, turn right to Lake St. Clair, which is the southern end of the Overland Track. The walk can be started from the campsite, or a ferry can be taken along the Lake to Narcissus Hut, cutting about 2-3 hours off the first day.
Regular bus services run to both ends of the track from Launceston and Hobart.
Due to the high demand for walking the Overland Track in the peak summer season (1 Nov – 30 Apr.) Parks Tasmania has introduced a number of regulations for the area including Ossa. During this time period, Ossa must be accessed from the North (Dove Lake) and the walk completed at Lake St. Clair. Moreover, a booking must be made to walk the track, and a fee paid, in addition to the entry fee for the national park.
No additional regulations exist for climbing Ossa itself.
For more information, see National Parks Tasmania and The Overland Track
Climbing is possible all year round.
In the summer, you will encounter bigger crowds, higher demand for camping spaces and huts, and encounter the red tape mentioned above. On the positive side, summer in Tasmania means a higher probability of stable weather, although snow on Christmas Day is not unheard of! During the winter, you will almost have the place to yourself, if you are willing to take on the Tasmanian winter weather!
Mount Ossa is between 2 huts on the Overland Track: Kia Ora to the south, and New Pelion to the north, both of which of basic shelter, pit toilets, water tanks (recommended boiling before use) and camping areas if the hut is full or you wish to sleep away from potential snorers! New Pelion sleeps about 60 people, and also has a communal dining area with tables and benches. Kia Ora is much smaller, but has similar facilities. Camping is discouraged in other areas.
Particularly in summer, there is generally no fresh water on the climb, so sufficient water should be carried from either Kia Ora or Pelion Hut.
Tasmania’s weather is quite unpredictable, so even on a sunny morning, carry warm clothing and rain gear for the ascent.
Although 5-6 days worth of equipment needs to be carried for the walk-in (including heavy items such as tent, sleeping bag etc.), the ascent to Ossa can be done with minimal equipment as you must return to Pelion Gap to resume the walk along the Overland Track. Packs are generally left at Pelion Gap, and a smaller pack of lunch, warm clothing and water taken for the climb.
Cradle Mountain may also be accessed from the Overland Track.