29.04.2017

REVERSE-CANYONEERING IN THE IN THE ROARING FORTIES - A FIRST ASCENT IN TASMANIA

A „first“, this trip became in two meanings. Not only fort the route, but also for the equipment chosen. 

Christoph and Andy did the Federation Peak, Tasmania’s most iconic summit, along the New River in style of canyoneering, but upstream!  The route has not been completed in historic time yet, but the mysterious gorges revealed its secrets now.

They were using an Anfibo Delta MX for the first time after introduction, for the reasons and results described below.  

The last few metres of the New River before the sea. The Precipitous Bluff in the background. Boat: Anfibio Delta MX

The report is sourced from the group Packrafting in Tasmania.
from Christoph Michel

We had our first encounter with the New River when doing the South Coast Track a couple of years back. We had waded the lagoon and then saw the river's mouth when standing on top of Precipitous Bluff. This triggered our interest.

Position of Tasmania southern of Australia, Source: Wikipedia
We assumed that the New River approach to Federation Peak might be a route done every now and then. But then we couldn't find any information about this area. All we found was the famous discussion "Up New River to Federation" about Dave Bremer's failed attempt in 2009 in the bushwalk.com forum. Reading Dave's trip report gave us some first insights into what to expect. And many ideas of what to do better. The forum thread references John McLaine's article "The Valley of Horrors". This article increased our interest and excitement even more. I then ordered the book "Federation Peak" authored by Kevon Doran and found some information about the early ideas for this route going back to the 1920s, and the 1949 expedition to Lake Geeves. Could it really be true that this beautiful line from the New River Lagoon to Lake Geeves had never been done?
Andy on the South Coast Track at the best weather.

Years of research and training followed to prepare for this trip. After our unsuccessful attempt in January 2015 we now fulfilled our big dream this February: to head from the New River Lagoon into the New River and follow its path all the way up to Lake Geeves, climb the steep slope up to Hanging Lake and then Federation Peak.

This wasn't a regular packrafting trip in the traditional sense. Not only because the majority of the distance requires bush bashing, wading, swimming, scrambling and bouldering but due to us heading upstream against the current.

Challenging boulder problem on the right of the waterfall. An almost vertical 3m high rock without steps, barely grasps, very slippery.


Nevertheless, the (two person) packraft was essential to our success. It allowed us to paddle the lagoon, up the first four kilometers of the lower New River and Lake Geeves, but also to transport our backpacks while pushing against the river upstream or crossing deep pools in the various gorges. 

Beautiful segment of the ravine on day 7.
A short tunnel to paddle.





Impressive rock formation on the last day in the ravine.
This section is a fascinating chain of gorges with numerous rapids and roaring waterfalls but also calm and peaceful pools. John McLaine published a great article in the Wild magazine back in 2006 describing the challenges and beauty of this incredibly wild middle section. We used the packraft often to carry our heavy gear and pushed it against the current. It helped us cross deep pools or the river itself where the current was too strong to swim. Once the New River reaches the open valley south of Crest Range it does not climb that steeply anymore.

Day 13: Finally at Lake Geeves. Divine view on Federation Peak.


The river suddenly turns into a gently flowing creek. For the following five to six kilometers to Lake Geeves, however, the river bed is mostly overgrown by thick and tough vegetation.

The best way to bivouac. Floating on the Lake Geeves.


Two and a half days of extreme bush bash led us to the shore of the lake where we then had the most enjoyable and last use of our packraft: the paddle across Lake Geeves. The water was calm, no wind, amazing vegetation lining the shores, waterfalls plunging down the sheer cliffs of Federation Peak after heavy rain. From down there the slope up to Hanging Lake, however, looks terrifyingly steep. It has overhanging cliffs that are scattered across the slope, some big and visible from the bottom, others lurking under the vegetation. But we found a way up and were pleasantly surprised to reach Hanging Lake after six hours only.

Christoph at the scarp of the Federation Peak.


The Anfibio Delta MX turned out to be ideal for our New River trip, which was not about whitewater rafting though. Low weight and an awesome small packing size were key for us. The Anfibio did a good job in carrying a lot of weight, in our case 220kg overall.

The last use of the boat on the Lake Geeves with a view on the slope to crest (on the left before the big overhang).


We're very happy that we made it as this route is really a very hard and long battle with high chances to fail. We're sure that we will not do it ever again :)

It's finally done! At best weather on the top of the Federation Peak.

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