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Kent Islands Climbing

January 11 2016
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A 6 week island adventure climbing, kayaking and snorkeling expedition in the remote islands of the Kent Group, Tasmania, Australia during January and February 2016. We're hoping to make a short film about the adventure while we're there.

January 11 2016

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Preparation Stage

Easter at Mount Arapiles
After having an information session sharing our Idea with everyone, there were quite a few interested parties. With Easter soon after, we invited everyone who signed up to email to come climbing with us at Mount Arapiles over Easter to learn more about Trad Climbing and as an opportunity to know everyone.

It was a great weekend, and the weather for the most part was fantastic! Some even learned how to lead climb.

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Expedition Background

Lying North East of Tasmania and South of Wilson’s Promontory in the Bass Strait, the Kent Island Group is a collection of 6 islands and islets under the jurisdiction of Tasmania Parks & Wildlife. The largest island in the group is Deal Island (about 5km diameter), followed by Erith Island and Dover Island. Since 1816, have been numerous tragic shipwrecks in the area from ships under navigational problems or attempting to take shelter from storms in the strait (Murray Pass) between the islands.

The Lighthouse on Deal Island, was commissioned in 1848. It, and it’s accompanying station buildings are one of the oldest lighthouse stations in Australia. The lighthouse is also the most elevated lighthouse in the southern hemisphere at 305m.

According to Tasmania Parks & Wildlife:


“The Kent Group is unusually rich in fish species having the highest diversity in Tasmania. The main reason appears to be the fact that the area is the meeting point of a range of influences including the warm Eastern Australian current coming from New South Wales and the westerly influence of Bass Strait.”
“The Kent Group offers spectacular diving and underwater photography with its clear waters and high diversity of marine life, particularly fish species. Visibility usually ranges between 15 and 30 metres. Historic shipwrecks of the steamships Bulli and Karitane, which are in shallow water in West Cove and Squally Cove respectively, are additional highlights.”

After spotting some spectacular photographs of the islands in the Kent Group while searching for new places to climb, I discovered some quotes and photographs from a previous climbing expedition there in 1990 by Michael Hampton, Edwin, Russ and...?:

“The main issue is not cost but simple logistics ­ we used watertight containers used to transport olives to keep the gear dry ­ everyone had some responsibility ­ mine being the expedition engineer ­ responsible for radios and small generator etc etc ­ Mick was the cook ­ hence the reason he was befriended by possums (the most dangerous job with climbers) ­ Edwin was the fisherman ­ Russ looked after the fags and beer (the second most dangerous job).”
“No insects and indeed no venomous snakes. There are however tame possums and numerous varmits called Silky Rats. The latter held us in a state of siege. Believe me, these terrorists make Al Qaeda look like a girl guide troop. They drove us nuts. We finished off about 20 of the buggers as things degenerated into a Bass Strait version of "Lord of the Flies". All food must be locked up, no food in tents, or goodbye tent!!! Oh yeah, there are hundreds of huge huntsman spiders living under rock flakes. I ended up with quite a few up my trousers. There are also spiders whose eyes glow in the dark.”
“Mick adopted a whole family(of possums) ­ gave them names and spent the entire evening talking or should I say counselling them. As for the fate of the bush rats ­ well best left unsaid.”
"I decided that 6 weeks would be the minimum time to spend out there, but it is hard to sell that to others. They just don't get it! There is so much to do."

Upon hearing this, and looking at the photographs and map of the area, we decided that we must make it a priority to do a return trip, to relive this amazing adventure of the past, and explore many new possibilities. A lot of the rock on these islands remains unclimbed and undocumented. During the stay on the islands we’d like to achieve or participate in the following things.

------ Climbing ------
The potential for new routes on these islands is large. The amount of quality rock as well as the height of the cliffs can only give us a brief glimpse of what might be possible for an expedition to these islands. Very few people have climbed, established, and documented routes on the island. The surface has barely been scratched on what appears to be an incredible climbing area. Our main objective for the expedition would be to simply explore what is present and establish a rough idea of the main areas of climbing potential. Given the scale of this task, even to superficially explore these areas could take several weeks.

Once an idea has been formed of what each area holds we can spend a more extended time in the areas of greatest potential. We would be hoping to establish as many quality routes as possible as well as thoroughly record everything we do to encourage future trips to return to the area. At present our knowledge of the climbing is limited and it is our ambition to share with the climbing community the potential of this fantastic sounding area.

------ Sailing ------
We’re currently in the process of organising transport to and from the island. One of the possibilities is to charter a yacht (or find someone we know with a yacht who wants to go) out to the Island and back again.

------ Snorkelling ------
There are numerous shipwreck and marine wildlife locations around the island, some quite suitable for snorkelling, we'd like to take snorkelling gear to explore snorkelling in the area.

------ Kayaking ------
To get around and between the islands and survey the coastal cliffs, the plan is to bring a couple of sea kayaks. Travelling around and between the islands by ocean will also reduce the impact of our movements on the environment.

------ Filming ------
We’d like to make a short film about the adventure while we’re there. A quadcopter would allow us to take aerial shots of the climbing.

----- Group Members ------
We are all avid members of our local mountaineering club (Melbourne University Mountaineering Club). Of the confirmed group members of our expedition we have experiences climbing ranging from 1­7 years, along with experience doing alpine climbing and new routes in New Zealand alps. For the skills required on this trip we hope to find suitable expedition members or undergo sufficient training this year to fill the gap.

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That photo is beautiful - I can only imagine what the short film will be like! Looking forward to following along with this.