A GUIDE TO HIKING FEDERATION PEAK IN TASMANIA
Federation Peak was my ultimate goal before leaving Tasmania, and honestly speaking, I couldn’t have imagined a better ending for my 3-month long Tassie adventures. This is definitely the most brutal hike I have done in my life, both physically and mentally draining, but at the same time, extremely rewarding. In fact, Sir Edmund Hillary, the mountaineering legend, declared Federation Peak as Australia’s only real mountain. Thinking of approaching it? All you need to know about this tremendous hike is included below.
WHERE IN TASMANIA IS FEDERATION PEAK?
Federation Peak at 1224 m is a prominent mountain located in Southwest National Park in Tasmania. You can get up there from Farmhouse Creek or on the occasion of traversing the whole Arthur Range. Starting and finishing at Farmhouse Creek is the shortest, and fastest way to approach it. With that being said, this is going to be a 38 km out-and-back hike with elevation gain of 2303 m that takes anywhere from 3 to 6 days to accomplish. This probably doesn’t seem overwhelming yet, but trust me, the struggle is real out there. The trailhead is located at the end of Picton Road. Use these coordinates to find it: QM99+86Q Geeveston.
Federation Peak – map
WHAT’S THE GREATEST CHALLENGE OF THIS HIKE?
Federation Peak via Farmhouse Creek is a grade 5 hike, but as explained in my guide to hiking in Tasmania, this doesn’t really tell you much. So be mindful that this is one of the toughest hikes in Tasmania (if not the toughest!) that requires solid rock-scrambling skills, and basic rock-climbing skills. You will be going up and down many vertical walls on Moss Ridge, and taking a very exposed Direct Ascent to the summit with a 600 m drop above a lake. Falling from there may be fatal, and in many cases was. Please do not underestimate this hike, and remember that turning back when it gets too hard for you is actually a win.
HOW HORRIBLE IS MOSS RIDGE?
The track from Farmhouse Creek to Cutting Camp is not that bad. It has heaps of fallen trees, it can be extremely muddy, but overall it’s well-defined, and relatively easy to follow. Going up Moss Ridge is a whole different story. Just imagine, tree roots, thick scrub, deep mud, and vertical walls. If unlucky, add rain to it. Clearly a nightmare. But… the worst part is yet to come. You need to go through this hell twice. Heading to Federation Peak, and back. Pack hauling may be needed as some sections of Moss Ridge are very tricky. I didn’t do it myself, even though it was raining all the way up, but that was a matter of satisfying my sick ego.
HOW DIFFICULT IS THE FINAL CLIMB?
Federation Peak did test my skills, and mental strength. In general, it’s not hard to find reasonable foot holds, but you do need to have the confidence to climb up vertical walls using your own hands and legs, knowing that if you fall, it can really have a fatal outcome. For me, there were 5 difficult moments on the final climb, and I had to seriously focus on what I was doing not to make a mistake. Be mindful that going up there is much easier than going down, and extreme care must be taken descending Federation Peak. There is a log book on the summit, so feel free to sign in, and even check for my entry from 21 March 2022.
DO YOU NEED ROPES TO CLIMB FEDERATION PEAK?
Although ropes are not needed to climb Federation Peak, you can use them if you want. My hiking partner and I had a rope with us, but we ended up not using it. First of all, we were blessed with beautiful sunny weather on the summit day. Second of all, our plan was to use the rope only as a last resort, in case of serious problems or unexpected rain. At the end of the day, if you are inexperienced with using the rope, it’s better not to use it at all. It gives you a false sense of security, which can have dramatic outcomes. In our team, I was the one who has never used a climbing rope before, and that’s why we wanted to avoid using it.
WHAT TO DO IF WEATHER TURNS AWFUL?
I made it up and down Federation Peak without using ropes, and serving as an example here, it can be done by people with minimal climbing experience. Although, I would not recommend doing this if the weather is uncertain. Not to mention even a light rain. If you’re just a regular hiker (like me!), not a professional rock climber, going there with no climbing gear, you should attempt Federation Peak only if the weather is perfect, and the forecast looks promising throughout the day. Wet rocks will make it more dangerous, and in such case, the rope is necessary. So if weather turns awful, you have two options. Wait it out or turn back.
HOW TO PLAN THIS HIKE?
Tasmania’s weather is unpredictable, and since we know now that summiting Federation Peak in adverse weather conditions with no professional climbing gear means risking your life, you should keep your plans flexible. Be prepared to stay one extra day or even two on the track to get a chance to climb Federation Peak safely with blue skies over your head. I included an example itinerary below, but the time needed to accomplish this hike really depends on your fitness level, as well as weather and trail conditions (e.g., how muddy is the track). In my case, hiking Federation Peak took me 4 days, including 2 days of walking in rain.
An example itinerary:
- Day 1, Farmhouse Creek to South Cracroft River, 9,5 km, 5 hours
- Day 2, South Cracroft River to Cutting Camp, 6,9 km, 5 hours
- Day 3, Cutting Camp to Upper Bechervaise Plateau, 2,8 km, 6 hours
- Day 4, Upper Bechervaise Plateau to Federation Peak, and back, 1,4 km, 4 hours
- Day 5, Upper Bechervaise Plateau to Cutting Camp, 2,8 km, 6 hours
- Day 6, Cutting Camp to Farmhouse Creek, 16,4 km, 10 hours
Here’s what I did:
- Day 1, Farmhouse Creek to Cutting Camp, 16,4 km, 10 hours
- Day 2, Cutting Camp to Upper Bechervaise Plateau, 2,8 km, 6 hours
- Day 3, Upper Bechervaise Plateau to Federation Peak, and back to Cutting Camp, 4,2 km, 10 hours
- Day 4, Cutting Camp to Farmhouse Creek, 16,4 km, 10 hours
WHERE TO CAMP?
There are many more campsites on the way up to Federation Peak than listed above. So feel free to come up with your own itinerary or to adjust the suggested one. Starting from Farmhouse Creek, and going towards Federation Peak, you will walk through the following sites: South Cracroft River (9,5 km in), Crest Camp (around 13,7 km in), Forest Camp (around 14,4 km in), Paperbank Camp (15,7 km in), Cutting Camp (16,4 km in), Upper Bechervaise Plateau (19,2 km in). South Cracroft River and Upper Bechervaise Plateau are the only campsites with tent platforms. There are no toilets or rainwater tanks on the track.
WHERE TO TAKE WATER FROM?
I think it’s pretty obvious that Southwest National Park is a remote area, and you need to be self-sufficient out there. Since there are no rainwater tanks on the track, you will have to collect water from nature. Most of the campsites listed above are located close to a river, so it’s not hard to refill the bottles. Upper Bechervaise Plateau is scarce of water though. There were very few puddles while I was there, and unfortunately, the water happened to be contaminated. It caused a very nasty stomach upset to my hiking partner, so I would highly recommend you treating the water taken around that campsite before drinking it.
WHAT TO DO IF THERE ARE NO TOILETS?
The reason why the water at Upper Bechervaise Plateau was contaminated is that there’s no dedicated toilet area, and people do not follow the leave no trace principle. The entire track from Farmhouse Creek to Federation Peak is lacking toilets, therefore, bringing a shovel on this hike is a must. Always choose the place for doing “what you gotta do” carefully, at least 100 m from any water source or campsite. Bury all faecal waste in a deep hole, and cover it once finished. Toilet paper goes into the ground, but sanitary pads and tampons cannot be buried. Ladies. We need to pack them in and take them out from the national park.
HOW TO NAVIGATE?
The track from Farmhouse Creek to Federation Peak is largely unmarked. Previous experience in navigation is required. As always, I used AllTrails app for that, and had a paper map with me. The first stretch to Cutting Camp has only a few ribbons, but the track is well-defined, so it wasn’t difficult to find the right way. Moss Ridge has zero signs, but overall, it was quite clear where to go too. The Direct Ascent turned out to the challenge though. There are some cairns left behind by other hikers, but I found it hard to locate them. I believe that there is no right or wrong way on the final climb, as long as you stay on the designated route.
IS THERE ANY HIKING FEE?
There is no fee for hiking Federation Peak, but you do need to carry a valid Tasmania Park Pass, and register the hike online. Even though registration is voluntary, I strongly encourage you to do so. Campsites have limited capacity, and if overcrowded, it can have a devastating impact on Tasmania’s sensitive environment. Upper Bechervaise Plateau has only two wooden platforms, and almost everybody chooses to stay a night there before summiting Federation Peak. If you don’t register your hike or ignore the fact that your date is booked up, someone may end up setting up a tent on a fragile area. Please keep that in mind.
ARE YOU READY FOR HIKING FEDERATION PEAK?
If reading this blog post made you feel insecure in any way, my best advice for you would be not to go there solo. Before attempting Federation Peak, I did heaps of hiking on exposed tracks in Europe, and almost all multi-day hikes in Tasmania, including Mount Anne Circuit and Western Arthurs Traverse, and I still chose to go there with someone way more experienced than I was. That gave me confidence, mental support, and contributed significantly to the overall success. While choosing your hiking partner, make sure they know what they are doing, you do trust them (I can’t stress this enough!), and you both understand the challenge.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW?
This hike is for experienced walkers, so I won’t elaborate on how to pack your bag. I just want to highlight one thing though. Make sure to bring a day bag for the summit day. It was pouring with rain on day 2, I had very little hope that this will change the following day, but it did, so once I saw the sun shining, I packed the necessities, and left the campsite. There was no time to pack everything up, and climbing up Federation Peak with a huge bag on would be definitely more risky. If you want to learn more about my gear preferences, go to a separate blog post with my Western Arthurs Traverse gear list. Good luck you guys!
I hope you enjoyed reading my guide to hiking Federation Peak in Tasmania. Is there anything else you would like to know about this hike? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
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