Top of the world
Zane Robnik is an amazing young adventurer who is smashing records on Tasmania’s highest and wildest peaks.
It’s taken two-and-a-half years and 158 Mountains.
But, 26-year-old Zane has become the fastest and youngest person to climb all of the Abels. This is the name given to the group of mountains in Tasmania higher than 1,100 metres, and with a vertical drop of at least 150 meters. There are 158 Abels in total.
On June 10, Zane stood at the summit of Stacks Bluff, on the southern end of the Ben Lomond Plateau in the state’s north, having officially bagged his final Abel.
“I was over the moon,” Zane recounts.
“I ran to the summit and broke down in tears. I really think the whole thing is starting to dawn on me now. I was accompanied by a group of 12 close family and friends who were able to share the moment with me.”
The quest to conquer Tasmania’s Abels is something of a holy grail amongst the bushwalking fraternity.
The Abels were classified in 1994, and Zane is listed as the 15th person who has climbed them all. The fastest time recorded to conquer all 158 mountains was 17 years and 10 months; that is, until Zane blew it out of the water. He took just two years, six months and 11 days.
However, for Zane this is more – much more – than just smashing records.
“My primary goal is to inspire people to get out and experience Tasmania’s incredible wilderness, which is unrivalled in its natural beauty,” Zane explained.
“This is an amazing island. It is one of the most unique places you can go in the world and I wanted to share that with others.
“I was blogging during my Abel adventure and I have been blown away by the response, especially from people who are now inspired to climb the Abels themselves.”
A passionate bushwalker – from a family of passionate bushwalkers – Zane’s determination to conquer the Abels dates back to a childhood spent poring over books about our highest peaks.
Zane was working as a hiking guide based out of Launceston when he decided it was time to dive head-first into his own Abel adventure.
So, Zane quit his job and on November 26, 2015, set out to climb his first Abel.
“Most families would say, don’t be so ridiculous, you can’t leave your job and go off and do something like this. Mine said, that’s great, do it,” Zane recounts.
With the aim of tackling three mountains a week, Zane initially set himself the ambitious target of conquering all the Abels in 18 months. However, it was a lot tougher than even a seasoned hiker, such as himself, could ever have imagined.
While he often tackled a number of the Abels in one day, such as “the trip which took 10 days and where I climbed 14 of the mountains,” he finally ended up averaging one peak every six days.
Pushing himself to his limits, Zane said it was “physically tough, and I remember one day when I had to walk for 13 and a half hours through dense scrub with a heavy backpack". On other days the vegetation was so thick “it would take an hour just to walk 300 or 400 metres.”
One of the toughest peaks was The Spires, Abel number 13, which sits at the top of Lake Gordon and is so remote it took a 7-day trek just to tick off that one mountain.
Another, Black Bluff, in the north west, Abel number 71, took three attempts because of bad weather, including a ferocious snow-storm.
A favourite was the very challenging Federation Peak, Abel number 21, in the south-west wilderness, because it is “so uniquely Tasmanian and such an iconic Australian bushwalking destination”.
However, it is Abel number one, Mt Arthur, that is without doubt Zane’s sentimental favourite.
This mountain looms large over his childhood which was spent on a bush-block near Lilydale, in Tasmania’s north-east, under the shadow of its peak.
“It was fitting that I start with Mount Arthur,” Zane explained.
“This was the very first mountain I ever climbed, and apparently I went up it with my family when I was just two and a half years old.
“It was virtually in our backyard, and I used to climb up Mt Arthur almost every week while I was growing up.”
Zane’s Abels challenge may be ticked off but for this young adventurer, that’s just the start. A year-long bike ride across Asia, Africa and Europe is next on the list.
In the meantime, Zane is busy inspiring others about the amazing wilderness on his doorstep, or as he says in his blog: “Thank you all for following me on my adventures in the Tasmanian mountains. We are truly blessed to be able to call such an incredible, unique and beautiful place home.”
Image courtesy of Gordon Robnik
11 July 2018, Edition 196