The title of this book pretty much sums it all up: Tasmanian summits to sleep on. This is a gorgeous, large format photo book, focused on 7 peaks that the author, Kevin Doran, has explored and camped out on, from Cradle Mountain in the north and down to Mount Hopetoun in the south west.

The back-story is his friendship with the legendary Ossie Ellis, who spent much of his life in the mountains of Tasmania.

In 1970 Ossie Ellis and his brother Alec, together with Marcus Dunstan and Richard Ruddle, acquired land on the border of the Cradle Mountain/Lake St. Clair National Park. They built the Pencil Pine Lodge, now known as Cradle Mountain Lodge.

Ossie befriended the author on his arrival in Australia and many walking trips ensued, included various camp outs on summits. Ossie felt that the best time to get an atmospheric lightshow on a peak was often at dawn or dusk, so camping out was a logical option. As someone who always tries to find the most alpine feeling option when looking for a campsite, I can certainly relate to this sentiment, and have bivvied or camped on a few of the peaks covered in the book, and love that sense of being perched for the night in a ‘headily aerial campsite’. Some of their trips, like winter visits to Frenchman’s before the bridge crossings of rivers, provides a glimpse into earlier days of Tasmanian walking.

Some of the photos are snaps from the various trips that are described in the notes from each mountain. But many are stunning landscapes, often catching that fleeting perfect moment you sometimes get on a peak, like the shadow of Frenchman’s Cap on distant cloud as the sun rises.

There should be more of these books – like the Abels guide recently reviewed on this site – this one is a product of a life long affair with the spectacular and charismatic Tassie peaks. The fact that it is also a memorial to the life of Ossie Ellis adds a nice and poignant dimension. Many of us have had mentors or elders, who introduced us to the outdoor life. Not all of us are lucky enough to have had decades-long friendships as a result.

This is a small print run, large format book and so is quite expensive ($50) but if you can afford it, this is a project well worth supporting. All sales support an environmental education charity called the Bookend Trust.

You can order the book on line here.

Tasmanian Summits to Sleep On (2011)
Kevin Doran, foreword by Bryce Courtenay. 128 pp, published by Desdichado.