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Island Time: Paddling & Climbing across Bass Strait

  • 6 min read

Jamie Trap is a film maker and sea kayak guide based up in Alaska. Along with an American friend and two Aussies, Jaimee kayaked and climbed through the remote island chain of Australia's Bass Strait equipped with Bedrocks and climbing shoes. Fresh off this adventure, Jaimee quickly hopped onto a PCT thru hike, where she wrote this guest post for our blog!

In September 2017, the summer guiding season in Alaska was winding down and I was talking to a friend from town about upcoming winter ideas. I had tentative plans to migrate with the whales to Hawaii, but then Rachel mentioned that she was teaming up with her Australian friend Stan to kayak across the Bass Strait. They were casually looking for another person to join along, so I threw all my plans in the air and committed myself to flying to Australia and joining along on this epic adventure. Originally, I wasn’t even sure where the Bass Strait was. As I looked into it more, I found out that it was a wild stretch of water that was notorious for its beastly weather, and it was a 325km expanse that separated mainland Australia and Tasmania.

Massage trains on the Great Ocean Road pre-expedition. (Photo: Stan Meissner)

Stan had come up with the idea to kayak across the Bass Strait, and dove head first into researching and preparing how to realize his goal. Upon further investigation he discovered that there was wild potential for climbing on the Kent Group in the Bass Strait. There have been a handful of climbers who have explored these granite sea cliffs and established routes, but logistical difficulties involved in chartering boats and working around the hectic weather has prevented many climbers from accessing this spot. A few groups a year also attempt the kayak crossing of the Bass Strait. But if we succeeded, we would be the first in the world to kayak and climb across the Bass Strait.

In January, the team assembled in Australia, which was the first time that I met Stan and Josh (the two Australians on our team) in person. We spent the next month doing some exploring around Victoria, and tied up all the loose ends of our expedition planning. As an experienced kayak guide, I’ve had plenty of practice with packing kayaks to maximum capacity. But packing 2 tandem kayaks with climbing gear, camping gear, and food was a next level challenge. We had to make some sacrifices to save space; we brought minimal clothing, Stan opted out of bringing a sleeping pad and bag, and the only shoes along with us were Bedrocks and climbing shoes.

In the month prior to our launch, we had heaps of great people help us out and give us space around the Melbourne area to explode and organize our gear. Here, Rachel sorts dry bags into piles in preparation to pack the car to maximum capacity. (Photo: Jamie Trapp)

The biggest key to executing our mission properly was being smart when choosing our paddle days. We had to be confident that each time we launched off, there wouldn’t be intense weather rolling through for the next 8-12 hours. Our first open-ocean crossing from Wilson’s Prom to Hogan Island was done on nearly perfect conditions. As the sun rose we headed towards the pink horizon to an invisible destination. The water was smooth and glassy, a giant mirror beneath our boats.

Stan and Rachel on the smooth waters from Wilson’s Promitory to Hogan Island. (Photo: Jamie Trapp)

Josh in the front of Melvin (the yellow kayak) approaching the beach at Wilson’s Promitory. (Photo: Jamie Trapp

Arrival on Hogan Island marked the completion of the second leg of our crossing. We called it “no rules” Hogan, because as soon as we landed, everyone scattered to a different part of the island, and went to explore the tops of the hills, the rocky shores, or the ocean while embracing the freedom of being the only 4 on this little piece of land. Life on Hogan was fishing, exploring, swimming, and cleaning up rubbish from the shores while we waited for bad weather to pass.

Stan looking off the coast of Hogan Island while on the hunt for a prime fishing spot. (Photo: Jamie Trapp)


Rachel gives Josh a fresh Mohawk for better aerodynamics on the water. Her barbershop is called Island Time: “where your haircut might take all day, but it’s alright, because you got all day!” (Photo: Jamie Trapp)

After several days, we proceeded to the Kent Group, and organized ourselves for recky missions of the granite sea cliffs on Deal Island. Scrambling around on the rocks was made easy with our Bedrocks. We would make our way to the cliffs and rappel down to the sea, and it was nice to clip our Cairns to the harness once we slipped into our climbing shoes.

Josh rapping off the cliffs of Deal Island on a first ascent mission. (Photo: Jamie Trapp)

On Deal Island we managed to set 2 new routes, “R & R”, and “Jamchelstash and the Giant Peach.” We spent the rest of our time checking out the different coves on the island and swimming with pods of dolphins.

Stan climbs the cliffs of Deal Island on the first ascent of “R&R” (photo: Jamie Trapp)

Across the Murray Pass, Edith Island awaited us with heaps of inviting rocks as well. We spent a week climbing on the “Big Red Cliffs” and in Deep Water Cove. There, we were able to repeat a couple of routes set by a climbing group in 1990, as well as establish some of our own. Not only was it surreal to climb on these beautiful rocks that towered above the endless ocean, but it was incredibly special to know that we had gotten there under our own power.

Jamie on the first female ascent of the Crystal Voyager, Erith Island. (Photo: Rachel Taylor)

Talking to adventurers and explorers from the previous generation during the preparation for this trip taught us many things. These were people who didn’t have nearly as many technological tools as we did to accomplish incredible feats. There is sometimes this idea that exploration is dead because of the advancement of equipment and technology, and the fact that explorers have been to so many places. But I reckon that the spirit of adventure is engraved in our human nature, and this will never fade. This next generation will just need to be more creative in their approach to discovering and experiencing wild places.

Left to Right: Rachel Taylor, Jamie Trapp, Stanley Meissner, Josh Street, and a dog who loved to play fetch. Taken by a curious nice person as we prepared to leave Whitemark, Flinders Island.

After leaving the Kent Group, we cruised to Flinders Island on our longest crossing, a 67 km stretch that took 11 hours to complete. We hit the jackpot with the weather and we were able to complete the last few legs of our journey within the week. On March 11 we landed in Little Musselroe Bay, Tasmania and successfully became the first to kayak and climb across the Bass Strait. This was a feat made possible by the kindness and generosity of heaps of people, and I’m excited to work on an adventure film that tells the story of our journey this fall.

Miranda and Melvin, our two kayaks, at the first sunrise upon a successful arrival to Little Musselroe Bay, Tasmania. (Photo: Jamie Trapp)

I have spent a lot of time in very isolated places, but this experience was completely different. Sitting on top of the cliffs on the islands, I felt the simple ease of life. It is a great feeling to be so removed from the world and surrounded by only the basic necessities. Here were 4 people who had never been together before this trip and I felt like I could be completely myself, like this was my family. When the bustle of life is removed from the equation, a huge weight can be lifted from your shoulders. This feeling of freedom driven by minimalism is what keeps me roaming the ocean and the forests, where my senses can be introduced to new stimuli and I am surrounded by good people.

-Jamie Trapp

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