2013 - Overland Track
The trip to Tasmania to walk the Overland trail in August 2013 took its genesis in 2012 when Greg Bain first proposed the idea.
We had talked about this trip for some time. There were a couple of us who were dubious about the overall merits of this trip, mainly due to the time of year and the possibility of inclement weather for the duration of the trip. We did recognise that if the weather was good the scenery would be spectacular and well worth the effort.
We decided to walk to walk the track North to South - much as per the Summer direction. One major advantage of doing this trip in winter was that there would be few other people on the trip - in fact we saw a total of 9 people and shared a hut with 2 people on our 2nd night.
Basically our trip left from Launceston Airport where most of the group flew in in to meet Chis who had arrived a few days earlier to spend time with his son. We were picked up by Tiger bus service and drove to Cradle Mountain Wilderness Retreat and spent Thursday night there. Weather on Thursday was perfect, pity about the rest of the week.
Friday morning we set off early with a bus ride to Ronny Creek to start the walk. It was raining but the area around Ronny Creek had a lovely dusting of snow and walking along the boardwalk made progress reasonably fast. Climbing up to Marion's Look out was pretty solid and as we approached the top the wind hit us. We reached to top, donned snow shoes and made some seriously good progress to eventually stop at Kitchen Hut for a quick lunch. The only trap with walking along the snow and following the trail is that occasionally you would step off the duck board and fall into the gap between the duck board and the surrounding vegetation. It was windy and somewhat wet. We were glad to arrive at our first hut for the night - Waterfall Valley. Our original plan was to camp out at Sutton Tarn - given the force of the wind, the fact that we were all soaked we decided that it would not be a great idea to camp out. Some would say were are soft - some would say. We had Waterfall Valley hut to ourselves - reading the log made for some entertaining reading.
Saturday we awoke to driving snow and wind. As we were getting ready to leave 2 walkers arrived, one with a twisted knee which happened as a result of falling off the duck board as we had done many times, unfortunately in this instance it ended their walk. These walkers had camped just under Cradle Mountain in what shelter area they could find to setup their tent. The wind had made it impossible for them to have a hot meal before hitting the sack. There were great full for the shelter of Waterfall Valley Hut. A lone walker arrived shortly after and she was making her way to Cradle Mountain. She also just happened to be a doctor. After a little examination of his leg she suggested that he stay put. A written note to be delivered to the rangers at Cradle Mountain was completed and the good doctor delivered it on her way out on that day. A helicopter ride was planned for the injured walker when the weather was favourable which did not occur for a couple of days.
We eventually left braving wind, rain and sleet - really enjoyable NOT. We fortunately had purchased some Yak Trax to slip onto our boots which I've got to say make progress along the duck board significantly safer. Without them they would have been treacherously slippery and an injury would have been likely. We got to the Lake Wills turnoff but we were once again wet and it was felt that such a diversion would have been dangerous due to the chill factor brought about by the strong winds and the subsequent risk of hypothermia. We pushed on to get off the plateau that we were on. Once we dropped into the valley several ks on the wind abated and the walking became more pleasant. Lake Windermere was pretty spectacular. The snow and the bleakness of it all made the scenery all the more spectacular. We arrived at Lake Windermere hut and meet two other travelers heading for Cradle Mountain. It's always interesting to see what other people do and to swap track notes. We learnt that Windy Ridge hut was low on coal for the heater and that we may need to carry some in - good advise which we followed.
The weather cleared up a bit in the afternoon as Pete, Cam and Chis decided to walk back along from where we had come from to take some photos and to check out Lake Windermere a bit better. It's really nice to be able to dump the pack and do some sight seeing. This hut and the last hut were really well setup, and as it turned out all of the huts were really good and certainly provided welcome respite from the weather and an opportunity to get into dry clothes and to be able to dry out our "day clothes"
Sunday started off well with little wind and rain - probably because we were in a bit of a valley. Once we climbed back up we were once again exposed to the persistent wind. He found a great place to have our budgie bar break - we dropped our packs and make our way to Forth Valley look out. The scenery was pretty specsh with the mist rolling in and around the hills and valley. It was also out of the wind which was great. We decided to have lunch at Pelion Creek. A very pretty place with the creek rushing away beside us - not the sort that you would want to fall into as it would sweep you away fairly quickly. We made our way to Frog Flats and got some spectacular view of Mount Pelion West. A good spot to have out afternoon tea before the final walk to New Pelion Hut.
They say you can camp a Frog Flats - I reckon in warmer months it would be full of mosquitoes and leaches and not a pleasant place to camp at all. Also I think it would get quite damp but hey MHO. It was nice to get into some sun and pleasant weather and made the rest of the walk into New Pelion rather pleasant. There were some quite deep mud holes that Chis seemed to find in the climb out from Frog Flats.
We arrived at New Pelion hut and it's huge. We also heard the chopper come in and out and we assumed it was to pick up the injured walker from WaterFall Valley Hut. The views from the veranda looking over the button grasses to Mount Oakleigh were pretty awesome especially with the mist wafting in and around the dolerite spires at the edge of Oakleigh. You get a real sense of the beauty of the area when you can sit by yourself and just take it all in. This is the real advantage of doing this walk in Winter, the lack of people and presumably the "hut nazies" that would detract from the overall solitude of the walk. It was really very pleasant sipping on a hot cup-a-soup as the sun began to get low and set. Time to get dinner on the go and sit around the heater before bed time.
Monday started off well. We had a great start to the day with a sunny start. But as it goes in Tassie the weather soon closed in such that when we reached Pelion Gap the weather was pretty foul snowing, windy and cold. We were going to have just a quick snack but as quickly as the weather can close in it can also open up. We decided to try to bag Mount Pelion East - Mount Ossa would have just been too far and given the changeability of the weather. We dumped packs - now at New Pelion Hut there was a little warning sign about how clever the Carrawongs are at being able to undo zippers on packs.
All of us, except Mr Bean, had stacked our packs in a way to make it difficult for these birds to attack the zippers or we tied our zippers up so that they could not undo them.
In the meantime we donned snow shoes and set off for the summit of Pelion East. The clouds blew in and out as we went from overcast to sunny periods. As we got higher the landscape became more devoid of vegetation and more exposed. It was hilarious watching each of us fall through the snow covered bushes upto our waists and then trying to get out. The views from near the top were great and well worth the effort.
When we returned to where we had dumped our packs we noticed that there seemed to be a bit of a mess surrounding one pack, one in particular, the one belonging to Mr Bean. To add insult to injury the Currawong had also shat on his pack a couple of times.
The sun had broken through so we decided to have lunch and enjoy the great scenery. As we were finishing up the weather closed in and it started to dump heaps of snow. It snowed pretty much for the rest of the day and for most of the evening. We probably got about 30cm of snow.
The heater in Kia Ora was a coal heater so you could crank it up. Kia Ora is a great little hut, but once again I'd hate to see it when it is busy. Our next hut was Windy Ridge and we had been told that there was limited coal there so we loaded up with about 12 briquettes each. Just as well.
Tuesday was a truly wonderful day. With fresh deep snow to walk through. The snow seemed to deaden the sounds of the bush and our walking. With the sun out and it getting a bit warmer meant that the snow in the trees started to fall to the ground and resulted in all of us getting dumped on at regular intervals. We walked through to Du Cane hut, one of the old huts in the region where people would trek into and us as a base camp. Trekkers would spend a couple of days getting into this camp carrying flour, butter and some other non perishable provisions. They said that those days if you could find an echidna along the way you would catch it and eat it. Supposedly it tasted like chicken. These early explorers were really gutsy individuals and would have endured hardships that we could not have imagined.
After having morning tea we headed off, and in true Tassie fashion the weather closed in and it started to rain. We got to the turn off for Hartnett Falls and decided to check the falls out. We were wet through once again, so thought what the hell. The effort to get to the falls was well worth it. These falls were pumping. We had had a significant amount of rain, the roar from the falls was amazing. We saw some photos of the falls that people had taken during summer and they seemed to be a trickle - people could walk up to the base of the falls, certainly could not have done this when we saw it. We had a quick lunch back at the junction and then headed off to Windy Ridge or as it is now called Bert Nichols. When you read his story at the hut, you cannot help but feel that this is not a hut that we would want to be remembered by. A very extravagant hut for someone who lived and craved a simpler life.
The water tanks were overflowing and the water was beautifully fresh. We huddled around the heat that night glad that we had brought the extra briquettes with us. We managed to leave a full bucket of briquettes at this hut. The hut is arranged in such away that the sleeping quarters are well away from the kitchen area so the heat from the heater was not really effective, plus the high ceilings were not conducive to a warm evening. Clearly a place for summer.
Wednesday morning was once again a pleasant morning. Today we were going to leave the main track and head to Pine Valley Hut. Our plan for that day was to go past Pine Valley Hut and climb up into the Labyrinth and camp for the night there. Fortunately we decided against this option as the weather closed in and dumped on us. We did climb up into the Labyrinth the following day and it became apparent that this would have been a difficult undertaking with full packs on. Also with the weather now bucketing down it would have been a miserable night and no doubt a cold meal for dinner. Saying at the hut was a significantly better idea.
The hut was very damp and mouldy. The walk into the hut was really interesting especially after we turned off the main track that would have taken us to Narcissus Hut. We met a couple who had left Pine Valley Hut and told us of knee deep water that we needed to wade through. So much for keeping boots dry as we had by in-large managed to do for the day. Our first interesting feature on this part of the track was the suspension bridge that took us across Cephissus Creek. Shortly after this crossing we encountered the knee deep water. The amount of rain that we had received over the days had resulted in some flooding of the track. It was funny to see the duck board so deep under water. There was nothing for it but to cross and get wet boots and feet. We took a couple of photos to show just how deep it was. We had some interesting crossings - one across a log that in normal times would take you across a nicely flowing creek - however with the rain that we had had it was a raging torrent, and something not be to falling into. Another suspension bridge to cross as we got closer to the hut.
The final last couple of ks into the hut was really lovely, soaking rain aside, as the path took you through some beautiful forest with the some of the team commenting that if you were a Hobbit you would be scared. There was a magical feel to the area with the dimmed light, the tree mosses and fungi growing off the trees. Again the path was partially under water. We finally reached the hut stuck in deep in the forest. Once again we had a coal heater and due to the size of the hut it was pretty easy to heat, and in part helped to remove the dampness.
The tree roots along the most parts of the track were dangerously slippery if you stepped on them the wrong way, if they ran across the track they were fine, but when they ran along the track it was at times like stepping onto wet track tracks and going for a bit of a ride. If you were lucky you managed to arrest your slide before you fell over.
Thursday was like most on our trip - the beauty about today was that we were leaving packs behind and taking a day trip upto the Labyrinth. We packed our snow shoes and a couple of day packs for provisions and emergencies. We did a quite tidy on the hut on the off chance that other hikers would arrive while we were away - none did though.
We headed off. Initially the track was pretty straight forward to follow, however it became more difficult to find as we headed well into the snow. What we had failed to notice early on were the track markers that had become embedded in the tree trunks. At one stage we seemed to climbing up a water fall which I would assume in slightly less damper times would be a bit easier to climb, none the less we hit the deep snow and once again donned the shoe shoes. I initially had reservations about how much we would need the snow shoes, but given that they are light weight - we hired some MSR Evos from Ajay's which turned out to be really worthwhile. They made the going not only easier but also safer and less exhausting as we would have been post driving for the majority of the way. Pete and JayBee did a brilliant job in following the trail up to the start of the Labyrinth. We had intended to ready Lake Elysia but instead only made it to Lake Cyane. We had lunch at the edge of a small ridge at the lake about 3 or 4 meters off the surface. Up here the wind was biting and we decided to return as we knew the downward trip was going to be a bit difficult due to the steepness of the terrain. Going down is snow shoes can be a bit of a trap - my knees suffered for weeks afterwards and all I can put it down to is that the grippyness of the snowshoes put immense strain on the knees.
Walking back into camp we were once again wet through and were happy to get the heater going, into some dry clothes and to get a hot cup a soup into us. It would have been really good to go out and explore around the hut photographing the mosses and fungi growing from the trees. We were surprised to hear the call of a Lyre Bird nearby the hut. We could not see it but it did engender some debate about the range of these birds as originally we thought that they were native to Victorian bush.
We awoke to a really pleasant morning that held the promise of a great day. We were not disappointed. For the first time on the trip we were able to shed our over pants and jackets - blue skies and pleasantly warm. We retraced our route back to the main track. Interestingly all of the water that had inundated the track two days ago had receded leaving a fairly clear path devoid of wading, even the knee part. The raging torrent that we had to use the log to cross was now more docile and a fall in would not have ended in a tragedy. We had lunch at the junction of the Pine Valley Hut track and the main track.
Along the way we took many shots of the ranges to the West of us - Mount Gould and Gould Plateau and to the East the Traveller Range. These ranges were still snow covered and looked spectacular with the sun shining through. This section of the track was easy to walk in part due to the extensive use board walks. Some may think that the board walks detract from the bush walking experience but they do absolutely preserve the track from wide spread erosion and therefore help to maintain the overall beauty of the area. The board walks also make this area accessible to a wide variety of people with varying degrees of fitness and mobility. JayBees dad walked this trail in his seventies.
The walk into Narcissus Hut was a different experience from the previous days walking. We were walking through more button type grass versus the forests of the previous days. The views from the track were spectacular. Our boat was scheduled to pick us up at 1pm and we had arrived with some time to spare. The radio was not operating so we could not reach the ferry service. We were in mobile range so a quick call to let them know were had arrived and to confirm our pick up was settled.
We had lunch and a bit of a poke around and then made our way to the jetty. This walk had many a cruel twist with the best being saved for last. The jetty was sitting in the middle of the lake, the duck board totally under water. We had made it through the whole day without wet feet , only to get them wet in the last 20 meters of the walk. Tasmania when you think its over - it ain't quite yet.
Ferry arrived on time and we back Cynthia Bay with our bus ready to pick us up and take us into Hobart for the evening.
This was a really great walk and exceeded all of our expectations. I would thoroughly recommend this walk in Winter, but you do need to be prepared. Even though we stayed in the huts each night we carried 3 2 man tents for the 6 of us. The importance of this was brought home to us on our second day on the trail at Water Fall Valley Hut when the Scottsman and his walking partner arrived - one of them injured. The snow shoes were a godsend. They made progress easy and fast. It would have been so much harder if we were post driving every second step. The YakTrax were great on the duck board.
I've not walked this in Summer so I can't compare the between Winter and Summer on the Overland but the contrasts during Winter and on the clear days the fact that you are walking below the tree line for the walk and the ground is covered in snow is really something special. We did enjoy the huts and reading the log books, our entries were somewhat boring compared to others. One of the funniest ones was some guy who wrote "I was fat and happy at home playing video games, now I fat and unhappy and just want to get home" followed by threats of doing horrible things to his teacher etc etc. Some of the other walkers comments really didn't provide any sympathy to this kid. They did the walk in June/July so had some challenging conditions.
Thanks for taking the time to read this account of our trip on the Overland Trail