Sunday, 6 March 2011

Overland Track : Day 1 Cradle Mountain to Waterfall Valley

Barn Bluff
It's been a while hasn't it. Everyone has probably long since removed me from their RSS feeds seeing as how my last post was probably more than 2 years ago. I really should change the title and address of this blog, but see last sentence and you'll know why that's not going to happen. I'm lucky I even remembered what my login to this place was.

The main reason I'm posting now is because I've just come back from an awesome week in Tasmania, where 5 and a half days were spent walking the Overland Track. I thought I'd put a bit of a description up here so I don't have to keep telling the same stories, I'd probably end up telling the same one to someone and how embarrassing would that be.

For those who may not know the Overland track is a ~70km walk between Cradle Mt and Lake St-Clair and everyone knows how to use google maps now to decide if I've exaggerated the distance.

The church opposite the hotel room in Launceston
We flew into Launceston on Friday night and the first thing that hits you is how friendly everyone is. I don't know if it's a combination of being dependent on tourism or a small town thing, but these people were friendly than those in Wagga and that is usually my benchmark for friendliness. In Launceston I mainly spent my time eating lots, trying to preserve my feet and not getting my clothes dirty, not a good start if you manage to spill pasta sauce all over the one set of clothes you will be wearing for the next week.

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake
I did manage to pay a visit to the City Park which for some reason has an enclosure of Japanese macaque monkeys. These are the ones who you normally see sitting in hot pools surrounded by snow. So it was a little strange to have a troop of them in the middle of Launceston, and they aren't my favourite monkey, I think that would have to be the Capuchin, but kind of cool to see.

Then it was on to the walk......

We got up super early for the 2+ hour bus trip from Launceston to the Cradle Mountain visitor centre, stuffing hot cross buns into my mouth as I knew they would be the last fresh carbs for a while, and I luuuurve carbs.

Day 1: Cradle Mountain to Waterfall Valley (10.4 km)

Lake Lilla and Cradle Mountain
We got on the track by just before 10am, ready for the 10.4 km walk to Waterfall Valley Hut. This day had a fair amount of climbing, we would walk up about 300m to reach the alpine plateau and then at the end of the day we would drop about 200m into the campsite. So not heaps of elevation gain, but you really feel any when you are carrying heavy packs.

The start of the walk was actually the non-standard start, from Dove Lake.  Normally you would start from the Ronny Creek Carpark. For some reason there was track work on this beginning section, I'm not sure why they chose to do it in the middle of the high season, but I actually really liked this start, this really gives a good view of Cradle Mountain.  I think the climb up to Marions Lookout is meant to be steeper this way though.  In the photo above Marions Lookout is at the top of the ridge in the foreground.
Climbing up from Lake Lilla    

We actually had pretty good weather the entire time we were walking the track. Apparently in the Cradle Mountain area it is cloudy for 294 days in the year and rains on 275 days, so to see blue skies and no rain on our first day was pretty lucky.

To the left is Lake Lilla, starting the climb up to Marions Lookout.  The first part of the walk was through lovely Australian scrub. It was unusual for me to see so much water around, having done a lot of walking in NSW and Victoria I'm more used to water normally being a bit of a struggle to find.

The first part of the walk was fairly busy as there were a lot of day walkers around. Since it was such a nice day there were a lot of people heading out to try the Cradle Mountain ascent. The climb doesn't seem like much, and looking up from Kitchen Hut the path didn't seem to bad. Bad assumption. Even though the climb was only 320 m over 1.2 km, it was tough.

Another shot of Lake Lilla and Dove Lake
I'm really surprised that so many people attempted it as a day-walk, in bad conditions it would be dangerous. The climb starts off easy, but then you round a corner and the true ascent becomes visible. You have to climb over massive rocks, big as a room. It's perhaps low-grade rock climbing really, except in hiking boots. Lets just say there was a high attrition rate from most people. It just got tougher the higher you went, until your whole body was aching from pulling yourself up crevices and around massive boulders. But we got there, and the view was pretty nice. But we were late coming back down the mountain.

Crater Lake
By the time we got to the start of the walk up Cradle Mountain we had walked out of the trees and were into the alpine vegetation.  This is some of my favourite vegetation, and it being wildflower season up there just made it all the more special.

Another Cradle Mountain shot

Above is Crater Lake, this was where the usual start of the Overland Track joins up to the track we were on.  Just after this lake is the final, steep, push up to Marions Lookout.  The water here was really black.

We camped in what we thought was going to be a lovely spot, underneath the trees where the ridge dropped into the valley, so out of the wind, along with a number of other campers. Also near a little stream which we could get water from, rather than going all the way back to the hut for. I later learned that you shouldn't drink from any streams in this valley, but we did have our UV water purifier with us, so hopefully that could contend with anything in the water.

It looked like a really lovely spot, but unfortunately the rain which this area is so known for settled in over night. We found out why this place is called Waterfall Valley in the morning........

Above is the track towards Kitchen Hut, at the base of Cradle Mountain, and Barn Bluff in the distance.  The night's campsite was at the base of this mountain.  The track here was in really good condition, I suppose because most people probably walk just this section.  Overall the track was really good, though some parts got a bit rougher.

Below left is the start of the climb to Cradle Mountain. This was when the going was still easy.

To the below right the track starts to get tougher, and to the left is the cause of all the boulders, it seems that Cradle Mountain is constantly crumbling.

Still going OK

The view from the top was pretty nice.

Coming back down the mountain.  You can see the many tracks intersecting around this point

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