Tasmania by foot – Part Two (29/12/2013 – 30/12/2013)

(This follows on from Part One)

So there I was: cold, miserable, wet. We left Kitchen Hut and trekked over ridges just getting buffeted by the wind, carrying sleet. I took my watch off and and attached it to the outside of my jacket to see how cold it was: 5 degrees. I could barely see in front of me. As Cradle Mountain disappeared behind me (I presumed so anyway) we ducked down a bit and into some trees and the weather started to lift.

In fact, the more we walked away from Cradle Mountain, the more the weather lifted! Eventually we could even see the dolerite rocks that were mentioned in the tour guides (and we wouldn’t stop seeing all trip).

The clouds, rain, sleet and snow lifted, but we were stuck with the cold wind. Not that we cared, we could at least see stuff now! Our spirits lifted, we sped on and ended up at the Barn Bluff side-track junction. This meant we were 30 minutes from our night resting spot: Waterfall Hut.

The weather was clearing and we came to an executive decision: we’d speed down to the hut, set up our beds, grab our day packs and spend the few remaining hours of daylight to attempt to summit Barn Bluff (behind me in the above photo). Off we went over very exposed shrubbery ridges, down into the hut in the valley.

Our day packs felt amazing on our shoulders, almost like we were wearing nothing at all. We practically ran up Barn Bluff.

The scramble was pretty easy compared to other ones we’ve done. A fair chunk of it was walking, then a small boulder field to cross then a relatively well marked scramble up the dolerite to the top. If you had a good eye and any knowledge of walking without a track, the cairns and markers were easy to follow.

We got to the top and the clouds set in. We could barely see in front of us. Michael and I huddled under a rock watching the rocks in front of us slowly disappear. After a long time we decided we’d start heading back down, following my GPS since we couldn’t see very far in front of us.

Of course, after making this decision, everything cleared up and we were treated to a magnificent view.

Even Cradle Mountain was clear of clouds now, as you can see behind Michael.

There was, however, some snow on the ground. A quick cry of “HEY ALLAN” (and a pause as I warned him not to hit my camera and to give me time to compose a shot) and there was a snowball coming at me!

Our spirits much lifted with a summit, we headed back to Waterfall Hut for dinner. Walking back, facing Cradle Mountain, it was a spectacular view. In the distance we could see our fellow hikers following the path we followed earlier in the day.

Here’s the reverse angle, so you can see up close what we climbed.

The main track of the Overland was incredibly well marked. At points there were markers every few metres and raised up at eye height (obviously above the snow line).

Waterfall Valley Hut had a volunteer ranger who was nice enough to let us know that Australia continued it’s dominance of the Ashes.

We got the weather forecast from him, which confirmed our worst fears. Horrible weather the next day, but possibility of a reasonable day next. Since day 2 was only a 7.7km walk with one small side-trip, we decided to combine the next 2 days in one, giving us a day with only our day packs to try and summit as many mountains as possible.

We started early and our plan seemed a good one. The weather was miserable. The start of the walk was just exposed shrub lands with no break from the relentless wind and sideways rain. There’s hardly any photos of that day.

We walked through to Windmere hut in a short time and stopped for a quick hot breakfast and attempted to dry out (something I didn’t actually do until we got back to Queensland). The lake there looked beautiful, but the weather stopped me from being in the mood to even enjoy looking at it.

We trooped on 16.7kms to New Pelion hut. The shrub lands gave out to rainforest, but the rain and wind was relentless. And we had a new battle now, deep mud. We stopped for a cold lunch huddle under a tree, not really out of the rain. At one point I removed my glove to grab something from my bag and found a massive leech on my hand. He must have been there for a few hours.

Eventually we got to the nicest hut of the whole track, New Pelion, just as the weather started clearing. We made dinner on the patio and attempted to enjoy the wonderful view over the valley, back out to Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff, sometimes visible under the clouds.

By jumping ahead a day, we caught up with some people we had caught buses with. They were lovely people and we had a long night of playing cards before we turned in as darkeness crept over us, trying to get some rest before we attempted to summit as many mountains as possible in one day.

The rest of the holiday continues in parts one, three and four but here are the gallery of photos for part two:

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