Trekking Tasmania: The Overland Track (Part 1)

Overland-Track-Tasmania
WARNING: The Overland Track is a serious undertaking, requiring well-prepared walkers with a good level of fitness, who understand the risks of walking in a remote alpine area. The weather can change rapidly and frequently, within just a few hours, from burning sun to sleet and snow. Deaths have occurred (even in the middle of summer) when people have been caught unprepared in cold, wet and windy weather. 

These comforting words are the first that greet you on the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service webpage dedicated to the Overland Track. When Third Brother and I embarked on the trek, I went in with about nine or ten hikes under my belt. Mostly two or three hour jaunts into the Blue Mountains, carrying a backpack weighed down with chemistry and physics textbooks.

I didn’t understand the risks of walking in a remote alpine area, couldn’t fathom that the weather could change so drastically so quickly and had never been on an overnight camping trip, forget the six day hike we were getting ourselves into.

While there was a visit by the rescue helicopter on day two of the trip, it wasn’t for me. Or Third Brother.

We did the whole thing as part of a small group with two guides, so that I wouldn’t be held responsible if we got lost or collapsed midway. It was one of the best experiences of my life to date.

The Details
The Overland Track is nothing to sneeze at. The path through Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park clocks in at 65 kilometres (40 miles) through a variety of terrains. The World Heritage Area has a ‘no campfire’ policy and whatever you take into the park needs to come back out with you. That includes rubbish.

Bring socks. As many as you can fit.

 

There is a hut at each campsite with bunks, heaters and cooking facilities but it fills up quickly, especially during the warmer months. Tour groups aren’t able to take advantage of the huts though, it’s all outdoor camping with a tent between you and the wildlife.

Cradle Mountain

That apprehension of the first day was not helped by the misty rain as we rolled up to Dove Lake. The lake sits in Cradle Valley and even with a 20kg (40 pound) pack on your back, you want to stand and stare for a while.

Moving up the mountains slowly, the damp button grass and vegetation began to give way to rocky pathways. Getting used to balancing all of that camping gear on your back while steadily moving higher is no mean feat. Especially when you get to a chain anchored into the rock above you. The way is so steep that your grip on the chain is about the only thing keeping you on the side of the mountain.

The Cradle. You can see why.

It sounds scary because, as a person with a mild fear of heights, I was absolutely petrified. But the snow, and the view from the top, were so worth it. Dove Lake stretches out below you, Cradle Mountain glistens to your right, and there’s just valley and snow as far as you can see.

Changing Terrain

That first day showed just how quickly the terrain – and the ground cover – can change in Tasmania. Even though we visited at the end of October (spring in Australia), we encountered dirt path, vast rocky stretches, hours of hiking through shin-deep snow relying on coloured poles to stay on the path, and duckboard descending through thick bush.
Trudging through the snow was a bit of an eye opener for me. Suffice to say, you can bring as many pairs of socks on this trip as you want, you’ll never have enough. Guaranteed.

Injury

An older (but by no means elderly) member of our group somehow injured his foot while hiking through the snow. By the time we made it out of the white stuff and into the bush, he wasn’t fairing well at all.
The group went on ahead while one of the tour guides acted as a crutch to help the injured man to camp. It took them hours longer to arrive at Waterfall Valley Camp and when they did, the news wasn’t great. After hours of conversations on the satellite phone, the rescue helicopter agreed to make the trip to air lift him out the next day.
So we spent a little extra time at Waterfall Valley, aptly named because our tent was pitched right in front of the falls – not a great decision when the nearest bathroom is 500 metres away in the dead of night. The upside was all of the animals we got to see. Ever heard of a pademelon? Neither had I, until Third Brother encountered with one.

Walk On

Just a leisurely 8km (5 mile) stroll today, which is just as well since shouldering that backpack is a fresh hell. Luckily we get to shrug them off around lunchtime to visit the beach! Well, it’s really Lake Will, but the shores are sandy and take a bit of extra effort to get to, so it feels like you deserve a dip once you arrive.
A night at Lake Windermere prepared us for one of our longest hiking days. Seventeen kilometres stretched before us through rainforest, up mountains, back down mountains and then, back up again. Day three almost broke me. I’m not a princess but I’m also not the happiest person after days of stinky drop toilets and no showers in sight.

We made it to Pelion Plains, where the views are supposed to be spectacular. There was horizontal rain there waiting for us though, and stingingly cold winds. We couldn’t see anything for the mist and no one was keen to hang around.

By the time we reached our camp I couldn’t feel my hands. My whole hands, not just the fingers. The idea of setting up camp in the pouring rain was not an attractive one. I still don’t know how we managed to do all of those fiddly snaps and get our tent up. I had a bit of a sook and retreated to my sleeping bag at 5pm to be cranky and get warm. Also to wonder what I had gotten myself into and why I thought I could handle six days in the wilderness.

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63 thoughts on “Trekking Tasmania: The Overland Track (Part 1)

  1. I've often wondered about this track – so will be waiting for next weeks instalment. I recently did Milford Track & day 3 was a personal hell day – & we weren't camping!

  2. This looks challenging but Cradle Mountain is beautiful. I went on a 4 day walk through the Blue Mountains a few years ago. It was lovely being in nature with only the sounds of the bush. My friend is taking a walking trek at Maria Island this month. Loved your pictures they have inspired me.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

  3. I love Tassie. We went there for our honeymoon over 20 years ago and did four hour walk around Cradle Mountain. I was ready to collapse after that! Love the images and glad you enjoyed the experience.

  4. This is an exciting journey, but not for me. I am not sure if you lost me at snow or tents, but neither appeal. While your photos are lovely, you do look cold and possibly wet. And that poor guy who needed the rescue and had to walk 3 hours on the injury. However, I have a daughter who would love this. Thanks for taking us along somewhere I will probably never see for myself.

  5. You are such an adventurer. I look at this and go, 'awesome view' now where is my hotel room? I think its great you and your bro experienced this. So much to see and do in our lovely country for sure! Thanks for linking up for #lifethisweek 10/52. Next week: My Favourite Colour.

  6. Maybe Day 3 is just the day where everyone hits the wall? I hope so, I felt like such a baby, my little brother had to tell me to suck it up and stop being such a killjoy!
    I'll have to look up Milford Track, I haven't heard of it before!

  7. Thanks Sue, I love the sound of your Blue Mountains walk as well. Did you go with friends or did you do it on your own? I'm always afraid of getting lost in the mountains, I find that the trails aren't always so well marked.

  8. Yeah it's not for everyone Rhonda, and I'm not sure that I'd do such a long trip again, but it was a great experience. Hahaha, those photos are from day three maybe, when I was at my coldest, most miserable. It gets better. Really it does.
    I know, that poor guy! He'd done so many long hikes before as well. And it was lucky that we had an orthopedic surgeon in our group who spoke to the rescue helicopter guys, because they took a lot of convincing to come out and pick him up.

  9. I first thought that the whole trek would have a neat wooden track like that and wondered how it could be so demanding 😀 I get that the weather can be dangerous, same here in Norway. I've never hiked for more than half a day but I'd like to do a trek one day that's easy. Like really easy! 😉

  10. Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to drop by my place today. Been to you other part of the world and loved it. Not to crazy about San Francisco.

  11. I hiked the Overland track back in Dec 2014-Jan 2015. While it didn't snow on Day 1, it started raining on Day 2 and was pissing down on Day 3 along with heavy winds and the cold. I too couldn't feel my hands that day on our way to Pelion and didn't stop to enjoy any of the scenery. Must admit, after hiking the Overland, I was a bit scarred from overnight hiking…it was too many days without a shower for me.

  12. I'm starting to see a pattern here! Day 3 is awful for everyone. I had the opposite reaction to you though. I kind of thought that if I managed those six days, I can handle any overnight or weekend camping trips easily. The shower thing isn't nice though.

  13. Well, it definitely sounds like an intense hike! As much as I love hiking, I've never done anything more than a day hike. I've always been quite nervous to do a proper backpacking trip. Having a guide & going with a group would be a great option for me.

    Can't wait to read the rest of the story!
    #FlyAwayFriday

  14. This hike sounds like like something I'd sign up for and then once it started raining get whiney and cranky too haha. I love hiking and camping and can't wait to read part 2 next week!

  15. I'm the same Courtney, I'd never embark on a trip like that without a guide. I would totally get lost. It's not even a possibility that I might get lost, I WOULD get lost and have to use an EPIRB or something to be rescued. Thanks for reading!

  16. I may have just hitched a ride out with the rescue helicopter. I would be pretty upset to hike 3 days to a point that was supposed to have great views and see nothing! #FarawayFiles

  17. I can definitely remember long walks across Dartmoor and the New Forest in the pouring rain, Kat! Just gritting my teeth and hoping the rain wouldn't drip down my hood anymore than it was already. Thank goodness the sun came out for you on the second day and you got to see this amazing landscape in all its glory! #FarawayFiles. Third time lucky!!

  18. Oh gee, you're persistent! You deserve a free coffee for that effort at least!
    Hahaha, your description of rainy walks is so spot on to how I felt at the time. Trying to keep your pony tail behind you under your hood so that it doesn't run water down your back!

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