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 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.|
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.
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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