Hiking Overland Track North (Day 1&2)

Sunday evening 12th September 2021, Kristy and I dropped off my car at Lees Paddocks carpark. Hence, we drove with both cars at the Mersey Forest Road along the Mersey River. In the beginning, the Mersey Forest Road is still sealed, but then it turns into a gravel road. Nobody is permanently living in this valley, and after the two dams, you’ve basically also no mobile phone reception anymore. After the Fish River road turnoff to the Walls of Jerusalem carpark, the road deteriorates even more. It’s still about 9km to go, and Kristy struggled a bit with her Toyota Corolla. In the end, I drove a bit faster, as I wanted to check the suspension bridge over the Mersey River. At the carpark there were maybe 2 other cars, and the road ends in a few km at the Mose Creek carpark anyway. So, basically you just can forget to get a lift out of there, as there’s maybe 1 car per day. In the worst case, you would need to walk at least the 9km to the turnoff to the Walls of Jerusalem.

The official start of the Overland Track at Ronny Creek

Monday morning we had an early start, because we didn’t know when the shuttle bus start to operate. And if you arrive before 8:30 o’clock (I think), then the boom gate at Pencil Pine in front of the Ranger Station is still open. The road after the boom gate is quite narrow, why it make sense, that no private cars are allowed afterwards during the day. Thus, at this day Kristy got her fathers 4WD Mitsubishi Outlander, and we had no problems to drive along the frosty roads in the morning. We took Wilmot road up the Forth Valley to Moina, which turns into the Cradle Mountain Road after Wilmot. The weather forecast for the coming days was quite good, a stable high pressure system. And until end of September you don’t need to pay for a permit for the Overland Track. But due to Covid-19, they introduced still a free permit to limit even the numbers in winter. You only need to apply online, but don’t need to pickup anything at the visitor centre (which wouldn’t be open until 9:00 o’clock). I wasn’t the only person who had this idea. So, all the permits with start on Monday were already booked out. Thus, I needed to change my plans. I stayed the first night in the Scott-Kilvert Memorial Hut. This hut is on the eastern side of Cradle mountain, and officially not part of the Overland track. And again because of Covid-19, you still need another permit to stay in this hut overnight, but that wasn’t a problem either. You only need a permit for the Overland track after Cradle Mountain. And for the first hut, the Waterfall Valley Hut, you even get extra permits for camping (not the hut itself), when you want to walk in and out the same way. After the Waterfall Valley Hut, you’ve basically no excuse not to have a permit in my understanding. As I combined the two permits, my official start for the Overland track was on Tuesday, and I was lucky that I didn’t need to pickup anything from the visitor centre that day, as I would’ve been already at Scott-Kilvert Memorial Hut.

After I said goodbye to Kristy while having a second small breakfast, I started the Overland track with a boardwalk along Ronny Creek. Kristy isn’t/wasn’t so much into multiday hikes. So, she was happy for me to do this hike on my own. After crossing Ronny Creek, I already left the Overland Track and headed left along the Lake Lilla Track towards Dove Lake. You’ll pass the much smaller Lake Lilla before arriving at Dove Lake. The construction of the new visitor centre was ongoing. Normally the shuttle bus would stop there, and all the tourists could get an expensive coffee in a single use cup while livestreaming their experience on Insta with the famous Cradle Mountain behind them. How convenient, isn’t it.

Dove Lake from Glacier Rock

After a brief stop at Glacier Rock, I headed again left and took the Lake Rodway Track uphill towards Hansons Peak. The track was in parts still a bit icy, as the western side of that mountain range was still in the shade. I didn’t do the detour via Lake Hanson itself after the saddle, but kept on going straight to Hansons Peak. Two other hikers tried to get to Mount Campbell, but turned around quickly. I got some microspikes with me, but didn’t intend to use them, because then I hoped I could return them in Launceston (and in the end, that worked out, as there were only very short sections on the track which were a bit icy).

Lake Hanson
Cradle Mountain…
…and Dove Lake from Hansons Peak

After Hansons Peak you go down again, and in front of Little Horn I turned left. This section was Winter Wonderland. The trees were covered in snow, and the sun was reflected on them. After a while I reached Artists Pool on the eastern side of Cradle Mountain. The small pond in front of the snow covered east face was just marvellous. I continued and arrived at Scott-Kilvert Hut in the early afternoon near Lake Rodway. It was actually a relaxed day. I turned on the kettle and enjoyed the view to Cradle Mountain with a coffee. Later on the two other hikers also arrived. They stayed outside in a tent, while I was sleeping on the upper floor for myself. In the evening one of them turned on the fire, I wouldn’t as I thought it’s not that cold. And all the coal would need to be flown in. Anyway, we had a conversation at the fire, and they told me they’re just doing a 2 day trip around Cradle Mountain.

Winter Wonderland towards Scott-Kilvert Hut (the picture can’t even capture halfway the scenery)
Artists Pool and East Face of Cradle Mountain
Weindorfers Tower (middle) and Little Horn (right)

You don’t safe much in terms of elevation, as Scott-Kilvert Hut is almost as high as Ronny Creek. Thus the next morning started also with a steep ascent to the plateau behind Cradle Mountain. The track was newly restored, and easy to follow. It wasn’t a mud trench anymore. Once on the plateau I could see Barn Bluff in front of me. The weather was still fine, and the mountain was covered in snow on top. On the junction to the Waterfall Valley Hut I left my big backpack, and only used the top of it as lightweight day pack. While I was approaching the mountain a hiker came towards me, and he told me, that he turned around because of the snow, but that there are others still ascending. So, I continued and indeed I could see them after a while. Once it got a bit steeper, I passed two of them, and then shortly before the summit I caught up with the other three. It was actually not as bad as I thought, but also it was easy to find for me, as I just followed the tracks of the guys in front of me, and didn’t need to do my own track finding. They all stayed at the eastern side of the summit, while I went on to the western side, which is slightly higher, and as such the real peak. Again the weather was fantastic, I had again a splendid 360° view. I had Cradle mountain directly to the North, Mount Pelion West to the South, and other mountain ranges further away to the East and West. But don’t get me wrong, I waited maybe 2 months for this weather window, and I had the freedom to go on these days, when the weather forecast was good. It doesn’t mean, that you always have those conditions in Tasmania.

Barn Bluff
Cradle Mountain from the Western Summit
Summit Cairn with the snow covered southern mountains…
…in the background, and Lake Will to the right

I returned the same way as I came, and slipped once. That was enough to tear my new down jacket. And it was so warm with the sun, that I actually wouldn’t have needed it to wear. The track down from the plateau to the Waterfall Valley Hut has southerly exposure, and as such never gets any sun. These few hundred metres were the most icy on the whole track. With a bit of caution, and as you’re not exposed at all, you can go down safely without any microspikes. The Waterfall Valley Hut is a very new hut. It has even electric light for the night, and is highly insulated with double-glazed windows, so that your heating demand reduces dramatically (Which is quite unique for Tasmania. Typical houses here have single-glazed windows with aluminium frames for increased heat exchange to the environment and thin walls with lots of cracks for better ventilation). The only problem now is, that relative humidity in the rooms are high in particular in winter with still low temperature. Thus, there’s already a lot of Mold growing on the ceiling. Therefore a forced ventilation system with heat exchangers would be beneficial. So that you get out the humidity, but keep the heat inside. I mean the toilets are ventilated 24h a day with a solar-battery system. But as I figured out later, instead of this, PWST decided on the short cut, and the sleeping rooms will have forced open windows. Well it’s a solution, but why then the whole drama of having a super insulated hut?

Moldy Windows…nothing special in Australia, but you would’ve hoped that in a building in the 21st century, they would’ve known of and fixed that problem

My original plan was to walk another 7km to Windermere hut. But the old Windermere hut (now they built a new one), was much smaller, and presumably already fully packed, once I arrive there. The three guys I met on the summit of Barn Bluff, started from Waterfall Valley Hut at about 15:30 o’clock or so, and when I met them again 2 days later, they said it took them 2:30-3h. I liked the new Waterfall Valley Hut, and spontaneously decided to stay the night there. I knew I would have a long way the next day. But the Overland Track is one of the best maintained and easiest walks in Tasmania. And I already knew the last 7km. As such, I wasn’t afraid of having a lot to walk the next day. Instead I enjoyed the afternoon with a coffee on the veranda with a marvellous view towards Barn Bluff.

Stunning view from Waterfall Valley Hut to Barn Bluff (this is actually the sunrise of the next morning, but the afternoon view was similarly stunning)

2 thoughts on “Hiking Overland Track North (Day 1&2)

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