Hiking Penguin Cradle Trail (Section 6&7)

Monday morning, 1st November 2021, we woke up in the middle of the mist. After pitching down the tent, we started our second day. It would be a long day, as we wanted to hike all the way to the Fourways campsite, which is about 21km. We still needed to climb about 200m and cross the Winter Brook creek, which involved a bit of rock hopping. This is the highest section of the PCT, if you don’t include Black Bluff. We saw even some old patches of snow. Then we traversed underneath the Black Bluff Range, but there were still low hanging clouds, and we were either in them or directly underneath them.

Kristy making her way through the morning mist
Slowly the clouds started to recede

After the traverse we basically stayed on top of a wide mountain plateau for the next 15km or so. That also meant 15km of buttongrass plains. The trail couldn’t be lost, as you just follow more or less the mud. The weather got a bit better over time, and we could see more and more what was left and right from us. About 9km after the start we arrived at Bare Mountain campsite, behind Bare Mountain. I wasn’t certain about the water supply there, but it wouldn’t have been an issue, as the tiny creek was running. In hindsight, it would’ve been a better place to stay overnight, but it’s not as beautiful as Paddys Lake.

The track was clearly marked with poles on the plateau
Cradle mountain is in sight, I mean sort of, it’s still shrouded in clouds
Kristy enjoys her day in the buttongrass

Afterwards we traversed below Prospect Mountain, and had a short break, while I was heading the 50m to the top. There’s another memorial plaque for Hellyer on top. From here we could also see what was still in front of us. Time went by, and it was quite exhausting to walk through the muddy trench, in particular for Kristy. Cradle Valley Lookout I still remembered from my first day in Tasmania, and still couldn’t believe that we’re now the guys walking out from the bush, crossing the bitumen road, and disappear back into the bush. In the late afternoon we finally could see Vale River and the waterfall at Fleece Creek on the other side of the canyon.

Lake Lea below…
…Prospect Mountain (Good old Henry Hellyer)…
…from here we could clearly see our fantastic way, which was still in front of us…and full of buttongrass
In the small gorge to the right is the spring of Leven River
Belvoir Road from Cradle Valley Lookout (but Cradle Mountain is still hidden in clouds)

We stopped at the turnoff to Mount Beecroft. Kristy just wanted to go down to the campsite, but I wanted to climb the mountain, which was just nearby. Well, we agreed that she’s waiting here, and that I’ve only 1h to return to her. That’s quite tough after almost 20km with a heavy backpack. So I left all my gear with her, and only took my camera for the 200m elevation gain. I had beautiful views on top. I could see Mount Roland, and Black Bluff to the North, as well as Saint Valentines Peak to the North-West. To the south Vale River flows into Lake Mackintosh, and you could a glimpse of its northern end. I spent less than 5min on top. Just to make a few photos, and hardly could enjoy the view at all. After less than 1h I was back at Kristy, and she already could see me for half of the time.

Waterfalls of Fleece Creek, above Vale River
A glimpse of Lake Mackintosh…
…as well as to the North…
…from the summit of Mount Beecroft
Clear View of Saint Valentines Peak and Talbots Lagoon (left)
Finally, Black Bluff (left) is free of clouds and Lake Lea (right)

Then we still had steep descent towards our campsite. Part of the track was maintained, and there was at least a bit of zig-zag going down. Once we joined the small creek, the scenery changed completely, and we went into a nice forest again. As it got already a bit dark, I wanted to find the campsite before dusk and went ahead. But that wasn’t a good idea, and in the end I just waited for Kristy, so we could stay together for the last 500m. There was no point anyone get missing there. After 10h we finally arrived at the campsite, a bit exhausted but happy that we made it.

The last descent of the day, with the last rays of sunshine before we dip into the shade of Mount Beecroft

The Fourways Campsite is actually quite nice. Directly at the Vale River with good fresh water supply. There was nobody else, so we choose the most convenient campsite for us. Pitched up the tent, and had dinner already when it turned dark. At least the weather was much better. The next morning we still tried to have an early start. But we skipped the idea of start of walking for sunrise, rather we got up at sunrise and then started walking shortly before 8:00 o’clock.

Four Ways: Vale River, Speeler Creek, Fleece Creek
Waterfalls at Fleece Creek
Deep Valley of Vale River, which makes it way all the way into Lake Mackintosh

The bridge over the Vale river was convenient. This is just behind where Speeler Creek and Fleece Creek flow into Vale River. Thus, four ways. The next few kilometres are actually quite nice. You follow a ridge line through some nice forest uphill along Fleece Creek. Yes, there’s also some muddy sections, but nothing too bad. After about 5km and finally crossing the tiny Fleece Creek, you reach Reynolds Falls Track. It’s the final end of a former 4WD track, which turns off from Belvoir Rd. And you think, a well nice, only 5km to go. Can’t be too bad, we’re so close to Pencil Pine and the civilisation. Well, that’s Tasmania here. So, the last 5km is just boggy Buttongrass plains. There’s not much in elevation gain, but the emphasis here is on boggy. Yes, here you’ve several knee deep puddles of mud. You don’t see them, as they’re mainly hidden between the buttongrass. Then you step into them, fall over, and land with your belly on a buttongrass bush, then you try to push back, with your heavy backpack, and think WTF am I doing here. This is bullshit. Well after a bit more than one hour, we suddenly popped out at the end of the tourist walks behind Pencil Pine. Back into civilisation, and the last few metres were just over boardwalk. I finished the complete length of the PCT. And I can say, it’s considerably harder than the Overland Track. If you think doing the PCT as training for the Overland Track. Well, no do it the other way around. You would think the Overland Track is just a Sunday afternoon walk compared to the PCT. Kristy drove me straight back to Devonport via Sheffield, as I had an appointment. In Sheffield there was a very slow motorhome coming out of town (bloody tourists 😉), when we needed to stop at West Kentish Rd, and we couldn’t make it safely in front of them. So I told Kristy to take the West Nook Rd and Nook Rd to Acacia Hills, as I was a bit short on time, as the morning walk took a bit longer than anticipated. And yes we were by way faster, and weren’t in the traffic queue behind them. That’s the advantage of having gained local knowledge.

Cradle Mountain finally peaks above the mountain spine
View back to the power pole at Cradle Valley Lookout
That’s what Tassie is all about…endless plains of buttongrass
Almost reaching the forest line, but not before getting stuck in the boggy peat of the buttongrass a few more times (It’s such a nice feeling, when the mud gets over your gaiters).
Kristy and I…more than happy to finally complete the PCT 😊
GPX Track

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