Day 4: Starting the Overland Track

Wednesday November 23, 12.7km/7.9mi

Ronny Creek Carpark (0.0/868m) to Waterfall Hut (10.5/1025m) (TAS) +2.2 to Cradle Mt.

I was awake at 6am, so I could pack up, shower, and eat before leaving the hostel at 7am. I walked the 1km to the CBD, to meet the bus for a 7:30am departure. The driver was really friendly and apologetic, and explained that due to a windstorm, the usual road was closed due to downed power lines. We took a detour that turned the 2-hour drive into a 3.5 hour drive. Ugh. At least the trip was also an interpretive tour, and the driver explained various landmarks along the way, including these murals in the small town of Sheffield.

We finally got to the park visitor center at noon, which was a huge modern facility.

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park seems to attract tons of tourists, there were shuttle buses and parking everywhere. Part of the process to pickup the camping permit was to watch a safety video, complete and sign a checklist for all the required gear items, and talk with a ranger about the track history and expectations. They provided a nice little pack-up room for all this, which had a backpack scale (13kg with food and microspikes!) and charging outlets.

And of course a fun map showing the elevation profile of all 75km of the trail.

The shuttle bus took me from the visitor center to the trailhead, which took twice as long due to road construction. Eesh. By the time I got to the sign-in kiosk, it was 3pm.

The start of the Overland Track is very well advertised.

I found a group of dayhikers to get my starting photo. It was sunny, but also 10C and windy, hence the pants.

Much of the first kilometer was on boardwalk thru the marshy buttongrass meadow.

I love the alpine environment and all its little streams and carpet-like greenery.

I saw probably a couple dozen dayhikers, this section seemed exceptionally popular and well-built.

Eventually the trail left the boardwalk and started to climb, following a creek with lots of little waterfalls. And some bigger ones, like Crater Falls.

They even built a wooden platform to take a break on, and a stair to get down into the creek!

At the top of that climb, I came to Crater Lake, which has nothing to do with craters.. Strangely, this little shed sat partially in the water.

Crater Lake, with Crater Peak behind it.

And then… another climb. This one was much steeper.

I reached the top of that climb at Marion’s Lookout, and it was gratifying to see all the uphill progress I made. Crater Lake:

And Dove Lake, to the east:

Now that I was up at an elevation of 1200m/3900ft, I was in the remaining patchy snow from Monday’s snowstorm. The uniquely shaped Barn Bluff is straight ahead:

I came to the Kitchen Hut, which is an emergency shelter.

I dropped off my pack in there (minus my headlamp, some snacks, and warm clothes) to do a quick side-hike up Cradle Mt.

The junction to the summit trail was only 100m from the hut.

It started off as a gently climbing trail thru some snow.

As I got higher, the snow lessened and the angle steepened.

There was a cool little window in some of the boulders.

The final pitch to the top was a steep rocky scramble.

The views from the top!

It looked like some low clouds were moving in from the west, and my weather app confirmed rain starting at 7pm. It was currently 5pm, with a 45 minute descent, and a 5km hike to do. Game on, weather! Back on the Overland Track, it continued its direct south aim towards Barn Bluff.

And this weird little emergency shelter.

Just before I descended off the windy alpine plateau, a trail junction gave the option to go hike Barn Bluff.

Sorry, not today, all the bus delays took up too much time. I dropped into Waterfall Valley on a very nice set of stairs.

And just before 7pm, I was there! This is one of the newly built huts, they are huge.

I think it sleeps 34 people among the 3 bunkrooms, plus it had a separate toilet building and a huge dining area.

There were plenty of other people there (20?) and I was almost the last to arrive, one family did arrive after me though. I setup my sleeping mattress and quilt on a top bunk (it’s warmer) and quickly made my dinner. I was starving but also didn’t feel like eating, but I knew I had to maintain my calories. As I was going to bed, it started to feel like a flu…that’s terrible timing. 5 more days to go!

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