A peak too far

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Oceania » Australia » Tasmania » Cradle Mountain
February 26th 2010
Published: March 13th 2010
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Day 306 - Waratah to Cradle Valley

We enjoyed a great nights sleep after our whistle stop tour down the west coast yesterday. It was great fun along the way and we at least feel we’ve seen enough to satisfy our curiosity!

The spot we picked in such a rush when arrived in Waratah yesterday is great and we got to watch the playful platypus in the river again this morning. They don’t seem the slightest bit worried by humans or the dawning light. The Camps 5 ref is TAS 180 and we’d highly recommend a stay here if for no other reason than to see the platypus! It worked well as a base for our West Coast adventure too plus of course there are the features of Waratah itself like the beautiful waterfall which is practically in the main street. Others that were camped here were using it as a base to cover Cradle Mountain as the Big 4 park there was fully booked. That’s a hefty day trip if you’re intending to do any of the bigger walks so our advice would be to book well in advance.

Talking of Cradle Mountain, it was time we got on our way. We’d arranged to meet Tony & Jane in the car park at the visitors centre by 10am and as we drove into a more built up area (10 houses instead of 3!) the mobile reception kicked in and we got a text to let us know they were on their way.

The weather today is just glorious, another beautiful looking sky and blazing sun, perfect for walking in the mountains.

Once we’d reunited with Tony & Jane we all trooped off to the visitors centre, we wanted to get as much information about the area as possible. It was a bit of a surprise to be told the forecast for tomorrow wasn’t looking great, the lady checked a couple of websites for us - one was better than the other but neither predicted a repeat of todays glorious skies. We quizzed the lady about whether it was sensible for us to think about doing the summit walk today, she looked at her watch (it was nearing 10.30am) and said she didn’t see why we couldn’t - it was only a six hour return walk so we had time. It was food for thought anyway.

We decided to get ourselves up to the campsite and dump the caravans. We’d been told by their call centre we weren’t allowed in before mid-day but we were pretty sure that wasn’t going to be the case!

The staff at the Big 4 park were great, very helpful and had no issue with us checking in immediately. We’re on unpowered sites which turn out to be brilliantly placed for the wildlife - near to the BBQ’s and the camp kitchen! Not that we want to cook any possums or tassie devils but they’ll be after scraps of food so are bound to come sniffing round.

With our lunches already packed we set off in hot pursuit of the next available shuttle bus going up to the National Park. They have a barrier system in place that only allows you past the Rangers Station with your car if there are car park places free at either Ronny Creek or Dove Lake. We weren’t 100% sure how it all worked so decided to catch the bus today, check it all out and then take the car tomorrow to give us a bit more flexibility. A lady hadn’t realised you needed your national parks pass plus a bus ticket to board the shuttle so the driver sent her back to the visitors centre. That left enough seats for the four of us and we were on our way.

I’d bought a map at the visitors centre but didn’t read it until we were just getting to Dove Lake. The timing meant I had to deliver some bad news to the others in that we’d missed the drop off point for the ‘easy’ route to the Cradle Mountain summit. We all had a bit of a chuckle at the inclusion of the word ‘easy’ in the walk description, that would be a first, nothing has been ‘easy’ walk wise in Tasmania so far!

The outlook is stunning and the vision of what we presume to be Cradle Mountain beyond Dove Lake spurs us on and we decide to just go for it. We follow the signs to Marions Lookout initially which takes us past Lake Lilla, round Wombat Pool and then up Wombat Peak via a fairly rough track including a climb aided by chains. So this really wasn’t the easy route then?! Coming up over Wombat Peak I was starting to struggle, no idea why but I was finding it tough going and the prospect of climbing a mountain summit seemed a little over the top! My answer to this was to take up the lead and put Darryl at the back of the group, purely to slow things down a bit. We were back in rhythm for a while but then Jane started to struggle too. We took a break for a snack bar quite early on and then another just before we started the climb with the chains going up to Marion’s Lookout.

We had a good break at Marion’s Lookout, the view is stunning and it’s such a beautiful day that spending time to take in the view is no problem at all. We did just that for 40 minutes which included chatting to a young family where both their very small children were being carried by Mum & Dad. Oh to be 2 years old again!

Jane was feeling much better and quite up for the challenge of the summit, we all were but by the time we set off again it was realistically too late in the day for us to achieve it in a timely manner. Most people that we met this morning were ‘only’ doing the Marion’s Lookout walk, the summit was more challenging than any of us had anticipated plus of course a good many walkers are here to tackle the Overland Track which is tough enough in itself without adding a climb up a mountain!

As we neared Kitchen Hut we talked to a chap returning from the summit and he advised us it was probably a good 2 and a half hour effort to get up and back from where we were now. The last shuttle bus left Dove Lake at 8.20pm - if we missed that it was a lot of GST to add to the day in terms of getting back to the caravan park. That was it; the walk to the summit was officially off the agenda. Darryl was gutted but never let on and instead set about checking out the alternative walk emerging from the conversation. On the map we could see a track called the Face Track which navigated its way past Little Horn, the Twisted Lakes, over Hansons Peak and then back down to the Dove Lake car park. It didn’t look that far on the map! We thanked the chap for his advice and watch him stride off … downhill, the lucky blighter!

Kitchen Hut itself was a curious hideaway, its two storeys with a wooden ladder going up into the loft area. If you found yourself caught in a storm then it would make a perfect resting spot. From here we gaze up at what we thought was the Cradle Mountain summit and watch the tiny dots in the distance clambering the rocks to get to the top. Infact what we were watching was people scaling Smithies Peak, the climb before you get to the actual climb to start scaling the Cradle Mountain summit! Great, another one of those climbs where you think you’ve reached the top only to be presented with a bit more to do. The real Cradle Mountain peak is tucked around the corner out of view from those who don’t venture further along the Overland Track.

We continued our new walk and took the turn off for the Face Track. We’d all dressed for the occasion of walking in a national park where the weather can change in a split second. We had plenty of warm clothing with us and I’d even worn an extra pair of leggings underneath my shorts, just in case, but blimey it was a bit hot for that! By now I’d drunk a lot of my water so I was delighted to spot a spring with the most beautiful, clear water tumbling out of it. If it tasted as good as it looked I was on a winner and luckily it did! I filled my water bottle sharing it with the others so they got a taste of Tasmania spring water too and I’m happy to report that none of us suffered any ill effects!

We passed the turnoff to the rough & steep track indicated on the map that would take you down passed Lake Wilks and to the edge of Dove Lake. There’s been a good mix throughout the day of gravel track, boardwalk, rock clambering and of course the scenery around us is absolutely stunning. There’s always something to look at.

We continued along to the beautiful Twisted Lakes area where we had a bit of a rest and a snack. The weather was just divine, the sky was the perfect colour blue and the mountains looked very striking behind us. The next section was hard, Hansons Peak and it was almost a peak too far. It had been named after a young prospector, Bert Hanson, who died of exposure out hunting in the area back in 1905. He was 17 years old. And here we were finding it tough on a little walk whilst on holiday, hmmm! When it came to deciding whether to walk back to the car park via Hansons Lake or Hansons Peak, we choose Hansons Peak. Although it was tough we were mighty glad we did it that way round when we found ourselves looking down at the steep track we would have needed to climb had we gone via the lake!

From that point on things got easier, it was mainly downhill and we soon found ourselves on the Dove Lake track heading for home. Wahoo, we’d done it! With perfect timing the shuttle bus arrived just as we were signing off from the walk register (would have been around 6.20pm) and in no time at all we were laughing and joking with the driver who went on to tell us how many times he’d climbed the Cradle Mountain summit!

We settled ourselves into the camp kitchen for the night taking over one of the power points so we could charge phones, laptops and camera batteries. It’s a fabulous area with plenty of seating, open fire places, inside BBQ’s, hotplates, microwaves, toaster, kettle - everything you could possibly want really.

Dinner was a great, all the nicer because Tony & Jane had prepared it earlier so it wasn’t a big drama to cook and then eat it. Followed by some of Jane’s fabulous Sticky Date Pudding it was a good end to a pretty awesome day.

When Tony & Jane went back to their caravan I stayed in the camp kitchen doing bits on the blogs. Darryl came rushing in with the biggest grin on his face, he’d seen a Tasmanian Devil running through the campground! Wowsers! The search was on to try and find the little devil before he disappeared into the night. It was hard to accurately spot them as there were so many big possums about but a devil is quite distinctive.

And there he was, right at my feet. To start with I wasn’t sure
Now that looks like hard workNow that looks like hard workNow that looks like hard work

This stopped us moaning, a beautiful family up at Marion's Lookout. If they could come all that way carrying the kids then surely we could continue with our little rucksacks!
and looked round for Darryl to confirm my sighting but he’d wandered off. Then a shout (read ‘scream’) went up from the campsite next to where I was stood. Loosely translated it went something like “Gosh, I do believe that’s a Tasmanian Devil”. That was confirmation enough for me. I rushed around looking for more evidence and to find Darryl. We were now pretty excited and got a bit carried away with the camera and a possum. The possums are very, very tame and this particular one ended up eating a lady’s toothpaste! He must have been getting ready for a night out!

It was definitely time for bed, we’ve got another walk organised for the morning!

Dar and Sar

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19th January 2013

my great grandfather William Hanson, it was his son that died up on the peak, his name was William Herbert Hanson. So sad. Marilyn Russell(Nee Hanson)

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