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Published: June 17th 2014
This short blog entry has been a long time coming, lying unfinished for months... The short days and dark evenings of winter have provided me with the impetus to finally get some photos of the beautiful Cradle Mountain up!
The Australian summer - even in Tasmania! - is a joyful time of barbecues, beers, beach and seemingly never-ending long weekends. This year, one of the country's best-loved public holidays - Australia Day - happily falls on a Sunday, meaning...yet another long weekend! And what better - and more Tasmanian - way to celebrate our adoptive home than to head off on a weekend of bushwalking?
Cradle Mountain National Park is undoubtedly one of Tasmania's big draw cards. Blessed with exceptionally beautiful scenery (even by the standards we have become used to!), and the starting point of Tasmania's world-famous Overland Track - which usually finds a place on any Top Ten list of the world's best hikes - Cradle Mountain attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. As always however, you don't have to tread very far off the beaten track to find relative, or even complete, solitude. Our wanderings for the weekend take us beyond Cradle Mountain
itself - a double peak which does indeed vaguely resemble a child's cradle - and Dove Lake, the body of water which lies at its foot, and into a part of the park not generally accessed by day visitors, who usually have to travel by road for over 4 hours just to get to the park's entrance.
Over three days and two nights - the latter spent at the beautiful and frankly comfortable Scott-Kilvert Memorial Hut - we complete a full circuit around the Cradle Massif, seeing Tasmania's most famous peak (but not its highest - Cradle is a measly sixth!) from all possible angles. The hut is a large two-story A-frame construction, cosily heated by a coal stove (unsurprisingly, the fuel has to be helicoptered in) and easily sleeping 20 or more people. Inexplicably for a summer long weekend, it's almost deserted on the first night (just us and a trio of remarkably ill-prepared backpackers, who somehow neglected to bring a sleeping bag for an overnight walk - the latter slept huddled around the stove downstairs) and not much worse on the second. With a proper composting toilet a short walk away and a tank of
lovely pure Tasmanian rainwater, it really is quite plush (as far as these things go). The hut was constructed and named in memory of Ewen Scott, a teacher, and David Kilvert, a student he was accompanying on a school group hiking trip to Cradle Mountain in May 1962. The trip took a disastrous turn when weather conditions deteriorated and the students and their teachers found themselves caught in blizzard conditions (on the very section of track we walked along to get here). Most of the group managed to find shelter, but both Scott and Kilvert collapsed and died of exposure and were found the following morning. A sobering reminder of Tasmanian weather's lethal instability. Tragically, not two weeks after we visited Cradle Mountain - still in February, and still very much in summer - a 21-year-old Chinese tourist died of hypothermia on a section of the Overland Track near Barn Bluff (the same Barn Bluff we huffed and puffed up in shorts and t-shirts) after a sudden change in weather conditions.
The Sunday sees us ascend the peaks of both Barn Bluff and Cradle Mountain itself, both affording 360-degree panoramas of Tasmania in all its beautiful,
wild splendour. By the time we get back to the hut, our legs have turned to jelly and we have just about enough energy left to cook dinner before crawling into our sleeping bags - with big smiles on our faces.
Happy Australia Day!
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