3-10 July 2005 3-10 Jul The Overland Track, including side trips to Waterfall Valley, Mt Ossa and Pine Valley to The Labyrinth and The Acropolis, Tasmania Photos
Maps: Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair 1:100000; Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair and Walls of Jerusalem National Parks by John Chapman and John Siseman; The Overland Track - A Walkers Notebook Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service
Getting There

I did this walk as a participant in a CBC trip organised and led by Rupert B.  2 of us walked.  Following on from our April trip, this was another exciting series of adventures.  Our primary objective was to find snow for snowshoeing.  I'd purchased a pair of ex-hire MSR Denali Hiker shoes and Leki Trigger Duo3 poles and taken 2 steps on the back lawn before departing.  As it turned out, we carried the shoes for around 110km and used them for 2km!

This was my second experience of a long, unsupported, on and off track walk in extreme conditions.  We began carrying 11 days food.  My pack weighed in at 23.2kg at Canberra airport (a lot better effort than previously) and with 1.5l of fuel and snowshoes and poles strapped on, was probably around 28kg to carry up to Marions Lookout.

I flew from Canberra via Melbourne to Devonport where Rupert met me.


Day 1 - 3 July.  Canberra to Waterfall Valley Hut

We drove from Devonport to Cradle Mountain, checked the latest available on track conditions and weather, bought a quick lunch and returned to where the car was to be left and where we were to pick up the shuttle bus to Dove Lake.  Clothes were changed, final gear packed, snowshoes and poles strapped on our packs and we were ready for the 12.45pm shuttle bus.  The driver was a mine of information about the area and its history.

We left Dove Lake at 1.15pm, catching a couple of 10 second glimpses of Cradle Mountain through the clouds - when will I ever see it in its full glory?  By 3.45pm we had climbed through Marions Lookout and reached Kitchen Hut.  The weather was providing us with mist, cloud and wind.

It was still another 2 hours to Waterfall Valley Hut, which we reached in the dark at around 6.15pm (allowing for plenty of photo ops).  I can now fully appreciate the warning not to set out on the Overland Track after 1pm.

There were 14 in the hut that night, quite amazing for near the middle of winter.  In bed by 7.45pm, enjoying the rest after the afternoon's heavy pack.

Distance: 6km  Climb: 380m.

01 Cradle Mountain above Wombat Pool
02 Waterfall into Crater Lake
03 Barn Bluff from Waterfall Valley


Day 2 - 4 July.  Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Hut, with side trips to Waterfall Valley and Lake Will

We left Waterfall Valley Hut at 8.50am and, at the first opportunity, dropped our packs, left the track and headed down into Waterfall Valley.  We spent some time walking the terraces and braided tracks down towards imagined views into the Hartnett Rivulet and Forth River gorge (the mist was heavy this morning).  Others from last night at the hut were also enjoying the valley.

We were back at our packs by 10.35am.  A little scroggin was taken and we were away on the Overland Track, with continued views back to the valley with Mt Emmett in the clouds.

11.45am saw us at the Lake Will turnoff near Lake Holmes.  Again, the pleasure of dropping packs for a side trip along good boardwalk to contact Lake Will, then the boggiest track I've walked to date along the lakeside to Innes Falls at the south west corner.  A lovely area, with Pencil Pines and naked winter Fagus in the gorge below the falls.  From the hill above, there were views to Mt Pelion West with its head in the clouds.

Cunning navigation and the desire for no further foot soaking saw us returning to the end of the boardwalk along the high ground, then back along the boards to our packs.  Lake Holmes supplied water for lunch and we were on the way by 2.10pm.  A quick 1 hour 20 minutes saw us at Windermere Hut.  17 of us tonight, the additional 3 walking south to north.

Distance:  15km   Climb: 300m.
04 Waterfall Valley
05 Lake Will with Barn Bluff under cloud
06 Innes Falls from Lake Will


Day 3 - 5 July.  Windermere Hut to New Pelion Hut (Oakleigh View)

We were up at 7am.  My stove was playing up a bit - a smoky, smelly, slow flame producing a lot of soot.  We left at 8.25am, planning to walk through to Kia Ora Hut and return the following day to Mt Ossa.  But the weather was overcast and there seemed little point in pressing through for a view we'd not see.  The weather rules all and one needs to be flexible.

We passed Pelion Creek at 11am.  We'd enquired of a Cradle Mountain ranger where the Mt Pelion West track turned off and we found the footpad, but there would be no view from the top today.  Lunch at Frog Flats at 12.30pm - the packaged tuna which I'd been avoiding tasted surprisingly good.

We arrived at Oakleigh View Hut around 2.30pm and decided against any side trip.  A couple of hours later we enjoyed a spectacular view back to sunset on Barn Bluff.

I've been pleased with the choices I've made in clothing.  I usually walk in a short sleeved thermal (just a Target brand), long sleeved New Zealand merino wool mid layer and Gortex shell when needed.  Shorts, this time longer gaiters for the Tasmanian cool, and 2 pairs of socks.  A beanie and fleece gloves when it's cold; Gortex overpants and gloves when it's wet.

Distance:  14km   Climb: 150m.

07 The Overland Track south of Windermere Hut
08 John takes a rest near Pine Forest Moor
09 Paddys Nut from just south of Frog Flats


Day 4 - 6 July.  New Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Hut, with side trip up Mt Ossa

This turned out to be a peak-bagging and adrenalin-raising day!

We left New Pelion Hut at 8.25am and an hour later stopped just off the track at the falls on Douglas Creek for photos.  Around 10.30am we were at Pelion Gap, a strong wind blowing and Tasmania's highest hill shrouded in breaking cloud.  Spectacular views, including Mt Pelion East, the Du Cane Range to the south and Mt Doris and Mt Ossa to the west of the gap.

We headed west at 10.50am.  I carried a little, light fold away day pack of warm and waterproof clothing, camera, scroggin and a little water.  The track towards Mt Doris was easy, steep in places but well defined.  As we rounded Doris's southern flank, excellent views opened up to the surrounding mountains.  In places, the track was like a suburban backyard - flag-stoned path with green mosses and water features.  In contrast, the craggy portals of Mt Ossa towered above and the closer we came, the more my adrenalin coursed.

We crossed the saddle between Doris and Ossa and began the climb.  Moving at different speeds, my leader encouraged me to go ahead as the track was well marked with red metal arrows, first on poles and then attached to the tumbled boulders.  The rock scramble to the first lip tested me a little, but I got there.  I looked back to make visual contact with Rupert, but couldn't see him.  "Don't panic!" I said to myself out loud.  Another glance down and I saw another two walkers just disappearing up another route to the rim (apparently the old marked route).  I peeked forward over the rim between the portals again and saw Rupert's blue camera box disappearing into the mist 100m ahead.  The next climb to the Mt Ossa plateau was not as steep as the first phase and I covered it at a rapid rate to catch up.  I think Rupert has more faith in my abilities than I do, as he was unperturbed when I rejoined him, thinking my approaching steps from behind were those of another party.  A patch of snow greeted us at the base of the summit rocks at 12.25pm.  We took the obligatory (for me) summit bagging photo, then enjoyed spectacular views to the surrounding mountains through breaks in the clouds.

The return journey was not half as challenging and we were back down to Pelion Gap by 2pm, just as the rain started.  It was a wetter climb and return for the other parties behind us.

We reached Kia Ora Hut by 3.05pm in the rain.

That night Peter, a member of another party, pulled my MSR Whisperlite stove to pieces, cleaned it and tried a test burn - no better.  He then fired it with his own fuel bottle and - hey presto - functioning as normal.  We tested the fuel in my second bottle and it was no good.  Conclusion - White Spirits supplied to me by my fuel purchaser is not white gas (Shellite)!  Another of his party loaned me his cooker to make my tea.  14 in the hut.  In bed by 7.45pm.

Distance: 13km  Climb:  780m.

10 The portals of Mt Ossa
11 Mt Pelion East framed by Mt Ossa's portals
12 Track flagstones on Mt Doris


Day 5 - 7 July.  Kia Ora Hut to Pine Valley Hut

We were up and packed and on the way by 8.40am with a dusting of snow on the surrounding hill tops.  My stove issue was no problem, as another couple gave us a fill up of methylated spirits, so we could share Rupert's stove. The plan was for a long day's walk through Windy Ridge to Pine Valley Hut.

We reached Du Cane Hut at 9.30am and, after a 15 minute break, headed off in the rain.  At 10.25am we passed the turnoff to D'Alton and Fergusson Falls and at 10.55am the turnoff to Hartnett Falls.  We reached Du Cane Gap at 11.50am and 12.50pm saw us at Windy Ridge Hut for lunch.

We left at 1.30pm and pressed on through the rain and cloud and light snow flakes.  The Pine Valley turnoff appeared at 3.05pm and we took this track to the west and north west after afternoon tea.  I described to Rupert how, in November last year at around this point on the Overland Track, I was winding down with only the walk to Narcissus Hut and the ferry ride before we were out.  But this time it was different - I was heading into unknown territory for a further series of adventures.

We reached Pine Valley Hut around 5pm, just as it was getting dark.  It was a welcome sight after such a long day, but an absolutely magnificent walk in through the forest of Pine Valley and alongside Cephissus Creek.  The last few hundred metres was a new boardwalk following the curves of the creek.

There were 8 of us in the hut that night - Peter and Steve with whom we'd shared the huts of the Overland Track and 4 new young people.  In bed by 7.30pm.

Distance: 19km  Climb:  320m.

13 Intricate track work south of Du Cane Hut
14 Crossing the Narcissus River on the Pine Valley Track
15 Cephissus Creek


Day 6 - 8 July.  The Labyrinth

We were up later today.  One of the young people in the hut gave me 1 litre of Shellite and I was more than happy to pay him for it.  Interestingly, he'd just been walking with one of the young guides from my November trip and had news of the other two - a small world!

Again with a day pack, we left Pine Valley Hut for The Labyrinth at 9.30am.  It was a lovely walk up through the rain forest through the snow line, around the west side of The Parthenon and along its western flank into The Labyrinth.  The weather was overcast most of the time, with a few cm of snow on the ground.  But at times the snow fell and there were also patches of sun.

We stopped where we had views overlooking Lake Ophion, with Mt Eros and Mt Geryon and The Acropolis appearing at times through the cloud.  Magnificent!  A group of 4 walkers appeared from camping further in The Labyrinth and Peter and Steve caught up with us at one point.

We turned back as heavy cloud rolled in yet, by the time we'd reached the drop off point, the sun was shining brilliantly. Travelling south, we had fabulous views to The Guardians and Mt Gould and The Minotaur.  Lake St Clair appeared through the cloud.  After lunch the cloud and snow restarted and we started down at 12.45pm.

By 2.30pm we were down.  We turned into The Acropolis track near Pine Valley Hut and went to Cephissus Falls.  We explored around the Falls, in the forest and then walked down the creek to rejoin the Pine Valley Track south of the hut.  A walk down the boardwalk speedway and then back (past the toilet) to the helipad for uninterrupted views up to Mt Gould and The Minotaur.

I'd finished by 3pm and it was a pleasure to be stove independent again and even make a cuppa for my companion.

An absolutely magic day today.  There was wonderful contrast between the white of the snow up in The Labyrinth and the green of the rain forest around the Falls and the Hut.  In addition, I haven't lost anything yet and, generally, know where everything is!  I'm very pleased with my rechargable batteries in my camera - haven't had to change them yet.

8 in the hut again - the 4 young ones from last night replaced by the 4 snow campers - until another 4 young students arrived in at around 7.30pm.  The 2 girls were great gigglers but, thankfully, they decided to camp outside.

Distance: 6km  Climb:  300m.

16 Mt Eros above Lake Ophion
17 Frozen tree
18 Mt Gould and The Minotaur


Day 7 - 9 July.  The Acropolis

We were up around 7.30am, with last night's plans to tackle Mt Olympus replaced by another day trip to The Acropolis.  Flexibility of plans dictated by the weather again.  Interestingly, the 4 snow campers from University of Newcastle were familiar with the software Hydsys, developed by my brother-in-law's and wife's previously owned company.  A small world again!

We left for The Acropolis at 9.25am, again climbing up through rain forest and through the snow line to a long plateau with the southern buttress of The Acropolis towering over it.  Great views to the south and, this time, to the eastern side of The Parthenon.  Rupert showed me his 'choir of Pandanni' - a beautiful group of plants standing, this time, in the snow.  A boardwalk took us across the plateau.

The daunting climb up across the eastern flank of the snow covered (10-12cm) The Acropolis began.  Everything was enormous in scale and, although I was able to move quite quickly, I'm sure it took more mental energy than physical energy.  The snow covered slope below softened the height for my eyes; yet the bare and ice 'dripping' cliffs above reminded me of the rocky heights we were covering.  The fingers of The Acropolis were incredible.  The weather was cloudy, with long sunny breaks.

At 1.15pm I reached as far as I could climb.  Although Rupert was undaunted, the snow covered and icy rocks beat me.  I'm sure he was disappointed, as we must have been within a few tens of metres of the top.  We turned about and came down to a small snow free shelf under the towering cliffs for lunch around 2pm.  Small waterfalls were frozen into icicles around us.

We pressed on and reached the edge of the plateau at 2.55pm and headed down through the forested slopes to the hut at 4.15pm.  Rupert quickly lit the coal fire in the hut - his secret was to get a small, good wood fire going first, before adding the coal.  Just 6 in the hut tonight.

Distance: 6km  Climb:  630m.

19 The Acropolis
20 A Choir of Pandanni
21 The Acropolis


Day 8 - 10 July.  Pine Valley Hut to Derwent Bridge Hotel

I changed the batteries in my camera this morning - they'd done very well.  We left Pine Valley Hut at 9am, scooting along the beautiful boardwalk with packs growing lighter by the day.  It took 2 hours to get back to The Overland Track, me finding my own Pandanni exhibition (see photo 23).  The weather was calm with early patches of sun amongst the cloud, then becoming overcast.  There was plenty of snow on the ground and icy patches.

We arrived at Narcissus Hut at 1pm and rang to book on the 2.30pm ferry.  After lunch we had a wander around the hut and jetty area.  The ferry arrived at 2.15pm with 4 day trippers on board.  We were the only walkers coming out this day.  It was wonderfully relaxing to sit as we travelled down the lake.

I rang home.  We then arranged a room at the Derwent Bridge Hotel and Andrew, the ferry driver, was kind enough to drive us the 5km to the hotel.  The trappings of civilisation were certainly appreciated - a short drop toilet rather than long drop, flushing water rather than a cup of corn husks; a long, hot shower followed by a change out of 8 day old clothes; washing the 'tea' out of 8 day old socks - although the room did smell from our combined washing and drying!; stout, shiraz and fillet steak; and a soft bed.

Distance: 9km

22 Boardwalk beside Cephissus Creek leading to Pine Valley Hut
23 Dad, Mum and the kids
24 Mt Ida reflected in Lake St Clair at Narcissus Bay


Day 9 - 11 July.  Mt Rufus with snowshoes