Region: North West
Location: Lake St Clair to Cradle Mountain
Where: Hobart to Lake St Clair,2 hours and 30 minutes drive OR Hobart to Cradle Mountain, 4 hours and 9 minutes drive
Walk time: 5 nights and 6 days
(approx. 30-35 hrs)
Walk distance: 65km (not including side walks)
Difficulty level: Medium
22nd September 2018
Listed as one of the top 10 walks in the world! Such an amazing experience with awe inspiring views that changed daily!
Lake St Clair visitor centre at Cynthia Bay via ferry to Narcissus drop off then onto Bert Nichols Hut
WALK TIME: 3.5hrs
DISTANCE: Approx 9km
TRACK: Flat but a bit muddy
The half hour boat ride from Cynthia Bay was a nice welcome into the trip. Travelling down Australia’s deepest lake which is Lake St Clair to the drop of point at Narcissus we got a glimpse at the surrounding mountains that were laden with fog and some snow that we would be soon be walking through over the coming days. The weather was a bit grey and cloudy but our spirits were high and we were prepared for what the ever changing conditions of the Tasmanian wilderness might possibly bring.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is situated towards the the rugged middle section of Tasmania veering up to the North West. It’s untouched beauty making it a popular destination for tourists due to its rainforests, mountains, alpine heathlands, waterfalls, tarns, lakes and various Tasmanian wildlife such as wallabies, Tasmanian Devils and wombats to name a few.
Before we knew it we were getting off the ferry and putting our packs on to walk to Bert Nichols Hut for the night.
Not long after departing the ferry we passed Narcissus Hut, a small hut that many choose to stay at when tackling the extra days walk around Echo Point and back to Cynthia Bay or vice versa if going in the same direction we chose; Lake St Clair to Cradle.
One of the highlights on the first day was getting to walk over the suspension bridge I had seen so many photos of. Only one person at a time to cross. I was buzzing with excitement when it first came into view even if I was a little disappointed I couldn’t be on the bridge at the same time as my mates to jump up and down to scare them a little.
About half way into the walk it started to drizzle so down went our packs and out came the wet weather gear and the outside pack liners went on and we continued on our merry way. There was a bit of mud on the first day but nothing too bad. The slippery tree roots were the bigger enemy. I was the first to go down and I think the only one that day. It’s funny over time falling becomes second nature whilst bushwalking and you often start to get better at ‘the fall’ and the way you land. Reckon us bush walkers would make good stunt persons if we were to audition for a part
The funniest moment on day 1 was when one of our walking party whilst balancing along a log to cross a creek pretended to fall “Oh look, I’m falling!” with that she nearly did. All caught on camera to her dismay.
Before long Bert Nichols Hut was within view to the right with a sneaky little turn off to get there to avoid arriving at the wrong private hut.
Crossing the helipad, which each of the huts have, we made our way up the stairs and into our home for the night.
Bert Nichols Hut is one of the larger huts but also felt to be the coldest of huts as the heating system in the common area was a bit different to the other huts and was set away from the sleeping quarters.
We each cooked up some tucker for dinner and not long after we hit the sack for the night waking up to a winter wonderland the following morning, it was spectacular!
Bert Nichols Hut to Kia Ora Hut
WALK TIME: 5.5hrs without the side walks
DISTANCE: 10km without the side walks
We were lucky enough to wake up at Bert Nichols Hut to a Winter wonderland even though Winter had ended a few weeks prior.
The air was crisp and everything was a brilliant shade of white.
With icy cold fingers we gathered our belongings and belted up for another brilliant day on the track. On went the gloves and beanies!
Leaving Bert Nichols Hut in the early hours of the morning we felt like little figurines in a snow globe as we were showered by soft flakes of snow that came dancing down from the sky.
This day was one of my favourites, partially because of the snow but also because of the beautiful side walks of Harnett Falls and D’Alton Falls. There was also the option of Fergusson Falls which I didn’t do on this trip.
The first side walk was Harnett Falls a 40 minute return walk to a majestic thunderous waterfall that was so powerful the spray travelled metres out from it.
The second was 2km further along the track, D’Alton Falls. Different from Harnett Falls as you came into the Falls not from the bottom like Harnett but mid way up the Falls.
These Falls ran into a powerful abyss that you could not see the bottom off and had a small waterfall running to the right of it also.
D’Alton Falls was a 30 minute return trip and was slightly steeper to get to than that of Harnett Falls.
D’Alton Falls and Fergusson Falls have the same turn off so if you decide to do Fergusson Falls apparently it’s only another ten minute walk from D’Alton Falls if you turn right at the sign instead of the left to D’Alton. The waterfall turn offs are sign posted but the walk times are not.
After the waterfalls the track becomes a whirlwind of tree roots and mud puddles and the tree markers get fewer and further between so it’s essential you take care to stay on the track and not wander off into the woods on your own path you have created.
On this day you will pass Du Cane Hut after the waterfall leg and from here if I remember right it’s only about another hour or so to Kia Ora Hut. Kia Ora Hut was one of my favourites as it was a quaint little hut which was warm and homely. It even had a local resident brush tailed possum that looked either pregnant or to have a baby in its pouch and it wasn’t scared to come right up close and sit at your feet.
Kia Ora Hut to New Pelion Hut
WALK TIME: 4hrs
Before we knew it we were into our third day, so at the days end we would already be half way through our Overland journey.
Day 3 was an easy walking day starting with mostly duckboards from Kia Ora to Pelion Gap which took roughly 1hr and 45mins to walk.
It was a gradual uphill climb on a well formed track for most of it so it made for easy walking.
Having woken up to a frozen rain water tank and nearly empty drink bottles we were lucky enough an hour into the walk to find a running stream to fill up our bottles at. We also passed a very small waterfall that was laden with frozen Icicles hanging from its rocky surrounds like a collection of Crystals to admire.
Somehow not long after this I managed to trip over a small bush coming back out of the secret nook where the small waterfall lay to the right of the track, just my luck someone else was coming up the track at the same time and I was afraid they might have seen my clumsiness so I made like it was part of my walk and did a small leap and I stood back up like it was all part of the plan. I think it worked.
Shortly after I arrived at the top of the hill at Pelion Gap, my favourite spot out of all of the Overland trip.
What made this spot so special you ask?
Well for one it was the gateway to Mount Ossa, Tasmanians highest mountain that I could see nearby laden with snow and on the other side of the track another path leading up to Mount Pelion East which was also shrouded in snow.
The view from Pelion Gap was mind blowing!
Snow covered mountains no matter which way you looked and the bluest of skies as the perfect backdrop.
The duckboards up there were warm and dry and felt fantastic to lay out on to stretch out whilst looking up at the sky whilst the sun beamed down creating warmth on our skin.
As we sit at the top of Pelion Gap letting our minds relax and our bodies breath in the purest of air, we sipped our coffee and had a bite to eat before heading off again towards New Pelion Hut for the night.
Coming down from Pelion Gap there weren’t as many duckboards and had quite a lot of rooty pathways but we were still in high spirits and so decided to walk to a little music; a bit of Belinda Carlisle ‘Heaven is a place on earth’ fitting for the occasion.
About an hour before hitting New Pelion Hut we heard a waterfall again to the right of the track so decided to go down and explore.
It was only a short 5 minute walk down to what we found was a dual waterfall both merging into the one, magic! I don’t know the name of this waterfall as it was not signposted. Let’s call it ‘Slippery Falls’ as I nearly fell in whilst creatively posing for a shot.
Before we knew it we were at New Pelion Hut, the largest of the Overland Track huts and the busiest by far. The Arm River Track also runs into New Pelion Hut and many people walk in on that route to come and climb Mount Ossa and other various places in the area.
Busy hut means busy toilet, and smelly toilet! 💩 People were going in and out of the long drop with ski masks over their faces but not even a ski mask was going to save them in there. They each came running out like a wasp had bit them on the bum and they were being chased.
As one of my mates said to someone as she was making her way out of the loo and a guy was about to go in
“There’s defiantly nothing good in there!”
At New Pelion Hut we had a lovely lady by the name of Tanya come in from the Arm Track to meet us and say g’day! She had mentioned she will be bringing us in dinner for the night of some fresh fruit and veggies, and bring in dinner she sure did!
With a pack weight of 22kg she had lovingly prepared a lentil curry, beans, carrots, roasted capsicums and chillies, baked pumpkin, garlic yogurt dressing and much more. We all dug into it like we hadn’t seen food for a month whilst we cooked some papadums over our gas cookers that she had also thought to bring along. To compliment, some red wine.
It was the perfect Indian feast and tasted amazing!
Next she pulled out a dessert of fresh strawberries and blueberries, fruit salad, home made crumble and yoghurt and cream. I think we were the envy of the Hut and nearly brought a small child to tears
“Mum why didn’t we have so much food?!”
Prior to dinner Tanya took Heather and myself for a short walk to Old Pelion Hut, an old Cooper mine and a swimming hole nearby. She had even packed us a small drop of whisky to enjoy in the bush before heading back to the Hut so we sipped on it whilst chatting and watching the late afternoon sun glowing a burnt orange over the terrain.
That was day 3 down, another glorious day!
New Pelion Hut to Windermere Hut
WALK TIME: 6-8hrs
Leaving the buttongrass plains of New Pelion Hut we were onto the next Hut for the night, Windermere.
Mud! Did somebody say mud! And lots of it! The track through Frog Flats from Windermere was a boggy swamp and it was like walking in a massive production of dark chocolate mud cake mix topped with a few kinder surprises when your boot went in, squelch and you sometimes got a surprise that the mud went a lot deeper in some spots than first expected. Through Frog Flats it was quite dark and not much natural sunlight came through the dense trees which probably explains the amount of mud.
The second part of the walk was through Pine Forest Moore that was an open plain with magnificent 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.
On day four there was quite a few ups and downs in the track but still a lot of it quite flat sections.
Due to it being one of the longer days walk it’s essential you don’t leave the walk too late in the day.
One thing that I liked about Windermere Hut besides a magnificent view of Barn Bluff in the distance, was that there was a door dividing the recreation and sleeping areas but again it was a smaller hut so felt quite cosy.
Windermere Hut to Waterfall Valley Hut
4hrs not including Lake Wills side trip, if doing this allow 1hr extra on top
We woke up to another clear day with brilliant blue skies and sunshine.
From Windermere Hut we could see Barn Bluff in the distance beckoning us closer for our last night of the trip and what would be our last Hut, Waterfall Valley Hut which sits quite close to its neighbour Barny Bluff.
The first half of the walk leading to the Lake Wills turn off (side walk) was reasonable flat. We dumped our packs at the turn off and grabbed our day pack and headed off into Lake Wills for the 1hr return hike that was mostly made up of duck boards.
When arriving at Lake Wills we sat on the sand and our imaginations absorbed the sheer beauty this fresh water lake that sat in the middle of nowhere had to offer. A great place to have a snack and if you’re game depending on the time of the year you go maybe a swim.
Before long we were back on the main trail heading towards Waterfall Valley.
The further we walked the more magnified Barn Bluff became and this is where we also got our first sighting of the rugged snow capped peaks of Cradle Mountain, the place where the journey would end the following day.
Although we were a little sad the trip was coming to an end, the sighting of Cradle Mountain also brought with it a lot of excitement as we incredibly proud of one another for having made this journey together and completing it.
On the last leg into Waterfall Valley we could see the Hut from the distance, perhaps from a 30 minute walk away. It looked like we would be heading all downhill from this point into the hut but we were sorely disappointed when we soon realised we had an uphill battle on our hands just prior to making the final 2 minute duck boarded descent into the hut.
Once arriving at Waterfall Valley Hut we unpacked our bedding for the night which was ritual and started on some dinner. Tonight’s delicacy 2 minute noodles. The sleeping quarters at Waterfall Valley consisted of two large bunk beds either side of the room. Each bunk platform could sleep up to 6 people. There was also a smaller older hut nearby that people could chose to sleep in if needed.
A group of other walkers went exploring prior to the sun going down and found some great waterfalls in the nearby area that sounded pretty exciting, I was spent at this point so decided to stay put.
After dinner we sat at the kitchen table playing a game of cards which seemed to be our nightly ritual and before we knew it, it was time for sleep. The next morning we would be taking our final steps on the Overland Track and walking out via Ronny Creek back to civilisation
DAY 6: FINAL DAY
Waterfall Valley Hut to Ronny Creek
WALK TIME: 5-6 hours
The day had arrived to walk out and back to civilisation.
It was bitter sweet. Yes, it was going to be nice to get home to family and friends and a comfy bed and a good shower, however being able to roam as you please with no daily responsibilities was going to be missed.
It’s amazing the calmness that the great outdoors and hiking brings, it somehow centres you. Reinvigorates you and strengthens you as a person. Being in nature is defiantly a healer of mind, body and soul.
So the morning of the last day we packed up our bedding, had some breakfast and headed off for a rather steep uphill climb before hitting Windy Ridge which we walked along rugged up like eskimos.
Not long after that we hit some snow at the back of Cradle Mountain which we relished in walking through, there’s nothing quite like it, unfortunately it was not icy enough to test out our new boot spikes however still a lot of fun!
The next main attraction we passed was Kitchen Hut. An emergency Hut set at 1200 metres which I had the pleasure in staying at a couple of years ago when I attempted the Overland Track solo in the midst of Winter.
On that occasion a storm had broken a day early and I had no other option than to spend the night in Kitchen Hut as there was no way I was going to make it to Waterfall Valley before the conditions worsened. The next morning was a total white out and I decided to make the sensible decision to turn back down the mountain in what was very scary conditions and not continue on.
Anyhow, seeing Kitchen Hut again was great! This time I could see what was surrounding it; bushes, rocks, a tarn, a toilet etc, last time all I could see high and low, left and right was ‘white’.
I showed the girls the narrow bench I had to sleep on for the night and how high up the snow was around the hut the last time I was there. I could have quite possibly knelt on the stone floor of the hut and kissed my little saviour had the floor not been so wet and muddy.
We had a quick snack at Kitchen Hut and upon leaving we saw a Tarn that had iced over so thick that it was like an ice skating rink.
We continued on over patches of snow until we reached Marion Lookout and from there we knew we were nearly home!
Standing up the top of Marion Lookout above Dove Lake with outstretched arms I took it all in. It was magnificent!
One of my mates gave me a big hug and I think the words were
“I love you but by god you stink!” Yep I was never getting that smell off my top ever again. The one bad thing about not being able to wear cotton on hikes and having to revert to synthetic type materials...you could scare off the native wildlife with the odour sweat and synthetics create, especially when you’ve had the same top on for nearly a week!
The climb down from Marion Lookout was incredibly steep over the rock face but luckily had a chain to hold onto whilst coming down.
Before we knew it we were in the last stretch which comprised of duck boards and we could see the Ronny Creek car park, our final destination not too far off now.
The last 10 minutes of the walk we saw about 8 wombats and was lucky enough to see a wombat sitting right beside the path with a little baby paw peeking out from under its mumma.
And then...there it was! We had done it!
Our final steps. We had come to the end of our Overland Track journey.
What a pleasure it was to have conquered this 6 day and 5 night journey with the best bunch of girls I could have asked for, friendships that will last a lifetime!
***This Trek was partially to raise awareness and funds for Fibromyalgia ME CFS Australia Bridges & Pathways Institute in South Australia***
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
NATIONAL PARKS PASS: Yes
Telstra - Very limited
Optus - Even more limited
Vodafone - 0 coverage
We each had a similar pack weight in our group of about 17kg at the start, getting lighter as we went.
Free to walk between 1st June to the 30th September and you can start walk from either Cradle Mountain or Lake St Clair.
1st October to the 31st May $200 fee and you can only walk from Cradle Mountain.
You must book well in advance to walk the Overland Track during this period.
You can take 5 nights or 6 nights to walk it depending if you chose to do the last/first leg along Lake St Clair and stay at either Narcissus Hut to Lake Echo for the night before returning to Lake St Clair or you decide to skip this leg and get the ferry from Narcissus back to Lake St Clair visitor centre or vice versa if starting from Lake St Clair visitor centre getting the ferry to Narcissus drop of point.
Cost of the 30 minute ferry ride is $50 per person if enough people on the ferry. If not enough people on the ferry you could pay in excess of $150 so call/book ahead to lock it in prior the day of departure.
Even though there are huts each night you MUST take a tent with you as the huts can get very busy and you might be forced to put up your tent to have a bed for the night.
- During the colder months the water is fine to drink from the water tanks at the huts however make sure to fill your bottles of a night as you will wake to find the water tanks frozen if a morning and won’t be able to use until later in the day when the frozen tanks melt. Usually this time of year the water is flowing in the creeks and streams and is ok to drink. We drank straight from the running streams/creeks and were fine.
- During the warmer months you will be required to carry excess water as the tanks may be empty. Take water filter tablets in case you need to refill bottles with water from the creeks or streams otherwise you may end up sick.
- Take spikes for your boots in the cooler months as the snow can be very icy and your shoes will have no grip and can be dangerous. You may not need to use them but better to be safe.
- Take snow goggles in the colder months because if you experience a white out the glare from the snow and fog can be blinding and you will feel like someone is constantly flashing a camera in your eyes. I learned my lesson a couple of years ago in a white out and I had no goggles. It’s not pretty.
- Always keep to the tracks, it would be very easy to get lost out there and people do.
- Prepare yourself with some good waterproof boots and gaiters as you could be walking through a lot of mud and water and the last thing you want is to be walking with soggy cold feet.
- Take wet weather gear; jacket, gloves and pants as well as an outside pack liner and possibly an inside one also. I had an outside pack liner but not an inside one, instead chose to use lots of individual dry bags of various sizes so things were easier to find and this worked well.
- All the huts have had heating and will heat to 10 degrees before cutting off. 10 degrees doesn’t sound very warm but compared to the outside can feel like 25 degrees so it’s nice and cosy.
- Don’t leave your walk too late in the day as you want to have plenty of time to reach your next Hut comfortably and have stops along the way. You will find yourself going to bed around 7ish most nights anyhow so your body clock will wake you up quite early.
Also the earlier you arrive at a Hut the more chance you have of getting a spot to sleep which means you won’t have to put up your tent.
- Beware of the slippery roots! They may look innocent but they like to trip you up. It’s best to step over them even if it means putting your foot into mud to do this. I was the first to end up on my butt on day 1 from a root catastrophe.
- Ensure you are equipped with an Eperb as it’s a very rugged part of Tasmania and as the sign at the visitor centre suggests
‘Beautiful one day, deadly the next’
- Instead if taking a pillow try using a dry bag stuffed with clothing.
- Take an extra days food in case you have to spend an extra night in a Hut due to bad weather.
- The walk times on the signs we found a bit understated unless you walked like a bat out of hell. Always allow yourself a bit of extra time to what is stated.
- Ensure you have a dry bag with thermals for sleeping, a warm sleeping bag and a sleeping mat with a good ‘R value’ (warmth rating) as overnight we experienced anywhere from -1 to -6 degrees so you want to be warm and dry.