11 December 2011

Day 4 - Overland Track, Tasmania

New Pelion Hut to Kia Ora
Distance to cover: 8.2km
Forecast: Fine and sunny
Dinner to look forward to: Tuna with pasta and rehydrated veg
Socks and Boots: Wet, despite being next to a heater last night

In happy news, the old couple have decided to rest up today at New Pelion Hut. Some of the other hikers have kindly donated them spare food so they have enough for an extra day. This officially makes them S.E.P. (Someone Else's Problem), so we will notify any rangers we see along the way of their situation and not be surprised if we hear helicopters overhead in the next day or so.

Today is a fairly easy trek from hut to hut but most people choose to check out the side trips along the way; a couple of waterfalls and Mt Ossa, Tasmania's highest mountain at 1617m. On setting out today we are both feeling a little sore after the long stretch yesterday and decide we'll have a look at the falls but not climb the mountain. The ranger we saw on day 2 recommended that people at least climb the first 20 mins of the 4 hr Mt Ossa side trip, as the view from a small "shoulder" mountain is pretty spectacular too. That sounds like a good compromise.

waterfall near Douglas Creek

Lunch stop at Pelion Gap.
Beware the currawongs that are adept at opening zips!
Today, as with every day so far, we are caught up by the Cradle Hut group. This is the guided tour version of the walk, with private huts, guides and all gear provided. At about lunchtime, one guide stays with the group while the other sprints ahead (quite impressively, with a proper backpack), prepares the next hut and the evening meal. The group stroll past us each day with casual 45L daypacks and enjoy 3 course meals each evening upon arrival. It is very demoralising for the half hour after being overtaken but then I remember that they paid $3000 for the pleasure and I will have much more satisfaction out of having done this myself. Truly.

So we leave our packs at the track along with all the others who have already departed for the climb. They look very colourful as everyone has put their pack covers on to keep the currawongs from stealing muesli bars. We take a small bag with our lunch, "scroggin" (a healthy mix of M&Ms, clinkers and liquorice bullets) and a water bottle. And out cameras of course. But we won't be long, since it's just a short way up to Mt Doris.

From Mt Doris looking toward Mt Ossa. It doesn't look that big or far away! We can do that easy!
The view from there is great. But maybe it would be better from just a little further along? And those pesky Cradle Hut guys are on our tail again. We'll just go a little further. We find ourselves at the bottom of the track up Mt Ossa. It doesn't look that bad. Sean is unconvinced - we don't have much water, I didn't bring my hat, he doesn't have his asthma puffer. Some of the guys coming down tell us that there is water in a little lake at the top. That sells it (for me) and up we go!

It's hard to get perspective of how steep this is... but those guide posts are vertical
When we reached the top of what we had been looking at, we realised that it wasn't the top. And neither was the next section, scrambling over huge rocks that had eroded from the top. In fact, we could probably only see the first third of the climb from the bottom. Ha! I'm glad we had our lunch already.

It took ages and my legs were quivering when we finally scrambled up the last bit. There was indeed a little lake and some clean snow to refill the water bottle. Sean is sunburnt but scrounges some sunscreen off some of the others who made it up before us. And the view is Magnificent. You can see all the way back to Cradle Mountain to the north, where we started, and Frenchman's Cap and Lake St Clair (our destination) to the south. Womby enjoys the view too, but the climb wasn't very hard for him as he was in the backpack the whole way. I guess we have been extremely lucky with the weather again as there wouldn't be too many sunny days this high up, and you certianly wouldn't do the climb if it was wet and foggy.

Still climbing! Looking back to Mt Pelion West

Finally!! View from the top of Mt Ossa, looking north. Cradle Mt on the horizon to the right.
The climb down is faster but more nervewracking as slipping wouldn't be much fun. I have images of Winnie the Pooh falling from the beehive and bouncing off each branch on the way down to the ground. The walking poles come in handy for Sean whose knees crack with each step downwards.

Sean is less than impressed with my decisions
We don our packs again at the bottom, much later than we had intended. Both of us have slightly shaky legs but we climbed the tallest mountain in Tassie! The rest of the walk to the hut is fairly easy going, except for the giant mud puddles right before the hut. Just when you are feeling fairly fed up and looking forward to getting those boots off, they fill up with mud!!

Since it's a fine night and I have been carrying the bloody thing all this way, we decide to put up the tent tonight. The relationship is still intact after all parts of the tent have been slotted, tied, zipped and secured so I think we are doing pretty well. A "bird bath" in the freezing cold creek (where you fling it around a lot but don't actually get very wet) and we are definitely ready for some dinner.

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