Walked April 2015, Posted Sunday 28th June 2015
The third day of our Tasmanian adventure was clear and sunny. A chance like this was not to be missed: it was an easy decision to aim for the summit of Cradle Mountain.
The clear skies overnight gave us a very cold morning, making it no fun getting out of bed. It was even less fun when we went out to the car and found the windows and mirrors had iced over.
We arrived at the Dove Lake car park a little after 8:00. With a bit of cloud blowing across the top of Cradle Mountain and the temperature at only −1°C, we decided to pass some time with a small side-trip to Glacier Rock. In retrospect this was possibly not the best idea given that this turned out to be a long day.
Glacier Rock lurks in the shadow in front of Cradle Mountain.
Yesterday when we visited Glacier Rock we didn’t get much opportunity to admire the scenery due to the low cloud and very strong wind. Today it was much better: dry and still (though freezing!), with great views.
The origin of the rock was apparent in the scouring it had received from the glacier: a tribute to pressure applied by the ice.
We set off for Cradle Mountain just before 9:00, walking anti-clockwise around Dove Lake to where the Marions Lookout track heads up the mountainside.
Marions Lookout is the peak straight ahead.
The boat shed in the morning light.
There were great views over the lake as we climbed. The whole hillside was bright with early autumn colour.
This section gave us our first taste of the fixed chains which have been installed to help walkers on the steeper tracks (reasonably common in this area).
Shortly before Marions Lookout our little side track joined the main Overland Track, which we would be following for most of the walk to Cradle Mountain. We had seen a couple of people on the side track, and a few more once we reached the lookout.
The dark waters of Crater Lake.
Approaching Marions Lookout.
Selfie time at Marions Lookout.
After leaving the lookout, the track passed over the Cradle Plateau. The walking here was very enjoyable: not too strenuous, Cradle Mountain was growing noticeably larger before us, and there was fantastic scenery in every direction.
Cradle Mountain reflected in a tarn on the Cradle Plateau.
Attesting to the coldness of the morning, we found several patches of ice along the track.
Across the plateau Barn Bluff appeared out of the cloud. It made for an impressive sight… and a tempting one. There is a path to the top in the same style as the path up Cradle Mountain. Definitely one for the future!
As we neared Kitchen Hut we found more and more people: clearly the good weather had given a lot of people the same idea as us.
The second storey door (with snow shovel) shows what the winters here can be like.
At Kitchen Hut we had a short break before setting off on the climb up to the summit. From afar the mountain looks unclimbable, but we were now close enough to see how the track heads up the face then sidles to get through the teeth. It is deceptive too: the actual summit is a fair distance behind the teeth (something I didn’t appreciate at first).
The ascent started with a good path that got gradually steeper as we climbed. When the track started sidling it degenerated to just a route over the boulders. We were eased into the scrambling with an easy start before the more serious stuff began. The route is marked by metal poles fastened into the rocks: straightforward to follow in good conditions, but on a day with low visibility it would be quite a challenge.
Above us loomed the jagged rocks of the teeth.
If you look closely you can see some walkers heading up through the centre of the image.
As we gained height the views opened up around us: pools, lakes, peaks, and walking tracks.
Look closely and you’ll see LS scrambling over the rocks.
After passing through the teeth the track dropped a little amongst spectacular rock formations. Then came the final pinch. Some of the boulders in this section were quite hard to climb, with long stretches to find a hand-hold.
The path to the summit is just to the left of the rocky rise.
The summit area was surprisingly spacious, with a broad flat top. And although it is covered with boulders, it’s easy to wander around exploring. By the time we arrived there were at least thirty other people there.
We now had views over the country traversed by the Overland Track to the south. And off to the southwest was Barn Bluff.
Mt Oakleigh and Mt Pelion East.
Barn Bluff, with Fury Gorge to the right.
Up here there was a
selfish jerk fellow walker flying a very noisy drone around, buzzing people and circling the summit. We came across the same guy doing it again later when we were heading back down. So tempted to pitch a rock at the damn thing…
The infernal machine.
We ate our lunch at the summit to make the most of the views, and to get maximum value for the effort we had put in to get there. There was plenty of space for everyone to find a spot by themselves, which was pleasant. While we ate the cloud built up noticeably: we had timed it well.
After lunch we began our descent. In some ways it was harder than going up — often it is easier inching your way up a rock face than trying to stop yourself sliding down it!
Little Horn from high up on Cradle Mountain.
By the time we made our descent there were far more people heading up than we had seen in the morning. In fact, there were so many that at times we had to just stand and wait while a big line of people slowly made their way up some narrow section of the route. We must have passed at least one hundred people heading up.
Peak hour on the track to the summit — follow the line of people up to the top-right of the image.
After a brief detour to Kitchen Hut, we set off along Face Track and left the hordes behind. This was a very scenic section, high up under the teeth of Cradle Mountain and fringed by golden beech trees.
The track was a bit rougher and less maintained than others we had been on, which was fine with us. In the distance we could see Twisted Lakes perched improbably on a ridge top.
Twisted Lakes are the little patches of blue in the centre of the image.
We passed above the southern end of Dove Lake, giving us excellent views along the entire lake.
The gold of the beech trees and the rocky ridge between Little Horn and Cradle Mountain made a fantastic backdrop.
As we continued we got views down to Lake Wilks, which sits high above Dove Lake.
We passed below Little Horn, then descended steeply through the black cliffs to Rangers Hut.
Rangers hut is nicely located: there’s a pool and creek right in front of it, and it has a great view of Little Horn. We took a break to recover some energy for the last section. It was already getting on for 16:00, and we still had a long way to go.
We considered our options: we could take the flatter Twisted Lakes track, which also included Lake Hanson, or we could take the Hansons Peak track, which would involve more climbing. We decided on the lake track, having heard that it was quite scenic. Though I have to say that its apparent flatness on the map was not reflected on the ground: there was a lot of uphill and downhill. Happily we were ignorant of that when we made our choice.
We hoisted our packs and started walking again, quickly getting to the track junction and forking right to the lakes. In no time we had reached them: a beautiful series of interlocked lakes set amidst pine and beech, with the dark stone of Little Horn looming above. Naturally we spent plenty of time taking photos and selfies!
After exploring the area we reluctantly left — though with the hope of returning tomorrow.
The track became quite splashy in places as we descended behind Hansons Peak and headed around towards Lake Hanson.
We hadn’t gone far before I heard a rustling up ahead, and there was a wombat standing on the track. The unusual paleness of its fur gave it the look of a teddy bear, though no doubt a bitey and scratchy one! It paused long enough for some photos, then trotted off along the track before crashing off through the bushes.
The track seemed to be dragging on, and the arrival of some uphill sections didn’t help. The views of Lake Hanson were nice, but they were beaten by the many small pools right beside the track. Their still waters were like mirrors, perfectly reflecting the surrounding trees.
The southeastern end of Lake Hanson.
After leaving the pools behind we could see the ridge not too far in front of us. We crossed an old-school boardwalk, then climbed up to the saddle where our track joined the Hansons Peak track.
Behind us Lake Hanson filled the valley, sombre in the late afternoon light.
In front of us was the welcome sight of Dove Lake. From here it was an easy descent down to the Dove Lake circuit track and then to the car park, where we finished our walk at about 18:00.
It had been a fantastic day with so much magnificent scenery, though it had also been a long one at nearly 16 km and with about 1060 m of ascent and descent.