Artists Pool and Lake Wilks

Posted Saturday 8th August 2015

We awoke on the fourth day of our Tasmanian odyssey to a relatively warm morning of 3°C. After yesterday’s ascent of Cradle Mountain we were keen to circumnavigate it to get a different view of this iconic peak.

We arrived at the Dove Lake car park about 8:15 to find low cloud brushing across the summit of Hansons Peak. It wasn’t the best start, but the forecast of early drizzle clearing gave us some hope for improvement as we set off.

The cool conditions made for pleasant walking as we passed Glacier Rock and started climbing up towards Hansons Peak (the reverse of how we finished last night). The path crossed what looked to be the site of a small avalanche, which was visible from many points around the lake.

From a distance the landslide looks white, but up close the stones are quite colourful

The drizzle was persisting, and the cloud appeared to be lowering further instead of lifting as we’d hoped.

We reached the ridge and now had views down to Lake Hanson as well… but only just.

At the junction of the Hansons Peak and Hansons Lake (and Twisted Lakes) tracks

We continued climbing along the ridge towards Hansons Peak. We soon entered the cloud and lost sight of the lakes.

The track to the top was exciting with some chain sections to help with the climb, which we appreciated more today in the wet conditions than we did yesterday when it was dry.

With the bulk of the climbing behind us, the path levelled out and sidled round to the east side of the peak for the final section up to the summit.

The weather had been slowly deteriorating and, almost without our noticing it, the drizzle had become light rain. It was time to get our jackets out. We were now walking high up on Hansons Peak, enveloped by the cloud.

But despite the rain and lack of views, it was still very enjoyable. The weather gave a different feel to the landscape: intimate and mysterious; putting a focus on our immediate surroundings instead of the lakes and mountains that would normally dominate.

As we neared Twisted Lakes we got a good view over them from their western side. This summit track was much closer to the lakes than I had realized yesterday.

Once we reached the junction we made the short side trip to revisit the lakes.

The lakes were still gorgeous in the misty rain.

Cones on a pencil pine

Since passing Hansons Peak we had seen hundreds of large spiderwebs beside the track. And with the rain covering them with water droplets, they looked spectacular.

We walked down to Rangers Hut to get out of the weather while we ate a snack and decided what to do next. Clearly we weren’t going to be able to see Cradle Mountain today, so the circumnavigation was off. Artists Pool seemed like a good substitute since it should still be scenic, even in the rain. And I had read that the forest on the way down there was one of the prettier sections.

And so it was: the forest from the hut down to Artists Pool was absolutely beautiful. For us mainlanders it felt much more European than Australian. The forest was filled with beech and pencil pines, with a good touch of autumn colour. Our poor cameras were getting another soaking: the scenery was too good to miss no matter what the weather was doing.

As we descended off the ridge the forest began to open up, and we crossed a few little streams.

To our right loomed Little Horn, just a dull silhouette in the cloud.

We continued following the path as it headed gently downhill towards Artists Pool. Here, too, we found masses of spider webs.

Artists Pool was lovely, and it was easy to see how it got its name. Though it would have been nice to be able to see the mountains behind it. Another time, hopefully!

It was time to turn back towards the hut. For a moment Little Horn emerged slightly from the cloud.

Autumn colour on a beech

We came across plenty of scoparia. It looked like a smaller and bushier version of the pandani we’d seen elsewhere, and in fact belongs to the same family (southern heaths).

Scoparia may look quite prickly, but actually it is extremely prickly…

We walked back up to the hut for lunch, just beating the lunchtime rush. For a wet day there certainly were a lot of people out walking.

The pool in front of Rangers Hut

After lunch we had the mild excitement of being locked inside the hut by someone as they left, before we made our escape and headed off. We decided to continue our reverse of yesterday and take the Face Track, then branch off to Lake Wilks.

We climbed from Rangers Hut up through the black cliffs of Little Horn. It felt like we were entering a prehistoric world.

As we walked along below the peaks, their spires of rock loomed above us, half seen in the cloud.

We reached the junction with the track to Lake Wilks and started down. There were more chains on this section, and we were very happy to see them: clambering down the wet, slippery rock without them would have been a bit more exciting than we would’ve liked.

Below us Lake Wilks and Dove Lake emerged from the mist.

We reached the lake, and took the little side path down to the shore. It was another beautiful lake fringed by autumn-coloured beech.

As we left the lake we passed a small cascade fed by the lake.

The track plunged into the forest which was filled with tall pandani, ferns and luxuriant moss against a backdrop of dark stone.

We needed to keep an eye on the track, though, as it was covered in tree roots as it snaked its way down to Dove Lake. We hadn’t planned on doing this track during our visit, but we were glad circumstances sent us this way.

Leaving the forest we re-joined the Dove Lake track just before the spectacular Ballroom Forest.

The rain had been near-constant during the day, and it wasn’t until we neared the car park that it began to ease off — teasing us with a little break of sunshine.

Despite the rain we had managed to salvage an interesting day’s walk with some wonderful scenery. And we had seen a different side to the landscape — a stark contrast to yesterday.