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Email from Ben: “I plan to climb Cradle Mountain when we visit the area in a few weeks – better start training“.
So I reduced my alcohol consumption to one glass of wine a night (well, most nights) and did a bit of walking (on the flat) at weekends, so when we started our trek on a fine February day I was completely unprepared for what lay ahead.
Our walk started at the beginning of the Overland Track, a six to eight day walk from the Cradle Mountain end of one of Tasmania’s best known National Parks to Lake St Clair at the Southern end of the park. Our intention was simply to walk/climb to the top of Cradle Mountain, and then return to the luxury of our spa bath in the chalet that same night.
With a reasonable level of fitness, you could be back enjoying your spa in about seven hours (without me as an anchor, Ben could have been enjoying the bubbles within six hours), but it was to be a nine hour walk on this day.
The journey starts easy enough on a recently installed boardwalk. This is a special area and walkers are encouraged to stay on the marked trails so that the area is not damaged. The overland track winds through a variety of alpine areas from button grass plains to forest.
The first main feature on our walk is Crater Lake, nestled in a crater like depression but not of volcanic origin.
Within a reasonably short length of time, you leave the modern boardwalk for the more traditional track and start to wind your way up through some woodland, past a pretty waterfall, and on to the shores of Crater Lake.
There is a small, shingle roofed boat house here which will encourage you to rest a while and enjoy the scenery.
The track continues around the Eastern shore of the lake, eventually rising up to Marions Lookout. As you climb, you can look back on Crater Lake, and then eventually get a view of Dove Lake.
The climb to Marions Lookout is steep, but some chain has been installed to help those carrying backpacks to pull themselves up. Even if you are making the eight day hike, you will pause at Marions Lookout to enjoy the view.
As well as a birds eye view of Dove Lake, Marions Lookout also provides a first glimpse of Cradle Mountain.
At this distance, the enormity of the task (for those of lesser fitness) is not too apparent. So we press on, over a plain with pleasant views on both sides but every step increases the bulk of our main goal that looms in front of us.
Ben is waiting for me at Kitcheners Hut at the base of the mountain. You can’t stay overnight here, but it could be a refuge in an emergency.
According to the signs, it is a 2.5 hour journey from the hut to the top of Cradle Mountain and return – I’m tired already.
Ben presses on with me following. The track is easy enough at first, but then it degrades and you are clambering over shale and boulders, every step is up.
I use the excuse to take a photo to rest. My camera strap is looped over my shoulder but I store the camera in in my day pack as the climb becomes more difficult.
I loose sight of Ben over the rocks ahead but there is plenty of other company on the track. Those that are journeying on to Lake St Clair have left their backpacks at the base of the mountain. On a fine day, the park opens up as you climb the crag – another excuse to stop as you look at the view.
Young, fresh and fit, you could do this climb in under an hour. It took me ninety photographs – at least that’s my excuse for the 2 hours of my journey up the slope. But I have to say that although there was a certain amount of agony, the ecstasy of reaching the top was exhilerating. But don’t be dis-heartened by the false top. You reach what appears to be a crest, only to be confronted with another depression filled with rock and the last steep climb is still in front of you.