In early 2005 an advertisement appeared in the travel section of The Age newspaper. It was for a fly drive package to Tasmania with accommodation at Cradle Mountain Lodge. Many, many times we had passed The Lodge on our way to experience the wilderness that this area is famous for but we had never availed ourselves of the Lodge’s hospitality. This was the opportunity we had been waiting for. We had a wonderful weekend. While there I expressed my desire to share this special place with those closest to me. A seed was planted; this is where I would celebrate my 50th birthday.
On Sunday 23rd October 2005 a group of my 10 closest friends (5 couples) were invited to celebrate my 49th birthday. During lunch they were issued with invitations “For a walk on the wild side” in 12 months time.
The expedition would consist of a long weekend made up of an overnight stay at Scott-Kilvert Memorial Hut and two nights at Cradle Mountain Lodge. They all decided to accept the challenge.
The planning process was one Frank revelled in, booking flights, accommodation, transport, coordinating departure and arrival times, determining catering requirements and providing information on the necessary equipment. This part of the world can be unforgiving to the ill-prepared. Fortunately, all went like clock work and we arrived at the car park at Dove Lake at 12:30 on Friday the 20th of October, 2006. I had expressed my desire for any sort of weather other than rain and it wasn’t raining it was snowing and continued to do so on and of for the next 24 hours.
We took the track on the left side of Dove Lake car park and climbed across the west face of Mt Campbell. At the top of this ascent we split into two groups, six going up over Hanson’s Peak and the other six taking the more scenic route above Lake Hanson and onto Twisted Lakes. The two tracks join just after Twisted Lakes and then split again, one track going across the face of Cradle Mountain and the other going on to Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut. The track toward Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut contains some of the prettiest scenery found in the area – rocky outcrops, peaceful tarns (Artist Pool & Flynn’s Tarn) surrounded by Pencil Pines and the towering crags of Cradle Mountain. The low cloud and snow, which fell quite heavily at times, added a new dimension to the beauty of the area as it took on a surreal, mystical, Christmassy feeling.
Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut was built in 1966 as a memorial to David Kilvert and Ewan Scott who died of exposure in the area in May, 1965. This A-frame construction was where we were to spend the night. The late comers arrived to a lit fire and a warm cosy hut. We enjoyed cheese and dip before a dinner of steak and vegies, accompanied by either red or white wine. Following dinner there was chocolate and Muscat (all carried in by the males in our group and a real track luxury).
Post dinner entertainment was provided by a small group of very competitive snow ball fighters. I am sure the three women from Queensland, who were going on to do the whole track enjoyed the jocularity.
Following a physically taxing day we were all tucked up in sleeping bags by about 9:30. Sleep didn’t come easy for some as they struggled to cope with the night noises – not nocturnal animals but snoring. Others found that a good night sleep is possible only if they comply with all the technical requirements of inflatable sleeping mats.
It had continued snowing through the night and we awoke in the morning to a magical landscape where all evidence of human existence had been erased. Following breakfast it was off again. Some in the party found putting packs and wet shoes and socks on was a very difficult thing to do.
Today, the track took us south-west across a low ridge to a small plain before a steep climb to Cradle Cirque; here we had magnificent view of Barn Bluff to the South. Although, it had stopped snowing the wind on the plateau was bitterly cold. We joined the Overland Track here a sign post points right indicating a one hour walk passing the western slopes of Cradle Mountain to Kitchen Hut. The track here is generally above the tree line and is exposed to the weather. The view to the west is dominated by the Fury Gorge in the foreground. It is possible to climb Cradle Mountain from here. Prior to the walk several members of the party had expressed their intention to climb either Cradle Mountain or Barn Bluff but the conditions –wind and cloud – were not conducive to this activity.
We stopped briefly at Kitchen Hut for lunch (soup, crackers, cheese, tomato and cold meat). The weather prohibited us from stopping for any length of time. We turned right at the next track junction and follow the snow poles marking the Overland Track to Marion’s Lookout where we took the opportunity to take in the view of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. Just past Marion’s Lookout is a sign-posted track junction here we turned right and descended steeply, there is a chain to assist the descent. At the bottom of the descent we split into several groups, some taking the track to Dove Lake car park via Wombat Pool and Lake Lilla and others along the edge of Crater Lake to Ronny Creek car park.
Our arrival at Cradle Mountain Lodge was a staggered affair depending on the route taken and the speed of the walkers, but eventually we all arrived, checked into our rooms and chose a preferred a recovery method. We hadn’t planned to get together on Saturday evening but we did all end up at the Tavern Bar & Bistro for dinner to talk about the weather, the scenery, the difficulties, the triumphs, and the sense of achievement.
Following, one of the best buffet breakfasts ever, we chose to spend the day engaged in a variety of activities, some read, some rested, some got massaged, some took short strolls around the Lodge and along the board walk, others ventured back to Dove Lake and did the Lake circuit and some ventured back onto the Cirque for a more sustained walk. We regrouped for dinner, which was a wonderful evening full of magnificent food and wine, hysterical moments and fantastic camaraderie.
Monday morning saw a group of us take quick stroll around the King Billy Track at the back of the Lodge and another great brekkie. Following checkout, we all boarded the bus and went to Dove Lake for one last photo opportunity before the return trip, home.
I couldn’t have imagined a better, more memorable by to celebrate my 50th birthday. I cannot thank my friends enough for being willing to take to challenge of walking, however briefly in a very beautiful and precious part of the world.