After months of planning and preparation, and one final night of packing, weighing, unpacking and repacking, the time has finally come. We are Caitie and Lauren, 26 and 25 years old, best friends since we were 3 years old and we are about to take on the challenge that is The Overland Track… in Winter!
Waldheim Cabins, Cradle Mountain – Thursday 24th June
As I sit in our toasty warm Waldheim Cabin, it’s hard to imagine just what the next 7 days will hold for us! We awoke early this morning with tired eyes and excited minds. After leaving the car at long term parking in Melbourne, we flew to Launceston where Lee from Tiger Wine and Wilderness Tours picked us up for a private transfer to Cradle Mountain. It was great to have someone to bring shellite, give us a weather update and handy last minute hints that only come from a seasoned bushwalker. Lee took us to pick up our PLB from Service Tasmania and then onto Deloraine for fresh food shopping and a stop at the bakery to help build up the insulating layer on our bodies!
The drive that followed from Deloraine was not only stunning, but my idea of living hell! We travelled through steep, winding roads heading towards Cradle Mountain through the gorgeous Forth Valley, and after several roadside stops to deposit the contents of my visit to the bakery; we arrived here at the Waldheim Cabins, just near the start of the Overland Track. I retrieved the keys from the ranger’s station and we headed to our cabin, named Kunama, to find a gorgeous, preheated room, complete with bunks and mattresses, complimentary bottled water, a gas stove and utensils!
After a quick recovery nap, Lauren and I donned our head torches and went outside for a little explore. There was a light mist, soft breeze and the pandanas plants were glowing in the moonlight… our Overland appetites were whet and we headed back inside for a final dinner and an early night before we tackle day one. A low pressure system is moving through, so it will be all layers on and on the track early tomorrow… we can’t wait!
Waldheim Cabin to Waterfall Valley Hut – Friday 25th June
Our great intentions of an early start were smashed when the alarm went off at 7am and our cosy sleeping bags won out over the rain outside! After a leisurely start, including nutella pancakes, we hit the track at 0915. There was very low cloud and light but steady rain, so we wore all of our wet weather gear, which turned out to be a very smart idea.
The track started through button grass and up some fairly gentle climbs. Highlights along the way included the idyllic Crater Falls and magnificent Crater Lake.
There was a great hill climb leading up to Marion’s Lookout, which really helped to warm us up!
After numerous photo stops along the way, we made it to Marion’s by 1130, however the cloud was very thick and the wind and rain were really picking up, so with no views to speak of we decided to press on to Kitchen Hut before stopping. The hut gave us some much needed shelter from the icy winds to have lunch – our first wraps for the trip! These were gourmet wraps though, made with left over beef from our final dinner last night.
Surprisingly, we were both still quite warm, with the only wet parts being our gloves, although my fleece gloves were covered in a layer of ice, so it was surprising my fingers were not colder. The cloud stayed low for the rest of the day, so we weren’t able to get a great view of Barn Bluff, however we did catch a glimpse for five minutes and were suitably impressed! We began walking through button grass and low mosses and then headed into more fagus, pencil pines, gums and tall pandanas. We were also suddenly walking the Overland Creek, as the track had disappeared under a fast flowing stream, waterfalls included! Even with a full day of ankle deep water, our feet remained warm and dry and I have faith our boots will hold out for another 6 days!
We met 7 people coming out on their last day of the hike, having started from the South. They all looked a little cold and tired, however they seemed to have had a great time, although they swore our boots would start to leak after a few days.
Our legs were glad to make it to Waterfall Valley Hut at around 330pm, and we were also thrilled to find the gas heater still warm from the previous occupants! Not expecting company for the night, we proceeded to spread ourselves to every corner of the hut, only to do a mad scramble to collect everything when we heard voices heading our way! In the end we were joined by two other couples, CJ and Carolyn from Adelaide and Joanna and Ross from Indiana, which made for a great night of chocolate and wine and chatting.
It also came in very handy to have someone to help me with my MSR stove that had ceased to work, even though it had just had a very expensive service and had worked perfectly in the weeks leading up to now! Turns out it was a blockage and I am eternally thankful to CJ for spending an hour fixing it – we really didn’t want to have to go back tomorrow due to no stove.
We are now tucked up in bed ready for a short walk tomorrow to Windemere Hut, which we are told has no fuel, so it might be early to bed to get warm!
Waterfall Valley Hut to Windemere Hut – Saturday 26th June
It is 7:30pm and I am sitting at the table in Windemere Hut wearing every layer, including my sleeping bag! The solar power has run out for the timer on the gas heater and we have all finished cooking, so the temperature is really starting to drop. Outside is a clear night with ice on the ground and a very bright, full moon.
Today was a leisurely start with plenty of time to enjoy the warmth of Waterfall Valley Hut before heading off into the lightly falling snow. It’s only a 3 hour walk to Windemere, so when we got to the Lake Will turn off we left our packs on the platform, grabbed our lunch, rugged up and walked the half hour along the duck boards into the lake. We were rewarded with a gorgeous, sheltered little beach and blue skies that opened up to show Barn Bluff towering above us. Well worth the detour, although it did get icy cold, so we power walked back to our packs after lunch and headed off just as the snow fall began again.
It seems we have come really well prepared, as we are at times hot whilst walking, when in reality the temperature could not have been above zero, and our feet were dry, even after trudging through knee deep mud!
We have been so glad for our two walking poles today, especially over the rocky parts leading down to Lake Windemere, not that it stopped Lauz toppling off the side off the path at one point, although it was entertaining watching her get back up with a fully laden pack!
We have met up again with CJ and Carolyn from last night and it has been great to have some extra people to chat to and share lumpy custard and dried apple with! A frosty start is forecast for tomorrow, but hopefully that means sunshine during the day.
Windemere to New Pelion – Sunday 27th June
What a gorgeous day! The evening cloud is rolling over Mt Oakleigh and Lauren and I are watching it from the veranda of New Pelion Hut, cuppa soups in hand. We awoke to a freezing hut, with ice covering the ground outside. After hot coffee and porridge we headed off for the 16.75km trek. Lauren and I left before CJ and Carolyn, and as I was at the front I had the pleasure of cracking through all the frozen puddles! The entire track was frozen, as was all the mud and ponds surrounding it. The track actually resembled a toboggan slide on the rocky downhill sections and sometimes we were clever enough to use our poles and boots and ski down them… other times we were not so clever!
We walked across the open plains of Pine Forest Moor for the first hour or so and had a break at a fantastic lookout over the Forth Valley, with Mt Oakleigh towering off to the side. Stunning rain forest followed, with a steady descent into Frog Flats (we were warned about leeches, but stopped for lunch here anyway) and then a big climb out of the flats lead us out into less dense bush. We passed the old hut turn off and arrived mid afternoon here at New Pelion Hut with fairly exhausted legs! Exhausted legs aside though, we quickly dumped our packs in the hut and got the heater going, keen to get out and try to hike as far up Mt Oakleigh as we could, however we could only walk about an hour before the light started fading. Disappointing, as I have heard it is an amazing side trip. CJ and Carolyn arrived a little later and we are now all out on the veranda watching the fat, audacious possums circle us, hoping we’ll be silly enough to leave a little food lying around!
Today was a wet and muddy track and I am happy to report our feet are still dry!
Thanks very much to Caitie for sharing her journal and great pictures of the Overland Track. Thanks also to Lauren for smiling and looking happy no matter what the weather was like!
This is Part one of their story, click here to read Part 2 – Wet Feet, mountains and a cold hut .
For those of you reading this who are planning the Overland Track, you might want to check out our eBook – Caitie never got around to buying it but we sent her a copy to check out after she got home:
This is her recommendation:
The book was great…. I used 20 different people and websites and books to get the information you have in one place. Definitely worth it.