Welcome to Part Five of a trip report courtesy of Nik Sands from Bushwalk Australia. Nik and his wife Heidi completed the Overland Track, walking south to north, in August 2010.
In this article we combine two days, from Frog Flats to Waterfall Valley Hut!
Nik did not have any images for this section but he mentions wombats in a section below. We found a movie on Flickr that may please!
Over to Nik:
Well this was the day that had been forecast for heavy rain, but we managed to get the tent packed away before any rain came. In fact the heavy rain did not come all day, and there was just some light drizzle occasionally, but nothing of any significance.
I had always swore I would never camp at Frog Flats due to the abundance of both leeches and mosquitos for which it is renowned. A great place to stop for a break or even for lunch, but never camp there. However, we figured there’d be no mozzies in the winter cold, and the leech activity would be much reduced under the weight of snow. And we were right, we saw no mozzies at all, and only one leech on the outside of a shoe the entire time we were there. It was a great camp site and we really enjoyed our stay there. Great views of the mountains around us above the tree tops again.
This was expected to be a long tiring day to Windermere and we were not disappointed. The snow was again quite deep after we’d gained some altitude ascending out of Frog Flats. However the snow as getting quite slushy and again we were frustrated by the snow shoes over Pine Forest Moor and the other snow-laden areas. They were definitely better than boots alone, but were still sinking deep sometimes.
The clouds were getting darker, and there was a gentle but freezing cold breeze from the west, but the rain was only minimal. The Fourth Valley Lookout was completely sheltered from the wind and we enjoyed a relaxed lunch taking in the views from there.
Late in the afternoon, the highlight of the day was when I spotted a nice looking snow drift in the distance, and then realised that the track passed close by both the bottom and the top of the snow drift. Unable to let such an opportunity pass us by, I insisted on doing a few goretex toboggan runs down the snow drift, some of which we captured on video. Great fun for those of us who are still little kids at heart.
It took us 7.5 hours to reach Windermere where a young German bloke already had the heater going and the hut was pleasantly warm, but smelling somewhat of shellite or petrol from his chooffer. He was not terribly well equipped (jeans!) and carrying a months worth of food and was somewhat discouraged by the very difficult snow walking he’d had over the last two days. He warned us that it took him 9 hours to get from Ronnie Creek to Waterfall Valley and 5 hours from Waterfall Valley to Windermere.
Dinner was home made from scratch chicken curry, home dehydrated with rice – this was absolutely brilliant and completely restored my faith in my abilities to dehydrate top quality meals for bushwalking. Thanks to Frank and “Food to Go” for the tips and confidence building.
Supper was Port, turkish delight and cherry ripe chocolate.
Windemere to Waterfall Valley
The next morning the weather had finally started to close in properly with some significant wind, and rain starting to get a little heavier. The German chap had decided to stay at Windermere for another night and have a rest day. He had a month’s worth of food, so why not?
We headed out into the deteriorating weather for another slushy snow slog to Waterfall Valley. This is usually a 1.5 to 3 hour leg of the trip, but the German bloke was right – in the current snow conditions, even with snow shoes, it took us a full 5 hours. This leg of the walk was not terribly memorable except for the sleet stinging into our faces as it was blown by increasingly strong wind, by my reliably bad memory of “just over that spur of Barn Bluff, then across the flat” (when it was actually over the next spur).
Part way across the last flat section leading to Waterfall Valley hut, we disturbed a wombat on the track which then headed off along the track in front of us. After following it along for about a hundred metres or so, we eventually realised we were no longer on the track at all. So we then corrected our position and followed the actual track to the last small ascent of to the hut turn off.
These last few metres were the most frustrating of the day. After picking up a pair of home made dodgy-looking snow shoes I’d found discarded by the side of the track, I sunk deeper and deeper into the snow as we came across the most difficult section so far where it is normally very simple walking. I finally caught up to my wife in my number of dummy-spits and hissy-fits for the day, as I sunk in deeper with every step and then resorted to crawling to the turn off, only to find that then my arms also sank in as far as my shoulders. With both legs and both arms in the snow as deep as they could go and having face planted the snow in that position, and trying to carry somebody else’s discarded snow shoe rubbish, I spat it and cursed and winged like 3 year old tantrum (and I know about 3 year old tantrums this year).
After recovering my composure, we waded, slipped and skidded the last few metres to the hut and settled in for a late lunch and to await the arrival of our friend Kim who’d promised to meet us there later that day after walking in from Dove Lake, and who’d promised to bring us some fresh steak for dinner.
Kim is a very fit and very fast walker, however, she’s only just started bushwalking this year, and was very inexperienced, particularly when it comes to snow and bad weather. I had warned her of the possibility of deep snow and bad weather and that people died up there in bad conditions and therefore she should not attempt the walk if the weather was bad, but she was determined to come no matter what. So with the weather now being near blizzard conditions, it was a bit of an anxious wait for us, not knowing for sure if she would turn up or not, and if she didn’t turn up would it be because she cancelled, or because she was stuck out in the bad weather or lost in the snow?
The weather had been getting worse all day, and the rain was getting progressively heavier still as the afternoon wore on, but Kim did arrive late in the afternoon very wet and very tired after a solo deep-snow slog with no snow shoes. A very valiant effort, if not entirely a good idea.
And she had brought not only the promised fresh steak for our dinner (meaning we didn’t have to eat home dried dahl), but she’d also brought fresh lettuce, bread rolls and a variety of other ingredients to make comprehensive steak burgers which were delicious.
But it got even better still – she’d also brought large pieces of freshly made berry brownies and a large portion of double cream.
What a luxuriously extravagant meal and dessert for the sixth night of a hard snow-wading bushwalk!
Wow, FUN Nik?