Windy Ridge to Kia Ora Hut – Overland Track in snow – August 2010

Thinking of hiking the Overland Track in winter from south to north?

What are conditions like on the Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair hike when there has been a lot of snow?

Welcome to Part Three 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. It was to be one of the “snowiest” Overland trips for several years.

Over to Nik:
Home dried bircher muesli for breakfast (thanks for this idea Frank!)… mmm… good… but don’t overdo the water next time, and don’t forget to add the home dried strawberries carried all this way!

It had snowed heavily again all night and there was now an even deeper layer of fresh snow on everything. But the cloud appeared to be thinning out and it looked like it was going to be a nice day with some indistinct glimpses of the DuCane Range through the cloud to the west. Before leaving the architectural marvel that is Bert Nichols Hut, Heidi decided that she’d better try out the snow shoes in a controlled environment rather than trying to figure it out with cold fingers on rough terrain. So she spent a few minutes parading around the square flat patch of snow in the plain behind the hut which covered the helicopter pad. Satisfied with how to attach, remove and use the snow shoes, we strapped them back onto the pack and set out.

Testing the Snow Shoes on the Windy Ridge Helipad

Testing the Snow Shoes on the Windy Ridge Helipad

As we gained altitude through the rain forest up Windy Ridge towards DuCane Gap, the snow got deeper, and the forest was breathtakingly beautiful, as were the glimpses of the DuCane Range through the trees. Eventually the snow became deep enough that we thought we’d better try the snow shoes out for real, and we found the going a little easier for a while. It was touch and go though, with the shoes often getting tangled in vegetation or duck board, or simply sinking too deep into the soft snow.

Snow Covered Pandanii

Snow Covered Pandanii

Walking Through the Rainforest on the Way Up Windy Ridge

Walking Through the Rainforest on the Way Up Windy Ridge

First Real Use of the Snow Shoes for the Trip Approaching DuCane Gap

First Real Use of the Snow Shoes for the Trip Approaching DuCane Gap

We had lunch at DuCane hut (Paddy Hartnett’s Hut), and again got ridiculously cold while doing so (the sun had been out for a while, but disappeared at lunch time, so we opted for inside). We pushed on as soon as we could after lunch, arriving at Kiaora Hut mid afternoon.

DuCane Hut (Paddy Harnett's Hut)

DuCane Hut (Paddy Harnett's Hut)

For much of the day, we’d been hearing the distant buzz of helicopters coming and going, and were wondering if they were searching for a lost bushwalker. The closer to Kiaora we got, the louder they became, until we saw one descend into the forest just ahead of us, a few minutes before we got to Kiaora. After removing our packs, the chopper took off again, then lowered into the forest a little further on, and then rose up again, circled around towards us and then landed on the snow-covered helipad right behind Kiaora Hut. After waiting for the rotors to stop, and for the pilot to disembark, I asked him if he was looking for anyone, but he said that he and a second helicopter were just re-supplying the private hut nearby. The other chopper was on the helipad there, so he was just going to wait here until the other chopper left and he could get on with the job at the private hut. So we had a good chat with him until he had to move on, and waved him off as he set off for the short trip of a couple of hundred metres to the private hut nearby.

I then fired up the coal heater using what remained of my firelighters, and got the hut reasonably warm for the evening. In fact it eventually got so warm that I had to strip down to just my thermals, and then down to just undies for a while. The thermometer on the wall (quite close to the heater) said 20°C. I hope I didn’t waste too much coal.

Dinner was cous-cous with home dried veges, stock and tuna. Delicous.

Supper was a port night cap.

Ed: Wow, what a great trip, soooo much snow. Thank Nik, really enjoying this trip report.

Have you ever hiked in this much snow?
How was it? Fun? Hard? A battle?
Shoot us a comment below and share your adventures!

Comments

  1. Georgie says

    I used the hole-in-the-ground loo just behind DuCane hut when I walked the track in December. Then the only thing to worry about was other people coming up the hill. I don’t think I would drop my pants with this much snow around. It must have been an amazing experience. Well done! G

    • says

      Yeah, that’s one of my favourite loos, at Ducane Gap. It looks like just a crummy toilet lid sitting on a low stump. I didn’t get to use it this time, but I’m not sure if I would have been able to find it in all the snow. It would have required some digging to uncover it! :-)

  2. Steve Cockburn says

    Nik I’m loving reading this too. Who has the kids ?? I’ve gone to BWT to get the rest as I could not wait for the other installments . What was you alteration to the pasta recipe on day two? I’d be keen to copy. Regards Steve C

    • says

      The kids stayed with their grandparents. We’re very lucky to have both sets of grandparents close by.

      The pasta meal was a home made but quite simple pasta neopolitan (like a bolognaise without any meat). My mistake, I think, was cooking mixing the sauce and cooked pasta together before drying it. That meant that I had to rehydrate it altogether, and to do so, had to put in enough water to just cover it completely. This was too much water and ended up being very watery, even after trying to drain off some of the excess.

      Next time, I’ll cook the sauce and the pasta separately, and rehydrate them separately. Then I can drain the water off the pasta, and wouldn’t need to add any extra to the sauce.

      • Frank says

        Hi Nik,
        We have started drying the pasta and noodles together. It works well for us. Not sure of the solution, maybe soaking it for a while and then just reheating.

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