It will be my birthday soon, and I am celebrating it by shunning society and heading bush. Not really, but, kind of. I’ll be heading down to Mystery Creek Caves with the family for a day trip over the weekend before, and then on the day itself, Craig and I will take off on a longer day walk. I’ll wait to see what the weather is doing, but assuming it stays fine, I’d like to revisit the Tarn Shelf or do the long walk across the ridge line from Big Bend on Mt Wellington, over Mt Connection and Explore around the Collinsvale Peaks with a car shuffle at the end. Both of these are walks I’ve done before, but I am one for repeating walks. I know there are too many good ones to repeat too often, but I really enjoy seeing how the one place changes over seasons and years. Plus, I don’t really get into the “bagging” aspect of bushwalking – ticking off tracks and peaks like a grocery list. I know plenty of people here in Tas are into Abel bagging or the peak baggers list, and I can definitely see how it’d be fun, but really, as a (not so) proud slow walker with a desk job I’m generally happy just to be outside, and just as intrigued about whats on the underside of a leaf as to whats on top of a mountain.
I’ve also got 8 weeks of leave from work coming up, and although my work is generally relaxed in it’s approach, I am positively dragging myself over the finish line at this point. Our plan for some of them is to head into the Walls of Jerusalem park finally. Perhaps via the main route, but hopefully via one of the less trampled entry points for a bit more peace and quiet. We’re also basing ourselves in Derwent Bridge for a stretch, but we’re taking the dog on that particular trip so working out which spots she can come to, and which spots she’ll need to stay at the pet friendly B&B for has been my task this week. So far am investigating on LISTMap – anything Hydro or Forestry is likely OK for the dog to trot around, and everything else is a big nope, which is fair enough. She’s not particularly athletic, any ways, so won’t want a lot of time off the couch! We’re talking about a dog who sat by the gate of the dog park, demanding to be let back into the car to sleep. I’d probably do more walking if I left her in the kennel, but I feel bad for being away from her in her golden years, so she’s hitting the road with us.
Because I am at heart, a worrier, I was determined I’d make good time on the last day. We’d all walked the Lake St Clair portion on other trips, and decided we’d catch the ferry from Narcissus to Cynthia Bay today, and as such I really didn’t want to miss the ferry we’d booked. As usual, M and K hit the trail first, and we followed, buoyed by anti-inflammatory, Jenna’s beef Jerky, and a taste for a pub meal in our minds.
The vast majority of the day was flat and pleasant, and with much lighter packs, we were making short work of it. Always slightly self conscious of how slow of a walker I am, I made a concerted effort to keep pace. So much so, that today over the good even track, that Jenna dubbed me Cathy Freeman for the day, marvelling at my progress after popping the Voltaren. I do have to admit, it was something akin to when Popeye eats spinach -aches and pains be gone!
We marvelled at how much the landscape had changed from our first day, and how weird it felt to think of the country we covered – how much distance we’d covered on foot. Popping out of a hike at the other end of the state (well, ok a bit further down the state) feels so strange, but also makes me feel pretty proud of myself, even if I did it with modern gear, dehydrated food and all the waterproof clothing money can buy.
Speaking of, as we edged closer to Lake St Clair, we noticed for the first time on our trip that rain was threatening. We’d expected it, and it was another reason for me to fast walk (almost like Kath Day-Night from the iconic show Kath and Kim). The weather here was much cooler than earlier on the trip, and soon to be a bit wetter. By the time we made the Pine Valley junction, we knew we’d be OK for time, and just wanted to beat the weather.
We needn’t have worried, we had soon arrived at Narcissus – a small, extremely cold hut by the side of the Lake (it also has a weirdly fancy toilet, but I digress). We commenced eating left over snack supplies (yes, we all went big on packing food) and made hot drinks for all. M and K were already there, as were the school group.
We had a little trouble using the radio to tell the Ferry we’d arrived, and felt sort of dumb talking into the box on the wall to no response, but nonetheless, a ferry arrived to take us all back to Cynthia Bay- I’d dread being the ferry driver, carting around stinky hikers – we must’ve been a ripe group by then. The school girls went around and talked about the experiences they had and what they’d take away from it, encouraged to self reflect by their guide. Most had found they’d been tougher and more capable than they’d thought, and one even said that doing all her own cooking and tidy up made her appreciate her parents more, which was quite cute. When asked what they’d leave behind, they answered “The Hashtags”, thoughtfully.
It was quite cold on the water, and a little spray entered the boat now and then, but we made speedy progress to the shore, decamping and once again picking up dreaded backpacks, we all headed to the sign to take a photo.
We said our goodbyes – M and K staying for a meal at Lake St Clair, us heading out to the pub at Derwent Bridge, and the girls stopping for burgers along the drive home. We’d swapped contact details so we could catch up again post trip.
Jenna, Craig and I were living in fear of missing meals at the pub, but we made it in time, and enjoyed some well earned luxuries. Beer, curry and non-dehydrated meat. Coke for me, because I am basic.
I know this trip report will help no-one who’s planning on walking the OLT – it wasn’t intended to. I’m just your average person with legs, I have no special wisdom or tricks for hiking, and there isn’t much navigation to be done. I just wanted to capture the feeling of the trip. The fun, the friends you make, the silly little stories you laugh about during, and the emotional ups and downs of doing something physical like that. Even the moments where I was hurting, I still managed to be able to look around and be absolutely absorbed in how unreal the scenery was, and how lucky I was to be there. No one got grumpy with each other, we looked after the group, and we all had an amazing time because of that. We all appreciated what we were doing, and that is what I am most proud of. That and the fact that I actually did it. I did the thing. 6 days of it, under my own steam, carrying my own stuff.
Craig woke up that morning, declaring his night in the tent to be “the best” night’s sleep so far, and generally being irritatingly cheerful. I’d been awake really early, and was feeling a bit cold, but ok. Jenna, on the other hand, emerged as soon as she heard other people about, and was sopping wet. Her tent had some serious condensation issues and she’d spent a freezing night with droplets falling on her, and barely a wink of sleep. She’d been so happy to have mastered inflating her admittedly rather complex sleeping mat (it requires a hand pump coordination system), but unfortunately, the borrowed tent had let her down. Needless to say, coffee and a dry off were in order. M & K joined us for a coffee (M is a total coffee guy, and was beyond pleased to see Craig had packed way too much ground coffee), and then they headed off for the day. We packed slowly, ate and voyaged on down the track, stopping for a peak at the 1910 constructed Du Cane Hut.
Today is the day of waterfalls, and after a stretch through rainforest, this time the track was far less rough and the forest more open. I was a little unsure about the side trip, since it required uphill/downhill adventuring, but didn’t want to miss out, so soldiered on. At least I got to leave my heavy pack at the top.
We found the school group at the bottom of the valley towards D’Alton and Fergusson Falls, excitedly hassling their teacher, and politely letting us pass in the narrow bridges over the streams (I realised they were respecting their elders, and felt ancient). We soon found ourselves at pumping waterfalls with precarious edges – the recent rainfall making for an impressive display.
We trudged back up to the top – Jenna rocking a sore leg (perhaps from beaning herself on the log, I can’t remember) and Craig and I with the usual aches and pains. We came across M and K at the main track packing up from lunch, and we all shared cookies from Craig’s latest batch.
Because today was the last long day, I hadn’t studied the map too carefully – I just had a vague impression that there wasn’t anything too major post the falls, so no big deal, right?
Well, sort of. I knew we had to make it to Du Cane Gap, and that was a slight uphill, and then downhill to the hut. But then, every time we ascended even a mild rise I assumed we were reaching the gap, and was disappointed to see ever more hills to summit.
When we finally reached the gap, I was harassing Craig about not being able to remember more about where things were (perhaps unfair, it had been a few years since he did the track last), since I really wanted to see a hut appear. Finally, we descended down into a forested valley and came across tent platforms. Weirdly, these were really far away from the hut, so weren’t the smoking gun we thought they were, but nonetheless before long, we arrived at Bert Nichols hut.
Bert Nichols, we’d been told, was not much chop (the hut not the man) – we really liked it though. The floor plan was well considered – top story bedrooms, entry mud rooms, a smaller, separate dining room and a larger common room with a great heater. Sat on the edge of a hill, it enjoyed ranging views of the plains and surrounding bush. We took a room on the far end of a hall, one over from M and K who’d arrived earlier. Before long, the school group piled in to the other rooms and we took to drying socks on the toasty heater and eating dinner.
Being the last full day, we had some food to get rid of, and plenty of willing mouths. Between the 5 friends, we downed chocolate, cheese, crackers, coffee and sweets with abandon and zero regrets. This was in addition to dinner, but my pasta was too spicy for me to eat in any case, and even M, though doing his best, couldn’t cope with it.
Jenna dropped pants at this point in our dorm to reveal melon sized bruise on her leg that was purple and painful looking. Little wonder her leg had been bugging her today after the fall!
Tonight, we also got a very entertaining dramatic re-enactment of the school group’s trip diary from a couple of the more extraverted students, whilst noticing that one of the girls travelled the entire camp wearing her sleeping bag – even to the toilets, which was concerning.
The group’s teacher and guide had insisted the girls cook their own meals, all part of the experience, and good job too. They were also required to clean each of their pans and trangias before bed, and be subject to inspection. Again the group mum stepped up, doing a pre-inspection inspection on each of the girl’s pans.
“That’s no good. Keep Scrubbing. Dry that one” – she gave her orders like a kindly boss. One of two girls were forlornly scrubbing their pans with cold water, as if time alone might render the burnt on food to dust. “Get some detergent on that one”, group mum said, patting a dark haired girl with glasses on the shoulder. “#SPOTLESS” another of the girls exclaimed. Realising exactly why I didn’t need television or phones, I went to bed happy.
I slept well, apart from stifling a laugh when I heard one of my bunk mates snore (it sounded exactly like a goose who was very disappointed with me), and was ready to take on my final day the next morning.
Having successfully foisted his milk container onto another victim, Craig corralled us to pack up after breakfast, and hit the trail. Our new friends M and K left earlier, being much quicker walkers than us we didn’t want to tie them down to our pace.
The previous day’s length had hurt my janky knee quite a bit, so I again hit the pain relief, and mentally prepared for the uphill. Today’s biggest effort, one I’d been mentally dreading, was to Pelion Gap. The early part of the forest was pretty wet, and a small waterfall made a nice side trip. Again, lots of trees were down across the track that needed to be clambered over. Unfortunately, Jenna took a spill over a big log, coming down drumstick first on a jutting branch. A sharp intake of breath from all of us, and a few choice words from Jenna, and we continued on, albeit a little sorer than before.
Nonetheless, it was a still, gloriously warm day, and while the conversation was good, we barely noticed the uphill climb to Pelion Gap. I was almost shocked when we popped out the top to a wide pass between two peaks. There wasn’t a breath of wind and it was hot enough for T-shirts as we unpacked to eat lunch at the cross roads between Pelion East, Ossa and the Overland Track.
Before long, the school group began filtering up, the girls congratulating each other on a walk well done, and sharing around lollies and cordial. We’d be observing the group dynamics for a while now, and noticed they seemed to be playing an elaborate game amongst themselves, with indecipherable rules that seemed somewhat akin to an extended murder mystery. The group had a “mum” – the smallest of the girls who watched out for them all with a keen eye and a firm hand.
“It’s hot up here” one of the girls said with her mouth full of lollies. The group mum snapped to attention, calling out “Hats on girls!!!” , enthusiastically pointing to a blonde girl who promptly followed orders. A reapplication of sunscreen was also recommended.
Whenever I mention a girls school joined us on the walk, people always say “oh that sucks”, but really, the 15 or so girls undertaking were very polite, extremely funny and overall were good to us and each other – I’m glad they were there, they enriched the experience for us all.
The girls told us there were planning on heading up Ossa and perhaps Pelion that day, so were expecting a long day on the track. We wished them luck, and packed up our bags while one of the girls who’d summited the peaks previously sagely gave the group advice.
“No No, that’s a false summit” she declared, one hand on her hip, the other pointing towards Mt Ossa.
Bounding along the timbered walk, we enjoyed the glorious weather and the day seemed to speed on in high spirits with us. Before we knew it, we were passing the Private huts, and almost unexpectedly, Kia Ora Hut popped up ahead of us.
Jenna was keen to tent the night at least one day of the trip, and since today had been short, easy and more importantly, dry, we decided now was the time. We chose a tent platform just past the hut, away from the group set up which we left for the girls. We set up, and headed to look around. We found M and K drying their gear after a swim in the close by river, and joined them sitting on the helipad where I massaged my feet and did some yoga in the sun, enjoying an absolutely blissful afternoon.
As the light fell we retreated to the hut, where Craig busted out the oven, this time for a big batch of cookies. We shared coffee and treats with our new grouping and chatted into the night about our experiences so far. M and K reported they’d walked behind the crumpet family, who’d dropped a lot of trash on their way. Unwilling to leave it laying around were now carrying out with them. We were surprised to find they’d skipped tonight’s hut and continued on to Bert Nichols (especially after son crumpet had looked decidedly mouldy the evening before).
Very late into the evening, the girls arrived in high spirits, dropping their packs for safe keeping at the hut, and setting up tents. Some lingered in the shelter, who we invited in to warm their hands, but they had been instructed by their teacher and guide to leave the hut to the other travellers, so politely (and a little sadly) declined. J, their guide told us later that the girls had reported “Oh but they were really nice to us, they said we could, can we please go in???” – it’s nice to make a good impression.
We said our goodnights, and headed out to our tents – the river flowed loudly close by, and as such I needed to pee immediately. Just as we started to fall asleep, a possum leapt from on high onto our tents, scarpering away.
“CRAIG” Jenna yelled accusingly
“It was a possum” I assured her, understanding her suspicions.
Thankfully, that was the last major event of my night, before sleep washed over the camp. Jenna, however, was not so fortunate.
We woke up on day three of our journey to perfect weather, fresh feet and a warm breakfast. Craig and Jenna had coffee, and Craig managed for the second time that trip to pass his milk container on to an unsuspecting hiker – this time to D. There was enough left for another person to have a drink with, and D was delighted. Craig was also pleased, as his grand plan was to not have to carry the rubbish. Tricks and traps abound with that one!
Today was to be our longest day, and quite varied in view. At first after emerging from the lake area, we climbed through a gorgeous damp forest onto a more open plateau, from where we took a short rest break to enjoy the view down into the Forth Valley, and take a moment of phone reception to message our respective Dads who were all coincidently very concerned with the weather and progress of our trip. After assuring the committee of dads that we were in fact still alive, and not buried in a snow drift, we continued on our way through a really wet, green lovely forest. So far so good, but still a long way to go. The country opened out again into button grass, which I love looking at, I don’t care who says different, and dozens of tarns dotted the open plains.
Before long, we were headed down hill again towards water at Pelion creek. I don’t know if we were just slow this day, but it felt like it took forever to get to our lunch spot, a lovely little platform by the creek. My knee was well and truly over it by the time we got there, after the down hill, and I was extremely glad we had some brownies from the night before to lift our spirits. It got kinda cold as we sat, so we decided to head off before too long. We were also aware of our slow pace and decided to keep moving while the going was good.
We headed up again, and across a shoulder of track where it felt like every tree in the dang forest had fallen in our path, and every root in existence had popped up through the mud to trap us. This section from the creek and down towards the River Forth was just hell, and even slower than before. OK so maybe hell is a touch dramatic, but I was very sore by this point and even Craig, who for the most part had been contentedly bopping along at the end of the group, was feeling it.
Assuaging my rage was the beautiful River Forth, and the warmth and stillness of Frog Flats. It was like another land entirely, windless, warm and naught but the song of froggies and the water to hear. The entire area just felt like a hug. It even had rainbows, damn it. Soon though, we were going up again, out of the river valley into more forest, more downed trees, more hip and knee lifts that I was really starting to feel badly.
We stopped midway up an ascent, only a mild one, but we were tired. A group came past and said we were maybe 45 minutes from the hut at that point, which seemed about 40 too many as far as I was concerned. That said, as bleak as I felt, I also felt great and happy. I was all the things. Great, sore, wonderstruck, over it, hoping the trip would never end. I guess being able to enjoy the moment, knowing it can only ever be a moment was one of the things bushwalking had been teaching me.
Once we emerged out onto country I recognised as the flat button-grass of Pelion Plains, I knew we’d be ok. I knew the area pretty well after doing a walk into there from the Arm River a few years ago. A sign told us we were 10 minutes from the hut, but I feel we limped in much slower than that.
Now, I am going to level with you – I dislike New Pelion Hut. It’s freezing, the heater has been broken for about 3 years (though the hut is so large, I doubt it’d make too much difference, but at least one could dry their socks) , and the surrounding veranda shades out the windows, so it’s dark really early. It is modern, and the decking I imagine might be nicer in Summer.
Upon unpacking and settling in, one of those people who consider themselves the monitor of everything came over to inform us about the heater, the free rooms, boot etiquette, walking direction, weather patterns and anything else we were likely to be doing wrong. I couldn’t even look at Craig as I’d have cracked up laughing. We decided to retreat to the other side of the hut, as far as we could get away, and eat some dinner.
The emergency shelter family, who we were now referring to as the “Crumpet” family (because they seemed to eat them for every meal), were outside cooking on the deck since it was too dark inside to do it. Jenna found out that despite carrying 60 kilos between the lot of them, Father Crumpet was having oats for dinner eat night. “I didn’t really do much research I guess” he said. “Sort of had a rough day” he continued, pointing to son crumpet, who looked wrecked and inconsolable. “He’s just come off a really bad flu”.
We were eating better for the night (spaghetti for the win), and made the acquaintance of a couple who started a little after us, but had skipped a hut to make it to Pelion on our same schedule. We spent a really good evening laughing about the hut monitor, and telling stories with our new found friends, M & K. Well after dark, announced by giggling and a stampede of feet, we could tell the school group had arrived. They were in the hut, but their wise guide J pulled the middle roller down (I didn’t know there was one) to keep them to one smaller area. Unfortunately for Mr Hut Monitor, he choose poorly when it came to “sides” .
Again, Pelion delivered – it was cold, loud, and I didn’t sleep well at all. But, I made it, and strangely enough, I was still having fun. As one of the girls from the group kept saying, it was those #naturevibes, I guess.
Waking up the next morning and enjoying the tried and true remedy of a big breakfast sprinkled with Voltaren, I was ready to hit the track once again! As we were getting organised, a family appeared in the early morning gloom – they’d made it to the emergency shelter on the ridge (a little bubble like structure for emergencies only, about an hour from the hut). They’d had the same bus luck as us the day before, and lost their nerve in the failing light. They’d had a rough night, but the look of joy mixed with resentment when they saw the palatial hut where they’d be stopped only for breakfast was quite a laugh. Or maybe I am just mean spirited.
We sauntered off across the boardwalk stretching out behind the new Waterfall Valley hut, and enjoyed brilliant blue skies as we wound our way towards Windermere Hut, Barn Bluff peering at us all the way. It’s a reasonably flat walk most of the way, and the view of the lake with Barn Bluff reflected is a real highlight (would be a good spot for a photos if I had one, hey?). The snow was starting to melt, everywhere, which made us very happy to be able to enjoy the elevated walking platform, since underneath is pure mud and melt.
Knowing that pushing through the mental struggle of the first day would be the bar I judged myself against, I was enjoying myself immensely. I made it through all that, the sun was shining, and I was in a beautiful environment. I can do the hard things. Today is a short day, but as with anything you’re expecting to be short, it felt a bit longer that it should have.
By the time we started waddling around the edge of Lake Windermere, we kept expecting to see the hut behind every tree. We passed a few people walking the wrong way (we were directed to head north south only, but people seemed to be doing all sorted of things!)
After briefly considering stopping for lunch at the group campsite pads, we came across Windemere hut, a small hut of the more original style on the trail. So far we were alone, but before long, company filtered in.
First up was a large, raucous group of girls here on a school camp – they respectfully, after asking for directions to the loos, retreated to the camping pad to avoid monopolising the hut. Their guide, J came in to say hi, and assure us they’d all be keeping away from the smaller huts, so to spread out as we saw fit. We’d spend quite a bit of time chatting to J and her group, who provided excellent company and entertainment for the rest of the trip.
Along with the family from the emergency shelter the night before, D, a fire ecologist arrived. D had walked in from Mersey Forest, a side track from the opposite direction, a long slog in good weather and surely deathly in deep snow. In his 60s, D shrugged:
“I was supposed to get here yesterday, but I was tired for some reason, so stopped at Pelion” [emphasis mine, for dramatic effect]
I suggested any reasonable person might be tired after such an effort and he shrugged and said “well true, I did have a stomach upset from my food too”.
The family from the emergency shelter seemed to have packed their entire pantry, and looked absolutely stuffed. Out of their food bag, they pulled out an entire loaf of bread, a cooker still in it’s box, and an entire pack of potato chips. Everything in their bags we saw looked impossibly heavy. I gave the father a my physio ball for the night, as he seemed almost done in. He gratefully accepted.
D began chatting to us after his dinner, mentioning that he’s cooked it a little longer this time, and was feeling much revived. He told us all about his work on bushfires, his rafting adventures in Tasmania, and everything else. J from the school group came up and chatted with us too, and realised she knew D from the university.
Craig baked Brownies inside the hut in his famous camp oven, to much curiosity from D. The brownies were large, gooey perfection, and there was plenty to save for the next day, even after sticking a candle in them and singing Jenna a happy birthday tune. She appreciated the surprise, and Craig very much appreciates being the talking point with his baked goods. People tend to look when you recover eggs and butter from your backpack I guess.
From the nearby lake, we could hear the girls from the school group squealing as they jumped into the icy water.
D summed the night up perfectly, as he stood up stretching and said :
I guess yet again, I have been slow off the mark in writing more about my Overland Experience. I’ve not really known what to say, and I have about 3 readers so I guess I just didn’t have a sense of urgency.
I recently swapped phones and lost some photos some how, and asked my friend Jenna to send me a bunch we’d already swapped from the trip as I wanted to play around with some editing software to test it out. As soon as she’d sent me the photos, I was immediately struck with “Need to go back” vibes. Walking the Overland Track is easily one of my favourite things I have ever done (yes I know I got married last year too – also great!) and I really want to do it again. Maybe this year? Who knows!
For anyone who’s done the shorter walk to Frenchman’s – I found the Overland Easier. Yes, it’s longer and as such I guess you’re carrying more food, but overall, unless you’re hitting up the more tricky side tracks, I’d say most people with good knees and a desire to walk would be able to get there, and really, should.
I’m not evangelical about making people be interested in all the same things as I am though, tutt tutting people who don’t like hiking or being outside. That’s fine, you can go and be wrong in your own time. I just think you’re missing out, and that maybe you should consider seeing these great places in your life time.
Our little group parked a car at Lake St Clair and then a caught bus to Cradle Mountain. We had a bit of time and funds up our sleeve so we stayed the night at Cradle Wilderness Village. The bus ride up was fun, a quick stop to go to the loo and buy a pie at Queenstown and we were on our way again. The driver really knew the road, and was able to make great speed while eating a pie, which is impressive I guess! There was one other person on our trip up, who I will call Wispy since I can’t get her permission to be named. Jenna arrived to Cradle Valley wet pants, unluckily, as her drink bottle had leaked during the bus ride, much to Craig’s amusement.
When we parked, it was bucketing with rain and a storm was rolling across the sky- we dropped Wispy at the visitor centre, and she was getting started right away. We did ask her if she was sure, and she’d done the track before, so we took her word for it as we watched her trudge off across the grey carpark to the modern and pointy visitor centre to begin her journey. We were dropped off at the door of our home for the night, and we prepared to eat big.
The next morning, we donned the waterproofs and our bags, and walked down to the visitor centre. It’s always slightly disheartening when you have a short walk to your starting point like this, because I swear your bag never feels so heavy and the task ahead so intimidating as when you’re walking 500 metres out of your accomodation to the bus stop.
Duly warned by the parks staff that there could be thigh deep snow on the plateau, I was a little nervous, but committed to making the best of it. We were also warned we’d need to walk an extra 5 or so Kilometres, since the snow had prevented the buses running to Ronny Creek (the usual official start for OLT walkers). Accepting our fate, we hit the duck board (we saw Wispy too! She went past on the opposite side of a window, so we never got to ask her why she turned around, or what happened!)
I am sure the walk through Dove Canyon to Ronny Creek is, under normal circumstances, quite lovely. When you have 65 K in front of you, 6 days worth of gear in your bag, and would normally watch it go by out of the window of a warm bus, it kinda sucks. The snow laying heavy on the boards made things difficult too – staying upright was a battle, and I am not afraid to admit I was pretty close to crying with rage when we got 3/4 of the way to Ronny Creek and a fucking bus with passengers passed us.
Day one is typically regarded as the most challenging of the main track, and that’s before you add in our extra k’s. We made it to Ronny Creek, finally, and a family (it seemed like they had about 600 kids, but maybe it was less) took the ubiquitous OLT sign photo for us – we then headed towards some wombats and began the ascent towards infamous Marions Lookout.
People talk about Marion’s lookout – it’s the steepest part of the main track, your bag is at it’s heaviest, it’s a slog, it’s all easy after that. Theoretically, that’s all true, but a few moments on, although I was puffed, it wasn’t so bad – in part because it was built up so much I doubt it could live up to the image I had in my mind. The real problem is, you tend to think “the hard part is over” once you’re up there, so every uphill feels like a fresh insult, and it’s a long way to Waterfall Valley from the top of Marion, lemme tell you.
The track was deep, DEEP in snow. The kind of ‘buried track markers’ snow the plateau gets sometimes. But more savagely, the kind of dumping that a short person like me has to physically drag their body through, which even on a relatively flat track, is exhausting. The thin stretch of boardwalk was covered completely, which meant we stepped off it frequently into deeper snow, and had to pull our heavy selves back again, slipping around. I fell over so many times it doesn’t even rate much of a mention, except to say I twisted my leg and hurt my knee. By the time we got to Kitchen hut, I was very cold, very hungry and disappointed with my lack of grit. Craig had picked me up like a turtle, by my back pack for the last time when I thought “I’m not so sure about this”.
We made a quick lunch, as Kitchen Hut was somehow colder than outside (why anyone would consider this a great first night is BEYOND me), and continued our journey along the plateau. The sheltered part of the valley was so beautiful and still with mist clinging to the forested cliffs in the shelter of the mountain wall, but when we got to to turn off to Barn Bluff we were at first excited, and then bitterly disappointed to see a sign saying that Waterfall Valley -our stop for night 1 was still half an hour away. It took us much longer – the snow across the ridge from the Scott Kilvert Hut turn off down past Barn Bluff and into the valley was brutally deep, and I needed to dissociate from my body in the fading light to keep the brain on task. My legs had started to do that classic down hill wobble, and with a twitchy knee already, I had not patience for the real world by then.
We were all like this by now, head torches on, and grimly descending the valley wall towards the hut. When board walk appeared, and Jenna announced a sign and map to the hut, I instantly woke back up again. I was wrecked, but I had made it. I pushed through.
Waterfall Valley Hut seemed like heaven, with it’s separate bed room, expansive mud room, lights, and a heater that, get this, actually works (not that common in huts, let me tell you!). I was legitimately giddy to be there, take my shoes off, and eat. I set up my sleeping gear in the far room (we had this to ourselves, which was a treat) and we got to eating dinner and drying socks by the fire. The large, clean open room with a gas fire for ambience restored my faith that I could do The Thing. I felt restored, and after chatting quietly with the two other guys who’d rocked up for the night, we clambered into bed.
The next morning, we got the full views of the gorgeous Barn Bluff through the window as we ate brekky.