This week we have something very special – one of our wonderful volunteer hike leaders, Kylie Mills, writes about her experiences at the Leader Trip to Cradle Mountain and the Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania.
It was a sunny morning in Launceston when 12 adventurous Escaping Your Comfort Zone leaders met at the airport, ready to jump in a mini bus and head to Cradle Mountain for a few days of hiking and sight-seeing. The excitement in the air was almost tangible… what sights would we see? What terrain would we traverse? Whatever the next few days would hold, we were ready and keen!
A quick stop via Woolies for those last minute fresh supplies, then onward to the outdoor store Alps & Amici where many of the crew stocked up on their delicious freeze dried meals, and we were officially on our way! …or so we thought. As it turns out, the mini bus brakes decided they didn’t really like the steep hills of Tasmania, and decided to smoke up the bus in protest.
Soon enough, we were on our way again! The closer we got to Cradle Mountain, the more overcast the sky became, and the temperature was rapidly dropping. That didn’t deter us! We parked the bus at Ronny Creek car park, and chucked on our warm clothing and wet weather gear just in case. After helping each other out with adjusting pack straps and waterproof pack covers, we were ready to start our trek up to The Scout Hut, which was to be our home for the next two nights.
Much of our hike up to The Scout Hut was along the start of Tasmania’s famous Overland Track, which is one of the most visually rewarding multi-day hikes you can do in Australia. We started out on a boardwalk, from where we admired a wombat who was grazing a short distance away from us. The trail then became a well formed, but very rocky path. There were some parts where I was certainly grateful to have others around to help me up and over the more technical parts.
We were particularly lucky to have our legendary leader Karyn with us on this trip, as Karyn was in fact a hiking guide on those very trails for many years in the past! Her experience and knowledge of the area was vast and invaluable.
After nearly 2 hours of upward hiking (with plenty of rests for photos and to catch our breath), we finally reached the last few steps up to The Scout Hut. Now, I’ve got to say, calling it a hut doesn’t seem quite fair. While it was a fairly basic wooden hut when initially built in 1957, Scouts Tasmania and the team of volunteers have worked very hard over the last few decades to make it the well-equipped space it is now. It’s not glam, but it was a very welcome space to arrive into after a couple of hours of challenging hiking, and given its hugely popular location, we were lucky to call it ours for the weekend. The most recent addition is a huge deck, which is the most beautiful place to sit with a cuppa, admiring the views of the surrounding bushland and listening to the birds sing.
Upon our arrival, we claimed our bunks and relaxed with a snack and a hot drink to warm up those cold bones. It was certainly fresh up there, at nearly 1200m above sea level. It was a cool but clear afternoon, so we took the opportunity for a pre-dinner hike, and headed further up the mountain towards Crater Peak. It was very exciting to see the jagged peak of Cradle Mountain poking out behind the surrounding mountains, and the nearby lakes were a beautiful shade of the deepest blue you can imagine. I had to pause for a moment to gather myself, as the dramatic scenery was breathtakingly spectacular.
As is typical of the Tasmanian Central Highlands, the weather changed rapidly. The clouds came over, the freezing wind picked up, and as we were at an alpine environment height, we decided the wisest thing to do was turn around and head back to the safety of the hut for our warm dinner and a night of laughter amongst friends.
Saturday’s weather was cold and wet, but you know that doesn’t stop Escapees! So we bundled ourselves up in our thermal clothing and wet weather gear again, and headed up the mountain once more. Oh boy, it was colder than the previous evenings hike! We were copping a fierce alpine wind and sleet to our faces. High up on the mountain was where the most iconic quote of the weekend happened…
Claire: “It would be amazing here in summer!”
Richelle: “Um, Claire, it is summer.”
After a couple of hours navigating our way through the sleet and fog, the cold was starting to become very noticeable, and I was also discovering that my waterproof jacket was in fact not at all waterproof, so it was time to head back to the hut to get dry and warm up. We had a cosy and relaxed afternoon in the hut, learning valuable skills like how to read maps topographically, and consuming enough cups of tea to make the Queen herself proud of us!
It was only an hour or so later when the skies cleared up and the most wonderful rainbow appeared over the small lake in front of the hut. It felt like our very own secret rainbow!
After another cosy night’s sleep in the hut, we were up and at ‘em bright and early on Sunday morning to trek back down the mountain. It was a cool and misty morning, and that meant potentially slippery terrain, so we took our time, and once again helped each other down the tricky parts.
Before we knew it, we were back on the boardwalk and the bus was in our sights! In what felt like no time at all, we were back at our starting point, feeling a little tired but mostly so proud at having conquered part of the Overland Track. I think for us all, this trip was just the start of much future planning for many more hiking adventures in the beautiful state of Tasmania.
What a trip… a learning experience in many ways! The important lessons to share are:
- Ensure your waterproof jacket is definitely waterproof, as water resistant just doesn’t cut it in those alpine heights.
- Be prepared for rapidly changing weather, it may be sunny when you set out, but that could change quickly – make sure you use your waterproof pack cover, and have your waterproof jacket, beanie, gloves and warm fleece within quick reach in your pack.
- Definitely take hiking poles, particularly needed if you have little legs like me! Seriously life saving for the knees.
If you’re heading down on the May trip, you may just be lucky enough to get a glimpse of the iconic Cradle Mountain itself, unlike us…
We live in an incredibly beautiful country, and I certainly feel lucky to have a wonderful group of like-minded, supportive friends in Escaping Your Comfort Zone to explore this fine world with.
Come join us on one of our adventures soon!
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