Overland Track Day 1 – Cradle Valley to Waterfall Valley

After a cold night in my tent, Tasmania put on a brilliant day for this the first day of my hike. I headed over to the information centre to wait for the bus to Ronny Creek, having sorted out my hiking passes last night.

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Ronny Creek is the official start point of the trail although there is an alternative – Dove Lake – which is a little shorter. I signed the book and headed out across the plains via a walking platform.

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To protect parts of the national park, there are board walks and platforms to walk along in many places. This helps with regrowth and stops deterioration, but does take away the true sense of hiking.

Day one of the hike is said to be the hardest. After the initial plains, the trail climbed into the hills. There are steps to aid walkers. The trail climbs through the forest until it reaches Crater Falls – a short series of waterfalls flowing down from Crater Lake.
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I continued to climb and once over a crest, I came to an old wooden shed. As I went past, Crater Lake came into view surrounded on most sides by rocky walls. It looks amazing. Crater Lake is not actually in the crater of a volcano, it just looks like it. It’s actually formed by glacial movements, like most of the park.

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The trail skirts the eastern side of the lake, climbing to what is deemed the hardest climb of the trail – not including the side trails – up to Marion’s Lookout. There are even chains to help walkers climb the rocky ground to the top, while I don’t personally think they are needed, there are numerous day walkers climbing here that likely would.

As you climb to the lookout, the rocky fingers of Cradle Mountain protrude from the plateau a couple of kilometres to the south.

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The Lookout gives good views of Crater Lake, Dove Lake and the plains to the north. I stopped for a snack before heading on.

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A couple of kilometres later I arrived at Kitchen Hut, a two story hut with outer doors on both levels, the 2nd level door for when deep snow surrounds it.

I left my pack here and with my day pack I set out to climb Cradle Mountain. At a junction I see a number of other packs left out on the open. Walkers are warned about leaving packs in the open without covers on. The Currawong – a large black bird similar to the crow but with yellow eyes and a white tipped tail – are known to open zips in search of food. The packs I later found out belonged to the Brits from Sydney and on their return from the mountain, they found zips open and their contents littered around them.

I met a girl at the base of the mountain, and we climbed together. The first part of the climb followed the trail steeply to a rocky portion, then it was bouldering – climbing over large boulders – following the trail around and up to what we thought was the summit. When we got there we could see that the trail continued down a saddle and then up the other side to the true summit. Climbing down to climb up is a confusing concept. So, we climbed the first spire and sat having lunch.

Finally, we persuaded ourselves to climb to the summit and it was well worth it. The views were amazing.

After lunch I left my companion and headed down. At the bottom I donned my pack and continued along the track. After the climb, my pack seemed suddenly heavier. I walked on along a thin track cut through a tree covered hillside towards Barn Bluff, a tall rocky bluff that just begged to be climbed.

The trail split about halfway to the bluff and headed downhill before zig zagging down a steeper section to eventually come out at Waterfall Valley Hut.

The main hut is about 100m from the tent areas and most people decided to camp leaving only 5 of us in the hut that sleeps 24.

Tomorrow I’ll tackle ‘The Barn’ before heading further along the trail…

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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