DAY 1 - 23RD JUNE 2016 - DOVE LAKE CARPARK TO SCOTT KILVERT HUT
During Late June 2016, I headed south in the direction of Hobart, Tasmania with my two kids with two objectives;
1. To catch up with my Dad and give the kids a chance to "hang" with Pa for a bit and explore Hobart.
2. To tick a hike up and around Cradle Mountain off the bucket list.
No. 2 turned into something more than I could have ever imagined. That's the problem with me. My ideas always seem to metamorphose into something much bigger.
Since visiting Cradle Mountain for the first time this year in Summer and falling in love with the beauty of it's almost alien landscape, I knew I had to revisit. My brother in law Mark who also joined us in the Summer was of the same thoughts. We didn't get the opportunity to ascend the summit due to time constraints and this was like the golden goose for us. We HAD to organise a return trip. This idea was suggested in the following months around our circle of family and friends and there was some mild interest. No one said no to the idea, it was merely a "time and money" issue as it usually is trying to organise a number of peeps getting to the same place at the same time.
So I saw an opportunity in June to get down to Tasmania, to tackle this idea alone. The idea was to initially just get there to climb the summit but being that it was Winter, and there is only 8 hrs of light, I had to re-jig that idea. Why not stay overnight? There are huts dotted all over the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, some for emergency shelter, some for accommodation. The closest was Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut. So a hike was created.
I'd leave Dove Lake and head to Scott Kilvert via Hansons Peak. Camp the night. Then make my way to Kitchen Hut where I'd be facing the 1 hour + ascension to the summit. After enjoying the view and getting my breath back I would then make my way down and head back to the car parked at Dove Lake via Marions Lookout. About 10hrs walking all up. No prob's!
After some time and going over in my head how I could plan this expedition even better, I asked myself "why" am I really doing this? I was starting to get the worrying faces and concerned comments after I would rattle off my plans to F&F. I wasn't going to Everest (yet!) and I had a handle on what to expect. Digging deep I knew it was for two things. Taking myself out of my comfort zone is an adventure in itself, doing it in one of Australias, let alone the worlds best National Parks is adventure with a capital "A". I needed adventure, to get away from the day to day grind and do something where I could be challenged.
The second reason was for my Mental Wellness. Having just turned 41, the thoughts of reaching the half way point (if I'm lucky!) had been swirling around my head, and causing a chain reaction of questions. I'd been dipping in and out of depression since fatiguing my body building a house, being made redundant from a perfectly good job and questioning if I was too late to build a photography business. It had been taking it's toll on me, my family and relationship with Pam. During that time, going out with my camera and photographing landscapes was like a medicine for me, and gave me an appreciation for this beautiful world we live in. It taught me to appreciate that time is what you make of it, not something to outrun. It's a race you'll never win! I guess photography is my zen time where I get to enjoy the journey that life is taking me on and one which throws unexpected little surprises into the mix every now and then.
So you can appreciate that this little expedition ticked all the boxes in terms of both adventure and mental wellness, maybe a little bit more than I imagined as you'll find out.
Flights booked, maps printed, weather checked daily, what else could I do to make this "bigger and better"? Endorsements, sponsorship, donations? Why not, I've got nothing to lose!
One doesn't just go out for a walk in the Cradle in their street clothes. I had to deck myself out with the whole kit and kaboodle. I called several different outlets and manufacturers of outdoor & camping gear. I would have done a lot better if I had planned this 6 months earlier but I did find success in Mack Boots who were very kind to donate a pair of their "Peak" Hiking Range (review to come soon!). Everything else I needed I found online and had sent to my door. Ready to go!
So it's the night before. I'm at my dad's in Hobart. I'm packing my rucksack and reality hit's. I'm really doing this! Tomorrow's weather, a top of 6°C, low of 3°C with rain turning to snow. The following day is colder with a high of 3°C and low of -3°C. The nerves strike and Dad notices a noticeable increase in anxiety! I hit the pillow and try to get some Zzzz's. My mind is racing. I turn over to see my 5 yr old son who I'm sharing the bed with peacefully sleeping. It's calming and I finally drift off.
5:30 my iPhone breaks out of it's slumber to call me out of my warm caccoon. Shower, Breakfast, Goodbye's, Pack the Car and I leave the morning traffic of Hobarts work force in my rearview; I'm on my way to adventure! The drive see's me cut through the centre of Tassie. I hit Highway No 1 until the turn off till Bothwell. Bothwell deserves a stop and I load up with a couple of hash browns and a latte, servo food always tastes good in the morning! A little way after the sun starts to rise and I stopped to capture this scene.
The next 5 hours before I reach Dove Lake is like a comedy of errors! What should have been a 3 and a bit hour drive turns into a 5 hour marathon! It seemed my GPS decided to take me on the scenic drive at one stage which was corrected only 30 mins too late. Then since a majority of the Central areas roads had been washed away by the floods a few weeks back, many a detour were taken to find yet another way to get into the National Park. Below are the signs and barrier stopping everyone driving into Liffey Falls. I was pretty disappointed. I had been planning on going down there and checking it out since I didn't get the opportunity last time. I don't think Liffey & I are meant to meet!
Heading into the National Park, and only 20 mins away from the Information Centre, snow starts to fall. I had been watching the car's outside thermometer all the way and it had finally reached it's lowest of 2°C since I had left 5 hours ago. Up until this point the wipers only job was to keep the consistent rain at bay!
Stopped at the Info Centre loo's and had a laugh at this sign!
Time check, it was 12:45 and I had planned on leaving Dove Lake but hadn't had a chance to lunch. A quick sausage roll, crispy heated tandoori chicken wrap and a latte hit the spot before a short 10 minute drive to Dove Lake. By this time the snow is falling fast. I much prefer the snow to the rain!
Car is parked and I find the registration book to fill in. I glance over it and see that no other crazy folks are heading my way!
Back out to the car and don on my rucksack, do an idiot check of the car to make sure I haven't left any thing of importance to the trek and head down the bitumen path where you are usually greeted with at least an outline of the Cradle...not today! I leave for Scott Kilvert at 1:41pm
23 minutes in, I've already made it to Glacier Rock from where I made a "Live" FB Feed, and steadily climbed up the rocky and powdered path. The snow is falling thick and fast and visibility is getting worse. I can't feel the cold. In fact I feel too hot so I do away with the woollen Beanie that my brother Jared loaned me and the scarf my brother Glenn also loaned me. I took this panoramic on the iPhone of the rocky track from where I walked, right to left.
Again on the iPhone I took this pic at 2:22. It's a few metres beyond the junction of Hansons Peak which you can make out in the middle of the picture and the track down to Lake Hanson and the Twisted Lakes. At this stage the westerly's were picking up and my head said not to progress further to Hansons Peak. Maybe it was David Kilvert's spirit, who tragically died on Hansons Peak 51 years ago when he got caught in a blizzard and died of exposure, that turned me around. What I unwittingly did however was add an extra 60 mins of hiking onto my trip to my destination by taking the Lake Hanson detour around Hansons Peak.
While down in the valley below Hansons Peak, I was very sheltered from the winds and obliviously enjoying the isolation. I was comfortably warm and enjoying the unknowing of what I would find down this track. It felt like I was pioneering this newly formed white carpet. The only footprints being made in the snow where mine. In my element, and since the winds were down to a gentle lull, I took the opportunity to finally get out the big guns and produce my Nikon from my rucksack. I took only 9 shots while I was down there. I was trying to keep the lens from getting wet. The following are 2 of them.
The more I walked, the more the walking tracks turned into small creek beds and the flora became heavily covered in snow. At times it became very hard to find the trail markers as they too were becoming covered and began to become camouflaged amongst the bush. The longer I walked, the more I felt like this was just a dream. When I finally pinched myself, checked the time, and things didn't quite add up, I may have swallowed a bit in panic! But I knew that I still had an hour of daylight, and then my LED Lenser Head Light just in case. I arrived back up the valley 80 minutes later into the cool westerly winds, which had died down a little, onto the trail I should have taken originally. I walked another 10 mins before a boardwalk appeared before me and led me towards Little Horn and around the corner to the Rangers Hut, a small "emergency shelter only" hut where I did just that!
By this time my rucksack was feeling more like 20kg than it's measured 10kg. My waterproof jacket wasn't so waterproof and the Mack boots were no longer looking dry and new after navigating through puddles, snow and slush. It was here that I got my bearings. I only had time for a quick drink and banana after re-checking my map and realising that I only had 45 minutes of daylight vs. 45 - 60 minutes hiking to get to the Hut and sanctuary for the night.
Rucksack back on, I powered on into the white landscape with more haste than before. I slipped many times, lost the trail a few times and later on realised that I had lost my water bottle and tripod. In hindsight it would have been a great idea to use my tripod as a walking stick to help balance my weight over the unpredictable trail which was fast becoming hidden under snow. Daylight was quickly diminishing as I passed the Artists Pool, and then Flynns Tarn. Lake Rodway was the next water body and that meant Scott Kilvert was not far away. As I strained my eyes through the available light looking for signs and markers, I finally caught sight of the "A" frame shape that the hut is synonymous with and my anxiety turned to elation.
It was just after 5pm when I made it to the front door. I had just walked 3 hours and 20 minutes in increasingly challenging conditions but I wasn't cold, just wet and a bit water logged. I stepped through the door and was greeted with a "Hello!" Towards the back of the hut gathered around the wood heater were 4 bodies. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, and I grappled with my release's on my rucksack, I introduced myself. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to know that I would have some company and that the heater was already roaring. I was able to strip off all my wet gear to dry and find a seat around the heater to dry myself off and catch my breath. As the evening went on and we told stories about our recent and past adventures, I slowly got warmer but still not bone dry. Even "frying" my socks on top of the pot belly didn't seem to dry them, only cook them! The thermometer in the hut told us we were enjoying 12 °C of warmth, probably 10° C more than outside! Eventually, when we loaded the heater with more complimentary coal bricks, I put the billy on to boil my dinner; Noodles a'la carte garnished with Beef Jerky! It took almost an hour to heat the water to actually even cook my dinner and went down a lot quicker! At around 9:30 I laid out my sleeping mat beside the heater and unrolled my dampish sleeping bag, thank God for the liner! The first 2 hours were warm but as the coal turned to embers and eventually went out, my sleep was broken by intermittent shivers. But I couldn't complain. I was dry, sheltered, and a lot warmer than if I was outside. And tomorrow would be here soon.
DAY 2 - 24TH JUNE 2016 - SCOTT KILVERT HUT TO DOVE LAKE CARPARK
Waking up that morning was surreal. I knew where I was but I couldn't believe it still. Leaving my warm sleeping bag to check the conditions outside was hard. It was freezing, probably only 1° C but very still and even some blue sky breaking every now and then. A huge dump of snow had come down during the night and settled like weights on the branches of the nearby trees. While the others were gathering their things together I thought about what it must have been like for pioneers tracing this mountain for the first time.
One tale which should be told is the story behind Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut. The Hut stands at Lake Rodway in memory of David Kilvert and Ewen Scott, and for any hikers who strike trouble. On May 16, 1965 a 70mph blizzard turned a school hiking trip into disaster. Teenage students were faltering. Some were sent on ahead and made it to a little boatshed on Dove Lake. Another group found a place to hole up and bunker down for the night, but teacher Ewen Scott had stayed behind to help the 14 year old David Kilvert.
Scott ended up carrying the exhausted David on his shoulders. According to the Search and Rescue team at the time, David fell and broke his back on Hanson’s Peak and though Ewen Scott tried to shelter him, he died of exposure. Although an extremely fit man, Ewen Scott, in an attempt to reach Waldheim Chalet to alert searchers, collapsed and died, just 200 metres from part of the group that was sheltering in a boat shed. Both their bodies were found frozen the next morning. Scott’s facedown just off the track and only meters from safety.
The Scott Kilvert Memorial Hut was erected only 10mths later and has become a sanctuary for hikers ever since. You can read the full story here.
At 8:30am I said my goodbyes to two of the four, and followed the other couple out. Ryan & Gemma from NSW were intending on walking the entire Overland Track, a 65km hike from Dove Lake to Lake St Clair and planned to do it over 6 days. Experienced bushwalkers, I felt very comfortable walking out of Lake Rodway through the thick scrub, literally walking in their footsteps! My boots had dried off sitting next to the wood heater over night but were quickly becoming wet as the trail up was again like walking through a shallow creek bed. Halfway up the trail out of the valley I stopped to take a breath and let Ryan & Gemma head on. The sun was rising steadily over the winter wonderland that had settled over night and prompted me to bring out the Nikon once again. Once I took a few shots I found my friends footsteps and followed them up again, only to be stopped by the view behind me that was changing quickly with the light. I think I did this half a dozen times until I finally made it to the top of the ridge. The following images show you what I saw as I emerged from the thick shrub up the rise behind Bensons Peak on the left.
The next 2 hours I hiked alone around the West side of Bensons Peak heading along the face of the Cradle. The serenity and stillness I enjoyed on the way up was soon replaced with a cool westerly and threatening dark clouds. Shortly after that the landscape was swallowed up by the grey heavens and the isolation I was enjoying now filled me with a little bit of dread. For 2 hours I wandered through extremely thick and soft snow, sleet and the unforgiving landscape. It was hard work, thirsty work and since I didn't have a water bottle due to losing it the previous day, I had to improvise. It wasn't too hard. I was surrounded by water! It just took many different forms. I sucked on snow from the branches of low bearing trees. I snapped off icicles and sucked on them like ice blocks you would from the fridge in summer. I had apples too. Apples are the best to eat in the snow! They are still juicy but so cool and crispy, just like apple juice from the fridge. I was walking in one big fridge! Only a very unpredictable fridge. Many times during this part of the hike I fell uncomfortably. The thought of breaking my ankle, leg or any bone for that matter was always at the back of my mind. The trail markers were better this time however but the ground was not. At one point my leg went through 80cm of snow and I felt my boot fill up with icy cold water soaking my sock and foot. Several times I fell into the snow, over balanced by my rucksack, right up to my hips. And as the snow was so soft it was extremely hard to get out of and continue on navigating through the white powder. But the worst I suffered was when I fell awkwardly into the snow thinking that again it was going to be deep only to jar my left knee on a sharp rock....@#$% @#$% @#$% Yes it hurt like hell and I stayed in this position, half emerged in the snow, waiting for the pain to subside and hoping that it wasn't to bad to keep walking on. It wasn't and I plucked myself out of the snow yet again, the knowing that a well deserved rest stop in the form of the Kitchen Hut was slowly getting nearer. It was a long 2 hours but eventually the outline of Kitchen Hut appeared through the misty sleet and cloud and I stepped up the pace ever so slightly. It was here I had the opportunity to take stock, catch my breath, wring out the water from my sock, check the knee, drink an energy drink, quick bite to eat and take in the interior of the Kitchen Hut. It has been marked by many a traveller from all over the world, some not so long ago. I still felt alone though. I hadn't seen a single soul for 2 hours now and wondered if I would. Who would be crazy enough to come out here in these conditions?...........I was. After 20 minutes had gone by I was starting to feel the cold and my fingertips were starting to hurt. I rugged up again, loaded the rucksack, pulled on the beanie, scarf and gloves and opened the door. Initially blinded by the white snow, I waited a short while to let my eyes become used to the contrasting light. By my map, I didn't have far to get to Marions Lookout but I was just outside the path to ascend the summit. I looked up and saw the peak disappear through thick cloud. Well as a photographer, all intentions to tackle such a feat would be to capture those 360° views but my head said those views are highly unlikely and it will be there next time, my knee said "are you f@#king kidding me!"
So I set out for Marions and instantly realised that the snow here too was quite deep and the track totally covered. If not for the markers I'd be walking blindly. The sleet wasn't helping either. I stopped and turned around 3 separate times to look how far I was away from shelter and contemplated how easy it would be to bunker down in the hut for a few hours and hope the conditions would ease. Only through sheer determination did I decide to continue, even though I knew how hard it had been and would be until I made it to Dove Lake. I figured 2 hours tops. So I soldiered on. Soon boardwalks appeared under the snow which was a big reprieve from the uneven ground. All I had to do was try and keep on them as they twisted and turned their way to my final destination.
As the trail soon lead me to familiar ground and Marions Lookout, the weather finally broke and the sun came out. I felt safe, and knew that it wasn't far to go to get to the car. It was time to get out the Nikon one more time and use the sun to try and dry the lens off a bit. While it was drying I used this time to take it all in and think about what I had achieved so far. I was feeling exhausted but great! Because the Cradle was still hiding behind clouds, I aimed my camera at Crater Lake which was just as beautiful and snapped away. I met a group of hikers on their way to climb the summit here too. I offered them some advice but knew that like myself, if you're here and you've got an idea in your head, it takes a lot of discouragement to change your mind. I only hope they climbed it safely and enjoyed the view rather than get swallowed by the clouds!
I took the quickest but not so easy trail down to the Dove Lake Circuit Track. Goat chains, slippery sharp rocks, water, snow, I could feel the end getting closer and got a bit too excited at some points landing awkwardly on my ankles. Stop, breath, relax, and start off again. The track started steep but as it panned off to a lesser decline I knew I would be walking past the infamous Boat Shed soon. But first to take a quick drink of fresh running mountain water coming down the track straight off the rocks! I had visions of getting to the Cafe and downing 2 bottles of Gatorade at this stage!
At 1:25pm I walked past the Boat House Shed, and 15 mins later was sitting in the car with the heater turned right up. A further 10 minutes later I was drinking a triple shot latte and I did buy one Gatorade!
I had actually done it! I had completed what I had set out to do and in extremely difficult conditions. And I had enjoyed every moment of it. After all no adventure is complete without a little bit of drama. And my mental wellness, well it's in good stock after this expedition. I got to enjoy a journey through both the beauty and the beast, managed those unexpected little surprises and came out with some photo's that not many would.
Definitely an experience I will never forget.................now to plan the next one!!
Ad's (Onwards & Upwards!