There are many hidden gems in the form of side trips that you can explore along the way.
Recently our team of six Rays Experts set off on an adventure that would test out all the gear and individuals in what is known as one of Australia’s greatest treks – The Overland Track.
The Overland Track is set in the World Heritage listed Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park. The track itself stretches for 65km with six huts and tent sites at various locations along the way for your convenience. The walk itself usually takes about five nights and six days, however there are many hidden gems in the form of side trips that you can explore along the way, such the 5-hour return trip to Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa. We recommend that you go at your own pace, and enjoy all there is to see.
We had the privilege of being led by two extremely experienced guides on our trip. Stan Ellerm, the brilliant proprietor of Tasmanian Hikes and his support guide Paul. Their local knowledge and expertise on this hike is a MUST for those that would like to have a more enriched experience of the Overland Track.
Day 1- Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley- (6.5 hrs - 9.35kms)
We had an early start to our adventure waking up at 6am for the 8am pickup from our Launceston hotel. Spirits were high and we were all keen to get on the track. The 2-hour drive from our hotel in the pouring rain made it clear that it was going to be a very wet start to our trip! The briefing in the bus revealed that we would encounter many animals along the way (such as leeches, snakes, and possums) and plateaus and mountain faces that if windy enough could sweep us off our feet.
Reality started to set in that this could be a tough trip for us all as most of the team had very little overnight hiking experience. Before we left the bus we also learned that as a Commercial Group on a Commercial Group Permit, we would only have access to sleep in the huts in a case of extreme emergency.
We then knew we would be erecting our tents in the pouring rain no matter what!
With fully loaded packs we set off on the first leg, spotting a wombat within 100m of the start of the track and one of us had our first leech within a kilometre. 20 minutes in we topped up our water bottles with fresh (icy) Tasmanian water - we were assured it was safe to drink right from the creek! With the rain fully set in for the day we set off on our way to our first stop with lunch in the boat shed at Crater Lake. It was completely covered in cloud and was not visible within 20 metres.
We continued the climb up Marion’s lookout where we didn’t see much as the clouds were covering the peaks of the mountains and also obstructing our view of Cradle Mountain, but this didn’t bother us as we soldiered on to Kitchen Hut for another dry break.
Each day we would inevitably discuss our favourite piece of gear or what we were most thankful we had. On this first wet day, many of us were thankful for our high quality merino socks (Wigwam and Outrak) as with a few wet feet already, these socks were preventing blisters with every step.
The weather remained wet, windy and cold for the rest of our trek down into Waterfall Valley where we would set up camp for the night next to a little stream on the group tent platforms. Our group became a ‘TEAM’ when we had to work together to setup each tent in the pouring rain to prevent our inner tents from being saturated during setup. We enjoyed our first camp meal of smoked salmon penne pasta and were thankful that our guides brought a small hiking fly for us to all crowd under to cook and eat. The rain intensified overnight and every one of us wondered about the waterproof ratings on our tents and whether or not we would wake up in puddles.
Day 2- Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere – (3 hrs - 8.19kms)
Rain continued all though the night and that little stream became a raging waterfall sending water all over the plateau below blocking off access to one of the toilets. As we were so wet and the day had no signs of clearing up, we decided not to make a side trip to Barn Bluff and opted for an early lunch inside the warm hut to dry out our gear. Our spirits were quite low after walking all day in the rain the day before, and still having to put on wet gear in the morning.
In the hut we conversed with the fellow hikers who were quite keen to hear our Rays Expert advice on layering clothing, waterproof jackets, and the proper use of hiking poles. We shared with them how thankful we were that we had not only used dry bags (Sea to Summit and Outrak) and pack rain covers (Deuter) to keep our gear dry but had also taken the advice of our guides to use a waterproof pack liner as well. Triple bagging everything essentially to ensure we would be sleeping dry each night!
The weather started to retreat around midday so we set off on our way. Walking across streams and waterfall paths was a common occurrence putting our waterproof footwear and pants to the test as we made the gradual climb up to 1112m, the highest point for this day. This was by far our shortest day as we only walked for just over three hours; a treat after our hard day on Day 1.
We then descended into light timbered rainforest where we reached our campsite for the night opening to blue skies. The wet weather brought many leeches to this campsite so pants were tucked into our socks to be on the safe side. This made for some especially flattering photos!
Spaghetti bolognaise was for dinner which was the perfect way to finish another hard day testing out our waterproof gear.
Day 3- Lake Windermere to Pelion Hut – (7 hrs - 16.57kms)
We awoke to our first day of sunny skies which was a nice change after last night’s sleep in the surprising cold, which really put our warm sleeping bags to the test. This was the first day we had to apply sunscreen and some were brave enough to even wear shorts and bare their legs.
After walking across Buttongrass Moorlands we arrived at Forth Gorge Lookout where we had uninterrupted views for the first time. We ate barley sugars and scroggin’ by the bag load to lighten our packs and fill us with energy for the slow and long descent into forest.
Tree roots became a common occurrence in the forest and we longed for the boardwalk again. A larger annoyance especially for Mick who ended up on the ground after losing against a tree root, where he then decided two walking poles were required for the rest of the trip. From now on he was declared “2 Sticks Mick”.
Many of us having sold hiking poles (Black Diamond and Leki) for years were using them for the first time. All six trekkers agreed that two hiking poles were essential for a trip like this and most of us regretted not getting them out of our packs earlier. Juanita being the only one who had both poles in effect first thing on Day 1. They are vital to both ensuring stability when walking but also saving your knees for both young and old alike.
We arrived at our campsite around 5pm after our longest day on the track yet. We were greeted by juvenile echidna scurrying about searching for ants after the two days of rain.
To our surprise and pleasure, the Pelion Tent platforms had a camp table on which to cook our delicious risotto. Others headed off to wash off the day’s sweat in a nearby river and hung clothes. Andrew and Mick were brave enough to strip down to shorts and attempt a freshening up. After watching Andy hyperventilate after submersing himself in the river, Mick decided he was fine with just a quick wash under the arms. The night was wrapped up with w few games of UNO and once again our food was placed in the watertight barrels that our guides had, ensuring that we would not be disturbed by foraging creatures in the night.
Day 4- Pelion Hut to Kia-Ora – (6hrs - 13.09kms)
Our good night’s sleep was ruined by ‘2 Sticks Mick’ snoring away the silence within the campsite. Despite that, we still managed to attract the wildlife, and Kirsty woke up Carla to share her dismay of a possum in the tent (clearly it was still outside). We set off early to blue skies and the Mt. Ossa ascent in mind.
Terrain today was the most variety we had experienced in one day, rainforest (with tree roots as far as you could see!), plateau, boardwalk, scrub and a rocky climb up Mt. Doris.
After a slow ascent up Pelion gap (1113m) we arrived at the junction to Mt. Ossa and Mt. Pelion East. Scroggin was a must when we finally got our packs down – much needed after that climb, one we weren’t anticipating to be so challenging. Three of us (Mick, Carla and Andrew) got out our daypacks and decided to summit Mt. Doris on a 1.5-hour return trip where we had 270 degree views of the Tasmanian landscape. Kirsty, Kyle and Juanita preferred to stay at the junction and catch some sun and chat with fellow walkers. After Doris, the team reunited again and two hours later we were set up in camp at Kia-Ora.
Camp life tonight was relaxed with team going for a swim in the local river, testing each other’s camp mats, and sharing a brew with local Park ranger Matt. We spent some time comparing our stoves and discussing which we felt was more versatile (MSR vs Jetboil). We frightened a tiger snake away from camp, just as it was about to slither into one of our guide’s tents. This was our first snake sighting on the trip, something that Kirsty was hoping we could avoid for the entire six days.
Andrew got bitten by a Jumping Jack ant while preparing dinner adding to our animal incidents on the trip. Sunset was spectacular on Cathedral Mountain enjoying it with hot chocolate in hand.
Day 5- Kia-Ora to Windy Ridge- (6.5 hrs 14.78kms)
The night brought another appearance from our local possum, who spent the night rummaging around trying to get into our bags. Mick was once again snoring away the campsite.
We set off for Bert Nichols hut where we had a history lesson on the resident local back in the day. We discovered our second tiger snake metres from the hut, snapped some photos and were on our way once again.
Upon exiting our tents we noticed possum poo and urine on a few of our packs stashed under vestibules. What a nice treat!
After a lentil soup lunch, we set off with the rest of the day in forest before a couple of side trips with daypacks to the spectacular D’Alton, Ferguson and Harnett falls that had megalitres of water due to the rain the last couple of days.
We picked leaves from the sassafras plant for our tea that night and then started the ascent up the dreaded Ducane gap 1070m. A long and painful journey that took a large amount of energy from the whole team, followed by a long descent into camp which that night lived up to its name of Windy Ridge.
As a result of many days of shooting video and taking photsos most of us were charging devices using our Goal Zero solar panels and Belkin power banks. We were thankful we had brought them with us and they were easy to use, popping the panel onto the outside of a pack while walking in the sun and filling up the power bank as a result.
The team were very tired this evening, especially in our legs after all the stepping over tree roots and the large amount of climbs we encountered. The muscle relaxant rub made its rounds to all of the trekkers this evening as we rubbed sore knees backs and shoulders. Collectively as a group we decided that Day 5 was the hardest and longest for us; something we hadn’t envisioned reading blogs and websites before our Overland Trip. As a result dinner was made with little chatter, tea was drunk and beds were made before retiring early, this was the first day that we didn’t stay up late. Before retiring we finally witnessed one of the local possums and our guides stories of the size of these creatures finally rang true.
Day 6- Windy Ridge to Lake St Clair- (3.13hrs - 13.22km)
Final day, and by now packing up camp had become second nature to us all as we swiftly ate breakfast, making an early departure for our final leg. Moving swiftly this morning we averaged around 5.6km/hr our fastest pace yet.
There was no denying that everyone was keen for showers and KFC (Mick especially). Two and a half hours and the clouds rolled in and Tasmania started to cry as we completed the last couple of kilometres of our trek to Narcissus Hut where we ate black eyed pea soup and shared any leftover food with other hikers on the track that were running out of food.
After congratulations were made to each other for completing this epic trek and each and every one of the 70+ kms. We then boarded the ferry for a 25min ride across Lake St Clair completing our Overland trip with a final photo in front of the finishing post before raiding the local cafe; for lollies and soft drinks.
'No Overland trip is the same' was one mantra our guides repeated often to us during our six days. This epic trip for us was one of discovery of both environment and personal accomplishment. We were quite lucky with the weather and if it was wetter we may have had a different outlook on this trip.
Our advice would be: be prepared for wet weather; take quality and tested gear; dry bags can have a huge outcome on your experience and overall happiness and take quality waterproof footwear and merino socks. We decided although they aren't exciting pieces of gear, we would not attempt this trip without walking poles, gaiters and waterproof pants.
Lastly and most importantly, having the right company with you can lift your spirits and carry your team. Many products were tried and tested on this trip and as experts in outdoor gear it was amazing to test a variety of products in the field but if asked to narrow it down:
Our essential items would be:
- Gaiters- the higher the better Waterproof overpants
- Multiple dry bags, a pack liner and a pack rain cover
- Sturdy waterproof hiking boots and merino wool socks
- Breathable rain jacket with a waterproof membrane
- Good quality lightweight walking poles x 2
The team enjoyed the Overland Track with Tasmanian Hikes.