Up bright and early again on Boxing Day with the excitement of climbing Cradle Mountain ahead. The weather had stayed fine and bright so, although we packed our thermals and waterproofs (you never know!), we were expecting to be able to get to the top. Having said that, it was a bit tricky to know what to expect as although the various guidebooks graded it as a 'hard' walk and mentioned a long scramble and a steep climb, we've generally found that walks here are graded 'hard' when they're really quite straightforward for anyone that's ever been anywhere near a Scottish mountain. Still, I'm not a fan of scrambling and Kevin's not a fan of steepness, but we knew the walk in would be good to do anyway, so off we set.
Our starting point was Ronny's Creek and the start of the Overland Track, a famous and very popular 6 day walking route from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. I'd hankered after doing this but as it involves carrying all your food and gear, and as K has a bad back, it wasn't really an option. So I was glad to be doing at least a section of it.
Despite its popularity, the track was fairly empty - perhaps everyone left earlier than us!
After around 1.5hrs of steady climbing, we reached Marion's Lookout with fabulous views out over the mountains around and down to Dove Lake. The whole area was formed out of glacial retreat in the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago and the carvings and hidden lakes are beautiful to see.
A few more hours of walking and we reached the foot of the final ascent to the summit. This was our designated 'turn back' point if either of us felt too tired to go on, as there was a hut where one of us could wait while the other one went to the top. But we were both feeling good so onwards we went!
Soon enough the path turned from well-trodden and easy walking track to smallish boulders and rocks that needed a bit of scrambling to get over. Fair enough, I thought, this is do-able. Then after half an hour or so, the rocks started to get much bigger – much, much bigger than me in fact! At this point I was seriously considering whether to carry on – I have a big fear of falling down hills and although I felt ok going up, I wasn't sure I'd be able to get back down again! - but after dumping my backpack under a rock, I figured I might as well keep going. It was very, very tough though and once or twice I nearly gave up out of sheer terror at having to come back down again. But I got my moment of inspiration when, as I was standing to one side, clinging to a rock and trying to find some mental strength to keep going, a portly red-faced bloke dragged himself up said rock, swinging his builder's-bum-in-hiking-shorts in my direction. Nothing like the thought of being beaten by a fat bloke to get you up a mountain!
We must have been climbing up and over these massive boulders, sometimes on almost a vertical plane, for a good 45 minutes before we finally, finally got to the summit. Hard on the legs, hard on the arms and hard on the mind! Every time we passed someone coming down, they just kept saying 'you've got ages to go yet'!!
The views, of course, were well worth it and as a bonus the weather had stayed really clear and fine the whole way. At 1500m+, it's actually the highest peak I've climbed, although as we started from 900m, not the biggest climb I've done, if you know what I mean.
Going back down was easier than I expected, thankfullly, although I did stick to the tried-and-tested (by me anyway) approach of doing quite a lot of the scary bits on my bum. Not exactly a nimble mountain goat! Once we got back down onto the relative flat, I got my second wind while Kevin was starting to lose the ability to string a sentence together after nearly 7 hours walking by the time we finished!
A long soak in our spa bath, with a well-earned Boags for K and glass of pinot noir for me, accompanied by some bar snacks was our reward for the evening. K crashed out asleep by 9.30 – the earliest I've known him sleep in 5 years together!
More to follow soon...