It was the first day of our winter hike from Walls of Jerusalem to Cradle Mountain via the Overland Track. The aim was to walk 10 km from Mersey Forest Road, climb up to Trappers Hut and continue on to our camp at Dixons Kingdom Hut, Walls of Jerusalem.
Sure, that was the plan, but firstly we had to get out of Launceston. We’d arrived there previous day and stocked up on food. It was now a matter of getting to the start of the hike. There aren’t a lot of options regarding transport to the Walls of Jerusalem. Even more so in winter, so I used a local tour operator. It was going to be a bit expensive, but it seemed the only way of getting to the Mersey Forest Road. One problem is we didn’t have any gas, as we couldn’t fly with it and having arrived on Sunday, most shops were shut. In theory, not much of a drama, as we were assured by our transport bloke that he’d have some for us.
Well, he arrived and guess what? Yep, he didn’t have any. He thought he had some, but unfortunately was incorrect. This was officially a bummer, as we were getting picked up at 8.00 am and wanted to get to the start as early as possible. The short, winter day was on my mind again! Without gas, this meant waiting an hour until the hiking shops opened.
We drove to Paddy Pallin and parked outside the front waiting for someone to come to work. We sat there like a bunch of hobos and it was a bit frustrating losing an hour so early. I was hoping someone might come to work early, but then I reasoned if it was me, I wouldn’t be at work until the exact moment I was meant to start. My work philosophy appears to have been copied as the first Paddy Pallins staff member didn’t arrive until 9.00 am on the dot! Anyway, gas bought and now we were on our way.
Immediately, the driver set a cracking pace and I believe the speed limit wasn’t adhered to at any stage, which wasn’t too bad in my mind due to trying to make up time. I was a bit concerned though when he made a phone call to someone and he referred to them as ‘cupcake’. I was feeling a bit queasy after that.
It’s a two hour or so drive including some dirt roads. The driver definitely had knowledge of the dirt roads as he didn’t appear to reduce his speed at all. I felt like I was an extra in an Ari Vatanen movie. Being in a van meant little in the way of suspension and my spine was getting mildly compressed with every pothole we drove over at high speed. No gas, check. High speed, check. Compressed spine, check. We had the total package.
We eventually arrived alive, which was a bonus and after hobbling out of the van we were ready to go. We weren’t on our own though, as I noticed two cars already in the car park. There was also a lot of broken glass on the ground from cars, which had been previously broken into, and perversely I imagined the glass reflection under moonlight would make for a good photo. Well, it was no good admiring the work of thieves as we had walking to do!
I filled out the log book nearby and noticed two couples were out and about ahead of us. Ben took off at a cracking pace and I was left to bring up the rear. Besides being good at slaughtering people on the PlayStation, he’s also a handy walker. I reasoned it’s only because he weighs at least 30 kg less than me that he can float up hills. Surely??
The opening climb to Trappers Hut was a slog. Heavy pack and getting the legs into gear made the lungs work overtime in the opening hour. The sky was grey and it looked like it was going to rain at any moment. We met one of the couples coming down and had a brief chat. Well, that was two back and only two other people where we were going. It was pretty uneventful trudging upwards, but upon reaching the hut, at least we had a chance to stop for a snack. Plus, it gave me a chance to reduce my pulse from imminent coronary speed.
Once past Trappers Hut the walk was quite easy, but you know what I did that’s completely stupid? We’d set off and after a few minutes I was thinking to myself that something was wrong and initially I couldn’t work out what it was. Then it hit me. I’d left the bloody trekking pole in the hut! Now, that was dumb, so I zipped back to grab it.
The threat of rain was making us keep up a solid pace. We also wanted to make it to Dixons Kingdom Hut before the light faded. Ben performed the first fall of the walk. It was an impressive one as well. A sort of sideways tumble in which he was lucky to land on nothing harder than multiple rocks. He didn’t appear to be in too much pain and I made sure I got a good photo of him lying on the ground so we could reminisce later. He was even kind enough to smile and wave to the camera.
It was a pity the sky was so grey and bleak. I’ve seen so many photos of the blue sky reflected in the many tarns along the way and I was hoping to get similar pictures. Alas a reflection of grey didn’t come up as well as blue in all the pictures I took!
We reached Wild Dog Creek campsite and contemplated setting up there for the night. A pretty strong wind was blowing in though and it felt a bit exposed, so we elected to leg it to Dixons. By now the sky was really dark and we were awaiting a drenching, but it kept holding off. I really wanted that extra hour back which we lost at the start of the day.
It’s a pity we were in a bit of a rush, as there’s some great sights to be seen as we made our way past the West Wall. Looking back, it’s hard to remember what I was taking photos of as it was a case of ‘snap and run’ whilst keeping one eye on the time.
We pushed on to Damascus Gate with a slightly insane headwind as we made our way into the open saddle. Light was well and truly fading, but at least it was just a downhill stroll to the hut. Rain finally began to fall and the wind chill was starting to bite. We got to the hut as it was getting dark and found the other couple! They were happily set up in the worlds smallest hut thinking they were on their own for the night. They had red wine and I think romance was in the air until two heavy footed, grunting gorillas turned up. I felt sorry for busting their solitude and elected to sleep outside.
Ben was a bit concerned by this as it was really, really cold. “No worries”, I thought. Set up a tent for him and I can sleep in a bivy bag. The tent is a Macpac Microlight and I’m not sure what was going on, as it suddenly became the ultimate ball breaker to put up. The wind was ripping through and it felt like I was trying to control a hang glider instead of a tent. In the end Ben looked at me and said, “Bad luck, I’m sleeping in the hut.” So, while he crashed the lovers camp I binned the tent and rolled out the bivy which is always handy due to the 15 second set up time.
We cooked in the hut and fresh food was the choice on the first day. It was steaks all round which was great, although we were interrupted at one point by an absolutely monstrous possum that came in through a gap at the top of the door. He soon left though and whilst the trio settled in for the night, I headed into the outside rain and wind as if I was the last bandit.
I was feeling mildly wrecked after the days events and a perusal of the GPS explained a bit of the fatigue. Although it was only 9.78 km of walking, the total elevation climbed was 814 metres which was quite a good effort considering it was the first day with a heavy pack. Well, after rugging myself up I relaxed with a few tunes on the iPod before sleep and ‘Jesus’ by the Brian Jonestown Massacre was the highlight…
Nice post that sticks to the knitting. Pretty much addresses the needs for which I am reading. I may do this trip. Praying for a departure package.
This post is a blast from the past. Sometimes I forget what's in this blog! Great trip, but I'd give winter a miss if I went back. The following day was a white-out. Looked great, but it stopped us doing what we'd planned. I thought I'd come back and have another go, but it's been over three years now and I still haven't returned! Other stuff keeps popping up.
Maybe one day…