Okay, here we go with another retro post from my hike on the Overland Track in 2009. This entry might be the last regarding this trip for a couple of weeks at least, as believe it or not, three years later I’ve been busy with a few things which might be worthy of an entry next up.
Also, this section from Kitchen Hut to Waterfall Valley Via Cradle Mountain is a ‘word heavy’ post. This might seem surprising for a day of such little walking, but it really needs a solid write-up. Just so you can really get the full effect (within my brain) of this interesting day.
I spent the evening sleeping on the loft in Kitchen Hut and the only problem during the night was the frequent noise of a possum/Yeti that rummaged around on ground level. He was certainly fossicking, but I had my pack safe and sound next to me.
It was all very casual until morning when I heard footsteps approaching the hut, which managed to fire me up to get out of bed. As I stumbled downstairs I was greeted by a bloke walking in who was slightly taken aback to see some bloke in Kitchen Hut standing there in his underpants. His opening line could have been, “Why don’t you have any pants on?” but instead he said,”In all the times I’ve come up here, I’ve never seen a day so clear.”
Pants or not, I had to take his word for it as this was my first time to the area. Peeking outside, it certainly was a dramatic change from the previous day’s weather, as the sun was shining and Cradle Mountain was well and truly in sight.
In my previous post, there’s a photo taken late in the day with the mountain shrouded in cloud and as a comparison, here it is again from the same spot, taken on this sunny morning.
In these fine conditions, I no longer had an excuse not to attempt a climb of Cradle Mountain and also have a vague fantasy of getting up Barn Bluff on the same day. I sat down to eat breakfast and contemplate the mass of dolerite in front of me. The snow on the mountain itself didn’t look too bad, so at a distance I was quite confident of getting up there.
Leaving the pack at Kitchen Hut I set off with a few essentials and began the climb up. It was pretty simple fare up close, as there’s a line of metal poles leading the way. Snow was in patches, but nothing to really worry about, except on some sections of slope where there wasn’t much to hang onto. I had some moments of slipping and sliding, as I tried to dig my feet in and as the next photo shows, the odd pole was handy to hang onto when I thought I’d go for a fall.
Things were going well once I reached a series of rocks which I could climb…
…and I really thought the summit was well and truly in sight. I’d taken the slippery sections very carefully, but now I was feeling a lot more confident on these rocks. At the rate I was going, I began to think I’d be casually taking in the view next to the Cradle Mountain summit cairn within half an hour.
Well, that was until I reached a point where the ground suddenly levelled out and in front of me was a spot which my notes describe as;
“…descends briefly into a high saddle. A final steep climb up a rocky gully leads to the top.”
I looked back at the level section that took me by surprise…
…and the view straight ahead.
I could see the poles lead across the saddle with the final climb to the right, but all that built up confidence on the climb was suddenly gone in an instant. That inner warmth was replaced with a belief that’s technically known as the, ‘died in the arse feeling’ or DITAF for short. Did you know the French have a similar term, but ‘feeling’ is replaced by ‘experience’? That of course would be pronounced as DITAÉ.
The reason for this apprehension? The snow in the shadows was hard and icy, but the real problem was to the left of the last photo.
The snowy slope descended to well, nothing. Just a big lot of fresh air and I contemplated what that was. All of my technical thinking concluded it was a bloody big, vertical drop. I didn’t have any fancy footwear such as crampons to negotiate this section, so if I fell and started sliding, there wouldn’t be anything to grab hold of to arrest my fall other than the ground so many hundred metres below.
I did have a cursory attempt by trying to hug the rocks to the right of the metal pole in the previous photo, but it was tricky and even if I got across the slope in one piece the heavily covered final climb looked even worse.
Crank up your Coke-bottle glasses and you’ll see a pole that’s lying horizontal. Huh? Had it falling over? What was under the snow? How could I climb that in measly old hiking boots?
Oh, you can’t see that pole on the far side of the saddle? Okay, get to the optometrist, but in the meantime here’s a zoomed in shot.
I forlornly looked to the right and the summit was no more than ten to twenty metres of vertical climb to go and in distance, no more than fifty metres of walking, but I only had one thing on my mind.
Oh yeah, that’s the mountain I’m cursing, not myself. I’m not much of a risk taker, so I was done. Too many things ran through my mind of what might happen if I slipped and started sliding down that saddle. What do they say? ‘There’s no need for risks, as the mountain will always be there another day’. Actually, who said that? Did anyone?
I was so bloody close, but after sitting down for about 15 minutes to contain my depression and curse not bringing a noose, I decided to turn around and head back down. The whole ‘climb two mountains in one day’ idea was now gone, as I looked across at Barn Bluff and decided all I’d probably find, is the same problems I had on Cradle Mountain.
There were some nice views as I slowly made my way down though…
…until I had my only real ‘fall’ drama of the day.
On one of those angled, snow covered slopes I stepped with my right foot which sunk down past my ankle. I continued forward with my left foot expecting my right to pop out as I continued, but of course, it didn’t. It remained firmly in place, as I lost balance and fell over, until I was in the position of right foot snagged and flat on my back facing downhill. It was a disappointing position to be in. If my foot released and I remained sliding on my back I considered the terrain around me. It wasn’t a certain death situation, but more likely a few head injuries on the rocks around. Maybe the odd traumatic subdural hematoma? Even a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage?
I spent a few seconds admiring the blue sky, before managing to lever myself out and gingerly walk back down to the bottom with a constant thought regarding the Cradle Mountain summit tilt of, “Well, that was a waste of time”.
Back at Kitchen Hut it was time for a quick snack before continuing on to Waterfall Valley. I was basking in the sun when a young group of people turned up being led by some bearded bloke. They stopped and settled down for lunch, but I noted no one really acknowledged I was there, so I thought I’d act the ‘annoyingly friendly hiker’ and engage with them.
I asked the leader, “Where are you going?”
He said, “Day trip. After this we’re going back down the Face Track”.
Knowing what I was told by the woman and boy the previous day about being unable to find the Face Track due to the snow, I said, “Oh okay. There were some people here yesterday who said they couldn’t see it and gave up looking”.
He said, “Well, there’s a difference when you know what you’re doing like I do”.
This comment lit-up my ‘tool meter’. It’s something I can’t help, as I’m always suspicious of people who are supremely confident. In the past I’ve been led astray by confident people who I found out later didn’t have a clue. I live by the Bertrand Russell quote;
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
Anyway, I kept my mouth shut and thought I should let the legend continue.
That was until he went to the corner of Kitchen Hut, unfurled a large string with a number of prayer flags on it, strung them up on the corner of the hut and then lay down on the ground and commenced taking photos of them angled up against the building. I was munching away whilst thinking, “I gave you the benefit of the doubt and now you’re confirming that you’re a tool” whilst also wondering, “Are prayer flags portable? Can you just carry them around and pop them out when required? You know, first dates? Job interviews? I need to bone up on my Buddhist knowledge, but frankly the overwhelming thought was this wasn’t a spiritual moment, but rather a crappy photo opportunity.
I’m not sure if he was trying to impress his group, but one woman said, “What are you doing?” He mumbled something about carrying them to mountains and for a moment there I was thinking I was actually standing next to K2 instead of the 1545 mt Cradle Mountain. She then replied, “Why don’t you go to a bigger mountain?” Sensing that someone was going to take the piss out of him at any moment, he promptly removed the flags and they weren’t seen again. I guess he had enough photos anyway. Why would he do that? Impress people? The group he was with didn’t have looks of awe on their faces and me? Well, I’m just a burnt-out cynic, so it was never going to excite me.
Surely that’s it regarding this bloke? Oh no, there’s more to come and I’m certainly glad for the glory of the blog that it didn’t stop. There’s a comfort station next to Kitchen Hut, which one of the blokes in the group started to walk towards. The intrepid leader yelled out, “Where are you going?” to which the stroller pointed to the relief station. Surely that should have been it for that conversation. Shouldn’t it? No, of course not, as the boss screamed out. “What are you going to do? Number ones or twos?”
I began to wonder if this bloke was not just the ‘Portable Prayer Flag Puteruperer’, but also a member of the ‘Cradle Mountain Bowel Police’ which patrol the area. With internals bursting, the embarrassed man indicated he needed to pee. Oh yeah, if you’re wondering how he indicated. No, he didn’t get his dick out and spray us with urine. He intimated the ‘holding my schlong in my hand’ method.
I kid you not, but the leader then yelled out, “What? Just piss in the snow! Just remember not to eat the yellow snow! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!”
Now, for the life of me I can’t understand why anyone would just piss on the ground when there’s a toilet about ten feet away. When I get out my car at home and am busting to go, I don’t just piss on the tree in the driveway or have a dump and hurl it over the neighbours fence, as I know the comfort station is about 7 seconds away. Hell yeah, even us chumps from the western suburbs of Melbourne have some decorum. I assume most people are similar? If I don’t do it at home, why would anyone do it in this pristine area?
Oh yeah, the yellow snow joke was never really funny. I might have had a lip quiver momentarily due to a slight internal chuckle when I first heard the joke in 1972, but even on that first time I never thought it of it as a thigh-slapper.
Actually, talking of thigh slapping. Do you remember that movie in the 1980’s called ‘The Secret Policeman’s Ball‘? I saw it in the cinema and there was a bloke in the audience who would repeatedly slap his thigh at the jokes. Even then I remember thinking, “I wish I could find something that’s that funny”.
Anyway, back to the snow and the leader laughed so hard at his ‘yellow snow’ joke, it’s as if he believed he’d invented it right then and there. Surely not? So, with a bloke now pissing in the snow about ten feet from me I knew it was time to get out of there.
I headed off and the walking was pretty easy with the odd snowy section easy to negotiate unlike the previous day.
There were frozen pools of water which were starting to melt under the midday sun…
…and the turn off to Barn Bluff was getting closer.
One thing I liked on the track was a number of old timber marker poles which had been weathered and covered in moss. They always make a good photo opportunity, but on the following year I noticed there weren’t many left having been replaced by steel star-pickets. Not really the same thing, but I guess a lot more sturdy for the weather.
The snow was pretty patchy which meant there were plenty of rocks for lizards to prop up on and bask in the sun.
Continuing on, I passed the Barn Bluff turn off and with a bit more walking began the descent to the Waterfall Valley Huts. I’d plenty of daylight to spare, which gave me an opportunity to potter around the camp. I walked into the main hut which has a heater and observed hiking gear and a sleeping bag on one of the beds. I couldn’t see anyone, so I thought I’d be thoroughly unsociable, not wait for whoever owned the gear to return, and set myself up in the old hut.
There is a waterfall nearby, but the photos I took are so average I think I’d rather show you a friendly wallaby who was hanging around instead.
That’s it for a thoroughly entertaining day. It might not have gone to plan, but at least I managed to get some material for this blog entry. I sat outside watching a fantastic sky during dusk…
…and clouds passing Barn Bluff which looms above Waterfall Valley.
If I only I had the camera I have now on this trip. Oh well, it was time to relax and consider the next days walking which was going to be my ‘short’ day. Considering I’d barely got going in two days, having a short day of walking to come sounds a bit daft, but that’s the way it goes. I’d planned for eight days of walking and I was going to use the lot!
An entertaining post as always! Like the sunset photos. Yes other "great white hikers" (as I call inexperienced but overconfident hikers) are always amusing. We have some of those in the US too.
Sadly, the Overland Track seems to attract wanker walkers like no other. Great pics.
Once again I have peed my pants from laughter while reading your posts. Gonna buy a 12 pack of Huggies next time to prevent leakage. Like the photos too. The photos in the Mt Bogong post are amazing. I've done that walk a few times myself and those pics look better than life.
Keep 'em coming.
Some of those photos don't even seem to need polariser abuse – but I bet you would have gone for broke on the polariser if you'd had it! Gorgeous pics anyway, and I am so so jealous that you got Cradle Mountain in the snow!
Barn Bluff was a lot of fun to climb (if I remember correctly – I did the Track even longer ago than you did …) but it was very much an all four limbs, plus the occassional knee and stomach, scramble.
And tool? Gold.
Love your photos Greg, I am hoping to get to Tasmania to do the Overland hike later in the year. Your tales are very entertaining, thanks for sharing them. Cheers WV
Hi Linda. Yeah, this post was pushing the limits a little! It almost stepped outside a 'family friendly' zone?!
'Great white hikers' is quite apt! I worry way too much to ever become overconfident 🙂
Hi Ian. Wanker Walkers? Actually, it's not a bad name for a walking club! Well, the Overland is pretty popular, so that alone makes it 'freak prone'.
I loved that little camera and it certainly used to punch above its weight!
Hey there! Are you telling me that this post is almost a 'thigh-slapper'?! It's way too long in writing, but I needed it all to tell the story in tragic detail! I'm not sure if I can top this entry for the rest of the Overland trip, which means I probably peaked too early!
Regarding the photos. Thanks! Also, thanks for mentioning the Mt Bogong post as I looked at it earlier and the whole layout and formatting was stuffed! I didn't realise how buggered it was, so I've fixed it now. I've no idea how long it was looking like that!
Oh yeah, I've really neglected the whole Victorian alpine area. A few cancelled trips here and there which has certainly left a hole in the blog. I do need to crank up a few lung-busters! Lots and lots of plans, but so little time to do them…
Thanks for the comment!
Even after abusing the polariser on dozens of trips, I still can't get enough of that mega-contrast. I think I need a session at 'Polariser Anonymous'. The conditions I had that day on Cradle Mountain was just one of those days which is probably hard to find. Snow around, but still good enough to walk plus blue skies and no wind. I was pretty lucky I think!
Barn Bluff does look imposing and I've no doubt some 'hands and knees' action was required! After my experience on Cradle Mountain, I thought I'd be wasting my time heading to Barn Bluff. Maybe one day? Then again, I've got plenty of things lined up under the 'one day' category!
What can I say? That bloke in this post really did leave himself open to be mocked 🙂
Hi WV! Have fun on the Overland if you get there. Maybe you can climb Cradle Mountain and show me what the view from the summit looks like? I probably won't be up there for a while!
It's a great walk, especially if one allocates some time to do most of the side-trips. Plenty of people were powering from hut to hut, but a lot of the best stuff is off the main track. The waterfalls alone were worth leaving the track!
Don't blame you one bit for backtracking from that saddle. Just looking at the picture brought a shudder as I recalled some hairy high passes in the Sierra Nevada. And I was in jogging shoes! And yes, not knowing what's just out of sight at the edges can be even worse than knowing.
Funny thing about people at shelters/huts. I don't know what's more annoying, the loud-mouth Master Woodsman – they'll usually have a knife on display, or a tomahawk, or a cast-iron skillet – , or the Silent Ones that set up in one corner in a huddle, or monopolise the table or whatever, and completely ignore you for the rest of your stay. Very, very strange. I think the first rule on the trail is to politely acknowledge any other walkers, then use your instincts about whether to go any further. And 2nd is to keep your voice down. It's all part of Leave No Trace.
Walker behaviour is a sore point for me here in Korea, where over half the time I pass another walker, they suddenly find something absolutely compelling at their feet that requires close inspection…
I think I've met that bloke a few times…..Amazing shots Greg, I really must make the trip.
"How does the fiasco man remember this stuff?" – I actually was wondering that.
…Once I was there but instead of a yeti, there were Tassie devils
Runners? Yeah, that sounds completely mental, although they probably didn't have any less grip than my 'Frankenstein' boots which you call them!
You know what? I reckon I could have edged my way across that big gap, but the final climb looked completely stupid to attempt in the snow! So, that was that.
Yeah, I always hello, as I'm not a complete social vegetable! I reckon though in all my hut trips I've only had a handful of people I could remotely relate to or have a conversation with. I had a spate of people who really did just bang on about all the things they've done and how well they did it. Pretty dull stuff, but I did meet two blokes on this hike in the posts to come who were good value. Actually, although the silent ones can be odd, I'll take them over the loud-mouth any day! Even though the silent ones may seem a bit like serial killers, I'll prefer that!
That Korean hiking method is an interesting one. I reckon I've run that trick when I'm knackered. "Oh look at this blade of grass here. I might sit down for a minute and examine it". Yeah, that's my trick!
Really? He gets around doesn't he! All over the country there's some bloke in the outdoors who's an expert 🙂
Yes, it's a great walk and I thoroughly recommend it outside the walking season. Less people and a bit more hairy weather makes for a better walk I think!
Hi Anna. Yes, I do have to make notes to remember all of this crap! I don't want anything to get by me on a long hike. The reason being is because of the blog! It's a bit hard to imagine that only five years ago I didn't even take a camera let alone take notes! How times have changed 🙂
Tassie Devils? You're lucky as I've never seen one in the wild. Maybe I should get out more!
Thanks for the comment and dropping by.
I cant stop my self to read whole article. I read lots of blogs and watched several video about Cradle Mountains but you post is amazing. I love nature and wildlife and to justify my love we are arranging trip to Cradle Mountain in next few months not sure when but in 2 to 3 months. We contacted few tour organizer to guide us and provide accommodation. We are finally agree to hire http://www.cradlehuts.com, so if you know any other tour operator who help us in our tour then please let me know their website and I will check it later.
Hi Brenda! Thanks for dropping by. I'm probably not the best bloke to give advice on a tour organizer as I've never done a guided hike! I found the Overland Track to be quite straightforward in relation to a hike. Clearly defined track etc. There is the issue though of carrying all of your stuff for the week though 🙂
You certainly won't be disappointed in the nature and wildlife along there. It's pretty spectacular!
I'm going away for two weeks from 26/5, so if you're after any more info I'm not ignoring you! If there's something I can help you with, feel free to email me at the address that's on my home page under the 'contact me' tab. I might be able to sneak in an email in a weeks time. All questions will be attempted 🙂
Hi Hunter. Thanks for dropping by. I've been away, so I missed your comment. I guess it's good work? Maybe…?!
Meandering through threads with references to other threads, and again through those threads, I happened to find your blog.
I do not quite know whether I should really thank you because I have now spent some considerable time on your blog (which I should rather have spent on other (mundane) things!). After having read 'a little bit here' and 'a little bit there', I finally succombed and started reading from your very first entry. I have so thoroughly enjoyed it! So maybe I am your first reader to have read all of it? – And your photos are second to none. I hope you will soon come back with a new installment. I am checking daily. Kindest, Annelise (Denmark)
Hi Annelise! Thanks for your kind words and taking the time to comment! You're pretty brave if you read from the very first entry. The blog was pretty hit and miss back then! I think I do better posts now, but that's pretty much subjective anyway 🙂 I think you could officially be the only person to have read the whole blog!
I do try for a post a week, but sometimes I can't even manage that. The trouble is walking gets in the way of blogging! This Overland Track hike was a pretty special one, so I will return to it in the near future and finish it off. I'm glad to have kept you entertained as that's the main reason to write isn't it? It's my reason anyway 🙂
I've heard the rule that you should only go #2 in composting toilets and #1 outside, so I was compelled to check it out after your post about 'captain decorum'. From what I read this fella may have been correct depending on the type of toilets on the OT…
To compost waste, a composting toilet needs a correct balance of moisture, too little or too much is a bad thing. Some composting toilets drain urine, some do not. And so I think the rule applies only some of the time – I could be wrong but I'm not spending the day googling poos and wees (hehehe).
The Parks website does not prohibit it and given how frequented the OT is I'm guessing drained toilets are installed and you're fine to go #1, so although this gent was partially accurate… there's still sufficient room to call him a wanker 😉 God even if he were 100% right, he sounds like a tool.
Pongo, What can I say? I appreciate your dedication to unlocking the correct usage of a composting toilet! You're the 'Guru of the Gents'!
Blogging can educate, as I didn't realise that the #1 was suitable for the outdoors? I must say though, that if it's 2 am and I'm in a tent, I don't usually walk the 100 metres to the comfort station if I need to let the head hang out.
That bloke was an odd one, but I need those sort of people for the blog, so I shouldn't complain! He lost me early on with the 'portable prayer flags', so I guess I was never going to be enthused with anything he did after that!
Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment!