My Personal Tellings of Cradle Mountain
Updated: Aug 8, 2021
Early last December I made my fourth trip down to Tasmania. I ventured down with one of my best pals to continue to explore and hike all over this beautiful island. On our first full day in Tassie, we would attempt to summit Cradle Mountain. Cradle Mountain stole my heart the first time I saw it, even as it was snowing, which prevented me from summiting the first time, which fuelled my need to come back. I was determined to reach the summit this time. Cradle Mountain is very unpredictable in terms of the weather, and due to the rock scramble to reach the top, it is not recommended to attempt in bad weather conditions for safety reasons.
We started hiking by 8am from the Dove Lake carpark, as the suggested walking time is 8 hours to complete the full track. We hiked counter-clockwise along the Dove Lake track, following signs for the summit. Soon after gaining a bit of elevation, we realized there would be snow throughout bits of the track, some parts only a few inches deep, other sections we would consistently be “post-holing.” This term is used for when you step on what looks like packed snow, but is actually very soft and you create a long narrow hole in the snow, what could be used for a post of a fence. Depending on your height, you may only get to your knees at times, but on more than one occasion, I was up to my hips in the cold snow, as I’m only 5’3″. We knew we needed to be cautious as we had heard that three hikers had been stranded the day before, with Park Rangers having to hike in and camp overnight with the injured hikers before a helicopter could airlift them out. The scenario very serious, but the more we learned, it unfortunately was a case of underprepared hikers that were caught out in a storm. So we kept our radars alert, but were had few concerns. We could not have asked for a better day weather wise, the sun was shining, (which was creating the soft snow that we kept falling through), there was no cloud coverage, and absolutely no wind; we could hardly believe this experience.
Such a calm reflection here.
Exposed sections of the track had very little snow.
Kitchen Hut which is the first hut for walkers on the Overland Track.
Hiking towards Cradle.
Shelbi made us some incredible nutella & banana chip wraps.
The rock scramble up Cradle is no joke and we were likely 100m away from the summit, but decided the amount of snow covering the rocks was too dangerous. We had already passed a few hikers as we went up who had turned around. As we sat atop the closest we would get to the summit, we could see other ant sized figures making their way up and we scouted our route back down. We could see a ridge line track that seemed to parallel Dove Lake which then looked as though it intersected back with the Dove Lake track that continued our counter-clockwise direction. As we were doing extremely well time wise, we opted to follow this ridge and attempt to connect back along the main trail. As we made our way down from Cradle we were stopped by hiker’s heading up, asking about the conditions and whether it was worth it to continue upwards. Most who asked already appeared very spent; under-prepared gear wise, in runners with minimal tread and certainly not waterproof. We advised them of the conditions we experienced and offered that they use their own judgement on their abilities given what we told them.
Cradle Mountain now behind us.
View of Cradle Mountain from Hansen’s Peak.
Little did we know, we were summiting, another smaller mountain that rewarded us with stunning views looking back upon Cradle, called Hansen’s Peak. This had actually been on my list of hikes to do the following day, so I hadn’t researched it too much before we set out for Cradle on this day and was an added bonus that we got to complete it on the same day.
We took a long break here, sitting back and realizing where we had just come from and unknowing of what we would have to descend in order to make it back along the Dove Lake Track. Cradle Mountain is somewhere I will always hold near and dear to my heart; partly due to the weather on this particular day, partly due to the people I experienced it with, but mostly due to the mountains unfaltering presence.
One of my all-time favourite photos with two of my favourites.
The three of us, found our own paces throughout this hike, and Shelbi and Kristjen proceeded to bond after having only met the night before by throwing snowballs at each other while the other was least expecting it. Shelbi started these shenanigans fairly early on in our hike and managed to continue with exceptional aim for Kristjen’s head, neck, and back, but he managed to get her back a fair few times as well.
The descent from Hansen’s Peak was much more challenging than we anticipated. Another rock scramble now downhill, following an at times very narrow and steep path, with chains to guide you down. We all kept saying how grateful we were for the path we had taken up to Cradle and that we were coming down this way, for if we had made the decision to go up from this route, we may not have had the energy to continue on up towards Cradle Mountain. We figured this route eventually had to connect back to the Dove Lake circuit and although on many occasions we questioned this, we ended up being right. We had made the decision to continue without certainty of the track as we still had plenty of supplies if we needed to turn around and follow the original path down from the summit that leads directly to the Dove Lake Track. I do caution everyone to use their own judgement and preplan the route you you anticipate and have a back-up plan if there are alternative routes.
In awe of this absolute masterpiece.
One last look back at Cradle Mountain.
All up, we ended up hiking 12.59km completing the route in just under six hours, significantly less than the suggested time frame. I’ve attached a photo of the route below for reference. We all felt incredibly accomplished after such a massive day and headed to the Cradle Mountain Lodge just down the road from the national park for a little celebratory feed of drinks and potato wedges, still in our hiking gear and we weren’t given a second glance for doing so. Afterwards, we went back to our campsite, played some Uno, which again continued this bonding experience, then sat around the wood fire of the indoor cooking area, and made our packaged pasta on a hot place with a collapsible pot. Believe me when I say we saw the views, but did not splurge on the cost of experience. This will forever go down as one of my favourite days.