Sunday, May 15, 2011
Last week I set my sights on Castle Crag. I’ve often looked at it from Lees Paddocks or the Overland Track and wondered about tackling it as a long day walk from Wadleys Hut. After some other commitments on Friday evening, I set out from Lake Rowallan at 9:00pm and took exactly three hours to wander in to Wadleys Hut by torchlight. As I crossed The Paddocks, the frost on the chest high grass looked like a myriad of stars twinkling in my torchlight.
In the morning, a colourful sunrise and heavy frost were a beautiful treat. At one stage, Castle Crag was bathed in its own pink spotlight while the other mountains modestly hid their heads in whispy mist. I was feeling good about my objective.
At 7:30 I reluctantly left the comforts of the hut, shouldered my pack and headed out to cross the large ‘top paddock.’ The blazed route led me through beautiful river-side forest before crossing Pinestone Creek and crossing a short stretch of tea tree and cutting grass. A distinctive bend in the river was a lovely spot for a rest as the route would shortly leave the Mersey and start climbing.
Once the route reached Kia Ora Creek, rather than cross over, I stayed on the northern bank and proceeded upstream until I reached the spectacular Kia Ora Falls. After plenty of photos and the obligatory crawl behind the curtain of falling water, I climbed out of the valley and crossed the button grass plain to join the Overland Track near the private hut at 11:00am.
Once I joined the main ‘highway’ heading south, the first group I met were 2 couples with small day packs. I wrongly assumed they were doing the Overland Track from south to north. Imagine my surprise when they told me they had just climbed up from Lees Paddocks. They had spotted my bare footprints in the frost on the deck of Wadleys Hut and must have been fairly close behind me when I turned off to go to Kia Ora Falls. They had continued up the blazed route to where it joins the Overland Track and were doing a ‘lap of Pelion East’ by heading over Pelion Gap, down the Arm River Track and back to Lees Paddocks via Reedy Lake. I loved listening to their stories of extreme day walks they had completed.
By 1pm I arrived at Du Cane Gap and paused for half an hour to do lunch and contemplate the goal which lay tantalisingly close. The description in The Abels said once the dolerite skyline was reached it would be a pleasant change from the scrub. I figured that was their way of saying the scrub is less than pleasant. They were right. There was no real easy way through. Even once I reached the dolerite it was still necessary to engage the scrub between boulders. By the time I reached the high point of Falling Mountain, the pure rock hopping felt great.
I reached the highest point on Castle Crag in exactly the two hours The Abels said it would take from Du Cane Gap. Cloud had started to envelope the Du Cane Range to the west but the views to south, east and north were stupendous. Especially eye catching was the view over the deep trench of the Mersey River in the vicinity of the waterfalls, along the face of Cathedral Mountain, to Lees Paddocks and Mount Pillinger.
The descent took 1.5 hours and, with Bert Nicholls Hut only 45 minutes down from the Gap, I figured I could afford to make tomorrow’s walk slightly longer and opt for the comfort of the hut rather than pitch the tent at Campfire Creek as originally intended.
In the morning, I set out around 7:30am again, stopped in to the base of Hartnett Falls around 9:00am, passed Kia Ora Hut at 11:00am and paused for lunch in a snow-shower on Pelion Gap at 1:00pm. In the forest near Kia Ora I met 4 Queensland gentlemen doing the Overland Track. They liked the sound of the private huts and I think there may be some conspiring going on when they get home to see if they can bring their wives back to do the track with a significant increase in the level of luxury involved. Good luck fellas. I’m sure Cradle Huts would love to see you next year.
From Pelion Gap, I was starting to tire and, while maintaining a reasonable pace, I was ready for the walk to end. I passed Pelion Hut at 3:00pm, Reedy Lake at 4:15pm and arrived at Lees Paddocks at 5:30pm. The last of my chocolate spurred me on and I finally arrived at the car at 7:30pm after spending the last couple of hours walking by torch light once again.