a long weekend trip to beautiful Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Written by Gary on August 13th, 2014

Cradle Mountain is a very popular bushwalking destination in Tasmania, Australia.

It caters for most needs including some very lovely short walks less than 1 hour through luscious old rainforests near the main resorts, 2-4 hour short walks around Dove Lake and for the fitter walkers, up to Marion’s Lookout and to Crater Lake.

However, the ultimate walk for many is the essentially one way, 7-9 night Overland Trail, assisted with strategically placed huts and an optional boat ferry at the end.

The region has lovely old rainforests with old King Billy pines, deciduous beech trees (fagus) with abundant wildlife including wombats, and the Tasmanian pademelon, while out in the more open alpine areas, pandanus palms are conspicuous in the landscapes.

Cradle Mountain in winter with snow is best accessed with a 4WD – these can be hired from Launceston (the nearest main airport which is ~ 2.5hrs drive to the resort through some winding hilly roads), but can also be hired from Devonport which is a little closer but flights are less frequent.

As the resort, being at ~1000m altitude, may well be above the snow line in Winter, be prepared to pay an extra $20/day cover for the vehicle to be insured at that level, on top of the additional $40/day levy to bring the insurance excess down to $1000 – check different hire care companies to avoid such unexpected expenses.

Cradle Mountain peak itself is 1545m and can be climbed although this is not advisable in poor weather conditions, and walking on snow there is dangerous.

Although there was no snow when we arrived, the following night, heavy snow fell covering the resort and continued to fall though the following days, making 2WD vehicle access difficult or dangerous on the icy roads without snow chains, and indeed, until the weather cleared, 2WD cars were banned from the entrance of the park to Dove Lake which is the start of many of the longer walks.

It is also worth being aware that Cradle Mountain is a National Park and you will need to pay a fee to access it – at present this is around $16 pp per day, or $60 car pass which covers 2 months access.

The weather in Winter can be expected to range from minus 5 degC to +10degC, while rain and snow may occur along with strong winds which may result in a wind chill factor of around minus 12deg C.

Walkers, even for short 1-2hr walks must come well prepared – for those doing short-medium walks who want to travel light, avoiding becoming fatigued, wet or lost is a prime aim, so consider taking the following:

  • backpack with waterproof cover
  • drinking water, food (for longer walks), map, compass, smartphone (although you may not get service – Optus coverage is non-existent, Telstra coverage there is good, although may fail in a snow storm)
  • sunglasses and lip balm and consider UV protection, particularly on the snow
  • waterproof walking shoes (eg. Gortex lined), or waterproofed boots (these are particularly advised if snow is likely)
  • thick socks (some prefer wearing 2 pairs)
  • light waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
  • light waterproof and windproof overpants (for those on longing walks, heavier, more durable Gortex pants may be preferred)
  • layers of clothing – you will tend to get cold when standing around and tend to get hot and sweaty when walking, particularly up hills – this can be mitigated by adjusting clothing layers and opening front zips
    • one or two thin inner shirts – one of which at least should be long sleeved
    • long-sleeved woollen jumper or synthetic fleece zipped top
    • duck down-filled vest – but this must be kept dry – so put your waterproof jacket on if it starts to rain
    • thermal leggings
    • either shorts or tracksuit pants – avoid denim jeans – they are a disaster if they get wet! Photographers in particular, will want to be wearing the waterproof overpants if the ground is wet to avoid getting themselves wet when kneeling down for shots or climbing out of creeks, etc.
  • light gloves so you can still operate the camera buttons
  • heavier waterproof, warm gloves if it will be colder such as in snow
  • beanie and scarf for when the wind picks up
  • consider gaiters for longer walks, as these will help avoid your socks getting wet from rain or snow, reduce risk of sand and gravel entering shoes, reduce injuries to lower legs from sharp sticks, etc.
  • camera – preferably small, light, compact, water-resistant, cold-resistant such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera with Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens – this will allow much longer hand-held shots (than any other current camera) down to even 2 secs for those lovely flowing water shots and may mean you can avoid taking a tripod – but do take a ND filter and a polarising filter to help you get longer exposures, and take a spare battery in a warm pocket as the cold shortens their capacity. If you are taking a dSLR such as a Nikon or Canon, then you should take a good tripod with you which is sturdy and has insulated legs. This Olympus kit could be supplemented with the Olympus 60mm macro lens which is also weather-resistant, light and compact but adds 1:1 macro capability as well as some telephoto if needed. If you cannot afford the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 pro lens, then consider the light, compact, Olympus 12-50mm macro kit lens – it will give you more telephoto plus some macro capability, and given that most of your shots will be around f/8 for the best compromise in depth of field and image sharpness, this lens should suit you well, although it will not be as useful in low light.

Before setting out on ANY walk, you should check the weather forecast and register in the huts provided so people can better decide if, when and where they should start searching for you if you do not return.

 

Dove Lake – Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with Olympus 12mm lens:

Dove Lake after the snow

Dove Lake – Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with Olympus 60mm macro lens:

Dove Lake after the snow

I can’t believe I was silly enough to do a 2 hour walk around this lake the previous night – half in the dark without torches on very uneven and slippery tracks and in the driving rain and wind, just before the snow started falling and didn’t break an ankle! We had planned to do a short walk but when we reached 1/3rd of the way around, we recklessly decided to complete the loop rather than go back. Memo… when walking near sunset, always take a torch!!!

Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with Olympus 60mm macro lens:

near Dove Lake after the snow

 

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