Overland Track Day 1: Waldheim to Barn Bluff

20 August 2017, Overland Track, Tasmania

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After Liffey Falls in the last post, I travelled on to meet the rendezvous for the Overland Track walk.  The Overland Track is a 63 kilometre walk through Tasmania’s highland wilderness.  I had done the walk thirty years ago with large format photographic equipment and a pack of 24 kilograms (53 pounds).  I used the public huts then (and you can also camp), but this time I was undertaking a catered trip using private huts offered by the Tasmanian Walking Company.  This meant I didn’t need to carry food because meals are provided and all huts also offer hot showers and drying rooms.

I had opted for the winter tour because I wanted to capture Tasmania’s unique landscape in the snow.  This is much more demanding than the usual summer traverse because trekking through the snow can be harder and slower, and the days are shorter.  As we set off there were ten people in our group plus three guides, although one of our number turned back after an hour because she was feeling unwell.

My clothing weighed 4.5 kg (10lb) including walking poles, and the guidelines for the walk say your pack should weigh 12 to 16 kilograms (26 to 35 pounds).  But with 6.4 kg of camera equipment (14lb), I was carrying 22 kilograms (48 pounds).  This was more than I realised at the time and more than I bargained for.  Based on my previous experiences thirty years earlier, I had assumed I would have lots of time to stop, pull out my tripod and take photos.  However, that was in summer when days are much longer and walking conditions usually much easier (though it can snow here at any time of year).  As it was I generally had to press on with little time to stop for photographs and I was seldom able to use the tripod.  Because my pack was so heavy I was reluctant to take it off too often.  Just as well I had two cameras and four lenses in cases hanging off my shoulder straps and pack belt so I was able to take photographs without removing the pack.  Almost all these images in this and subsequent Overland Track posts are quickly taken on the fly.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Here are some of the group taking off on the walk.  I am still in the carpark and taking this image from there.  We are heading off to the plateau on the snowline at the left.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Crater Falls.

After climbing for three quarters of an hour we got to this small waterfall beside the track, with lots of water flowing through.  You can see it’s a longish exposure but I didn’t pull out my tripod, just braced against a railing.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Boatshed, Crater Lake.

After climbing for an hour and twenty minutes, we stopped for a little while at Crater Lake.  The boatshed was built by the first ranger at Cradle Mountain, Lionell Connell, to ferry visitors around the lake.  There is a similar and better known one at Dove Lake, accessible by road.  Both were built of King Billy Pine, an ancient and slow growing conifer not available as a building material these days.  That’s ice you can see on the surface of the lake, though hardly solid enough to walk on.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife
Crater Lake.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Crater Lake and Boatshed.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Crater Lake.

This one is looking back at Crater Lake as we continue climbing towards Marion’s Lookout.  Still a steep climb to go.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Bennett’s Wallaby.

This is further on from the previous image, with Crater Lake out of sight down below the ridge.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Towards the top, the weather closed in and there was heavy snow.  It had stopped snowing when we got to the top and we stopped for lunch.  According to the time stamps on the images it must have taken us about three hours.  We were close to Marion’s lookout but there was no point going there because there would have been nothing to see.  On a clearer day there would have been a magnificent vista of Dove Lake and the wild country beyond.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Trees on Cradle Plateau.

The weather was clearing and the lack of a view from Marion’s Lookout was more than compensated by magnificent vistas around the Cradle Plateau.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Looking west to Cradle Plateau.

A wonderful vista of distant eucalypts in snow.  Click on the image to see it in a larger size.  I would have liked to stop for an hour or so in this area and explore the possibilities but time was pressing and we had to move on.

In a way this is my Fred Williams image though I wasn’t aware of that Australian painter at that time.  When we got to Geelong, the art gallery had a wonderful exhibition of his semi-abstract landscapes looking down from the You Yang mountains to the arid plains below.  This image reminds me of that though it’s really only the central part with the distant trees in the snow.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Looking east towards the Central Plateau with an angry sky.

Although the weather could be menacing at this point, it was clearing for the rest of the day.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Barn Bluff.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

You might think this shows towering eucalypts beside a tarn but it’s tiny, more like a miniature landscape.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Cradle Mountain.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

A distant view of Barn Bluff.  That’s where we’re headed.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Cradle Mountain.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Quick question:  on which side of a pole does moss grow?

This marker pole provides a metaphor for the weather.  Wind-driven snow is caked on one side of the pole while moss clings resolutely to the other.

Answer: It’s the south side here.  If you live in the northern hemisphere you probably got that wrong.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Cradle Mountain.  We’re getting further away now.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Snow piling up in a sheltered part of the trail in Waterfall Valley.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Eucalypts in snow, still Waterfall Valley.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Barn Bluff in the distance, framed by eucalypts.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Mount Emmett in the late afternoon light.

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Australia, Barn Bluff, Bennett's Wallaby, Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake, Landscape, Nature, Overland Track, Photography, Tasmania, Travel, Waterfall, Wilderness, Wildlife

Mouth Emmett from Cradle Cirque.  Firth River valley in the distance.

At this stage there was only a kilometre or two to go but it was very rugged.  The problem for much of the day, and especially the last section, was the boardwalks.  Often they were two planks wide, say eighteen inches.  This would be fine in summer but they were covered in about two feet of snow (as with everything else).  It was impossible to stay on them all the time and if you missed them, you fell a couple of feet down into the snow.  I fell over dozens of times and probably so did everyone else.  It had taken nine hours before I got to the hut, starting with the brutal three hour climb to Marion’s Lookout and I was totally exhausted.  Totally worth it, though.  The scenery on the way exceeded my expectations.

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11 comments on “Overland Track Day 1: Waldheim to Barn Bluff

  1. Robert Hayes says:

    Another awesome post Murray. You must be incredibly fit. Why didn’t your hikiing pole find the booardwalks? Beeutiful images as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Murray Foote says:

      Thanks Robert. Adequately fit, nowhere near as much as some of the other people. The boardwalk was narrow so the hiking poles were used for support off to the side. It would have slowed us down too much to also use them like a blind man’s cane. I was walking in the other’s footsteps yet I still fell over frequently.

      Like

  2. enmanscamera says:

    Whew!! What a great story about yer 9 hours. And you still got some great shots.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! You must be a tough bugger to hike in that terrain and weather! My favourite shot is
    “Barn Bluff in the distance, framed by eucalypts.” Also, the miniature landscape,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Graham Dunlop says:

    Hello Murray
    Thank you for sharing your photos of our beautiful walk in August. Yes I agree the winter walk was certainly more physically challenging than a summer walk. Oh how cold our feet were every day.
    I look forward to seeing more of your images.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Murray Foote says:

      Hello Graham, good to hear from you. I was very cold at the end of the first day before I got changed (and when the hot showers weren’t working) but I don’t specifically remember cold feet. My circulation may be different from yours. More images on the way soon….

      Like

  5. Adelle says:

    Wow, the winter landscape pics are beautiful. The hike looks brutal to me, I’m not sure I could have done it. These pictures are amazing on the fly, imagine you had time to pull out the tripod !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Murray Foote says:

      That first day was brutal, at least with the weight I was carrying. It’d be a lot easier in summer, with many more hours to the day but quite a different landscape. Yes, it would have been nice to have more time and I would have liked to have been able to take my long telephoto as well.

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