Walking the Overland Track
On the Overland Track near Windy Ridge hut. Photo Paul Adler
Standing in front of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain on a hot day. Photo Paul Adler
The locals were very friendly. This wallaby has a joey in it's pouch, but it must have been camera shy as it wouldn't come out for a photo. Photo Paul Adler
Barn Bluff in the early morning light. There were lots of opportunities for rock scrambling along the track. Photo Paul Adler
Hi it’s Fiona here,
Paul and I are just back from 7 days hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania. We were planning to finish the rest of the Australian Alps Walking track from Mt. Hotham to Walhalla, but a couple of days before we were due to leave, some very large bushfires started in the area we were due to walk through. We had everything arranged: transport to the start of the hike and from the finish, all maps, but with the fires growing larger we decided to change our plans.
Paul's sister had just walked the Overland Track a few weeks ago. It’s a walk that is particularly famous in Australia and she had all the maps and information we would need. A quick check of the discount airlines and we had some cheap flights, a visit to a few websites found us some overnight accommodation in Launceston, a bus ride and a permit purchased to walk the track.
About the Overland Track
It's about 65 kilometres long through the Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair National Parks in Tasmania’s World Heritage listed Wilderness Area. Many people ask us if we have done the Overland Track and we had never considered it before, usually because of ignorance on our behalf as to what the walk involved, a belief that it was very crowded and that getting there was expensive and logistically difficult as it’s a one way walk. Anyway, we were pleasantly surprised on all counts. www.overlandtrack.com.au has lots of information about the walk, including links to the different companies that offer shuttle services. I guess the walk is popular because it takes you through very spectacular, and ever-changing sceneries. You go through grasslands, alpine regions, rainforests and temperate forests.
We started near Dove Lake and spent a leisurely day climbing to a lookout over the lake and climbing Cradle Mountain, before camping at Waterfall hut. The next day we backtracked around the other side of Cradle Mountain, back around Dove Lake and then climbed Barn Bluff in the afternoon. With the weather still hot the next day, we walked to Pelion hut, which is about half way along the track. This was the end of the hot weather, because it started raining the day after that. But not to be discouraged, we decided we’d still climb up Mount Ossa anyway - at an altitude of only 1617 metres (5305 feet), it’s Tasmania’s tallest mountain. But despite its seemingly low height, the weather can get pretty impressive. We were amazed to be tackling howling winds and snow battering in sideways at us – all in the Australian summer!
Obviously we survived and that turned out to be our only day of bad weather. We continued on to Kia Ora hut, and then up to Pine Valley. If anyone is thinking of going there, this area is a must-see. The walk in sees you beneath an amazing moss-covered forest and the climb up The Acropolis was incredible. We spent a long time up the top absorbing the landscape that stretched out around us and admiring the rock formations shaped like columns.
The last section saw us walking around the incredible Lake St Clair. We managed to arrive at the visitor centre here just as it started to rain heavily again.
The Overland is a very social walk to do. Only 30 independatnt walkers are allowed to start the track each day and because we kept doing lots of side-tracks, we kept oscillating between two different groups. It was great meeting a whole range of interesting people out there – all ages and many nationalities, some on their first hiking trip, others viewing it as a must-do when touring Australia, while others were returning to the area from many previous visits. We even met some girls that were doing some hiking there as part of their training for one of their first mountaineering attempts – Mount Kilimanjaro. Good luck if this gets to you before you go!
We saw a lot of wildlife on this trip – 5 snakes (which is amazing when from all our other hiking we’ve ever done, we’ve only seen 3 snakes previously), lots of wallabies, wombats, pademelons (first time we’ve come across these but the seem to be a cross between a wallaby and a possum), and an echidna. There were even sightings of platypus – which is very rare.
Most of all, it was great to be out walking again. Switching off and getting back to the simple things in life – like how I’m going to trick Paul so that I can eat most of the chocolate!
We flew straight home on Thursday night feeling very sorry for the people sitting near us on the flight (7 days in the same clothes is not pretty). Friday has been spent unpacking, washing and catching up on bills and emails and last night we had Paul's father's 60th Birthday party. Paul gave himself a rest day on Friday, but on Saturday he was back into the training with a 180 kilometre bike ride.
PS – We’re sending our best wishes to all those in the bushfire affected areas. Hold tight!
Posted by: Paul Adler on December 17, 2006 09:50 AM AEST
This is a message carrying over from the discussion on the previous posting.
That’s great feedback on your experience with Poisk. Did you use a 4 litre bottle or a 3 litre bottle? By my calculations a 4l Poisk bottle at 25C should hold 1280 litres and at -25C it should have 1080 litres. Taking the -25C volume and a flow rate of 2 litres per minute the bottle should last for 9 hours. You must have had a 4 litre bottle.
Also, Fiona and I have had a lot of questions about TopOut masks and it might be interesting for other people to hear someone else's experience with them. How did you find it? Ted told me last week that he was using a different ambient air intake valve this year, because a number of people had some problems with it freezing over. Fiona and I didn't experience this, but other people on our expedition did and they said it was a little frightening to not be able to get enough air. JF said that he had to take off his glove and poke out the ice with his little finger, so we sharpened a bamboo wand and attached it to our down vests with some string to have as a tool to clear the ice. We didn't need it.
Posted by: Larry and Marianne B on December 17, 2006 10:19 AM AEST
Hi Fiona and Paul,
You two are really the adventurers ! And you are lucky that you are young, really able to enjoy your treks.
Us old folks wish we could do what you are doing. Anyway, thanks for the updates as we truly look forward to your adventures.
My next trip will to Cuba in late April 2007.Lots of nature photography and underwater. Fidel will probably be dead by then if not already. You should have gone there when you were here.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2007 !!
Hugs and Kisses,
Larry and Marianne B
Posted by: John Graham on December 17, 2006 11:10 AM AEST
Hi Fiona and Paul
I am walking the Milford Track, New Zealand in April 2007 and am currently in the process of purchasing a sleeping bag. I am looking for something light to carry and doesn't take up much room. I will be staying in huts along the way. It's 4 days 3 nights.
Because of your experience I was interested in your choice of sleeping bag for your travels and why? plus What would you recommend in my case and why? I will be carrying a smaller size bagpack as I will be flying home on completion. Maybe I could hire one is that a possibility?
Posted by: Paul Adler on December 17, 2006 12:04 PM AEST
I wouldn’t hire a sleeping bag; if you can afford to buy one then do it. When you are on a trip you spend a good proportion of your time in your sleeping bag and it's nice to have one that you know is right for you. With most of them being made offshore now, the price is a lot less than they were 10 years ago.
For travel around Australia we have a semi rectangular down sleeping bag from Mont. It has 600 grams of 700 loft down and weighs 1.2kg. With a compression stuff sack it packs down very small. In fact I can fit my sleeping bag and my full length thermarest side by side across the bottom of my pack. This would be ample for the Milford Track.
I used to work in a gear shop and spent a lot of time explaining to customers what to look for in sleeping bags. In my opinion the main factors to consider are:
What material - Down or Synthetic?
Down is warmer for the same weight and more compressible. Synthetic has come a long way, but in my opinion it's best to stick with down if you are carrying it on your back and are at all worried about weight.
The amount of fill
The warmth quality of down is measured by it's loft. The higher the loft the warmer the bag will be - 500 grams of 650 loft down will be warmer and more compressible than 500 grams of 550 loft down. I have noticed that overseas brands such as North Face, Marmot, Mountain Hardware, Eider use higher lofting down than what is generally available in the stores in Australia. We used our Mont bags for Everest base camp and Marmot bags for higher on the mountain because of this.
The shell material
Down is terrible if it gets wet. You can greatly reduce the chances of this if you use a pack liner and have a sleeping bag with a waterproof outside shell eg. Gore Dryloft. Fiona and I have the same type of bag, but when we purchased them the shop only had one in stock with a waterproof shell. As we were in a hurry, we just bought one without. You don’t notice much difference in dry conditions, but in more moist and humid environments, I reckon that my bag (the non waterproof one) gets a bit damp from the air and doesn't feel as warm or fluffy as Fiona's. We noticed it on the Overland Track. Bottom line is that the extra $100 or so than a waterproof shell adds if worth it.
The shape of the bag
The positioning of the down in the bag is very important for warmth. A mummy shaped bag will keep more of the down close to you, rather than a spreading it thinner. A semi-rectangular bag is a bit more roomy and comfortable, but for the same weight and loft of down it will be less warm. Some bags have more down on top than on the bottom, which makes sense as compressed down underneath you doesn't trap much air and therefore has little insulating properties.
If your sleeping bag stuff sack doesn’t come with a compression sack (straps that enable you to compress the size of the stuff sack), then buy one separately. Buy a silk liner too as this helps protect the sleeping bag, is easy to clean and makes it a bit warmer. (I just bought a new one before going on the Overland Track - Kathmandu have them on sale at the moment.)
Sales people will often rave on about the baffling of the down, but in my opinion this is not so important, as long as the bag has boxed baffles. Baffles keep the down in place; without them it would all move down to one end. Boxed baffles means that there is a vertical panel between the inside and the outside layers of the sleeping bag; think of the paneling in a modern parachute. Some extremely cheap bags and some that I have seen for sale in Kathmandu are sewn straight through from the outside of the bag to the inside. In this situation there is no down where the stitching is, so all the heat can escape. The same thing applies to buying a jacket or any down gear. You can easily see this in action here in Australia as most down jackets and particularly the vests are sewn right through and don't have boxed baffles.
Hope this is helpful,
Posted by: Den & Tam on December 17, 2006 12:14 PM AEST
P & F:
Greetings to both of you from the sunny Florida Keys! We have also just returned from a short hike.......Christmas shopping in Key West and the infamous "Duval Crawl"! Dennis feels lucky to have survived! Our thoughts are of you often and we are curious as to how Paul's training is progressing for the Everest attempt. Fiona, have you instituted any of your brilliant new business ideas? And, we are hoping you have both finally had a chance to truly settle into your beautiful new home. With Christmas and the New Year fast approaching we hope this finds you both healthy, happy and filled with the wonders of 2006 and looking forward to the new adventures of 2007. Our thoughts are with,
Den & Tam
Posted by: John Graham on December 17, 2006 10:52 PM AEST
Thanks Paul for your feedback on sleeping bags. Yes I have been to the Kathmandu shop to check out the bags. I was considering either the navigator or the columbus bag. I like the rectangular shape for comfort rather than the mummy bag. I was tending to go for the columbus bag as I am in huts and I can always put on Long Johns if I was really cold. I will get a silk liner as you suggested. Its almost like the concept of layering your clothing. What do you think of my choice or reasoning? Haven't bought one as yet. Sale runs to early Jan. What did you actually get and why? By the way thanks for your comprehensive reply to my previous query re sleeping bags
Posted by: John Graham on December 17, 2006 11:03 PM AEST
You almost convinced me to get a Mont bag until you said you got one from Kathmandu shop. Apparently Mont are made in Australia and the Kathmandu are made in China. Its amazing how I have see sawed from one to the other. Also, Mont ones come with a compression bag and the Kathmandu ones don't, you have to buy one. I have checked them both out. Any further comments, I'm confused. I will probably get a Kathmandu one. regards
Posted by: Paul Adler on December 18, 2006 07:08 AM AEST
I looked at the Kathmandu website to see the specifications of the bags you mentioned and then compared them to Mont. By the way, the sleeping bag that we use for hiking in Australia is a Mont Nadgee bag, so I will compare the Kathmandu bags to this. When I was mentioning Kathmandu in my first post, I was only saying that I bought a sleeping bag liner from them, not a bag (in case there is any confusion).
Without going into the technical details too much, both Kathmandu bags you list have a lower loft rating (their website says that they have an average loft 600) compared to Mont (minimum 700 loft, presumably the average is higher). The Mont bag has a bit more fill too, but actually weighs slightly less overall, probably because they are using a lighter shell material. I note that the Kathmandu website doesn’t state whether those bags are available with a waterproof shell, but the Mont Nadgee appears to come standard with it, however they do say on their website that they also make it with a non waterproof nylon taffeta shell. Given the higher loft rating and increased amount of fill in the Mont Nadgee bag, you can be pretty confident that this will be warmer and should pack down smaller than both of the Kathmandu bags. If it was me based on this information, I would buy Mont with the Hydronaute waterproof shell. Buy a silk liner from the cheapest supplier you can find. (Kathmandu on sale?)
Interestingly if you look at a 3 season sleeping bag available from The North Face (Nebula), they have much higher loft of 800+. I don’t know why they don’t use this type of down in bags commonly sold in Australia.
Posted by: Fiona Adler on December 18, 2006 08:55 AM AEST
Hi Den & Tam,
We've yet to do our Christmas shopping so you guys are well ahead of us! I always find it funny how Paul can hike a million miles but as soon as we go to a shopping centre he suddenly has a very bad case of "sore legs"! His training is going well though - it looks like he'll be in even better shape than he was last year.
The business ideas are progressing along, just a bit slower than I'd hoped. I took on a reasonably heavy load at business school this semester so that kept me busy until now. For one of my subjects I had to develop a business plan so it's all steps in the right direction. That's definitely my focus between now and when I go into basecamp again.
We're often talking about our visit with you guys in Florida - especially how hot the water was, and how we thought you guys actually ate dolphin!
Hope you have a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and that everything's going well in Bonaire.
Speak to you soon.
Posted by: Phyllis on December 18, 2006 09:53 AM AEST
Thanks for yet another evocative email. Everest is beyond my reach as I've been very ill and doubt that I could ever remotely get near the required level of fitness but the Tasmanian trail sounds just wonderful. I'd never heard of it , although I've always wanted to go to Tasmania, so thanks very much for the introduction.
Happy Christmas and the best of luck with Everest '07
Posted by: Jeremy Raiz on December 19, 2006 05:22 PM AEST
A couple of my friends are doing a fund raising for a few African charities.
10 girls will from Australia, US and UK be climbing Mt Kenya, Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru in a 3 week stretch.
I want to get my friend a set of hand warmers (the type that last for up to 8 hours).
What do you recommend?
Are they reusable?
Can you put them in your boots too?
And you mentioned something about making sure they go into your thumb hole as well. Is this hard?
Most of the ones I've found only last for about an hour.
Posted by: Paul Adler on December 19, 2006 10:14 PM AEST
Great website and cause. Look forward to following the climb.
We bought our handarmers online because they are much cheaper than through the stores - about $1.50 a pair. We got them from this company: http://www.winterswarmth.com/products/grabber/mini-handwarmer.htm. These handwarmers worked well and lasted for at least 6 hours, although you want to let them warm up for a half hour to one hour before putting them in your gloves where they will get less airflow. If you don’t do this, they don’t get very hot.
They are not reusable at all. You can buy ones that are designed for your boots with an adhesive backing to stick to your socks. http://www.winterswarmth.com/products/grabber/toewarmer.htm. These don't work well, and they move around in your boot, even if you tape them to your sock. Not recommended.
We have put them in our thumbs before, but it can be a bit tricky. I prefer to remove my thumb from it's part of the mitten and wrap my hand around the chemical warmer. It shouldn’t be too cold where your friend is going though, so I don’t imagine that they will have too much trouble. That said, I do remember Kili being surprisingly cold, but it was probably because we didn't take much cold weather gear with us.
Posted by: Paul Adler on December 19, 2006 10:31 PM AEST
Hi Phyllis, Sorry to hear that you haven't been well. Tasmania is a great place to visit. Lots of convict history, good cool climate wine, cheese, cherries and other stone fruit at this time of year and great apples a few months later. If you like seafood, there is plenty. Some of the best beer in Australia is brewed in Tasmania too. Highly reccomended. Also because it's so small, you can see most of it in a week. One of the best markets we have seen in the world is in Hobart. It's called the Salamanca Market and its on every Saturday.
Hope this entices you!
Posted by: Cherie Horne on December 24, 2006 05:15 PM AEST
G'day Fiona and Paul,
Happy Christams Eve!
It's Cherie here, we met at Cradle Mountain a few weeks ago. I was the eager and very excited girl who wanted a photo with you both and had lots of questions to ask!
I would just like to say how delighted l was to meet to both, something l was hoping to do in the New Year! How funny is that...... of all places in the middle of the Overland Track, Tasmania.
Fiona and Paul, l was so proud of your outstanding and courageous achievements this year. As l mentioned to you l have the desire to climb Mt Everest, in fact l plan to climb the "Seven Summits". I am on my way, climbed Mt Elbrus, Russia in September and soon to leave for Kilimanjaro, Africa. Counting down the days now....l leave on Jan 4th.
Anyway, l told you l would send you an email and let you know my website address as it contains all the information about my Seven Summits goal. It is www.cheriehorne.com
Look forward to hearing from you soon.
Posted by: Fiona Adler on January 3, 2007 11:13 PM AEST
Well hopefully by now you'll be half-way up Mt Kilimanjaro. I hope you're getting great weather and everything is going well.
It was great to meet you on the Overland Track and bizarre to think that you live so close and we have a few things in common. When you get back from Africa, we should catch up.
Enjoy Africa and make time for the safari's.