Sunday January 10, 2016
Day 4 – Overland Track: Pelion to Windy Ridge via Mt Ossa 24.5km
Promised to be another warm day so we were keen to head off early. The morning air was cool as we left camp at 7am. It has been taking us about an hour each morning to pack up the tent, have breakfast and be ready to go. This mornings hike was through eucalypt and beech forest opening up into buttongrass moorland, as we ascended up towards Pelion Gap, a distance of 5km from camp. We made good time and reached the Gap, and the junction with the Mt Ossa turnoff, at 8.30am. Amazing how easy it all feels in the morning when the legs are fresh.
At the junction we dropped our packs and headed up towards the summit of Mt Ossa for a distance of 5.5km return trip. The sky was crystal blue, the air was warming up and we were keen to get up and off the mountain before it got too hot. As we headed up towards Mt Doris, on the way to Mt Ossa we seem to gain height fairly quickly. The valley below us started to open up. By the time we reached the saddle between the two mountains the views north and south were quite spectacular. It would a good spot to have lunch after descending off Mt Ossa. The track up Mt Ossa looked very intimidating from this vantage point. After piking on the summit of Cradle Mountain, I was determined to get over my fear of heights and get on top this time. The track became a bit of a boulder scramble which reminded us of ascending over The Scales on the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska.
At one point it was a heart stopper for me as I was suspended over a vertical boulder with foothold too widely spaced to get a good grip. I almost panicked but hung on there and soon worked my way up clinging to the rock face. Hammer on the other hand, with his long lever legs, had no problem at all. With adrenaline pumping I summitted Mt Ossa. And what a view we had, 360 degree views as far as the eye can see. The wildflowers were in full bloom, clinging to the rockface on the climb up and and on the summit. There was so much to look at in the stunning distant landscape and then at a much smaller scale in almost every crevice. All I could say was wow, wow, wow! So beautiful and on such a stunning day we did not want to leave. We spent almost half an hour on the summit. And we were rewarded for being early risers by having it all to ourselves. Lou-Seal was the first of her kin to stand on the highest point in Tasmania, Mt Ossa which stands at 1,617m. Hopefully one of many summits of her life. As we headed down the mountain, we passed many of the campers we spent the night with at Pelion Hut campground, who were on their way up. We got back to our packs at the junction and were surprised to see over 20 other packs there. It was going to be crowded up on the summit.
After a leisurely lunch we headed off towards Kia Ora Hut through exposed buttongrass moorlands. There was not a lot of shelter from the sun, you could feel the sun frying the back of your neck. Not something we were expecting to experience in Tasmania. Pretty soon we descended into a forest canopy which made for very pleasant walking. We made Kia Ora Hut camp spot around 3pm and were surprised to see that it was quite crowded. Not wanting to camp at close quarters to others we decided to hike on. It was sad to lose contact with people we had connected with so far. As we were skipping a day ahead of them by hiking on to Windy Ridge. So after a dip in the cold creek by the campground we were enthused and re-energized to hike on.
We were so pleased we did, as the Windy Ridge Hut turned out to be the best camp spot by far. And more so as there were only 14 other campers there and they had formed a tight bond but welcomed us nevertheless. The rain forest landscape we walked through in the afternoon was almost Jurassic Park like with tree species whose ancestry lies in time period before the continents separated. We rate this the best day on the trail so far.