I am going to share with you everything you need to know about Tasmania’s famous Overland Track self-guided, the history of Indigenous Australians, early exploration and colonisation, the building of the trail, and how to physically prepare for your adventure.
Everything I share with you is what I have done to prepare for my first solo multi-day self-guided expedition, applying my experience from years of summiting mountains in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, outdoor guiding around Europe, and working with peak performance specialists in Australia.
All right, let’s get started!
In order to connect our feet with the ground we walk on, I believe we must understand the history, the culture, and the land we choose to journey on. This allows us to understand the past, respect the stories and tragedies that have long passed before us, which have shaped the Earth we hope to connect to as walkers. It is a moment of respect and duty of care that we can express to our ancestors and those who have walked before us. In an effort to connect you with journey and place, here is a brief and hopefully informative introduction to the rich cultural history of Indigenous Australians and the early British settlement of Tasmania.
Approximately 12,000 years ago, the ice age ended, sea levels rose, and the island of Tasmania split off from mainland Australia. The island is 1 of 6 Australian states (not including the territories) located southeast of Victoria, separated by the Bass Strait. With an area of 68,401 square kilometers, but a mere population of 522,327 inhabitants (2019 recording), Tasmania remains one of the world’s most wild, rugged, and untouched wilderness areas. It spans 306km east to west and 364km north to south.
Tasmanian Aboriginal people, known as the Palawa and the Pakana people, were an isolate population of Australian Aboriginal people that were cut off from the mainland when the sea levels flooded the Bass Plain. The Aboriginal People developed physical and cultural differences from those on the mainland. They developed a localised, sustainable culture of fishing, hunting, and gathering. Over 35,000 years, Tasmanian Aboriginal People have used, managed, modified, and lived in the coastal environments, the alpine mountains, and the vast open buttons grass plains. The cultural heritage is rich in history, stories, songs, rock markings, hut depressions, rock shelters, and shell middens. With 1000 estimated known Aboriginal heritage sites, the Aboriginal cultural landscape is preserved under the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) and has been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1982.
Between 1772 and 1802, both friendly and hostile meetings are recorded between the British and French colonists and the Indigenous Australians. Between 1803-4, the British began occupying Aboriginal land. Small scale murders and massacres began, and before long, by the 1830s The “Black War” broke out claiming the lives of 900 Indigenous Australians. The Martial Law of 1828 declared that Aboriginal people could be shot on sight. In 1835, the surviving Aboriginal People were convinced to accept a false government offer that Flinders Island would be given to them in exchange for going into voluntary exile. On this island, many survivors were imprisoned at Wybalenna, where many died from the disease. Subsequently, the last 45 Indigenous Australians were moved to an abandoned settlement in Oyster Cove.
In 1876, Truganini is remembered for being the last full-blooded speaker of the Tasmanian language, passing away at the age of 64. Despite being witness to the British invasion, colonisation, and mass killing of Indigenous Tasmanians, she stood out as a gentle spirit during a brutal time. From 1973 onwards, Tasmania has been on a journey of processing land returns, recognising the identity, returning stolen human remains, compensating for land theft, apologising for forced child removal, and reconciliation.
In preparation for visiting and walking in Tasmania, our respect and appreciation extends to The Traditional Owners of Lutruwita (Tasmania) as the continuing custodians of Tasmania’s rich cultural heritage.
British Exploration and Influence in Tasmania Abel Janszoon Tasman was the first European to discover Tasmania back in 1642. He named his discovery Van Diemen’s Land after Anthony Van Diemen, who was the governor of the Dutch East Indies, with Batavia it's capital, and present-day Jakarta, Indonesia. Anthony was also responsible for sending Tasman on his exploratory voyage to the coast of Australia. Captain Cook reached the island in 1777 with Matthew Flinders following thereafter, circumnavigating the island in 1798.
The first settlement, including the first wave of convicts, was set up on the eastern bank of the River Derwent, and by 1803, the British had established a colony in present-day Hobart. Van Diemen’s Land was valuable for its timber and whaling, and its location was remote enough for hardened criminals. Over a 50 year period, over 70,000 convicts were shipped to the island, with many of the places and features still standing today as historical sites.
To name a few, Port Arthur is one of the most famous penal settlements, the Coal Mines Historic Site was Tasmania’s first mine operated by more than 500 convicts, and the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart was a site for thousands of female convicts. These sites reveal the hard labor and skilled craftsmanship of Tasmania’s convicts in one of the harshest and yet most beautiful regions on Earth.
Unlike mainland Australia, Tasmania experiences 4 seasons.
(Spring: Sept-Nov, Summer: Dec-Feb, Autumn: March-May, and Winter: June-Aug) With ranging and unpredictable alpine conditions from an average low of 3 to an average high of 23 degrees Celsius. Tassie definitely reaches the negative Celsius digits, and the northwest gets a bucketing down of rain in comparison to the dry and warm east end. Belonging to The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), the Overland Track is gaining increased international popularity as a premier long-distance overnight bushwalk in Australia. From my self-guided and solo female perspective, I met hand in hand with Tasmania’s wild and rugged bush.
This remote location brings people from around the world to experience solitude during the quiet winter months, or the social bustle for those keen to walk in the peak summertime. Whatever your fancy is, this track is rated as a Grade 4, and can be as short as 65km or as long as 120km+ depending on the side trips you add into your itinerary.
It was Major Smith who first coined the term ‘overland track’ in 1928. The two reserves: Cradle Mountain in the north and Lake St Clair in the south joined to support the connection of the two reserves with an overland track. Walkers began undertaking this journey, but with a growing concern of walkers getting lost, Bert Nichols, a fur trapper, blazed the trail and marked a track from the Pelion Plains to Lake St Clair, which ended up connecting the loose network of existing tracks throughout the region. By 1935, sufficient funds secured the formal works of developing a proper track that would be suitable for both guided tours and packhorses.
The track was finished in 1937 and unofficially named the “Overland Track.” Austrian immigrant Gustav Weindorfer had campaigned for improved road access to Cradle Mountain to increase tourism and visitation, but it was the demand for timber that became the impetus for proper road construction. The Commonwealth Government funded the road reconstruction into an all-weather vehicular track in 1941. Logging eventually came to an end, and in 1971, the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair Reserve became a State Reserve. By 1982, the area was inscribed in the Tasmanian National Parks World Heritage Area. In 1986 the track received major hut and track upgrades.
From 1500 walkers in 1971-72 to 8,800 walkers in 2004-05, the Overland Track became a wilderness journey mecca.
So how popular is the Overland Track and who walks it?
I got in touch with the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service to get an insight into the most current trends and stats for the region's top trail.
Based on the Walker Survey from 2017-2018, the Overland Track recorded a variety of walkers, including 17% of international walkers, 71% from interstate, and 12% from Tasmania, between the regular peak season from October to May.
Over 60% of walkers described their occupation as either a manager or a working professional. Furthermore, from earlier surveys, the majority of walkers have had a university degree.
Walkers obtained their information from a wide variety of sources before planning their walk on the Overland Track. 22% have had previous experience walking the track, 36% have had a friend or relative walk the track, 21% have read a guide book, 35% have consulted Maps and Notes published by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, 64% have used the general website of Parks and Wildlife, and lastly, 58% have consulted the official Overland Track website.
Since 2005, a booking system was implemented due to increasing track popularity. In 2005, 10,860 people were permitted to walk the trail from north to south between November and April, with 60 departures capped per day. For 2005, the PWS (Parks and Wildlife Service) estimated that 7,500 walkers walked the track over the full 12-month period.
In the booking season for 2017-2018, 19% of walkers did the trip solo. But the majority of walkers travelled in groups of 2 (40%), or 3 (12%), or 4 (12%). Again, solo bushwalking is never encouraged or recommended. But this practice is becoming more evident, and thus, extra safety precautions and up-skilling is essential (this statement is not endorsed by TAS parks). The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service does not encourage solo winter walking because of the nature of the conditions and safety reasons.
Fast forward to 2019, the walker capacity & cap per day is set to 34 individual walkers. About 8% have completed the Overland Track in the off-season (4 months of June to September) but the vast majority of walkers (92%) will walk the track between the peak season between October and May, which includes the more favorable conditions of Spring, Summer, and Autumn conditions. I stress that the off-season, which includes the winter conditions, are suited to only the very experienced and well-prepared walkers who are used to variable extremes, track navigation, and excellent fitness levels.
With social media influence on growing trail popularity, I am always curious about the number of accidents/rescues that happen as a result. From meeting a variety of walker types throughout my hiking & trekking experiences, I come across a lot of ill-prepared walkers and thus, statistics about rescues on popular trails is really important to understand how serious of an undertaking these activities are. Though Tasmania Parks does not have a comprehensive set of data on this, their mission is to encourage, support, and educate walkers on the importance of safety by walking in groups. Alongside Tasmania Parks, I personally stress that solo walking is not encouraged for both inexperienced and experienced walkers. Nature has much more looming over us than we can often comprehend. Walkers need to be appropriately prepared for all conditions of extremes and understand that ill-preparedness puts rescue missions and services of PWS in dangerous situations.
Overall, the number of walkers walking the Overland Track has increased every year since the inauguration of the booking system in 2005. In 2009, around 8,000 walkers traversed the Overland Track, which subsequently increased to 9,000 in 2017. From 2017 onwards, the number has remained steady of roughly 9,000 walkers per year (give and take). All income associated with the booking system is re-invested into the Overland Track and the TWWHA (Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area).
For all up-to-date trail updates and bookings for Tasmania’s Overland Track, head over to the official TAS Parks website here: CLICK HERE
Preparation - Some people enjoy planning their trips on a spur of the moment basis, while others like to take the time to methodically prepare for their plans, usually over the course of a few months. Presently being a student, I found out about my school break kind of last minute. I personally took about 2 weeks to prepare everything for this trek. This involved organising my flights, pre-trek accommodation, and transport logistics first. Once that was out of the way, I began creating an equipment pile and organising a list of missing tools I needed to buy/rent. Lastly, I took on the meal preparation aspect and continued to revise it over the two weeks as new ideas and collaborations came about.
When I arrived in Launceston, northern Tasmania, I went straight to one of the premium gear stores to buy my gas canisters and get some local knowledge of the track, and gather some personal experiences from the staff. Launceston has great choices when it comes to adventure gear. Here are the go-to independent shops on my list: Aspire Adventure Equipment, Find Your Feet and Allgoods.
The peak season is 1 October – 31 May.
The winter season is 1 June – 30 September.
*N.B. there is a 3-year track improvement project beginning in 2019/2020
Park Passes – (information as of 2019)
You need 2 in the peak season and only 1 in the winter.
You will need a National Parks Pass.
National Parks Pass - CLICK HERE
Tasmania Parks Packing List - CLICK HERE
You must carry a tent for shelter safety purposes. Aim to have a winter tent or an all-season tent as the weather can vary in the alpine. In addition, prioritise a well-insulated sleeping bag and a good quality lightweight mat! Refer to my LighterPack for a more in-depth list.
Shoes for Overland Track - Firstly, choose boots that have excellent traction, are waterproof and have solid ankle support. If your feet are narrow or wide, you’ll need to look into specific brands that will support the structure of your foot. If your feet are wide and you require a wide toe box, look into Vivobarefoot, Keen, Merrell and Danner Trail. If you have narrow feet, some recommendations are Salomon, Asolo, Scarpa, Danner Light, and Lowa.
Socks - Injinji toe socks are one of the best investments I have made in the last few years into blister prevention. I could not recommend these enough. They go on every adventure with me and they even make merino wool socks too!
More on blisters - I recently learned a tip from a Canadian ex-Olympian, Clara Hughes. She recommends applying paper tape on high friction areas every day for 4-6 weeks prior to a trek, to build better skin resilience with the extra layer. Apparently you can buy it at the dollar store (Canada specific?) or a particular brand she mentions is the 3M Micropore Paper Tape. I will definitely give this a go during my next pack-training prep!
Trekking poles - I’m not used to using these because most of my hikes growing up have been full day scrambles. For long-distance walking using trekking poles transfers your body and pack weight over a greater surface area because of the action behind extending your arms in front of you. This can help support you in areas of unstable footing, creek crossings, and mud. It’s worth the investment to purchase carbon lightweight poles.
(personal costs as of June 2019):
Flights - Fly into Devonport (northwest), Launceston (north), or Hobart (south) — all are great options.
Overland Track Accommodation - There is lodging at both ends including a hotel, female/male dorms, and powered, unpowered tent sites.
Shuttles to from the Start and Finish Points - CLICK HERE
You must check who operates in the winter and be ready to pay up! You’re looking at paying anywhere from $75 to $400 AUD one-way. It’s outrageous at first glance, but it’s the low season, unfortunately, and the operators need to make this living and put food on their table. Call a few shuttle companies to see who else might be traveling on the day you intend to, and this can reduce the winter fees. Booking in the low season far in advance is not necessary, as road conditions can vary, but giving the company a heads up of when you intend on traveling to Lake St Clair or Cradle Mountain is a great idea! Alternatively, see if you can pay a friend to drive you!
I used McDermott’s Coaches, which cost me $75 from Launceston to Cradle Mountain.
Lodge (price as of June 2019). Because this shuttle service also does its own small
tours around Cradle Mt. you will be with other tourists who will not be undertaking the walk. Be advised that while this shuttle service departs Launceston early in the
morning, it doesn’t get to Lake St Clair until around 11 am or later dependent on road conditions.
You then add the shuttle from the visitor center to the trailhead, and you’re starting Day 1 around lunchtime. McDermott’s does not provide a shuttle service from the trail end at Lake St Clair Lodge back to Devonport or Launceston. You will need to find another shuttle provider for that. I was able to join an existing booking which reduced our individual cost.
Visitor Centre Shuttle - From Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, you collect a shuttle token, and take a bus to Ronny Creek, which is the start of the Overland Track trail. Sign the logbook here at Ronny Creek.
Getting an early start to the day - I would recommend pitching a tent at the Cradle Mountain campground to get an early start on Day 1 if you intend on summiting both Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff Mountains. If you have no intention of bagging peaks, you will be fine to start Day 1 later in the morning. Look up “Discovery Holiday Parks Cradle Mountain” to see their listings.
There are options for every price range.
As I come to the final phase of completing my sports development and fitness diploma, here in Australia, I take my training and coaching very seriously. Physical and mental preparedness is essential in driving outdoor success and confidence! I think it’s always a good sign when you slightly underestimate your abilities so that you take your own training seriously and put in the time and discipline needed for your expedition.
Having a high fitness level myself, but being relatively new to long-distance gallivanting, I hope to offer an objective take on the physical demands that the OT brings specifically, and my training recommendations to set you up for a solid trek.
As an experienced hiker, I would class the Overland Track as a great entry point for
taking on a multi-day self-supported trek experience. If you are already committed to your training of 5-6 days a week, this trek will be a moderate challenge depending on the conditions. Varying alpine conditions will change the difficulty of the trek. The elevation gain and loss are quite average depending on the side trips and summits you add into your itinerary. Without any side trips, this trek is a “walk in the park”. It’s difficult because you carry all your supplies and food. But it’s “easy” because the daily mileage and elevation are not confronting.
Because hiking and long-distance trekking heavily utilises the posterior chain (the backside of the body), it's super important to balance out those demands with adequate focus on the anterior chain (front of the body) just as much. Remember, the key is to maintain muscular equilibrium.
Functional mobility – this means increasing the range of your joints (ankles, knees, hips, shoulders) – this is oftentimes under prioritized. Only when I started to do this daily, did I notice a massive change in how much body recovered after each outdoor session.
Sled pulls/pushes – this beautifully combines cardio, strength, and mobility all in one.
The best bang for your buck movement: but remember, if you don’t stretch the
components used in these pushes and pulls, your muscles get glued together and
Daily stretching and foam rolling – highly reduces risk of injury – using a travel tennis ball or lacrosse ball to get in some nooks of the body should become your next packing essential!
Accessory exercises – don’t forget about the tibialis (shin) and calves, all 3 gluteal muscles, latissimus dorsi, and pectorals! Each of these offers incredible full-body support that when neglected, doesn’t allow the whole body to perform at its finest. If you’re using trekking poles, you’ll want to mobilise and then strengthen your lats!
Upper and Lower – I like to focus on 2 upper body and 2 lower body sessions that
combine strength and mobility – its not just about the load, its about the specific
Pack Training – It is also just as important to train with a heavy pack and include a few sessions a month of taking your pack for a walk, a hike, or simply a walk on the treadmill. The idea here is to get your body adjusted to the pack and the weight and learn how to manipulate the straps in a way that will work best for your body. During this time you’ll also see if the backpack you have is suitable for you.
If you feel confident adding the above into your daily routine, you can feel confident that your preparation for the Overland Track will be solid.
How to fit a pack
Welcome to Part II of my Overland Track journey. In this post, I am going to share with you my raw adventure trail notes, introduce you to the flora and fauna of the region, and share with you the incredible geology of the landscape.
In this post, I share my daily trail notes from my first solo trek and a first-hand account of the thoughts and feelings I had throughout my journey. Drawing from my years of summiting mountains in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and outdoor guiding around Europe, I used my knowledge and solid physical competence to make the trail a proper challenge and have a go at dealing with the unexpected.
All right, let’s dive in!
Why is the Overland Track so popular?
Trail Notes from my 5-Day Solo and Self-Guided Overland Track
Direction - I chose to walk from North (Cradle Mountain) to South (Lake St Clair). In the winter, this can be hiked in either direction.
DAY ONE – 9 June 2019
The Walk - Commencing at Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut via Marion’s lookout, Kitchen Hut, Cradle Mountain Summit, around Barn Bluff Mountain and across button grass moorland and snow; descending into Waterfall Valley to retire for the night at Waterfall
Kitchen Hut was built by the Connells in 1939 and was named after a nearby creek known as The Kitchen, for its useful place to boil water before/after summiting Cradle Mountain.
Summits to hike (weather permitting) - Cradle Mountain (1545m), Barn Bluff (1559m)
The Hut - The gas heater worked (hallelujah!). I dried my socks and boots, stretched, had my first hot meal, and huddled into my sleeping bag early.
Waterfall Valley Hut: can sleep up to 24 people/tent sites on the grass near the old hut, no tent platforms
Old Waterfall Valley hut: can sleep, 4 people
The Weather - Blissful and fantastic. The sun was out, the air was fresh and crisp, and the track was partly covered in snow, with a glowing sunset to end the day. The summit to Cradle Mountain was breathtaking with 360-degree views of the glacial landscape.
Day 1 Trail Stats - 16.7km including Cradle Mountain Summit / 6.07hrs / 2461 calories / 878m ascent
Biggest Victory - Meeting 3 lovely fellow hikers and summiting Cradle Mountain
Biggest Mistake - Not having spare shoes or trail moccasins to change into at night.
Geology and Environment - Central Tasmania’s landscape has been shaped by moving ice over the last 2 million years, during several ice ages, with the most recent one being about 10,000 years ago. Glaciers have shaped this rugged landscape that we enjoy today. The jagged peaks of Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff are known as nunataks. These peaks were left exposed above the ice while the movement of ice rounded other summits in the area. There are many ridges and moraines in the Cradle valley that are made up of glacial deposit remains after the ice melted. They support plant life and usually become water abundant.
Altitude - Day 1 was physically challenging and the most taxing of my 5 days. The most elevation was gained on this day because of summiting Cradle Mountain. Like any start to a multi-day trek, the first day will always feel the hardest. I was adjusting to my 22kg pack, the altitude, and the conditions. I always need to remind myself to start the first day with realistic ambitions. If I push too hard on Day 1, it will shape the rest of my walk, and usually, in a negative way.
Flora and Fauna - Plantlife is slow in these alpine areas and also fragile due to human intervention from trampling. There are very few trees, leaving the vast open valleys exposed to high winds and rough climatic conditions. The soil is shallow and composed largely of dead plant material and slow weathering of the dolerite rock. Soil erodes easily due to the weather conditions. Fires (controlled/uncontrolled) allows for both modern germination and death. The native pines, for example, cannot recover after a fire. Some burnt native pines along the track are 1000 years old!
DAY TWO - 10 June 2019
The Walk - Waterfall Valley Hut and Windermere Hut via Lake Will.
Today began with 40-50km/hr winds and a whole lot of rain. The walk itself was cruisy. It followed an easy border track for the most part with an optional short side trip to Lake Will. The journey took me through heathland, amongst the alpine gums, and around the rim of the Waterfall Valley cirque. Where glaciers once covered these plains, today we witness the shallow tarns created by the carving effect. There are no significant climbs today. Upon reflection, I would skip this hut to add mileage. In favorable conditions, I would backtrack to summit Barn Bluff the next morning before continuing onwards.
Today proved to be a very wet day. It’s no surprise why the rainforest does so well here! At one point I put my hand into my jacket pocket to take out my phone only to find it had been sitting in a giant puddle of water. I check the other pocket, and the same thing: 1/4 rainwater deep pockets. Funnily enough, this region is known for its annual rainfall of 2800mm!
Windermere Hut: can sleep up to 16 people / numerous tent platforms
Day 2 Trail Hack - For cold feet boil water and place in a water bottle or cautiously into a water bladder to warm any part of the body needing it. I ended up getting so cold I thought it was the onset of hypothermia.
Hypothermia is a silent killer and you need to be careful. I was wet, and again, no spare shoes to change into, making my feet exposed to the cold. In my head, I became frantic and nervous, but I knew I had emergency hand warmers if I became desperate. I thought, if day 2 is this bad, it could still be worse so I didn’t use them!
Because the weather can change very rapidly on this track, it’s important to plan for the unexpected. Hypothermia has taken many deaths on this particular track, so it’s important to be extra prepared for wet, wild, and uncomfortable situations.
Day 2 Lesson - Don’t let your surroundings dictate how you act or feel. Let your current experiences shape your future ones. Own the mistake, and observe others, and learn from your observations. Talk to people, don’t be scared to ask what hacks fellow campers use. It’s the greatest tool we have to share our knowledge and learn new things.
Day 2 Trail Stats - 11km / 2.42hrs / 1046 calories / 239m ascent / 265m descent
Equipment Shout-out - Gaiters! A must-have for protection against snakes (esp. in the summer), and mud and floods (esp. in the winter)
DAY THREE – 11 June 2019
The Walk - Windermere Hut to New Pelion hut via Old Copper Mine and Old Pelion Hut.
During today’s stretch, I passed through a myrtle beech rainforest. Autumn colours of gold, orange, and deep red covered the track. Upon reaching frog flats (apparently known for leeches), I hit the lowest elevation point of the whole Overland Track. With a steady climb towards the Pelion Plains, I walked through a eucalypt forest with incredible fungi. The rain had slightly subsided, which allowed me to whip out my DSLR and capture some beautifully bright coloured fungi.
New Pelion Hut: can sleep up to 36 people / 1 large tent platform and numerous grass tent sites.
Summits to hike weather permitting - Mt Oakleigh
The Weather - The day started decently with a light mist. Then it progressed to showers but the track itself was abundantly flowing with water from the overnight rains. Anywhere from 5-20cm of running water on the trail was typical. Due to the abundance of water and poorly drained moorlands, its no wonder the button grass does so well! Arriving at New Pelion only to find out the gas heater wasn’t working slightly dampened my spirits. If I had spare footwear, I wouldn’t have minded that the heater didn’t work, so the fault is on me. I think when you go wander in the bush, there should be no expectations of comfort. For me, only because I had experienced the bliss of a heater on night 1, did I feel annoyed that it wasn’t working at New Pelion.
However, this evening was warmer. I still used my camelback with hot water to keep warm. Unfortunately, the hot water did slightly seep out of my hydration bladder, so note to self, don’t fill it up to the brim, because the hot water will loosen the twist cap.
The next morning I struggled with putting on my wet socks and other gear, this experience was truly cringe-worthy. Despite the hard conditions, today’s walk was long and solitary, it was delightful. I didn’t end up seeing a single soul until I got to the copper mine turn off just before the hut!
Equipment Shout-out - A shout-out goes to my Nalgene BPA free drinking bottle and my SteriPEN to treat my water. Having a wide-mouth drinking bottle makes it super easy to use a SteriPEN for treating. The SteriPEN uses 2 batteries to power a UV light that treats 1L of water in
about a minute. It’s fast and light!
*N.B. there are rainwater tanks at every major hut! You just need to carry enough water for one day. In general, I find that in the winter, water consumption tends to be lower than in the summer. For both seasons, I recommend a minimum of 2L.
History - The land has been home to Australia’s Aboriginals for over 40,000 years. Their presence is mostly found through stone artifacts, quarries, campsites, shelters and fire sites which all exude their sustainable and symbiotic relationship with the land. The landscape that the Overland Track traverses has evidence of The Big River Aboriginal settlements, including areas around Lake St Clair, the lower Narcissus Valley, and Cradle Valley. The Big River Aboriginal people were still living in these areas up until their capture between Barn Bluff and Lake Windermere in the 1830s.
Thereafter, the land was utilized for cattle grazing, mining, and trapping and hunting for the fur trade. In 1870, a guidebook was written after the discovery of Lake St Clair, attracting the first painters, explorers, adventurers, and photographers. Mineral and resource exploration and exploitation continued till the 1930s, and cattle grazed the Pelion Plains till the 1950s.
Day 3 Trail Stats - 10:07am / 6:43’55hrs / 22.88km / 2817 calories / 450m ascent / 602m descent
DAY FOUR -12 June 2019
The Walk - New Pelion Hut and Windy Ridge Hut [The Hut right after New Pelion Hut is Kia Ora]
I passed amongst some of the oldest forests of King Billy Pines today. They are 2000 years old and it’s truly incredible to witness the survival of these pines!
Kia Ora can be an optional hut to stay in. I skipped this hut because I preferred to continue walking onwards instead of being cold and cooped up in a hut from noon onwards. Around what felt like a halfway point of my walk, I came across the side trips to see some waterfalls. I only went to go see the Hartnett Falls because it was bucketing down with rain at this point.
Before reaching the junction to the D’Alton Falls, I had met a fellow solo trekker, and she had suggested prioritizing the Hartnett Falls if I was just going to choose one side trip. The Hartnett Falls was truly breathtaking and flowing with abundance, I would highly recommend both side trips if the conditions safely allow for it.
Kia Ora Hut: can sleep up to 20 people / numerous tent platforms
Windy Ridge Hut (aka Bert Nichols Hut): can sleep up to 24 people / numerous tent platforms.
N.B. Du Cane Hut: this is not an official hut, it is meant for overnight emergency purposes only. The hut still stands from 1910 - the good ole’ days of animal trapping.
Side trips - Weather conditions and personal safety permitting.
D’Alton and Fergusson Falls, Hartnett Falls. The terrain consists of slippery tree roots whilst descending a steep path, caution in wet conditions must be taken]
In the early 1900s, Paddy Hartnett, a hunter, prospector, and pioneer led guided walks in the Du Cane and Pelion Area and built the Du Cane Hut as a residence. This opened the door to guiding. In 1912, Gustav’s Waldheim Chalet, meaning “forest home” opened to tourists, and by the 1920s Gustav Weindorfer was leading guided walks around Dove Lake, up Cradle summit and Barn Bluff summit. Around this time, Bert Nichols also commenced extended guided trips along the overland route to Lake St Clair.
Hunting was common to supplement household income and food supplies. Weindorfer hunted for food and the fur trade. He was known for offering his guest's wombat stew. But in 1927, hunting became illegal following the protection of Cradle Mountain Reserve and Lake St Clair Reserve under the Wildlife Sanctuary. This included Pelion Plains in the 1930s.
The Terrain - What a bloody hard day! Cold, windy, bucketing down rain every minute of the day, the third day in a row – elevation gain in these conditions was arduous and long. From rock hopping to crossing wide streams, climbing upstream for what felt like hours on end, to sloshing through copious amounts of mud. Being wet all day added that extra element of hard.
Meeting Fellow Solo Trekking Gals - I met 2 other solo trekking gals. They were both travelling solo but south to north, while I was travelling north to south. We gave each other victorious high fives and words of encouragement. This helped to feel more empowered and less alone in completing a difficult walk! There is comfort in knowing that someone else is out there, having a hard time, but more importantly, pushing strongly through it.
The Ups and the Downs - Identifying my weak moments on the trail was important to me. It reminded me that I have a soft shell too. These moments reminded me that I am resilient and that I can get through what I set out to do. This day made me appreciate my little luxuries and little wins. When it would get hard on my own in the bush, I would find myself questioning why the hell I was doing what I was doing despite my strong passion for what I do.
Questioning even the good stuff is no fun, but allowing it to happen is
important. Trekking is not all glory days, and that’s ok. Remember, just because you love something, doesn’t mean there won’t be a hard day to get through.
Humble Beginnings - On this day, I reflected on the life change my parents made – escaping the communist regime in the Czech Republic in 1984 to start a new life in a new country and coming out on top! Their hardships will forever be foreign to me. But the voluntary hardships I put myself through allow me to relate in my unique way to my parents’ journey and their hopes of starting a new life in a country they could help build.
Day 4 Trail Stats: 6:55hrs/25.17km/2696 calories/704m ascent/610m descent.
DAY FIVE - 13 June 2019
The Walk - Windy Ridge Hut and Cynthia Bay at Lake St Clair via Narcissus Hut and Echo Point Hut.
I knew today would be my last day on the famous Overland Track. However, I did not anticipate the difficulty of this last leg and I walked more on this one day with the fully loaded heavy pack (26kg) that I ever have! I was so in my head about how I was totally over walking in deep waters and being soaked right to the bone, that I lost sight of the beauty of my discomfort and how I could exercise mind over matter tactics. From Windy Ridge, I found myself in a military rhythm of marching. I find I need to count my steps (usually up to 8), to zone out, but today, I struggled to even stay within the zone.
I walked along the undulating hills of Australia’s deepest natural lake, Lake St Clair. This lake was shaped by glaciation over two million years. I am always in awe and so grateful to see and explore the corners of the world that I read about. But this lake stretch felt never-ending. Considered to be the easiest and ‘flattest’ section of the entire trek made every little hill climb feel like a lie in the Overland Track guidebook. I felt rather discouraged to stay strong because there were no new sights or views to excite me, so today was a journey of finding that silver lining.
Through the physical pain that began making every step hurt and more difficult, I found myself in awe of my accomplishments. I don’t recognize these too often, because I’m almost embarrassed to think that what I’ve done is noteworthy. Despite this, I realized I conquered some inner pain, some physical challenges, my first solo trek and feeling what it is like to momentarily hate something I love so much. So at the 20km mark, I allowed myself to feel the emotions of my pain. My eyes glossed over with tears, and I was ok with that. I arrived at Echo Point, and to my delight, the ladies I met at Windy Ridge the night before were resting there. They kindly gave me some ibuprofen to ease the pain I felt in my right achilles tendon and lower back. We drank some hot tea, and then I carried on to the finish line.
Like any finish line, it always seems to be excruciatingly far. Every sign I saw that pointed me closer and closer to the end, seemed to be deceiving in both, time and distance. As my pace got slower, the finish line felt farther! The never-ending gravel path used by tourists keen for short exploratory park walks seemed ever so arduous.
But the end was near. The first few buildings and cars came into sight and my eyes glossed over again. I could see the end, and I was nearly there. With my fingers frozen, toes numb, and a tear escaping my eye, I reached the end and sat down on the bench. All the pain was instantly over. I wasn’t tired and I wasn’t hurting. I was just feeling the immeasurable lightness of being.
Pine Valley Hut side trip: can sleep up to 24 people/tent capacity: 2 large and 2 small tent platforms.
Narcissus Hut: can sleep up to18 people/tent capacity: 2 large and 2 small tent platforms
Echo Point Hut: can sleep, 4-8 people
Overnight side trip
Pine Valley Hut – reaching the halfway point to Narcissus Hut, there is a turn off for Pine Valley Hut. I did not do this side trip, but a fellow hiker during my trek did, and he told me it was lovely. He mentioned the view of the Du Cane Range and hiking the Acropolis was well worth it! The day I had reached this turn-off, I didn’t think for a moment that the weather could improve, and therefore I didn’t think twice about skipping this side trip. If the conditions allow for this side trip, I highly recommend adding it to your itinerary. Pine Valley is named for its large pencil pines in the valley and the Du Cane Range is named after Tasmania’s Governor, Charles Du Cane (1869-1874). Though this side trip isn’t part of the official Overland Track, many people add it to their overall journey.
Others choose to come back to complete this as a separate overnight trip and make time to explore the Acropolis and enjoy some solitude.
Day 5 Trail Stats - 35.05km/9.15hrs/2948 calories/298m ascent/390m descent
Logbook Sign out across the Visitor Centre - I reached the Lake St Clair Lodge, parked my heavy pack by the entrance, and made my way over to the logbook to sign out and mark the end of my track. I treated myself to a night at the lodge. I hadn’t organized any post-trip logistics, so upon ending my around 4 pm or so, I wasn’t up for figuring anything out. Instead, I was the only guest in the entire lodge, checked in. I enjoyed a very quiet immersion back into civilization. I washed all of my clothing in the shower of my hotel room and hung it up around the whole room.
Everything dried out perfectly. The next morning I felt incredibly fresh with warm clothing. I was as happy as a bean. I waited for 2 fellow hikers that day to complete their last stretch, and I jumped on a shuttle they had organized, to Devonport. I enjoyed a night in Devonport before continuing back to Launceston where I hired a car and flew by the seat of my pants for the next 9 days circumnavigating Tasmania.
Leaving Lake St Clair Information - Upon completing your Overland Track, you have a few options. You can either stay the night at the lodge, camp at an unpowered/powered site, or stay in the simple female/male dorms. If you do not have a pre-booked shuttle, you can order one for the next day (upon availability), or can you ask the lodge to assist you with a shuttle booking. I would avoid pre-booking an exit shuttle because your walking end date may be unpredictable. Giving yourself the flexibility to enjoy a long walk with detours or a short walk from point A to point B if the conditions are unfavorable, will keep your mind at ease.
It is inexpensive to stay at the campsite/dorms at Lake St Clair if you need an extra day for your shuttle to arrive. Again, call a few different shuttle companies to determine the best option for you and cross-compare prices.
Overland Track Food and Meal Preparation
Nutrition is very individual and personal. For this trek, I generally woke up around 7/8 am and right from the morning until dinnertime, I consumed warm liquids all day. I mirrored my regular day-to-day patterns from home, which involve consuming solid foods after intense physical output.
My body runs better on an empty stomach, enhancing my physical performance. By fasting while I trek, I keep the blood flowing through my body instead of diverting that blood flow to my digestive system. Utilizing liquids also kept me well hydrated, especially given it was wintertime in Tassie.
I still had a few carbohydrate meals as back up as I wanted to test out a variety of foods to see what would work best for me. I found that having some carbohydrates was still nice because it added a bit of variety. What also worked well for me was adding bone broth powder for that extra nutrition boost!
On days that I was more mentally fatigued, I tend to crave carbohydrates.
That’s where Clif bars came to the rescue! It’s important to listen to the body, and not deny it of what it is asking for.
Daily Meal Breakdown for The Overland Track
I partnered with a Ketone company called Prüvit (local to Australia + ships globally). I used 2 packets of Prüvit every day for 5 days.
Packet 1 - The first packet had all the essential fats I needed to fuel me and satiate me. I would boil about 300-500ml of water and drink this slowly in the morning. This warmed me up on those chilly mornings.
Packet 2 - The second packet was a ketone formula including the essentials vitamins that I would be depleting each day. Because it was winter, I chucked this powder in my insulated bottle with lukewarm water. This is something I sipped on throughout the day, from around 10/11 am till about dinnertime.
This was the first trek that I used camping food on. I kid you not, I never had dehydrated or freeze-dried camping food before doing the Overland Track. I had bought some camping food from Canada and some from Australia and used a variety of brands on this trip to find what I like. When I got around to eating dinner, I didn’t end up feeling very hungry. Thinking this was a bit off, I forced myself to eat regardless.
In retrospect, my body had adjusted to not needing very much fuel to carry out the demands I was putting it through. I took note of this and decided to pay attention to this lack of hunger for the next trek I would do.
There are a lot of schools of thought around what the best way to nourish yourself whilst trekking. We all have unique and individual metabolic types. In nutrition today, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Your nutritional choices should simply reflect the goals you set for each particular trek.
I’d love to hear from you if you have a unique system of meal prepping for long-distance, multi-month treks! I’ve heard about NASA grade food prep, shrinking the stomach muscle to depend on less food, and so much more. I’m intrigued by the endless possibilities behind food prep!
10 meals packed, 5 consumed
Dinner Night 1
Campers Pantry Moroccan Pork [Protein and Carbohydrate] – absolutely delicious. A fantastic meal to add as a variety to a more protein-based diet. Will add a pack or 2 of carb-based meals for future treks.
Dinner Night 2
Backcountry Cuisine - Beef Mince and Vegetables with added bone broth powder, salt, and pepper. Not my favourite meal; it was very bland even after I had added my seasoning to it. Will continue to use Campers Pantry Cape Grim beef and Campers Pantry chicken breast from now on.
Dinner Night 3
Nomad Nutrition Co – Indian Red Lentil Stew and 2 Bačka sausages [Protein and Carbohydrate] – the stew was delicious and so were the sausages. Great flavour in both! I found the sausages were too tough to chew, so I will not be buying those again.
Dinner Night 4
Backcountry Cuisine - Beef Mince and Vegetables with added bone broth powder, salt and pepper. Same as Night 3; did not spark joy to eat.
7x 68g/serve: Clif Bars
5x 32g/serve: Benetto Mini Chocolates
70g total: Nuts and Seeds
Post Walk Reflections
I will begin by expressing that this walk is a great entry-level into multi-day trekking. The logistics are not complicated, there are shelters for increased security and comfort, and the mileage and elevation are very manageable. This trek can function as a great learning curve and training experience as you work towards your next multi-day adventure trekking goals. It’s a great walk to do solo as navigation is not difficult. I am glad that this was my first solo expedition because it instilled enough confidence in me to take on a more difficult challenge.
I learned about my equipment failures right from day one and my physical challenges by day 5. The individual growth that comes from an experience like this is and always will be unique to each individual. The beauty of solo trekking is that you get to experience something completely uninfluenced by someone else with you.
Ideally, with good conditions, I would recommend giving yourself a minimum of 7 days to have the chance of exploring all the side trips, summiting the different mountain peaks, and venturing out to Pine Valley. There is plenty of opportunities to explore and wander!
For me, hiking in Tasmania’s wild bush during the off-season was truly a peaceful and grounding experience. A solid 12 days post-trek I still struggled to feel full sensation in both of my big toes! But to be finished the walk felt quite surreal. All of a sudden I felt like I needed to backtrack my walk and find myself in the stillness of the dark eerie forest of Cynthia Bay. I skipped huts and powered through the km’s just to minimize the discomfort I was in. This ended up making me feel like I had made a grave mistake for rushing out of the bush.
My emotions took me on a rollercoaster ride from gratitude to disappointment, back to pride and then sadness. And though this was difficult, it was essential in setting me up for my next walk. This process has taught me about difficult decision-making and regret even when doing the fun stuff.
But what is regret? I recently listened to a podcast that discussed how we use the word regret and how we apply it. Often, we regret our actions or decisions. But while we may regret them, sometimes those are the moments essential to our life path to move us to where we need to be. I learned that I could still be happy with the outcome of something, even if I felt regret for the decision I made. I might have been disappointed with my decision to compress my walk in 5 days, but I did not regret it. The decision I made was one I needed to make at the moment, due to the circumstances, and it served a greater purpose.
From my first solo multi-day bush experience, I want to remind you that wherever your 1st or 100th journey takes you, sometimes you’ll want to rush the process and sometimes you’ll want to savor every minute of it. Not every experience will feel like a victory to write home about, but every experience will be an opportunity to evolve as an adventurer.
I ended up working well with the gear that I had but at times it was not easy. I will say this: it is worth the financial investment to get the good gear right off the bat. It’s worth getting ultra-light gear because it allows you to get more out of what you’re doing instead of worrying about the weight of your pack.
For my first solo trek, I was still learning the ropes behind my equipment choices and food preparation. I still don’t know where I stand with my food prep, but completing one trek at a time, I will get closer to solidifying how to best support my body via minimalist
If you have any feedback or questions that may not have been answered through my trail notes and personal account, I would love to hear from you!
Please leave a comment or question below!
Christine Zelezny is a vivacious mountain adventurer who was born to Czech parents in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada. At the age of three, her family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia where Christine embodied the West Coast mountain lifestyle. Growing up skiing and hiking the great outdoors with her brother and traveled extensively to climb mountains and learn more about different cultures and lifestyles around the globe.
Christine graduated with an Honours Bachelor Degree in Social-Cultural Anthropology, Archaeology, and English Literature from the University of Toronto, but found herself becoming a bike mechanic in Canmore Alberta, before becoming an outdoor cycling and hiking guide for Backroads Active Travel.
She has worked with international leaders in Canada and Europe, which has given Christine a beautiful insight into different walks of life whilst exploring the roads less traveled. Christine is currently living on the east coast of Australia, completing a Diploma in Sports Development and Fitness and exploring her life’s purpose one epic trek at a time. Her passion is to pursue a life long mission of self- discovery through solo long-distance trekking and later providing holistic coaching to other outdoor enthusiasts. Through Christine’s journey, you will have a chance to step into her boots and follow her on her first solo multi-day trek.