As most in the Tasmanian bushwalking community would know, volume one of the Abels – which is really quite old by now, and all but out of print – is being revised. When asked, I agreed to help out in whatever way I could in attempt to put back into something I’d got rather a lot out of. Some people were providing updates to routes, some were writing essays, others offered photos. I’d offered to help out with a few different things, the latest of which meant I got to go and check out Mount Kate (no complaints there!) to see if the current description could be better written.
I was beginning to wonder if it’d be wise, after little sleep and an interesting shift at work (one baker short, and initially no sales girl at 7am), but I figured I’d just go and see how things went. It was a lovely day, clear and sunny, and it was good to be out. But there was no forgetting it was still winter when I hit frost and ice in the shadowed bends of the road near Cradle.
4 hours after having set out, I had my gear on and was ready to start walking. The start was the bit I was there tho check out and therefore had to pay extra attention to: stay well below the huts and find an old 4WD track. I overdid it a tad (as I’m prone to) and stayed too low initially, having been warned that most people just head straight into the forest, but that was ok, as I figured I’d eventually hit it as I veered north. I did, and it was immediately apparent I was on it. No dramas, job done, the description was fairly solid!
I now had the rest of the walk ahead of me to enjoy, which is really quite a straight forward one that’s cairned, taped and padded to the summit, though the track clearly functioned as a river during wetter periods, which meant on days like today it had become an ice slide.
Walking up it on the ice was impossible (and painful!), so I stuck to the edges and sought out bits of scrub and rock that, while still frozen (they crunched under every step in protest), offered a little more purchase. This slowed things somewhat, and it also ruled out staying high for some sunset photos (there was no way I wanted to be walking back down that in the dark!).
As I walked up, I turned around and gave myself a pleasant surprise. I’m hopeless at reading walk notes that pertain to anything other than route description, so I’d completely skipped over the part that said the views from Kate were some of the best of Cradle. I only remembered reading it now that I was seeing it for myself! And it’s true. Kate itself is a nondescript bump in the landscape, but she offers spectacular views of Cradle (I took photos of little else!). I instantly decided I liked her!!
Progress was slow, more for my need to take another photo every few steps than to try not to slip on the still frozen track, but I didn’t really care. I hit the first bump after a slow 50 minutes, and had fun playing around on the small rocky outcrop there, where someone had built three cairns. If you weren’t interested in peak-bagging, this is as far as you really need to go. The views are lovely, the walk short and easy.
But that’s not me ;), so when I couldn’t justify staying any longer, I dropped down into the coral fern covered saddle, and headed back up the other side, through low alpine scrub. There was still a taped and cairned pad, though it was so open it wasn’t really needed, and I tended to walk wherever my photographic eye dictated (yep, even THROUGH the scrubbier bits). There was a lovely pine forest that needed exploring too, half of which had evidently been wiped out by a fire some time ago.
And then it was just me and the summit. I headed first to the very decent sized cairn, then further west where technically the highest ‘point’ lay (it was all very flat really). Despite all the distractions, I was up in the recommended 1.5 hrs (just), and figured it would be faster back, not least of all because every time I went flying on the ice it would be in the right direction (no less painful though)! I also thought I’d taken just about all the possible photos one could take of Cradle Mountain! Not so, it turned out!
As I headed back and down, the sun cast warm orange light on the tip of Cradle. I wished I hadn’t descended quite so fast, and was a little higher, but also knew I’d slipped over quite enough when I could see, and that it wasn’t going to get any warmer either. So I enjoyed it for what it was, before heading back to the car.
Definitely one I’d recommend doing, so long as you have views!
All up: An easy 2:45 hrs, 6.9km, 352m ascent.