Following the Skyline – The Cradle Mountain Traverse

High and Wide: Cradle Mountain Skyline &emdash; Cradle Mountain Pastels

When I say “Tasmania” what is the first image that pops into your mind? How about the second? My bet is that Cradle Mountain would be up there in the top three for many people. That iconic view of the mountain sitting over Dove Lake is hard to forget, and one that draws people in from around the world.

Located within the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the mountain itself is surrounded by a stunning array of native wildlife, clear alpine tarns, and numerous rocky peaks, all connected by a first-class network of tracks.

When I visited the park in late January this year it was my second time to the area. My first trip was 5 years ago with my now wife, and having never been to Tasmania previously it was the only place that I knew was a must-visit. We only stayed for one night on that trip, but it didn’t disappoint. The easy walk around Dove Lake at the base of the mountain left a lasting impression of gorgeous views, tiny moss gardens and of course, a desire to return one day and sample the more adventurous side of the park.

This year I made the trip to Tassie on my own, but was hosted in Launceston by friends Scott and Laura who moved down there last year. During our scheming in the lead up to the trip we settled on the Cradle Mountain Skyline Traverse as a possible day out. As I discovered on my last trip, it’s always wise to keep a few plans up your sleeve when heading to the Apple Isle; the weather often doesn’t play ball. Luck was on our side this time though, and towards the end of the week we made the trip up to the park and spent two nights.

High and Wide: Cradle Mountain Skyline &emdash; Coming Through

An echidna pushes its way through the undergrowth near Dove Lake

We arrived mid afternoon and after setting up camp at the holiday park headed straight in to Dove Lake. Being photographically like-minded, Scott and I spent the afternoon and into the night simply wandering around the tracks near the carpark taking shots, stopping intermittently to consult notes on our objective for the next day. Looking at the steep ridges on the picture-perfect silhouette of Cradle Mountain certainly had me excited, but nervous at the same time. Visions of scrambling unroped on narrow razorback ridges with huge drops either side kept jumping into my mind. Sleep wasn’t going to be easy that night.

High and Wide: Cradle Mountain Skyline &emdash; DSC06039

Stars over the full-moon lit landscape

After taking photos well into (and past) the never ending twilight, we eventually crawled into our tents after eleven. The lateness at least made sleeping easier as I tried not to let thoughts of the adventure to come crowd my mind.

———————————

After resisting the urge to throw my phone/alarm clock into the bush as it woke me, we ate a hasty breakfast. As we arrived at the Dove Lake carpark the sun was still sitting below the ridges to the east, but was high enough to light up the tips of those on the opposite side of the lake; a beautiful scene.

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06043 Panorama

Morning Light

We made good time on the flat, easy walking around the lake. The morning chill was soon forgotten as we all made stops to progressively strip off various outer layers; all the while, staring up at the rocky faces on the mountain above us.

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06057

Before removing the layers

The easy walking stopped abruptly once we hit the steep turn off to the face track. Ascending from beside the lake to near the base of the exposed slopes of the mountain, this connecting trail picks its way over and between rocky outcrops, bubbling creeks and exposed tree roots. On hitting the face track we turned left and continued until an obvious foot pad appeared leading up the side of Little Horn.

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06069

Ascending Little Horn

The ascent of the lesser of the Mountains’ two separated peaks was fairly straight forward. We did get our helmets out at this point just to be careful though, as there was some steep scrambling. As tempting as it is to skip this part of the skyline and head straight up Weindorfers Tower from the saddle, the view after this extra effort is well worth it. The hulking form of the remainder of Cradle Mountain looms ahead as a preview of what’s to come for the rest of the day.

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; Cradle Mountain Backside

The path ahead

Not far from the peak of Little Horn is the first of two abseils needed for the day. After dispensing with this and a couple of hairy down-climbs we found ourselves at the main saddle. As we approached the base of the steep, rocky slopes of Weindorfers Tower a potential route became more evident. Sure enough, there always seemed to be just enough of a path to allow reasonably safe passage as we forged ahead.

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; Sketchy Moments

Descending Little Horn

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; Watch Your Step

Carefully ascending Weindorfers Tower

After dealing with some stubborn alpine foliage and more scrambling we reached the top of the main tower. From this point things all became a blur of awesome views, exciting scrambling and an all-round excellent adventure. Two points along the ridge do stick out in my mind:

  1. The second abseil was fairly straightforward and obvious, made more-so because of various bits of tat still remaining. Ascending up from the small saddle after this was quite tricky though. Definitely a few “don’t-fall” sections.
  2. On approaching the final stretch of ridge we reached a point where a peak seemed to block our path. Eventually we found an exposed traverse up and around to the right where we decided to rope-up. I’m sure plenty of people would be happy without it, but we thought it best.
High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06114

Ascending the tower

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; On the Edge

Seat with a view

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06121

Ridge scrambling

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06136 Panorama

Looking back at Weindorfers

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06155

Roped up

From this point the options for travel became more flexible as the ridge widened to the left, and before long we were intercepting walkers heading for the peak on the traditional “tourist route”. The views from here are once again spectacular as you gaze towards Barn Bluff and beyond into the Tasmanian Wilderness.

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06161

Barn Bluff from the summit

At this stage you would ideally swap in your spare knees to deal with the long descent; firstly back down to Cradle Plateau, then secondly back down to the Dove Lake level. We chose to follow an alternate return track via Marions Lookout. This provided a brilliant view of the full skyline not otherwise visible from the carpark.

High and Wide: Tasmania 2015 &emdash; DSC06170 Panorama

The full skyline. As viewed from Cradle Plateau

At roughly 11 hours door to door it was a big day, but so often those are the ones that you remember most.

13 thoughts on “Following the Skyline – The Cradle Mountain Traverse

  1. Fantastic photos, Cameron! It’s such a beautiful spot. I’m not sure I could watch you guys abseil there though. Just a little too scary for me; however, I can understand how thrilling it must be. That’s an impressive “seat with a view”! Makes my attempt at hiking Mt Maroon look like a walk in the park! Do you actually get very nervous doing it or after years of practice, feel quite calm? Great post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ta Jane. Never! Adventures are what we make for ourselves and Maroon is no different. Doing something like this I find that I’m more nervous beforehand thinking about what it could be like. Once in the moment I think adrenalin kicks in a bit and it is ok. Practice definitely helps. One reason I started climbing 4 or so years ago was to try and help with my fear of heights.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I actually had a fear of heights and then decided to try to get over it. I started with the Pyramid at Girraween. Now I’m much better than I was. Perhaps one day I will try a little abseiling too! Hearing that you had a fear of heights before climbing is an encouragement. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post Cameron! You are taunting me because in September I do the Overland Track and am reading up all I can on the route. LOVE the photo captioned “Seat with a View”! That is what it’s all about. Beautiful photos as always, and wish I was there already!!! 🙂 Leah

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so glad you’re very skilled with a camera because climbing around the peaks is something I’m never going to do! I’m happy to walk across the Face Track and go up and down past Lake Wilks, but up and over…. um…I can feel the vertigo just looking at the “Seat with a view” photo!
    I’m also reminded of the old photos taken when Gustaf and Kate were exploring the area and bringing the very first tourists to the mountain. I simply cannot imagine how the ladies used to bushwalk in layers and layers of heavy long wool stockings and skirts! And not just an ‘easy’ ramble around the lake – they’d climb up the mountain with the men, some of them! Amazing!
    Thank you for the brilliant photos. You’re right, you know. When I think of Tassie, one of my first thoughts is Cradle Mountain / Overland Track because it’s my favourite place in the world.
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment Dayna. I was reading about some of that history of the area when I was down there. Amazing. Some of the women involved in the early (white) rock-climbing history up here in Queensland are also amazing. Serious guts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow the photos look epic
    I’m doing the overland track this winter
    I’d love to go back in summer and do this traverse
    Awesome picture the seat with a view and the down climbing
    What gear did you guys bring / end up using

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Daniel. Thanks for reading. Another person to be jealous of doing the overland. Have a blast.

      As far as climbing type gear we had a 60m rope, half a dozen long draw, nuts and a few hex’s and some tape to leave as abseil tat if needed.

      Like

      • Cheers for the info
        Hopefully I get some good pics from the OLT
        I think I’ll have to take a good look at the traverse while I’m walking past looks amazing !

        Liked by 1 person

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