Overland Adventure – Logistics

In this section we look at what walk we want to do, the walk itinerary, track details, and how we will get to and from the walk.

When to go
Other than the various seasons, there are currently two periods for walking the Overland Track. The booking period is open from 1 October to 31 May and walkers pay a fee to walk the track during these dates. Walking direction is restricted from north to south.

Between 1 June and 30 September there is no fee to walk the track and walkers are free from the direction restriction that applies during the booking season.

So, the first question, for us at least, is “When should we go?” I’m a teacher, so an answer might be “during school holidays”. It would also be good to start the walk out of the booking season as this would save us some hundreds of dollars.

The third school term in Tasmania finishes on Friday 29 September 2017. This means that in order to start our walk outside the booking period, and take advantage of the fee-free period, we would need to leave on or before Saturday 30 September 2017. This is the date we are working toward.

What does that date mean?
We need to be at Cradle Valley to start our walk on Saturday 30 September. This means we need to be at Cradle Valley the night prior – Friday 29. The school term finishes on Friday 29, so I’ll need to take a leave day on the Friday to ensure we get to Cradle Valley in time.

ACTION: organise Leave Day for Friday 29 September.

My partner is a federal public servant, so she will need to take leave for at least Friday 29 and all the following week. So, six days leave.

ACTION: organise leave for the period from Friday 29 September to Friday 6 October.

Another logistical concern regarding the start date is possibly the weather. Weather on the track can be notoriously fickle. Snow storms and blizzards are possible all year round. Parks and Wildlife recommend keeping an eye on the Bureau of Meteorology for any bush walker weather warnings and adjust plans accordingly. This sounds like sage advice to us.

In the event there are no bush walker weather warnings, we still need to be prepared for snow and storms. This will be covered in the Equipment section.

However, if there is a bush walkers weather alert issued for the dates we want to be walking what do we do? It appears to us that there are two choices:

  • We wait for the weather event to abate, and pay to walk the track. This choice relies on our leave from work being long enough and flexible enough to accommodate such a wait. My leave is inflexible, but I will have a two-week window. My partner’s leave is flexible;
  • We postpone the walk and prepare another walk to fall back on;

My motto is that, when presented with a choice, you should choose all, and where you can’t choose all you should choose the hardest. In line with this, we need to plan to wait and pay to walk the the track, and plan a second walk just in case. A second walk should not be too difficult to organise, as we will already have our packs set to go. The question now is where should we go if this option is live?

ACTION: Plan a second, back-up walk – where to?

What will our Overland Track walk look like?
The Overland Track is more than just a single track from Cradle Valley to Lake St Clare. There are a number of side trips walkers can enjoy.

For instance, walkers can climb Cradle Mountain, Barn Bluff, Pelion West, Pelion East, Tasmania’s highest mountain Mt Ossa, Mt Oakley, and The Acropolis to name a few, and explore the Du Cane Range and the Traveler Range. Walkers can also enjoy Lake Wills, Hartnett, D’Alton, and Fergusson Falls, the Never Never and even Junction Lake.

Really, the walk can be as short or as long as time and our fitness allows. How many of these side trips we will take in is still a discussion point. Whatever we decide will definitely effect the length of our walk however.

While I have completed the track a number times this will be my partner’s first time. What are your thoughts? Which side trips would you recommend for us?

Track times
A major part of the logistics is to work out how long the walk will take us. This will determine the amount of food we take, and will directly impact on the weight we have to carry. While the food we choose to carry will be considered here, we can work out how many days we will need to pack food for here.

There are a number of great sources of information regarding basic track times. We have used John Chapman’s book Overland Track, and the Parks and Wildlife Daily Walk Notes. Both of these are good sources. The Chapman book is widely available at map shops and walking gear shops. I bought our copy online – $23 including postage and with a plastic sleeve. The Parks and Wildlife notes are freely available.

Unfortunately, track distance information in Chapman’s book does not match Parks and Wildlife information. For that reason I’ve included both for comparison in the table below. Walking times are as shown on the Parks and Wildlife information:

Location Distance JC Distance PW Time
Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley 10.4km 10.7km 4-6 hours
Waterfall Valley to Lake Windemere 7.0km 7.8km 2.5-3.5 hours
Lake Windemere to Pelion 14.2km 16.8km 5-7 hours
Pelion to Kia Ora 8.2km 8.6km 3-4 hours
Kia Ora to Windy Ridge (Bert Nichols) 8.6km 9.6km 3.5-4.5 hours
Windy Ridge to Narcissus 9.5km 9.0km 3-4 hours
Narcissus to Cynthia Bay 15.8km 17.5km 5-6 hours
Narcissus to Echo Point 5.7km 2.5 hours
Echo Point to Cynthia Bay 10.1km ~3 hours

These distances and times do not include sidetrips.

I understand that most walkers finish their walk at Narcissus Hut and catch a ferry, which currently costs $40 each person, to Cynthia Bay. Chapman has this to say about that: By taking the boat most walkers don’t complete the Overland Track. This continues south following the western side of Lake St Clair and provides pleasant, sheltered walking. It is well worth walking and is the recommended route to finish.

We need to decide if we will walk the complete track, as Chapman advocates, or whether we will cheat and catch the ferry. I am leaning toward walking the whole track, as this will be my partner’s first Overland Track experience. Please tell us what you think.

Please check back often
There’s more to come, so please watch out for our next installment!