The rains finally abated. I stole out of my tent to the helipad and watched the clouds dance over the imposing dolerite face of Mount Oakleigh while a thin layer of fog clung around its base.
The camp was not yet stirring. I took the opportunity to stretch out. It still amazed me how my brother had so astutely diagnosed and corrected the knee problems that have been plaguing me for the past ten years. IT band muscles are too tight, he’d said, then proceeded to press his thumb, painfully, into the side of my thigh. It had left a bruise, but by the next day, my knees were no longer sore! After that, I conscientiously kept massaging my thighs every chance I could. Yipee – no more knee pains!
A few people now joined me on the helipad, and we watched in companionable silence as the sun rays caught onto the lip of Mount Oakleigh, bathing its tips in a brilliant orange glow. It was going to be a good day.
Indeed, looking back, Day 4 of the track was our favorite day. For when we finally burst out of the eucalyptus forest into the plateau, Pelion Gap, the clouds had mostly blown off, revealing the stunning Pelion Range before us. We decided to tackle Mount Pelion East (1,433m), instead of the more imposing Mount Ossa (1,617m), primarily because we were still feeling a bit tired from the long hike yesterday. We could not all be Lea, nicknamed the Machine, a German medical student who had come on the trail alone. She had boundless energy, having sprinted through the 17km trail the day before and then summited Mount Oakleigh before dusk (even though no view was to be had given the rain). Today, she smashed Mount Ossa before we were even halfway up Mount Pelion East, then decided to summit Mount Pelion East as well.
Just as well. The views from Mount Pelion East was stupendous. Although we had to trudge through probably the muddiest section of the Overland Track first. I got stuck. Like knee deep stuck. And couldn’t extricate myself out. It took my brother to physically haul me out of the bog – while Jeff stood by laughing and taking pictures. Thanks.
We had to clamber over large broken boulders to reach the pillars, where we abandoned our trekking poles and relied on good old fashion scrambling to traverse the very last section to the summit. But so worth it.
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Gradual ascent through wet forest to Pelion Gap, followed by a gradual descent across buttongrass plains and through eucalypt forest to Kia Ora.
Track Surface: The climb to Pelion Gap is mainly on a natural surface (tree roots, muddy, rocky). The descent to Kia Ora includes muddy sections with some planking, cordwood and duckboard.
Warning: Pelion Gap is an extremely exposed plateau. In wet, snowy or windy weather, layer up with your water/windproof clothing before emerging out of the rainforest onto the plateau. Eat/drink in the shelter of the forest too.
Today is mountain day. You’ll start your walk at the same altitude as you finish, with Pelion Hut and Kia Ora Hut both at 850m in elevation. In between, however, you’ll climb almost 300m to Pelion Gap – and more if you choose to summit one of the peaks.
Start by ascending steadily through rainforest, at first following beside Douglas Creek. After a few hours, you’ll emerge from the forest onto Pelion Gap – the exposed alpine plateau between Mt Pelion East and Mt Ossa. If fine weather and time allows, you may choose to attempt to summit Tasmania’s highest mountain (Mt Ossa-1617m) or the slightly lower Mt Pelion East. Good views can also be had by climbing to the saddle between Mt Doris and Mt Ossa.
Leave your pack at the junction and carry a day pack with waterproof jacket, food, water, first aid kit, torch, map, compass, etc. Injury and death have occurred in the Tasmanian mountains. Don’t risk your safety, or that of your group. No matter how close to the summit you might be, it’s better to turn around if the weather closes in, rather than risk your party’s safety. The gradual descent from Pelion Gap to Kia Ora Hut through beautiful Pinestone Valley with views to your left of Cathedral Mountain, is a favourite part of the track for many.
After arriving at Kia Ora, you’ll find the delightful Kia Ora Creek just beyond the hut.