Going Overland (Part Vier)
At 5am the area is awash in white with its snow coat on. Snow is drifting more and more on to my head.
Missed part tres? Read it here
It was well after six in the morning before the hut started to wake from its slumber like an awakening grizzly from hibernation.
The guys in the tents relayed stories of midnight catastrophic tent collapses and drawn out battles with the elements. Not much sleep was had.
Everyone was a buzz with white powder excitement, and the hut was hectic with breakfast and hot drinks.
Today the Overland Track will go upwards to Du Cane Gap (another uphill to start the day!), with an elevation almost as high (1070 metres) as Pelion Gap. We’ll go past the historic Du Cane Hut (the first hut built on the Overland Track), before taking our journey to some waterfalls then up and over Du Cane Gap and gently down to Bert Nichols Hut.
I’ve never walked in heavy snow, so it’ll be a new experience for me.
Haere rā to Kia Ora Hut
After a quick group shot outside the hut in our rugged up gear, we were off.
We are walking in relatively protected forest, hidden from the increasingly harsh elements. Snow has fallen to the forest floor but not much is filtering through now.
It’s a battle of will between rain and snow.
The going is slow but not difficult. The path is steadily becoming a series of puddles with Indiana Jones booby-trapped hopping stones our only way through.
We are being caught by other walkers from our hut, so we perform our well-rehearsed four man give-way technique. The private groups lead guide comes bounding through in shorts and his 30kg pack “Excuse me, thanks!” he quips. He doesn’t miss a beat and like a thylacine, he disappears into the forest. The group comes through some fifteen minutes later.
The cover of the trees is receding. Much of the track is a mixture of snow, mud and slush. After a days rest to nurse his injured achilles, and carrying a lighter pack, Dad is making good time and is marching ahead. Tim is on the hunt for photos of fungi to show his kids. It’d be fair to say Stewart and I are trudging on.
The forest gives way to a clearing. Everything is white. Du Cane Hut is in the distance.
Walk This Way
The private group has set up shop in Du Cane Hut. Dad had a brief rest inside while waiting for Tim, Stewart and myself to catch up, but we don’t stick around. We keep going straight on, following foot prints in the snow. Our summery guide friend yells out from behind us “ Du Cane Gap is the other way”. We hadn’t even noticed the sign. That could’ve been a time wasting disaster. Thanks mate.
Now following the right track – There is a well-timed flurry of a snow shower.
The brief interlude of clearing was over and we return to the forest. The next section of forest leads on the Dalton, Ferguson and Hartnett Falls junctions, then the climb to Du Cane Gap.
We follow the wet forest dirt track, sometimes treading carefully through the puddle ridden, root laden pathway, sometimes marching through it.
There is little snow reaching the ground, but the falling rain is penetrating the trees.
The Water Falls
The junction to Dalton and Ferguson Falls came and went. The hour return and the wet track wasn’t enticing enough to go to Dalton and Ferguson. My thoughts are placed on Hartnett Falls as the priority of the waterfalls.
We negotiate some streams that had covered the track.
Trekking on we find we’re getting quite soaked. Despite our rain gear, the water is seeping-in. The puddles, streams and the constant water from the heavens are taking a toll.
My raincoat hood has slid off. My wool beanie is soaked, Rain has got in to my second layer. Worst of all, my right boot is no longer water resistant.
The junction for Hartnett falls is quite spacious. There are some packs laid up against trees. Some walkers have headed to Hartnett. Tim states he’ll go if I do. Dad and Stewart are not interested. They want to get out of the rain.
We’ve all but made our decision to split up when three walkers return from Hartnett and say it’s a terribly wet and muddy path, and that the falls are just crashing down and it took them twice as long on the way back.
Based on that information I change my mind, Tim puts is pack back on.
The Winter Search for Du Cane Gap
Collectively we have reached that point that the snow is no longer pretty, the forest is a swamp and we need to be dry. Plus we’re hungry for proper food, not just our snacks.
Let’s get the fuck outta here.
Du Cane Gap here we come – rain, snow and wind.
Pushing on through the slush and snow covered duckboards, we are doing our darndest to move at speed. I feel we’re going at a good pace, but we are still holding others up.
Healthwise, I’ve been really surprised at how well my asthma has been behaving so far on the trip. Barely had an issue.
The trees are no longer acting as a filter. The snow is amazing. When I stop for a breather I cannot help but admire the snowscape. It’s just surreal.
The weather is forcing us to keep our eyes down as there is really no visibility above. Cannot make out the range.
The creek crossings are getting dangerous. The rocks are slippery, the water is gushing too big and too fast to walk through.
Caught between snow and ice, the duckboards are a slippery mess. This is not enjoyable walking. The chance to be out of the weather spurs us on.
With little fanfare but with great relief, Tim and I reach Du Cane Gap.
The remainder of the walk to down to Bert Nichols hut is just a slug fest through the same conditions.
The Summer Hut
It’s a massive relief to get in to the hut and change out of the wet clothes into dry ones. So wet.
The newest and architecturally designed hut on the Overland Track is a glorified freezer unit. The foyer (or drying area) is packed with hanging drenched gear dripping on to the floor.
The dorms are full – no one is stupid enough to try camping out in that weather.
The common room is freezing, although it will warm up when everyone is cooking. It has the tiniest gas heater, situated high on the wall.
It’ll be a miracle if anything dries sufficiently in the hut tonight.
Dinner is a food fest. We have our last supper, then eat up our remaining soups in the thought that we are out of here tomorrow. No more dehydrated or rehydrated food. We’ll be eating real food in 24 hours – or less. Beautiful, glorious foooooood.
Recap Going Overland: