Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Overland Track: day 3

After a night at Pine Forest Moor Hut and another generous breakfast we headed out.

The day began with a long, slow descent around the base of Mt Pelion West, a peak that had dominated the skyline for much of the previous day. The track continued down to the Forth River at a point just before the river plunged down into the Lemonthyme Valley.

Scaring from a slip that took out trees right down the slope

This huge King Billy Pine had fallen over the track and was left in situ with steps cut into its trunk
I came across a group of Christmas Bells up above the track. None of the other walker spotted them. With full heads of flowers they surpassed the ones that we saw last January. The vivid red blooms stood out against the green and white.
All through the area we walked there were streams and cascades - some big and other quite small
Button grass plains abounded. The button grass provides an environment for an array of flora and fauna.

We had a break at Frog Flats beside the Forth River.

A profusion of flowering trees and shrubs greeted us at every turn
Next came a long slow ascent out of the valley up onto the Pelion Plains with views of Mt Oakleigh dominating the skyline.

Mt Oakleigh off in the distance ... the dominant peak for most of the day
The briefing for the days activities outlined what to expect if we took up the option of climbing Mt Oakleigh. We could expect waist deep mud and other challenges. You must be kidding! Waist deep mud? The mountain certainly did not look any more difficult to climb than a number I had already tackled so I opted in for climbing Mt Oakleigh.

The group going up Mt Oakleigh proceeded to the Pelion Hut where we gathered for lunch on its wide verandah with views across the button grass moor towards our objective.

The warm weather had brought out skinks by the truckload. They were happily sunning themselves on the boards and generally slipped off when they realised someone was approaching. The dominant species were the ocellalated and southern snow skinks.

Just before I reached the hut I had had a close encounter with a wrigglely thing that was sunning itself on a boardwalk and was tucked up against the board of a step down. I was already committed to step when I saw it and instantly did an almighty leap and hurried along the board before turning back to see what the snake was doing. Fortunately for me it was not chasing me but heading off through the surrounding vegetation.

Obviously being in the lead has its disadvantages!

Pelion Hut appeared to have some resident pademelons and wallabies.

Very cute.

After lunch we set out for Mt Oakleigh. We left our packs back at Pelion Hut and only carried a light pack with water and bare essentials.

The first part of the walk skirted a button grass plain before we cross a "river" which flowed in to Lake Ayr. The crossing was via a suspension bridge with a strict one person at a time limit. As the bridge was very bouncy this was a sensible precaution.

Once across the bridge we struck out across Pelion Plains. Pelion swamp would probably have been a more apt name. We had been directed to follow the existing track and not to go around it even if the puddles looked deepish. There is a great deal of concern that walking around the tracks is causing a broadening of the passage and environmental degradation. With this in mind our party collected a number of sticks that had been left, strategically, just over the suspension bridge. It was suggested that these would be handy to help us get through the water and mud as they could be used as probes and stabilisers.

The warning about waist deep mud was not an exaggeration. In places it was even deeper and we had to employ a range of strategies to avoid getting our light packs wet/muddy. Doing crawls along some of the deep stretches challenged our ability to stretch. In reality, while difficult, this was a very funny undertaking. It made mud wrestling look a tame pastime. The group was constantly in fits of laughter as one or other of us slipped or attempted to negotiate the mud.

Yes, the mud was really waist deep!

We finally cleared the worst of the mud. It had taken longer than expected as there were 8 of us heading up the mountain and that meant slow progress as we needed to wait for the whole party to clear the worst of the muddy spots before proceeding to the next.

Once throough the mud we headed up the slope of Mt Oakleigh. There were wet and muddy spots along this track, too, but not nearly as difficult to negotiate as those down below.

The summit of Mt Oakleigh is 1286m above sea level. It was a scramble over rocks to reach the summit with some great views as a reward.

On the summit of Mt Oakleigh. I'm 2nd from the left in the back row
Having achieved the summit we were faced with the return through the mud. Having been through it once we could only shrug and take it as it came. At least on the way down there would be no surprises!

Looking down on Lake Ayr from the side of Mt Oakleigh
Looking down across the Pelion Plains from Mt Oakleigh
Sun coming through the canopy creating patches of bright green
The passage across through the mud seemed to take less time on the return. Perhaps we were beyond caring about the mud and just plunged in.

Back at Pelion hut we retrieved our packs and headed off to our hut.

By the time we cleaned ourselves and got the worst of the mud off our clothes it was very late indeed. We were eating dinner at 9:30pm ... gourmet pizzas made by John which really hit the spot after a long day.

I'm not sure how far we actually walked. According to the walking notes it was 10km excluding the side trip to Mt Oakleigh, though. Even taking a straight line, as the crow flies, measure from Pelion Hut to the summit of Mt Oakleigh the return distance was at least 7km. Given that the track wound back and forth I think it could have been double that distance.

I almost forgot the leeches. The muddy section has alive with leeches. When I striped off while having my shower, initially we showered with our muddy clothes on so that we could remove as much of the mud as possible, I discovered that I was bleeding just above the waist. I had had a leech however it had had its fill and dropped off. At least I didn't have to deal with the blood sucker just the aftermath.


  1. Yikes, I wouldn't cope with the mud and the leech would have sent me screaming fir2 home

  2. Fortunately my blood sucking leech had already had its fill and dropped off so I did not need to deal with it