Overland Track – Day 5

Pelion to Kia Ora

Early in the morning I woke up from that same strange bird I already noticed when I had dinner the night before. I think it was a Yellow Wattlebird – really hard not to notice their distinct voice when sleeping in a quiet forest.

I had been looking forward to this day because it was Christmas Eve and one of the sidetrips today was going to be Mount Ossa, the highest mountain in Tasmania. Of course I wanted to climb up there, it is simply great to tell people that you stood on top of Mount Ossa when they ask what you did on Christmas.

But it didn’t look very promising, it was very cloudy that morning and the mountains were covered in mist. I left around 9am and the first two hours I had to face a constant climb up to Pelion Gap, from where it would be a constant descent down to Kia Ora Hut. A fairly short walk overall, but the sidetrips make it interesting.

Overland Track near Pelion
Overland Track near Pelion

The walk up to Pelion Gap was very nice, through forest that reminded me of Lord of the Rings, the trees and the ground were completely covered by moss.

Around 11am I arrived at Pelion Gap from where the sidetrips to Mount Ossa or Mount Pelion East leave. Of course I wanted to go to Mount Ossa, but the top was still covered in mist and clouds. I knew that I shouldn’t climb up there in conditions like that, it can be very cold and windy and the weather can change anytime.

Pelion Gap
Pelion Gap

But I simply wanted to check it out and decided to climb up at least to Mount Doris, the smaller one right before Mount Ossa. I noticed that several people left before me to climb up Mount Ossa, so I tried to walk fast and catch up with them, just in case. The weather didn’t really improve but at least it didn’t rain, and sometimes it was even sunny, only the very top of the mountain was still covered in clouds.

View from Mt Ossa
View from Mt Ossa

I decided to continue all the way to the top. Another group was climbing behind me so I was in good company. There was only one part that turned out to be a bit difficult to climb because it was very windy and cold there, but once I passed that section the rest of the climb to the top was a piece of cake. Actually I was a bit surprised how easy it was to climb up there, I think it’s far more difficult to climb up Cradle Mountain, as there’s more jumping and climbing from rock to rock.

Mt Ossa summit
Mt Ossa summit

So around noon I reached the top and was now standing on the rooftop of Tasmania at 1617m. Great feeling, but I was surrounded by clouds and there wasn’t really much to see, unfortunately. There were a few patches of snow, and sometimes the clouds opened up a little bit, so I got a fantastic view down from the mountain. After all it was absolutely exciting to climb up Mount Ossa, I guess with perfect blue sky it would be even more fantastic. I probably could have seen half of Tasmania from up there on a clear day.

Wallaby
Wallaby

After an hour or so I joined a group that started to climb down. Climbing down was fairly easy and soon after I was back at Pelion Gap again. The weather got a bit worse and it started to rain, so I grabbed my stuff and moved on quickly.

Overland Track near Kia Ora
Overland Track near Kia Ora

From now on it was basically just downhill to Kia Ora. Very soon it became sunny again, the weather can literally change every ten minutes in Tasmania. Easy walking from now on, around 4pm I arrived at Kia Ora Hut and pitched my tent on one of the platforms provided. Afterwards I went swimming at the nearby Kia Ora Falls (2 minutes walk), but the water was quite cold. Most people didn’t even dare to put their feet in the water, but I thought it was still ok.

Waterfalls at Kia Ora hut
Waterfalls at Kia Ora hut

Other walkers called this my outing as a European, they said I’m probably more used to cold conditions than Aussies. Actually I’m one of the most sensitive persons when it comes to temperature, even in Tasmania it’s always too cold for me, and cold weather is one of the reasons why I left Germany. But when I spend days outdoors and when I do hard physical activity then I get acclimatised to outdoor conditions very quickly, so I don’t mind swimming in cold water.

Tent platform at Kia Ora hut
Tent platform at Kia Ora hut

My Christmas Eve 2008: walking through fairy tale forest, climbing up Tasmania’s highest mountain, swimming at Kia Ora Falls and then eating spaghetti bolognese for dinner and the rest of my Christmas cookies afterwards.