Elevation 1,434 m
Time 8-9 hour
Difficulty - Moderate
Hiking in Tasmania is one of the pure joys of the land. From the relaxed beaches of the East to the rugged West. The diversity is purely astounding for a country you can drive top to bottom in 3 hours. Mount Field West is part of the Wellington range and is the most formidable route in Mount Field National Park. It frequently has a dusting of snow even in summer. It’s a serious bushwalking challenge. Starting from Lake Dobson car park. It begins meandering through a temperate eucalyptus rainforest elevating into gorgeous alpine moorland. From here you skip along wooden walkways and scramble over some testy boulders towards Rodway Range and K Col hut.
The Adventure was ramping up as we faced our biggest hike yet. We were raring to go after our jaunt down the Gordon River road and settling back into Mt Field National Park. Mount Field has a campsite right on the doorstep to the base hikes. It’s one of the few paid sites on the Island but at $22 it is worth the dollar. They have powered and unpowered sites so you can choose what you need. At this point in the journey, we appreciated the freshwater hook up to refill all our tanks and water bottles. Of course, a hot shower was well needed! It’s a very popular site and it was the most vans we had seen yet, but the owners of the site are super sweet. We settled in for an early night and a bottle of wine in the van. Tomorrow we were set for a 9-hour hike, which was sure to turn into 12! So we set our sights on blissful slumber.
Alpine heights, pandani, and rain
We were promised a diverse experience when it came to the joys of Mt Field West: high altitude ridges that see a plethora of seasonal change. Sometimes all in one day. The track boasts a unique alpine species of the beautiful Pandani. Large spikes plants that look like a giant pineapple head, and even the chances of a platypus. Diversity is what we got, though not quite as we’d hoped. As the van wheezed what seemed to be its final wheeze up the last steep hill. Into the top tier car park. We knew almost immediately our hopes for the day were shot. On the ground the weather had been mild, the sun even glancing through the trees to smile her rays upon our faces.
At this elevation, we were completely among the clouds. We had entered another universe and it was time to make a decision. Hoping for the best, we piled on our thickest hiking socks, extra layers, a couple of hats as well as our Bunnings special yellow raincoats. We are not professional hikers by any standard. We occasionally enjoy a challenge and a wild experience. (even if Scott wouldn’t admit it and complained the entire first half-hour, and that was just the drive to the car park.)
Sandwiches on a wet rock
The road was long and rough as we traversed the gravel track an on towards rocky bushland. An easier route in milder weather. But as we headed further towards the tarn tier and rocky ranges carved out by an ancient ice age. The clouds closed in on us in a tight, chilly hold. We battled rain, almost got blown off the track and were prickled with hail. We got lost among the boulders atop Mt Mawson and could not figure out which way was up. We settled in an outcrop out of the winds for a moment to eat a quick sandwich.
Getting soaked to the skin and laughing about how ridiculous it was. The sights around us were breathtaking nonetheless. We could make out Lake Seal stretching below us. Below the cable car track used for snowboarding in the colder months. How I wished I was snowboarding now and could make it back down the mountain in quick time. Freezing under our sunny coloured jackets, we stumbled our way over the rocks towards the Rodway hut at its base.
We sheltered inside the ski hut for an hour. Enjoying the anecdotes in the walker’s logbook and playing with some bubbles I had in my pack. (What kind of serious hiker has bubbles in their pack?) We waited for the weather to turn in our favour. We were high above the clouds, and the mist was rolling in like a thousand dementors. Floating towards us to administer the killing kiss. Sheets of rain flanked the hut from either side and we had to make the choice. Hole up in the chilly hut for the night or battle the treacherous weather back to the van.
Sheltering in the hut
We headed outside and were hit with a wave of hailstones. They hit the ground and burst all around us like tiny blossoms coming to life in spring, only a hell of a lot colder. We were giggling with glee and terror at the same time. It was a sublime experience and we were whipped into a whirlwind of howling gales, soaking raincoats and fits of laughter. Having an awful time of it, but happy that we were on our way back to the car park. It had taken us over 2 hours to get only a third of the way along the track in the changing weather. But we were hopeful the downhill slope would be easier to handle.
As we neared the finish line, the track around the lake erupted into a fierce storm. Wind grasping at the surface of the water and blowing it into a force field of glassy ice against us. We made it to the last set of steps as the wind roared and set the lake water upon the path in a flood. We had made it. Dripping and footsore, we stripped off our wet clothes and poured the water from our boots. As we drove back down the steep track, the sun emerged through the trees and the summer day recommenced. As if to welcome us back to civilisation with a warm gloved hand. I felt like I needed a pair of real gloves. Hopefully, we could warm our toes back on the ground. We made a makeshift washing line in the car park and hung all our clothes out to dry. Wet boots were the last thing we needed to be dealing with for the rest of the journey.
We had been rained on, pelted with hail, and almost blown off the mountain, but I wouldn’t change a thing.