Trails & Ales on tour - The Overland Track
In December of this year, I was lucky enough to be invited by “Find your Feet”, on their first trail running tour on the world famous Overland Track in Tasmania. This iconic walking track located in northeast Tasmania stretches for 65km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair through some of the most stunning scenery that I have ever experienced.
Along with Trails and Ales “wanna be”, Pat from Wagga Wagga, we travelled down to Hobart and headed to outdoors store Find your Feet run by Hanny Alston and Graham Hammond. These guys are real athletes and adventurers who have taken their passion for the outdoors and made it their vocation. They are living all of our dreams, although starting at their shop which is chocked full of goodies can be very bad on the bank account!
After some shopping and a gear check (yes even on tours you get gear checks) we headed out of Hobart to the Cradle Mountain National Park. Shortly after arrival, we checked into our dorm rooms at Waldheim Chalet and headed out on a run to Crater Lake. This run included a swim to cool off in the unseasonably warm Tasmanian weather was covered in snow just a couple of months ago. I have been running here before, but I am always amazed by how spectacular this place is. I suggest that everyone makes the effort to get to Cradle Mountain at some stage in their life. After a dinner at the pub, we settled in for a relaxing night, although 4 blokes in a dorm room did lead to a chorus of noises emanating from all parts of the body and made sleep a little challenging!
Day two of the tour was designed for preparation and relaxation prior to the 65km journey to Lake St Clair. It was also when the more regular Tasmanian weather hit us although the rain did mean there was not too much activity to sap the legs. We packed our packs, checked our gear and received a pep talk from Hanny and Graham about what to expect on the trip. The thing that stuck with me the most was Hanny saying “Once you’re in, you’re in. The only way out is a helicopter” which outlined how remote this track actually is! As the group consisted of a diverse range of runners, we were split into two groups; an early group that would start at 5am and a later group would start at 6am.
Day 3 we all got up at about 4am to prepare, which included breakfast, final packing, taping everything that would rub and lubing anything that might chaff! Luckily the rain had stopped overnight so the morning was fairly pleasant and the early group got away in the dark. The line of head torches stretching down the track looked pretty cool.
At 6am, we met in the trail head, posed for the mandatory photo and set off just as the sunrise pierced through the clouds leaving an eerie glow in the air. We climbed up to the lookout which has some awesome views over Crater Lake. After all the rain, I started dancing around the puddles, trying to keep my shoes dry. This lasted about 30 min when I realised that that would only lead to me falling over so just started to smash through the middle.
One of the amazing things about this track is the diverse nature of the environments that you encounter. We started on rocky trails, and then all of a sudden we are on alpine plains then onto boardwalks. The track is full of surprises. Along the way we ran into hikers that were amazed that we were running the whole thing in a day, most people spend 3-5 days on the track. Although I must admit, in that terrain, I was glad to have on a 3kg vest pack rather than a 15kg hiking one, It was hard enough standing up on some bits!
The two groups came together at Mt Ossa and we proceeded along as a group. It was nice to slow down a bit although there was always the thought of the 3:45pm ferry that we had to be on.
One of my most memorable bits of the track was a section where Graham said just “just run down here and you will go through the door”. “Through the door” I thought, “he must need a gel”, but I trundled off and sure enough I descended down and through two trees (the door) and came out in the most amazing green “pixie forest” full of fallen logs covered in moss and water cascading down the creek. I was sure that I would come across a Hobbit or two.
At about 50km we came to the last hut and had a few additional jelly beans for the final push to the finish. I did learn that you should always eat your own food after eating some of Skye’s “tasted like ass” flavored ones. Yeew!
We finally made it to the finish with about 30 min to spare and boarded the ferry to Cynthia Bay and the bus. The trip on the ferry was made even more memorable by the driver reciting Banjo Patterson’s Man from Snowy River from start to finish – bloody legend!
This kind of trip is why I run and why I choose to do adventures that take me well off the beaten track. If you want to go to Tassie, hook up on a Gone Running tour by Hanny and Graham at Find your Feet. They will look after you like a king (or queen), you will learn something and will gain an understanding why they love Tasmania so much. You will come back with a new lease on life and a new love of running, well I did anyway.