Now officially halfway through the Overland Track, we have an easy day on the trail as we make our way from Pelion Hut to Kia Ora. The more ambitious among us are capitalising on the short day to summit Mt Ossa, Tassie’s highest peak, but earlier injuries prevent me from ascending beyond the saddle. Although it may not come with any of the bragging rights, the views of the surrounding landscape are still spectacular from this point, and make a wonderful addition to what is a relaxed fourth day on the Overland Track.
Trail stats: Pelion to Kia Ora
Distance: 10.6km including climb to the saddle between Mt Doris and Mt Ossa
Trail hours: 4hrs including climb to the saddle between Mt Doris and Mt Ossa
Highlights: Strolling amongst mountains with views in every direction; aerial views of Pinestone Valley and Mt Ossa from the saddle; refreshing creek at Kia Ora Hut
Lunch spot: Pelion Gap
Campsite: Kia Ora Hut (tent platforms)
Cal and I wake up to the sound of dad and Eileen rolling out of camp, intentions set on summiting Mt Ossa during their journey towards Kia Ora. At 4-5hrs return and with plenty of rocky scrambling not unlike the terrain that led to my ankle sprain on Cradle Mountain, we have wisely decided to give this side trip a miss— although that doesn’t mean I’m not extremely heartbroken to be missing out on climbing Tasmania’s highest peak.
Over an hour later, after an extremely leisurely pack up of our own campsite, Cal and I hit the trail with Dov, our Arizonan-turned-Sydneysider mate who provides an endless rotation of discussion topics for our ascent. Much of the first section is gradual uphill, but becomes a climb in earnest around midmorning. Still, Dov is completely undeterred by the increasing incline and the rocky trail, continuing to share details of his upcoming travels and debate the merits of Australia vs America until we reach Pelion Gap in what feels like no time flat. It’s truly amazing how conversation can distort time on the trail, and we are all pleased to find ourselves halfway through the day so quickly.
At Pelion Gap, there are paths off in either direction for those wishing to climb Mt Pelion East or Mt Ossa, and most of the group from our hut last night is sat down here enjoying a snack in the sun and chatting with one another. We eagerly join in, hungry already after the morning’s walk, but soon decide to head off in search of the views that are apparently spectacular from the saddle between Mt Doris and Mt Ossa. The trail is almost all boardwalk, which makes for an unchallenging walk in terms of my ankle, but the aggressive incline is still plenty demanding in terms of our lungs. As we climb upwards, mostly on stairs, we wrap around Mt Doris and eventually find ourselves right in between the two mountains, views every bit as spectacular as promised.
From this point, we can look up at Mt Ossa and even see little specks of colour moving up towards the summit. It’s an impressive mountain, but the route honestly doesn’t look as long as we know it to be. We very nearly continue onwards towards the summit, and it is only the knowledge that the trip is 4-5hrs that forces us to turn around and trudge back to Pelion Gap to retrieve our packs.
Having already completed the entirety of today’s uphill, we have only flat sections and what we believe to be gradually downhill sections (according to the topo map) for the remainder of the day. As we set off, it truly is very gentle, but of course it soon morphs into rocky steps that seem to have been built for giants. It’s like jumping off a cliff every time we need to travel down a single step, so there is considerable angst until we finally reach the boardwalks that we had been expecting the entire time. Despite all of Cal’s wingeing, it’s only a little over an hour before the hut comes into sight and Dov calls out to us from the porch.
We set up our tent and then follow another hiker down to the little waterhole right near the hut, hopping in with a mother and daughter from Tassie who are also enjoying a chilly mountain shower. As cold as it is, it’s the ultimate relaxation after a hot day on the trail, so we hang around as long as our freezing fingers will allow. Back in the tent, we have a little lay down before the parents arrive from their Mt Ossa ascent and then we all head inside for a delicious dinner of bolognese and our final bottle of red wine. This hut is much smaller than last night’s, so we eat dinner shoulder to shoulder with our fellow hikers, and I almost like it better, the entire hut engaged in one giant conversation and everyone shouting across the tables at each other. Our Overland Track family.