Cradle Mountain, quite rightly, is surely the most photographed mountain in the large Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and archetypal of the park itself. Back in the mid 1980's, when I was a young and spry 20 something, I hiked up Cradle Mountain one weekday and had the summit, in spectacular sunshine totally to myself. I can't actually remember seeing another person all day, but, Cradle Mountain area was not nearly so developed nor popular back then.
Our walk today took us along the western shore of Lake Dove, through the Ballroom Forest (a section of Myrtle and King Billy Pine rainforest), then up steeply past Lake Wilks to meet the Face Track which traverses along the north side of Weindorfers Tower. In glorious sunshine on a very good, mostly dry track, it could not have been much different to yesterdays rather tenebrous walk through muddy button grass plains and leech infested heathlands.
Cold front on the horizon
As we approached the junction with the track that climbs Cradle Mountain, we could see a line of people slowly staggering upward. A sign at the junction said the round trip to the summit and back would take 2.5 hours. Doug, however, was having a light gravity day and flew up in 40 minutes while I gasped along behind. Together, we passed every other person going up the track.
The first half of the walk lures in the unwary as it is a good track with rock steps, but the last half is a scramble up large boulders. At the top, the view, of course, is glorious. Particularly on such a wonderful day. Many peaks are visible but Frenchmans Cap was hidden in cloud from the next approaching cold front.
After lingering for an hour on top, we rambled down, overtaking all the people going down, and took the Overland Track along the open Cradle Plateau to Marions Lookout. This is a popular location and half a dozen people were milling about. I had never seen Crater Lake so we followed the steep track down to the shore-line, past an old boat house, down some more past Cradle Falls and eventually back onto the Overland Track to emerge on boardwalk for the last section, which, for some reason we decided to run, back to Ronny Creek shuttle bus stop.