Completing the Cradle Mountain Walk

I was near completion of an eleven-day trek along the Overland Track in Tasmania when I finally made it to Cradle Mountain. I was 16 at the time, walking with my Dad, and I was determined to do the whole thing properly. That meant carrying all my own equipment and doing all the side walks and mountain hikes along the way – nothing was to be omitted.

There’s an excellent reason for this resolve to see everything. There are so many varied landscapes in the raw Tasmanian wilderness that even through my daily exhaustion I couldn’t help but drink them in. There were the dark and twisted rainforests, the stark and weather torn Labyrinth, and the open fields that were bordered by massive snow capped peaks, resting against perfectly blue skies – all these images are still wonderfully vivid in my mind. This of course was also balanced with knee-deep mud, wooden beds, freezing, overcrowded huts, and – horror of horrors – porridge for breakfast! This taught me very early that life is a package deal.

By the time we were two days out, I was about to either achieve a new level of endurance or a breakdown. My shoulders were like rocks and my legs were knotted like an old mans. Dad noticed this, but let me carry on in my own stubborn way - until I mentioned my desire to reach the top of Cradle Mountain.

I was then told, quite bluntly, that we had a bus to catch in and we were not going to miss it. But he made a concession – if I could scale the mountain and get within time, fantastic. But if he thought I couldn’t manage it, he’d turn us around at any point, no ifs, buts or maybes.

On the last day we departed early, walking silently through a clear and still spring morning. Upon reaching the base Dad graciously gave me a few minutes head start. He’s later told me that he bent down to tighten a bootlace, looked back up, and was stunned to see me already long gone, running full pelt along the path.

Yes, I ran up that bloody mountain, stiff muscles, heavy boots and all. And it felt magnificent! I didn’t just break through that pain barrier; I obliterated it! I leapt from boulder to boulder, ignoring that
bottomless chasms that divided them, just keeping my eyes pealed for the next bright orange marker that would lead me upwards. I only slowed down by when I hit snow, allowing Dad to catch up. He just smiled and shook his head with a mixture of pride and disbelief. At the top, as I stood at the very edge and looked southwards at all the distanced I’d covered, all the struggles and aches just melted away.

In the end, the trek also taught me that if you really want something, you’ve got to throw your heart into it. Once you do that, you can run to the top of the world.

K Heffernan

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