When I started planning our journey across Australia, New Zealand and South America, it became clear that one activity would top all others in every destination: Peaceful strolling in beautiful scenery, admiring the views and stopping to have lunch at picturesque lookout spots.
Or: Climb vertically over boulders for 1,5 hours after you have already made your way up 2 hours from the starting point thinking it'll be an easy and nice day and surely we will do the track much quicker than the estimated 7-8 hours. Time for tea stops, photo stops and another tea stop.
Latter describes our first bigger hike, Cradle Mountain Summit Walk.
Cradle Mountain National Park is home to many iconic walks and scenery that felt really familiar but only after we started the walk I realised why. I was in Lapland again! We didn't have time (or the gear) for the legendary walks such as the Overland Track so we opted in to the longest one you could do in a day, conquering the summit.
Original plan was to do this on Friday but rain and thunder forced us to take shelter in close by Gowrie Park (real bed, shower, kitchen!) for two nights waiting for better weather. I wouldn't want to be scrambling to the top over the rocks in pouring rain.
Alarm went off 5am on Monday morning and after hefty breakfast we set off to the route. Sunshine all day but with strong winds - it was cold but we were used to that already..
The Summit walk starts at the same location many of the shorter and easier walks are located as well. You can choose one of the three possible routes to get to the Summit part, we chose Dove Lake. We got to enjoy the first leg of the journey with almost no other people around and the views were stunning.
The Summit part itself begins once you've already climbed quite a bit. Signs says 2,5 hours return, you look at the mountain and think "we'll that's fairly close, shouldn't take that long". Wrong. The description of this walk at the Parks site does warn about blouder climbing but you don't quite realise the seriousness until you start that part which lasts for a long long time. We met a lot of people who had turned back saying it's too hard. Once we reached the main krux I wasn't surprised why because it did require some creative positioning of your feet, hands and body to get past some hairy spots you would not want to fall from.
Couple tips for anyone trying to climb the summit: Bring gloves and leave big backbags at the starting point! You won't be able to fit through some of the pathways between the big rocks with even a regular size bag.
After you reach the top you thought was the summit you'll realize there's still another 30 minutes to go. But as the clouds disappeared and the cold wind didn't reach the other side we didn't care as the views started to show what rewards wait at the top.
And once we reached the top, the clouds parted! We got the rare 15 minutes of clear skies, people coming after us faced only white fog all around and missed out on their scenery photos.
After a lunch break and last tea sips we started the journey back. When pulling myself up on the rocks on our way up I was very concerned about coming down the same problematic narrow pathways but the way down was way quicker. You are on your butt almost the whole time, sliding down rocks (unless you are related to a mountain goat and jump from a rock to another as some people did) and you cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time.
In summary I would highly recommend this walk if you are prepared for a challenge and some climbing. It's very doable and don't be scared off by people turning back - they just didn't try hard enough ;)
And if you love this scenery I'd recommend next stop to be Finnish Lapland - just don't go in May or June and you won't be eaten alive by the vicious Northern mosquitos.