Ascent of Cradle Mountain on 2023-01-05

Climber: George McManus

Date:Thursday, January 5, 2023
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Bus
Peak:Cradle Mountain
    Elevation:5069 ft / 1545 m

Ascent Trip Report

Started the day at the Dove Lake Shuttle Bus Stop at around 8:50am. At this time we could not see the summit and surrounding peaks as they were covered in low cloud. As we walked around the western rim of Dove Lake, the rain drizzled on us. This rain cleared as we walked up the Lake Wilks Track, which had one spot of scrambling that was very exposed and was generally quite steep hiking. Once at the Face Track, we were treated to spectacular views of the surrounding lakes but low cloud still covered the mountains. This low cloud started to clear when we made it to the turn-off to the Cradle Mountain summit near Kitchen Hut at 11:25am. We were very lucky that the low cloud blew over as we arrived at the Summit Track, with the recommendation being that the hike not be attempted in wet, windy or snowy conditions.

The Summit Track starts at a gentle grade which increases in grade continuously, becoming a series of steps. After about 500m, the trail turns right, with the grade continuing to increase and the stairs turning into rocks and boulders. Soon enough, the track becomes a very exposed scramble over larger and larger boulders, many if not most of these being greater in length than the average human height. There were many locations where it was difficult to find appropriate hand or foot holds, and in some locations there were drops of 1-3m between boulders that we were scrambling between. As we scrambled up, we could see a peak ahead, however this was a false summit. I found the most difficult scrambling to be the last section before this false summit, struggling to find adequate holds or faced with exposed sections with decent falls to the side.

After reaching the false summit at 12:10pm, we were confronted with a somewhat 'flat' section of boulder scrambling before the climb to what looks like a ridge, which we reached at about 12:40pm. From here, there is a section going down and then back up, with one particularly difficult large diagonal looking rock that many people required being pulled over if they could not lift their leg high enough. After this, the boulder scramble continued for a short while before easing as we approached the summit, where the terrain was much less intense although still littered with boulders. Once we arrived at the summit at 1:20pm, we had clear and incredible views over the surrounding regions and we felt a sense of great elation at having conquered a very difficult scramble.

Going down off the summit followed the same route as going up, and was somewhat easier as I could essentially sit down and lower myself off of large bounders in a more controlled manner. We reached Kitchen Hut at about 3:00pm and finally had lunch. Generally I am a fast hiker but was definitely slower than most other people on the boulder scramble, taking about 3.5 hours to complete the return trip on the Summit Track and overtaken by most people we encountered.

After this we returned to Dove Lake via a different route, passing through Marions Lookout, descending with views of Crater Lake before turning onto the Wombat Pool Track. After this we followed the Lake Lilla Track back to the shuttle bus stop, finishing our day just before 5:00pm and completing the whole hike in approximately 8 hours. This last portion of the hike presented little difficulty especially as we were descending, however there was one steeper section with a chain for assistance down from Marion Lookout that may be more difficult when ascending.

All in all, this was an amazing hike with incredible views from not only the summit, but pretty much along the entire walk. It was also a very challenging, probably the most difficult hike I have done, especially due to the long duration of scrambling over large boulders with quite a bit of exposure.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1975 ft / 601 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1975 ft / 601 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.8 mi / 12.6 km
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Low cloud and drizzle in the morning which cleared to a mostly sunny day from late morning onwards,
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1975 ft / 601 m
    Distance:3.8 mi / 6.1 km
    Route:Dove Lake Circuit (west), Lake Wilks Track, Face T
    Start Trailhead:Dove Lake Shuttle Bus Stop  3094 ft / 943 m
    Time:4 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1975 ft / 601 m
    Distance:4 mi / 6.5 km
    Route:via Summit Track, Kitchen Hut, Marions Lookout, Wo
    End Trailhead:Dove Lake Shuttle Bus Stop  3094 ft / 943 m
    Time:3 Hours 30 Minutes

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