Pre-dawn in the Cradle Mountain National Park may as well be pre-historic. It is a time when you forget where you came from and become completely immersed in the moment. Nothing exists outside of the timewarp created by the perfect roundness of the headlamp.
I am hiking with a group of crazy Tasmanians, and we are freestyling through the bush in an attempt to take the most direct route and to beat the sun to the summit. In the darkness, our hike to the base of Barn Bluff is instinctual and sensory. We skirt around the spikes of the Scoparia bushes that claw at my lower legs and arms and maneuver over, under and around the fallen branches of the ghostly Snow Gums.
When we reach the base of Barn Bluff we hike counter clockwise over strewn boulders, broken off from the mountain due to the lethal forces of water and freezing temperatures. The path leading up the side of the mountain is marked by cairns (piles of stones). It is relatively non-technical and requires only the occasional use of both hands to assist in scrambling between the rocks. The higher we climb, the louder the crunch of frost, ice and snow becomes underfoot.
We arrive on the summit (1559 m) with 15 minutes to spare. The crescent moon is glowing, lit from beneath by the approaching sun. Trail mix (called scroggin by the locals), muesli bars and chocolate is passed around. I am wearing a down jacket and my hands are tucked in my armpits, trying to stave off the approaching pain of frozen digits.
Then the sun rises.
The solitary peak of Cradle Mountain:
Sunrise touching the frosted summit of Barn Bluff:
A hurried descent to warmer grounds below, Cradle Mt in the distance:
The dolerite columns of Barn Bluff facing into the sun:
A forest of Eucalypts:
Barn Bluff as seen from the Overland Track:
The summit of Barn Bluff would make for a wonderful out and back trail run with all personality of an epic course: lovely single track trail, occasional well-developed board walks, technical sections to test footing and agility, some alp-like ascending and descending and of course a mountain summit! For more information see the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service here.