Day 5 walk of Overland Track is mostly across the forest. It starts with a pleasant easy walk to the historic Du Cane Hut before going through the moss-covered forest to reach the junction leading to nearby waterfalls. The trail continues through rainforest before ascending to Du Cane Gap and then descending through eucalyptus forest to Windy Ridge and its modern Bert Nichols Hut.
It was difficult to leave the warm cocoon of our sleeping bags in the morning. But we had to move on as today we were meeting our friends coming from the Walls of Jerusalem to Bert Nichols Hut, also known as Windy Ridge Hut.
The weather this morning started with drizzle and a bit of wind, but nothing too bad. The walk from Kia Ora Hut was mostly across the leatherwood, tall myrtle and dense beech rainforest as well as green mossy rainforest. The track started with crossing button grass plains before entering the forest and leading to a clearing and its little, charming Du Cane Hut. Built for himself by the famous trapper Paddy Hartnett in 1910, the hut is now for use in case of emergency only.
From here, the track plunged back into the forest and led to the junction, where many bushwalkers leave their backpacks to head to the Tasmania’s largest waterfalls – D’Alton, Ferguson and Hartnett Falls. The tallest of the three, Hartnett Falls is named after the above-mentioned Paddy Hartnett.
We continued walking the trail winding up towards Du Cane Gap before descending to Du Cane Range and through eucalyptus forest to Windy Ridge and its hut, Bert Nichols Hut, or Windy Ridge Hut. On the way, we made an encounter with a gentle wombat leisurely walking across the boardwalk. As though we were not there at all, he continued along its way, briefly stopping to scratch itself. Soon, an echidna came across our way, equally paying no attention to our presence. Unfortunately, we did not see any Tasmanian devils. Ravaged by a facial tumour disease, their numbers have been tragically dwindling over the years.
Similar to New Pelion Hut, modern and comfortable Bert Nichols Hut is one of the newest and the largest huts on the Overland Track. The hut is named after Bert Nichols, a fur trapper, who played a pivotal role in creating the Overland Track. In 1931, he invited the Director of the Tasmanian Tourism Bureau to hike with him from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. Fascinated by the track and its tourism potential, the Director decided to create the official track and appointed Bert as a park ranger. In 1935, the Overland Track was officially born.
Arriving to the hut, dirty, sored but happy, we found our friends already sipping a cup of tea. We were feeling like Olympic champions coming for collecting a gold medal. But when we found our friends, in full shape and smiling after their challenging crossing of Never Never from the Walls of Jerusalem, off road and through the dense bush, the glory has quickly faded away. Exhaustion clearly showed on our faces.
For many bushwalkers, today was their last night on the track. But we decided to make the overnight detour through the Pine Valley. Tonight, slowly drifting into sleep, we were vividly picturing hot showers and cold beer at the end of the Overland Track.
Overland Track: Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Day 1: Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut
Day 2: Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Hut
Day 3: Windermere Hut to Frog Flats
Day 4: Frog Flats to Kia Ora Hut through New Pelion Hut
Day 5: Kia Ora Hut to Bert Nichols Hut at Windy Ridge
Day 6: Bert Nichols Hut to Pine Valley Hut
Day 7: Pine Valley Hut to Narcissus Hut
Day 8: Narcissus Hut to Lake St Clair visitor centre
Distance: 9.6 km, walking time: 3.5-4.5 hrs
Side trips from Windy Ridge Hut (Windy Ridge Hut):
• D’Alton and Fergusson Falls: 1 km return, at least 1 hour. If no rain, it’s an easy walk through rainforest to the waterfalls located close to each other.
• Hartnett Falls: 1.5 km return, at least 1 hour. If it doesn’t no rain, the walk to the top of the waterfall is rather easy, on rough and narrow track along the cliff edge.
Under the rain, with some sheer drop-offs, the trail to the waterfalls becomes very slippery and muddy, and also dangerous.
For more information, please refer to Overland Track Practical Information.