Overland Track hut stands test of time
A MOUNTAIN hut that has provided shelter to miners, trappers and bushwalkers for 100 years will be celebrated next month as warmer weather draws hikers to the Overland Track.
The Sunday Tasmanian caught up with Overland Track head ranger Rob Lawrence last week at the Cradle Mountain starting point of the renowned wilderness walk.
The carpark was busy with hikers pulling on backpacks ready to tackle a walk Mr Lawrence has completed up to 50 times.
Heading into the wilderness today is a very different prospect to what it was 100 years ago when the Old Pelion Hut was built to accommodate the manager of a now long-gone copper mine.
“Just getting to the start of the Overland Track by horse and buggy took serious effort,” Mr Lawrence said.
“Back then only trappers, miners and diehard bushwalkers ventured into this area. There were no safety nets, the packs were heavy, there were no specially designed bushwalking boots.”
The first official walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair was held in 1931, about the time bushwalking became a pastime rather than just a necessity to get from one remote place to another.
“Even back in those days there was talk about opening up Cradle Mountain as a tourist destination. I wonder what the old explorers would say if they could see the number of people here today,” Mr Lawrence said.
The Overland Track was cut four years later, in 1935.
Now, more than 8000 walkers from around the world register to undertake the venture each year.
About halfway along the track is the Old Pelion Hut — one of very few standing structures that predates the declaration of the national park in 1922.
It was built in 1917 by the Mt Pelion Mines No Liability Company to house the manager of its copper mine on Pelion Plains.
There were originally two huts on the site — the manager’s residence and another for the workers. The workers’ hut fell into ruin and was pulled down in the 1930s.
The Old Pelion Hut is now used only for emergency accommodation, but it has provided shelter to hikers over the past 100 years.
A new hut has been constructed about 10 minutes’ walk away from the original, but many walkers still take the short side trip to see the well-preserved slice of Tasmanian high-country history.
The hut is on the Tasmanian Heritage Register.
“Along with the Mountain Huts Preservation Society, PWS has undertaken a number of working bees over the past three years for restoration works including restumping, repairing it to ensure walkers can enjoy the hut for years to come.,” Mr Lawrence said.
“Let’s hope it is still standing another 100 years.”
To mark the hut’s centenary, a display of images, items and stories will be on show at the Cradle Mountain Interpretation Centre during October and November.
People are invited to share their memories and experience of Old Pelion Hut.
Photographs and anecdotes can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.