Over­land Track hut stands test of time

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - HE­LEN KEMP­TON

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 old­pe­lion­hut@parks.tas.gov.au.

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