Wilderness Safety

The Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair National Park has some of the finest multi-day bushwalks on Earth. There are tracks across glaciated highland landscapes and through ancient rainforests. The Park’s bushwalks will offer you challenges, pleasures and rewards – but only if you plan and prepare your trip properly.

Most Tasmanian bushwalks are in wilderness areas, where you’ll be camping out overnight, far from roads and settlements. If you need emergency assistance, it can be hard to make contact – and help may not come immediately. That means you need to be self-reliant and well-equipped, with the right gear to keep you out of trouble in the first place – and the skills to cope with problems if they do arise.

Develop these Skills

  • Mountain skills and experience so you can judge potential hazards.
  • Learn to read a map and use a compass
  • Improve your ability to consider the equipment, experience, capabilities and enthusiasm of your party.
  • Learn the basic principles of first aid ABC – Airway, Breathing, Circulation and the recovery position. It could make the difference between life and death.

Before you set out

  • Charge your phone – even though there is little or no signal coverage in many parts of the National Park on the higher ground you may still get a signal. Many accidents occur towards the end of the day when both you and your phone are low on energy.
  • Consider the time of year, terrain, your group’s abilities and the nature of the trip – and choose your route accordingly.
  • Check the weather forecast and conditions. Mountains and wilderness can be major undertakings and, in the winter months, night falls early.
  • Leave your route plan somewhere reliable. Either with Lake St Clair Lodge Reception Staff or with the National Parks Rangers. Information should include start and finish points, estimated time of return and contact details. Please also use the Park’s walker log books to enter details of your walk. But be aware that these are not checked regularly, and a search will only be mounted if someone reports you as lost or overdue.
  • Eat well before you start out.

In the wilderness

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Be prepared to turn back if conditions turn against you, even if this upsets a long planned adventure.
  • Take good care of everyone. Keep together, allow the slowest member of the party to determine the pace, and take special care of the youngest and weakest in dangerous places.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia. Disorientation, shivering, tiredness, pale complexion and loss of circulation in hands and toes, discarding of vital clothing. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible.
  • If you go out alone. Be aware of the additional risk. Let people know your route, stick to it as far as you can and notify them of any changes if possible.

What to take

  • Wear suitable clothing and footwear. Footwear should have a treaded sole, and provide support for ankles. Clothing should be warm, windproof and waterproof – layers work best. Even in Summer, always carry spare clothes, including a hat and gloves.
  • Carry food and drink. Take ample food and drink. High energy foods such as chocolate and dried fruit are ideal. Always carry water – even in cool weather it’s easy to become dehydrated.

Keep essential kit easily accessible.

  • Map and compass
  • A mobile phone and GPS are useful tools but don’t rely on your mobile phone to get you out of trouble – in many areas of the National Park there is no signal coverage. Note: GPS is only of use if set up correctly with the correct map, grid and datum data. Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) can be hired (subject to availability) from the Parks and Wildlife Service at Cradle Mt and Lake St Clair and from Service Tasmania in Hobart.
  • Whistle – the signal for rescue is: Six good long blasts in one minute. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on the whistle blasts until someone reaches you and don’t stop because you’ve heard a reply – rescuers may be using the sound as a direction finder.
  • Torch (plus spare batteries and bulbs) – for signalling in a similar manner as whistle blasts.
  • Watch – make sure at least one person in your party has one.
  • Climbers – wear a helmet.

For detailed information on planning your walk and a gear checklist, see the Parks & Wildlife’s Guide.