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Mount Rufus is a gorgeous peak that sits at the southern end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair national park. As a relatively high peak, it holds snow well, and the walk in isn't that hard – especially by Tasmanian standards, so it makes for a great outing. It has been a popular skiing spot since at least the 1930s and a ski tow was proposed in the early 1970s. This mountain remains un-roaded, and apart from the skiing, provides fantastic views into the headwaters of the Franklin River and ranges in all directions, including the main peaks of the Cradle Mountain Park and Frenchmans Cap.
- Backcountry Run Rating
- RATING: Approach Steepness
Access and Trip
There are two main ways in. Both require you to get to Derwent Bridge, on the Lyell Highway.
Drive a little further towards the West Coast (around 8 km), turning right just after the Navarre plains and river onto an unpaved road. Drive up here to the gate and follow the trail. Most people access the mountain this way as there is a very small hut to the south east of the summit (Gingerbread hut). Lower down is the Joe Slater hut but i don't have information on its status as i haven't been in that way for several years – if you think you will be relying on either of these it would be wise to check with the Parks Service at Cynthia Bay first.
Head to Cynthia Bay, within the Park (the southern end of the Overland track). The trail is well signposted from here, taking close to 3 hours to get to the summit and with a climb of almost 700 metres. While the trail is very straight forward and well sign-posted, there is a section of very nice rainforest in the middle third of the trip which can be slow work when carrying skis. Before the final climb onto the summit ridge there is a nice big basin which is often snow covered in winter which makes a nice sheltered camp as it is protected from south westerlies. From here it is abut a half hour walk up onto the summit ridge. Entry fees apply to national parks. This approach can easily be done by bus, which will drop you at Cynthia Bay.
The long summit ridge of Mt Rufus is fairly straight forward once you're up there. In clear weather there is normally nice skiing off the southern side of the mountain although theres nothing too steep in here. Far more exciting, though shorter runs, drop off the northern side, although these tend to be more prone to sunshine and hence burn off sooner. If there is skiable snow anywhere in Tas, then you'll find some here. Its almost always worth the walk in and some of the runs off the summit onto the south side, while not really steep, are good and long.
You can also continue on past the summit to the north west - there is often a good ski down here - and down into a saddle, then climb up onto Mt Hugel for a wilder trip. There is a fair bit of rock on the climb to Hugel and it can be very steep and icy on the south side so take care! The summit itself is fairly narrow but there is a nice plateau that opens out as you travel north. If you climbed the mountain from Cynthia Bay, you can continue on, then descend eastwards at the end of the plateau towards the saddle between Hugel and Little Hugel, then down to Forgotten and Shadow Lakes and out to Cynthia Bay via a very good trail. There are some steepish boulder fields on the section from Little Hugel to the first lake, so not so good with a heavy pack, perhaps.
Please note that Mt Rufus has significance for Aboriginal people.
It is extremely exposed and the winds can be phenomenal! The summit ridges have some cairns and haphazard snow poles but in any kind of deep snow these often disappear so be very cautious about heading up onto the summit in bad conditions.
Mobile Phone Coverage
Reasonable on the very top, where you have a view to the west coast range.
I generally just use the Parks Service Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park map but its scale is only 1:100,000 so of mediocre value if you're in a white out.