LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY > CRADLE MOUNTAIN – LAKE ST. CLAIR NATIONAL PARK AND THE OVERLAND TRACK – TASMANIA > Snowy Cradle Mountain (Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park)
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Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake are Tasmania’s foremost natural icons and part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park features a variety of different landscapes including buttongrass moorlands, temperate rainforests and untamed alpine areas and mountain peaks. It is home to many precious endemic and endangered plants and animals, such as Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles and 1000+ year old King Billy pines.
Like the rest of our alpine areas, Cradle Mountain frequently experiences harsh, rainy, windy weather year round. Snowstorms can strike the mountain in any month of the year. Despite Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park being the busiest national park in Tasmania, Cradle Mountain is still the picture of our true, untamed Tasmanian wilderness.
“We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
“This is insane! This is totally insane!” I said to myself as I watched snowflakes streak by in the 70 kpm (40 mph) winds, illuminated only by my head lamp in the darkness of night. I had been locked in Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park overnight because the rangers had closed the road until the following day. It was now 3:45 am, which meant it was time for me to get up and climb.
“GOD I TRUST YOU!!!” I cried out from the depths of my heart as I took my first step. “Please, God, I beg you to please protect every single step I take on this treacherous climb so I don’t injure or kill myself!” Everywhere around me the entire ground was completely iced over hard like a skating rink.
As with all of my photography trips, I had thoroughly prayed about what I was about to do. I felt the Lord leading me to climb up to higher ground in order to catch a sunrise panorama over Cradle Mountain covered in the winter snow. In fact, my entire trip to Cradle Mountain was geared around capturing this one photograph.
I had spent the night in temperatures down to -7 C with snow squalls raging through all night at an average of 60-70 kph (40-45 mph). I had awoken in the middle of the night in order to be in position in time for sunrise to capture this one shot I so earnestly sought.
Thankfully, I’m from Minnesota, which is a state in the USA renowned for its long, freezing cold winters (down to -40C (-40 F)) and large snowfalls (annual average 1-2 m (3-6′)). Truthfully, I was quite comfortable in this kind of weather because it was just like home to me. However, climbing up a completely iced-over steep mountain peak alone in the dark with a 22 kg (50 lb) pack while being lashed by high winds and snow squalls was the part that I felt was slightly insane. Others might agree.
But despite these conditions I still heard the Lord clearly leading me onward to go and capture this shot I had earnestly asked him for. As the high winds blasted me and snow pelted my face I began to pray, “Lord, how will I ever get a clear view of the mountain through all these snow squalls? God, please part the clouds for this shot.”
As I continued to ascend, I prayed more earnestly to the Lord, “God, unless you completely silence this 70 kph wind, there is no way I will be able to stand on the mountain any longer than ten minutes before freezing, and God, there is absolutely no way I will ever get a sharp, quality shot with my lens shaking in the low light with these strong winds. Please, God, completely silence the wind for me!”
But the higher I climbed, the worse it got! Despite the natural circumstances being completely contrary to what I felt led to do, I continued onward and upward in faith.
The track was completely frozen over with hard ice that did not break under the weight of me and my 22 kg pack loaded with camera gear, warm clothes and survival gear. I went slowly, carefully and very deliberately, knowing that injury could possibly mean death from exposure because I was still locked in the park.
Locked inside the park? Hallelujah! I was locked all alone inside Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park! When does anyone get Cradle Mountain completely to themselves? I considered myself extremely blessed. It was just God and me alone in his Creation.
Dawn came as I approached my chosen location. Thankfully by that time at least one prayer had been answered because the snow had almost entirely pulled off. The wind, however, had unfortunately increased. I searched for a sheltered area to strip off all my sweaty clothes and change into dry ones so I wouldn’t get chilled while I stood photographing for the next couple hours. Everywhere was completely exposed to the elements, so I gave up and stripped in the freezing cold 70 kph wind. Again I muttered to myself, “This is insane! You are insane!”
Once again I earnestly begged God to perform a miracle and completely kill the high winds, which hadn’t ceased for the last 24 hours+. Otherwise, my entire trip would be in vain, lost to blurry shots.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the first pink rays of sunrise strike snow covered Marion’s Lookout and the Cradle Plateau. It was a breathtaking sight, but I had no time to take it in. I desperately scrambled to find a good vantage point.
As I raced to set up my camera, God finally answered my prayers and performed the miracle of all miracles!
As the sunrise pierced through the many squalls, which had now all past me, the wind ceased to nearly flat calm. I was dumbfounded at the almost instantaneous cessation of the gale force winds I had been fighting only a moment earlier.
Hallelujah! Thank you, God for hearing and answering my prayers!!!
The light and the view were exquisite, but I had another (slight) problem. As is often the case, the western side of Cradle Mountain was enshrouded in cloud, but God had brought me this far and I wasn’t about to give up now! I prayed that God would unveil Cradle Mountain so I could get a clear shot of it. As soon as I did, the cloud amazingly began to peel back opposite the direction of the prevailing winds and reveal its mighty, snow-covered peak.
My heart was filled with joy and praise to God as he unfolded this glorious sight before my eyes. I couldn’t have prayed for a more perfectly beautiful scene (which no camera could adequately ever capture anyway).
If I had strictly looked at the weather and the natural circumstances, there is no way I ever would have pursued this shot, but I had substantial reason to trust my God and to follow his leading. This is because he has proven himself faithful again and again to me in the past. I have come to know his voice and how he guides me in the way he wants me to go.
From the beginning, I took this journey in complete faith because I had next to nothing to trust in within my natural circumstances; in fact, it was quite the opposite. Praise God for being faithful to me and true to his Word! God never fails!
As I reflect on this experience there are two events in the Bible that come to mind.
The first is in regards to the wind. The wind I experienced was strong and unrelenting, but it was completely natural and much to be expected for Cradle Mountain in the winter. Thankfully, there is a God who has total sovereign power over the weather. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, demonstrated his power over the natural world in the following event:
“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side [of the lake].’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’
They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’”
The wind I encountered was so strong and unceasing that I had no natural reason to believe it would suddenly cease in an instant, just like in this Biblical account, but I know that Jesus has power over all of his Creation. He also knows that the purpose of my photography is to honor him. Because of this, I believe he heard my cry and commanded the gale force winds to cease and the clouds to part so that I could get a sharp shot of these mountains, which so clearly display his creative glory.
The second passage that comes to my mind relates to faith. Again, it is a story about Jesus, high winds and one of his followers and his extraordinary walk of faith:
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
‘Come,’ he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
One thing this account has continually taught me is not to focus on the wind and the waves but to fix my eyes on Jesus. When we know God is clearly leading us in a direction, we can be fully confident that the path he sets before us is firm and safe. Earthly circumstances can sometimes make that path look like the opposite, but it is never so if God has led you to take it. I have learned by personal experience many times that as soon as I begin to look at my harrowing earthly circumstances instead of fixing my eyes on Jesus, I begin to sink in doubt, stress and failure.
Because I had earnestly sought God’s guidance about this trip and knew clearly that he had guided me to pursue this shot at this time, I knew full well he would achieve the purpose for which he had sent me. Snow squalls made no difference, neither did unceasing gale force winds, nor did an enshrouding cloud over the mountains.
This faith is not of myself. It is a gift of God to me (Ephesians 2:8-9), and he grows it and establishes it through many practical experiences where I have to trust him, no matter what my earthly circumstances.
Glory and praise be to God!
“Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality–faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses.]” (Hebrews 11:1 AMP)
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him…And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith…
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”
(Hebrews 11:32-39; 12:1-2)