Marushka Lake & Lower Kirstsen Tarn
a great hike despite a bit of bushwhacking to a gorgeous lake, and an even cooler subalpine tarn


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There are multiple routes to Marushka Lake. We took the fire road in from the Mount Shark access. It was quite straightforward, and a good recommendation for hiking.
(Marushka Lake is also known as Shark Lake)

The hike to Marushka Lake starts from the Mount Shark access - the same unofficial trailhead as for Tent Ridge.
The trail starts off on a grassy but clear old road, with a short uphill and then steady terrain.

A look back at the trailhead and parking area (at left bend).

Leigh and Andrea start up the trail.

The turnoff for Tent Ridge is well marked .7km in.
The guidebook mentions a series of steps to stay on the correct trail, but if you're not sure, go with what looks logical.
I checked my assumption against the directions in many spots to be sure, but there was no point where the correct was was not obvious.
The road gently rises to its high point with a view of the Spray Lakes reservoir, then remains mostly level (small elev. loss) to the lake.

The turnoff to Tent Ridge.

View to Spray Lakes Reservoir from the top.

Andrea takes advantage of a small creek.

Andrea and Leigh through one of the cutblocks.

The book mentions that "trees narrow the road to single track at several points". This is true, and even a bit of an understatement.
Most of it is good walking where the road is partly filled in to walk on one or two paths, with occasional parts more open.
There is one segment where the trees have narrowed the road to singletrack for the likes of a rabbit -
the way forward is clear, but there is basically no path above 1', and it is necessary to push through the bushes for a distance.
This is not the end of the road, which opens up again after.
After the last cutblock, the trail becomes a seldom-used path through the woods with a decent amount of deadfall.
The way is awkward in a few places, but always straightforward.

There's an Andrea somewhere in there!

Andrea pushes through the overgrown 'trail'.

Limbo!

We reached Marushka lake ready and excited for the water, due to the heat and lack of shade on much of the route in.
The lake did not disappoint, being wonderfully cold.
It's also a spectacular blue-green colour, with a reflective white bottom around the shallow edges.

Marushka Lake.

Gorgeous colour of the lake.

The clear blue-green of the deep area.

Awesome lake.

Can't stop photographing the colours!

Refractions from up close.

Leigh and I enjoyed wading. Andrea, on the other hand, decided she could use a swim...

Andrea gets ready to swim.

She's going for it!

And she's under!

Swimming, swimming, in the mountain laaake!

Trying out the underwater view.

Andrea goes for a swim.

Swimming!

Andrea makes her way back to the warm sun.

Andrea and Leigh enjoy the warm water in the marshy edge.

My footprints in the deep silty bottom.

Excellent as the lake was, it's a pretty short hike, and there was also a recommendation for a set of tarns further up the valley.
We decided to give a try for at least the first one, and headed around the lake.
There are bits and pieces of path all over the place, but no real trail anywhere around the lake. We looked.
It's easy to tell where you're going though, and just follow the trails and trees.

Balance beam!

Hiking near the inlet.

The view from the incoming stream made at least the hike around worthwhile, as the colour is immensely rich!

Marushka Lake from the inlet stream.

The water seeping in from the karst above.

Andrea and the lake.

Andrea tries to make it to shore on dry feet...

After one final splash, we left the lake and headed up the dry valley.
The route heads up the right side of the first big hill, after which the valley opens up for a good look.
The valley is classic karst terrain, with a mix of sinkholes and small ridges. Some areas are forested, but avoidable.
It's not necessary to bushwhack any of this, and though the valley is somewhat wide and utterly free of trails,
it's pretty simple to head straight up the valley along the rocks and bits of grass to find the first Kirsten Tarn.
Gillean Daffern does not speak fondly of the unsettled area, but I found it interesting walking.
I'd recommend saving it for a moderate day though - in the heat we had, the up and down with no shade was definitely tough.

The first hill behind the lake.

Leigh and Andrea head up.

The top of the first ridge with Marushka Lake behind.

The world turns to karst.

The Lower Kirsten Tarn is a beauty from above, with clear, deep waters in a rich jewel tone, compared to the lightness of Marushka.
We hiked down the final slope to the lake, and up to the lakeshore.

Lower Kirsten Tarn from above.

Leigh makes her way down to the tarn.

This is definitely one of the most beautiful tarns I've ever seen. The clarity was perfect, and the colour incredible.
Also amazing - the cold. This felt like it was hiding a glacier underneath it. I've jumped in multiple lakes which had snow actively melting in, and this was colder.
I put my hand in in, and it came out aching. Splashing it on our faces prompted reflexive gasps. And when Andrea put her head in, they probably heard her at Mount Engadine...
The colour, however, made me remain tempted to jump in. It looked incredible to explore. I think next time I'll have to bring a change and go for it. You'll hear. :D

The Tarn

Lower Kirsten Tarn.

Andrea's right in!

Leigh decides to help Andrea with the dunking.

Leigh and Andrea across the tarn.

The brilliant clear blue-green of the tarn.

Clear shallows.

The view straight to the very deep bottom.

A look at the tarn from just up-valley.

The tarn in the rocks.

The heat exhausted all of us quickly, and we decided the lower tarn was an acceptable finishing point for the day.
It was definitely the highlight, but I'll definitely be planning another trip to see it all again and tack on the upper tarn!
I had a quick walk around the tarn to look up the valley, which continues in much the same fashion.
For a final look before leaving, I took a couple underwater photos in the amazing tarn.
The cold caused the sensor on my camera to fog up quickly, which took a while to ease off. Incredible!

The valley continues up to the Upper Kirsten Tarn, but that will have to wait for another day.

Half-underwater view from a foggy camera.

A blue view from just under the surface.

The green of the lower reaches.

An interesting view through my fogged lens.

Andrea, Leigh, and the Kirsten Tarn.

We returned the same way, which went a little more quickly now that we knew the best ways, but mostly the same on the relatively level trail.
All in all, it's an amazing hike that I highly recommend.

Hiking back down to Marushka Lake.

Leigh finds her way through the rock jumbles.

A final goodbye to Marushka Lake.

Photos taken by Rachel

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