Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mount Hotham to Mount Bogong, Alpine National Park - November 1992

Mt Loch, with the snow covered Mt Feathertop behind it.
Day 1.       Mount Hotham to Cope Hut.   22 kilometres
With most of my recent posts either featuring me snorkelling in some tropical paradise somewhere, or swimming in a water hole somewhere in the north of Australia I thought it was about time for a bit of variety. Not having really walked anywhere cold for a little while I had to search through the Feral way back machine again, after a lot of coughing and spluttering (and that was just me as I watched our cricket team collapse again) I settled on a walk I did from the Jurassic period. These are my hazy recollections from a three day walk from Mt Hotham to Mt Bogong over the cup weekend back in 1992 with my friends Dave and Naomi.
Being Spring there was of shortage of water on this walk, this little stream was just before Derrick Hut.
After the massive car shuffle the night before, one which saw us finally settle into our hotel room at Harrietville well after midnight, it was a bit of a relaxing start to the day today. We finally shuffled off mid morning on what was a reasonably warm alpine day. The majority of this walk had us following a numbered pole line which is also a section of The Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT), so navigation wasn't going to be an issue as we set off towards Mt Loch this morning. Less than an hour after leaving we were taking in the view of the snow covered Mt Feathertop with Mt Loch in the foreground, itself with a fair snow drift still on its flanks. Dropping gently down towards Derrick Hut we stopped for awhile to refill the water bottles at one of the many cascading streams.
Lunch on day 1 was at the idealic Dibbins Hut.
Cobungra River near Dibbins Hut.
The AAWT slowly descended down Swindlers Spur after passing Derrick Hut, back in the day when we did this walk the snow gums hadn't been burn't and I remember the upper sections of Swindlers Spur being particularly good walking. The lower section of Swindler Spur dropped us steeply down to Dibbins Hut, with the sun out and the sky blue a more perfect spot for lunch you'd be hard pressed to find. The afternoon had us climbing up past the Basalt Temple onto the Bogong High Plains, the open rolling grassland made for fairly easy walking and by late afternoon we had made our way across to Cope Hut. There isn't a lot of flat ground for camping around Cope Hut but with the hut being empty we settled in there for the night, Cope Hut is one of the flashiest huts in the high country and we had a very comfortable night, which was just as well as we were all pretty tired after a fairly solid day.
Dave relaxing on The Bogong High Plains near Mt Jim.
Home for the night, Cope Hut.
Cope Hut is a very comfortable hut.

Day 2.      Cope Hut to Big River.        20 kilometres    42 kilometres total.
We had been really lucky with the weather so far on this walk and this morning was no different, waking this morning to warm and slightly overcast conditions. After breakfast we set off on our journey along the AAWT again in pretty good spirits. Today promised to be a little easier than yesterdays walk with the map promising no great climbs to contend with, initially we followed a pole line that ran just to the east of the Bogong High Plains Road until we arrived at the rustic Wallaces Hut, don't quote me but I think this little gem is listed by the National Trust.
Wallaces Hut.
Rocky Valley Dam.
After our second breakfast at Wallace Hut we once again headed off in the direction of Mt Bogong, avoiding the quarry on Basalt Hill we admired the views over the large Rocky Valley Dam as we dropped down to Langford Gap. For some reason we then headed along the Bogong High Plains road for a kilometre or so to pick up Big River Track  near Watchbed Creek, the AAWT actually heads east at Langford Gap to cross Langford East Aqueduct at a rather quaint roofed bridge so I'm not sure why we wondered down the road. Big River Track is superb walking along here though, (at least in good weather) as it crosses some of the highest most exposed country in Victoria. Walking across the open alpine grassland our next objective was in sight, Mt Nelse and Mt Nelse North which at 1884 metres is often listed as our third highest mountain, actually though our third highest point is about a kilometre west on a gentle knoll on the Spion Kopje Track, which comes in at 1893 metres.
Me on Mt Nelse, Mt Bogong is the washed out mountain in the distance.
Mt Bogong from Mt Nelse.
While it technically might not be our third highest point only train spotters would worry about it, and today it gave us a grand stand view of the patchwork of snow drifts blanketing the high plains and Mt Bogong, now suddenly looking very close at hand. Between us and Mt Bogong though was a little obstacle called Big River, to cross it meant a knee crunching descent of over 800 metres off The Bogong High Plains down Duane Spur to the river. After passing the old Ropers Hut hidden in the snow gums the route got steep and stayed that way all the way to the bottom, when the track dropped off the crest of the spur and headed down even steeper we soon got our first views of Big River rushing through the trees. Arriving at the chain on Big River our next problem became obvious, with the spring thaw in full flight Big River was flowing a banka, with the icy water lapping at the top of my thighs I eased myself across the chain safely. The job wasn't finished yet though, being the chivelerous bloke that I am I then dropped my pack and headed back across for Naomi's pack before wading back in for the third time. Eventually we were all safe and sound on the north bank and that's where we set up camp for the night, we'd arrived in the mid afternoon so the rest of the day was spent relaxing around camp and even taking a very quick dip in the river.
Heading towards Ropers Hut.
Big River had a fairly good flow on this visit.

Day 3      Big River to Mountain Creek      17 kilometres     59 kilometres total.
Our luck with the weather officially ran out today. We were woken by torrential rain and to be honest it didn't really let up much all day, nowadays that would make for a lot of watery, rain on the lens, atmospheric type of photos, but back in the day with no water proof camera it just meant no photos. What I do remember though was the relentless climb up T Spur in the misty rain, before the very welcoming Cleve Cole Hut materialised out of the gloom. A hot lunch was enjoyed at Cleve Cole while we slipped on almost all the clothes we were carrying. After leaving Cleve Cole Hut we endured an hour of tough walking as we made our way through the storm towards Mt Bogong, Naomi getting blown around like a rag doll in the wind. With absolutely no chance of a view today we gratefully dropped down Staircase Spur before we reached the summit cairn and headed for the tree line. After another quick break and a bit of a re group at Bivouac Hut we set off once again, descending reasonably quickly down the slippery track, although now we were well and truly below the tree line the conditions weren't anywhere near as hostile, we were now really just contending with rain. It was three very wet and bedraggled walkers that eventually arrived at Mountain Creek Car Park late that afternoon, drying ourselves off a bit we piled into my old XR Falcon (complete with front bench seat.....I was retro cool before I even knew what it meant!) and headed off for our regular pit stop, Maccas at Glenrowan.
We had a relaxing afternoon and evening at our camp at the bottom of T Spur on Big River.

The Dirt.
This is probably a medium grade walk, although looking back now, 25 years later, I'm amazed at the distances we covered and how quickly we covered them, I could do this now but I certainly wouldn't be setting up camp by mid afternoon nowadays! This is still a really good walk featuring what is arguably Victoria best alpine scenery, there are a few things to consider though. The first issue is that the walk requires a massive car shuffle, we're talking around 2 hours each way. The second issue should be obvious, with the walk traversing some great alpine country then the flip side of that is that for large parts it's fairly exposed, while there are lots of high country huts around you still have to be careful. The third thing to consider is the crossing of Big River, when the river is in flood or the spring thaw is on it's not a crossing to take lightly, even with the safety chain.
Relevant Posts.
The weather on our last day wasn't so flash!
Climbing T Spur in the rain on the last day.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Bluff Walk, Mount Walsh National Park - January 2017

The view of Mt Walsh on the drive in from Biggenden.
My first walk for 2017 turned out to be a bit of a ball breaker. The climb to the top of The Bluff in Mount Walsh National Park is fairly grunty anyway but doing it in the middle of the day in a hot and steamy Queensland summer upped the ante a bit more. Oh yeah and this was actually New Years Day so I hadn't exactly had a restful nights sleep the evening before. Leaving my outlaws place in Bundaberg my first objective for the day was to procure for myself a double shot mega sized iced-coffee, I'd always wondered why the take-away fridges were always full of iced-coffee's in our northern states and the penny dropped on this visit north, it's hardly a revelation but its just too bloody hot to sit down for a normal coffee a lot of the time so if you are craving your caffeine fix then ice-coffee is the logical way, we'll unless no-doz is your thing I suppose.
The route starts off at the back of the picnic area.
Suitably wired on caffeine I found my way to the car park at the start of the climb. Now as is usual in this part of Queensland information on the walk was a little thin on the ground, I'd read the very brief notes on the Qld Parks site, but apart from that the only other pearls of wisdom that I'd been able to garner were from an old post on the Australian Bushwalking Forum, which suggested a tough and very indistinct climb was ahead of me. So setting off up the rocky track I was a little apprehensive about what was to come, not sure if I'd actually be able to navigate my way through the numerous rocky bluffs to reach the top. Initially though all was good as the route climbed at a fairly solid gradient up through fairly open forest towards the rocky outcrops that no doubt signalled the start of the harder stuff.
The climb starts off steeply and pretty much stays that way for the rest of the climb.
Hmmm, this looks serious, I pushed on anyway.
Coming to a sign warning that to venture onwards I should be an experienced bushwalker, I battled on regardless, soon arriving at the base of the first huge rock slab. Resting against the slab in the shade of a gum tree I guzzled a bit of water, so far the climb had been fairly steep but fairly easy, looking upwards I could see that things were going to ramp up a notch though. The good news was that the route looked fairly well defined, I could see the odd marker leading up a large fault line in the granite. Eventually I could procrastinate in the shade of my gum tree no longer, the day wasn't going to get any cooler. Climbing very steeply onto the granite the radiant heat had me wondering if I'd actually get to the top, initially I'd been worried about finding a route through the precipitous bluffs but now I was actually there I was more concerned with the heat.
Resting on the slab at the start of the really steep stuff.
The initial scramble climbs up this fault line.
With frequent stops I slowly zig zagged my way up the rock, the good news was that the views were now getting very extensive so it wasn't actually a hardship to stop and take it in for awhile. The route to the top was actually pretty straight forward with a few markers and cairns marking important points. The rock itself was steep but there was always good hand holds even on the steepest sections, after the initial smooth slab things were easy for awhile until I had to climb up a steep gully which like the slab require the use of hands occasionally. After climbing up a slightly wider gully that was home to some impressive grass trees I was soon on the broad summit of The Bluff taking in the view.
At least I had plenty of excuses to stop and take in the scenery on the climb.
The last really steep chute before reaching the broad summit had quite a few grass trees growing in it.
The summit was a lot flatter than I'd imagined and with a bit more time up my sleeve, and a cooler day, the summit area would be a great place to spend a few hours exploring. Today though I kept my exploring to the immediate area, the views along the edge of the range were particularly good especially with the occasional old grass tree to add a bit of interest to my photos. The top of The Bluff also had it's own humpy, if anyone has read a few of my posts they may have noticed that I like to photograph humpys that I come across in my travels, I'm not exactly sure what's going on with the profusion of these bush shelters around the place but there definitely seems to be a lot more of them then around than there used to be.....we'll since the white man arrived anyway.
There is no shortage of grass trees on the summer as well.
The Mount Walsh humpy.
With the day getting hotter and my water getting lower I started the steep walk back down to the ute. It's actually on the descent that I really noticed how steep the gradient was, the narrow chute required me to down climb using my hands while fishing around with my feet for some purchase on the rock. All was good though and I was soon off the rock and meandering my way back down to the car park through the open dry woodland, you have to be a little careful along here as it would be easy to relax and become complacent but the route is steep and slippery virtually all the way down. It was with some relief that I jumped into the ute and cranked up the air-con, driving back out through the dry paddocks I glanced at the ambient temperature readout on the dash, 35 C might not sound that much but add a fair dose of humidity along with a decent climb and it tested me today, but then again it might just be that I'm fat and old!
The view along the range offered plenty of opportunities for more day!
Looking back down to the car park.
The Dirt.
On this climb I walked 5.3 kilometres and climbed 454 metres, the statistics maybe don't really accurately portray the difficulty I had today. The heat really knocked me around on this walk for some reason, we were on the back end of a Northern Territory trip so I should have been acclimatised but the bare rocky slabs took it out of me. Having said all that I'd rate this as a medium walk, I was up and down in around 3 hours and was still able to back up with another stroll in the afternoon so I wasn't exactly broken (well no more than normal!), but it was definitely harder than the distance and climbing would suggest. As I mentioned earlier, information is a little thin on the ground for this walk, my main source of information was from the Qld Parks site.
Relevant Posts.
There were plenty of excuses to stop and take it in on the way down too.
Yeah, but it was a bloody hot 35!
Even the locals were looking for some shade.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ghost Gum Walk, Ormiston Gorge, Western MacDonnell National Park - December 2016

Here's another of the walks that I did up in Central Australia late last year. If there is one thing all these walks have in common it's that they are all short, probably the longest walk I completed in the red centre last year would have been only around 5 or 6 kilometres, there were two reasons for that though, the first being that the rain had closed a lot access roads so my choices were a little limited and secondly, the grey skies and frequent rain sucked my mojo away a little. Twelve months previously I'd snuck in a walk at Ormiston Gorge, once again sneaking in just after the roads had opened and a couple of days before I had to be back home to go to work. That walk was notable for a very close encounter with a Death Adder so heading back today I was hoping for a rather less exciting walk, oh and I decided that boots and not sandals were the go, which is what all the smart (and alive) bushwalkers are wearing!
The Ghost Gum Walk climbs up to a lookout directly above the swimming hole in Ormiston Gorge.
I wasn't heading back out to Ormiston Pound as I had last year though, in my lethargic state I decided to do the very short Ghost Gum Walk. This little stroll initially climbs up above Ormiston Gorge to a substantial lookout above the main swimming hole, I've swum down there many times over the years but I'm not sure I'll be swimming there again. It would just take one tool up here to lob a rock over the edge and you could be in all sorts of trouble down below, judging by the warning signs I reckon it might have already happened more than once! The climb up to the lookout follows a very short section of the Larapinta Trail through the Ormiston Gorge camping area before starting to climb via a long series of steps into the hills, as it climbs the track is benched into sometimes almost vertical slopes and the views as you would imagine take your breath away.
There are plenty of excuses to stop and get your breath bak on the climb.
Once at the lookout my eyes were drawn to the view down along the gorge, I've walked through the gorge many times but have never seen the view from up here. Your spoilt for choice a little when it comes to grand scenery in the Western MacDonnell's but Ormiston Gorge is right up there in my opinion. After swatting away a few flies I continued on, dropping gently down to the bed of the gorge past slopes coloured gold with spinifex and dotted with the occasional majestic ghost gum. 
The view down the gorge from the lookout, that's the main swimming hole below.
Dropping down to the bed of Ormiston Creek the track passed a few ghost gums.
As well as spinifex.

Once I was down on the sandy bed of Ormiston Creek all that was left was to head down stream back towards the visitor centre at the head of the gorge. Now normally I'd be telling you all about the great swimming holes along here and how I languished in my share of them, but with the grey sky above threatening to drop their load on me at any minute I didn't muck around to much this morning. After climbing over one last rocky rib I arrived at the last waterhole, this is the usual swimming spot for the tourists being only a two minute walk from the car park. There was no one swimming today though, I was welcomed to the waterhole by more warm rain so I took shelter under an old ghost gum while I took a couple of photos of the quiet waterhole, last year I'd had to swim across here but this year I managed to get across Ormiston Creek to the car park without wet feet (although this situation changed drastically a couple of days later). The walk was now coming to it's end, all that was left now was a couple of hundred metres along the paved tourist walk and I was back in the ute cranking the air-conditioning up, it may of been grey over head but it was still bloody hot!

If you want to swim here I'd head down stream (into the gorge).
Once reaching the bed of Ormiston Creek it was just a matter of following the creek back to the car park.

The Dirt.
Somehow I managed to eke out 3.1 kilometres and climb 86 metres on this easy stroll. Don't let the measly stats put you off though this walk is a scenic extravaganza. If you are lucky enough to be here in the early morning on a blue sky day then I don't think that you could take a bad photo. As I mentioned earlier I don't think I'll swim at the main waterhole again, the danger of someone lobbing a rock from the (un-seen) lookout above is too much for me, I guess if you have to swim here then cross over to the far bank, at least over there you should be able to see if there is anyone up at the lookout. The good thing about Ormiston Gorge though is that if your prepared to walk a little there are normally plenty more options for a dip as you make your way up the gorge. I used the notes out of the Daly's Take A Walk In Northern Territory's National Park, although I think it's only available as a e-book now.
Relevant Posts.
Sheltering from the rain under a big ghost gum, this is the main swimming spot.
Last year I had to swim across here, the car park is on the far bank.