Sunday, July 23, 2017

Eagles Peaks, Alpine National Park - July 2017

Looking back towards The Bluff from Eagles Peaks. I have warn you that this will be a very photo heavy post I think.
Over the years I've driven past the start of the Eagles Peaks tracks on numerous occasions, both the Sheepyard Flat and Eight Mile Gap track heads, but on all my other visits to the area I'd been heading to points further afield. With a promising weather forecast this Saturday I decided to head up and see what I'd been missing. For a change I'd come pretty well prepared today, being mid winter in the Australian Alps it pays to not take too many chances, so on top of the normal emergency gear today I had my snow shoes in the ute as well, I'd make the call on whether to use them when I arrived at the car park at Eight Mile Gap. Driving up I followed my usual Saturday morning routine. Take a way toasties and coffee from the golden arches, followed by a long drive watching the ambient temp hovering between 0 and -4 at the same time being entertained by ABC news radio going through the latest cluster f*#k coming out of the white house, this week's entertainment supplied by Shaun spicey Spicer and not the orange buffoon for a change.
It was -3 when I set off from Eight Mile Gap this morning.
Pulling up at deserted car park at Eight Mile Gap at around 9am I quickly made the call to leave the snow shoes in the ute, the drive up from Sheepyard Flat had given me enough glimpses of the higher country though the trees to have me confident that I wouldn't need to lug the extra weight today. Resetting the GPS I set off up the wide trail, this was the first surprise of the day, it looks like the track has recently been cleared, so instead of pushing through over hanging scrub I was able to climb without getting soaked by the wet vegetation. So apart from a few sections of bracken crowding the track the climb was fairly easy really, the bonus was that as I climbed higher I started to get some good views of the huge snow covered cliffs of The Bluff through the trees. 
I was pleasantly surprised to find a clear track.
Climbing higher the vegetation started to get a bit more stunted and the views opened up.
The climb up to the ridge is fairly easy.
There was a little bracken crowding the track in a couple of places.
I'm just arriving on to the ridge that I will now follow to Eagles Peaks.
A kilometre or so after leaving the ute the track arrived on top of a ridge that I'd then follow all the way to Eagles Peaks, the ridge top walk ramping up the scenery meter even more. I'd walked through patches of snow on the climb up to the ridge but from here on the snow would be fairly constant, if not overly deep. Heading west along the ridge the bulk of the eastern most and highest of Eagles Peaks started looming through the snow gums. When I managed to remove my eyes from the huge red walls of Eagles Peak and glanced to the south west the snow covered ramparts of Mount McDonald held my gaze. The rest of the walk until I returned to this spot much later in the day would now be a fair bit slower, not only due to me being careful on the snow and ice covered rocks but also the fact that the scenery was now stunning in every direction.
I'd more or less be in snow now until I returned later in the day.
Eagles Peaks looming through the alpine scrub.
At 1446 metres that is the highest of Eagles Peaks.
My climbing ridge, it doesn't look that steep does it?

After a slow and careful walk along the ridge it started to climb up steeply to the top of the highest of Eagles Peaks. The climb up here is steep and sections of it are fairly close to some serious drops, with the patches of ice on the bare rock it focussed my mind a bit. Once I'd carefully made my way to the top I was rewarded with a 360˚ view, apart from the The Bluff (which was in view for most of the walk) I now was looking across to Mount Buller and Mount Stirling. I now wandered across a series of knolls and saddles to the extreme southern most knoll, this spot is slightly out board from the main Eagles Peaks ridge and probably offers the best vantage point back to the ridge that I'd climbed.
The climb was made a little tricky by ice in some spots.
There are a couple of snow gums on top of the highest peak.
This outlier knoll slightly to the south of the main Eagles Peak ridge line probably gives the best view.
It's steep country though.
Have I mentioned that it was a superb day today?
That's Mount McDonald from the outlier knoll.
And that's my climbing ridge.

Carefully making my way back to the main ridge line I set off on a trip out to the western most of Eagles Peaks. This walk once again consisted of a lot of climbing and descending interspersed with small saddles, the saddles in particular making for some sublime walking as the snow had settled a little deeper in the sheltered spots. It was slow walking though, I'd initially thought that this whole stroll would only take me two to three hours but it was already after lunchtime and I was still heading away from the ute. Climbing up one last snow covered knoll I was now now at the final knoll, the continuation of the track being the snow covered spur leading down to Sheepyard Flat. I wasn't going down to Sheepyard Flat today though, from this point onwards I'd be retracing my route back to the ute at Eight Mile Gap.
The one constant today were the walls of The Bluff.
The summit ridge of Eagles Peaks isn't exactly flat.
The saddles had probably the deepest cover of snow.
The western most of Eagles Peaks.

Before starting back I once again stopped for a minute to take it all in, I now could see the snowy summit of Mount Howitt poking out in the distance, the Cross Cut Saw, Mount Buggery and Mt Speculation were all visible in the distance from this peak. This was also the closest that I got to the Mount Buller and Mount Stirling complex, with Buller in the foreground and the snow covered summit of Stirling peaking out from behind. With my SD card threatening to melt down I started the slow walk back, the good news for me being that even though this walk was effectively a retrace the different direction meant that there was always something else to stop and photograph.
Mount Buller
Mount Stirling in the background.
The Bluff
The flat snowy summit of Mount Howitt peaking out above Square Head Jinny, the jagged teeth of the Cross Cut Saw is to the left a little.
The ducks guts of Victorian alpine walking, the Cross Cut Saw, Mount Buggery and Mount Speculation.
Making my way slowly back to the highest peak I started a very slow and careful descent, the snow on the open rocky areas having noticeably thinned out over the course of the day. Once again it was a slow walk along the precipitous sections of the ridge before the track dropped off the crest and started the descent back down to Eight Mile Gap. Once off the ridge it was a quick and easy descent all the way to the ute. I arrived back at the ute shortly after 3 pm, it turns out that the walk took me almost 6 hours today. Now while I am old and fat a fair chunk of the day was taken up taking photos, but still 6 hours made for a fairly relaxed pace.
Making my way back the scenery was still impressing me.
Following my foot prints back.
There were plenty of wild dog prints around :(
The closest thing to a selfie today.
The Dirt.
I walked 9.6 kilometres at an average speed of 2.4 kph (yeah, I told you it was a relaxed pace!), and climbed 848 metres on this medium grade walk. The only walking notes that I know of for this walk are by Glenn van der Knijff in his 2004 edition of Bushwalks in the Victorian Alps book. Now I've probably mentioned this before but if there is anyone who might rival Mr Chapman in writing up and publishing hardcore walking notes then it has to be Glenn, while he hasn't actually had that many books published he has written up quite a few sets of track notes that were published in Wild magazine, Glen actually rates this as an easy walk. Eagles Peaks is a great day out from Eight Mile Gap, it would be a hard day out if you walked up from Sheepyard Flat. Standing somewhat aloof, surrounded by arguably the best of Victoria's alpine country it's a walk to do if mountains are your thing.
Relevant Posts.

Looking back up to the highest of Eagles Peaks, now in the mid afternoon winters light.
There are a few track markers and cairns scattered around.
My last look through the scrub of The Bluff as I descended to Eight Mile Gap.
Brocks Road, Eight Mile Gap and the end of today's stroll.

The walk starts from Eight Mile Gap at the spot where Bluff Link Road leaves Brocks Road.