Mt Stirling, December 2022

With 2022 drawing to a close I could hear the High Country calling. Time to get out and enjoy nature, great views, serenity…and get some much needed exercise. The weather was looking favourable too with a 3 day gap between 30 plus degree days. Our group of four drove to Mirimbah at the base of Mt Buller on the morning of 28 December. After a short break in Mansfield we arrived at Mirimbah around 10.30am and set off on our walk 15 or so minutes later. Our destination today was Bluff Spur Hut, just short of the top of Mt Stirling. Our route would take us up the Delatite River trail, branching off at the River Spur trail and on to Bluff Spur Hut. Roughly 14kms of mostly uphill walking, taking us from 650m to 1,650m elevation.

It was mostly pleasant walking along the Delatite River trail, gently easing ourselves back into pack walking. There were quite a few mountain bikes coming the other way. This is a big mountain bike area so we would see a lot more mountain bikes than bushwalkers over the next few days.

We arrived at Bluff Spur Hut around 5pm. Much to our surprise given the abundance of rain in recent times, we found the water tank empty. Fortunately, we had passed a nicely flowing water source a few hundred metres away. Beautiful, clear mountain water, not a bad back-up.

Having completed camp set-up and meal routines, we had plenty of time to enjoy beautiful views as the sun slowly set.

It was off to bed once the sun had set. The night was clear and cool, not too cold and very little wind. Perfect weather for a good sleep in the hammock amongst the snow gums.

The plan for day 2 was to leave our gear at the hut and take the bare essentials for a side trip to Mt Stirling and Craig’s Hut, a 10km return trip. The weather was mostly clear and cool in the morning, although the forecast was for showers and possible storm so we took rain gear with us. First up, we made our way to Mt Stirling summit and enjoyed the views.

Next we tackled the 4WD track to Craig’s Hut. I vaguely recalled this being a “bit up and down” from when I walked it around 10 years ago. That was putting it mildly. As it is a 4WD track there are no switchbacks to take the edge of the steep parts. There was a lot of undulation but mostly down to Craig’s Hut on the hard and at times steep track. We were dreading the return trip that would be mostly up. One of our group was continually fantasising about getting a lift back with one of the many 4WDs that passed us. No one offered a lift though, mostly we just got incredulous looks like “why would you walk this track?” and belching of diesel exhaust for good measure.

Craig’s Hut is a beautiful spot. The hut itself is a recreation of a mountain cattleman’s hut that was originally built for the film “The Man From Snowy River” in 1982. It has been rebuilt twice, once due to being destroyed in a bushfire. It was very busy with the 4WD traffic when we got there. Lots of showered and perfumed people wandering about keeping a wide berth of us smelly bushwalkers.

The return trip to Bluff Spur Hut did not seem to be as hard as we thought it would be. The slope actually looked worse going down than up. We made it back to camp, had lunch and packed up by 2pm. We then made our way to Howqua Gap Hut, mostly downhill. The hut is along the Circuit Road and gets quite a bit of traffic. We thought about moving on and camping somewhere near Corn Hill but the weather forecast had showers and likely storms coming. So we decided to stay put, thinking the hut would be nice to sit out the storm and cook our dinner.

We got our shelters set up and the heavens opened soon after. It bucketed down for a couple of hours. Two of the tents developed small lakes around and underneath them. The occupants ended up sleeping in the hut. During the storm a couple of 4WDs arrived and set themselves up in the rain. Much to my consternation they set up within metres of where I had my hammock set up. As the rain eased they decided a fire would be a good idea, having no regard for the proximity of my shelter. I asked them to be mindful of my tarp being close by. Fortunately they struggled to get a fire going and when they did it stayed fairly small. At one point my blood pressure went up when one of them decided to pour some fuel on the fire, but it died down pretty quickly. With them being so close to my bed, I stayed up until they went to bed which mercifully was only 10pm. The rain held off overnight and I managed to get a good sleep.

Our last day on the trail had us walking up to Mt Buller in the morning along the Woolybutt trail. We had a false start however as we merrily went down Cornhill Road for 15 minutes before realising our error. Back we went and then up the very steep to begin with Woolybutt trail. The sky was clear and we got some good views to the south through the scraggly trees.

We eventually made it to Buller Village and muddled our way through the buildings, road and mountain bike trails to find the Klingsporn Track. I was fascinated with the name, who was this Klingsporn and what role did they play? It seems to be a German nickname for a horseman. The track is an old bridle trail that was the main approach to Mt Buller for many years until they built the road. It is a long steady downhill walk. By the end of the 8-9kms my knees were screaming. But it was well worth it to walk thorough beautiful forest with towering gums. We also got to see our first snake of the walk (need to look closely in the grassy pic below) with another one to follow not long after when we stopped for a break at “Thank Christ Corner”. According to the sign it was so named as that was the general feeling of those who were walking up the track in the early days when it was the main route to Buller.

As we descended back to the cars at Mirimbah the temperature was getting warmer and ended up quite hot by the time we finished around 2pm. There was quite a bit of 4WD track walking and sharing of trails with mountain bike riders on this trip which detracted somewhat from the bushwalking experience. That is the reality of the Mt Buller/Stirling area however and is still worth it in my opinion for some great scenery and camping on this 3 day walk.

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