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.

Mt Ligar aka The Crinoline, May 2022

The Crinoline had been on my list for some time but never seemed to quite make it to the top, until the stars aligned on a beautiful weekend in late May 2022. I made the trip out there with three hardy bushwalkers, staying in Heyfield on Friday night to enable us to get an early start on Saturday.

Our chosen route had us starting at Tamboritha Saddle and finishing at Breakfast Creek campsite. Every time I think of that campsite, Midnight Oil’s “Dreamworld” starts playing in my head. This was to be my earworm for the weekend. We left one car at Breakfast Creek campsite… “Your dreamworld is just about to end” …and continued on in one car to Tamboritha Saddle. We set off on our walk just before 10am.

A little bit of forest walking initially and then the views opened up. Most of the walk follows a ridgeline and in the fine weather we were treated to many spectacular views.

On our first day we followed Long Hill track. While the ridgeline did not have long steep ups and downs the path was quite rocky and uneven with a little scrambling here and there.

The track became indistinct to non-existent at times (or did we just lose it?) but we always managed to pick it back up. Staying up on the ridgeline generally kept us on track to our destination, a camp site on Long Hill. We caught glimpses of the Crinoline as we walked but the best views came as we arrived at camp late in the afternoon.

Making use of the remaining sunlight we set off to find water in a nearby creek. It is a rare water source on this walk and is sometimes reported to be dry. With a lot of recent rain we were confident it would be flowing and so it was. It took quite a bush bash to get to it though. After we filled up, we took a different line back to camp and it was much easier going back. With the sun going down, we set up camp and got a fire going. We sat around the camp fire, ate our dinner and talked. It also happened to be the night of the federal election. We listened to updates from the ABC as it gradually became clear that the Morrison Liberal government would not be returned to power.

It was a beautiful place to camp on the ridge overlooking the valleys around us. The weather was cold but calm and I slept very well. I enjoyed lazing in my hammock in the morning watching the sun rise.

And the Crinoline too …

After breakfast we packed up camp and set off to tackle it.

The line to take wasn’t always obvious (to us) and at one point we had to back track and find a better line. It wasn’t too bad though; a little bit of scrambling but nothing too crazy. It looked a lot more dramatic from afar than when I was on it.

I had read some reports that indicated there might be some sketchy bits on our descent but I found it pretty straightforward. As someone who struggles with heights this was a relief.

The rest of the walk was a long steady descent. We joined up with MacMillan’s Track which took us to our finish point at Breakfast Creek camp. This was a great walk and well worth the long trip from Melbourne for an overnighter. We felt very lucky to have had such great weather so close to winter. I would love to come back and do it again sometime.

Wilsons Prom – Oberon, Lighthouse and South Point, December 2021

A couple of friends and I decided that despite some of the best campsites being booked out or largely inaccessible due to storm damage we would spend a few days walking in the south of Wilsons Prom between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We planned a four day hike; from Telegraph Saddle to Oberon Bay, Roaring Meg, Half-Way Hut and back to Telegraph Saddle. These are fairly short distances so we had a few side-trips pencilled in as well. Probably not the most exciting Prom itinerary but the weather forecast was good and any Prom walk is better than none.

We arrived at Tidal River fairly late in the day and started walking from Telegraph Saddle after 5pm. It is very easy walking to Oberon Bay and we made the 10km distance in a little over two hours. It is mostly coastal scrub at the campsite so not too many spots with two decent size trees to hang the hammock from. The campsite was fairly quiet though so we could take the time to check it out and eventually found a good spot.

It was a lovely evening, with calm weather and a beautiful sunset.

The weather gods continued to smile on us the next day. We made it to Roaring Meg in fairly short time with an easy walk along Telegraph Track initially and then the walking track to the campsite. The campsite has plenty of shady places to pitch a tent, a few table platforms for people to use for cooking and gathering around and a reliable flowing creek for water. I was also supplied with two good trees to hang from so I was happy.

After some lunch we decided to make a side-trip to the lighthouse, about 6 kms away. It was quite warm but we went with very light packs as we had set up camp at Roaring Meg. The walk has great views of Bass Strait and the approach to the lighthouse. The last few hundred metres to the lighthouse has a very steep sealed path which required some determined shuffling in the mid-afternoon sun to make it to the top. We spent some time checking out the lighthouse and having a rest before making the return trip to camp.

On our third day we only had a short walk to get to our next campsite at Halfway Hut so after breakfast we went for a side-trip to South Point, the southern-most point of mainland Australia. It is a beautiful spot and we spent a half hour or so just resting and enjoying the serenity.

We returned to Roaring Meg to pack up camp and have an early lunch. Then it was an easy walk along Telegraph Track to Halfway Hut. We had been advised there was no water at the campsite so we had to carry enough from Roaring Meg to last us until we reached Growlers Creek tomorrow, about 3 kms beyond Halfway Hut.

Not many people seem to stay at Halfway Hut – most of the other campsites have more appealing surrounds. But as campsites go it is not too bad. Shady spots to pitch tents and a few table platforms. Maybe the fact that I found a good spot to hang my hammock also helped my favour my view.

On our last day we made easy work of the 7.5 kms back to Telegraph Saddle. Instead of catching the next shuttle back to Tidal river we decided to walk the 3 or so kms to the peak of Mount Oberon. It was a bit cloudy at first but eventually we got some nice views.

While this was not the most exciting Prom walk itinerary I’ve done, it was still very enjoyable. We had great weather, the camps sites were not too busy, the company was good, I had great sleep in the hammock on all three nights and the side trips were excellent, easily making up for the unexciting walking along Telegraph Track.

Mount Bogong via Eskdale Spur and the Staircase, December 2021

Finally the time had come for me to summit Victoria’s highest mountain, Mt Bogong. I came close to it a couple of years ago on a section hike of the Australian Alps Walking Track – on a side trip from Cleve Cole Hut, but the weather wasn’t great so we gave it a miss at the time. The mountain wasn’t going anywhere so I was confident that I would get another opportunity one day. And so that time came in December 2021.

Our group of four made the trip from Melbourne, starting early Saturday morning and arriving at Mountain Creek Campground late morning. Our chosen route was to walk the track along Mountain Creek to Camp Creek Gap and ascend Eskdale Spur. We would descend via the Staircase.

Although the temperature was relatively mild in the low 20’s, our walk up the spur was in the afternoon and the hottest time of the day. So we managed to work up a bit of a sweat on the steady uphill climb. Some people coming down the hill told us they saw quite a few snakes; fortunately for us we saw none. Probably too distracted with trying to breathe! We stopped for a break at Michele Hut as well as numerous other short stops on the way to take in the great views and catch our breath.

After Michele Hut the trees thinned out and the climb became much more exposed. We had a clear, calm day and so no issues as we made our way up the last part of the ascent. There were still a few tiny patches of snow around.

And finally we made it up to the top of the spur. There is no dramatic peak but a large plain with the peak of Bogong a few hundred metres west and Cleve Cole Hut a few kms south east. As the sky was pretty cloudy we decided to leave the peak to the morning and make our way to our camp for tonight at Cleve Cole Hut. As we got closer to the hut we came across some magnificent snow gums and wildflowers.

The area around the Hut is fantastic. Lots of flat grassy areas to pitch a tent. In really nasty weather the hut can be used for shelter. Beautiful clear mountain water nearby.

Camp for the night

I decided to take the tent for this trip as we were not 100% sure we would be camping at Cleve Cole. If we had camped near the peak there would be zero chance to hammock camp. Plenty of trees at Cleve Cole though. Oh well, I guess it’s good to suffer in the tent now and then to appreciate it more when I get back to the bliss of a good hammock sleep.

As it turned out I slept ok in the tent, certainly not the worst sleep I’ve ever had. I thought I had found a very flat, level patch of ground but I did find myself sliding to the left and head end a bit. The joys of ground sleeping!

After breakfast and packing up we made our way to the peak of Mount Bogong. Unfortunately we were surrounded by cloud so we did not get any views. We took some photos at the cairn but did not linger long as the cloud did not clear and it was quite windy and cold. We also saw a lot of Bogong moths at the cairn.

Then it was time to descend via Staircase Spur. It is supposed to be the shorter but steeper option between it and Eskdale Spur. I noticed much more people using Staircase Spur than Eskdale, with many day walkers and runners simply doing a return walk via the Staircase rather than a loop taking in both spurs.

It was a slow and steady walk down – the views opened up as we made our way below the clouds.

And then we were into the trees and pretty soon back at the car to get changed into clean clothes and make the long drive back to Melbourne. It was great to finally make it to the summit of Mt Bogong and have (mostly) fantastic weather to do it in.

Great South West Walk Day 13, Mallee to Portland (finish), November 2021

I was awake at first light but lazed in the hammock for a bit and got up just before 6am. All was quiet in the camp. I had a good sleep on a lovely night with barely any wind, no rain and not too cold.

Without rushing the last morning pack-up of the trip, I was still out quite early by my standards, on the track by 7.20am.

Kept me warm and comfortable on 8 out of 9 nights camping

The walk into Portland was a bit of a mixed bag. Some nice coastal walking along with obvious signs of industry; wind turbines and the Alcoa Aluminium smelter within sight most of the day.

The walk to Portland and the ever present wind turbines

A nice section of the walk was through the Enchanted Forest with its gnarled tree trunks and branches providing lots of shade.

Pipeline from the smelter to the port
On to the Portland foreshore
And the finish line!

I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. I’m glad I had a rest day in Nelson to give my body a break and to sit out the only really bad weather of the 13 days. Each of the four sections of the walk, forest/river/beach/capes, provided plenty of variety and interest. I was happy the blisters did not get too out of control and I was able to keep walking without them becoming too distracting. Of the 9 camp sites I was able to hang the hammock 8 times, a good result I thought. I would definitely recommend this walk to others and would do sections of it again, maybe next time canoeing along the Glenelg river.

Great South West Walk Day 12, Cape Bridgewater to Mallee, November 2021

Luxury is a hot breakfast! Part of the deal at the B&B was that you could have a cooked breakfast. First order of the day though was another luxury, a hot shower. Unfortunately the hot water was not working. I tried it several times thinking maybe the owner would have the same problem and fix it himself or that another guest would complain saving me the trouble. With breakfast available from 8am I would give it till 7.30am and if still not working have a very quick cold shower. At 7.25am the water came good and I thoroughly enjoyed a steaming hot shower. Apparently the gas bottle had run out and needed changing which the owner Dennis attended to when he tried to have a shower. I then had a delicious breakfast of poached eggs on toast with coffee, perfect to help sustain me for the days walk ahead.

First up was a 1.5km beach walk, then around 4km through coastal scrub followed by another 5kms of beach walking. The tide was on its way in so I went at a reasonably fast pace to avoid getting caught on soft sand at high tide.

Waves crashing into rocks marked the end of the beach walk. A steep walk up sand dunes lead to the rocky track of Cape Nelson.

The cape was an interesting walk with great coastal views, colourful wildflowers and Soap Mallee eucalypts.

Eventually the cape’s lighthouse came into view. I stopped there for a milkshake at the cafe before continuing on to nearby Mallee camp.

The camp was quite small. It was a bit of a challenge to get the hammock up but I managed it. That made it 8 out of 9 camp sites that I was able to hang the hammock. It was looking to be a quiet peaceful camp with only two of us there, until a school group with 15 or so year 9 boys arrived. Alas the last camp of the trip would not have the peaceful serenity of earlier camps. They weren’t too bad actually, the teachers took them for a walk to expend some energy and earplugs helped block out some of the noise when they returned to camp and their basic tarp shelters. Watching the sun set was a great way to end the day. Last day tomorrow and then the long drive home.

Great South West Walk Day 10, Swan Lake to Tarragal, November 2021

Sleeping on the ground last night wasn’t the worst sleep I’ve ever had but it was the worst on this trip so far. It brought back memories of tent sleeping; sleep ok on my back for a few hours, wake up sore and then shifting from side to side every hour or so dozing uncomfortably till first light.

Despite the poor quality sleep it was good to be able to successfully set up the tarp and bivy on the ground. Now I know I can do it if need be. The challenge will be if the weather is really nasty.

Today’s walk was an inland route to Mount Richmond National Park. Quite a bit of walking along rough vehicle tracks, fence lines, a few bush tracks and alongside pine plantations. A lot of grassy tracks and the sun was out quite a bit too. Expecting there will be some snakes on the track at some stage.

Sure enough, a couple of snakes were sunning themselves on the track to Mount Richmond. They were no problem though and able to be stepped around easily enough.

Basking snake, not interested in me

The picnic area on Mount Richmond was beautiful. While the walk to get there wasn’t amazing the site itself made it worth it. Lovely gums providing plenty of shade and picnic tables on some nice grassy areas. Toilets and tank water, what more could you need? A shelter maybe, but not required today. I must have enjoyed it too much as I didn’t even get a good photo of it.

There were some koalas in the trees in the picnic area, occasionally they would let off a loud boisterous bellowing before settling back to a snooze.

Looks so comfortable

The remainder of today’s walk was along a combination of rough vehicle tracks and walking tracks, through bush and alongside fields. A good place to dump and burn a car it seems, this one still had some police tape on it.

The walk seemed to be stretching along interminably but eventually Tarragal camp was reached. Much to my shame I did not take any photos of the camp as it was a great site. Lots of trees to hang from too! It was in quite a bushy spot but vehicles could be heard on a road a few hundred metres away. Koalas were nearby as their bellowing could be heard at regular intervals. One was very close to camp. The only downside of the camp was that the mozzies were out in force. Insect repellant did little to discourage them. The smoke from a little campfire seemed to be more effective in holding them at bay.

Off to bed at sunset and it was great to be off the ground again tonight. It was a bit warmer, quite still and I slept very well.

Great South West Walk Day 11, Tarragal to Cape Bridgewater, November 2021

Today’s walk was a combination of inland and coastal. The first section was inland, from Tarragal camp to Bridgewater Lakes, a bit over 12kms that took around 3 hours. The walk was along some bush tracks, tracks running alongside farms and also through farm fields including some electric fences to be negotiated.

One of the more interesting sights on the approach to the lakes was Tarragal cave.

The facilities at the lakes were a good place for a pit stop, snack and rest before taking on the coastal section.

Cape Bridgewater was beautiful. It was mostly quite rocky walking with fantastic scenery. It was sunny, warm and very windy which meant a lot more water consumption. For the first time on this trip I had to ration my water a bit. One feature of the walk was wind turbines. There are a lot of these scattered along the coast all the way to Portland. If you turn your back on them the coastal scenery is still amazing. No doubt the wind does a great job of generating power here but they do detract somewhat from the feeling of being out in nature.

On the eastern side of the cape there is a seal colony, apparently the only mainland one in Australia, with New Zealand seals on one platform to the right and Australian seals to their left. Apparently they don’t mix. Read into that what you will.

Aussies to the left, Kiwis to the right

The walk along the cape is very exposed with virtually no places to shelter from the wind and sun. A viewing platform near the seal colony with a little shelter was a very welcome place for a rest before the last few kms into the small township of Cape Bridgewater.

While in Nelson a few days ago I saw the forecast for tonight was not looking great with high winds and rain expected. So I took the opportunity to book into the the Seaview Lodge B&B rather than camp. It also evened out today’s and tomorrow’s walk to around 22kms each rather than something like 29 and 15.

There isn’t much by way of facilities in the town but there is a cafe that serves hot food. I arrived into town around 3pm, rushed off to the B&B to have a shower and came back to the cafe before it shut at 4pm for some decent hot food. I feasted on a burger and chips washed down with a Blue Heaven milkshake. It was amazing!

I had a relaxing night at the B&B chatting with the other guests and reading in my room. Nice to be indoors while the wind and rain battered the coast outside.

Great South West Walk Day 9, Lake Monibeong to Swan Lake, November 2021

Today’s walk was a beach slog. Leaving camp late in the morning meant that the tide would be just past it’s peak making for easier walking on firmer sand.

There wasn’t a lot to see on the beach other than pounding waves on the right, sand dunes on the left and beach straight ahead. That was pretty much it for 15 kms.

Today’s walk…dunes left, waves right, beach straight ahead

The occasional sea creature would add some variety…

After taking the exit from the beach to Swan Lake campsite another 1.5km of walking through towering sand dunes was required to reach camp. This was also the stomping ground of the local dune buggy club.

Upon arriving into camp I scouted around for suitable trees to hang the hammock. I could not find anything that would work and eventually realised tonight’s sleep would be on the ground. It would be my first time sleeping on the ground under a tarp. It was quite fiddly to set up but I got it to a configuration I thought would be ok. There wasn’t any rain forecast so I left the entrance wide open.

Oh the horror…sleeping on the ground!

With shelter sorted I tended to my feet as a large blister had developed on my left big toe. My heel blisters had been behaving pretty well so this was a new front in the blister wars.

It was a nice campsite and there was a beautiful sunset to close out the day – much better than it looks in the photo below.

Great South West Walk Day 8, Nelson to Lake Monibeong, November 2021

The tides were not favourable for an early morning start so I spent a leisurely morning in Nelson before getting back on the trail.

Judy’s leech bite inflammation had reduced overnight and she decided to keep walking. We walked out of town towards the beach together as we had both been waiting for the tide to start going out. We tried to time it to get mostly outgoing tide while walking, starting at high tide. Trying to stay on firm sand I misjudged an incoming wave and got my feet soaked. They spent the rest of the day slowly drying out while my shoes filled with sand. The gaiters helped but my trail runners have mostly mesh uppers so the sand just gets in.

Outgoing tide made for easier beach walking

There were a couple of sections that went behind the sand dunes and along some rocky outcrops which made the walking a bit more varied and interesting. Some bright flowers added some colour too.

The inland route to Lake Monibeong was along grassy track and easy walking. Camp was reached around 4pm. Rain showers had been mostly absent during the walk but they came and went for the next few hours while at camp.

Scruffy hiker at Lake Monibeong

The walkers campsite had no suitable trees to hang from. There is a car camping area nearby and I scouted around for a suitable site. As it is mostly wide open area with a little coastal scrub I had a bit of trouble but eventually found a spot. I had been thinking I might have to spend a couple of nights on the ground on the coastal sections so we’ll see how it is at the other camps.

I had dinner at the walkers shelter then made my way a few hundred metres to my hammock spot and got set up. The wind was quite gusty and then the rain came making set up a bit tricky. The tarp was like a kite wanting to take off but I managed to get it pegged down.

Found a good spot, but there wasn’t a lot of choice

The wind continued through the night, whipping the tarp around and into the hammock quite a bit. I tried Max Richter sleep music but that didn’t do it for me. Eventually I put in my earplugs and drifted off to sleep. Wind + DCF tarp = noisy.

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