Author Archives: imahiker

About imahiker

I'm a bushwalker, camper, mountain bike rider, rock climber, wine taster ... just about anything that involves the outdoors. Wine taster? Well, grapes grow outdoors.

Up and down Mt Juliet

It took my legs a week to recover from the climb up and down Mt Juliet. Ugh, age is catching up with me.

Just outside Healesville, an hour and a bit east of Melbourne in the Yarra Ranges, Mt Juliet is 1120m high. The walk to the top is only 4.5km. It’s steep. Very steep.

The day I did it was a rainy, cold winter’s day.

The track was slick and slippery and it felt at times that with every few grunting steps up I’d slide back down a few. Very frustrating.

I spent most of the walk up huffing and puffing with my head down, covered by my rain jacket hood. Whenever I paused to look around there wasn’t much to see other than cloud and towering mountain ash trees.

The summit is covered by mountain ash so there are no views. There’s a large geographical survey cairn at the top but I didn’t spend too much time up there as the wind was blowing and it was freezing.

The steepness and slipperiness made the walk back down just as difficult as getting up. I slid down on my feet in a few places and ended up on my backside a few times.

Even with walking poles, going up and coming down were challenging.

I was very glad to get back to the car at the end, get changed into dry clothes and watch the rain as I ate my lunch.

Mt Juliet is definitely not a fun day out. It’s a walk more suited for anyone who might be training or seeking a challenge. I’m not sure I’m too keen on coming back to walk it again.

Post walk

Getting to Healesville you pass through the Yarra Valley and its wineries. So going back to Melbourne it would be sacrilege to not stop at a cellar door.

This time I tried Maddens Rise. A great little cosy cellar door with nice views, nice people and nice wine. They also have a large grassy area outside that kids, if you have them, can run around on while the parents taste. I picked up a bottle of the Cinq Amis (a blend of cab sav, merlot, malbec, cab franc and petit verdot) and shiraz.

I also stopped to look at Levantine Hill. Spectacular cellar door with a posh restaurant (Ezard). But they charge to taste their wine – minimum $18. You get that back if you buy a bottle of wine, but their cheapest is $38. So, cheapskate that I am, I passed.

 

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7 Peaks rides – tick!

That’s one less item on the bucket list. The 7 Peaks rides are set-your-own pace climbs to the top of Victoria’s seven alpine resorts over the warmer months. They’re a great reason to get out of the city for a day or long weekend to breathe some country air and see a bit more of regional Victoria. And of course great exercise. Plus they’ve fired my enthusiasm for the next physical challenge – The Peaks Challenge.

Lake Mountain – I think this was the easiest ride. Starts at Marysville. Only about two hours drive from Melbourne. Starts off steeply out of town but not for too far. Then a steady climb through regenerating forest with open views across to adjacent hills. At the top is a shelter with a café. Nice views. The road isn’t too twisty which means heading back down you can build up some great speed. Lots of fun.

Mt Buller – This is the nicest ride I reckon. Starts at the mountain entry gates at the base, near a very nice café. Pretty river alongside. Steady climb through forest, past streams and small waterfalls until just before the summit where there’s a sharp, steep pinch that gets you out of the saddle. On the way up keep an eye out for the gnomes’ tree house. Very cute. Typical ski resort at the top. Couple of cafes. Nice views from the main visitor centre and at the end of the road near the top of the resort.

Falls Creek – Bit of an undulating ride to begin with, starting from Mt Beauty. Fantastic views to Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest mountain. Road initially follows a valley with hydroelectric transmission lines overhead. Then seems to get a bit steeper on approaching the resort. Not much in the way of cafes open when I was there, other than a mountain biker café in a converted shipping container in a car park. Nice views.

Mt Hotham – Long, mostly pleasant ride from Harrietville. Steady climb to start with views to the resort, which seems to be an impossibly long way away on the other side of a wide valley. Near the top are a couple of steep downhills which have to be climbed back up on the other side. Bit disheartening. Amazing views though as you’re above the tree line. No café open at the top. The nearest was another couple of kilometres down the road. Descent back to Harrietville was brilliant, with the road not too twisting. It was raining when I came back down though so was careful with my speed.

Mt Buffalo – Very pleasant, steady climb through beautiful forest with occasional views of smooth granite cliffs and rocks that are a feature of the mountain. Started at the base, at a creek, near Bright. Finished at the old Mt Buffalo Chalet, which is not open. No café at the top. Fantastic views though. I didn’t attempt the descent as I was a bit worried about my brakes. Drove back down with my support crew. Washing off in the cold, clear creek back at the bottom was a highlight.

Mt Baw Baw – Hard hard hard! Lung buster. I parked the car and started at Tanjil Bren. Nice downhill and then some steady uphill until you reach the official start point where it’s steep steep steep until the top. Nice forest to pedal through but you won’t be looking at much of it because all you’ll be thinking about is your breathing and looking down at the road. Near the top it levels out a bit and then you roll into the main car park. The relief at reaching the top is amazing. Some views but not spectacular. Nice café at the top. The steep descent is a bit scary.

Dinner Plain – The longest of the rides, starting at Omeo, a 4-5 hour drive from Melbourne. The road out of town was steeper than I was expecting. Then a long fast descent to the Cobungra Station plains. Nice undulating riding, although made a bit harder by a headwind. The ascent to Dinner Plain was steady and not too taxing, which was a nice surprise. Nice riding through eucalypt forest and then snow gums. The village is nice. Didn’t think much of the pub but the Blizzard craft brewery was fun. Nice stout too. I didn’t get to the top until late arvo and was losing the light so I drove back down to Omeo with my support crew.

All in all the 7 Peaks is a great challenge. Bit of an effort to get to the alpine regions in northern Victoria from Melbourne so I’d recommend having four or five days off to do those ones. Baw Baw and Lake Mountain are only a couple of hours drive from Melbourne so can be done easily in a day. Buller can be done in a day, but it’s a long one.

 

Out and back on the Huon track

My most recent hiking trip (late Feb 2018) to Tasmania didn’t go to plan.

The plan was to walk the last section of the Western Arthur Range I hadn’t done – lakes Promontory and Rosanne.

But a flooded river and an indistinct track junction put paid to those plans.

While a little annoying not to tick off a few more Tassie bushwalking features, I still had five-and-a-half days of hiking and camping in the bush.

Day 1.

I set out from Hobart with my lift to the start of the Huon Track, near the Tahune Airwalk outside Geeveston, around 7.30am and was walking by 8.45am.

It was steadily spitting rain so I started in my waterproof jacket and pants. Handy too as the bush was wet and brushing past branches leaning into the track was like stepping into a shower.

The track is an old vehicle track and easy to follow, although in places the bush is reclaiming it.

I set myself a pretty quick pace as I was aiming to reach Cracroft Crossing, about 25km away, to camp.

The start of the walk was very nice. A couple of gentle up and downs and then flat walking along the Huon River.

It’s obvious no one has been along the track with a chainsaw for a while as there are plenty of trees down. They slowed my progress as they had to be climbed over or under or around.

I was relying on track notes in John Chapman’s South West Tasmania book. The edition I have, the fifth, is about 10 years old. To help me gauge my time I was aiming for a place called Blakes Shelter, which is described as a three sided shelter. It doesn’t exist anymore.

About 8km in the track begins to show why it’s nicknamed the Yo Yo Track – lots of steep climbing and descending of spurs, made harder by having to negotiate all the downed trees.

It wasn’t long before I was soaked with sweat under my waterproofs.

After about 10 hours of walking I made it to the campsite next to the Cracroft River, which I needed to cross to continue.

Throughout the day I’d been sloshing through flooded creeks and the Huon River had looked pretty full.

When I finally got to the Cracroft, it was obviously flooded. The water was running fast and looked deep. There was no way I was going to get across so set up my tent in a nice sheltered clearing, got dry, had dinner and finally settled into my sleeping bag around 9pm utterly exhausted.

Day 2.

I got up early and looked at the river. It still looked pretty flooded. I could see it had dropped a bit as the water was no longer lapping at the stick I’d placed in the ground to mark its level the night before.

I thought I’d test it and went into the water without my pack. I only got about 10 metres in. The water was up to my waist and getting deeper, the current was strong and it was a struggle to stay upright. There was no way I’d be able to get across with my heavy backpack.

The only thing to do was to give it a day and see if it would fall more. Thankfully the rain had stopped yesterday afternoon.

I also had a good book to keep me occupied – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I thoroughly recommend it. A page turner.

Throughout the day I checked the water level and could see it was falling.

Knowing that I’d lost a day of walking, I changed my plans to skip Lake Promontory and instead climb up to Lake Rosanne.

Day 3.

The river had continued to fall overnight and I was able to cross. The deepest the river got was to around thigh level and the current didn’t seem as strong.

The track notes say that the other side of the river has campsites and a toilet. Well, the toilet isn’t there anymore and the campsites aren’t that nice. They’re better on the eastern side of the river.

The weather was good although early morning fog blanketed the button grass plains.

I was aiming for a track junction that would take me up onto the Western Arthurs and Lake Rosanne.

Unfortunately, I missed it, which I realised when I reached Strike Creek, a lovely spot with a pebbly beach about two hours from the Cracroft.

I thought I could head back to try and find it but worried that if I didn’t spot it I’d just end up back at Cracroft Crossing.

So I decided to continue on the track I was on to Pass Creek, which is on the track to the Eastern Arthur Range and has a campsite, just for a change of scenery.

I’m glad I did as the views were spectacular, especially after the fog lifted as the sun came out. Rolling hills, button grass plains, and the Western and Eastern Arthur Ranges, including Federation Peak.

The campsite is nice. According to the track notes it has a toilet but it doesn’t. Which is its only downside as it’s surrounded by dense tee tree scrub which is hard to get through to find a spot to dig a hole.

Day 4.

The weather was fine again and I set out for a leisurely walk back to Cracroft Crossing.

I met a couple along the way and stopped for a chat, telling them of my unforeseen issues with the flooded river and missed track junction.

They said they thought they’d seen the junction and described a small pile of rocks as marking it.

I continued on slowly and found the pile of rocks and sure enough, a vague track heading off towards the Western Arthurs. Annoying. I think I missed it because a) it was pretty indistinct, b) I hadn’t read anywhere that that was what to look out for, and c) I wasn’t looking at the ground at this point of the track because the view ahead of me was spectacular.

Anyway, a lesson for next time and for anyone who might read this who wants to do the Western Arthurs from east to west, instead of the usual west to east.

The couple I’d met also warned that the weather was forecast to start raining again.

When I crossed the Cracroft again back to the campsite I’d become very familiar with, the water level had dropped again and was only around knee height at its deepest.

Day 5.

I wasn’t going to try walking out again in a day and planned to aim for a nice looking camping spot overlooking the Huon River I’d seen on the way in.

As the man said, it started raining again.

I carried a walking stick with me this time and I think it helped with climbing up and down the steep spurs again.

I reached the sheltered campsite after about six and a half hours of walking and didn’t feel too bad. The rain didn’t feel too bad either. It was more like steady spitting.

The campsite had lots of mozzies. It looked like something had been here before as there were some old star pickets lying around, an old saw and a cast iron jaffle maker. Bizarre.

That night I thought I was going to be hit by a big storm. There was a lot of thunder booming all over the sky but there was little rain with it. I learned later that Hobart copped the most of the storm.

Day 6.

My pick up was meeting me at 3pm back at the start of the track so I had a relatively leisurely walk out.

I think I finally found where Blakes Shelter used to be – looks like a big tree branch came down on it some time ago.

The weather was okay, not much in the way of rain. I was able to walk without the hood of my rain jacket on so could have a good look at my forest surroundings and the river.

Had lunch and brewed a coffee at the walker registration shelter and read the graffiti – pro and anti logging stuff. Someone had also scrawled that there was no shelter at Blakes Shelter (I should have spotted that when I signed in at the start!).

IMG_1082

Signed out

My ride was there to meet me and then it was back to Hobart to meet my family who’d come down to join me for the last days of my week off.

Overall, a nice trip, despite not getting to do what I intended. My new Asolo boots did a fantastic job sloshing through rivers, creeks and Tassie mud (no blisters) and my new Nemo sleeping bag was also very comfy.

Lessons

  • My tarp continues to be one of the best bushwalking investments I’ve made. Fantastic to put up over my tent so if it rains at night I don’t have to pack up a wet tent. And I can back up under it in the rain.
  • Think I’m old enough to start considering using a walking pole – the stick I used felt like it made walking easier.
  • Dehydrating and making up meals at home makes dinner time so much simpler.
  •  I took less clothes this time and think it helped with weight and space in my pack.

The 7 Peaks Rides

I’m having a crack at Victoria’s 7 Peaks Rides.

The rides take you to the top of Victoria’s alpine destinations – Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain, Mt Buffalo, Lake Mountain, Mt Buller and Mt Baw Baw.

So far I’ve done five of the seven and have until the end of April to tick off the last two – Dinner Plain and Mt Baw Baw.

It’s a fantastic, ride at your own pace and time, challenge that gets you out of the city and into some of Victoria’s beautiful countryside.

I recently did Falls, Hotham and Buffalo over two days, camping overnight at The Park, a riverside caravan park at Mt Beauty, a small town about a four hour drive from Melbourne. (Highly recommended, with a craft brewery across the road.)

Falls Creek – great ride with great views to Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest mountain, at the start. It didn’t feel like a particularly remote ride as there were power transmission lines and towers for much of the way. The start and middle section is pretty undulating and not too steep until you pass over a bridge over a pretty creek about two thirds of the way. That’s when the climbing really starts. At the resort there were quite a few mountain bike riders around and a café in a shipping container set up in a car park where I had a coffee and pie. The ride back down was fast and exhilarating.

Mt Hotham – this was a testing ride. It was warm, humid and raining when I set off early in the morning from Harrietville, the small town at the start. The climb out of Harrietville was steep but the grade levelled out a bit after a few kilometres. This was a nicer ride in terms of scenery because there was little in the way of buildings or other infrastructure to see. Just forest, valleys and mountains. It got steep again towards the top and there were a couple of disheartening downhills – when you’re pedalling up and only want to get up, you really don’t want to lose any altitude! There was bugger all open at the resort when I reached it. The nearest café was another 1.5km down the road and by that point I couldn’t be bothered. The descent was fun but had to be careful as storms were approaching and there was a bit of rain. I also caught up to a couple of 4WDs towing horse floats that I couldn’t get past near the bottom so I coasted down with them.

Mt Buffalo – I thought I’d be stuffed by the time I got back to Harrietville but to my surprise I was pumped to go on and tackle Buffalo. Drove to the start point at the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area and set off. The weather had cleared and it was warm and humid again. This ride was a steady climb through beautiful forest with views of towering granite cliffs – not too steep, little undulation. I didn’t ride down this one as I was getting a bit nervous about my front brake so the friend who came with me drove the car to the top to meet me. Back at the bottom the creek was a lovely spot to stop, rest and have a wash before the long drive back to Melbourne.

With Lake Mountain and Mt Buller already done, next up are Baw Baw and Dinner Plain. I’ve done Baw Baw a couple of times and it’s HARD. Short but very steep. I know what to expect there. Dinner Plain is the longest ride and also the furthest to reach the start point – the town of Omeo, a five hour drive from Melbourne.

But all going well in terms of juggling family time and the car, it should be doable!

 

A bushwalker’s lament – organising a walk in Tasmania

Ah, the frustrations of being a solo hiker and trying to organise a bushwalk in Tasmania.

As much as I love Tassie, it still drives me nuts how difficult and expensive it is if you want to do some solo hiking in some of the less well known (ie not over run by tourists) wilderness areas.

Getting to the start of trails in areas like the South-West is impossible without a car. There’s no public transport or regular bushwalker service during the summer “on” season. Your only options are hiring a car or getting a lift from somewhere.

Hiring a car seems like a waste though as the car will be left parked for however long you’re going to be walking for. There are some bushwalker tour companies but they only service the popular walks – like the Overland Track.

I had thought I could catch a bus from Hobart south to a small town called Geeveston and then try one of the taxi services in the area. This is what I did when I did my Precipitous Bluff walk – bus to Geeveston, lift to the start of the track, lift from my finish at Cockle Creek back to Geeveston, bus back to Hobart.

But when I called to enquire I learned the taxi service (sole driver) I used had retired and there was just one other left based in another nearby town – Huonville.

After a bit of Googling, the Parks Tasmania website listed a bloke who provided transport for walkers but when I called him he said he’d also stopped doing it. But he referred me to Par Avion, a tour company that flies tourists and walkers to Melaleuca, an airstrip and popular starting/finishing point for walks in the South-West.

Par Avion gave me the names and numbers of two people who offer transport to walkers (Dallas – 0429 168 905 and Jemma – 0447 250 979). I called them in November and their diaries were already starting to fill up with bushwalker trips. So I guess I’m not the only one in this situation.

Unfortunately, because I’m hiking solo, I have to cover the whole cost of the lift – which is more than the cost of my flights to Tassie. Thankfully, I’m in the fortunate position to be able to afford this. But wow, it’s a hefty hit.

Anyway, hopefully the weather gods will be kind to me and the walk will be worth it.

 

 

Federation Peak

I am in awe of the climbers and film makers who have made a movie about scaling Federation Peak in Tasmania during the wettest winter on record.

Some friends and I did it in summer and it was hard. For these guys to do it in winter, in the wet, is incredible.

Federation Peak is regarded by many as Australia’s hardest hike. Just getting to the base of the peak is a very tough slog and then climbing up the tower to the top via the usual route is basically rock climbing without ropes. People have fallen and died.

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The conditions the guys making the movie faced look atrocious. And they were going up a scary looking route called The Blade. I can imagine the thought “why are we doing this!?” must have gone through their heads many times.

When we did it about seven years ago we had some pretty off weather too. It rained constantly as we clawed and crawled our way up Moss Ridge. Moss Ridge is basically a short cut to get to Federation. But it’s also a steep, densely forested tangle of fallen trees and roots that made it feel like we were scrambling through a jungle gym – with heavy packs.

It was cold and rainy when we got to the Becherviase Plateau, at the base of the peak, and we hurriedly threw up the tent and dived in to get dry and warm. We were tent bound all the next day because of the weather until it finally started clearing in the evening. The next day it dawned blue sky and still – perfect conditions to climb.

Only two of us went up as our other friend stayed at the camp (he was afraid of heights!). We met a group going up who’d come from a different direction and tagged along with them. The climb is a grippy scramble edging along and up a rock wall. There’s a tricky (and scary) section where you clamber over a ledge and you’re dangling in empty air. We were lucky that coming down we encountered another group who were on the way up and had set up ropes on this section which we shared to get over. The exposure on the rock is incredible, with a sheer drop hundreds of metres down to Lake Geeves.

Anyway, we made it safely back to camp and the feeling of relief and achievement was incredible. We spent the rest of the day lounging around in the sun, drying stuff out and getting organised to head back out.

The next day the weather started to come in again and we realised how lucky we were to have that one day of sunshine to climb Federation.

When did gear get so expensive?

As much as I love shopping for outdoorsy stuff, I am always surprised by how expensive it can be.

I went looking for new hiking boots the other day. I’m planning on doing a multi-day walk in south west Tasmania early next year and needed new boots after my old Scarpas finally gave up after years of wear. They’d served me well and it was sad dropping them into a Geeveston bin after I’d finished my last big walk – Precipitous Bluff.

boots

New boots!

My new boots are full leather Asolo TPS 535s. They’re tough and sturdy, which is what you need when walking in Tasmania. But the cost! $389. And these weren’t the most expensive available (the Gore-Tex version were $469).  I suppose you do get what you pay for and, hopefully, a premium price equates to a premium product. Especially if it’s something you’ll be relying on to get into and out of a wilderness area safely.

But it makes me wonder if the cost of hiking gear discourages people from taking up camping and hiking. Especially when starting out. Tents are hundreds of dollars, sleeping bags are hundreds of dollars, backpacks are hundreds of dollars. But I suppose you buy this stuff once and it should last you a long time. (A good example of that is my tent. It’s the only one I’ve ever bought and it’s lasted me … I forget how many years … many.) And I guess you can always hire or buy second hand.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. You don’t always NEED to buy the latest and shiniest gear for walking. And I suppose a lot depends on the kind of hiking you’ll do. You don’t need much if you’re only doing day walks in fine weather, as opposed to multi-day hikes in remote and rough terrain.

Maybe I’m just getting old and want to complain about how expensive everything is these days. First world problems.

Anyway, I should just be grateful that I’m in the fortunate position to be able to buy the occasional expensive item so I should just shut up and enjoy it.  And start breaking in these new boots.