Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mount Bogong - An Interlude 10th-11th March, 2012

Mount Bogong! Two small words that can strike fear and trepidation into the hearts to new and seasoned bush walkers alike.

At 1986 meters, Mount Bogong is the highest peak in the Victorian Alps and is rated as one of the most challenging bush walks in Australia. It is an absolute must on any serious bush walker's bucket list.

There it is, in the distance!

The intentions behind undertaking this rigorous hike were twofold. Firstly, to reconnoiter  possible routes for a future Walkabouter's walk, and secondly, to achieve a long time personal goal of walking to the summit of Mount Bogong.

Thinking that the long weekend in March would be an ideal time to climb Mount Bogong as the Labour Day holiday would provide a excellent recovery day, it was quite forgotten that most other Victorians would be traveling that weekend too!

After a quick ring around of all possible accommodation establishments in the vicinity of Mount Beauty, a room with an en-suite was secured, in the near-by town Towanga South.

At last, realising a long held dream was set in motion.

The sun was shining brightly on Saturday morning and with the weather forecast of fine cool days, last minute items were packed and then repack and then packed again just to make sure everything that would be needed was packed. With breakfast shoveled in, we piled into the car and headed off to Mountain Creek picnic ground, the start of the walk to Mount Bogong. On the way out, the proprietor of the motel asked if we were attempting the Conquestathon. Not sure what he was referring too, I replied no, I am just walking up Mount Bogong and thought nothing more of his comment.

I had read about and talked with experienced friends, of the various approaches to reach the summit. I had decided, after re-reading a much thumbed copy of Tyrone Thomas's 120 Walks in Victoria, I would walk up the steep Eskdale Spur thus avoiding the very steep Staircase Spur.

Having tested my overnight walking fitness with a recent hike to Mount Feathertop in January and other day walks at high altitude, I felt that I would be able to manage Eskdale Spur and then onto Cleve Cole Hut and down Staircase Spur the following day. A very good plan I thought!

Arriving at Mountain Creek Picnic ground, the pack was rechecked, bottles of water topped up and a few extra muesli bars were added for good measure. Finally, the pack was hoisted onto my shoulders and off I went, waving farewell to my base camp support person.

The easy track to Esdale Spur

Bye...see you tomorrow!

The track that leads to Eskdale Spur follows the course of Mountain Creek and crosses it several times. The first crossing was easy enough,

and the second was a bit trickier!

However, the third and fourth crossing proved to be a rather dampening experience.

In drought, this creek would be a mere trickle but with recent rain, the creek was flowing well. But it could have been worse, only a few weeks before, this area of Victoria had seen record rainfalls and I am sure there creek would have been a raging torrent and quite dangerous to cross.

So without further ado, I waded through the creek and kept on walking.

It wasn't too long before I was at the base of steep climb that would take me to the saddle where the track leading up Eskdale Spur begins.

Okay, up until now, I thought I was making good progress over the gradual inclining terrain.

The drop down to Mountain Creek track.

But by the time I got to the top of this track, I knew it was only going to get steeper. I had been charging along to make sure I had enough daylight hours to reach the summit and make camp at Cleve Cole Hut. I had walked the 7 kms to this point in about 1.5 hours and with only 4 kms to the summit, I decided I still had plenty of time.

After changing my thoroughly saturated socks, I ate lunch whilst watching a large group of bush walkers arrive in their cars and prepare to walk up the short distance to the summit.
I was hoping to set off before them but my rapidly stiffening leg muscles were telling me otherwise. So I decided to let them go ahead to avoid being passed by each of them further up the track.

Lunchtime views

As the group set off up the Summit track, they inquired into my intentions. I explained my plans as I took their photo on various cameras and phones, to which they replied they were spending the night on the Summit to prepare for checkpoint duties they were undertaking in the morning for the Conquestathon. I was then informed, about 180 people were going to ascend Mount Bogong in the morning via the Staircase Spur and race across the top and down Eskdale Spur and back to Mountain Creek camp ground. Arrgh! So much for a peaceful hike up Mount Bogong.

Eskdale Spur Track

With the concerning thought of having to dodge 180 people as they raced up Staircase Spur and stiffening legs and quietly creaking hips, I set off up the track to the Summit.

However, I then thought, its only 4 kilometers, I will be there in no time!

Mount Bogong through a veil of silver branches.

Okay, I wasn't going to tell anyone this, except my base camp support person,
but I will say it here, it took me 2 hours to walk the the next 2 kilmoters the Michell Hut!

I know, what can I say, the tracks to the summit of Mount Bogong are very steep and with an extra 12+ kilos on my back, they are even steeper!

Mind you, I met half of the group that were ahead of me at Michell Hut and they had driven to the base of Eskdale Spur and it took them just as long. So I reckon I did alright after walking an extra 7 kms that were uphill all the way.

Michell Hut

At this point, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that Michell Hut would make a nice overnight camping spot!

New tent with green socks!

I waited for the group to head off, so they wouldn't see me waddling around the hut as my hips were stuck in carrying heavy bag mode, as I set up my tent.

This is a new tent for me and weighs about 1 kilogram. There must have been a rock in my pack but I couldn't find it!

It didn't take long to set up camp and after a short while, my legs and hips came good. So I decided that with plenty of daylight left, I would walk to the Summit and make it back down before dark. I put bottles of water, muesli bars, warm clothes and my raincoat back into my pack and set off to the summit. 

With a much lighter pack, I made good time up the last 2 kilometers to the Summit.

View of Mount Bogong with pole.

It was a steep track and rocky under foot in parts.

Once I was above the tree line,

View of Mount Bogong without pole

there were excellent views into the valleys below.

Don't trip's a long way down!

Landscape views often don't reveal just how steep the terrain is,

so here are couple of portrait views of the path.

Well three actually.

Nearly there!

It wasn't too long before I was looking into the valleys and mountains on the other side of Mount Bogong.

I glanced to my right and there was the Summit!

I looked behind me and saw that the cloud cover was starting to obscure 
the path back down.

So I quickly took a few more photos,

and set off on the last 500 meters to the Summit.

Cloud track

A wave of elation and great satisfaction arose in my chest (or was that altitude sickness?!) as I walked up and touched the very large summit cairn. I made it!

Mount Bogong Summit Cairn and pack.

I wandered around the Summit, taking in the views, fresh mountain air
 and a few more photos.

Mount Feathertop is grey lump on the far right.

The group ahead of me were already well set up for the evening
and were enjoying prime views with their choice of camp location.

View down Staircase Spur

All too soon, it was time to head back down to my tent awaiting me at Michell Hut.

Sunlight on Eskdale Spur

The setting sun seemed to make the ridges of the mountain side glow.

It was difficult to concentrate to look at where I was placing my feet with such
beautiful scenery in the fading light.

But I did,

and made it back to camp as the last glow of sunset reflected
onto the side of Michell Hut.

I ate my gourmet dehydrated camping risotto as the full moon rose
and cast an eerie glow through the silver branches of the snow gums.

It was so quiet and peaceful. I was soon warm, snug and sound asleep
in my new tent on the side of Mount Bogong.

Morning views.

At some unruly hour of the morning, with the sun barely up, I heard what sounded like pounding footsteps rushing towards me! With great alarm, I stuck my head out of the tent and saw what could be described and a large spider dashing down the track from the Summit of Mount Bogong. As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, a man with ski poles in either hand, ran past my camp site and with a quick 'Good Morning',
disappeared out of sight down Eskdale Spur.

The Conquestathon had arrived!

By the time I had breakfast and packed up camp, a further 5 competitors had passed me.
By the time I made down Eskdale Spur, which wasn't very long, a further 6 competitors ran past.

It is amazing just how fit some people are!

Morning sunlight over Mount Bogong.

As I sat waiting for my ride, many competitors passed through the near-by check point.
The next time I walk to summit Mount Bogong, (there will be a next time) I will be much fitter but I certainly wont be running.

I've been there!

... and I will be back!

Hope you enjoyed the ramblings of one Walkabouter's adventure on Mount Bogong.

Walkabouters Club of Victoria Inc.


  1. I always love your photos SE but your writing in this post is fantastic. I love it. Looks like a fabulous adventure but a bit steep..

  2. Thanks H. It was a great adventure and no steeper than to the top of Feathertop. Glad you liked the story.


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