Tuesday, April 30, 2019

190430 - The only ones about

Day14
DateTuesday, 30 April 2019
Start:  Edmondson Hut
Finish:  Mt Wills Hut
Daily Kilometres:  29.0
Total AAWT Kilometres:  296.4
Weather:  Cold early then mild and mostly sunny
Accommodation:  Mt Wills Hut
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Rehydrated Meal
Aches:  Both very tired
Highlight:  We reached Big River Saddle, our target for the day, just before 5pm.  To get water for camping, we would have had to walk 500m downhill, which may not seem much, but that's 1km return and the next possible spot for the night, Mt Wills Hut (with tank water), was only 3.4km further on, though up a massive climb.  We knew it would be dark in an hour, and that it would take us at least that long to cover the very steep first 1.8km, but after that was firetrail which should be easy enough to follow in the dark, so we set out.  The first bonus was to find that the gnarly steep trail had recently been cleared, making it faster than expected.  But the highlight was when we reached the hut about 6:30 to find it occupied by two hikers, Andrew and Gary, who had a fire going in the hearth and immediately cleared out one of the two hut rooms for us to occupy.  We were later than we would have liked, but the day ended well.
Lowlight:  None really
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

We let ourselves sleep in a little, since we did not have to pack up a tent, and left the hut just before 7am.  After clambering cross-country back to the AAWT, it was easy walking across the vast treeless high plains, though a little cool.  However, once we passed the quaint Ropers Hut, the trail began to descend steeply through forest down the Duane Spur to the Big River.  I managed to slip and fall twice, giving both knees a workout they could have done without.

After some discussion, we decided to ford Big River, hanging onto the safety chain suspended across it, in bare feet.  It was bitterly cold water and the rocks were slippery, but we crossed without incident.  After breakfast in the sun in a nearby clearing, we began the dreaded climb up T-Spur.  Almost continuous climbing for two hours had us both very ready for lunch in the beautiful alpine meadow by a small stream at the Old Madison Hut site.

From there we headed east for 12.5km along the Long Spur through lovely snow gum forests and past many great views until we reached Big River Saddle, our target for the day.  We decided to carry on to Mt Wills Hut (1757m) in the hope of better accommodation and lucked out (see above).  The two resident hikers were the first people we had seen all day.

We are going to sleep in a little tomorrow, in honour of two hard days.  The weather forecast is for considerable rain in the next three days, which we are not looking forward to.

Monday, April 29, 2019

190429 - Simply the best

Day13
DateMonday, 29 April 2019
Start:  Mt Loch Carpark
Finish:  Edmondson Hut
Daily Kilometres:  32.3 AAWT plus 2.2 from Davenport Village plus 1.0 to Hut
Total AAWT Kilometres:  276.4
Weather:  Cold start then mild and sunny all day with a light breeze
Accommodation:  Edmondson Hut
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Cereal and toast and peanut butter
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Rehydrated Meal
Aches:  Very tired
Highlight:  The views.  All day we had magnificent views in all directions at one time or another.  Humidity was low and we could see many kilometres to distant mountain ranges, or far across the Bogong High Plains, or to far-off rural valleys.  Everywhere we looked were muted shades of green, orange and brown making a beautiful patchwork beneath the clear blue sky, with the profiles of the hills softened and made silver by the dead white trees killed by bushfires of the past.
Lowlight:  None really
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

We got away from the lodge at 6:15 as the eastern sky glowed a pre-dawn orange.  It was cold and we were wearing several layers along with gloves and beanies to keep us warm.  First, we had to walk the 2.2km to Mt Loch Carpark to rejoin the AAWT and then we journeyed past ski runs and ski lifts for a few kilometres before leaving the resort area behind.  We warmed up quickly as we tackled some minor hills and were soon losing some of our clothing layers.

The views were breath-taking and we stopped frequently to take them in and/or take photos.  The trail was generally well-maintained and we made good time, stopping for a morning snack in a beautiful little valley next to Dibbins Hut, one of the many that dot the Alpine National Park.  From Dibbins there was a long climb up onto the Bogong High Plains where the gradients lessened and the views were fantastic.  In the distance we could see a small herd of brumbies (wild horses), and in the other direction, the unmistakeable Mt Jim.

We stopped for lunch in the sun at Cope Saddle and then continued on to the north-east.  To the north-west, in the distance, we could see the towers associated with the Falls Creek resort we had stayed at just after Christmas, and were now walking one of the trails we had run along during that vacation.  The trail went on to pass the historic Wallaces Hut before dropping down to follow an aqueduct, part of the works designed to capture as much water as possible for the nearby Falls Creek Reservoir.

Eventually, the AAWT climbed away from the aqueduct and we stopped at a small stream to collect water for camping tonight.  Our goal was Edmondson Hut, an old cattlemans' hut where we hoped to be the only residents, now that the school vacation period was over.  Alas, when we joined a firetrail for the last few kilometres we could see a group of what looked like teenagers back down the firetrail, but apparently heading in the same direction as us.  We powered on and reached the hut to find it unoccupied and the teenagers never turned up, so our fears were misplaced.  The hut is very rustic and there is a sign saying it is only to be used overnight in the case of an emergency, but it's comfortable enough and saves us setting up and taking down the tent, which will be good since another very cold night is forecast.

Today was our longest, in terms of distance, so far and we were both very happy to finish.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

190428 - Taking it very easy

Day12
DateSunday, 28 April 2019
StartAsgaard Lodge, Davenport Village
FinishAsgaard Lodge, Davenport Village

Daily Kilometres: 0.0

Total AAWT Kilometres235.1
WeatherCold and sunny
AccommodationAsgaard Lodge, Davenport Village
Nutrition:
  BreakfastCereal and toast and peanut butter
  LunchHamburger and chips
  DinnerNachos and ice-cream
AchesAll mending
HighlightHaving a very quiet day doing chores, catching up on email, and eating. 
LowlightNone really
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

We had quite a lazy day finishing laundry, sorting out food and other supplies for the next leg, and catching up on email, social media and phone calls.  In between, we managed to slip next door to the pub for morning tea and lunch.  Sadly, they close at 4pm on Sundays, so we had to make our own dinner.

We have quite a long day scheduled tomorrow, but the forecast is good and we know we are going to be travelling through some of the best alpine country Australia has to offer, so are looking forward to it.  Feeling refreshed and ready to hit the trail.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

190427 - One third done!

Day11
DateSaturday, 27 April 2019
StartSelwyn Creek Road Junction
FinishMt Loch Carpark
Daily Kilometres24.9 AAWT plus 3.5 detours plus 2.2 to Davenport Village
Total AAWT Kilometres235.1
WeatherVery cold early and late, but mostly sunny.
AccommodationAsgaard Ski Lodge, Davenport Village
Nutrition:
  BreakfastMuesli
  LunchTrail Mix
  DinnerChicken parmigiana, salad & chips, warm chocolate pudding and ice-cream
AchesJulie has a blister and sore ankle, while I have some heel abrasions.
HighlightJulie says the highlight was getting to the lodge and having a hot shower and washing her hair.
LowlightPacking up the frozen tent fly-sheet to start the day's hike.  There was so much ice on it, it folded to more than twice the usual volume and weighed twice as much.  As the day progressed, I had a constant drip of ice cold water onto my calf muscles as the ice melted.
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

It was a very cold night, but keen to get to tonight's lodge, we forced ourselves to get up at 5:30 and pack up in darkness so we could be walking by first light, soon after 6:30 (see above).  It was still very cold and everything was frost-covered, but the skies were clear and it looked like being a beautiful day.

We were still following the Barry Range towards Mt Hotham (1868m) the second highest peak in Victoria.  The AAWT alternated between following the Twins Track, a firetrail, and following the ridgeline as a faint trail where the Twins Track did not.  This meant that in places there was an option to follow the Twins Track for a less mountainous, but longer journey and that was what we did, adding 3.5km to our journey.  It was easier walking and the views were still incredible.

We made good time along this section, occasionally encountering trail-bikes and 4WD groups, and only taking a couple of breaks, during which we tried to progressively dry out our saturated tent fly-sheet in the cold sunlight and icy breeze.

Eventually, the Twins Track reached the main Mt Hotham Road and we had 8km of uphill road-walking with a passing parade of tourists and cyclists to observe our progress.  The climb up (and descent from) Mt Hotham is popular with cyclists and at one steeper uphill section we were passed by two cyclists barely travelling faster than we were.

The higher we went the colder it got as the afternoon wore on, and by the time we reached the last 1km to the summit of Mt Hotham, which left the road and followed a single-track trail, it was bitterly cold with an icy wind.  The summit was obscured by cloud, so after a quick selfie, we headed east and downhill for the few kilometres to Davenport Village where we had booked a room in a ski lodge next to the only general store/ hotel/ post office on the mountain out of ski season.  There was no-one else at the lodge, including the manager, but she had texted instructions on access and our room, and turned on the heater in our room, which was very welcome.  We were frozen.  Before showering we nicked next door to the store and bought some chips and drinks and collected our food parcel for the next four days from the Post Office (closed, but no problem).  Later, we had a pub meal next door before adjourning to the lodge, which we have entirely to ourselves.

Friday, April 26, 2019

190426 - "But wait .........there's more" (Julie on reaching yet another false crest)

Day10
DateFriday, 26 April 2019
Start:  1.0km north of the Viking
Finish:  Selwyn Creek Road Junction
Daily Kilometres:  26.5km AAWT plus 4.0km of detours
Total AAWT Kilometres:  210.2
Weather:  Cold and mostly cloudy with occasional showers.
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Rehydrated Meal
Aches:  Julie's ankle a bit better and Dave has sore heels.  Both very tired again.
Highlight:  Catching up to schedule, which means we have a manageable day tomorrow to reach Mt Hotham and a ski lodge where we are booked in for two nights.  We're ready for showers, laundry, junk food, soft beds and en suites.
Lowlight:  Missing an unmarked and invisible trail junction late morning that left us crashing around in head-high wet bracken in the rain trying to find the trail by GPS.  Julie literally fell 2m down onto the overgrown trail over a small cliff which wasn't visible in the dense undergrowth.  The trail didn't look like it had been used in years, and we emerged sodden wet and with an hour lost.
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

The wind roared all night in the trees high above our sheltered campsite as a cool change moved through.  We were on the trail by 6:40 and after a very steep, long and slippery descent and some nice forest trail, left the Razor-Viking Wilderness Area behind us.  We were now in the Barry Ranges, a relatively low section of the Great Dividing Range, but still with plenty of ups and downs.  They are also known as the Dry Barrys, because of a lack of water sources, but the authorities have installed a few rainwater tanks in remote locations for hikers (thank you!).

We were hoping to make good time and get back on schedule (see above), since much of the day's hiking was on firetrails, but our plans suffered on a stretch of little-used overgrown single-track when we lost the trail (see above) and also on the many climbs, which had demoralisingly frequent false crests.  It was very cold, and while taking a break at the top of South Mt Selwyn (1398m) it began snowing very lightly.

Around mid-afternoon we decided that we would walk until after dark, if necessary, to reach our goal of the Selwyn Creek Road crossing and this is what happened courtesy of a forest road detour that added 3km and 45 minutes to our last leg.  Those 45 minutes were spent walking with headlamps in freezing conditions.  On arrival we quickly set up camp, washed and donned warm clothes.  I managed to knock over the boiling water that would have been a very welcome cup of soup (we are short of gas), but we had already hydrated our meals with hot water, so it wasn't a total disaster.  We'll make another early start tomorrow in what I'm sure will be freezing conditions so that we can get to the Mt Hotham accommodation in good time.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

190425 - Speculation Justified

Day09
DateThursday, 25 April 2019
Start:  0.4km south of Mt Buggery
Finish:  1.0km north of The Viking
Daily Kilometres:  14.9km
Total AAWT Kilometres:  183.7
Weather:  Mild and mostly sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Rehydrated meal
Aches:  Julie now trying anti-inflammatories for her sore ankle and we are both very tired.

Highlight:  After the many missed vistas because of yesterday's fog, we savoured the crystal clear 360 degree views we had atop Mt Speculation (1668m).  It followed a tough climb, but it was well worth it.
Lowlight:  None really.
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

We had another early start (6:40am), somewhat apprehensive about the challenges in front of us.  The guidebook suggested our average speed was likely to be between one and two kilometres per hour and Julie had been avidly reading the trail notes which described steep ascents and descents, and difficult trail and navigation.  And, I had vivid and scary memories of my last climb up The Viking Chimney.  The previous day's weather had also dampened our spirits and there's nothing inspiring about donning wet socks and boots to do it all over again.

However, every day is a new day when you are hiking, and although foggy as we started, the sun soon broke through and our spirits lifted.  The forest brightened and we had great views as we climbed our first named peak for the day, Mt Buggery (1605m).  There followed the aptly named Horrible Gap, a steep slippery descent of a few hundred vertical metres to a notch in the mountains, followed by an equally steep ascent to Mt Speculation (see above).  After admiring the view from the latter for some time, we descended to Camp Creek, our only "reliable" water for the day and had breakfast while drying our tent flysheet in the sun.  We loaded up with 3 litres of water each, enough to get us through the next 24 hours, but not relishing the extra weight.  Our next ascent was the snow-gum covered Mt Despair (1464m) and then followed an, at times, hair-raising descent across wet and slippery rocks, punctuated with superb views of The Razor, a high knife-edge rock mountain.

The trail continued to be challenging and we both had falls, though no injuries, and resorted to crawling on hands and knees in parts.  Balance can easily be lost with 15-20kg on your back.  The Viking (1519m) with its steep rock escarpment was now visible in front of us, heightening our apprehension about its ascent, and we didn't welcome the slippery descent to Viking Saddle which preceded it.  According to the guidebook, the climb from Viking Saddle to The Viking was 1.2km, and Julie timed it as taking us one and three quarter hours.  Initially it was slow because it was relentlessly steep, but then we reached The Viking Chimney, a cleft in the rocks beneath a rock fall, that was literally like a dark vertical chimney.  Kindly, someone had installed a rope suspended from a dead tree wedged at the top of The Chimney, but it was too narrow to climb wearing our rucksacks, so I went up first then hauled up the rucksacks which Julie had tied to the rope, then up climbed Julie.  It was exhausting and scary, but gave us a great sense of satisfaction when we got to the top.

After a short break to take in more spectacular views from the peak, we walked another kilometre before finding a rare spot for our tent in the forest, again right across the trail, and we camped for the night.  We only made 15km for the day, but it was very rewarding and satisfying.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

190424 - Fog!

Day08
DateWednesday, 24 April 2019
Start: Atop Mt Square Top
Finish:  0.4 km south of Mt Buggery
Daily Kilometres:  21.5 AAWT
Total AAWT Kilometres:  168.8
Weather:  Overcast at first, then foggy with occasional rain.
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Rehydrated Meal and Soup
Aches:  Julie has a sore ankle and both very tired.
Highlight:  Finding water at Chesters Yards and being able to drink our fill.
Lowlight:  Crossing the spectacular Cross-Cut Saw ridge and not being able to see a thing  because of thick fog.
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

The day started well with us hitting the trail at 6:40am walking towards a brilliant red sunrise and able to take in spectacular views from Mt Square Top and then Mt Clear (1695m) which we climbed shortly afterwards.  The descent from Mt Clear was treacherously steep on loose stone and I wouldn't have liked to be hiking in the other direction.  After the descent, the trail mellowed and we enjoyed a few kilometres of relatively easy walking following an old firetrail meandering through snow gum forests.

Around 9am we reached Chesters Yards.  Just packing up and ready to begin hiking was a Russian who is also doing the AAWT.  We had been told yesterday that he was on the trail ahead of us by a couple of hunters we encountered.  We exchanged a few pleasantries and he headed off while we had breakfast and drank our fill from the nearby stream after a thirsty couple of days.  As we began hiking again, the fog rolled in and stayed with us for the rest of the day.  It was the only encouragement we needed to avoid climbing King Billy and Mt Magdala and we took the available trail detours around those mountains.

It began to rain as we restocked water from a stream a few hundred metres steeply down hill from the trail at the Mt Magdala campsite, and again met our Russian who obviously didn't take the detours.  He looked very wet and laughed when I said "G'day" and replied "Really?"  The rain made what was now an overgrown trail very wet as we were constantly forcing our way through sopping wet vegetation.  Not very pleasant.

The climb to the bare summit of Mt Howitt (1738m) in the fog was reminiscent of a scene from the Scottish moors and we didn't linger long at the summit.  From there we tackled the famed Cross-Cut Saw ridge and entered the Razor-Viking Wilderness where no trails are marked.  The Cross-Cut Saw is a spectacular traverse in fine weather, but today we saw none of it.  We had thick fog the whole way as we negotiated the gnarly technical track with precipitous falls to either side and could only imagine the vistas we were missing.  We each had a few slips and falls on the wet trails and rocks, and lost the trail a couple of times as well.  It was stressful hiking and we began looking for somewhere to camp around 5pm, but it took until 5:45 and darkness to find somewhere, literally on the trail again.  There were a few spots of rain as we set up camp and we were very relieved to just get everything inside the tent, including ourselves, before it began raining hard.  We were so happy we hadn't risked continuing on to look for a better spot at Mt Buggery, as originally intended.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

190423 - Thirsty

Day07
DateTuesday, 23 April 2019
Start:  2km south of the West Peak of Mt McDonald
Finish:  Atop Square Top Mountain
Daily Kilometres:  15.0 AAWT plus 4.0km looking for water
Total AAWT Kilometres:  147.2
Weather:  Mild and mostly overcast with some rain.
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Trail Mix
  Lunch:  Chocolate
  Dinner:  Rehydrated meal
Aches:  Both very tired, yet again
Highlight:  Walking the last hour along the flat top of Square Top Mountain through light snow gum forest and occasional breathtaking views of the sunset over the cloud-shrouded mountains to the north and west.
Lowlight:  Walking 2km downhill and off-track to "reliable" water sources that proved non-existent.  We managed to drain a few hundred muddy mils from a rainwater puddle, but that was it.
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

The day didn't start well when we overslept, missing what would prove to be valuable daylight.  Having almost no water, we set off to climb the West Peak of Mt McDonald, and then Mt McDonald (1620m) itself en route to a firetrail down which were supposed to be some running streams.  Crossing the two mountains was, as usual, much slower than we expected.  The views were fantastic over the rolling forested mountain ranges to the north and west, and we were sometimes above the tree-line, but the climbs and descents were steep, the trail hard to follow and very technical in parts.  It took us four hours to cover the 8.5km to the firetrail, where we hid our packs and headed off downhill and away from the AAWT, keen to get a drink and restock at one of the two creeks that it supposedly crossed.  Alas, both were bone dry, and despite descending a bit further, we made do with a little puddle water before returning to our packs.

The situation was now a little concerning, since it was likely to be another 12km along the AAWT before we reached the next reliable water, and since we were so thirsty, we didn't feel like eating our dry trail mix.  We decided that we could make the 12km, though were also concerned about our slow rate of progress and whether we would need to travel after dark.  It turned out our concerns about travel time were well-founded, but we did find some rainwater puddles on some rocks and managed to collect another two litres of water.  We pressed on towards the next water source, but as we travelled across the high "lost world" plateau of Square Top Mountain with the sun setting, we decided to play safe and found a campsite there just before 6pm, some 6km, and one more mountain crossing, short of our destination.

Evening washes were done with a couple of tiny "wet ones" each and we used the water to rehydrate meals and enjoy very welcome hot chocolates.  We are still both thirsty, but have a little water left, and are confident we will make it to Chester Yards and water for a late breakfast tomorrow.  Our slow progress is also making us rethink our schedule, but we'll go for an earlier start tomorrow and hope to make up some time.  Despite all of this we are having a great time and savouring the wilderness and challenges it brings.

Monday, April 22, 2019

190422 - How slow can we go?

Day06
DateMonday, 22 April 2019
Start:  Rumpff Saddle
Finish:  2km short of West Peak Mt McDonald
Daily Kilometres:  21.7
Total AAWT Kilometres:  132.2
Weather:  Foggy all day and cool
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Trail Mix and ANZAC biscuits
Aches:  Both very tired

Highlight:  Getting into our tent after a wet, cold, foggy, windswept and increasingly gloomy traverse of the rocky spine of the Great Dividing Range south of Mt McDonald.  It had been hard to find somewhere to pitch the tent and we finally settled on a rocky patch literally on the trail where we had to use rocks instead of pegs to secure it .  It was dark and we were both shivering violently when we finally got it erected and crawled inside.  Heaven!

Lowlight:  Taking three hours to walk 3.5km downhill on a barely distinct trail overgrown with sopping wet vegetation and criss-crossed with large and slippery fallen logs.  There were enchanting fern forests and tree-fern glades along the way, which were magic, but we frequently lost the trail in the thick vegetation, each had a few falls, and collected plenty of leeches as a bonus.


PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

It was a stormy night with persistent and occasionally heavy rain from 6pm to 10pm, but our tent held up well.  We were a little slow leaving camp as I wasted time trying to find out why my blog posts weren't being distributed as intended, but were on the trail soon after 7:30, having secreted our drums which now contained unused food and trash and will be collected in a month's time. It was a clear cool morning and there were some impressive views of rolling forested mountains with valley fog pouring through gaps like cloud glaciers.  The trail was a very rough 4WD track with some very steep ascents and descents that made for slow going.  We also were soon in fog and that persisted for the rest of the day, marring what would have been some impressive views.

We encountered a couple of hardcore 4WD groups along the very challenging trail, but otherwise had the misty and quiet forest to ourselves.  As has often been the case on the AAWT, very hard work was interspersed with exquisite wilderness experiences.

We eventually reached Mt Sunday (1407m) having averaged a slow 3kph, and hoping we would be able to pick up the pace on the next downhill section but, alas, it turned out to be anything but easy (see above).  The only water source for the day was supposedly a 300m steep downhill bush-bash from this trail,  but we couldn't face the thought of doing that (since we thought we were already bush-bashing), so decided to forgo evening washes and cooked meals and continue on with what water we had left, about 1.5 litres between us until our first water mid-morning tomorrow.  We were already behind our day's schedule and didn't want to slip further behind.  Eventually we reached a maintained firetrail and had our first break for three hours, eating trail mix while picking leeches off our legs.

The balance of the day was spent working our way along a narrow ridge through sopping wet vegetation trying to follow the faint trail.  It was obvious we would have had great views to the east and west if not for the fog.  It was hard to find somewhere to pitch our tent as the sun set (see above), but eventually we did and enjoyed our cold dinner rugged up in our sleeping bags.  Hopefully it will be clear tomorrow and we can enjoy the views.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

190421 - Mt Shillinglaw

Day05
DateSunday, 21 April 2019
Start:  Black River
Finish:  Rumpff Saddle
Daily Kilometres:  15.2 AAWT plus 1.5 detour
Total AAWT Kilometres:  110.7
Weather:  Cool early, then mild and overcast with thuderstorms and rain in the evening
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Potato chips, rehydrated meal and chocolate
Aches:  Both tired
Highlight:  Getting to Rumpff Saddle in time to collect our food cache, do some chores, repack food for the next six days, and enjoy our treats while taking it easy.

Lowlight:  It took 3.5 hours to cover the 5.5km to the top of Mt Shillinglaw (1321m) to find a tree-covered summit preventing views.  It was exhausting and almost relentless slogging uphill on faint, or non-existent, trail, through prickly scrub and over fallen logs.  Having said that, it was kind of neat walking where few people go, and there were some very pleasant sections.

PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

The day started with a ford of the Black River, which we managed without getting our boots too wet, followed by another crossing of the river, this time across a large log high above the river.  Then started the neverending slog up Mt Shillinglaw (see above), which although tough, was better than I remembered from my previous ascents.  We just kept plodding away, climbing over fallen trees, finding and losing the trail, and eventually reached the top.

From there, the day's walking became much easier, though it still seemed to take longer than we liked as we followed a forestry road, then a firetrail, to our destination, Rumpff Saddle.  I guess we were anticipating an early stop, and collecting 4 litres of water each from a stream (so that we could do some washing at the campsite) with 4.5km to go made that last hour or so, drag.

We again encountered a number of 4WD enthusiasts, and feared there might be some already camped at our destination, but we had it to ourselves until a couple in an SUV arrived in the evening.  We found our food cache and enjoyed the treats it contained.  Both of us have been eating less than the daily rations I packed, so we went through our next six days supplies reducing the size of the daily rations of muesli and trail mix to lessen our loads (we'll leave it in the drums to be collected later) which will be heavy for the next few days with all of the food, plus plenty of water for what is a dry stretch of trail.

Thunderstorms moved in around 6:30pm, and rain began falling, but we had achieved most of what we needed to do and retired to our tent to eat chocolate, drink Diet Coke, and plan tomorrow's hike.  We had a good day.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

190420 - 4WD Heaven



Day04
DateSaturday, 20 April 2019
Start:  Red Jacket
Finish:  Black River
Daily Kilometres:  25.2 AAWT plus 3.8 on recommended detours
Total AAWT Kilometres:  95.5
Weather:  Cool early then warm and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Rehydrated meals
Aches:  Both very tired
Highlight:  Finding our way to the Black River despite the best efforts of the guide book, maps and State Forests to send us elsewhere.  Thank goodness for GPS phones and the Maps.Me app.
Lowlight:  For Julie it was when a swarm of bees joined us for breakfast beside the trail.
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

We got away just before 7:30 without being arrested for illegal camping, though it didn't look like anybody used the local roads anyway.  The guide book suggested a firetrail route as an alternative to the official AAWT route which supposedly followed a faint trail up a spur.  It proved a good choice, despite being relentlessly uphill for 5.8km and 2.7km longer than the official route, because when we eventually we reached the point where the AAWT route rejoined the firetrail, the AAWT was taped off and closed for some reason.

Having reached the top, the walking became quite pleasant in breezy morning sunshine with good views of rolling forested mountains through gaps in the eucalypt forest.  Eventually, the trail joined a forest road that had some traffic, being Easter weekend, and the sun was now blazing down on us.  To be honest the road walking, though easy enough, was quite tedious, and we took the opportunity of using a firetrail alternative that passed a cabin I had stayed in, uninvited, eight years ago when walking the same trail.  Nobody was home this time either, so we ate our lunch on their deck, and filled our water bottles from their tank.

After lunch there was more forest road walking, including one big and long hill to Mt Singleton, before we turned north on a freshly-graded firetrail.  There was no shade and the forest was mostly saplings, making this part of the day also tedious.  We had some navigational challenges (see above), but eventually found the right firetrail to take us down to Black River, our destination for the day.  This firetrail was much more pleasant forest walking and our spirits lifted despite the long day, though the final descent to the river was steep, with the mountain goat (Julie) again leaving me well behind.  On this firetrail, which was very rough and narrow, we encountered several four-wheel-drive groups out scratching their paintwork and denting their differentials, though all seemed in good spirits.

At Black River, we made our way upstream, with difficulty, for a hundred metres to find a nice campsite around 5:30.  After setting up camp, we both had a wash in the freezing river before enjoying our meal as the stars lit up the sky.  A very satisfactory end to a long and hard day.  Tomorrow starts with a steep bush-bash up a spur across the river, which we are not looking forward to, but then we have a shorter day and reach our first food cache which has some goodies for us.

Friday, April 19, 2019

190419 - Steep......up and down

Day03
DateFriday, 19 April 2019
Start:  Stronachs Camp
Finish:  Red Jacket
Daily Kilometres:  24.0
Total AAWT Kilometres:  70.3
Weather:  Cool early then mild and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Rehydrated meals
Aches:  Both very tired
Highlight:  Finding a new log bridge had been erected across the Thomson River when we were expecting, as per the guide book, to have to wade across.
Lowlight:  The climb up Mt Easton along a new firetrail that seemed so steep our noses were in danger of getting gravel rash, and it went on forever.
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

We woke at 6am and were walking by 7:15, glad that the forestry vehicle that drove by our illegal campsite 15 minutes earlier, didn't seem to notice us.  Again, it was a beautiful morning for walking, though the trail soon left the forestry road and progress slowed as we followed a barely distinct trail through a dark and damp forest of tree ferns.  Emerging from the valley, we then descended through a forest on another indistinct trail that seemed to have a log across it every ten metres.  When we finally reached a firetrail, the 2km had taken us an hour and a half of exhausting work and the day had barely started.

Fortunately, we then a some kilometres of lovely firetrail wending its way through tall and shady eucalypt forest on a glorious sunny morning.  All good things have to come to an end, and the firetrail plunged steeply down into the Thomson River valley with very loose footing that had me taking great care with every step while the mountain goat, Julie, descended at twice my pace.

Down in the valley we had some easy hiking through a recently burnt section of forest.  All ground cover had been burnt and the tree trunks were black, but the crowns of the towering eucalypts were still green and apparently healthy.  The fire yielded a benefit to us, because forestry workers had set up a burnt log bridge across the river where we had expected to wade across.  They had also carved a new firetrail down to the river, which was now the AAWT instead of what was another indistinct trail.  However, the new firetrail was steep, and we were both totally spent by the time we reached the summit of Mt Easton on what had become a warm afternoon.

A few kilometres of pleasant undulating firetrail was followed by another long hair-raising descent that had me sweating while Julie raced to the bottom and waited for me.  The last 45 minutes was lovely walking in a setting sun along the Jordan River valley that still had remnants from the gold rush of the 1860s.  We again illegally camped, this time at the site of the now-disappeared mining hamlet of Red Jacket, at about 5pm and enjoyed a nice evening that was balmy by comparison with the last few nights.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

190418 - Across the Baw Baw Plateau

Day02
DateThursday, 18 April 2019
Start:  Talbot Hut Site
Finish:  Stronachs Camp
Daily Kilometres:  21.5
Total AAWT Kilometres:  46.3
Weather:  Cold early, then mild and sunny
Accommodation:  Tent
Nutrition:
  Breakfast:  Muesli
  Lunch:  Trail Mix
  Dinner:  Rehydrated meal
Aches:  Both tired.
Highlight:  The early hours walking along a soft leafy trail amidst wiry snow gums illuminated patchily by the orange of the rising sun.
Lowlight:  Getting up in the cold
PicturesClick here
Map and PositionClick here for Google Map
Journal:

I had a lot of trouble putting together last night's diary update because of technical issues, and stayed up later than my exhausted body hoped, eventually putting my head down at 9:30.  I seriously considered giving up on the whole idea.

It was a wild night with the wind roaring in the trees and occasional rain, making it difficult for Julie to sleep, though I was so zonked it didn't bother me.  Fortunately the rain had gone by the time we woke at 6:00, but it was cold, and we were both shivering with frozen hands by the time the tent was dismantled and we hit the trail at 7:30.  The early hiking, however, was magic through the sun-dappled snow gums on soft leafy trail.  Totally quiet apart from the occasional bird call.

This excellent trail, though with a few ups and downs, continued for most of the morning.  Either Julie was slowing down, or I was travelling a bit better, but we hiked together most of the time, though rarely spoke as we soaked up the peaceful alpine scenery.  We met four day hikers along this section, but nobody else for the rest of the day.

The afternoon was harder work on little maintained trail, that was overgrown and had many treefalls to negotiate.  Progress was slow, with 3kph seeming to be our sustainable speed.  Much of the trail was covered by long strands of tree bark, which often got tangled in our feet and sent me hard to the ground on one occasion.  However, we only had a short day scheduled and reached our planned campsite at 4:30 to find a large sign saying no camping.  It's in a water catchment, and we know there are restrictions, but the guide book clearly said a stay of one night was permitted.  We decided to camp there anyway, and will be gone before anybody sees us.

It was nice to set up camp in daylight, though I suspect this will be a rarity, with longer distances and shorter days ahead.