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Ben Lomond Guide update

Memory Of A Journey, the climbing guide to Ben Lomond, was published in November 2008. For those of you who already own the guide and have climbed at Ben Lomond, you will know that it is the premier crack climbing venue in Australia. For those having a look at this update out of curiosity or have never been to Ben Lomond, buy the guide, book yourself a trip for next summer and experience crack climbs of singularity and purity not found elsewhere in Australia. The guidebook was comprehensive up until 2008, giving route descriptions and topo photographs to over 350 routes. The book is unique in that it also has 100 pages of memoirs by Robert McMahon, the main pioneer of new routes on the mountain. Copies are available online from Open Spaces Publishing www.osp.com.au or from the author: bob@orielstudio.com.au for $44.95.

Here is the update PDF which should be very popular indeed.

BenLomondGuide_Update1singles

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Lost City (NT)

lost city

lost city
Lost City bouldering

Next stop on our Top End road trip was Litchfield National Park. We spent a couple of days here mainly swimming and bouldering. One of the most interesting places we visited was the Lost City, a weirdly-shaped assortment of sandstone pillars dotted about the open sandy bushland. This place was a real gem and the bouldering was excellent. The rock is as good as the best you’ll find in the Grampians and reminded me a little of Stapylton Ampitheatre (although nowhere near as extensive!). The Lost City doesn’t have much in the way of overhanging caves but there is plenty to keep you occupied for a day or two at least. There are also possibilities for maybe 20 or so short climbs (15-20m max) and I’m sure the Darwin locals have picked over the place. To reach the Lost City you will need a 4WD and there is no camping in the immediate area. One of the highlights of climbing here is that Florence Falls, Buley Rockholes and Wangi Falls are all nearby and offer good camping as well as some of the best swimming holes you are ever likely to experience. Litchfield National Park is situated 120km southwest of Darwin.

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Elsey National Park (NT)

roper river

roper river
Creek on the Roper River.

After leaving Devils Marbles, driving north, we spent two nights at Elsey National Park, on the outskirts of Mataranka. This 14,000ha park features the Roper River as well as the famous Mataranka Thermal Pool and Bitter Springs. This park also marks the start of the tropical rainforests, a big change after the long drive through the semi-arid interior. The springs were just amazing, especially Bitter Springs which retains more of its natural surroundings and is less crowded. We also did the 8km return walk along the Roper River to Matarnaka Falls. We were mainly croc spotting which was fortunate as the ‘falls’ were seemingly missing having been replaced with a piddly half metre cascade! Elsey National Park is situated an hours drive south of Katherine.

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Devils Marbles

devils crack

devils crack
Glenn on the perfect jamming problem, Devils Crack.

Last Wednesday, on our long drive up to Darwin, Karen and I dropped in to the Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles) Conservation Reserve. It was much more interesting than I expected so we decided to spend the rest of the day (and the following morning) exploring and bouldering in this remarkable area. First impressions upon driving into the reserve was that it looked like a geologically interesting place but the rock appeared to be crap for climbing. Rounded granite boulders shedding exfoliation flakes like onion skins didn’t give me much confidence that we would find any worthwhile bouldering. Surprisingly I was wrong. The rock is pretty coarse (a bit coarser than Mt Buffalo) but is remarkably solid. Even the flakes were much more solid than they looked. In the end I did a bunch of really enjoyable problems, none of them were particularly difficult but all were full value (and often pretty high!). There are literally hundreds of boulders in the area. Face climbing on flake edges is pretty much what is on the menu but there are also a few excellent cracks and aretes to play on. There are a few fun short climbs as well (15m-high) but nothing to get too excited over. There is a good campground in the reserve (situated right in the middle of the boulders). A small fee is charged ($3.30 per person) but you will need to get in early as it packs out with grey nomads and their caravans. The Devils Marbles are on the Stuart Highway, 105km south of Tennant Creek.

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Mt Eccles National Park

Karen descends into the Natural Bridge

Karen and I found ourselves at Mt Eccles National Park last weekend. I wanted to include a walk in our forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria guide that would best represent the amazing volcano country of Victoria’s Western Plains. This really is a special place and it is largely unknown by most Victorians. In a nutshell, around 20,000 years ago the rolling hills south of Hamilton in Victoria’s southwest were ablaze with exploding volcanoes and lava flows. The last eruptions occurred only 7500 years ago so the Aboriginal inhabitants must have been witness to more than a few incredible light-shows. Mt Eccles National Park provides a geological glimpse into that fiery era as well as some insight into the native peoples who lived, hunted and fished in the area. The circuit trail we chose to include in the book traverses Lake Surprise, climbs Mt Eccles and passes through rare manna gum woodland via a system of collapsed lava tunnels. The walking turned out to be a revelation and was much more varied than I was anticipating. There were even a few caves to explore (bring along a headtorch). The number of koalas in the park is extraordinary and we counted at least half a dozen along the way. Apparently there is an overpopulation problem and Parks Victoria have treated a number of females with contraceptive implants. There is a very relaxed camping ground within the park and the little town of Macarthur is only a couple of kilometres away (Hamilton is 45km to the north).

Scoria wall in the Manna Gum Forest
Karen at the entrance to Tunnel Cave
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Bike Tours Around Victoria Updates

These updates are available to download as a pdf. here

May 13, 2010
Ride 23 Grand Ridge Road & Latrobe Valley

The Mirboo North – Boolarra Rail Trail, now known as the Grand Ridge Rail Trail, was damaged by fires in 2009 and is mostly closed until two major bridges are repaired. For the latest information see http://www.railtrails.org.au/states/trails.php3?action=trail&trail=12

May 13, 2010
Ride 11: Nagambie Day Ride

There is a new Wetlands Café and Wetlands Walk at Tahbilk Winery. Note that closed shoes are needed for the walk and there’s a $5 charge.

May 13th 2010

As one contributor to the blog has pointed out taking even small numbers of bikes on V/Line trains can be very problematic if you are travelling with the peak flow during peak hours, or on public holidays and other busy times such as Friday and Sunday evenings. It is strongly advised that a D-van be booked if you intend travelling with a group at such times. So long as you indicate that your group will be about 10 this is usually not a problem. Don’t forget to book your seats as well if it is a service for which reservations are required.

Having said that there are some hopeful signs, in the shape of surveys currently being carried out, that suggest that the authorities have finally realised that there is a large and increasing demand for the carriage of bikes on trains. Hopefully we may at least see a booking system for bikes introduced on V/Line trains soon, which would be a great boon for cycle tourists. Perhaps in the more distant future we may even see new trains with more space for bikes.

October 19, 2009
Ride 24: South Gippsland Circuit

The Great Southern Rail Trail is now complete except for a 3km stretch between Koonwarra and Meeniyan. The surface of the completed trail is compacted dirt with a sandy surface. There are now Enviro-Loo toilets at Stony Creek and Buffalo and just before Foster.

October 19, 2009
Ride 8: Bendigo Base Camp

In ‘Bendigo Bushland Trail’ (ride 2) the map on page 65 mentions ‘Swampy Gully Track’, this should actually read ‘Stumpy Gully Track’; the ride instructions on page 68 (paragraph 2) list it correctly.

The Bendigo Bushland Trail was affected by fires in early 2009. Some signs were damaged, however it is still passable.

October 19, 2009
Ride 6: Gold & Spa Country Circuit

The Yarrowee River Trail could be used for the return to Ballarat. Information and maps available at http://www.visitballarat.com.au/

October 19, 2009
Ride 5: Swan Hill Base Camp

Several attractions mentioned are now closed: Annie’s Wine Place, the Rotary Dairy, the Faberge Egg Museum, and Murray Downs homestead. However the Sound and Light at the Pioneer Settlement is excellent. The general store at Lake Boga township now has a coffee machine and a picnic table outside. There’s a good picnic spot just before the bridge at Fish Point. A new 5km off-road path on the NSW side of the lift bridge passes Murray Downs homestead and finishes at a golf resort.

May 13, 2009
Taking Bikes on country Trains and Coaches

Conventional bikes can be carried free on V/Line trains, depending on the availability of space. V/Line has a few different train types.

Space is limited on Sprinter and VLocity trains, arriving in, or departing from Ararat, Ballarat (including Wendouree), Bendigo, Echuca, Geelong (including North Geelong, South Geelong and Marshall), Seymour and Traralgon. Look for the bike symbol appearing on VLocity and Sprinter trains to know which door to enter the train with your bike.

More space for bikes is generally available on long-distance, locomotive-hauled services, arriving in or departing from Bairnsdale, Shepparton, Swan Hill or Warrnambool. If you are travelling with a group it is also possible to book a D-van on these trains. To do so contact the Group Travel Coordinator on 9619 2338 at least a week in advance.

May 13th 2010

As one contributor to the blog has pointed out taking even small numbers of bikes on V/Line trains can be very problematic if you are travelling with the peak flow during peak hours, or on public holidays and other busy times such as Friday and Sunday evenings. It is strongly advised that a D-van be booked if you intend travelling with a group at such times. So long as you indicate that your group will be about 10 this is usually not a problem. Don’t forget to book your seats as well if it is a service for which reservations are required.

Having said that there are some hopeful signs, in the shape of surveys currently being carried out, that suggest that the authorities have finally realised that there is a large and increasing demand for the carriage of bikes on trains. Hopefully we may at least see a booking system for bikes introduced on V/Line trains soon, which would be a great boon for cycle tourists. Perhaps in the more distant future we may even see new trains with more space for bikes.

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Walks 56, 57 (Masons Falls and Andrew Hill)

Masons Falls Walk. Mt Sugarloaf is now open to the public. This includes Mt Sugarloaf, Mt Sugarloaf Road, Mt Sugarloaf Ridge Track and the park entrance area. These areas open everyday from 9:00am until 4:00pm. The walking trail (Mason Falls Circuit) and the rest of the Sugarloaf Block are still closed. Masons Falls Picnic Area will not open until late 2010.

Andrew Hill Walk. The bulk of the walk (Andrew Hill Track, Mountain Creek Track and Stringybark Tracks) is now open. Unfortunately the trail (Blackfish Way) linking The Gums Camping Area and Island Creek Camping Area is still closed. This means that the walk cannot be completed as a circuit. The Gums Camping Area, Island Creek Camping Area and Blackfish Way are not due to reopen until until late 2010.

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Walk 69, 70, 71, 72 & 72 (Cathedral Range)

Sugarloaf Peak from the Ridge Track

Yesterday I spent the day walking between The Jawbones and Cathedral Mountain. While the park was closed (due to the Black Saturday fires in 2009) Parks Victoria have done quite a bit of trail maintenance and realigning work. The trails around the Farmyard have been been realigned slightly but are clearly signposted. The trail linking The Farmyard with Cathedral Mountain (walk no 71) is now officially called Ridge Track. If you are familiar with this part of the walk but have not experienced it since the park was reopened last December, then you are in for a big shock. The ridge is now largely bare with blackened trees hinting at just how severe the fires really were. On the plus side the sweeping views are incredible. The walk feels nothing like it did pre February 2009. The trail from The Cathedral linking Cathedral North and Little Cathedral and back to Neds Saddle (Walk 69 and 71) is currently closed. Walkers will have to use the link trail that starts just south of Cathedral Mountain and which descends steeply east to Neds Saddle. It’s also worth noting that the walking trail (indicated on the map on page 166) running south and linking Neds Saddle with the Ridge Track has been permanently closed. This is not a bad thing as it was rarely used. The Little River Track is open but the Friends Nature Trail (at Cooks Mill) is still closed and will be for some time. Walk no 73 to Little River Falls is also still closed. This walk has never been officially recognised and it appears it was only minimally damaged by the fires. The problem is that Lowerson Track (which the walk initially follows) is currently closed.