There are four official public entrances into Werribee Gorge State Park. The main entrance is via Myers Road on the eastern side of the park and is accessed via the Western Freeway from just past Bacchus Marsh. The other three entrances are located along Ironbark Road via Western Bluff, Ironbark Gorge and Ingliston Gorge Carparks. Western Bluff Carpark provides access to Western Bluff Lookout and is occasionally used by walkers descending the spectacular Needles Spur (through private property) into the gorge. Ingliston Gorge Carpark provides access to the Ingliston Block, the isolated western arm of the park, while Ironbark Gorge Carpark provides access to the Falcons Lookout Walk, the Ingliston Granites and Ironbark Gorge. Ironbark Gorge Carpark is also the nearest trail-head for Falcons Spur, an increasingly popular walk that descends into the gorge (again through private property). Falcons Lookout itself is one of the most popular rockclimbing destinations close to Melbourne.
Over the past year I’ve noticed that Ironbark Gorge Carpark has become increasingly busy. In fact it’s not uncommon to find 6 to 8 cars and perhaps a bus using the carpark on any midweek day. On the weekend I have seen up to 50 or more climbers at the cliff and perhaps a dozen or more walkers on the trails. This equates to at least a dozen or more vehicles crammed into the tiny carpark. I don’t know the actual park user numbers but I suspect that on many days there would be more visitors accessing the park through the ‘back-door’ of Ironbark Gorge Carpark then would be along the ‘official’ Myers Road entrance.
Interestingly, Myers Road is serviced by two large carparks (the Quarry Picnic Area and Meikles Point Picnic Area) and each have have picnic facilities, BBQs and toilets. In comparison, Ironbark Gorge Carpark is very small and rough to say the least. The geography of the area means that this carpark can’t be made much larger, but it could benefit from a redesign if it is to cater for the growing numbers of cars using it. The carpark also has no toilets. While this would be a minor issue for some, it is a major issue for many. Both walkers and climbers are forced to go bush and this is simply unacceptable at such a heavily used carpark as this. Perhaps having a toilet in the carpark would help to reduce the enormous number of poos and loo paper scattered around the vicinity of Falcons Lookout. In fact, the situation is becoming so bad at Falcons Lookout that perhaps the best thing to do would be to build a drop toilet on the adjoining saddle.
Which brings me to my final gripe. The initial section of trail (down past the old railway workers hut sites) into Ironbark Gorge is a complete disaster. The contractors that Parks Victoria used to ‘fix’ this section of the trail have done an awful job. If anything, the pine boards anchored across the trail has worsened the erosion and created a major eyesore. Simply put, this section of the trail is loose, ugly and dangerous. With the large numbers of people using the Falcons Lookout Walk you would have expected Parks Victoria to have properly fixed this trail a long time ago. Possibly the only way to save this trail now would be for Parks Victoria to contract a reputable construction company such as TTMS (Track and Trail Management Services) to rebuild it. Failing that (and knowing how little money Parks Victoria these days invest in high-quality long-term trail maintenance) it may be simpler, cheaper and quicker to realign this section of the trail down the spur 20m or so to the west, then cut it back to the point at where the original trail reaches the bottom of the initial gully. This would greatly reduce erosion problems and is where the trail should have gone in the first place.
Great news. Our newest title, Melbourne’s Western Gorges, arrived in our warehouse this morning and will be in the shops from tomorrow. Authored by Glenn Tempest, this is the first in a new A5 series of walking guides to regional areas around Victoria. Melbourne’s Western Gorges covers 20 walks in the Brisbane Ranges National Park, and Werribee Gorge and Lerderderg State Parks. Produced in full colour with 96 pages it retails for just 19.95. Like our last book, Daywalks Around Victoria, this guide also features free GPS downloads as well as regular updates. Melbourne’s Western Gorges is also available in our online bookshop.
Last week Greg and I walked up to the top of the North and South Jawbone Peaks in the Cathedral Range State Park. I was really keen to check out the new trail work on the Jawbone Track leading up to the Farmyard. The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires really hammered this part of the range and, while this trail has always suffered from erosion issues, the fires made things a whole lot worse.
The initial walk up from the Jawbone Carpark is nicely contoured and Parks Victoria have replaced the original bridge over MacLennans Gully with a new steel construction. Hopefully this bridge will withstand future low and medium intensity fires. Personally I can’t see the need for expensive bridges spanning minor water courses that for 98% of the year can be easily stepped over, although I’m sure most walkers will welcome the convenience.
The trail up to the first rocks was realigned quite a few years back and it is still in excellent condition. From the rocks the trail cuts across to Jawbone Creek, crosses it and then climbs steeply up to The Farmyard. This section and the trail has always suffered from bad erosion and the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires made things a whole lot worse. If you’ve hiked up to the Jawbone Peaks since the park was reopened after the fires you will know that work on this trail has been progressing for sometime. As it is Parks Victoria and their contractors have done an excellent job. The careful placement and seating of large blocks (and all without the use of cement) means that the trail will be far more resilient to heavy foot traffic and now blends in really well with the natural surroundings. Two thumbs up for a job well done.
From The Farmyard we continued up to the top of South Jawbone Peak. Essentially the trail to the summit is okay but is now so overgrown as to be difficult to follow. In fact I would say that the regrowth is far thicker now than it was before the 2009 fires. What a difference a couple of years makes! While the hazel pomaderris is especially thick, it is the kangaroo wattle (or prickly wattle, acacia paradoxa) that is making life difficult for walkers.
Most likely much of this regrowth will die off over the next few years as the forest re-establishes itself, but in the meantime it’s a real pain. Maybe Parks Victoria should send in a crew to re-cut the trail although I’m not sure exactly how long this would last. Luckily the trail up to North Jawbone Peak is much better, but there are still short sections of thick regrowth and the kangaroo wattle is growing strongly on the upper rocks near the summit.
Each of the three routes described below have been worked on in consultation with other local climbers and with the first ascentionists. These three climbs were all suffering from major issues and were either unclimbable, badly bolted and/or dangerous.
Sluts Honour has had a slightly different start added (one bolt) by coming in from the left (low down on Grey Arete). A bolt was added above the ring-bolt to better protect the crux moves (now avoiding the potential ground-fall). The top ring-bolt was originally placed too far to the right and was a major pain to clip so I added another bolt 1m horizontally to its left. I left the ring-bolt in place as it’s still convenient to protect the moves on the link-up The Sluts Alliance. Sluts Honour now climbs really well, has three 90mm x 12mm expansion bolts, a single glue-in and a more enjoyable start. The grade is probably now more like 22 (rather than its original 23). Some people will still want to place a medium cam at the stance, but most won’t bother.
Underseige had a large flake break off the crux maybe 15 years ago and the route subsequently vanished into a thick carpet of moss. The climb has now had a massive brushing and I placed glue-in lower-off anchors on top. I also removed the (original) bottom expansion bolt as it was in poor condition and refused to tighten. The top (original) expansion bolt appeared good but I replaced the hanger. I also added a much more logical direct start from the ground to avoid stepping in off the ledge. Underseige now has three glue-in ring-bolts and a single expansion bolt. Some people will still want to place a medium cam at mid height, but most won’t bother. Underseige is still about grade 23.
Lola V (on the Omega Block) was put up in the early 1980s with just the one mild-steel carrot bolt. Over the years it has had very few repeats since the bolt is rusted and there was a distinct possibility of decking off the hard moves getting to it (not to mention the massive run-out after clipping the bolt). After a brushing I added three 90mm x 12mm expansion bolts. The original carrot is still there but I’m hoping to remove it soon. After the third bolt the route is best climbed by stepping right and finishing up Bloodline to its lower-off anchors. You’ll need five draws in total (plus two more for the lower-off). Lola V is now grade 22, has nicer and better-protected climbing than Bloodline and will probably be a whole lot more popular.