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Silver Mine Walking Track

The Silver Mine Walking Track is located in the Snowy River National Park, one of Victoria’s most remote and least visited semi-alpine regions. By the time Karen and I parked our vehicle at the start of the walk at McKillops Bridge I had a fairly good idea as why so few people visit this place. The drive down McKillops Road is nothing short of frightening. Narrow, slippery and pot-holed, this veritable goat track winds down a seriously steep mountainside that was scarily reminiscent of the so-called roads I’ve too often encountered in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya. I for one was glad to have made it down to the Snowy River alive. I was still feeling wobbly-kneed as we set off along the Silver Mine Walking Track and I had to put in a big effort to keep up with Karen’s usual brisk pace.

Signpost at the start of the walk.
McKillops Bridge and the Snowy River.

After just a few hundred metres we joined Deddick Trail, which is actually a wide vehicle track. It was now becoming obvious to me that whoever named all of these roads and tracks definitely had a twisted sense of humor. Just as I was wondering how much more climbing we were going to have to do the signposted walk left Deddick Trail and plunged back down into the valley along Silver Mine Track.

Cliffs along the Deddick River Valley.
Wildflowers poke through the old tailings heaps.

Although the descent is very steep there are some wonderful views across the river towards Little River Gorge. A couple of old silver mines also help keep your mind off the relentless pounding of knees. By the time we reached the Snowy River we were getting very hungry. Anybody that knows Karen will also know that nothing is ever going to get in the way of a good lunch (or breakfast or dinner for that matter). We arrived at the Overnight Hikers Camp and made our way down to the river-bank where we spread out a feast of dips, ham, cheese, bread and fruit. We lazed on the warm rocks, dangled our feet in the cool water and watched a pair of eagles soaring high in the sky.

Up the steep Deddick Trail to the top of the range.
Cypress pine log cabin. Old silver mine relics.

 

After lunch we rejoined the walking trail, which now headed away from the river following a small heavily eroded gully and passing a few more long-abandoned silver mines. The remains of an old pine log cabin gave us some idea as to the hardships that these miners must have faced. The walking trail soon started climbing again and took us through stands of tall cypress pine via a long series of switchbacks. The unusual pine forest was reminiscent of walking through the valleys in Nepal. On top of the spur we made a short detour to the lookout. Here we could see the glittering Snowy River as it twisted and turned along the wide sandy flats. Today the river is but a shadow of its former self and I couldn’t help wondering what it must have looked like before we tore its heart out and redirected its once mighty flow into the Murray River, all in the name of progress.

The last section of the walk continues through more cypress pine forest and eventually we rejoined Derrick Trail at where we passed earlier in the day. We got back to the car at about 5pm.

Cypress pine forest.

The Silver Mine Walking Track is 16.8km, not 18km as the official signs indicate, nor 15.5km as the free park notes indicate. The walk takes about 5 hours but allow 6 hours to include lunch.

I’ve described the walk in detail in our recent Daywalks Around Victoria walking guide ($22.95), which is available from the Open Spaces online bookstore or from outdoor adventure stores and book shops.

You should also check out Parks Victoria Snowy River National Park page and download their Silver Mine Walking Track PDF.

The Snowy River, Snowy River National Park, Victoria.

NOTE:
The McKillops Day Visitor Centre is closed from 23 May to 15 June 2012 due to a goat control program. This almost certainly means that the walk will be closed also. McKillops Bridge is also closed for repair works until 22 June from 8am to 4pm. Check with Parks Victoria on 13 1963 for details.

 

 

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Falcons Lookout Trail Improvements

Last December Glenn Tempest wrote a blog (Problems with Falcons Lookout and Ironbark Gorge Carpark) commenting on the awful state of the walkers/climbers trail into Falcons Lookout at Werribee Gorge State Park. This trail is one of the most heavily used in Victoria and can see anything up to 60 people use it a day. Since then Parks Victoria have gone some way to fixing the issue. The works were not quite finished when we were there on Sunday but there is already a welcome improvement. However, despite these works, using pine boards in this manner is only really a temporary measure. In a couple of years time the boards will have almost certainly collapsed and we will again be faced with the same issues of erosion and user safety. Glenn pointed out in his original blog that “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 gully.”. In the long term this is probably true, but Parks Victoria is cash-strapped (see Glenn Tempest’s Parks Victoria: Death by a Thousand Cuts) and probably can’t afford the cost of these works. Looks like we will have to put up with band-aid measures for a long time to come.

Update May 2013
Looks like Parks Victoria have recently added more timber to the steps. Once again an improvement.

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Pincushion, Tremadog 1982

In 1982 Chris Baxter and I had been guests of the BMC (British Mountaineering Council) at the Buxton Conference. After all the excitement of the conference and long hours (spent mainly in the pub) it was something of a relief to load up our hire car and head off for a couple of weeks climbing in North Wales and the Lake District. Joining us was local resident Dennis Kemp and one of Chris’s old Plas y Brenin instructing buddies, Miles Martin. We arrived at the Tremadog carpark on a rare perfect Welsh summers day and we were pleased that Eric Jones (owner of the famous Eric’s Cafe) came out to meet us and point us towards a few of the crags great climbs. We climbed a bunch of classics that day that included Vector E2 5c (21), Falcon E2 5b (20), Silly Arete E3 5c (21) and Vulcan E4 6a (23). However, it was the first route we did that I remember most vividly, possibly because it was the only climb on which I took any photographs.

PincushionE2 5c (21) is one of Tremadog’s most popular outings. It follows a subtle line up through a series of smooth slabs and overlaps and offers an amazing variety of moves on close to perfect grey stone. In truth the only thing I remember about Pincushion was the warmth of the sun and me pulling through the overlap on the second pitch (photo below). Maybe this was the crux.

The other thing I remember was Dennis smiling at me when I took his photograph. It was a good day. Here is the Rockfax description of Pincushion.

*** Pincushion  E2 5c 58m (190 feet)
A route of contrasts – it has roofs, slabs and cracks, wide bits, thin bits and blank bits.
1) 4a, 12m. Climb up grooves and easy rock to a tree at the base of a wide chimney.
2) 6a (sic), 40m. Climb the chimney to the roof then make a testing move left across the slab. Pull up over the roof then climb a crack until a short distance below a roof. Move right to another crack and then right again at another roof to a final crack.
FA. P.Davies, M.Harris, R.Chorley (aid) 1956, FFA. H.Barber 1973

Looking at the photographs I can see that I led the second pitch using double ropes. When I look at the images of Dennis following that pitch he is on a single rope. This probably means that either Chris or Martin followed the pitch first (and carried my camera up). The cam just above Dennis is an original ‘Friend’, one of three that I purchased off its inventor, Ray Jardine, in 1979 from the back of his van in Yosemite Valley. I used these cams until the late 90s.

Dennis died at the age of 67 in an accident after climbing Birdman of Alcatraz (23) at Mt Arapiles in Australia. Chris died in 2010 after a long illness.

Click on these images for larger sizes. Most of these images appear in my Climbers Portraits & History collection on my SmugMug site here. These images cover my personal climbing experiences stretching from 1975 to the present and is an ongoing project.

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Yesterday Gully and Memories Lost

Arapiles, 1980. It was early summer and the days were growing hotter. A group of us headed into Yesterday Gully to search out some fingers of shade. We climbed Snow Blind (23, 5.11b), In Lemon Butter (22, 5.11a) and No Quarter (23, 5.11b). I still have a few blurry pics, but these are best left to the creeping fungus that is slowly destroying my old b/w negative collection. Later on we scrambled into the upper reaches of the gully. Jeff Lamb jumped onto Black Spasm (22, 5.11a) on the left side of Fever Pitch Wall. Mike Law put up this intimidating overhang in 1977 and it had probably not seen a second ascent until that day. Jon Muir and Mark Moorhead were repeating Grand Central (22, 5.11a) on the same wall and there was a party atmosphere.

This great photograph (top) by US climber Peter von Gaza shows Jeff Lamb having pulled over the overhang on Black Spasm (on the left) and Jon Muir on the crux of Grand Central (on the right). Mark Moorhead is belaying Jon but I can’t remember who it was belaying Jeff. I’m in the middle, perched on the ledge and shooting images with my Olympus OM1n. I must have been fairly comfortable as I’m not even tied in. This is an interesting photograph for a variety of reasons. Most of us are wearing home-made harnesses, mine having been made by Mike Law on his sewing machine. I think Jon is wearing a Whillans Harness, the only commercially available model available in Australia at the time. I also love the fact that while Mark is belaying with a Selewa sticht plate (which were becoming increasingly common by then), the guy belaying Jeff is using a waist belay. All of us are wearing EBs. The EB Super Gratton was the best climbing shoe of its era but within a few years of this photograph they would vanish forever and the Boreal Fire would become the shoe of choice. It’s interesting to compare the angle of Peter’s image with the following photographs that I took at the same time.

Jeff Lamb had recently emigrated from England having already pioneered a bunch of respected test-pieces in his beloved Lake District where he was fondly known as ‘The Jackal’.

 

Here’s Jeff monkeying around for the camera. In 1984 Jeff died tragically when he fell while soloing at Frog Buttress. It was a very sad loss to both the UK and Australian climbing community.

 

 

I love this image of Mark Moorhead. I feel it captures something of his whimsical nature but also the underlying seriousness with which he approached his climbing. Mark was one of the most impressive climbers of his generation and now something of a climbing legend. His premature death on Makalu in 1984 was a shock to us all. I’ve always believed that Australian climbing had been robbed of its greatest future talent.

 

Interestingly, I found two more images taken on the same day as all of the above photographs. When I looked closely I saw it was me leading a route called Yesterdays Rooster (21, 5.10d). This climb is just a few metres uphill of Fever Pitch Wall and according to the current Mt Arapiles guide Yesterdays Rooster was first climbed in January 1999 after two bolts were placed for protection. Looking at the photograph above it’s obvious that I lead it in 1980 (without the bolts), although I have absolutely no memory of doing the climb, who seconded me or who took the photographs. I suspect the images were taken by Peter von Gaza and it was probably him who seconded me but I really can’t be sure. Perhaps wearing a headband affected my long-term memory.

 

 

Most of these images appear in my Climbers Portraits collection on my SmugMug site here. These images cover Victorian climbing from 1975 to the present and is an ongoing project.

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Rockclimbs Around Melbourne iPhone App

Open Spaces and iCrag are excited to announce that the popular climbing guidebook, Rockclimbs Around Melbourne by Glenn Tempest, is now available as the iCrag – Melbourne app through the Apple App Store here.

This app covers a selection of the best climbs on eight of the most popular crags within one and a half hours drive of the Melbourne CBD. The climbing varies between single-pitch granite sport climbs to long multi-pitch trad sandstone routes.

 

 


Climbing areas include:

  • The You Yangs
  • Falcons Lookout (Werribee Gorge)
  • Mt Beckworth
  • Camels Hump
  • Black Hill
  • Mt Alexander
  • Ben Cairn
  • Cathedral Range

App features include:

  • Over 500 selected routes
  • Over 75 cliff images
  • Text descriptions
  • First ascent details
  • Advanced search facilities
  • Zoom functions
  • Navigate by list
  • Navigate by images
  • Climb grade index
  • Climb name index

 


Users of the iCrag – Melbourne app will find that all of our current corrections and updates have been incorporated. The app uses the same iCrag engine as used in the popular and acclaimed iCrag – Arapiles app.

iCrag – Melbourne sells for $14.99. Those purchasing the app will be entitled to a 25% discount (rom Open Spaces) on the print version of Rockclimbs Around Melbourne. You can find the details about this great deal by clicking on the About OSP button on the home screen of the app.

Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later. File size is 99.2MB.

Visit iCrag (to see a video of the iCrag app engine in operation) or the Apple App Store.

 

Like us on Facebook
and Win a Copy of iCrag – Melbourne

We also have one copy of iCrag – Melbourne to give away. Just go to our Open Spaces facebook site and like us and you’ll go in to the draw. The contest ends at midday (Melbourne time) on 10 May 2012. We’ll notify the winner via facebook on the same day. Good Luck.