If push came to shove and I was forced to decide which was the most exciting short daywalk in Victoria, I’d have to award that crown to the Hollow Mountain / Mount Stapylton Circuit in the Grampians National Park. Not only does the walk cross one of the most spectacular exposed rock ridges in the park but it is also one of the most challenging (both mentally and physically). The walk links Hollow Mountain Carpark to Hollow Mountain, descends back down to the wind-scoured caves of the Hollow Mountain Block before climbing back up and across the rock ridges leading to the summit of Mount Stapylton. The walk continues on down the official trail through the wooded Stapylton Amphitheatre and back to Mount Zero Picnic Area. A short road bash brings you back to the Hollow Mountain Carpark. All up the circuit is 6.6km, which doesn’t sound very far but most walkers should allow at least 5 hours to complete it.
The Hollow Mountain / Mount Stapylton Circuit certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted as there is quite a bit of exposed scrambling, some tricky route-finding and some fairly scary jumps over dizzying voids. Luckily, for most experienced walkers these obstacles are well within their capabilities. Such is its popularity that on any fine Saturday or Sunday there may be multiple parties making their way slowly across the tops.
Which brings me to my point. A few years ago I was commissioned to write about this walk for inclusion in a scrumptious coffee-table tome on the best walks in Australia. Although the book never saw the light of day it was interesting that Parks Victoria looked seriously at the legal implications should I and the publishers publish details of the walk to an Australia-wide audience. Parks Victoria saw this walk as a legal minefield and obviously felt that they could not be seen in any way to be officially promoting it. Obviously there are genuine issues about inexperienced hikers attempting walks such as this and Parks Victoria have every right to be concerned. However, Parks Victoria need to understand that walking trails are not just for casual family strolls. Many of the world’s great walks follow outstanding natural features and some of these are very challenging indeed. In Europe or North America land managers have a far greater understanding of the needs of more experienced walkers. The amazing four-day Via Delle Bocchette in the Brenta Dolomites (Italy) would be an alien concept here in Australia.
As it is, Karen and I completed the Hollow Mountain / Mount Stapylton Circuit last Saturday and loved every minute of it. Most definitely one of the great Victorian walks. I will be writing it up for our forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria book which will be available in the shops and through our web site early this spring. The GPS will be available as a free download.