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.
Open Spaces today released the new Rockclimbs Around Melbourne guide by Glenn Tempest. It will be available in most good climbing shops and in our online bookshop from today at a RRP of $29.95. This full colour selected climbs guide is 156 pages and has been produced in a unique landscape format to better cope with single pitch routes which represent most of Melbourne’s local areas. The guide is wire-o-bound, has a heavy duty cover and comes with an elastic closure. The areas covered in the guide are the You Yangs (Urinal Wall, Royalty Walls, Gravel Pit Tor, Flinders Peak Slabs), Falcons Lookout at Werribee Gorge, Mt Beckworth (The Main Group), Camels Hump (Lower Cliff and Omega Block), Black Hill (Mushroom Rock, The Monolith Area, Milawa Area, Eastern Lookout Area), Mt Alexander (Dog Rocks, Wabbit Rocks), Ben Cairn and the Cathedral Range (Sugarloaf Peak, South Jawbone, Blue Haze Peak and North Jawbone). Open Spaces would like to thank our advertisers and the many climbers who provided help, information and photographs to make this guide a reality
With plenty of work going on at the Cathedral Ranges, thought it would be good idea to get the information around. Not only are there major works going on with tracks, the new shelter and toilet facility is being built in the Sugarloaf area along with an Information Board to give visitors a little background of the area.
The Jawbones track will be closed for major track works Monday to Friday from November the 29th until Christmas . This means the only access to the Farmyard and the Jawbone climbing areas is via Ned’s Gully or Sugarloaf Saddle. During this time period the track will reopen on weekends.
Also, please take note of the logging information below. As soon as PV have firm dates for when this work will actually begin we will let you know. St Bernards Track will most likely remain open for sometime yet. However Little River Track will close as soon as any works begin.
Logging of the pines at Cooks Mill will be recommencing this summer. At some stage in the near future machinery will be forming an access track through the central Cooks Mill campground and down the Little River Tr. Then the cutting of pines will begin. Over the Christmas holiday period the only logging activity taking place will be pine cutting from the 10th Jan, and log carting from the 17th Jan – all logging works will cease over the Australia Day weekend Friday, Saturday Sunday and Monday
The impacts logging will have on visitors are:
– Restricted camping around the central Cooks Mill area (Tweed Spur will remain open
– Closures to both Little River walking tr and St Bernards tr
– Sharing the road with logging trucks (after the 17th Jan, and possibly before Christmas)
– Machinery noise after the 10th of Jan and before Christmas.
Tracey and I wandered up to South Jawbones the other day to check out some of the routes for the new Rockclimbs Around Melbourne guidebook that we are all working on at Open Spaces at the present. Joining us was Michael Hampton who really knows this crag well. I haven’t climbed on South Jawbone since when I freed Saknussum (17) back in 1975, so it was really interested in seeing the place. Tracey has never visited the crag and as the Victorian Climbing Club (VCC) Access Officer she felt it was her responsibility to check out the access to the base of the routes (and of course do a bit of climbing!). The fires have completely transformed this place. All of the trees have now vanished from around its base to be replaced with lush green grass (and fast growing prickle bushes). The cliff is now very clean with very little moss on the slabs (it was all burned away). It really is a great cliff and easily compares with nearby North Jawbone for long good-quality routes. I checked out the start of the each climb for the new guide and took some photos. We also repeated one of Michael’s old creations, Pulp Friction. We straightened out the first 25m pitch (placing a single bolt) at grade 17 and placed an important bolt anchor on first belay. The second 37m pitch was then also straightened out at grade 17 and a better belay ledge sorted out. The whole three pitch, 107m-long route is now worth two stars and climbs really well. In fact it is easily one of the best long routes in the valley. Anyway, all the details will appear in the guide which is due out this spring
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.
Tracey and I paid a visit to the Cathedral Range State Park last Wednesday. Tracey was there in her official capacity as the Victorian Climbing Club (VCC) Access Officer and was checking out the climbing access trail up to North Jawbones – one of the most popular and important climbing crags in Victoria. I was there to help her out and to shoot crag images for our forthcoming Selected Climbs Around Melbourne guidebook. At 9am we met Rhyl Shaw, the friendly Parks Victoria ranger, at Sugarloaf Saddle and she kindly showed us around and answered our questions. Rhyl not only has an intimate knowledge of the park but she is also an experienced bushwalker, rockclimber and cross-country skier. We could immediately see what an enormous job Rhyl and Parks Victoria was facing. During the Black Saturday fires the bulk of the park was burned and almost all of the walking trails were reduced to a tangle of fallen timber and unstable soil. The hardest hit area appeared to be around the Sugarloaf Saddle and up on the peak itself. Amazingly the lower part of the valley (along the Little River) missed out on the fires altogether.
In 35 degree heat (a big thankyou to our early November heatwave!) Tracey and I walked up to North Jawbones. The official walking trail has been (mostly) cleared and is now in surprisingly good condition. A much bigger problem however is the climbers trail which ascends directly up to below the cliff. I don’t want to pre-empt Tracey’s official report but I can’t see that this trail will be able to take much future foot traffic without creating major erosion problems. The same goes for the climbers descent down the north ridge of the North Jawbones which appears to be even more unstable. Tracey is already working on possible alternatives. The base of the North Jawbones has been well and truly cooked. In some places large rocks and boulders have shattered in the heat. Fortunately the bulk of the cliff and all of the routes look fine. Many of the bushes (some traditionally used for belays) have been burned so climbers will need to be careful when the area reopens. Tracey is right now preparing a more detailed report which will appear in Argus, the VCC newsletter.
From the top of North Jawbone we sat and soaked up the views. When the park reopens both walkers and climbers can expect to see a very different vista. There are now far more open views, a lot less trees and newly exposed rock faces are dotted across the range. The trees are now fringed with bright green epicormic growth and the ground is covered in a bewildering array of colourful wildflowers, some of which I’ve never seen in the park before.
The Cathedral Range State Park will hopefully reopen to the public around Christmas. On one level I was stunned by the amount of damage the fire has caused but on another level I felt privileged to be a witness to what is a natural process of the forest’s life cycle. The Cathedral Range State Park is every bit as magnificent as it always was; it’s just very different.
Roughly 92% of the Cathedral Range State Park (including the visitor facilities at Sugarloaf Saddle) were burnt by the February 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. All the roads and walking trails in the park are now closed. Parks Victoria have indicated that the park will be progressively reopened from December 2009.
Walks 68, 69, 70, 71, 72 and 73 (all within the Cathedral Range State Park). The park is closed. Roughly 92% of the Cathedral Range State Park (including the visitor facilities at Sugarloaf Saddle) were burnt by the February 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Parks Victoria have indicated that the park will be reopened progressively from December 2009.