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Major Mitchell Plateau

I finally ticked the Major Mitchell Plateau walk this weekend. I’ve been meaning to do the trail for some time but we have had a pretty wet and cold winter here in Victoria, which kept me away from the Grampians. Karen was still suffering from a virus she caught earlier in the week and decided she would act as my pickup from Jimmy Creek Campground. This well-known walk traverses the wild sub-alpine plateau linking the two highest summits in the Grampians National Park. Both Mt William and Durd-Durd share the same elevation of 1167m and are subject to the harshest weather and highest rainfalls in Western Victoria. Much of the trail is above 1000m and region bares a striking similarity to the landscapes of central and southwest Tasmania. I didn’t start the walk until midday which, as it was the first day of daylight saving, wasn’t as bad as it seemed. It was still too late for a demanding 19.2km walk however, and I really had to move quickly if I wasn’t to resort to using my headtorch. Continue reading Major Mitchell Plateau

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Mt Rosea and Sundial Peak

Karen and I drove up to Mt Rosea in the Grampians National Park last weekend to complete one of our walking circuits for the forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria guidebook. This very scenic loop passes along the southern end of the Wonderland Range via Sundial Peak and culminates in an ascent of Mt Rosea, one of only a handful of mountains within the park that rises to over 1000 metres. Sundial Peak offers thrilling views overlooking Lake Bellfield and Halls Gap while Mt Rosea’s commanding position above the surrounding valleys guarantees one of the most expansive landscape vistas in Victoria.

The storms which blew across the Grampians a few weeks ago had ripped out large numbers of trees and the walking trail to the top of Sundial Peak was a real pain to negotiate. We spent almost an hour climbing over and between fallen timber before we reached the top. Once we left the summit the walking got a lot easier and we descended into the Silverband Valley to start our long climb up the Burma Track. We finally reached the summit of Mt Rosea by about 2pm. It was later than we had hoped and there was a bitterly cold breeze across the tops. The walk down to Rosea Carpark was great, especially in the late afternoon sunshine. Parks Victoria re-routed this walking trail a few years back and it now traverses some pretty spectacular semi-alpine ridges and open tops. We reached Rosea Carpark at 3.30pm and walked up the final steep hill back to Sundial Carpark. A really good day. As soon as the book goes to print we will place the GPS route on our Downloads page.

Distance: 16.3km, 6 hours
Grade: Difficult
Start/End: Sundial Carpark

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Parks Victoria Entry changes

Just reminding everyone using our walking guidebooks that entry to all Victorian parks (managed by Parks Victoria) is now free. This came into effect on the 01 July 2010 and marks a major policy shift for Parks Victoria.
Wilsons Promontory National Park
Point Nepean National Park
Werribee Park
Mount Buffalo National Park
Baw Baw National Park (excluding the Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort)
Mornington Peninsula National Park
Yarra Ranges (Mount Donna Buang)

If you hold a current annual pass you will be eligible to apply for a refund from Parks Victoria.

You can check out the following media release from the Premiers office for further details.

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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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The Fortress

Climbers on Passport to Insanity on the Fortress.

We took advantage of the very last day of daylight saving and got up early and drove over to the Victoria Range in the Grampians National Park. Even though it was Easter I was surprised that at least a dozen cars were parked at Deep Creek, the start of the trail. The walk is one of the more remote in the Grampians even though it isn’t particularly long. The Victoria Range is very different to the much busier Central Grampians. There is a lot of sand about, the vegetation is shrubbier and there is a drier, almost semi-arid feel to the place. Like many Grampians trails the walk isn’t particularly well signposted nor is it well maintained. There is an old sign, however, warning that ‘strenuous walking is involved’.

Continue reading The Fortress

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Cape Liptrap Coast Walk (p132)

Storm approaching Cape Liptrap. Karen, Alley and Stuart looking on.

An early low tide coincided with a fine Sunday so Stuart and Ally joined Karen and I to walk along the coast between Cape Liptrap and Five Mile Track. This is the first day of a two-day walk I wrote up in our Weekend Walks Around Melbourne some years ago and since then there have been a few changes. Because of its increasing popularity I’ve also decided to write it up and provide a free GPS download in our forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria.

The walk around from Cape Liptrap is simply amazing. We scrambled along wave-cut platforms, over rocky points and wandered along broad pebbly beaches. It’s a genuinely wild place and is a photographers paradise. High cliffs tumbled into the the sea, which roared in conjunction with a strengthening southerly wind. We had a gourmet lunch in shelter of a small cove, the Sauvignon Blanc having been successfully chilled in a vacuum flask. The weather Gods obviously felt we were enjoying ourselves too much and by the time we reached Morgan Beach we could see the southern horizon darkening with heavy cloud. Finally the sun disappeared and the first squall hit us as we were crossing the limestone escarpment opposite Arch Rock. We were quickly engulfed in heavy winds and driving rain. After about 20 minutes the clouds parted and the final beach walk along to Five Mile Track saw us soaking up the warmth of the sun.

Continue reading Cape Liptrap Coast Walk (p132)

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Stapylton Circuit Walk

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.

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Mt Arapiles Daywalk Not Going Ahead

Rockclimbers on top of the Pharos at Mt Arapiles, Victoria, Australia.
Rockclimbers on top of the Pharos at Mt Arapiles, Victoria,  Australia.
Rockclimbers on top of the Pharos at Mt Arapiles, Victoria

Mt Arapiles is quite simply one of Victoria’s most outstanding natural features. The park, with its 200m-high red quartzite cliffs is also recognised as a major rockclimbing destination and attracts large numbers of climbers from around the world. Continue reading Mt Arapiles Daywalk Not Going Ahead

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Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain
Pine Mountain
Pine Mountain lies on the NSW Victorian border

It’s supposed to be the biggest rock monolith in the southern hemisphere but I can’t help but be a bit dubious of the claim. Parks Victoria states that Pine Mountain is 1.5 times bigger than Uluru, but it really doesn’t have the iconic status that Uluru does. Despite all of the rhetoric, Pine mountain is a fairly impressive place. In fact it reminds me a little of Mt Buffalo further to the southwest. Sure, Pine Mountain is not as high nor as spectacular but it does have some alluring points. Firstly Pine Mountain is off the beaten track and as such rarely sees visitors. It is also covered in black cypress pine woodland, an especially attractive and unusual form of vegetation. Best of all, however, is its amazing views. No other mountain in Victoria delivers such a feast for the eyes. Greg, Karen and I reached the summit ridge at just after 1pm on a hot summers day. This is one of the walks we are including into our new Daywalks Around Victoria guidebook and we needed to check out the trail and accurately GPS it. Even with the heat haze we were treated to uninterrupted views along the crest of what is the highest section of the Great Dividing Range. The mountains culminated in the dramatic western faces of Mt Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia. Slightly south we could see the remote, almost mystical Cobberas, the birthplace of the Murray River and the start of its 2560 kilometre journey to the sea in South Australia. We sat on the summit rocks and ate lunch. I think if I come back up here I’ll try to time it for early spring. The mountains would all be covered in snow then and the views would be amazing.

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The Cobberas

Summit of Mt Cobberas (1835m)
Summit of Mt Cobberas (1835m)
Summit of Mt Cobberas (1835m)

Karen and I camped at Native Dog Flat over the Christmas holiday’s. Apparently Melbourne sweltered in the heat while we enjoyed perfect weather (except for some rather amazing storms during the night). We were researching a couple of walks in the area for our forthcoming Daywalks Around Victoria guidebook. The Cobberas are Victoria’s truly last wild big mountains (Mt Cobberas is over 1800m) and it doesn’t see many walkers. To beat the anticipated warmth of the day we started our walk from the carpark on Cowombat Flat Track at just after 7am. We climbed the ridge from Bulley Creek up to Moscow Peak. The ridge is fairly easy except when you get up to the 1600m mark when you have to do a lot of boulder-hopping. We crossed a saddle and climbed Middle Peak (1777m) and found ourselves in an alpine wonderland reminiscent of the Mt Anne area in Tasmania. The flowers were literally knee deep and the 2003 fires had missed many of the old twisted snowgums which are a feature of the area. We reached the top of Mt Cobberas (1835m) by midday and scrambled to the summit where we had lunch. We could see brumbies grazing on the grass plains below. Up here there are literally thousands of wild horses. Every few minutes we disturbed them grazing on the alpine grasses. We completed our circuit walk by first descending the established walking trail and then leaving it to follow a long forested ridge back to the car. We got back to Native Dog Flat in the middle of the afternoon which meant we could relax and open a bottle of white wine we had chilling in the Waeco.

The walk was almost 16km long and most of it was off trail. A bloody good outing however and one which will appeal to experienced walkers.