A Month of Alpine Fun


29th Dec 2017 – 1st Jan 2018 – Khancoban and surrounds

The last weekend of 2017 saw me and my Beloved camping at Khancoban, in New South Wales. Part of the reason we went camping was to try out our new 4 man tent. But Rebecca (my Beloved) suggested that I find some things for us to do over the weekend, so being a good husband I did as I was told. Khancoban is the south-western gateway to the Kosciusko National Park, which has plenty of exciting and beautiful places to visit, a lot of them requiring hiking or mountain biking to see. There are also a number of National Parks and State Parks not far away in Victoria. So thats what I happened to find – lots of walking as I didn’t think I would be taking my mountain bike. My Darling is not much of a walker, but she was willing to accommodate my planned activities, at least as far as she was able. When we arrived at Khancoban, the weather was looking a bit threatening, with low clouds. And in the evening and overnight we had a lot of rain. We discovered that our tent leaked, although it required a significant downpour for that to occur, and it’s possible that we didn’t put it up properly in the first place.

On Sabbath, with the bad weather having cleared away and the weather looking promisingly sunny, we drove to the Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park on the Victorian side of the Murray River near Cudgewa. We had only been there once before, and due to flood damage many of the tracks were closed at that time. This time the tracks were open. So we started by hiking to Bluff Falls and having look at them. Then it was up, up, up to Campbells Lookout. This track really wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Although to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. The track had lots of stairs, lots of scrambling over rocks, it even had a 5 metre or so vertical ladder to get up one particular section. Quite an adventure. But the scenery was magnificent, with great views, dramatic rock faces and formations, and fern gullys punctuated by the creek which runs down the middle of the valley.

Following the Campbells Lookout walk, we had some lunch then engaged in the much more leisurely pursuit – going for a drive through the countryside. And then we returned to Khancoban Caravan Park. While my Darling had a rest (ie, sleep), I went for a bit of a walk over the Khancoban Lake wall and into Khancoban itself, just to see what was around. There were boats and water-skiers in abundance on the lake. The Rose Garden in town looked like it had seen better days, but maybe that’s because it was being prepared for the next Rose season. In any case, the walk was interesting. And by the time I got back to the caravan park it was approaching dinner time.

On Sunday, New Years Eve 2017, the plan was to drive up the trail head near Tooma Dam, and then walk out to Paton’s Hut. But as is often the case, plans don’t always eventuate. We got to the trail head ok, and hiked most of the way, probably to within about 400 metres of the Hut, then Rebecca got bitten by something (no, not a snake!), and rather than complete the walk it seemed best to return to the car. It was a case of so close, yet so far. Rebecca suggested I go on another walk while she sat in the car and read a book, but I didn’t particularly like that idea, just case she had some sort of alergic reaction to the bite. So we drove back towards civilisation. At Corryong we had some lunch, and then we went and had a look at the Man From Snowy River Museum in the town.

Then it was back to Khancoban, where we found a nice shady spot and watched the boats, jet skis and water skiers enjoying themselves on the lake while we indulged in an ice cream and sat in the shade, at least for a while. Then we went back to the caravan park. At the caravan park, they had a Pizza night as a way of celebrating New Years Eve. And it seems that New Years Eve celebrations went on for a lot longer as every time we woke up during the night it seemed that there was loud music playing somewhere. Until the wee hours of the morning.

6th – 7th January – Bogong High Plains / Dinner Plain.

On the weekend of the 6th and 7th January, 2018, it was going to be hot. At least down on the plains where we live in Culcairn. On Sabbath I decided I wanted to go for a walk, and my Darling wife suggested I camp somewhere overnight to try out my new hiking tent. I didn’t take much convincing! Within about an hour I had enough food for an overnight camp, all my camping stuff and clothes suitable for hiking. And so I headed for the mountains. The plan was to drive to Dinner Plain, just downhill a ways from Mt Hotham, and do some hiking there then find a place to camp overnight. After looking at maps I decided I would walk the Carmichael Falls walk and then depending on how I felt and how hot it was I would consider another walk. The Carmichael Falls walk from Dinner Plain isn’t that long, but it turned out to be quite steep. It was like walking through a well tended rock garden with beautiful flowers, ferns and other types of plants everywhere. And then there was the falls themselves. They weren’t overly spectacular as it was the middle of Summer. But the rocks from which they fall was definitely worth the walk. Then on the way back I took a short detour to another cascade that looked distinctly man-made with the creek cascading over very symetrical rock steps. Although I’m pretty sure it was completely natural.

After completing the Carmichael Falls walk, I decided I would walk to Precipice Plains lookout. By comparing the distance on the map for the Carmichael Falls walk I figured it would be about 10km return from the Carmichael Falls track. And as it turns out I was pretty close. By this time of the day it was getting warm-ish, but still nowhere near as hot as it would have been at home. Precipice Plains is a geological feature where the Dargo River valley is surrounded by high cliffs. I guess thats where the “Precipice Plains” name comes from. The walk itself was along a 4WD track with alpine forest on both sides. It was quite a pleasant walk, with a breeze blowing across the track most of the time and shady sections where the trees overhung the track. As the wind was quite strong at the lookout I stayed well clear of the edge of the precipice. But even so, the views across to the cliffs north and west of the lookout were quite spectacular.

After I returned to the car, I decided I would check out the JB Plain camping area. It was rather pleasant, and it would have been even more pleasant and quiet as there was no-one else there. But I decided I would drive to Anglers Rest, on the Cobungra River, and camp there instead. This meant driving down to Omeo from Dinner Plain and then driving along the Omeo “Highway” north to Anglers Rest. I knew there were a number of camping spots there. I didn’t realise how busy the camping area just down the road from the Blue Duck Inn would be, but I managed to find a spot for my small hiking tent.

The name “Anglers Rest” is very descriptive of the area, and is a popular fishing spot as it is near the junctions of 4 rivers – Mitta Mitta, Cobungra, Bundarra and Big Rivers. People travel from some very long distances just to fish in the area. The area is also popular for horse riding, mountain biking, white water rafting, camping and hiking.  It is nestled near the bottom of the valley, and is very picturesque. But the Omeo “Highway” is not for the faint hearted. It was even more of an adventure in the Gold Rush days as it was only a walking track then between Omeo and the Mt Wills goldfields. Even though it’s all asphalted now, it’s still quite an adventure as it is narrow and winds it’s way around the mountains to connect Omeo in the south and Mitta Mitta in the north.

After a fairly restful night, I rose early and had breakfast, packed up camp and drove to the Bogong High Plains near Falls Creek. My first walk for the day was the Mt Cope walk. It wasn’t very long, being 3km return, but the walk was along a very picturesque trail and the 360 degree views from the summit were well worth the effort. Along the way I chatted with an Army person who had his full combat uniform complete with helmet and what appeared to be a very heavy army-issue backpack. He wasnt hiking very fast, but then you wouldn’t expect him to with all the weight he must have been carrying. He was able to identify most of the mountains around, including Kosciusko many kilometres away. He also told me of some good hikes around Falls Creek and Bogong High Plains, which wet my appetite for some more adventures in the area.

After the Mt Cope hike, I drove a little way towards Falls Creek, and parked the car for a hike to 2 alpine huts. Huts in alpine areas of Australia generally fall into about 3 categories – 1) huts built by cattlemen many years ago to aid in the movement of cattle between the high plains and the valleys (and possibly rebuilt after a bush fire or something else requires it), 2) huts built by government agencies such as the National Park service for the use of visitors (for example, snow skiers), and 3) huts built by other organisations such as schools or clubs. I’ve been very interested in alpine huts ever since I acquired and read a book about the mountain cattlemen and huts of the high plains. Interest in alpine huts also increased in my early adult years due to another book I read about the history of snow skiing in Australia which talked about various huts in it’s narrative, and my own personal interest in and enjoyment of snow skiing (before I met Rebecca I went snow skiing whenever I could, often every Sunday). Movies such as the “Man from Snowy River”, which featured the beauty of Australia’s alpine areas also played a part in my interest. The two huts I visited on the Bogong High Plains that day, Wallaces and Cope Huts, seem to be huts initially built by cattlemen.

Up in the Boging High Plains that Sunday was very pleasant – around 25 degrees Celsius. When I stopped briefly in Mt Beauty on the way home, it was certainly a lot hotter than when I was hiking in the high plains.

A plan not realised

Over the Australia Day weekend in late January I had a plan to head for the hills again, and had sort of set my mind to camping and exploring the Snowy Mountains / Kosciusko National Park near Jindabyne, New South Wales. I had all the camping gear packed, all the food purchased and was all mentally prepared. And then rain, thunderstorms, and the like were forecast for exactly where I planned to go. So I checked other places such as around Falls Creek and Mt Hotham – the same sort of weather was forecast. I checked the forecast for some places outside the mountains, and the forecast there was for 35+ degrees Celsius. I realised that I could either risk getting caught in  electrical storms and being stuck in a hiking tent during the forecast rains, or risk getting severly sunburnt, or stay home. Guess which one I chose?

One Everest in One Month


The first day of the year and month (of January) started out like most other months – just me wanting to enjoy my bike riding, but still challenging myself to do better. But from the 2nd day, things got much more intense right from there right through the month. I blame the weather – the second day of the year / month was forecast to be hot, and because of that I had the idea of doing an alpine ride to a place where the temperature would be cooler than the lower altitudes. In other words, an Alpine Resort. We are very fortunate to have 3 alpine resorts, and Victoria’s highest mountain within 2 hours drive from where we live. And so I decided the 2nd day of the year would be spent riding the mountain bike from Mt Beauty to Falls Creek alpine resort and back. The completion of that ride set a series of events in motion. After that ride I decided to join the Strava January Climbing Challenge, and trying to do the 7Peaks Challenge before the 2017 season for that challenge finishes. The goal of the Strava Climbing Challenge was to climb 7500 meters in a month, a not insignifacant amount of climbing, especially for someone like me who rarely does any cycling with decent altitude gains. The goal of the 7Peaks Challenge was to ride the 7 nominated rides between mid-October 2016 and the end of March 2017 —

  • Dinner Plains
  • Mt Hotham
  • Falls Creek
  • Mt Buffalo
  • Mt Buller
  • Mt Baw Baw
  • Lake Mountain.

Falls Creek was the first of those rides that I did, and apparently 100 or so other riders had the same idea to ride to Falls Creek on that particular day.

I very quickly got into a routine – do an alpine ride on Sunday, with more sedate rides Monday to Friday before work (the coolest / most pleasant part of the day). The second Sunday I tackled the Mt Hotham climb, which the 7Peaks website described as being “the most epic of all the climbs with the greatest views”, and then stated that many people fear the Mt Hotham climb and that even the fittest will be challenged by it. That sounded a bit ominous, and I found myself questioning whether the Hotham ride was really such a good idea. But in the end I decided to try it anyway. One particular part of that ride concerned me – the Diamantina Spur ascent. At around 20% gradient, it sounded like a real motiviation killer. And it was tough, no doubt about it, but I made it to Mt Hotham village with a little energy left in the tank. One thing about the 7Peaks rides (or any other mountain climbing ride, for that matter) is the wonderfully stated physics law : “What goes up must come down”. So after the hard slog up the hills, it’s especially wonderful to be able to roll back to the starting location of the ride. The Mt Hotham ride, at 32 1/2 km one way, provided plenty of rolling on the way back!

The next ride to complete was the Mt Buller climb. Much less “epic” than the Mt Hotham climb, it was nonetheless still a tough ride, especially the last km or so to the village. It was along this ascent to the village portion of this ride that I found my second “Gnome Home”, a quirky statement about Pygmy Possum habitat and protection of said possums. Rather than going back along the asphalt, I decided I would do something different for the return leg: do part of the Australian Epic Trail across to Howqua Gap Hut, then follow the Circuit road through Telephone Box Junction back to Mirimbah where I had camped for the night. After all, I was riding a Mountain Bike, so some mountain biking would be a good option to return to camp. That ride took just under 4 hours to do the 50km loop, the average speed being around 14kph. Because it was nearly always under the shade of tall trees the heat wasn’t very obvious at all. And then it was time to pack up camp, and drive home in the heat. That was definitely the worst part of the day, although I drove home through Tolmie and Whitlands which is almost alpine in altitute which provided some respite from the heat of the plains and valleys.

The next Sunday I didn’t do a 7Peaks ride, as I had the bike in the shop getting the drive train replaced. And I’m glad I did because the next 7Peaks ride on the following Sunday was the most daunting of all – the Mt Baw Baw ascent. This ride is described as the most feared and hardest ride in Victoria. At only 6.5km long, and what appears to be a moderate amount of climbing (741 metres) it almost sounds easy, until you look at the gradients – the average grade is 11%, and the steepest grades were greater than 20%. Mt Baw Baw was the closest alpine resort to where I lived up until I was about 30 years old. And in my younger years I used to go there nearly every Sunday to go downhill skiing. And I remembered the climb to the Baw Baw village being hard even for a car. I knew that if any of the 7 peaks rides would break me, it would be this one! I remember saying to myself a few times on that ride “it’s only 6.5km”, as if that was somehow reassuring while I pedalled ever so slowly towards the hioghest point of the ride. Funny thing is, I remembered the grades being somewhat steeper in the car, and some of the sections my memory told me were really steep actrually weren’t as bad as I remembered them.Well, I made it to the village. I conqured the hardest of the 7Peaks rides. Now I felt like a climbing cyclist! And then the same physics law (“what goes up must come down”) that brought so much joy on the other 7Peaks rides kicked in, and with more than a little trepidation I carefully, slowly made my way back down to the start of the ride – carefully and slowly because it was so steep in sections, and I didn’t want the bike to get out of control or the brakes to fail or fade.

The Mt Baw Baw ride was on Australia Day, and I managed to get the Friday off as Annual Leave, so that meant I had a 4 day weekend. So I had set up camp in Yarra Junction, and planned to do Mt Donna Buang (not on the 7Peaks list, but still worth doing) on the Friday and Lake Mountain on the way home on Sunday. The Mt Donna Buang ride was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, although I don’t think I had any illusions about it being an easy ride. But it was beautifully cool at the time I did the climb to the summit, and the gradient was probably one of the easier alpine rides I had done up to that time – I actually spent a fair bit of time in the second front sprocket – all the other alpine rides I spent most of my time in the smallest front sprocket. The last few kms to the summit seemed to go on forever! On this ride, like on the Mt Buller ride, I decided to ride a loop, and from the summit I hearded along the dirt ride that passed by Ben Cairn and joined up with the Healesville – Launching Place Road, which passed through Don Valley. Between Mt Donna Buang summit and the the Healesville – Launching Place Road, the scenery was breath-taking, and the road somewhat narrow and rough and I stopped at a few places to enjoy the views. And I even saw a couple of other cyclists on this section (I only saw a few cyclists between the start of the climb out of Warburton and Don Valley), going the opposite way, on road bikes (or maybe CX bikes). The gentle descent along this section was really quite beautiful with lots of shade and some amazing vistas across the Yarra Valley.

The next day was Sabbath, and time for a well earned rest. So I headed over to my old church on Sabbath morning, and spent some time with my mum and dad and one of my brothers in the afternoon. I think that restday  must have helped prepare me somewhat for the last of the 7Peaks rides I would do for January – the Lake Mountain ride. This ride, the following day, started off tough with a climb of 4.5km at about 10% steepness. But after that, it was really quite a pleasant ride, through beautiful temperate forests (some of them burnt out because of bush fires). Like the Donna Buang ride, I found I was not in the lowest gears all the time, especially after the initial 4.5km was behind me, and found the ride to be “almost” relaxing. And the ride back to Marysville was also faster because I spent less time riding the brakes due to the steepness of the descents. Mostly I could just coast down instead of having to worry too much about using the brakes. By the time I had done this ride, I had ridden around 240km for the week (Strava starts the week on Monday), and had climbed more that the height above sea-level of Mt Everest (8848m metres) for the month. That produced a pretty satisfying feeling. So January 2017 will be one of those months I can look back on with fondness as the month I rode “virtually” to the top of Mt Everest.

Here are the links to the Strava data for the rides:

Cycling Holiday Photos. 2nd Installment


This is the second installment of photos related to the cycling holiday mentioned in the last few previous posts. The photos on this page relate to the time I was camped at Mountain Creek, near Mount Bueaty / Tawonga near Mt Bogong.

Mountain Creek campsite

Mountain Creek campsite

Towards Eskdale Spur ride

Creek crossing bypass track

Creek crossing bypass track

4x4 track

4×4 track heading towards Eskdale Spur

A beautify mountain stream

A beautify mountain stream

One of the many bridges

One of the many bridges on the walking track that parallels the 4×4 track over a number of the creek crossings.

Creek crossing

Creek crossing where no parallel walking track / bridge existed. It was near here that the rear derailer on the bike had an altercation with a rather long stick which caused the ‘vital part’ to fail.

A rough walking track

A rough walking track – not designed for bicycles at all!

Trappers Gap road ride

Trappers Gap Road

Trappers Gap Road with mountains in the background

Mt Bogong

Mt Bogong from Trappers Gap Road

Mt Bogong

Mt Bogong from Trappers Gap Road

The only turnoff on the ride

The only turnoff on the ride. I rode along this track for a while, but as it started descending not long after I turned back and kept riding along Trappers Gap Road. I remembered this being the end of the climb, but there was a still a bit more climbing on Trappers Gap Road to do before it started it’s long descent towards Mitta Mitta.

Flowers beside the road

Flowers beside the road

Tree Fern Walk

This walk starts and nears near the Mountain Creek Campground.

Tree Fern Walk

Tree Fern Walk – big stump hole

Tree Fern Walk

Tree Fern Walk – big stump

Tree Fern Walk

Tree Fern Walk – Tall Tree

Tree Fern Walk

Tree Fern Walk – Fern

Tree Fern Walk

Tree Fern Walk – log decay

Tree Fern Walk

Tree Fern Walk – fungus and moss on a log

Tree Fern Walk

Tree Fern Walk – walking amongst the ferns

Family Holiday Highlights – Fri 19th April


(This post follows on from the 2 previous ones, so if something in here doesn’t make sense try reading the previous two posts).

Trappers Gap Track

The Mountain Creek Camping Ground where we were camped is accessed via a road from Tawonga that continues beyond the camping ground to the Omeo Highway near Mitta Mitta. Between the camping ground and the Omea Highway the road is called Trappers Gap Track. On Friday we decided that a non-energetic day was in order, and so we decided to go for a drive to Mitta Mitta and explore around there. This meant travelling along Trappers Gap Track. As far as mountain roads go, it’s not a bad road. A little rough and steep in places, with very steep mountain sides above and below the track in quite a few places. But we have been on worse roads (the backwoods ‘road’ through the Wollondilly River valley to reach the Wombeyan Caves, for example). The road climbs steadily and provides some great views of the Bogong ridge. And I am fairly sure that it gets up above the snow line ad when I got out to take some photos it was very cold.

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Above and below: Views of the Bogong ridge from Trappers Gap Track.

MountainCreek_TrappersGap_roads_view_5175_500The photos above give the impression that the road is about the same altitude as the road, but I don’t think that would have been the case as a sizable portion of the Bogong ridge is above the treeline (not just above the snowline), and the road still had plenty of trees on both sides of it for it’s whole length to suggest it never gets above the treeline.

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Above: Trappers Gap Track

Averaging about 30kph, it took us a bit over an hour to travel the 38 km from the Mountain Creek camp ground to Mitta Mitta.

Mitta Mitta

Mitta Mitta is a small town nestled into the steep sided valley where the Mitta Mitta River and Snowy Creek converge. Actually the name Mitta Mitta means “meeting of the waters” in the Aboriginal language. The first settlers are believed to be William Wyse and Charles Ebden who took up cattle grazing leases in the area. Gold was discovered in the 1860s, which brought many more people to the region, as gold finds tended to do back then. The Pioneer Mine was opened in 1861 and was the principle claim, and the site is reputedly the largest open cut gold mine in the southern hemisphere. The mine is so huge that the road goes into the mine for a way, and then there is a 1.5km walk inside the open cut itself.

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Above: One of the walls of the open cut.

The Pioneer Mine used hydraulic sluicing methods to extract the gold. This needed a large volume of water which was brought in open channels (water races). These water races were hand cut on the contour to bring water from nearby creeks to the mine site. The water used for the hydraulic sluicing was channeled through iron pipes from the top of the mine to the bottom where it was channeled through a hose with a nozzle. The pressure created by this method was so great that it generated a huge jet of water that was used to hose down earth from the walls of the mine literally washing away the walls of the mine which was then ‘sluiced’ in sluice boxes to separate the gold from clay and loam that held it. Two men were needed to hold the nozzle to direct the water at the mine wall. A nozzle could deliver 18 MegaLitres of water a day. Thats 18,000,000 litres!

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Above: Remains of a water race inside the Pioneer Mine open cut.

Also in the area was the Mammoth Flume, which was built during the 1860s and was 35 metres high and 210 metres long. Made of timber, the flume was constructed to carry water across a creek as part of a 22km water race. The water race is still visible in places but the flume was dismantled in 1908.

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Above: The Mammoth Flume

Not far from the Pioneer Mine site, beside the river near the edge of Mitta Mitta township, is a historical reserve with a number of static displays related to the history of the town and it’s gold mining past.

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Above: Buckets used by ‘The Dredge’ which overturned large areas of the Mitta Mitta riverbed and discovered 5376 ounces of gold.

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Above: A replica miners cottage.

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Above: Poppet head used to crush quartz as part of the gold extraction process.

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Above: This wheel seems to have been used to generate power to operate the poppet head. Many things relied on the power of water to power machinery in the 1800s.

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Above: A mine tramway wagon used to haul rock out of a mine.

The town of Mitta Mitta today is a lot less busy’ than what is was in it’s heyday, but it still has a general store, hotel, caravan park, ambulance and police stations. It still has a number of old buildings around the town…

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Above: Union Church.

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Above: Mechanics Institute

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Above: I am not sure whether this building is really that old, but it captures the style of gold mining era buildings.

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Above: The hotel. While I am a non-drinker, I still appreciate the architecture of buildings such as this.

Eskdale

Not far from Mitta Mitta is the township of Eskdale. The township was first surveyed in 1887 and was named by the first shop owner, James Aitken. A bakery was opened around 1890, and the original hotel was opened in 1897. The discovery of gold in the area and early farming effected the development of the town.  Also in the 1890s, Eskdale had it’s own butter factory.

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Above and below: Remains of Eskdale Butter Factory. The chances of this being restored seem somewhat remote as the dreaded Asbestos is in the factory and it would probably take a large amoutnt of money to extract it before restoration could begin.

Eskdale_old_butter_factory_5195_500A declining mining industry saw the ascendancy in importance of farming, particularly dairying, as a viable regional pursuit. The area is very suitable for dairying. Farmers brought their milk to be separated at creameries from where the cream was transported to the butter factory. In 1967 the company that run the butter factory was merged into the Murray Goulburn Co-op, and when bulk milk road transport became viable the butter making activity was closed down.

Back home

This is not so much a highlight of the holiday (for me at least, as I was still eager to explore), but as everyone else in the family had by this time developed an ailment of some kind I reluctantly heeded the suggestion of the Wife and when we got back to Mountain Creek we packed up the campsite in record time and headed for home.

Thus endeth the holiday!