Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

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Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby Drew » Tue 16 Jun, 2015 5:59 pm

I finally got around to doing this walk last weekend. I'd planned to do it numerous times but it just never happened until now. We drove up on Friday night and camped at Buandik (about 4 hours drive from central Melbourne via Dunkeld and Cavendish - we had dinner in Dunkeld). We didn't book and pay the crazy $34 fee and had the place all to ourselves. If you feel guilty about doing this you could just as easily find any number of spots by the side of the road once you're off the highway. For your $34 you'll get a toilet, a tap, a fire pit and a table to have your brekky at. And lots of grazing roos and wallabies.

On Saturday morning we drove the 10 minutes or so south along Harrop Track to our starting point, just across Deep Creek. Plenty of flat ground around there to camp too, and a creek for water. Given that it's meant to be a 3 day walk (and with the days at their shortest in mid-June), we thought we shouldn't stuff around too much. We were walking by 8:45 (that's early for us - early starts are not our forte). John Chapman's track notes suggest that Manja Shelter Car Park to Western Cave should take 3-4 hours, and another 4-5 hours to Mount Thackeray Camp. Normally John Chapman's times are given in "Chapman Hours" - that is, considerably faster than normal people can walk. So we were expecting a 7 or 8 hour day even though we'd taken a couple of km off our first day's walk by starting at Deep Creek.

After 90 minutes or so (and a fairly steep climb) we'd reached a spot just off the side of the track (a little scramble) with great views towards the Fortress, across the plains and with Mt Thackeray also visible. After less than 2 hours walking we were at Western Cave. The creek was flowing nicely and there was a pretty waterfall. The next section of walking to Eastern Cave was really nice. Lots of rock formations, cliffs, some good views, a really huge earthworm and lots of bright orange fungus things.

Another half hour or so (including a rest to admire the views) brought us to Eastern Cave. Better camping caves here, but a steep couple of hundred metres of descent to get water (probably not flowing in Summer or Autumn). Much to our disappointment we found that after descending from the Eastern Cave site we were walking on a road. I hadn't looked that carefully at the map or notes and thought it was only the second day that involved road walking. It wasn't the most exciting walking for the rest of the day, especially with the fire damaged nature of the bushland. But it was quick. We stopped for lunch along the way and I think arrived at Mt Thackeray campsite around 2 or 2:30. We collected water at a creek that crossed the road a few hundred metres before the campsite.

After setting up our tents, collecting firewood for the evening and having a cup of tea we headed off for Mt Thackeray summit. With lots of photos on the way up this climb took us 45 minutes or so. It was really beautiful country, classic Grampians, with amazing rock formations all over the place. Great views from the top too. Looking towards The Fortress across the rocky landscape I thought that surely, with a bit of effort (and budget), a wonderful dedicated walking track could be built that would pass through all those rock formations, rather than forcing people to plod along a road. Who knows, maybe the new Grampians Peaks Trail will remedy this?

We descended back to camp and enjoyed an evening around the fire. Another pair of walkers arrived too, proceeding to make their rather heavy dinner with an enormous broccoli, tin of coconut milk, glass jars of spices and various other ingredients.

Despite being a clear night it was surprisingly mild - I could have left the winter bag at home! Oh, and regarding the fire: no, technically not allowed at this campsite. Not sure what the logic is. At Buandik there are fire pits every few metres. There was an enormous fire ring filled with ash at Thackeray - clearly plenty of fires have been had there. The Grampians is a tinder box in summer but pretty damp and cold in winter. Maybe a blanket November to April fire ban would make more sense.

On Sunday morning we set off around 9:30. We collected water a few hundred metres down the road, and set a good pace thinking of visiting wineries on the way home perhaps. Pretty boring walking along the road apart from a few nice views. However, the bush will only get prettier as it continues to recover from fire (unless there's another one of course). After 7km or so we left the road and descended along Hut Creek Track. On Chapman's map a campsite is marked by the creek, but it has mostly been reclaimed by weeds - it looked like there were more flat, clear spots after crossing the creek. The next section was fairly pleasant, criss-crossing the creek and enjoying the sunshine. Unfortunately though there are lots of weeds around. After a few km we came out on the road, which we followed for a few hundred metres to get to the Manja Shelter Car Park. We continued on to Manja Shelter. The rock paintings are very faint and rather underwhelming. The security fence also detracts somewhat from the experience. We had some lunch basking on the rocks and then followed an overgrown track back to our car, finished by 2pm or so I think.

In total we walked 29km in 8 hours. Not a bad walk but not amazing. Typical of the Grampians, there are some really nice sections but some pretty dull sections of road bashing too (made worse by the fire damage). Unless you're driving up from Melbourne (or somewhere else far away) and starting on the same day then it's really only a 2 day walk. I guess if you camped at Western Cave you could spend a lot of time exploring and rock scrambling in that area. Could be quite fun/dangerous. It could be great fun to go off track from Mt Thackeray west towards the start, but I've got no idea how slow and difficult the going might be - you might end up lost in a maze of rock formations.

A few pics below.
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Fortress-1.jpg
View of Fortress after 90 minutes or so walking
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Fortress-2.jpg
Western Cave campsite
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Fortress-3.jpg
This stuff was all over the place
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Fortress-4.jpg
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Fortress-5.jpg
On the way up Mt Thackeray
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Fortress-6.jpg
View south from Mt Thackeray summit
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Fortress-7.jpg
Mt Thackeray summit
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Fortress-8.jpg
Descending from Thackeray
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Drew
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby neilmny » Tue 16 Jun, 2015 6:27 pm

Good report Drew thanks for posting.
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby ErichFromm » Wed 17 Jun, 2015 7:19 am

Nice report drew - glad you finally made it! What was it, 6 months since your initial plan? :)
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby Drew » Wed 17 Jun, 2015 2:13 pm

Nice report drew - glad you finally made it! What was it, 6 months since your initial plan? :)


Even longer - it was spring 2013 that I first planned to do it!
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby Travis22 » Wed 17 Jun, 2015 3:13 pm

Looks like a beautiful location. Real pitty about the road walking segments.

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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby beardless » Thu 09 Jul, 2015 6:42 pm

Nice report Drew. Walking on vehicular tracks is never as fun. The Grampians Peak Trail is unlikely to remedy that around Thackeray as it seems it will go nowhere near the Victotria Range.
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby Drew » Mon 13 Jul, 2015 7:11 pm

The Grampians Peak Trail is unlikely to remedy that around Thackeray as it seems it will go nowhere near the Victotria Range.


Yeah, I had a look at the route for the Peak Trail and saw that. It's a bit of a shame, plenty of potential in that area. On the other hand, maybe it's a good thing that it'll be left alone. I might just have to be more adventurous and go off track to get the best out of it!
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Mon 12 Jun, 2017 10:46 pm

I am going to walk this next June Long weekend in 2018 !!
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby Avatar » Mon 12 Jun, 2017 11:36 pm

Wondering if any mycologists can identify the orange fungus in Drew's photo Fortress-3?
Possibly: Orange jelly, Tremella mesenterica, found at Wilson's Promontory https://steveaxford.smugmug.com/keyword ... australia/


With reference to this recent post about Favolaschia calocera - orange pore fungus:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=25779
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby MickyB » Tue 13 Jun, 2017 4:34 pm

Avatar wrote:Wondering if any mycologists can identify the orange fungus in Drew's photo Fortress-3?
Possibly: Orange jelly, Tremella mesenterica, found at Wilson's Promontory https://steveaxford.smugmug.com/keyword ... australia/


I am not a mycologist but I think you are correct. It does look like a jelly and T. mesenterica has been observed in the Grampians and at the Prom.
Sometimes, I use big words I don't always fully understand in an effort to make myself sound more photosynthesis.
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Re: Fortress - Mt Thackeray circuit, Grampians

Postby Avatar » Tue 13 Jun, 2017 4:41 pm

Thanks MickyB
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