Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDonald

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Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDonald

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:03 pm

This is a trip report for some solo walking in the Vic Alps last November.
Given a long drive from Adelaide, I like to have some breaks along the way to stretch the legs.
I chose Mt Hope near Echuca on the way over and I dropped in on the Grampians for a quick walk after some heavy rain on the way back.
7147Boulder.jpg
Exploring the granite boulders at Mt Hope


First it was back to Mt Buffalo again. I find it is a delightful and easy place to get around and would like to bring the grandkids up there one day.
The morning was spent checking out Mt Dunn, Eagle Point and the giant Og, Gog & Magog boulders.
The afternoon saw me mounting up with pack and heading out to the Mt McLeod campsite.
That day set a pattern that was to be repeated throughout my time in the area - generally hot and clear mornings with cloud building up to afternoon rain and thunderstorms.
So there was a little light rain on the way and after settling in to the fantastic grassy area at the campsite, I did the quick walk to the top of Mt McLeod and watched storms to the north and south.

7288HighPlains.jpg
Late afternoon view of the High Plains from Mt McLeod


Up early the next day and watched sunrise from a fair way up. There was enough cloud still around to add to sunrise, and the lighting up of the plateau did not disappoint.
This day was the worst on the BOM forecast and it proved to be that. Steady rain on the walk out and the drive around to Mansfield was through heavy rain and lightning.
[I had pencilled in a car camp in the mountains that night - but due to the weather I piked out and stayed in a motel.]

7311BuffaloMorning.jpg
Morning light on the Buffalo plateau

7334SunriseB.jpg
Sunrise

7356-PanoMcLeod.jpg
Panorama from Mt McLeod. The campsite is in the grassy valley on the far RHS
Last edited by eggs on Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:07 pm

7376DelsPlain.jpg
Alpine pools near the McLeod campsite


Next day an early start to pass over Eight Mile Gap to the Jamieson River where I parked my Yaris at the bottom of Refrigerator Gap road.
It was a steady but sunny and humid climb of about 500m elevation along the road to Eight Mile Gap. The road looked ok to drive.
Had a chat to a guy in a 4WD at the Gap who was dropping water off. He informed me that there were about 260 kids spread through the mountains at the time.
Kept on the road to the Bluff Track junction and had lunch.

Climbing the face of the Bluff involves a steep slope with a few scrambly bits - but I made good time and was thrilled to break out onto the tops.
The clouds had been steadily building up and now it was apparent that there were a number of storms around.
I went to the south west initially to check out the southern arm of the mountain before heading back to the top cairn.
A few range lines to the north were heavy rain showers and lightning.

7451AscendingBluff.jpg
Ascending the Bluff

7463BluffSouth.jpg
South west peak of the Bluff

7483BluffSummit.jpg
Looking north east to the top of the Bluff

7497BluffSprings.jpg
The basin on the south side looks good for camping
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:12 pm

I had hoped to camp somewhere on the back slope of Mt Eadley Stoney to get access to the top for sunset and sunrise.
But proceeding north on the track it began to lightly hail.
Foolishly I did not put on wet weather gear as I could not see anything heavy headed my way and thought it would be short lived.
But this weather was not like bands of rain sweeping through but were like tropical storms where the weather is generated in situ.
So the light hail turned to rain - then heavy rain. I was getting soaked and gave up thoughts of setting up camp in these conditions with Bluff Hut so near.
The track was turning into a river and water was streaming down the mountain side. Rain turned back to hail again and was getting heavier.

7511GettingWetterC.jpg
Its about to get a lot wetter and more hail is coming


I eventually got to Bluff Hut just as the hail got bigger again and came down in a heavy torrent. The hut was empty but a group of school boys turned up just after that.
I stripped down and got into dry clothes and we waited. As was typical of these days - the storms eventually blew over and exhausted their energy.
Then a girls group also arrived and as they setup next to the hut, I put up the tent on a higher shelf about 50m from the hut in sunshine and tried to dry some things out.
From this platform Mt Buller and Stirling were just across the valley. Mt Stirling appeared white - like it had snowed - but we were confident we were looking at thick remnants of hail.

7524MtStirling.jpg
Mt Stirling was white from the hail

7537BluffCampsitePano.jpg
The Bluff camping shelf was a magnificent viewpoint


As was the pattern, the next morning was clear skies - so I went back to Eadley Stoney to get the views I had missed in the rain.
[I was a bit concerned to keep one set of clothes dry - so I put my wet clothes back on again to start the day]

7554CloudSea.jpg
There was a sea of cloud out the east

7559SummitToBluff.jpg
The view from Eadley-Stoney to the Bluff
Last edited by eggs on Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:17 pm

7577SnakeB.jpg
Small snake on the track trying to get warm in the morning sun. Not sure what it was?


Packing up on the return it was then onwards in warm and humid conditions. I visited the top of Mt Lovick which consists of a basalt cap that is apparent on a number of peaks all the way to Mt Jim way to the north.
By lunchtime on King Billy 1 the clouds had built up again. I walked in shade and the odd light rain in the afternoon before a stiff climb up Mt Clear to camp for the night.
There was very big rain and lightning out to the east. Curiously - my photos indicate that 90 minutes after those storms were raging the skies had cleared right up.

7606LovickNorth.jpg
View north from Lovick

7629KingBilly1.jpg
On King Billy 1 looking towards King Billy 2

7653MtClear.jpg
After the steep ascent - the north ridge leads to Mt Clear proper across a broad basin

7657TheTree.jpg
A nice example of a snow gum in the basin
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:21 pm

7668KingBillies.jpg
Afternoon sun on the King Billies from Mt Clear

7680campsite.jpg
My campsite on the north slopes. It was the first time I had carried a lightweight aluminium chair and it was a real boon

7686Sunset.jpg
Sunset

7734MtClearSpring.jpg
The spring on Mt Clear

7736Flowers.jpg
Alpine flowers
Last edited by eggs on Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:26 pm

Next morning was again a cloudless sky. This day was a shorter walk but the warm, sunny and humid conditions lasted into the afternoon so it was very sapping.
The small spring just after starting the descent off Mt Clear was amazing. The water was so cold and refreshing. Just the thing on hot days.
I could not see where any bypass paths went for either Square Top or High Cone so I went over the top of both.
I lost the track completely about halfway across Square Top but realising I was diverging west I fell back to using my Suunto Traverse that I had preloaded to get me back onto the track.
High Cone was a curious top. Very open with no shade but lots of flowering bushes.
But I loved the Nobs, particularly the far Nob which is such a great platform to survey the area with a gorgeous ridgeline back to the first Nob. This was again a basalt cap like Lovick and the King Billies.

7750MtClear.jpg
Looking back at Mt Clear

7758DescendingFromSquareTop.jpg
Descending the sharp nose off Square Top - High Cone, the Nobs and Mt McDonald are ahead.

7770Copperhead.jpg
Only saw 2 snakes, this was a larger beast - I believe its a Copperhead.

7779BushOnSummit.jpg
The summit of High Cone

7788SecondToFirst.jpg
The Nobs ridgeline from the South Western end
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:32 pm

The storms were building up later that day so it had all been in bright sunshine to the Nobs, but storms were raging over Mt Buller to the west in the late afternoon.
I struggled with will power to get up onto the Mt McDonald ridge line and was fortunate to stop on a nice saddle and setup camp. [I had planned on getting to the top, but it would have been far too exposed with what was coming]
From my sheltered saddle campsite I was watching the storm and lightning over Buller getting bigger when there was a crash of thunder from behind me.
As light rain started I sheltered in the tent. For about an hour it was buffeted by heavy rain and short bursts of strong storm winds.
At least 3 lightning strikes timed in at 3 seconds away, but with Mt Buller in line of sight I was able to chat over the phone to my wife during the storm.
Once again the storms cleared away to a calm night.

7796EyeOfTheStormPan.jpg
An attempt to capture the big storm over Buller & the Bluff [then it developed over me...]


The last morning was very special as I started early to get as high as I could for sunrise. A magnificent clear morning and the ridgeline of Mt McDonald is a great walk.
Getting back and having breakfast, anne3 happened to be walking past. My wife had heard her on ABC radio and suggested we might cross paths.
She was walking the whole Australian Alpine Walking Trail from Canberra to Whalhalla.
We had a chat but after she left I was concerned for her due to the weather reports predicting significant flooding the next day.
She did pull out the next day - and then went back a few days later to restart after the storms.

7808FirstLightonMcD.jpg
First light on McDonald as I was on the way up

7819McDonaldSunrise.jpg
Sunrise over the eastern ridge

7841SouthRidge.jpg
The western ridge from the top

7851WestView.jpg
The northern ridge is commonly used to climb McDonald. Eagle Peaks, Buller and the Bluff in the distance.
Last edited by eggs on Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 6:41 pm

7849NorthRidgeB.jpg
Eastern ridge

7864Overhang.jpg
The ridge of McDonald has lines of sloping rock which often form caves and overhangs

7871Ridge.jpg
Further along the eastern ridge heading back to my campsite

7875McDonaldRidge.jpg
Mt McDonald from just above my campsite


The return to my car involved a very steep and difficult walk down the 4WD Nobs Track. I have no idea how a 4WD could get up this road. I considered this the hardest part of my walk - and I was going down it!

7884Lizard.jpg
The steep walk down at least had a cute lizard to allow a break from the strain


Back at the car it was time for lunch and I decided to freshen up by jumping in the Jamieson River.
It was absolutely freezing and I could only submerge for about 2 seconds before getting out and drying off.
One lesson from my walk - I was very mindful of the weather reports [my main walk was revised from 5 days to 4 to avoid the heavy rain forecast on day 5], however, the predicted 1-2 mm that the BOM was forecasting for Buller on a few of those days was a very inadequate description of what was going on.
Over all of the days out, there were thunderstorms - and depending on where you were, you could get drenchings and hail or you could miss out altogether.
I believe some locations in the mountains got 200mm the next day, so I was glad to be on the way home.
I did stretch the legs with a short stop in the Northern Grampians [were they would have had an inch of rain that morning] to see Beehive Falls with a reasonable flow in it.

I was very thankful to God for a number of kind providences over those days
- throwing a dry set of clothes in the pack at the last minute rather than going super light, being near a hut for shelter when I got caught in the hail on the Bluff, cold spring water on Mt Clear and stopping early on Mt McDonald and getting the tent up before the storm hit.
Very happy to have covered a bit more of the Vic Alps - including a substantial portion of the AAWT.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby anne3 » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 7:41 pm

Magnificent photos. It was great meeting you on track.
Thanks for sharing,
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby neilmny » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 7:53 pm

Great report and photos eggs.
Is your tent a Vango F10 Helium?
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 8:10 pm

A pleasure Anne. We should try that again one day. It all seemed a bit quick and then you were gone..

The tent is a Tarptent Moment - its my one man tent - lightweight, easy to set up and I love it.
Some close ups of it here:
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby bigkev » Sat 27 Jan, 2018 9:39 pm

Great report and great photos eggs. It's great walking up through there isn't it.

Those thunder storms were doing my head in a little further north, everyday after lunch they'd roll in. It made the walking days on the AAWT a little short if I wanted to totally avoid them.

Nobs Track is seriously steep isn't it. The other option is to drop down off Mt McDonald along the north ridge down to meet Low Saddle Road and then follow that down to the river. It's really good high up but pretty scrubby as you get close to Low Saddle Road.

Cheers Kevin
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Sun 28 Jan, 2018 8:38 pm

I was not keen to take on the standard North Ridge track due to reports on the scrub.
But the school kids regularly push through it and having tasted the descent on Nobs Track I would think again about avoiding it.
But on this occassion my campsite location lent itself to a return down Nobs. The level walking along the Jamieson was very nice. Lots of birdlife in the forests.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby neilmny » Mon 29 Jan, 2018 4:17 am

eggs wrote:..........
The tent is a Tarptent Moment - its my one man tent - lightweight, easy to set up and I love it.
Some close ups of it here:
search.php?keywords=made+use+of+my+brand+new+Moment&t=3205&sf=msgonly


Yes I can see the difference now thanks eggs.

Going on colour and what appears to be a creamy line under the jaw line, I reckon the small unidentified sunning snake is a Highland Copperhead.
The bigger one is too.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Thu 01 Feb, 2018 6:54 pm

Thanks for the photos. :-) . I plan to walk some of that route near Mt. Clear in April. I will check the weather forecast before setting off.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby Cauchs » Mon 19 Feb, 2018 5:02 pm

Hi Eggs, can you give a bit more information about the spring you found on Mt. Clear? I have heard of one to the north but yours seems to be as you were descending to the south?

I was potentially going to nick up for an over nighter this week, some water would be handy!
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Tue 20 Feb, 2018 3:38 pm

PM sent
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby Hallu » Wed 28 Feb, 2018 8:42 pm

Nice pics, you've had great weather. I love Mt Buffalo, it's my favorite mountainous area in Victoria.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby Drew » Thu 01 Mar, 2018 3:43 pm

Looks like a good walk eggs. I've thought of doing that stretch of McDonald, Nobs and High Cone a few times but always been put off by reports of very overgrown bits in the area. I'm not quite clear on how you started:
Next day an early start to pass over Eight Mile Gap to the Jamieson River where I parked my Yaris at the bottom of Refrigerator Gap road.
It was a steady but sunny and humid climb of about 500m elevation along the road to Eight Mile Gap. The road looked ok to drive.

Did you drive in on Brocks Rd all the way to where it meets Refrigerator Gap Track, and then walk back the way you'd come to 8 Mile Gap? Or did you walk up Refrigerator Gap Track to Refrigerator Gap, then up to The Bluff?
I wonder if a good 2 night circuit could be done up there?
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Thu 01 Mar, 2018 3:53 pm

I parked at the junction of Brocks and Refrigerator Gap roads and walked up Refrigerator Gap road. It was a good graded walk and the road looked in very good condition.

[Brocks Road itself down from Eight Mile Gap had some very large trunks with sufficient cut out of them to let a car through.
On the way back out, they had completely removed the trunks so the road was without any obstacles.]

Coming out was on the Nobs Track onto Clear Creek track then onto Brocks Road.

PS - looking back at my notes - I can see I made a mistake - hence the question. I did not walk back to Eight Mile Gap, but up to Refrigerator Gap. My Apologies
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby GBW » Thu 01 Mar, 2018 8:04 pm

Fantastic photos eggs.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby Drew » Wed 28 Mar, 2018 9:08 am

I parked at the junction of Brocks and Refrigerator Gap roads and walked up Refrigerator Gap road. It was a good graded walk and the road looked in very good condition.

[Brocks Road itself down from Eight Mile Gap had some very large trunks with sufficient cut out of them to let a car through.
On the way back out, they had completely removed the trunks so the road was without any obstacles.]

Coming out was on the Nobs Track onto Clear Creek track then onto Brocks Road.

PS - looking back at my notes - I can see I made a mistake - hence the question. I did not walk back to Eight Mile Gap, but up to Refrigerator Gap. My Apologies


Thanks for clarifying Eggs. Looks like I'll be doing this circuit over the long weekend. I just hope there aren't too many 4WDs out and about. I might consider descending McDonald's north face.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby Drew » Thu 29 Mar, 2018 10:07 am

Thanks for clarifying Eggs. Looks like I'll be doing this circuit over the long weekend. I just hope there aren't too many 4WDs out and about. I might consider descending McDonald's north face.


Just a couple of questions re water. I'm hoping that with more than 50mm of rain at Buller over last weekend all should be fine now, but anyway...

We're planning to drive up early Friday morning so won't get started from Brocks Rd/Refrigerator Gap Rd until lunchtime, meaning first night will probably be at or near Bluff Hut, where the tank should be full. After that though, I'm thinking there could be water:
- down from the saddle south of King Billy 2
- somewhere in the Chesters Yard vicinity
- down Mt Clear track a bit
- 1km or so down Knobs track south west of AAWT

I don't think my partner will have the appetite to scrub bash down from Mt Macdonald so I think it'll just be the road bash to finish instead.

Thanks
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby Drew » Wed 04 Apr, 2018 9:15 am

My partner and I did this loop over Easter. Well, most of it anyway - we had to descend from The Nobs a little early as we were almost out of water. Despite the good rain a week earlier it's still pretty dry up there.

We found water:
- at a bend in Refrigerator Gap Rd on the climb up (about 536 787).
- plenty in the tank at Bluff Hut
- a decent trickle from a spring south of King Billy 2 (about 649 801)
- a decent trickle at Chesters Yard, running across the track
- Near the base of Mt Clear, off Mt Clear Track (after a bit of a search) there was a decent trickle at about 619 876). Not sure if this would have flowed across Mt Clear Track itself as I set off uphill before where it would have crossed.

We'd hoped to find more at a spring just south west of Mt Clear summit but I found no trace of water there, which left us with only enough to get to The Nobs. Not wanting to spend ages looking for water (while already thirsty) off the sth west side of Nobs Track we elected to descend to the valley early.

There is a bit much road walking on this circuit for my liking (especially on a long weekend with lots of 4WDs out). It would be great if Jamieson Spur and the Mt McDonald Track both had some trackwork - that would take a lot of road out of the route.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Wed 04 Apr, 2018 1:40 pm

I am going to walk that area in spring 2018 when water is not an issue.
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Re: Mt Buffalo & 4 day loop over the Bluff, Mts Clear & McDo

Postby eggs » Wed 04 Apr, 2018 11:00 pm

Sorry to hear it was so dry Drew.
I am not familiar enough with Vic Alps in summer, but coming from dry SA, my trips have been in Oct/Nov not only in hopes of lingering snow drifts, but in the hope that water is not hard to find.
It has certainly been a very dry summer and autumn over here.

PS - I also carried a lot of water and had a 4 litre bladder that went all the way until the last night. Not so good for keeping the weight down, but my form of insurance.
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