Bogong Circuit

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Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Mon 18 Oct, 2010 7:14 pm

Finally, by popular demand (well, two people did ask about it in a mildly interested tone . . . ):

The Bogong Circuit, in all its variations, is regarded as one of the classic Victorian mountain walks. Having done it in summer from Rocky Valley some years ago, I had been keen to repeat it in the snow and decided to make it even more interesting by starting at Mountain Creek and thus adding an extra climb (and descent). Finally had the chance during my annual non-Birthday trip, with the anticipation becoming well-nigh unbearable as the time dragged by and the day came ever closer . . . despite plenty of second, third, fourth, tenth, umpteenth thoughts, I stuck with the original plan.

The worst thing about this trip is the roundabout route necessary to get to Tawonga from anywhere near Melbourne, especially with the BHP Rd still closed.. It took something like seven hours, and after finally reaching the campground, I just rearranged a few things in the car, crawled into the sleeping bag and settled in for the night.

DAY 1
Friday dawned clear and cool at Mountain Creek. With almost everything packed before leaving for work on Thursday, all I had to do was dress, add water, make the appropriate entry in the intentions book, grab the trekking pole and head off. The impact of the recent floods was made clear no more than the twenty paces from the car, when the condition of the first creek crossing made the gate before it totally redundant. Trees strewn everywhere, boulders all over the place, the stream re-routed, and the track itself no longer evident under all the debris.

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There's a vehicle track under there . . . somewhere . . .


Fortunately, while the other creek crossings were also badly damaged, the footbridges and sidepaths had all survived unharmed, so it was an easy half hour stroll to the start of the track up Staircase Spur, where the jacket came off to prepare for the harder effort required in the climb. To my delight there had obviously been a good bit of rough trackwork done here last autumn, as the scrub had been slashed back from the track and the chainsaw wielded with great abandon.
Staircase Spur gets its name for the way it climbs and levels, climbs and levels, climbs and levels . . . much like most of the Victorian Alps, in fact, but for some reason the tendency was commemorated here. As soon as you enter the track it's a steep uphill grind through sclerophyll forest, with birds darting about constantly: fantails, wrens, robins, treecreepers, even a couple of wattlebirds. And Spring has most definitely sprung here, there are wildflowers all over - flashes of yellow and purple and a myriad little creamy things peeping through the green.
Being fresh, it felt easy going for the most part, a surprise given the time since I last managed an overnight trip, and soon the big trees were giving way to sallees and ribbon gums, and then the snowgums started showing up, along with faint snatches of views through the trees of the peaks above and the valleys below.

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Tawonga Valley and Mt Buffalo from Staircase Spur

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Shortly before 10am, I was resting by Bivouac Hut, and cursing whoever had broken the handle off the tank tap. So much for topping up the bladder there, would have to melt snow for cooking that night. Bivouac hut rests on one of the terraces of the Staircase, with a pleasant little camping area around, and it's a nice surprise to see the lack of firerings, given the general tendency of the Victorian camper to light a fire at every opportunity. Most of this area has been burnt at least once over the last few years, and it's a forest of stark white limbs, most of which are resprouting around the base. Snowgums are hard things to kill. Only a few paces beyond the hut, the first small drifts of snow appear and soon it's back into the steeper climbing, with the snow gums getting shorter and gnarlier, the track getting rougher and rockier, and the views more open.

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While the snow is retreating, it's doing so slowly and the drifts become thicker and more widespread very quickly, which slows things down as they're still too intermittent to make the snowshoes worthwhile. It's another hour and a half - with frequent pauses to haul out the camera - until I reach the first snowpole a bit below Castor and Pollux, with the ridge covered with a beautiful sculpted pile of snow.

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The sky is still clear and blue above, all the more stunning against the white of the mountain's top, and then a willy-willy picks up some flakes of surface ice that have separated from the snow beneath and dances up the drift with them, like a flock of tiny white birds spiralling into the air. It's utterly entrancing, and utterly unphotographable. There's another flutter higher up a minute later, and then a third and a fourth, and then the willy-willy dissipates and leaves the ice to be crushed underfoot. Regathering both wits and energy, I slowly scramble further up, past Castor and Pollux and rest on some rocks at the base of the next climb. The old metal snowpoles have been replaced by wooden ones up to this point, but for some reason Parks haven't had the old ones removed, there's a pile of them on the flat there, just above the treeline, slowly rusting away.

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A skier has been climbing up behind me and goes past while I'm taking photos there, and pauses behind a pile for rocks a hundred metres or so uphill. There he changes into his skiboots, gloves and jacket, puts on the skis, and starts climbing up the steep snowy slope remarkably quickly.

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I stop in the same place to put on the Yowies, and follow his line, away from the snowpoles over otherwise untracked snow, curving up to the ridgeline above. It takes a little bit of work to get used to climbing diagonally up a steep slope like this - I slip a few times until I find the trick of it, making sure the cleats have gripped the snow before shifting my weight, but once that's done it's surprisingly easy going, and soon I'm up on the last slope, with the summit cairn just peeping over the top.

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I've never seen Bogong like this, with a vault of blue sky above voluptuous curves of stark white, the only stains the snowpoles and a few lines of ski- and bootprints. It's taken until almost 2pm, but at last I'm up, and it's glorious. A bit of a breeze, a Wedgie soaring above West Peak, a line of thin cloud way off to the north, and ridgelines disappearing in every direction, with the whitetopped Main Range off to the East, and Feathertop down south, behind Niggerhead, McKay and the Fainters. The skier has disappeared off towards Cleve Cole, so the mountain is mine. It's a verweille doche, du bist so schon moment - though I had planned to go out to West Peak and camp near there that night I don't want to leave, it's just too perfect as it is, so I decide to set up right there next to the cairn.

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Now, I've never been snow-camping before, but I learned the theory. My Nallo came with detailed instructions on the use of snow pegs and, although I couldn't get a set of the real things, I found some scrap metal here that would serve quite well. Of course, I missed reading that bit of the instructions that said you use standard pegs when the snow is hard-packed and frozen (as was the case up on Bogong), but even if I'd read it I'd carried those damned things all the way up and I was damned well going to use them. It's an easy enough process, actually, and the tent looked mighty fine sitting up there on all that bare snow. And then, early as it was, I went for a wander down to Audax Point and back, before getting the stove going and fixing dinner (Backcountry S&S Lamb). And whilst wandering, I noticed something odd. There are a few of the old AAWT markers up there, although the route officially bypasses the summit, and heads up Bosseia Hill from Maddisons, before swinging east down Long Spur. It gets me wondering about the historical AAWT - I know there have been changes over the decades, but did the official route once include the side trip up to Bogong Summit?

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Anyway, later that evening, there I am, owning the mountain, drinking soup, eating, glorying in the space and solitude, waiting for the sunset . . . when first one, then a second, and eventually a third wheezing and sweating young man appears over the brow of the final rise north of the cairn. Can't say I was impressed. Or polite. I didn't actually tell them to bugger off in so many words, but . . .
. . . well, shortly after the sun hit the horizon they did bugger off slowly, with their fancy little snowshoes, and set up camp down on the ridge between Audax and Lendenfield Points. Far enough away not to intrude. So one last wander around during the sunset while the blue leached from the sky and a worrying haze appeared on the southern horizon beyond Hotham and the Razorback, then into the tent and the sleeping bag. It's amazing how much cold seeps up through the tent floor, even with a footprint, even with the big dry bag and the waterproof jacket under the Prolite 4. But the sleeping bag was equal to the occasion (with the addition of a thick pair of socks and two layers of thermals), and even the rising wind couldn't keep me awake. The tent shuddered all night (well, whenever I woke), but stayed put nicely. They say the top of Bogong is the worst possible place to try to camp in bad weather. Maybe so, but it's unsurpassable in good conditions.
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Last edited by north-north-west on Sun 28 Nov, 2010 12:07 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Mon 18 Oct, 2010 7:19 pm

DAY 2
As always, I was awake at first light, dragged on the waterproofs (to keep the wind off) and went out to a freezing, clear morning.

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Clambered over the cairn again, took too many photos, munched on a couple of breakfast bars, and started breaking camp. And that was when I realised a profound truth: setting up your first snow-camp is a doddle compared to packing up the next morning. There's also the point about brains being useless unless you use them. I'd actually sweated and scraped and cursed through digging out two of the snowpegs from the frozen solid 'snow', cursing and wishing I had a shovel, before I thought of the iPood. Still took a bit of work, but much easier. Finally packed and cleared up, I hauled the pack up and on and set off west, over a surface as solid as rock, while a smudge of cloud appeared over the summit and slowly grew and spread . . .

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Quartz Ridge had been one of the things that concerned me in the trip planning. It's steep and narrow in places, and there was always bound to be plenty of snow left on the southern facing sections, so I had visions of setting off an avalanche if the stuff was rotten. What with that thought, the spreading cloud above, and memories of the incessant rise and fall of the day's route once below the first drop, I gave West Peak a miss. It's only an hour's detour at the most, but it was going to be a long day anyway, and didn't need to be made longer.

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The walk out across the Hooker Plateau is easy, just a gently curving up and down and back up to the top of Quartz Ridge, where the views change from the smoothly rounded lines of the summit to a steep, craggy, rocky drop down to steep rolling hills with the river a looooooong way below. The Yowies are on and off here, until the rocks make them too much of a nuisance and they're strapped onto the pack. And, of course, just a hundred metres later it's back into the snow . . . but it's easier walking on hard snow in boots than on rock with the Yowies, so I leave them off for now.

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Along the higher, narrow ridge, and there's a deep drift all down the eastern slope, leaving no room to walk except on the tilted edge of it, next to the rocks and the first stunted, scrubby snowgums. In the end, it was fairly easy except one stretch which dropped so steeply down to the next level that the Yowies came back out, and even with them it was hard work to avoid slipping one way or the other - either down the snow or over the rocks.

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But with that section negotiated, the route turns from south to east, to drop into the snowgums before turning south again to undulate interminably down. And here, for the first time, the GPS is something more than a tracker, as the markers are hard to pick up and no-one's been down here since the last snowfall. Above there were at least ski tracks, here there's nothing but the snow.
The drifts here are deep and low, only petering out just above the Trig on Quartz Knob, where there's a lovely little campsite - the first one since leaving the top - amidst ancient gnarled snowgums. There are few left in the Bogongs of that age, the fires having destroyed most of them.
It seems to take forever, with the sky going grey, then blue again, but finally I'm past the Cairn Creek Hut turnoff, and have to clamber over a few fallen trees along the last km or so to Bogong Creek. The sun's out when I get there, so the pack goes down at the campsite, and I can finally fill up the bladder with something other than a handful or two of snow. It's a good place for a rest although I don't like it as a camp - the helipad (up at the saddle, about 100m further on) is a better option, having views and being flat.

Then back to it, up to the helipad and start the long slog up to Baz. This ridge is an odd one. It's called the Grey Hills track, but the first part of it is a steady uphill to Mount Arthur, followed by Little Arthur and a nameless lump that's higher than both those two and the Hills themselves. It's not an easy walk this, you climb twice the overall gain just to lose it in all the intervening saddles. At least this track, too, was slashed and chainsawed last autumn, so it's easier to follow than the first time I did it when it was just an intermittent footpad until the climb up to Crows' Nest. This time the climb up Baz is quicker and easier than I recall - maybe I'm not as unfit as I thought - though the views are even better. It's a great spot, you can see Bogong to the north, and Hotham and Feathertop behind McKay and the Fainters to the south, and see the creek that is the start of the Big River crashing down its steep gully, a fine set of falls if you aren't looking at crossing that river far too many miles downstream.

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And that's just the [i]start[/i] of the Big River . . .


Virtually no snow on Baz, either, until a trace on the saddle beyond the summit, which also makes the going easier. I almost headed off down the track to the river last time, as it had been newly cut and taped, while the Grey Hills continuation was blocked by burnt scrub and a fallen tree, but there's no chance of this today even though the fork still isn't all that clear. Once heading down from Baby Baz the drifts return in earnest, and they're softer than the stuff I encountered on Bogong, making it harder work. Still intermittent, but far more than I'd expected on such an exposed ridge. And then while dropping down to the saddle south of the nameless peak, the first (and only) people for the day - four youngsters doing a day loop from Bogong Village, chuffing along at a great pace; ain't it wonderfull to be young? Well, what I lack in youth and speed I make up through determination (OK, through sheer pigheaded bloodymindedness), so I trudge on, up and down over the Grey Hills and finally start the climb up to the Crows' Nest, which is still steep and rough but worse than usual because all the slashed scrub has been left on the track, and it tries to trip you every other step.
But I like this climb. It starts steep, in snowgums, but they quickly disappear, being replaced by thick scrub and then slowly by alpine heath. By the time I finally scramble up over the brow onto the top it's snowgrass and a few low shrubs and herbs. Almost snowfree here on top of the Crows' Nest, ditto the start of the narrow curving neck that leads to Spion Kopje, but then the snow returns and it's back to the Yowies for the last leg of the day. It's still hard to pick up anything like a track from the top of the Crows' Nest (and where is the top, by the way? This lump of rock? That one? That little tuft of grass there that looks a smidgin higher than the others?) although once back on the snow it doesn't really matter. And again I recall my last time through here, when the rising southerly was so strong I had to negotiate this exposed stretch sideways with the trekking pole braced out behind me to stop me being blown over, and then pitched the tent in the lee of the fire trail, and woke to find the still frozen hailstones from the previous night's storm.

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By the time I reach the Fire Trail, I'm knackered. Not quite staggering, but ready to call it a day, so I start looking for a campsite. Despite the cloud gathering throughout the day it hasn't rained, or even looked like doing so where I was, but the wind is rising again and it's hard to find a decent spot to pitch the tent. Finally, around one km further on, I find a flat spot that has deep firm snow with no rocks poking through. Exposed, but it's not going to be any windier than last night so the Nallo will cope. Pitch it in record time, unpack sleeping mat and bag, and cook in the vestibule - not because of the weather, just because there wasn't anywhere outside to sit down and I had been on my aching legs long enough. Dinner (Backcountry Babotjie), and little bit of choccy for dessert, then it's lights out at 7 and I don't stir until 5:30 the next morning. Sheer physical exhaustion is a wonderful thing (sometimes).
Last edited by north-north-west on Sun 28 Nov, 2010 12:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Mon 18 Oct, 2010 8:50 pm

DAY 3
Not quite as clear a morning as yesterday, and it's rained overnight, but the cloud is high enough not to be problem, and the views from here are impressive. I can see the Falls Creek village across the valley to the south. Wonder if there's anyone there now, thinking how mad you'd have to be to pitch a tent out on that ridge . . .
Wipe the worst of the moisture off the outside of the tent before packing, although it's still damp - I figure I can always sleep in Cleve Cole Hut if the weather goes off.

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One of the few clear sections up Nameless 2


Then back on with the Yowies and off, over untracked snow. Another little undulate and another this-is-taking-far-too-long trudge over yet another nameless peak (at almost 1900m, it's the third highest in Vic, yet unnamed; go figure), then down to Warby Corner where I meet the AAWT for the first time on this trip. It's almost solid snow this morning, a few clear grassy patches near the snowpole line but otherwise it's all white. The creek east of Spion Kopje runs under a 1.5 metre thick drift; you could drive a truck over it without falling through.
All this while, I've been thinking. The original plan was to follow the AAWT to Maddison's - down Duane Spur, over the Big River and up T Spur - but I've been worrying about that river crossing. The flood damage and the residual water flow in the Mountain Creek valley wasn't exactly reassuring. Yet from here the only alternative is to go down Timms Spur to Bogong Creek and retrace my route up Quartz Ridge, which I'm not keen on. Finally, I decide to risk the circuit route. If the river's too risky, I can climb back up and make it to Bogong Creek tonight and then have a long day up and over tomorrow.
So I stick with the AAWT, down past the rebuilt Roper's Hut, giving my two other hoped-for detours a miss as well. The snow slows me down too much to do the runs over the Nelses and Timms Lookout. They'll have to wait for another day (another winter . . . ). The weather is much as yesterday, cloud and sun, grey and blue, with a hint of breeze every now and then. Not bad walking weather, and at least it isn't doing anything that will get that river level up.
For some odd reason, the AAWT diverts above Roper's Hut, then curves down and passes within 20 metres of the thing anyway. The snowpoles continue on through the snowgums, but end while the drifts are still a metre deep. But someone's skied down here since the last snow so the route's easy to pick up; but then the snow ends, quite abruptly, just before the first steep drop. This track, unlike the others, hasn't been cleared for a while. The regrowth gets awkward as soon as the grade eases - gum and wattle suckers, four to five foot high, touching one another across the track. You can still make out the track below them, but you have to push the stuff aside as there is a fair bit of debris there to trip you up, as well as having to deal with the roughness of the track itself. This is a nuisance, but there's worse to come. Before I'm halfway down, just before the spur levels out and starts to climb back up to a knob before descending again, the first of the recently storm-felled trees appears. One of my Laws of Bushwalking says that the biggest trees always land on the track; well, this track is a classic example. It's not just one tree here and there; one massive tree that's brought down two or three medium trees and at least half a dozen small ones with it - that's the norm. And it's repeated time and again. Within half an hour I've decided that I'm fording that river no matter what - even if it's head high I'll fasten the pack to the chain and drag us both across somehow. No way known was I climbing back up through that mess.

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Damn, I knew I should have packed that chainsaw . . .


Slowly on, up to the knob, then down. There are sections where I'm clambering over wood for thirty metres at a time, just one branch or trunk after another. Then the switchback for the final drop, back and forth, back and forth; and here there are fallen trees you can climb over three or four times. Once I can see two levels of the track below, so I carefully slide down a massive barkless fallen trunk until the tangled branches stop me. Saves at least a hundred metres of 'walking' , that does. And it's not made any easier down here by the regrowth; here the gum suckers lean out over the track, reaching for the limited light, trying to push you off down the slope. Eventually I catch a glimpse of the river below, and it's a major anticlimax. I know it's always worse than it looks from a distance but I can see it's not going to be anywhere near as bad as I'd feared. It looks like a placid little stream from here, barely enough to dampen the fetlocks. If only . . .

One last scramble, one last fallen tree, one more patch of regrowth, and I'm on the riverbank, trying to find the chain. There's the big tree, there's the sandy bank next to the ford, there's the sign, but where's the chain? Pack down I go looking, and there it is . . . still attached on this southern side, but broken free from the other, drawn out along the river bank with rocks and other debris snagging it in half a dozen places. Someone has their work cut out getting that thing set up again.
Close up, the river's running faster and higher than it looked from above, but still not that bad. I'd have preferred to be able to use the chain, but one must make do. So the camera bag goes into the dry bag in the pack, along with a couple of other 'must keep dry' things, the pack's on, hipbelt undone and shoulder straps tightened, and in we go, boots and all. It's not as cold as I thought it'd be, but the flow is a shock. I can stand well enough on both feet, but try to stand on one, to move the other and step forward and it's a struggle. I shuffle a little forward but almost lose my balance, so I halt and reconsider. I then drop below the shallow rocks on which the crossing is usually made, into thigh deep water, and edge across sideways, leaning forward holding onto those rocks. It's effective and despite feeling like I'm bound to end up face down I make it over quickly and easily. Drop the pack, punch the air, beat the chest and yodel in triumph. Made It! Over the river! So much for all the drama; it's seldom the things you most worry about which turn out to be the biggest problem.

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Time to resort the gear, get out the camera, dry out the socks and boots (a bit) as the sun is out again, and generally regroup for the last big climb. I also check the GPS and find another odd truth about the damned things - despite consistently rating every summit some 20 - 25 metres higher than the maps (according to Mr Triton, Bogong is 2001m), it's in perfect agreement with them as to the altitude of the crossing.
A little chocolate, wring out the socks one last time, boots, gaiters, pack, camera bag, and start the endless Javert up T Spur. It's odd, how you like some routes and not others. I've never cared for Duane's. but I've always liked T Spur for some reason. I've also always preferred Eskdale to Staircase as a route up Bogong, despite being steeper and harder. But I particularly enjoy this climb; the track is clearer than Duane's, it's shared in the trackwork all the others had, and there are far fewer new treefalls. A few, of course, including one beastie the bottom of whose trunk almost touches the ground and the top of which is higher than I am, but nothing like the carnage on Duane's.

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The only problem is when the smaller falls beside the track have pushed some of the greenery down, then one has to shove it aside or scramble over, but there's not much of that and it's easy after the descent. Still, it's a long climb up after the work of getting to the start of the spur, so I resort to the tried and true 'slow and steady'. Count steps if all else fails, and rest every 1500 paces or so. Even more than the mess of Duane's or the river crossing, my constant memory of this day is the heady scent of eucalypt from every leaf I brush against; new washed and heated by the sun, it's dizzyfying. I make it up to T Spur Knob (1640m by the map, 1660 by the GPS)(and there's another brilliantly imaginative name. Maybe it's good thing they didn't try to stick names on those two high unnamed peaks - they'd probably be called Big Lump and Even Bigger Lump)(not that there's anything wrong with that) - another passable campsite - just before 5pm. Plenty of time still to get to Cleve Cole before dark. But just on the other side the saddle is on a lovely short narrow neck, with marvellous views of Long Spur and Wills to the east, and Buffalo to the west. It's calm and sunlit and snowfree and just screams "camp here'. So I do. It'll mean an extra 3 km tomorrow, but that's an easy run and this is too good to pass up. The tent is pitched in a sunny spot, the sleeping bag and mat are spread out in the sunshine and dinner (Chefsway Spag Bol) is soon merrily a-simmering.
While eating I check out the next bit of track. There's a snowdrift off to the side, all down the eastern edge of the spur, but it seems clear underfoot. And while still eating (those Chefsway meals are biiiig) I watch the rain falling out over the Wombat forests, and see the clouds building up over the top of Long Spur and Bosseia Hill.
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As the sun lowers I pick up the last few things I had out and amble back to the tent, and just as I reach it the first raindrops fall. Looks like I made the right decision stopping here.

The rest of the evening is in the tent, looking out from time to time at the light show. Either the wind doesn't pick up this night or this spot is too sheltered to feel it, and the rain doesn't last although it returns a few times. Check the maps, take a few photos, do a few crosswords, then lights out and time to sleep. It's been a satisfying day.
Last edited by north-north-west on Sun 28 Nov, 2010 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Mon 18 Oct, 2010 8:59 pm

DAY 4
First light, blah, blah, blah, breakfast, blah, blah, blah. Usual routine. Still low grey cloud but it doesn't feel like it'll rain today. Pack, blah, blah, blah. Realise I've left the undersocks down at the river, blah, blah, blah. Off just after 6:30, a nice easy amble through the snowgums, slowly climbing, and hit the snow just a hundred metres on. On with the Yowies and up, following the ski tracks and the markers nailed to trees; it's a real mix here, some of the old diamond-shaped markers, one or two of the newer triangles, but mostly just crushed beer cans nailed up high on the bare branches. Unlike the other climbs, there's nothing intermittent with these drifts - once the track hits them it stays there, winding up and through the trees, over another rise, then around and down to Maddison's, which has one clear section where the creek runs down but is otherwise over a metre deep in the stuff. Springtime is just a rumour here. Then around the hill and down to Camp Creek, and suddenly the snow drops off, patches of it, patches of grass, like that all the way through the slog up to Cleve Cole. I don't remember it being this far - the climb seems to last for hours (well, 50 minutes from Maddison's). The last couple of hundred metres the snow's deep and constant again, though the rain and sun have softened it.
There's a tent near the hut, one solitary skier making the most of the last snow. Time for a rest, drop the pack on the steps of the hut, stretch, sort out a snack, use the dunny (luxury, after the last three days) and into the hut to top up the water. The water's slow but it's easier than trudging all the way down to the creek. It's colder up here; not just the bit of extra altitude, but the sun's gone in permanently and sky is low and grey, with a cold breeze. Cleve Cole is a well built beastie, a lot of stone on the outside, a fireplace and a wood-burning stove inside as well as the sink and the benches and table and a bookshelf above the stove. Plenty of volumes of the mandatory Tolkein, but some other contributors have a sense of humour (or masochism) and someone's left Hammond Innes' The Angry mountain. Ski clubbers built it and it's still used mainly by them as a winter shelter. No wonder; there's some lovely country here, perfect for cross country skiing with its open snowgum forest and gentle slopes.
I'd love to stay longer but it's time to be off. The skier has said hello, donned his gear and headed up the mountain, so I do likewise.
The trees thin out very quickly on the climb up and soon, when the route turns to follow the ridge up to Lendenfield, they're just low scattered bits of scrub, half buried in the snow. The stuff's still so deep here I can sit on some of the snowpoles. As I climb the wind gets stronger and I'm thankful for the rainjacket - they're wonderful windbreakers. Soon, though, the snow thins and clears. The open flat terrain up here exposes the snow more and there's nothing but a few small icy stretches from Lendenfield Point to just beyond Audax. I can't see the top of Bogong, it's covered in cloud, as are the Hooker Plateau, Quartz Ridge and West Peak. Even Spion Kopje and the rest of the southern ridgelines are hidden, until there's a shift in the cloud and a small patch of blue appears, and then there's a glimpse of rocky, snow covered ridge to the west. And so it goes all the way up and across to Hell Gap: Socked in, brighter patches, a little watery blue above, brief snatches of ridgelines and snowy slopes and deep, dark gullies. I love these conditions, the mountains playing hard to get, teasing, the wind keeping you focused. All too soon, though, there's the turnoff for Eskdale Spur, and it's time to stop climbing up and start working my way down. The solo skier is there at the top of the track, looking down at the valley and the hills beyond as they're revealed . . . and hidden again.
This first part of the descent is awkward at first, even in the snowshoes I'm slipping and sliding. then I learn to control the slides, taking long 'steps' skidding down a metre at a time. Eventually I give up and just drop to my backside and slide down the slopes; it's quicker and easier. In fact, the snowshoes are great for this, you can steer with them and then just dig the cleats in when you want to stop. Brilliant fun. I keep looking back up, though, especially when the sun breaks through briefly, but the summit still socked in although by now I'm below the cloud (except for a few nearby wisps drifting past head high) and can see the roof of Mitchell's below. There's an awkward stretch then, up and over some craggy rocks with little snow; not really the sort of country for snowshoes, but it's past quickly enough and then there's another slope to bumsled down, and another patch of rock. The the drifts taper off and there's the turnoff for Granite Flat Spur, over to the left, through another couple of deeper but soggy drifts, and I'm at Mitchell Hut. Another short break, put the jacket back in the pack, and down, snow free from here. The sun is even starting to put in brief appearances, although the summit remains under cloud all day. So this is when I realise that the sunglasses went walkabout during one of those carefree slides . . .
Snow free now, but not easy. It's very steep from here, I drop 150 metres in the first 10 minutes, despite having a short level section midway. Quickly now, the scrub changes, from snowgums to sallees to the larger trees, the undergrowth changing from snowgrass and alpine herbs to bracken and larger shrubs. Unlike so much of the rest of Bogong, this area hasn't been burnt for a while. Then I see below a group of four youngsters, loaded up with boots and skis and all, climbing up almost as fast as I'm going down; I sidle off the track for them and they push on past looking so fresh you'd think they'd only just started out. And just 200 meters later when I suddenly come out on the 4WD track near the Camp Gap carpark, it becomes apparent they have. I have a quick squizz at the intentions book there, and the chap up top has noted his expected return date as '5/10ish'. I like the way he thinks.
Off the road almost immediately and onto the foottrack that cuts off the big loop. More trees down here, and some of them a bit awkwardly placed, especially the one at the start of one of the footbridges, but it's still shorter and easier than the road, which I'm back on soon enough, and now for the worst bit of it, the trek back along the creek to the carpark. The adventure is over now, this is just drudgery, and it's made worse by - yes, you guessed it - the fallen trees I'm continually dodging. This gets worse as I go along, and then there are the creek crossings and all the washouts on the track. I can't believe they'll ever bother reworking this to open it for vehicular access, the damage is just too great. Some of the creek crossings are now over a metre below the road level, there are boulders stacked higgledy-piggledy all over the place, the creek has re-routed itself in a few places. One of the footbridges on this section is gone, another is blocked at one end by a massive fallen tree, and the other crossings are awkward. Sheer drudgery. And the GPS says there's still another 100 metres of altitude to drop before reaching the camp . . . drudge, drudge, drudge, trudge, trudge, trudge, whinge, whinge, whinge, finally past the Staircase Spur track, easier now I know I'm almost there, up to the last creek crossing and the destruction there still amazes me. A few more photos, through the gate, sign out, and drop the pack for the last time.j

Of course, being caffeine free for the last four days, the first thing I do is open up the Esky and pull out a nice cold Coke . . .
GPS logged and off. Boots off. Snack food sorted. Extra cold drink. Check everything's in the car, and off. Decide to follow Mountain Creek Rd to Mitta Mitta and back down the Omeo. Maybe a mistake as it's a long drive, but it's far more pleasant than the Hume. The run into Mitta Mitta is slow, the road is still being repaired after the storms, but from there it's a doddle. I always find driving south along the Mitta Mitta River odd, as the road feels like it's level - or even downhill - but the river drops away from you although it's flowing the other way. Weird. Just a matter of perspective. But the valley coming into town is lovely, brilliantly and lushly green; and the road from there down to Omeo is glorious, the wattles in full bloom so the stark rough rocky hillsides are glowing in a dozen different shades of yellow and gold. The perfect counterpoint. Except that the sun has come out, and I'm sorely regretting those lost sunglasses . . .

In summary: although almost everything took longer than I'd planned it wasn't a great deal harder. The snow made for slower going at times, but wasn't as much of a problem as I'd feared. Definitely a great way to spend four days. The conditions on the first day were perfect, nothing was ever going to match that, but it was still good all the way through (except maybe that last bit back to the car). If I do it again, I'll go up Eskdale and down Staircase - this makes for a slightly longer first day, but shortens the return at the end. And next time I have to make sure I have time for all those side trips.
And if you ever get the chance to camp on top of Bogong - even if it''s not in your plans - do it. With halfway decent conditions it's a brilliant campsite.

Maddisons
Image

Heading up from Cleve Cole
Image

Bare ground at Lendenfield Point
Image

Glimpse of Quartz Ridge . . .
Image

. . . and of Cope
Image

Heading down Eskdale
Image

Getting clearer
Image

Below the cloud
Image
Last edited by north-north-west on Wed 20 Oct, 2010 7:39 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby optdyl » Wed 20 Oct, 2010 11:11 am

Wow! This is an awesome, detailed trip report, NNW. The walk sounds like it is going to be a bit more challenging than I expected, especially if there's still snow on the mountains. However, your photos have made it almost imperative that I get up there while there is still some snow there... :lol: I just hope that the weather holds up as well as it did for you!

Having been at Mountain Creek in June, and walked along the road (which at that point was in great condition, I reckon you would be able to take a 2wd down there if not for the creek crossings), I am amazed at the damage caused by the floods!

Looking forward to doing the walk!

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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Wed 20 Oct, 2010 6:33 pm

It's not that bad. Remember you don't have the climb up from Mountain Creek - going in from Rocky Valley or Langford's is much gentler.
And I think you should have some snow. Possibly more than you bargained on. I walked up to Johnnies Top from Buenba on Sunday, and there was snow there down to 1300m. Fresh snow, too; that cold snap in the middle of last week obviously dumped a fair bit of new stuff. From the lookout on the Benambra road, the glimpse I had of the lower part of the Bogongs showed plenty of snow still there as well.

I have taken a 2WD Hilux to Camp gap along that track. As long as you know how to handle the rougher creek crossings it is - rather, was - doable. But, quoth the Raven: 'nevermore'.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby Jellybean » Wed 20 Oct, 2010 7:08 pm

Great report and pics NNW, thanks for sharing them! That's on my "To Do" list!

Cheers,

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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby Lizzy » Thu 21 Oct, 2010 7:32 am

Nice!! Great walk and exceelent report!
thanks
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby johnw » Thu 21 Oct, 2010 12:15 pm

NNW that has to be one of the most entertaining, well-written and comprehensive trip reports I've ever read, with photos to match. Particularly liked the sunset, sunrise and storm cloud shots, but they're all great. Better than reading a book. Thanks for taking the time to write it, obviously took a lot more than 5 minutes to put together. :D

p.s. I've tried the Backcountry Babotje, but didn't like it.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby Bill P » Thu 21 Oct, 2010 7:59 pm

Well written NNW. Delightful to read and fantastic pics , Thank You. I wish I had the ability. To write. I lost the track a bit south of Mt Little Artie ,might have been the fog. I was in. I think you had a look at Black Possum Spur. Is Baz a knoll out there? I'm thinking you got up the Spion Kopje Ck & onto the spur west off Crows Nest. Don't tell me. Let me enjoy my speculation. How come you poked about in that pocket instead of going further south in the loop?
Great Report. A+ . I think I know where I'm going next winter.
Thanks.

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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Fri 22 Oct, 2010 5:41 pm

Thanks all.

Baz is what I call Arthur. I have maps of the Bogongs printed back in the '60s, and a couple of them call Arthur Andrew, so that's what I called it for yonks until I was informed of the error of my ways. But then I kept getting confused as to which was right, so I just gave it up and renamed it Baz in honour of Barry Andrewarthur, the long time dive mag editor and publisher.
Which may not make much sense to you, but I know what I mean and that's all that really matters.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby crockle » Fri 22 Oct, 2010 9:08 pm

north-north-west wrote:..Baz is what I call Arthur. I have maps of the Bogongs printed back in the '60s, and a couple of them call Arthur Andrew, so that's what I called it for yonks until I was informed of the error of my ways. But then I kept getting confused as to which was right, so I just gave it up and renamed it Baz in honour of Barry Andrewarthur, the long time dive mag editor and publisher..

That is seriously obtuse...

But nevermind, Who cares: -

A wonderful trip report !

What johnw said.
johnw wrote:NNW that has to be one of the most entertaining, well-written and comprehensive trip reports I've ever read, with photos to match


I enjoyed reading this enormously and am spurred to do so again, with a map in hand this time.

Thanks for posting - (dare I say it) inspirational !

But let me get this right - you lose a pair of sunglasses *every single time* you go bushwalking right? ....
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby Bill P » Fri 22 Oct, 2010 9:24 pm

Barry, Arthur, Bruce, Mate, no probs with naming iterations thanks for that.
north-north-west wrote:maps of the Bogongs printed back in the '60s
I love old maps. I went to the Eastern Arthurs with a friend who'd been there in the 60's and he had a dyeline blue print map showing the tentative routes the teams were trying to put up Federation, before it got climbed. Sensational. There was so much unknown. Dotted lines with abandoned route descriptions, and lots of blank bits! Old maps are a marvelous history lesson.

Love to have a look at any early Bogongs map.

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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby crockle » Fri 22 Oct, 2010 9:31 pm

PS - This is surely the only trip report thus far to on this forum to quote Goethe . :?
The degree of difficulty in actually doing this without appearing a pretentious prat, is at least an 8.5.
Happily, your score is in excess of that I think.

I don't speak German, and don't really know Goethe, but for what it's worth, I translate
Verweile doch, du bist so schön
as
"But stay! - you are so beautiful"

As I believe, it was.. :D
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby Charlievee » Sat 23 Oct, 2010 9:23 am

Great report nnw - it is reports like this that instill confidence in us walkers who like to know more about a walk before we commit ourselves. This one is definitely on my list. Many thanks for all your hard work. CV
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby stepbystep » Sat 23 Oct, 2010 10:38 am

Fantastic report nnw, thanks heaps for putting it together and wonderful pics too!
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Tue 26 Oct, 2010 7:04 pm

Bill P wrote:
north-north-west wrote:maps of the Bogongs printed back in the '60s
I love old maps. I went to the Eastern Arthurs with a friend who'd been there in the 60's and he had a dyeline blue print map showing the tentative routes the teams were trying to put up Federation, before it got climbed. Sensational. There was so much unknown. Dotted lines with abandoned route descriptions, and lots of blank bits! Old maps are a marvelous history lesson.


Oh, ye dogs and little fishes, but YES! Maps are wonderful things, amongst the finest creations of mankind, but old ones are especially fascinating. Best exhibition I ever went to was the 'Treasures from the World's Great Libraries' thing they had the the National Library some years back. I spent at least two hours just drooling over the maps before getting any further in.

crockle wrote:PS - This is surely the only trip report thus far to on this forum to quote Goethe . :?

I don't speak German, and don't really know Goethe, but for what it's worth, I translate
Verweile doch, du bist so schön
as
"But stay! - you are so beautiful"

As I believe, it was.. :D


I'm impressed. Though I figured if anyone did pick up on that line that it would most likely be you,.
The common paraphrase is, I believe, 'Oh moment stay, though art so fair'. When people are trying to be really arty-farty and pretentious about it.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Tue 26 Oct, 2010 7:07 pm

crockle wrote:But let me get this right - you lose a pair of sunglasses *every single time* you go bushwalking right? ....


*defensively* Not quite every time. Maybe one in three overnighters. On average.
Actually, I think it's one of my more endearing foibles.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby optdyl » Fri 29 Oct, 2010 12:19 pm

Jickham and I knocked off this walk at the start of the week. After finishing my first uni exam we headed off to Falls Creek. We camped overnight next to Rocky Valley Storage and then set off along Heathy Spur (the road was closed between Falls Creek and Omeo, meaning we had to walk to the start of the track) at about 8.30 the next morning. First impressions of the walk was that there was a lot less snow then when NNW headed off which made navigating easier and walking faster. The Heathy Spur Track is flat and was clear of snow (apart from ~20m) making it easy to navigate along. It took just over an hour to cover the 4.5km to the Big River Fire Track. This section of the walk (and along Spion Kopje Track) was also (relatively) flat and clear, again, making for easy walking. The turn off for The Grey Hills was signed, however there was no obvious footpad so we just ambled down the spur until we picked up the track, we lost the track once more but as we were just walking along the ridge there were no real problems. The track had recently been cleared from the Crowsnest onwards. We arrived at Bogong Creek Saddle around 5.30-6pm (can't give exact times as neither of us had a watch), exhuasted after knocking off ~22.5km, and set up camp (as suggest by NNW) at the helipad.

Overnight the fog settled in on one side of the saddle and began to rise as we set off the next morning. The walk up Quartz Ridge was easy to follow, and steep in places (as to be expected) with no snow until we reached Hooker Plateau. Here there were a few patches of snow over the path each of ~100m length. We lost the track on these patches, but easily picked it back up with the snow poles following the ridge. We arrived at the top of Mt Bogong after about 4 hours, where it was clear of snow and pretty much (to our surprise) windless. After lunch on top of Bogong we slowly set off to Cleve Cole Hut. The Hut was a wonderful place to set up camp (or you could stay inside), it had a wood heater, running water, beds, books and (if one is a member of the Bogong Club) a gas cooker and lighting. We spent the afternoon poking around the surrounding area and reading books in the afternoon sun.

The following morning we woke up to clear skies; but this was not for long as the fog rolled in half an hour later. We set off toward T-Spur (via Howman Falls), heading for Roper Hut. The walk down T-Spur was hard on the knees, but the track was mainly clear, which was much nicer than things to come. Big River was flowing a bit higher and faster then in the photo uploaded by NNW, making the crossing exciting. Duane Spur was exactly as described by NNW, still covered with fallen trees and regrowth making movement difficult. We made it to Roper Hut around 2.30 and, after lunch, decide that we could power out the 12.5km back along the Big River Fire Trail and Heathy Spur to the car before night fall. We got back to the car around 7.30pm and headed back to Melbourne.

Overall, the walk was beautiful and challenging and made for excellent walking. I would defintely recommend others give this one a go in Spring as the weather is cool, the tracks are clear and there is water everywhere. Our route avoided going up either Eskdale Spur or The Staircase which makes it easier than that taken by NNW, however the start and the end of the walk involved following fire tracks.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Sun 31 Oct, 2010 6:35 pm

The BHP Rd is still closed?!! There can't be that much snow left on it, surely? Those lazy sods up there should get off their backsides and clear it.

At least you missed all the rain. That is great. Three days is good going for that circuit.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby optdyl » Sun 31 Oct, 2010 7:34 pm

north-north-west wrote:The BHP Rd is still closed?!! There can't be that much snow left on it, surely? Those lazy sods up there should get off their backsides and clear it.

At least you missed all the rain. That is great. Three days is good going for that circuit.


I doubt there would have been any snow left on it... When we finished we had a chat to some people who are organising a triathlon at Falls for February, they said they had been told the road was to be opened Friday just passed. They had also been given access to the road and said that there were a lot of branches and other tree litter covering the road, this was being cleaned up whilst they were there. :roll:

We had one night with showers, but no rain during the day, which made it much more enjoyable!

On the second day I was pretty burnt out, and had to take it slowly up Quartz Ridge. I have also spent the last couple of days recovering from going so hard, we could have given it another day and checked out Timms Spur as you suggested.

Having not done much walking in The Alps this has given me a much greater appreciation of the area, I will definitely be back!
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Sun 31 Oct, 2010 7:40 pm

I walked from Trapyard Gap to Cope Hut in September, after the storms. There were a few trees down but they should have had them cleared much earlier than this.
Hopefully they'll get around to clearing Duane's next.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby optdyl » Sun 31 Oct, 2010 7:45 pm

north-north-west wrote:Hopefully they'll get around to clearing Duane's next.

*Fingers crossed*, although I doubt it...
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby rsser » Fri 11 Mar, 2011 8:37 pm

Pic of top of Long spur etc is genius.

In the class of Dombrovskis et al.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby fairhills3 » Sat 22 Sep, 2012 9:14 pm

Hi and what a great spring hike well done to all who have given great advice for this alpine hike.
Weather window permiting,we will be doing this hike first week of october,2012-can you give a estimate of pack and gear weights and did you all take full winter alpine kit.
And in your opinion will 22kg be a struggle or was that close to your limit,?
Last 18 months we have done Gow winter-s prom-winter-bogong f top winter-and summer.
Cheers Fairhills3.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Mon 24 Sep, 2012 7:26 pm

I never weigh my pack before a walk, although I do now have a list of gear weights. My current winter kit logs in at 17kg including snowshoes, a day's food, emergency rations, and all the camera gear. But there have been considerable changes in that kit since I did this trip: different snowshoes, mat, sleeping bag, stove, proper lightweight snowpegs. It would have been more like 20kg all up at the start of that walk, maybe a bit more. Plus water.

I think there will probably be a bit more snow left this year. Still plenty the weekend before last when I did a short two day loop from Mountain Creek via Moncrief Gap and Quartz Ridge.
One other thing I've learnt since about snow-camping: those clear nights high on the snow are always windy. The night I spent on West Peak was even worse than the one near Field West on my last Tassie trip.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby fairhills3 » Mon 24 Sep, 2012 9:52 pm

Thanks for the quick reply,north-by-north-west.
I used the scales at the local vet today,20.5kg less water and yowies,-on that point 9 weeks ago i used yowies from bungalow hut ruins to midddle f top ,to icy and around molly hill were we camped.-they worked well but not so sure on deep or soft snow,we might get along grey hills,
We are hoping for a first 2 days of clear skys to get over to warby cnr we wont set off unless the fore cast at least gives us that start,we factored that if it goes pear shaped weather wise its better to be on the snow pole and hut side,just in case,rather than going in reverse order and getting hamered going up quartz ridge.
We would have liked to go in heathy spur or simalir but parking costs to much and they are extending the season at falls creek.
How was moncrieffs gap track,?that looks a long walk into bcs, and do you think its suitable way to get to the saddle.
All the best and thanks for your letting me know about snow condidtions from your last hike.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby north-north-west » Thu 27 Sep, 2012 7:19 pm

Moncrief Gap route is longish, but doable. I spent the previous night at Mountain Creek and was up at first light. Quick going to the start of the Big River Firetrail apart from clambering over a fair few fallen trees on the Little Bogong track, but a bit slower from there, and crawled up Quartz Ridge. About 28km that day, but I was still up at West Peak well before 4pm. At Bogong Creek Saddle around midday, after a 6:30 departure, which isn't bad for around 20km even if it is a gentle grade the whole way.
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby fairhills3 » Sat 29 Sep, 2012 11:19 pm

Thanks north north west,
I will let you no how i rate the walk up to bogong creek saddle this week,-they say fine skys for tues wed thur so heres hoping,?
Might go for a day hike up grey hills,and mt arthur,
thxs nnw for the hike tips.
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Re: Bogong Circuit

Postby sim1oz » Wed 03 Oct, 2012 5:41 pm

Fabulous report and photos, NNW. Thanks for sharing. I am totally jealous. I went snowshoeing in NZ in July but nothing beats seeing a great winter trip in my own 'backyard'. I'll be heading there this summer to check it out.
Carpe diem!
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