AAWT 2015 - Baw Baw to Mt Howitt

A forum for discussing the Australian Alps Walking Track. This is a 655 km long track from Walhalla (Vic) to Tharwa (ACT)

Re: AAWT 2015 - Baw Baw to Mt Howitt

Postby north-north-west » Sun 06 Sep, 2015 8:46 am

Yes.
My first time through there I made the same mistake and tried sidling Square Top. One of the windiest days I can recall in the Vic Alps. I think it kind of saves itself up and lets loose when there are walkers on that route. Gone over the top ever since.

Pity about the conditions on High Cone, but. I love climbing up that. Really neat views. Ditto with the southern peak of the Nobs, which gets very few visitors.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Mon 07 Sep, 2015 10:59 am

Day 14: Mt Clear to Mt Magdala (15km)

It rained steadily throughout the night and come morning, conditions weren’t much better as we packed up and started upwards toward the summit of Mt Clear in the rain and fog. We were hoping to get over Mt Clear, the King Billys and Magdala today but the weather didn’t look ideal for some nice views.

It was a gentle climb through some awesome snowgums along a fairly well marked route, reaching the summit of Mt Clear about 1/2h later.

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Mt 'not so' Clear


In similar conditions to what we had experienced on Mt Sunday, it was pea soup up there and Mt “Clear” offered absolutely no views in any direction...bummer. After locating the summit cairn, we worked our way north across the reasonably flat top, and after a bit hunting around, found the track decending off the summit to the NE, eventually meeting up with Mt Clear Track which comes up from Brocks rd.

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Open fields near Chesters Yards


Joining Mt Clear Tk, we continued on towards Chesters Yards, passing through open grasslands which looked like they may have been used for cattle grazing at some point in time. This would be a great area to explore in winter with skis or snowshoes.

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Chesters Yard


We reached Chesters Yards, a great little campsite with a running stream only a short distance away. Pity the weather was so bad yesterday as this would have been an ideal place to camp (next time). Continuing north along the relatively flat track for a couple of km, we arrived at the intersection of Brocks Rd, Bluff Tk and King Billy Tk, with the well signposted path to King Billy No.2 heading up the hill.

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Intersection of Brocks Rd, Bluff Tk and King Billy Tk


AAWT markers were frequent on the meandering path up and we soon reached the top after a rather steep, rocky final section.

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King Billy No.2


The Gods must have felt sorry for us after the battering we received on Square Top yesterday…as we approached the top…the fog cleared…rain stopped…wind died down… and we had great 360 views of the surrounding area. Thank you!

We continued north, decending KB2 over a series of interesting rocky knolls leading to a saddle between the two KBs which had some of the most beautiful mature snowgums I’ve ever seen and would be a great place to camp. I think we stopped and had a bite to eat here and enjoyed the surroundings.

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Saddle between the KBs



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Climbing KB1



Onwards and upwards, we reached the rocky tops of KB1, reaching a cairn and enjoyed the views across to Mt Speculation and Magdala, and back towards KB2.

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Cairn on King Billy No.1


Finding a way down the rocks off the northern end, the path became more defined and continued on through the snowgums to eventually rejoin Bluff tk at a nice camp area. We were keen to make some progress towards Magdala so continued on…the path looked like it had received a bit of traffic recently which is something we hadn’t seen for a few days…this was the 9th consecutive day we had been walking and hadn’t seen another soul.

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Descending KB1


The weather started to quickly deteriorate as we passed a series of cliffs to our left and after a couple of km we called it quits at a flat area near the base of Magdala.

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Camp near base of Magdala


Another great day and some really interesting walking…tomorrow we expected to get over Magdala, Big Hill, Howitt and reach Mac Springs.

Short video of the clouds at the base of Mt Magdala as we approached camp (again, it's pretty noisy so watch the volume):

Last edited by GBW on Wed 09 Sep, 2015 3:51 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby north-north-west » Mon 07 Sep, 2015 6:43 pm

Those pack covers look a good size and also very sturdy. Where did you get them?
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 5:59 am

NNW, they came with a couple of Dueter packs I got cheap and seemed to do the job. There's a small pocket underneath the pack where the cover stuffs into and is attached so it pulls up and over the top. poly? coating of some kind I think...

They're very comfortable packs but probably a bit on the heavy side.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby Lophophaps » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 6:36 am

GBW, nice pics. The one of the alleged Mt Clear is interesting, and the fog pictures are very atmospheric. Can you please advise where you got water? Chesters has a small creek, and there's water where you leave the 4WD track just north of King Billy No. 1. As far as I know, the next water is on the far side of Magdala, Hellfire Creek. You seem to have stopped at about 653835, and the creek looks to be a fair way down.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 6:48 am

From the sky and off the ground...it rained most days so we just collected from puddles mainly...we were lucky to some degree with water and the weather but it would be a different story in hot, dry conditions. Yes, that GR is about where we camped on the approach to Magdala.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby north-north-west » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 7:20 am

Those sorts of conditions there would be small pools on the descent of KB1. Also used to be a good water source just one or two hundred metres back south along the Bluff Track from the junction, but that may have been stuffed up last time they graded the track.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby Watertank » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 8:53 am

GBW, great reading and great photos, thanks for all the effort you have put in. I was up at Mt Clear a couple of years ago with my son, we had magnificent views, but Square Top was another story, fog fog fog, felt like a Charles Dickens book!
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby Sandbars » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 3:29 pm

We are reading your reports in between cooking and planning for our adventure - so fun to have a preview go up just as we are getting ready. Thanks for sharing!

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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 4:50 pm

Day 15: Mt Magdala to Macalister Springs (11+8km)

The sun was shining for the first time in a while as we left the camp and worked our way toward Magdala...I wanted to see Hells Window and was pretty exited. The well formed track up to the summit was a much easier walk than expected after some of the bush bashing we’d done along the way, reaching the top about and hour later.

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Climbing Mt Magdala


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Bridge...stoked to be on top of Magdala


We plonked ourselves down and enjoyed the views across to Mt Howitt, The Crosscut, Speculation and The Viking for an hour or so then continued down towards Hells Window a short distance away.

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Cliffs of Mt Magdala at Hells Window


I was impressed with the views through the gap and dramatic cliffs on the northern side of Magdala and after a few happy snaps, made our way down to the camp at the base of Big Hill...nice spot.

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Looking back at Magdala from near Big Hill


It had warmed up so we stopped at the camp to strip off then all of a sudden…out of nowhere…this bloke appears. At first I was a little stunned…first other human we’d seen in ten days and when we told him I think he was just as stunned as us. Ten days without seeing another person (apart from each other) would have to be a record for both of us and I was extremely surprised no one passed us either from behind or coming the other way…I was starting to think that nobody walks the AAWT anymore!

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Near Mt Howitt


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I'm speechless...


After a quick chat about our journey we continued over Big Hill and up towards Howitt. Wild flowers were just coming into bloom and it was a pleasant walk across the grassy slope to the summit. We dropped our packs and strolled up to the west peak for a look then continued down past the turnoff to the Crosscut towards Mac Springs.

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Awesome country...


I’d put another food drop down near Howitt carpark in the event we arrived early or our lift couldn’t get there for a couple of days so after setting up we strolled the 4k down to the carpark with empty packs to grab some decent food from a bucket I’d hidden in the scrub over Howitt road. You do get a bit over eating almost the same things everyday and I was hanging out for some eggs and baked beans! My Dad and Sister weren’t due to pick us up for 2 more days so we could relax and enjoy the views in one of the most rugged areas in Victoria.

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The original plan was that if we got to Mac Springs with enough time we’d do the circuit as a finale but we were probably 2 days late so instead I planned to stroll out over the Crosscut to Speculation and back tomorrow and was looking forward to it.

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We had the whole place to ourselves until another group of four arrived later in the day. They had walked in from the carpark to camp a couple of nights but weren’t doing any exploring, and seemed quite interested in hearing about our travels from Baw Baw. I was under the impression that they thought we were a little crazy for walking that far.

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16 Macalister Springs to Mt Buggery
17 Macalister Springs to Mt Howitt carpark
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby walkon » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 6:12 pm

Hi G

Funny seeing where you had good weather and I had bad & vise versa. Mt Mac was clearish but really cold, Magdala was the same. Love seeing the pics, they take me right back there. I think that the rain just makes fine weather all the more special.
Cheers Walkon

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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby sim1oz » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 6:51 pm

Wonderful writing and photos. So evocative. It is a while off for us - until our kids are old enough to walk it with us or old enough to leave for a few weeks - so I really enjoyed reading of your adventures. It adds a personal dimension to Chapman's book which I have read more than once.... dreaming... Thank you!
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby weeds » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 8:13 pm

Thanks for sharing your journey.........have enjoyed the read
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby Bushwalker99 » Tue 08 Sep, 2015 8:19 pm

5 of us completed the AAWT in mid December2015 and I am really enjoying your story and the wonderful photos. They bring back great memories and I admire the huge effort you have put into recording your experiences.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Wed 09 Sep, 2015 12:09 pm

Day 16: Macalister Springs to Mt Buggery (14km)

Bridge was happy to hang around camp for the day relaxing and enjoying the views down to Terrible Hollow, so after a quick breakfast I got a basic kit together for the walk across to Mt Speculation and back. It was nice to carry a pack that only weighed a few kgs (hmmmm….how does this ultralight thing work?) working my way up to the Crosscut.

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Several peaks were still covered in cloud, but soon cleared with great views of the region. It was obvious this was a popular track and I quickly made my way over the series of peaks, stopping frequently to enjoy the views and take a few snaps of the rugged landscape…I couldn’t wait to get to Horrible Gap and see if it was as bad as it sounds.

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The climb up Mt Buggary was pretty steep and on reaching the top I stopped to again to enjoy the views and have a bite to eat. I reached into the pack and after some frantic searching realized I’d forgotten my lunch…bugger…and on Mt Buggary too. Oh well…it became a case of how far can I get before I run out of gas...I wasn’t ready to turn back yet so continued down the steep descent and arrived at Horrible Gap (it’s not that bad) a short time later. Should I continue any further I asked myself…Speculation was only a short distance away but involved several steep sections up to the summit and after progressing up a few hundred meters, with much anguish, I aborted and turned back...I needed a feed and wasn’t sure I had enough in the tank for the return trip...I now understand how the places in this region get their wacky names.

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I wasn’t too disappointed…it was a lot of fun and the views were still great from half way up. I worked my way back down to HG and up and over Buggary, nearly stepping on a Blue Tongue lizard on the way.

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If only I’d had more for breakfast I would have been right…lesson learned…don’t forget your food…at least it wasn’t day 1 back at Baw Baw!

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As I reached the turnoff towards Mac Springs it was obvious a large group of horses had been along the track since my leaving this morning and had made a total mess of the place, trampling down anything and everything in their path all the way back to Mac Springs and totally destroying the foot track turning it into a 3m wide quagmire…I was shocked and disappointed and didn’t realize this sort of thing went on so close to a wilderness area.

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I arrived back at camp and quickly fired up the internal kiln with a tin of cold spaghetti and meatballs…that’ll cure anything! Several groups had arrived by now and the place felt like Bourke St after our couple of weeks of solitude…so after a beautiful sunset we retired for our last night in the tent…bit sad really…I didn’t want to go home yet.

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.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby Lophophaps » Wed 09 Sep, 2015 12:26 pm

Pity about the food. Turning back to avoid expiration through starvation is desirable, and PV encourages visitors to bury their own dead. Did you notice if the horse had shoes? I've seen destruction by horses on Big Hill - a commercial group wrecking a recently built track. The last days of long trips are always hard. The world has been centred on the day, reaching camp, looking forward to the next day. At the same time the call of home beckons. They cannot be reconciled.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Wed 09 Sep, 2015 1:24 pm

Lophophaps wrote:Pity about the food. Turning back to avoid expiration through starvation is desirable, and PV encourages visitors to bury their own dead. Did you notice if the horse had shoes? I've seen destruction by horses on Big Hill - a commercial group wrecking a recently built track. The last days of long trips are always hard. The world has been centred on the day, reaching camp, looking forward to the next day. At the same time the call of home beckons. They cannot be reconciled.


It was a commercial group of about 12+ horses Lophophaps...They'd come down from Mt Howitt; Bridgette saw them come through Mac Springs and they continued on to Howitt road I assume.

I'd seen a truck arrive at the carpark on a previous visit and unload a bunch of horses but didn't realise they used the same route as walkers up to the Crosscut. Not good in my opinion and very damaging and unsightly.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby north-north-west » Wed 09 Sep, 2015 2:33 pm

They really shouldn't be allowed. Not as bad as the cattle but it's not an appropriate area for horses.

ps: Horrible Gap is named partly for the climb on the Speculation side and partly for the weather that can blast through there when it goes off. Or maybe someone just liked the idea of getting to Buggery from Speculation via a Horrible gap - with the Terrible Hollow down below. If only Despair was on the right side of Buggery that group of names would be perfect.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Wed 09 Sep, 2015 2:36 pm

Day 17: Macalister Springs to Mt Howitt carpark (6km)

Our last day on the track…we were due to be picked up at midday so there was no rush to get moving, taking the long route back to the carpark after one last look at the stunning views.

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Arriving at the carpark about 11:30, I retrieved the food drop and we lazed back in the sun until our lift arrived. By now there were numerous people and cars around; we chatted to a group of guys/gals who regularly hunted in the region discussing the impact deer/hunters have. They were out for a spot of bird watching believe it or not, loaded up with some high tech binoculars and were very interested in our journey asking many questions.

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Finally my Dad and Sister arrived after the long drive from Melbourne…they had really enjoyed the drive up into this remote area and came bearing gifts of roast chicken, coleslaw, rolls and most importantly…COLD BEER.

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My Dad at Howitt Hut


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My Sister and Bridge


We raved about the trip all the way home…so many stories and great experiences and it makes you realize when it’s all over how much you can cram into 16 days. Definitely the best thing we’ve done and I suppose the next logical step is to complete another section this summer.

You gotta remember, we went into this with only 9 months experience but we did a crash course last year and that definitely put us on the right path. Like anything…the more you do it…the better you get at it…and while we learnt a lot on this trip, we’ve still got a long way to go.

For those that have done it, hope it brings back some good memories… and for those who want to do it, I hope it helps in some way.

Thanks for listening and hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

Cheers

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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby Shirlbaz » Wed 09 Sep, 2015 3:01 pm

I'm back again! I was last looking at your photos and admiring your journey in the small hours of this morning but now I am going to really study your text along with my maps of the area you walked. You sure did it tough with all that rain and slush! Hope we don't cop the same in November-December! I just want to thank you again for all the work you have put into this report. It will be a huge help in my planning as well as an incredible boost to the excitement levels as our time to leave approaches. I have done all the other sections of the AAWT, so I hope I could be able to help you out with info on them one day as well.
Cheers, SMc.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby north-north-west » Wed 09 Sep, 2015 7:01 pm

^Debates smacking people on bum for picking the wildflowers^
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Wed 09 Sep, 2015 7:03 pm

Geez, I knew that may cause some trouble...if that's the worst we do, then smack me! I can see where your coming from NNW.. if there's a lot of people visiting the area then I'm in total agreement but it was a simple gift to my sister for driving all that way...don't hold that against us!
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby Lophophaps » Thu 10 Sep, 2015 1:00 pm

north-north-west wrote:^Debates smacking people on bum for picking the wildflowers^


While I didn't pick any flowers can i be included?

From parks vic:
· A limited number of commercial horse riding groups plus non commercial horse riding groups and individuals are permitted to use the AAWT including the section from King Billy to Mt Howitt and on to the Howitt High Plains via Mac Springs. There is currently a horse pass system which limits the number of rides/horse passes thru the area for commercial groups. Horse riding individuals and non commercial groups are required to book in with Parks Victoria. This recognises that there are issues with the management of the track and is one method of trying to limit damage to the track and over use of the area.

· This area is in the Conservation A zone (generally above 1200m) where horse riding is only permitted from 1Dec to 30 April so as to limit use during the periods of adverse weather

· Horses are not permitted in Wilderness Areas which includes the Cross Cut Saw.

· It is recognised by park managers that horse use has a long association with the area going back to the 1840s with early exploration, mining and grazing. This area/ride is highly sort by horse riders of all persuasions

· Over several years we (Mansfield and Heyfield) have carried out track restoration, hardening and maintenance works on sections of the track from King Billy to Mac Springs and beyond. As you would be aware this work is logistically difficult, expensive and plain hard work which requires specialist skills. It could certainly do with more.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby cajun » Thu 10 Sep, 2015 3:45 pm

GBW,

I have been waiting for the final instalment! Well done on a great report, it was very entertaining. :D
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And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby rocketrm2 » Thu 17 Sep, 2015 9:25 pm

I enjoyed reading your posts. A lot similar to AAWT experience.
Put it to the forum do you think the track should be better maintained? It seems that there are vast sections of the track that are overgrown, hard to follow andrugged.
Recently I hiked the complete Larapinta trail, the track in near perfect condition.

Must give credit to PV for the additional water tanks on the "Dry Barries"
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby Lophophaps » Thu 17 Sep, 2015 10:00 pm

rocketrm2 wrote:I enjoyed reading your posts. A lot similar to AAWT experience.
Put it to the forum do you think the track should be better maintained? It seems that there are vast sections of the track that are overgrown, hard to follow andrugged.
Recently I hiked the complete Larapinta trail, the track in near perfect condition.

Must give credit to PV for the additional water tanks on the "Dry Barries"


Some parts of the AAWT are in wilderness zones and are meant to be wild. PV is doing the best they can with competing priorities and limited resources. For example, suppose that you have funds for a new tank at Barry Saddle or new windows at Mac Springs. Which would you choose? Fire regrowth in Victoria and NSW has not assisted, with formerly open tracks now clagged to the point of not existing. Some places could have nothing more than tapes to mark a defined pad through regrowth where a foot track used to be prior to the fires. Traffic that is now spread out would form a track. If you are very certain of the correct alignment and have PV's permission then there's probably nothing to stop you so marking a track, but not in wilderness areas.
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby skyjunkie » Thu 17 Sep, 2015 11:42 pm

Thanks for sharing... we stayed up much later than we should have to finish it. We are looking forward to walking the entire AAWT starting in Walhalla 11 October 2015. It's been good to read your description of the this section of the track. Your pics gave us a taste of reality!! By all means complete the remaining sections. I believe I'll breath a sigh of relief when we reach Mt St Bernard! Russ & Shirl
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby north-north-west » Mon 28 Sep, 2015 6:12 pm

rocketrm2 wrote:Put it to the forum do you think the track should be better maintained? It seems that there are vast sections of the track that are overgrown, hard to follow and rugged.
Recently I hiked the complete Larapinta trail, the track in near perfect condition.

It's more than twice the distance, with many extended sections that have no easy access for maintenance crews. That makes upkeep more difficult.

It's meant to be a harder walk. It was designed for and by hardcore walkers. And if you think it's a bit on the rugged side now, you should have tried it ten or fifteen years ago . . . or back when it was first opened.
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Thu 08 Oct, 2015 8:54 pm

Nice pic.s . What about Powdered milk? I saw those UHT cartons and thought "You are joking ?"
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Re: Our experience on the AAWT 2015

Postby GBW » Thu 08 Oct, 2015 9:07 pm

paidal_chalne_vala wrote:Nice pic.s . What about Powdered milk? I saw those UHT cartons and thought "You are joking ?"


Thanks pcv. Yes, UHT Milk was in the food drops but powdered milk on the move.
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