Circuit from Bogong Village (incl. Mt. Bogong) 27-31/3/2013

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Circuit from Bogong Village (incl. Mt. Bogong) 27-31/3/2013

Postby tcatchy » Mon 08 Apr, 2013 12:40 am

My parents have been away in Europe and I chose this opportunity to seize the moment and go on my first solo hike, through probably the harshest terrain Victoria has to offer.

Day 1 (Wednesday 27/3): Melbourne - Springs Saddle Hut Ruins (7.5km)

Having finished early with university and taking full advantage of the Easter holidays, I set off at lunchtime on Wednesday. The roads were practically empty, a godsend compared to the trip back! I arrived in Bogong Village around 4:15pm and by the time that I worked out where the start of the hiking path was and where I could park my car it was 4:45pm. Firstly, the hike started across the road from the Village through a fenced-off area marked for burn-off by the DSE, but after a quick consultation with the kind staff of the Bogong Outdoor Education Centre, I was sure I would not get burnt down. Secondly, parking the car meant winding all the way down the village to the river, which was a pain once you started hiking back up. Day 1 was navigating your way from Bogong Village to the start (1-1.5km) and then a Fire Track leading steadily uphill to Springs Saddle Hut Ruins (6.5km).

Upon arrival to the ruins, I could not spot ruins at all, it was more a sandpit and some felled logs since the site is just across the border in the State Forest. There was no water at the campsite that I could find, but I was well equipped with water since the drive over it had been 35 degrees, and it was still 25 in the mountains when I was hiking. I was greeted with a beautiful clear sky and an amazing full moon rising (not sure if it was actually the full moon, but suffice to say it was awesome). I fell asleep at last light (8pm) and was then greeted by torrential downpours starting at 10pm.

Day 2 (Thursday 28/3): Springs Saddle Hut - Tawonga Huts (15km)

With torrential downpours all night, I awoke to the downpour still continuing, even harder I might add, at 7am. I was later told that the area I was in was worst hit by the storms in Victoria, copping at least 50mm from 10pm on Wednesday to 2pm on Thursday! Unsure as to what to do, I lay in bed until 11:15am when it SEEMED to have subsided and I packed everything up and decided to go. I might add that since this was my first solo hike, I carried my usual 3 man tent, which was very nice and spacious, but heavy for one person to carry and had a few too many microleaks that all added up during the downpour. I had also decided to buy a pair of gaiters last-minute because I was scared of snakes but they ended up perfect for the wet weather and vegetation.

Setting off I was soaked to my underwear within 20 minutes despite wearing a Goretex jacket and I also realised I was running out of water, but I found many streams to fill up at since it was so wet. At one point I lost my map and had to go searching for it. As I had spotted Bogong Jacks Hut on the map, I planned to use it as a refuge as it was shelter and also around lunchtime when I got there. Finding it was hard because of the rain and mist as it is hidden off to the side from a big paddock which I believe was the campsite. It was not the most amazing hut, but it protected me from the wind and rain, so that was all I cared about! I stripped down to my undies and put on my Icebreaker top and thermal underwear and I was toasty for lunch. My previous mistake made me make the conscious decision to use the rope I brought with me to fashion a necklace to hold my map, which proved invaluable for the rest of the trip. Back out on the trail, it was miserable as it was wet, cold, windy and I had seen no one. At 4pm I spotted my first group of people who helped to orientate myself and gave me new strength to finish walking to Tawonga Huts.

Upon arrival at the Huts, it was amazing. Awesome views, no one else, a reasonably sized flowing creek through the middle, a hut for myself and a hut for my saturated tent. It was slow going with my feet super tired after finishing and I eventually pulled everything out to dry. The hut was a great refuge and was big enough for me to lay everything out and re-focus. Dinner was inside the hut at last light, just as fresh winds and rain arrived which last until 10pm. The hut was cold at night, but still better than sleeping outside in my soaked tent.

Day 3 (Friday 29/3): Tawonga Huts - intersection of AAWT and Watchbed Creek (nicknamed The Park) (22km)

I woke up refreshed and re-energised, leaving at 8:45 after packing up my gear and my nearly dry tent. It was the coldest night of them all with the first 6 or so kilometres covered in ice and small puddles frozen solid. The first 11 km follows very wet marshlands, which soaked my feet quite quickly and they stayed that way until lunchtime. I was however happy, that the trip hit the AAWT 2.5km in. I had lunch at Cope Hut, which was full of drive-in traffic with little kids and everyone chose to comment on how unsafe solo hiking was.

The terrain for the whole day was practically flat which made it very easy to cover a lot of ground in little time. After lunch, the track followed the Langford East Aqueduct for quite some time, which was also full of people enjoying the long weekend. After the long day and my tiring Thursday, I decided to call it a day at 3:30 when I reached Watchbed Creek, again laying out my tent and clothes to dry. The creek allowed me to have a constant supply of water and I could soak my feet. I was very happy to be nearly 100% dry at night and I had an early night to prepare myself for the day ahead.

Day 4 (Saturday 30/3): Watchbed Creek - Bogong Creek Saddle (30km)

Up and walking at 7:20am, I knew it would be a tough day. I caught everyone at Ropers Hut, still getting all their things together at 9am. After a quick break, I was off for the most challenging part of the hike - down to Big River and then all the way back up. It is about a 45 degree incline going both up and down and it never seems to end, 8km of hell! I grabbed a few sticks to steady myself for fear of falling due to my heavy pack weight. At the bottom I came across many, many hikers and we exchanged stories. I met Ernie and Sal, who I would hike the rest of the day with from around Cleve Cole Hut.

From Maddisons Hut ruins, I broke away from the AAWT to pursue the tallest peak in Victoria - Mount Bogong. There I met Ernie and Sal again and we committed to making the trek to Bogong Creek Saddle, whatever it took. Getting to Cleve Cole, there were a heap of horse footprints, not sure if wild or just farmers. Cleve Cole was packed full of hikers who came in for Easter, with at least 50-70 people sharing the campsite. We pressed on to Mount Bogong, arriving during a white-out. This was also the only time I took a photo, for which my phone reverted back to 1970 for some strange reason…

1970-01-02 15.22.19.jpg
Atop Mount Bogong during the white-out


It was 5pm when we set off from Mount Bogong to cover the last 7km, which was first whited-out steep downhill on a rocky ledge, which has cliffs coming off either side and then vegetated steep down hill with the occasion steep uphill. We made it to camp at 7:30pm, soaked in sweat, but luckily I opted to wear my Icebreaker for its moisture-wicking capabilities. A quick cous cous meal for dinner and some other snacks to make sure I had eaten enough for the hardest 30km day of my life and I was sound asleep at 9pm.

Day 5 (Sunday 31/3): Bogong Creek Saddle - Bogong Village (11km)

Having thought that I had made it through the worst of it, it rained lightly but constantly up until about 11am. I was up and ready quickly, having only chocolate for breakfast, but I wanted to hike with Ernie and Sal for the last 10km so I patiently waited for them to finish breakfast and pack up.

That decision was well worth it, with the first 6km being very slow going because it was steep up and primarily downhill, on overgrown paths, covered in moss and grass and also quite often blocked off by fallen trees. We made it after an excruciating two and a half hours in it, which soaked me to the core again! The last 5km was a steep downhill too, but it was a fire track so you could actually see where you were going and you had many alternatives when deciding where to descend the hill. We made it into the Village around 1:30 and I gave Ernie a lift to the other side of Bogong Village for him to pick up his sister-in-law's car.

There I said goodbye to my new hiking pals, with whom I had spent a day and a half and I was on my way back to Melbourne down the Hume. Delays and lunch at Mount Beauty saw me home at 7:30pm, tired and dirty.

Epilogue

It was an amazing hike and I would do it again at the blink of an eye, I just need some time to recover. My feet have finally nearly healed and I expect my two big toenails to come off some time soon. I will not give you a photo, but suffice to say that they are both black and feeling quite numb. I am also genuinely surprised that I saw no snakes throughout the whole five days when everyone I came across had seen at least one, maybe I am just lucky! Mobile signal was patchy at some campsites but at some point during every day I was able to contact friends to say I was alright.

Equipment

I found that the equipment I had was up to the job, but it was not perfect:

Boots - I was using an old pair of boots and they had holes in them, which meant water got in easily, I would have preferred a new pair of boots, which I will be buying when I go over to America later this year.

Socks - I used green army woollen socks which work amazingly in the wet, keeping your feet warm. I would still like to test some moisture-wicking socks like Sealskinz in wet-weather conditions.

Gaiters - My last-minute decision to buy them was a godsend. It kept the bottom of my feet warm, and minimised how wet my feet got and how many scratches I got from prickly bushes, of which there were many. A must-by for Alpine hiking and hiking in general. I also understood what the clip at the bottom of the gaiters (for attaching to the bottom on the laces) was on the last day, silly me!

Lower layers - I bought a pair of quick-drying zip-off pants from Kathmandu last year, they worked perfectly drying relatively quickly. The thermals I bought from Kathmandu 5 years earlier still fit me surprisingly and did their job very well too. I should not have worn my school gym shorts when hiking, because they retained water a little too well.

Upper layers - My Goretex jacket from Kathmandu is perfect. My Icebreaker top was perfect too, I should have brought another one with me. Cotton t-shirts, steep hills and cold weather do not mix - I need to invest in more synthetic, moisture wicking materials.

Tent - my 3-man tent from Black Wolf from 2007 is great, just too bulky for solo adventures. Maybe I should buy a one man tent. Any suggestions?

Sleeping mat - my very old inflatable sleeping mat has a hole in it somewhere, I think it is in the valve itself, so I am going to bin it and grab a quality Thermorest in the US.

Sleeping Bag - held up to the conditions, worked well even when damp (down filled).

Pack - as I head towards longer hikes, solo or otherwise, my 60L pack is just too small, I need to invest in a 75L pack or so. I am tall enough and I have the strength to carry it too I believe.

Stove - my Jetboil PCS worked very well. Cooking Continental single meals was easy once I understood the process - boil enough water for the meal and a little more for the Jetboil. It ended up being boil-in-bag in stove, and then let it rest inside my sleeping bag whilst I prepared other things. Hard to explain but if anyone wants clarification I am sure I can go into more detail.

Thanks for reading and please leave comments and questions if you like!
tcatchy
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Re: Circuit from Bogong Village (incl. Mt. Bogong) 27-31/3/2

Postby andrewbish » Mon 08 Apr, 2013 8:34 am

Nice report! You've had a great experience with lots of learnings. I have similar issues with toenails going AWOL after hikes. It is probably caused by the toes being repeatedly squashed when wet. For this you may need shoes that hold the foot to the rear of the shoe. The toe thing can also be caused by a fungal issue - see you pharmacist for that one. :)

Andrew
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Re: Circuit from Bogong Village (incl. Mt. Bogong) 27-31/3/2

Postby tcatchy » Tue 09 Apr, 2013 12:43 am

Thanks Andrew!

I hope that my toes will get better/fall off with time!
tcatchy
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