Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

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Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby portlester » Mon 21 Apr, 2014 7:16 pm

With the school holidays coming to a close, I had the bug to get out one more time and finish them with a bang. I had been dreaming about revisiting the Grampians after not being there for a few years now, so decided to head across and do the Major Mitchell Plateau with my No1 son, and boy we were not disappointed.

The walk itself is listed as 'difficult' in many of the guides, I'm guessing predominately because of it's remoteness when actually up on the Plateau. The walk itself does have some short, tough sections and you also need to be well prepared in case the weather turns nasty (which it didn't for us), as the Plateau is very exposed.

Day 1 saw us arrive at the Sheep HIlls Carpark for the start of our walk later than I had originally planned, after a too lazy drive from Geelong. The first leg is along a well formed track that steadily climbs, with some nice views across to Cathedral Roca and the Serra Range, up to the Mt William carpark. From here you walk up a steep bitumen road that is closed to cars, which leads you up to the summit of Mt William for some great views. Although the transmission towers that also sit on top, do spoil the ambience a little. After recovering from the uphill climb, we headed out towards Boundary Gap along an easy track apart from it being covered in loose, cricket ball sized rocks that roll under your feet if stepped on. There were quite a few sections like this on the walk, and although I wasn't too fazed by them, my son found these sections hard going and was very slow on them.

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Leaving Mt William and heading towards Boundary Gap, with the Major Mitchell Plateau in the background.

Crossing Boundary Gap had been playing on my mind with the various stories of its steepness, the importance of ensuring that you stay on a sometimes difficult to follow track and the short rock scramble/climb at the end that leads you up onto the Plateau. The track down and up is very steep, with the many rock cairns and painted markers on rocks helping us to stay on track. On two rock sections right near the top of the Plateau, although not overly difficult, we had to pack haul, and had me wishing I hadn't left my rope length behind in the car. Once up on the Plateau there is approximately a one km walk to First Wannan Ck campsite. We were lucky to be the only campers there for the night, giving us the pick of the spots. The creek that runs through the camp was dry, even after a bit of rain fell during the night, however we found water in a creek approximately 600m further on along the track. We were prepared with enough water for two days, but am interested to know if you can usually expect to find water near the camp all year round (some reports say that the camp through the creek usually has water in it, although it didn't this time, and there had been some rain in the week leading up to our walk). All up Day 1 saw us walking 13km in approximately 6hr (incl breaks).

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Looking back towards Mt William from the Major Mitchell Plateau.

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The view west from Durd-Durd across to the Serra Range.

On Day 2 the track mostly leads you along the eastern edge of the Plateau, resulting in fantastic views in all directions. Our morning tea just south of Durd-Durd (equal highest peak with Mt William in the Grampians) had us both wishing we could spend another night up on the Plateau. The track itself was easy to follow, with the many rock cairns again pointing the way, although in poor conditions this may be a bit different. The peak of Banksia Hill is the exit point for the Plateau with a very steep and rocky (and sometimes slippery) descent taking us down to Stockyard Track Junction. From this point on a rocky track leads you gently downhill to the Grampians Tourist Rd and then onto Jimmy Creek Campground. Jimmy Creek Campground has been extensively overhauled since the floods/fires, with new drop toilets, grass tent sites and water on tap. Day 2 saw us walking 14km in a (slow) 6 1/2hr (incl breaks).

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The track leads us southwards to Banksia Hill and then down off the Plateau.

Day 3 saw the clouds close in and rain start to fall. The walk following the Ingleton Fireline for 16km back to our car was actually better than I had been expecting, with the rain bringing out the colours in the surrounding bushland. The track actually had a 'Closed' sign (due to flood damage) at its start, however it was obvious that people were still using the track, so we headed off along it (rather than take the less than exciting alternative of walking back along the Tourist Rd). The track is closed due to the washouts at several of the creek crossings, although at each of these an easy side trail takes you across with no problems. The track itself is easy going and had us quickly back at the car by lunch.

Overall we had a fantastic three days, with fine conditions really spoiling us. We have definately got this walk on our list to redo again.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby bmak » Mon 21 Apr, 2014 8:18 pm

It's a great walk. A good variation is starting and finishing on the east side.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby jimjim » Tue 22 Apr, 2014 5:59 pm

Hi,
thanks for the trip report. Can I ask how old your son was? Has he done much walking. I am planning on taking my 10 yo up here soon.

Cheers, Jim
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby peregrinator » Wed 23 Apr, 2014 10:28 am

portlester wrote:The walk following the Ingleton Fireline for 16km back to our car was actually better than I had been expecting, with the rain bringing out the colours in the surrounding bushland. The track actually had a 'Closed' sign (due to flood damage) at its start, however it was obvious that people were still using the track, so we headed off along it (rather than take the less than exciting alternative of walking back along the Tourist Rd)..


Portlester, thanks for the report and photographs. Can you please clarify one thing? Ingleton Fireline is actually permanently closed as it is Management Vehicle Only. So is the evidence you saw of people using it based on foot or vehicle usage (or both)?
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby portlester » Wed 23 Apr, 2014 6:10 pm

jimjim wrote:Can I ask how old your son was? Has he done much walking. I am planning on taking my 10 yo up here soon.


Hi jimjim

Tom, my son, is 12 years old. He is not overly experienced bushwalking (although we have done quite a bit of remote camping with the 4wd). This walk is probably his sixth overnight walk, and has also done several day walks over the last year.

He had no major difficulties with the walk, although was not a big fan of the rocky track - which did slow him down (although I think it was more of a mental thing). The last rock climb/scramble up Boundary Gap onto the Plateau was the bit that I was most concerned about (for him), however I didn't need to worry as this was actually where he took over (much more flexible than me). I would probably suggest that you take a length of rope (which I left in the car) in case you do have to lift up any packs during this last leg, as Tom did find lifting my pack up a bit of a challenge.

We did do the walk in perfect weather (or at least the first two days) and this made things much easier. I'm not sure I would have wanted to do the walk with Tom if the weather was nasty. I would also suggest that you make sure you get an early start of a morning as this allow longer/more frequent breaks if needed (we had a late start on the first day and that meant I needed to push Tom along a bit to ensure we got onto the Plateau before dark).

My No2 son is 10 years old. His only overnight bushwalk is Beeripmo a couple of weeks ago. With more experience carrying a pack overnight, I think he would be able to manage this walk, although with his present experience I wouldn't take him up there yet - mind you if I can get a few more hours into him over winter, I am thinking of taking both boys up there next Spring.

Hope that info helps.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby portlester » Wed 23 Apr, 2014 6:38 pm

peregrinator wrote:Can you please clarify one thing? Ingleton Fireline is actually permanently closed as it is Management Vehicle Only. So is the evidence you saw of people using it based on foot or vehicle usage (or both)?


Hi peregrinator

The only use of the Ingleton Fireline track I noticed was by foot. All the gates are locked, with logs across the track in various locations (particularly before the washouts). There was a single motorbike track on the track that lead from the Sheep HIlls car park up to the Fireline, but that was the only evidence I saw of any recent motor vehicle usage.

While on the topic of the closed Ingleton Fireline, prior to the walk I checked the ParkWeb for any closures and (from what I can see) the Fireline is not listed as being closed as a walking track, despite it being listed as the third day of the Mitchell Plateau walk by Parks. So I was a bit surprised to come across the closed sign on the gate. As I mentioned in my original post, it was obvious that we were not the only ones to recently walk along the Firelline, so (if fully following the law) does that mean we should not have walked along it? In which case we would have been forced to walk back along the Grampians Tourist Rd.

Also a point I meant to make in my original post but forgot, was that when you leave the Ingleton Fireline and come back out onto the Grampians Tourist Rd, the Southern Grampians map (also the ParkWeb notes) show you directly opposite the carpark (which you are not). It looks like the Carpark has been shifted north recently by a few hundred metres, although its location is not obvious when you first step onto the road. We had a 50/50 chance of choosing the right way to go - and I chose the wrong direction (South) which did not please my son. So when you reach the Grampians Tourist Rd you should turn left (north) and the carpark is approximately 400m or so down the road.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby jimjim » Wed 23 Apr, 2014 9:12 pm

portlester wrote:
jimjim wrote:Can I ask how old your son was? Has he done much walking. I am planning on taking my 10 yo up here soon.


Hi jimjim


I would probably suggest that you take a length of rope (which I left in the car) in case you do have to lift up any packs during this last leg, as Tom did find lifting my pack up a bit of a challenge.


Hope that info helps.


Thanks for the detailed response, it is very helpful.
How long a section of rope would you suggest?

Thanks again, Jim.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby portlester » Thu 24 Apr, 2014 6:08 pm

jimjim wrote:How long a section of rope would you suggest?


The highest Tom had to lift the pack was probably about 2m (although he really only needed to lift it up 1.5m at most if he had shuffled himself into a better position - but lack of experience/strength etc prevented this).

So I would say a small length of about 3 to 3.5m would be more than enough. You may (and possibly will) not need to use it at all (particularly if you are a bit more more flexible than me), but a short length won't weight much.

It's a great walk, I'm still day dreaming about it & wish I was up there again.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby neilmny » Fri 25 Apr, 2014 11:33 am

Excellent report portlester thanks for posting.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby jimjim » Tue 17 Jun, 2014 12:06 pm

3 of us including my 10 year old son went up here a few weeks ago. It is indeed a fantastic walk.
As we only had 2 days we opted to start at the Mt William car park, heading for a car shuffle at Jimmy creek. This meant we missed a lot of the climb to Mt William, which is a pity, but with a 10 year old on his first pack carrying overnighter it seemed like a good idea.
My son set the pace for us almost the whole way (and a cracking pace it was too!). He had no problem route finding and I would say the track is fairly easy to find most of the time. The rock step up onto the plateau itself required us to pass him up his pack - it is perhaps 2 meters high- but did not present as dangerous with 2 adults ready for the catch...
We were lucky enough to have drizzle for the climb out from boundary gap, up the short steep hill and rock step onto the plateau itself - with swirling cloud to boot - which made it the real alpine experience to everyone’s delight. Popping out onto the plateau felt like reaching a high summit!
The creek was trickling nicely through the 1st Wannon campsite, and it was deserted which was lovely.
Day 2 dawned with thick fog and swirling mist creeping in under the edges of the tarp. Visibility was about 80 meters and reduced from there. The forecast was for a 10 % chance of light rain, so I was a little concerned as to what the track ahead held for my son. It was cold when not moving but we were well kitted out and as fate would have it we did not get a drop of rain all day.
The fog held the whole way across the plateau so fine views were not the order of the day!! It got quite cold and windy for a while so we legged it until we got below the tree line again. The boy excelled himself leading along the path in the 20 odd knot winds and fog. (Whilst being almost force fed chocolate and cuppa-chupps to keep his furnace burning)
Below the tree line the pace slackened and a wobbler threatened to derail the fun, but once again chocolate came to the rescue (“see that next bend in the track? Well we will have a square of fruit and nut when we get there…”)
I half expected the last few Km to be a bit of a trudge down through the trees but as we were now below the cloud line, the views across to the Serra range, with swirling mist and isolated sunbeams bursting through, were absolutely magical. Snippets of mountain views, constantly changing vegetation patterns and my favourite - great rocks, kept us guessing and wanting more.
The walk for us ended at Jimmy Creek campsite with a car return to the Mt William car park which I am sure no one had visited since we left our car there.
All in all we found this to be one of the best local walks we had ever done, and were left wondering how we had lived locally so long but never done this walk before. The feeling of remoteness – most likely accentuated by the envelope of cloud- was much greater than we expected. For a 10 year old it was a challenge to keep on going for so long but regular short breaks, lots of high energy food and a stream of encouraging conversation kept spirits up. If the weather had been warmer we would have dawdled more, but on the whole I think an outdoor acclimatised kid should not have too many issues as long as they are well kitted out and not carrying too much heavy gear (the boy carried sleeping bag, his cloths, 500ml water bottle and the chocolate supply)
I sincerely hope that the isolation of the plateau is not compromised if the Grampians Peak Track is constructed and promoted. The plateau would have a very different feel if there were gaggling school groups to bump into coming through the fog!
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby north-north-west » Tue 17 Jun, 2014 2:22 pm

jimjim wrote:The plateau would have a very different feel if there were gaggling school groups to bump into coming through the fog!

That does already happen, although they usually confine their walks to the warmer months. I know a few DoE mobs have been through there, as well as other senior student groups.
Vaguely recall a rescue that had to be done up there some years back, with a school group running into trouble with bad weather.
Like most walks, it's all in the timing . . .
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby dinna89 » Sun 25 Jan, 2015 8:58 pm

For anyone interested in this circuit, I was up at the First Wannon campsite yesterday night, the creeks just flowing but there's plenty of pooled water around. We filtered/UV-ed about 6 litres, it had an interesting metallic aftertaste but was otherwise palatable, I reckon there should be water available until at least late feb even without significant rainfalls.

Don't bother asking Parks Vic about the water situation, they will only advise you that you have to pack in all of your water.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby stepbystep » Mon 26 Jan, 2015 9:10 am

Thanks for the report, photos and info. Really appreciate it.
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Re: Major Mitchell Plateau (April 2014)

Postby akl168 » Tue 27 Jan, 2015 12:34 pm

dinna89 wrote:For anyone interested in this circuit, I was up at the First Wannon campsite yesterday night....


We were there on Sunday night. Wonderful place. I wonder what the story is behind that abandoned tent.
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