Behind the image 14 June 2014

Himalaya Range PS 01Himalayan range, Uttarakhand, India.

To me, this image gives a real sense of scale.  You can see the middle ranges and their height at the bottom of the image. But these look positively small when compared to the peak above – approx 7800 metres in height (still 1000 metres – 1 km – less than Mt Everest).

This part of the Himalayas has great opportunities for walking and also for wildlife viewing, including possible sightings of the snow leopard.

 

Two historic huts at Falls Creek: a quick walk

There are some nice walks to be had in the Victorian Alps High Plains joining up various historic huts.  Some of these huts were originally used by cattlemen who would bring their livestock up onto the plains in search of summer pastures.  Access to the Alpine National Park by drovers remains a political issue.  Cattle have been banned from the park for many years but now their are changes mooted to re-open some parts of the park to cattle again.

Other huts have been used by the development of hydro-power, such a central part of Australia’s post-World War II development path.  Still others have been used by ski-tourers.

Wallace's Hut

Wallace’s Hut

This short walk takes you to two huts – an original cattleman’s hut  (Wallace’s hut), and one which has been used for ski touring (Cope hut).  There is an easy track to follow.

You can begin this along the Bogong High Plains road – the track to Wallace’s hut is signposted at around 7.5 kms along the road from Rocky Valley.  Wallace’s is one of the original huts of the Victorian high plains.

After Wallace’s hut you can continue to Cope hut – one of the original ski-touring huts built in the 1920′s

Cope Hut

Cope Hut

The whole circuit will take around about 2-3 hours or so return.  You can find further information on the circuit here. It’s a nice and easy introduction to some of the history that has shaped, and continues to shape, the landscapes of the high plains.

A quick walk around Mountain Creek

Mt Bogong is Victoria’s highest peak at 1986 metres (6516 ft). With its cap of snow in winter and its summer grey-green colouring of eucalypts and snow plains, it stands as a silent sentinel looking over the high plains, the valleys and the villages which make up this section of the Australian Alps.

The Bogong region is unique in the Australian Alps. Ten of the 11 highest peaks in Victoria are in the area, and there is an abundance of well-signposted walking and mountain biking tracks (both in the foothills and on the High Plains themselves) that keep visitors busy for hours, days and weeks. In addition, the landscape provides a combination of natural and cultural heritage which the visitor can experience. The natural heritage is characterised by Peppermint and Alpine Ash Forests in the foothills, the snow plains and landforms of the High Plains, and a variety of fauna and flora, including the endangered Pygmy Possum. The cultural heritage of the area incorporates indigenous use of the landscape, the huts of the Mountain Cattlemen, and the Hydro-Electric developments which contributed so much to Australia’s post-Second World War development. In some of the villages close to the mountains, Australia’s gold mining heritage can be discovered.

Camping site Mountain CreekThe peaceful Mountain Creek camping ground, not far from the town of Tawonga, provides a base for exploration around the foothills of Mount Bogong as well as for more adventurous walks onto the Bogong High Plains. From Mountain Creek, it is possible to walk through tall forests and ancient ferns, follow well-maintained 4WD or park management tracks, climb to the roof of Victoria by ascending Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest mountain, explore the Bogong High Plains, or relax at your campsite by Mountain Creek, the choice is yours.

There are a number of shorter walks starting here. The 30 minute ‘Shady Gully Walk’ takes you along Mountain Creek and through Peppermint forests. Keep an eye out for ancient ferns along the route, as well as the patterns cast by light and shade as you walk along the track. Getting closer to the creek you will feel the shadows of the trees and the ferns and see the moss-covered rocks. The shadowy depths of the forest begin to impact on the landscape – the cooler air, the softer gurgle of the creek and the emergent sounds of birds speak for the changing nature of the walk.

This walk can be extended quite easily.  All you need to do is follow well-maintained tracks and the information guides available.

Mountain Creek Alpine National Park

Mountain Creek, at the camping ground

Purposeless walking

I was recently reading an article on the slow death of purposeless walking on the BBC website (available here). In it the author, , interviews authors of books on walking and discusses what walking does and should do. The specific discussion centred on ‘purposeless walking’, walking that’s undertaken with no purpose in mind other than to walk (and, through that, think).

This is contrasted to other forms of walking, such as walking from point A to point B (with a purpose), or walking for fitness, or to work and so on. Interesting examples of the rise of technology – texting whilst walking and following maps with eyes stuck on the phone – highlight the ways technology can intrude on physical activities such as walking.

As Rohrer concludes:

Boil down the books on walking and you’re left with some key tips:

  • Walk further and with no fixed route
  • Stop texting and mapping
  • Don’t soundtrack your walks
  • Go alone
  • Find walkable places
  • Walk mindfully.

Purposeless walking

And all this so very clearly epitomises Rebecca Solnit’s words: ‘Walking . . . is how the body measures itself against the earth.’ (Wanderlust: a history of walking).

What an incredibly powerful sentence. Walking purposelessly. What a great idea.

 

 

 

A good walk for Autumn: Mt Buffalo (NE Victoria)

Mt Buffalo is a beautiful park anytime of year, but the combination of Autumn colours in the valley and the beginnings of a chill in the air makes this a particularly great walk in Autumn. The valley is a fascinating place, a place where a lot of Australia’s changing rural landscapes can be seen – farms that once were growing hops and tobacco now are vineyards. Railways that have been abandoned have now become iconic rail trails where cyclists travel. Mt Buffalo itself, once a thriving ski resort, is now about to have life breathed back into it when its heritage listed chalet is renovated and opened again.

For those who want to really feel the contours of the Buffalo landscape, there is a walk that takes you from the bottom to the top – the Big Walk. It’s a great idea to spend some time at the top, camping at Lake Catani and exploring the many trails and rock formations of the plateau.

The Big Walk covers over 1 kilometre in height over 9 kilometres of walking.  Yes it’s a hard seven hours to the top, but it is one of the most scenic and fulfilling walks in the Mount Buffalo region. It’s no wonder it’s called the ‘Big Walk’.

Start of Big Walk

The track to the top. The start of the Big Walk

Take the time to enjoy the walk and the bush of the Buffalo massif whilst getting to the top. There are vegetation zones to pass through as well as scenic lookouts and waterfalls to discover. You can feel the changes in the temperatures of the micro-climates, and smell the different vegetation as the trail passes through. The lookouts on the way can be visited and the extraordinary vistas from the plateau taken in. The Big Walk is a walk of the senses as much as an ascent to the top.

The walk is well signposted and so should not hold any surprises.  However it is an Alpine environment, though not as harsh as in other areas. Changes in weather can occur quite dramatically and quite quickly, so you need to be prepared for cold changes and snow at any time of the year.

The walk starts at the Entrance Station to the Park and goes from the Eurobin Picnic Area to the Gorge Day Visitor area at the top of the plateau.  From the Gorge it is a relatively easy walk to Lake Catani Camping Area for those who decide to stay at the top and do some further exploration of the plateau.

Eurobin creek-

Eurobin Creek at the start of the walk

The beginning of the trail is at the north end of the Eurobin Creek Picnic Area. Walk across the swing bridge and begin the steep climb to Eurobin Point (reached after approximately 2.7 kilometres of fairly steep walking).

However once at Eurobin Point, the hard part of the walk is over.  Whilst it is still uphill, the climb becomes more gentle.  A visit to Rollason’s Falls is approximately a 2 km round trip (about an additional 1.5 hours) along the signposted and well-marked track.

Continuing on your upward journey, the main road is again crossed to reach Mackay’s Lookout.  Here is another lookout providing magnificent views of the valley below.  Further along, a short divergence (around 100 metres) takes you to Marriot’s Lookout, providing views back to the Buffalo gorge, the ultimate conclusion to the walk.

Lake Catani

Lake Catani. Note the dead trees from intense fires in 2008.

It’s still up to Mansfield’s Junction (1350 metres) after 3 kilometres. Here there are two choices – a trip to Mansfield’s Lookout or to Reed’s Lookout. Both return to the Big Walk and to yet another decision – between following the Gorge Heritage walk or continuing along the track.

Either way, the end is the path to Crystal Brook Falls and the Gorge Day visitor area. This is the end of the sign-posted Big Walk.

Brian Chalwall galleries

Coming down from Chalwall galleries – an easy walk from Lake Catani camp ground

However, for those continuing on to Lake Catani and further adventures exploring this unique landscape, there are plenty of signposts.  And if you’re not? In the absence of a lift in a vehicle, just follow the path back down – it’s quicker than coming up!