02 November 2012

Mt Bogong Circuit

Topographical map with the route marked in grey

We arrived at the Mountain Creek picnic and camp area just before it got dark. There were two or three cars that had arrived before us and we had a visit from a nearby camper.  A few cars arrived a little later, during the night.

The walking track signposts can be seen in the picnic and camping area and the Mt Bogong track signpost is located to the east of the visitor information board and this tells us that is two kms to the base of The Staircase and eight kms to Mt Bogong.

Generally speaking, the walk up to Mt Bogong via Eskdale Spur is less steep uphill than the Staircase, but the walk to Eskdale Spur on Mountain Creek road is rather long. We chose to walk up the Staircase Spur and walk down Eskdale Spur, based on the weather forecast and Allan’s wishes (ok on ups and not very ok on downs).  Unlike Allan, I am rather slow at ups specially if loaded with gear and days of food.

The walk from the camp area to the base of The Staircase is less than 2 kms on a gravel 4WD road and a walker’s intention book can be found just beyond the start of the Staircase Track.  It’s useful for the park rangers to know your walk plan and vehicle rego so that a search party can be sent in the case that a walker fails to return on time.

 One of a few creek crossings before the base of the Staircase

The foot track from the base of The Staircase to Mt Bogong can be divided into 3 sections:

The start of The Staircase – Bivouac refuge: about 3 kms 
It is a steep long walk up to the hut which is located on top of an open spur and it's there for emergencies. There are few good tent sites on the eastern side of the hut. If starting the walk late, this would be an ideal for spending the first night (as we did!). Just a note to myself; tell Park and Wildlife that the tank tap needs repairing.

Bivouac Hut

Bivouac refuge – the start of a pole line: about 1.5 kms
The track continues on behind the hut. It was a nice and pleasant walk upwards, skirting around a rocky spur above the tree line. The views at this point was amazing with the ranges to the north, Eskdale Spur to the east and Little Bogong to the west.

Final climb: about 1.5 kms
Follow the pole line uphill on the open spur for about 700 m, then pass a monument where three skiers died during a heavy snow storm in 1943. Fine weather can offer stunning views of Mt Bogong to the south, and West Peak to the west. When the crest of the ridge is reached, most of the hard work have been done. Mt Bogong summit,1986m, the highest peak in Victoria is an easy 100m walk to the west.

 The pole line on the Staircase Spur

View of Mt Bogong from the monument

Packs were left here for a side trip to the summit cairn and West Peak; but we only got to Hooker Plateau and returned.  While I was keen on heading to Bogong Creek, to check out the availability of water (Original plan was to camp here on first day), Allan did not want to go further because we didn’t have gear with us.

Me on the summit cairn

Back at the summit cairn we took a couple of photos, then headed back to the junction to reunite with our packs, then found a sheltered spot from the sun and the wind for a late lunch, near Hell Gap, with views down spurs to the south and southwest.  After lunch, we followed a foot track as a short cut to the pole line route, then southeast to our destination, Cleve Cole Hut in Camp Valley. It is a pleasant three kilometre walk on the high plain with 360*views and in particular of Mt Bogong to the west, Quartz Ridge & The Grey Hills to the southwest, and Mt Feathertop further on. 

 Mt Bogong from Hell Gap

Late afternoon view of the southeast where I spent a couple of days on Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) with some Melbourne Bushwalkers some years ago (Thanks Max).

 Falls Creek Area where we spent 3 days on skiing in September this year

The arrival at Cleve Cole Hut was in good time. The hut has good facilities for skiers and can accommodate four in emergencies, for those who wish an escape from wild weather. The area is surrounded with gum trees which provide many nice and sheltered camping spots.

Loo with a view!    

Mobile phone coverage from Fallscreek was quite good. The plan to make a visit to Howman Falls the next morning was cancelled due to strong winds, storm and rain forecast. The packing was done in tent and most walkers cooked and had their brekkies in the hut. It was very windy on the way back to Hell Gap where we tried to locate Eskdale Point/Spur to go down. 

Eskdale Point/Spur

The snow poles on the open ridge were useful to identify the spur. On the way down, we met and spoke with two Park staff who were at work and on their way up. One of them carried a compact and light-weight chain saw and there was evidence of track clearing on our way down. Damn! forgot to let them know about the leakage of water tank tap.

Allan's eyes on The Staircase

The first 1.5 kms of the spur is rather steep and slow going. Its on a gravel zig zag foot path and care should be taken. It is very exposed and so it was bleak on this windy day. On a clear day, there are good views of Mt Bogong to the west and The Staircase to the northwest and again the whole northeast including Mt Kosciuszko.  

A rough and rocky foot pad on Eskdale Spur

We stopped for lunch near the junction of Eskdale Spur and Granite Flat Spur, about 200m to Michell refuge, a newly-built hut to replace the old one which was burnt in 2003 fire. There are very limited tent sites available at the hut; but there are lots of opportunities to camp in the bush near the hut. The Camp Creek Gap, which is located at the junction of Mountain Creek Road and Mountain Creek Walking Track, can provide an alternative. 

Southeastern views

Mt Bogong from Michell Hut 

On reaching Mountain Creek Road, we took Mountain Creek walking track to avoid a short steep climb and a detour  Similarly, we took the Black Cockatoo and Tree Fern walking tracks to avoid walking along the road. 

 Mountain Creek Walking Track

Tree Fern Walking Track

Towards the end of the walk, I looked forward to a skinny dip at Mountain Creek before the long drive home.