Current Status

Sun 19 Dec – Finally at Walhalla at last! By our calculations, we have walked around 730km over the last 50 days, and it is great to be finished at last.  This last section has been the toughest walking of the trip, and we have had some interesting weather to contend with (thunderstorms for eight days straight), but the last three days have been superb – the weather, the walking and the terrain. All our friends and family have come to Walhalla to meet us, and we are staying at the Tisdall Environmental Camp for a massive welcome home/Christmas party. This trip has definitely been the hardest thing any of us have ever done, and we are impressed that we got through it in such good shape. We have all lost weight (Adriaan and Richard are walking skeletons), but overall there have been very few problems. Our next challenge? Christmas in 6 days!Sat 18 Dec The morning of The Last Day was again blue and sunny. There is no rush, but we are eager to get going. It is a warm morning – the first day we have been able to start out without thermals and/or beanies and gloves – and we are expecting a hot day. The trail up to the road is great in the cooler morning air, with ferns all around. After crossing the road we get to Fingerboard Spur. The slope is incredibly steep, but the track is heavily switch-backed to provide gentle walking. We reach Poverty Point bridge, high above the Thompson River, a full hour early for our planned rendezvous with Scott and Sonja. It is very pleasant in the shade beside the bridge and we are happy to just take it easy. Scott and Sonja arrive with the most
marvellous presents – crisp cold juicy apples. We all head back down the track, taking it easy in the heat and catching up on the news from home. Lunch was another wonder; fresh bread rolls with ham and cheese. The track along the tramway was great easy walking and eventually we could see Walhalla appearing below us. At one point we could see down to the rotunda that marked the end of our journey, with a small welcoming committee madly waving up to us. Shortly afterwards we reached the
stairs and suddenly we were there. Finished. More than 700km down and none to go. We collapsed on the seat in the shade and enjoyed the attention of family and friends. We wandered down to the General Store to see Rhonda and enjoy ice cream, chips and coke. Through the afternoon more friends arrived, and we moved up to the Tisdall camp where a magnificent party had been put on for us. A great way to finish.

Fri 17 Dec – More blue sky and sunshine this morning, to our delight and we were in a great mood as we headed up Mt Erica. As we left the “main” Baw Baw trails the track again became overgrown, plus it was very boggy underfoot in places. From the peak, it was all downhill to reach Mushroom Rocks. This was a spectacular area – huge moss covered boulders, towering gums, and vivid green ferns. It was a magical place, no doubt enhanced by the brilliant sunshine and blue skies. Sadly we were a little early for lunch, so we continued on to the Mt Erica car park, where we had the luxury of a picnic table. The track became clearly less used, but still good walking. We reached O’Sheas Mill site at 3:40 and found a lovely camping area, with table, fireplace, toilet and easy access to the water. We had been warned it was leech infested, but we had no real trouble – mozzies were more a
problem. It was strange to think this was our last night out. We sat around the fire and attempted to finish all our remaining food.
Amazingly after 47 days we are still enjoying the food, though dreams of ice cream, chicken burgers, and steak are starting to loom large in our thoughts.  Roll on tomorrow!

Thu 16 Dec – A very cold night and morning but finally we had a cloudless blue sky. The trail was well-defined, but a bit overgrown in places and a lot overgrown in others (more than head-high), but for once it was dry and we were thrilled to finally have good weather. Once off the fire trail and onto the foot track we had well placed Alps markers to keep us on track, and closer to Baw Baw the track improved as we reached the more popular walking areas. We also got proper sign posts and distance markers, which were quite welcome. With excellent weather we decided to push on and climb Mt St Gwinear. It turned out the views weren’t exactly spectacular, being only clear in one direction, but it was great to sit in the sun. We had full mobile coverage so we called a few friends to let them know we were still on track. The good news was that more good weather is expected, and we decided to camp nearby and enjoy the sunny afternoon.

Wed 15 Dec – Sadly cold and overcast again, and our first challenge is crossing the Thompson River. The original crossing, a huge log with a chain railing, has partly slid underwater on one side and the water now cascades over it. The boys had explored
yesterday and found an alternative pair of smaller trees a little way downstream, but the overnight rain made it too slippery to try with our packs this morning. In the end we had to ford, fortunately finding a shallow area nearby – less than knee high. Walking up the road was easy, and then we turned off down foot track. The track was easy to see, but not easy to follow, as seemingly never-ending fallen trees blocked the path. It was worst as we passed close to a clear-felled slope to our right, and then improves as we turned away, becoming pleasant walking again. We reached our campsite around 2pm for a late lunch. It was
another small site, and we had another 500m walk up the track for water, but it was an early day and it was great to have a rest.

Tue 14 Dec – Another cold overcast morning as we head into the Thompson River Catchment area. Again we skip the overgrown-looking foot track in favour of the slightly longer road route. From Blue Jacket we start to climb steeply and for once don’t mind the cooler weather. The route across Mt Easton was not so much overgrown as coated in slippery bark and leaf litter, plus loose stones. Happily the route is well marked, so it is not too hard to follow. In the afternoon we get almost sunny breaks and almost rain breaks – overall it is cool and overcast, though it brightens the whole day to catch a glimpse of the sun however briefly. We reach the campsite at 3:40 and even get some afternoon sun for drying our gear. With only four days to go we are desperately hoping for some good weather.

Mon 13 Dec – After a humid night we get up to grey threatening skies. We had been warned by previous hikers to go up the road rather than the overgrown Black River track. A long slow 600m of climb but we were pretty fit by this stage. Today the rain
started early, with thunder back in action by 11am. It’s very hard to stay cheerful in these conditions – thunderstorms for eight days and it seems like we will never get good weather. We aren’t really enjoying ourselves, but rather desperately counting down the days until it is over – a bit of a disappointing result. We march on through the rain to Fiddlers Green, where a brief pause allows us to quickly eat some lunch. We had planned to stop here for a restful afternoon, but with the poor weather we decide to continue on and make some inroads into tomorrow. About 1.5km after we turn onto the Matlock-Walhalla road there is a hut
marked on the map. It turned out to be an incredibly dilapidated shed, mostly open on one side, but it was (mostly) drier inside than out. In the end we decided to setup our tents inside and stay the night – at least we will be able to cook in peace.

Sun 12 Dec – Pouring rain again through the nights, but to our surprise we had blue skies and sunshine in the morning. Packed up gradually to give our gear a chance to dry then headed off up to Mt Skene and our food drop. It felt like quite a milestone to be picking up our final drop – from here our packs will only get lighter. We marched off with heavy packs, but in good spirits with some sunshine at last. Some more overgrown track today to slow us down, but we didn’t lost too much time. The climb up Mt Shillinglaw was good, though we had trouble locating the route down after the next hill. Tape on the trees marked “Do not enter” turned out to be our savior, and the track became more defined  as we dropped down to Black River. In the last section we again get thunder and dimming light, much to our disgust. The campsite was tiny, just enough room for our two little tents. We jump in just before the rain hits and spend the afternoon watching the leeches trying to get to us – this place is infested with them. Around 6:30 the rain eased, but didn’t actually stop. Richard played the hero and braved the rain and leeches to cook dinner while Adriaan and Karen stayed dry in the tents.

Sat 11 Dec – Another early start to try and make up the distance we missed yesterday. Clambered back up to the ridge on Mt McDonald and found the trail again. Lost it soon afterwards, but we kept following along the very top of the ridge which seemed to work, as we kept bumping into bits of track. Eventually made it back out to the road and were able to start on today’s planned route. Easy road walk to Low Saddle, where we tried to get some water, but the track lead to a stagnant pool of dirty dark-brown water. Deciding we’d seen better water in the wheel ruts on the road, we gave it a miss. Continued on the road to Mt Sunday, rather than attempting the overgrown looking track. It was 2km longer but the walking was much easier and we made good time. There were some steep sections in the afternoon to wear us out, but we finally reached Rumpff Saddle at 6:10, with thunder again rumbling overhead. Another difficult challenge finding water – a good 500m fighting down an overgrown track, but the water was crystal clear. The rain again starts pouring down halfway through dinner (how does it know?) and we end up skipping dessert.

Fri 10 Dec – It had poured overnight, but thoughtfully stopped before dawn to allow us to pack up in relative peace. Very “up-and-down” day, with Mt Clear, Square Top, High Cone and The Nobs on the list. The final climb for the day was Mt McDonald, and
we were looking good to reach our intended destination on the other side. The climb started OK, though the track was quite overgrown and the rain had returned to make for an unpleasant time. Once on the ridge the trail became very hard to follow – the cairns didn’t always help with the track wandering back and forth across the ridge top amongst the boulders. There were also a lot of false trails to mislead and confuse; and we often found ourselves off the ridge and having to fight our way back up. Eventually reached the official summit at 4:45, but the route down was no better than the route up, though the rain did ease off.
Around 6:30 we found a flattish outcrop and set up for the night. As it turned out, the view was great and we could see the lights at Mt Buller twinkling in the distance.

Thu 9 Dec – The day started with the steep climb up Mt Buggery, but we had good track and weren’t complaining. The Crosscut Saw was next – a slow steep climb with large rocky boulders, but nothing compared to the Viking/Razor. The walk along the ridge was great and it looked as if it would have had fantastic views, but we were in the mist, and could only get occasional glimpses. Mt Howitt and Mt Magdala were good clear walking, but we decided to walk on Bluff Track rather than go up King Billy 1 & 2 to try and make up some of the lost time from yesterday. The rest of the day was easy walking on the track and we made it to Chesters Yards by mid-afternoon. Thunderstorms again showed up to ruin dinner, but the rain simply dumped on us and moved on, allowing us to get back out and even have dessert afterwards.

Wed 8 Dec – Another early start (6:20) in overcast misty conditions. The track out of the saddle was clearly defined, but there was a ridiculous number of fallen logs- at times it seemed like an obstacle course. The section along the Razor was a completely different story, back into thick scrub, little/no track, and scrabbles across damp rock slabs. Despite out best efforts we lose the
trail and end at a cliff edge. We backtrack to the last marker, but still can’t find the “correct” route. Running out of options we drop
down below the rock slab – a slow painful crawl down the slippery rocks – and then bush-bash our way around and back up, only to find ourselves back on the track with a marker waiting for us. The slow progress continues, but eventually we get across the ridge and into the saddle by 11:30. From here the track is well defined and navigation becomes easy again. Climbing Mt Despair was a joyful occasion, despite the overgrown bushes. With all the morning’s delay we know we can’t make it to Macalister Springs, and we take the Wonnangatta Track around to collect water for the evening meal. The climb up Mt Speculation was good, with the sun coming out to give us some superb views. The late afternoon provides more rain clouds, and we decide to stop at Horrible Gap (which turns out to be not so horrible). The weather holds off long enough for us to have dinner, for which we are extremely grateful.

Tue 7 Dec – The rain had mostly cleared by morning, though it was still damp and overcast as we headed out. An easy run to Barry Saddle, and then we headed into the Viking-Razor wilderness. The track was overgrown by ferns from the start, but could
be followed initially. To our surprise there were some Alps markers, despite the declared wilderness zone. Probably just as well, as the track disappeared soon afterwards and we were left to fight through the undergrowth – very slow going. The real climbing started around 9, as did a light rain. The first kilometre, to the the top of the steepest section took until 12, with thick undergrowth, steep climbs and difficult navigation. We had hoped the next section along the ridge might be easier, but it wasn’t to be. The rain had stopped again, but the rock slabs were still slippery, and the bush was still very thick. It was 3pm before we finally reached the summit. After such a huge effort, we were dreading the descent down the other side, but it turned out to be fine. The initial section was very steep – we had to haul our packs – but then a magnificent well-defined trail appeared, and we got down to Viking Saddle by 5pm. The rain returned for dinner, but cleared again afterwards and we were hoping it might be a fine day for the Razor tomorrow.

Mon 6 Dec – Ready to go by 6.15 as we are hoping to make some extra distance today. Most of the day is on 4WD tracks and easy walking, despite a lot of rise and fall. We get to our original campsite around 4pm and keep going. Our plan was to break at
6pm for dinner, and then keep moving to Barry Saddle for camp, but as we start cooking a thunderstorm start rolling in. As the skies darken we decide to set up camp there. As we finish dinner the rain starts pouring down, and we dive for the tents just in time.

Sun 5 Dec – Up early for our last “real” breakfast, then back on the trail. The morning was spent mostly on the tarmac – not so exciting, but an easy re-introduction to get us back into it. Heading up The Twins quickly reminded us that it wasn’t all easy. Straight up the long steep spur with no track to follow, and full pack-weight on our backs. Suddenly it all seemed very hard, and Walhalla seemed very far away. Eventually we made it up to the top of the first “twin”, and then the second, and soon the day was over and we were at camp. Our biggest problem then was water – the notes had indicated we should find a signpost and a track, but we could find no sign of either. We climbed down the steep bank to an initially dry creek bed, but following downstream eventually produced results, though the steep return climb was a chore. Altogether we spent an extra two hours getting water. A very different world from the last four weeks!


3
December 2004

Full congratulations to Paddy Pallin in Melbourne, with a special thank you to Peter Rolfe for all the time and effort he put in to helping us when we needed it. With time of the essence, they organised a replacement pack, Gore-tex repair patch, new bite valves (for the rat-chewed water bladders) and a courier to bring them to Wangaratta (as close as we could get to Hotham). We could not have asked for better service, and we should be ready to get back underway as scheduled on Sunday. According to our sums we have now just tipped over the 500km mark. This last section has been much harder than the first, and it looks like it will get harder again, so we’ll need to rest up hard and eat big!

Thu 2 Dec – Bright sunny skies, though a very cold morning as we headed back up out of Cobungra Gap. Stopped at Derrick Hut for a brief break, but we were keen to keep going. Walking was easy, following the trail along the snowpoles through to the Loch
Spur car park and then the road into Hotham. Arrived around lunchtime intent on enjoying a “proper” cooked meal, but found the only store was a further 1km down the road at the Big-D General store. We put our walking feet back on, and wandered down. To our despair, the store was suffering plumbing problems, and couldn’t cook anything. In desperation we bought frozen party pies and sausage rolls from the supermarket and trudged back to our apartment. At least it wasn’t biscuits and jerky!

Wed 1 Dec – Overcast and very misty when we left, and this turned quickly to driving rain and strong winds on the plains. It was very unpleasant walking. At Langford Gap we discovered an SEC Refuge Hut and promptly took refuge. A few moments respite from the weather was magnificent, and allowed us to regroup and carry on. Next was Wallaces Hut – a great “rustic” hut, but we were mostly interested in the dry interior. A few kilometres further we stopped at Cope Hut, and decided to stay for lunch and try to warm up by lighting the combustion stove. Stayed around two hours, by which time the rain had eased and we were only left with the wind. Walking was far improved without the rain, even though we all had wet boots. Paused briefly at another SEC Refuge Hut, but with the weather holding we wanted to keep going to Dibbins Hut, still 9km away. In the afternoon Karen’s pack
broke down even further – the support pole now poking out the bottom as well, and even worse ripping her Gore-tex jacket. Thankfully it is only one more day to Hotham. We continued on down into Cobungra Gap, and once into the trees the wind was gone and life was almost pleasant. It was great to finally reach the hut, leaving us only 8.5km to Hotham tomorrow.

Tue 30 Nov – Woke to overcast skies, but no rain, so we decided to go up Mt Bogong. Once we left the tree cover, the wind across the plains was fierce, though not particularly cold. We fought our way as far as Ledenfeld Point (roughly halfway) before
deciding we weren’t enjoying it enough to continue. The wind was strong enough to push you off track, and it was quite a relief to get back into the trees and Cleve Cole Hut. Packed up the tents and headed off, stopping to detour to Howmans Falls. The next challenge was the Big River crossing, 700m of steep descent then climb up the other side. The route started out fine, but deteriorated in the lower burnt out sections. There were no markers, few pole numbers on the trees, lots of fallen timber and regrowth, and it was very steep. We managed to head down the wrong spur despite our best efforts, though the GPS corrected
us fairly quickly. Stupidly we decided to try to cut across the slope rather than returning up the hill – the route was tortuous through dead bushes and across fallen logs, but eventually we got back on track. The last section was vaguely marked by faded yellow tape on some of the trees, and we managed to get down to the rivers edge for lunch. The crossing was only knee deep, which was welcome given the horror stories we’d heard about recent waist-high water. Again, bits of tape marked the clamber up the other bank, at least until we stumbled onto the “highway”. A team of contractors were cutting a new trail down to the crossing and from here the route was easy going. We had planned to stay at Ropers Hut, though the hut itself had been lost in the bushfires, but warnings of incoming storms convinced us to push on to Edmundsons Hut, where we could have some shelter. Light rain started just as we arrived, so it was probably a good move.

Mon 29 Nov – Brilliant sunshine spoiled our sleep-in plans, but we took it easy in the morning anyway. The views from Mt Wills were superb in the morning light. The weather was finally a little cooler, though still sunny, and the walking was pleasant with no direction problems. The climb up the the Long Spur to Bogong was a pleasure, despite the climbing. The foot track was well-defined as it meandered through the snow gums and along the spur. It was rarely too steep, and the climbs were broken up by flatter sections. We followed the snow poles along an alpine stream and to Cleve Cole Hut. Sadly, it was already occupied by a group of Year 10 Outdoor Education students, but it was a pleasant location for camping.

Sun 28 Nov – Another seriously tough day, with over 1500m climb, and we were underway by 6am. Another scorching hot day, over 20 degrees before 7am. The first few hours were along 4WD tracks though there were some very steep sections that left our faces dripping with sweat. At the top of the Eight Mile Loop Track, we had a decision point. Did we risk going the official route, through another notoriously overgrown section, or go around via the tracks and add an extra 6km to our journey? In the end we stuck with the official route. Once back into the bush and off-track, we were especially careful looking for markers, but the route turned out to be fairly easy to follow and relatively open bush. It was only in the last few hundred metres that we hit thick weeds, and the creek itself was fairly clear. The climb was much the same, though there was a lot of bracken covering the path. It was extremely hot when we turned out onto the Omeo Hwy, but we were pleased with our progress. When we turned off back onto fire trail, it was around 3pm, but we only had 4-5km left. Initially the route was well defined, but it deteriorated as we climbed. As we approached our destination, Mt Wills, the trail turned to apparently go around rather than straight up. With exhaustion taking its toll, we just continued to trudge along, but in retrospect we had missed our trail, tricked again by a defined path. This trail took us around to the road, a less steep but far longer route: in the end we had done almost 28km. It was 6:45 when we finally reached the hut, with all of us tired and Adriaan suffering heat exhaustion. The hut has running water inside from
the tank, so we drank up and went to the effort of a decent meal – soup, pasta, and stewed apples with custard. Decided to sleep in tomorrow!

Sat 27 Nov – Suffered through one of the most frustrating and unpleasant mornings so far. It was supposed to be a short, easy day, just 12 km, so we were fairly relaxed when we set out. The walk down to Morass Creek was only around 1km, but we had to battle down steep slopes choked with blackberries, nettles, thistles and other prickly nasties. There were few track markers and a slightly defined path led us astray, taking us across the slope instead of down. When the “path” ended, we had a very steep drop down to the river. We dropped our packs and attempted to scout out a decent route, but Adriaan’s pack decided to go the quick way, straight down the side, necessitating a rope-haul rescue effort. During the course of this we finally spied a trail marker – back around the original side of the slope, intended for parties coming the other way. We clambered our way back, and then down to the river through ever thicker and higher weeds. It took us two hours to get to the river. The crossing was OK, only knee deep, though large boulders and a decent current had to be carefully navigated. Karen had just made it across, but slid back in off the final rock and ended up waist-deep in the water anyway. We still had to fight through the weeds on the other side to to find a clear patch, where we stopped to take a beak and collect ourselves ready to continue – now three hours for only 1km distance. The climb up the other side of the valley was almost as bad, though we managed to stay on track. The day was rapidly turning
into a scorcher, over 30 degrees, which didn’t help. Once we reached the Fraser Tablelands Track, we decided to follow the road to Taylors Crossing, rather than risk more of the same along the official route which is noted for becoming overgrown. With some solid marching, we managed to regain some of our lost time. With the oppressive heat, we took a long lunch break at the Crossing – it had a lovely picnic area and fresh cold water from a nearby stream. When we finally left, we crossed the suspension bridge across the Mitta Mitta River and continued up the 4WD track to Four Mile Creek, arriving at our campsite shortly after 4pm – so much for a short day.

Fri 26 Nov – Today’s challenge was the climb up Johnnies Top: 7km of climb through trackless bush. It started steep but we just kept it slow and steady, and eventually got to the top after four solid hours. The next section was along 4WD tracks and much easier walking, but then we again turned to follow down a spur. We had markers and cut logs initially, but lost these and found ourselves in fairly dense undergrowth. We fought our way through, sometimes regaining the path, though not for long, and the route was very steeply downhill. The strip of dirt that marked the Benambra-Corryong Rd was a very welcome sight! Our food drop was just the other side of the road. We had planned on continuing on to Morass Creek, but by all accounts it is a fairly
unpleasant place, so we decided to camp near the food drop.

Thu 25 Nov –  Another great day as we returned back to Buckwong Track and resumed the journey. Again we headed into the bush, but the going was fairly good with clearing crews having been through recently replacing markers and sawing fallen logs. After turning to follow Buenba Creek we lost the markers again. The route was obvious between the river and the hill, but the going was tough with clumped grass, brambles and boggy patches. Occasional brumby trails helped, but they never lasted very long. Shortly before we were due to turn away from the creek we found ourselves a campsite and rested for the afternoon.

Wed 24 Nov – A tough day today, so we made an early start, leaving by 6:30. Again we were following a creek, and again we climbed onto the spur to avoid the side of the slope. Interestingly, there were a few track markers up here as well, so perhaps it is an old (or new!) route. We had a steep and scrubby climb up to Davies Plain Ridge, but then reached Misery Trail, which  (amusingly) was a pleasure to walk. The descent was an improvement on the climb, with freshly sawn logs showing us the way. We passed some great campsites in the Buckwong Creek Valley, but decided to continue on as planned (in retrospect a stupid decision!). We lost the trail shortly afterwards, but managed to find our way out to the road. The road didn’t go quite where our map indicated, which gave us some concerns, especially as the day was getting late, but eventually we reached the expected junction. Gradually it became clear that the road had been rerouted at some point. We headed down into the Mt Murphy Historic Area and set up camp next to some old mining gear. It was 6:15 and really great to just stop. Estimated that we had done 22.5km rather than the planned 17km.

Tue 23 Nov – Rest day today, but we decided to wander up the track and visit Limestone Hut – about a 10km round trip, but so much easier without our packs! The hut is very old and dilapidated, but is heritage listed. Returned to camp to do some chores:
Richard’s shoes are falling apart due to the ankle braces, so we attempted a repair job with the glue from the Thermarest repair kit. My pack is also damaged – the support pole has poked through the leather at the top, and is now “repaired” with a piece of wood and duct tape. Met Belinda and Carol, hiking the other way and swapped stories over the campfire.

Mon 22 Nov – The walk down from the Cobberas was generally better than the climb up, with slightly more open forest, but it was great to get back onto a track and make some progress again. It didn’t last long as we turned off to follow along Stony Creek. The regrowth after the fires made it hard to find the trail, and much of it was along the side of the slope above the creek – very hard on the ankles. Eventually we gave up and climbed up onto the spur for much easier walking. We reached Limestone Creek in time for a dip in the river and a chance to do some washing.

Sun 21 Nov – Crossed into Victoria today and headed up the Cobberas. Started by climbing up Cobberas No 2. There is no track and the route is steep and scrubby, making for fairly slow going. We surprised a herd of brumbies towards the top – it seems they
can get just about anywhere. The view from the top was great, but clambering down the other side was even more work than coming up, with a lot more fallen timber. We reached our campsite, in the saddle between Moscow and Middle Peak, after around 8 hours on the trail and basically collapsed for a while. We has planned to to a side trip up Cobberas No 1 (80m higher than No 2), but found we didn’t have the energy and just relaxed in the sun instead.

Sat 20 Nov – Today we have a beautiful blue sky, and walking is a completely different experience. Stopped to climb Mt Pilot, and the view was well worth the effort. We could see our history to the north in the form of the Kosciusko Main Range, and our future far to the west – Mt Bogong. A little further on we detoured again, this time to visit the NSW – Vic border cairn. It was a little hard to find, with no track, but the GPS helped us out. Made camp at Cowombat Flat, just on the NSW side of the Murray. It is our first tent night since Day 7, and we are glad of the improved weather.

Fri 19 Nov – The rain started in the night and showed no sign of stopping. Our feet were all wet through by mid-morning and the walking was fairly unpleasant, with the track turned into miniature riverbeds. With little visibility we skipped the Tin Mine Falls viewpoint and headed straight for Tin Mines Hut. Stoked up the fire and attempted to get warm and dry. The weather improved again in the afternoon, and Richard and Karen decided to go back and try for Tin Mine Falls. Once over the creek, there is no track and it was quite a scramble for little result – our view is obscured by the trees and the granite rocks are unstable after the fires, so we head back to the hut disappointed.

Thu 18 Nov – Back underway with full packs for our longest single section – 9 days. Our legs seem to have forgotten how to walk as we trudged up to Dead Horse Gap. After two perfect days of blue sky and sunshine at Thredbo, the weather is overcast again,
making it even harder to get into it. With a short day we got to Cascade Hut around lunchtime, and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon with improving weather.    

16 November 2004

Went for a gentle wander around the village before being met by Elinor & Debbie at Thredbo with our food resupply and the all-important laptop! The weather is perfect, exactly the kind of day we had been hoping for for the last fortnight. We are all doing
well, not a blister between us (thanks Brian for the tip – stockings seem to have made the difference). We haven’t exactly been able to stick to our original plans, but we got into Thredbo on time and intact, and have completed around 250km of the journey. Now we’ll enjoy some much deserved rest before heading back out on Thursday.

Mon 15 Nov – Blue sky and sunshine in the morning, though the wind was still with us and occasional foggy patches were rolling though. The wind made walking tough, but at least we had some visibility. We reached Rawson Pass and decided to try for Kosciusko while the clear skies held. There were a few sections where we had to trudge through the snow, but the track was generally easy to follow. We reached the peak around 9:40 and took in the views, but the cold and wind meant we didn’t stay long. As we continued on to Thredbo, the weather fogged in for an extended period, so perhaps we finally had some luck. We passed numerous walkers coming up the other way; soon we had seen more than in the entire past fortnight. Gradually the sun came out and the snow (and wind) decreased. When we reached the top of the chairlift we could saw the village below us. We were keen to get down for lunch, but not keen enough to pay the $19 each price tag, so we started down Merrits Nature Trail. It was incredibly tedious, winding and doubling back and we swapped to the main roadway, then eventually straight down a ski run. When we finally reached the village the sun was shining and the snow a distant memory. Meat pies from the bakery from lunch and hot showers were the next requirements. Luxury!

Sun 14 Nov – The day was foggy but not snowing, and we headed out early. Our only option for a hut that night was Seamans Hut, 29km away and we were keen to get there and avoid a miserable night in the tents. The road initially descended, but then started a long slow climb back into the ski resorts. We had an icy head wind that took all the joy out of walking, and the deserted Smiggins Holes and Perisher Blue resorts just added to the bleak outlook. The walk was quite dull – just the black road, yellow line and endless snow-dotted, fog-shrouded slopes. Lunch was the briefest pause in the icy cold, though the picnic ground looked as though it may have been very pleasant in nice conditions. The weather continued to deteriorate, and the wind was a constant nuisance. After passing Charlottes Pass and heading up the Summit track we started walking through snow drifts. The last hour was the worst with tired, aching legs and the icy wind driving straight into your face. Finally we could see the hut, with a few hundred metres of snow to trudge through. There were three other campers ahead of us; mad enough to actually set up their tents outside in the howling wind, though they cooked in the hut with us. The forecast is apparently for clearing weather, so our fingers are crossed for tomorrow.

Sat 13 Nov – Our plan had been to go down to the falls in the morning, but we woke to driving rain and decided to sleep in. The rain turned to snow, and when we headed off around 8:30 there was a couple of inches on the ground. It was a completely different landscape to the previous day. With snow and limited visibility, we decided we had to take the lower route down to Thredbo and skip the exposed Main Range track. We headed down to Schlink Hut (commonly called the Schlink Hilton due to its size, double toilet, and beds with mattresses), spent some time warming up, and decided to stay for lunch. The weather was improving as we continued, and the walking was fairly easy along the road. As we descended the snow decreased, until you could only see it on the hills above. We spent the night at Horse Camp Hut, though the snow began again in the evening. 

Fri 12 Nov – The rain had stopped when we left, but it was still overcast and quite cool. The wind had also dropped, making the journey far more pleasant. When we reached the turn-off for Jagungal, we could barely see the trees a couple of hundred of metres away, never mind the mountain towering above us. We reluctantly decided that we would have to give it a miss and continued on our way. We had some more creeks to ford, and the weather seemed to know exactly when we reached them, as it always closed in even more. We headed for a brief side trip to Grey Mare Hut for a break, exploring the surrounding mining equipment. The weather gradually improved, until we had patches of blue sky and our mood improved accordingly. We decided to try the scenic route via Valentines Falls, following along Back Flat Creek. I got an enforced siesta when Richard realised he had left his trekking pole back at Grey Mare Hut – the return trip to fetch it took an hour. When we reached the crossing only 1km before the falls, we were again thwarted. Adriaan crossed Back Flat Creek okay, though it was up to his waist, but the next (Geehi River) was not possible. We set back for the original route. It wasn’t as depressing as a previous retreat, perhaps since we knew we still had time to reach our destination, but it made for a long trek. The crossing of the Geehi on the main track was up to our backsides, but achievable. Just before Valentine Hut was the final crossing, wide but only knee deep, and we reached the hut at 6pm, after an 11-hour, 25km day. 

Thu 11 Nov – Woke up to an overcast but not cold morning and headed for the Doubtful Creek crossing. We had to wade through, but to our relief it was only around thigh deep. Next was Bogong Creek, only knee deep. The weather was closing in again, and when we reached the site of O’Keefe’s Hut (which was lost in the fires), we could no longer see Jagungal through the clouds. We decided to push on to Derschkos Hut and hope that the weather would clear tomorrow. The rain made everything bleak and depressing and when we left the tree cover we were hit with an icy wind howling across the plain. Initially we couldn’t see the hut and were beginning to fear a cold wet camp when we found it just over a low rise. Even better it had a combustion heater and well sealed walls. Soon we were warm and dry and we spent the rest of the afternoon drying our clothes and looking at the appalling weather.

Wed 10 Nov – Left Happys Hut with bright sunshine in our faces; it was even warm enough to lose the thermal pants for the first time in a number of days. We got some great views of Jagungal in the distance, with a little snow showing on top. Continued on into the Jagungal Wilderness, with no track markers for the next 44km. As it turned out, we followed well maintained 4WD drive tracks: so much for “wilderness”! Reached Mackays Hut shortly after lunch and had another pleasant afternoon sawing wood and rearranging the wood pile.

Tue 9 Nov – Climbed Tabletop Mountain in the morning with a short steep scramble. The reward was 360-degree views, including the Kosciusko range in the distance. We marched on under overcast skies, heading to Happys Hut. Just after we arrived, the skies opened and it absolutely poured down, which made us glad to be under cover. An hour or so later, it cleared again and the sun came out. We had some spare time and got out to saw some logs for the wood pile.

 Mon 8 Nov – Up bright and early for the drive to Kiandra – how fast the kilometres go past in a vehicle! We were in Kiandra by 7:15, and wandered around the Historic Trail. This was generally signboards telling you what had once been on the patch of ground in front of you – including Australia’s first ski slope and club. Next we wandered up the hill to retrieve our food drop, mighty glad to find it still intact. Took about an hour to reorganise and repack. Shortly afterwards we met Rob and Anna, hikers doing the AAWT the other way and on the home straight. They told us horror stories about their waist-deep crossing of Doubtful Creek, the same day we had missed the Murrumbidgee crossing. Continued on to Four Mile Hut, one of the most rustic (which basically means lots gaps for the cold to get in). It included a combustion heater, presumably installed to mitigate the risk
of fire.

Sun 7 Nov – It was incredible cold overnight, not helped by the massive open fireplace, but the sky was brilliantly blue. It wasn’t long before the clouds returned, and there was frost everywhere. Many of the puddles had frozen over, leaving fantastic ice crystal patterns. The best news that day was finding new bridges over a couple of the rivers, avoiding the need to ford. For the first time we left “proper” trail and headed out across the plains. This was slightly harder walking, as you had to watch where you put your feet, as well as watching for the trail markers. We were making good progress until we reached the Murrumbidgee. The river edges were swampy and clumpy, and when we finally reached the river we realised that it was running too fast and too deep to cross safely. By coincidence we encountered another hiker at this point who was a bit keener than we were. He ploughed in, swimming out until the current caught him and swept him across to the other side, where he grabbed frantically at the bushes to haul himself back out. Not fancying trying that ourselves, we started the 7km upstream journey to the nearest bridge. It really dampened the mood – we passed the 100km point, but since we were heading the wrong way, it just wasn’t the same. We eventually got to the bridge and crossed the river. We stayed that night at the nearby Long Flat Hut. The plan was now to march straight down the Snowy Mountain highway to Kiandra to retrieve our drop, and then see if there was any chance of still making Four Mile Hut ( a total of around 30km). However, fortune smiled on us that night and we met Harry & Jo, members of the Landrovers Assoc of Canberra and caretakers of the hut, who offered to drop us off in Kiandra, putting us back on schedule. We set up camp and prepared dinner in much happier spirits.

Sat 6 Nov – Continued to rain on and off overnight, but by morning was barely a drizzle. The rain meant that the “dry” creeks we had crossed coming in were now knee deep – three crossings in a couple of hundred metres and then a climb up the now muddy slippery hill. Back on the AAWT we had two more river crossings and then headed off across Cooleman Plain. Saw more brumbies, this herd had a couple of foals, and took off across the plains as we approached. That night we were at Hainsworth Hut. This was one of the more basic huts, with its main feature being a table. Still, it was shelter and we started a fire and strung up our damp clothes in the hope of some drying.

Fri 5 Nov – As it turned out, the rain started pouring last night and never stopped. It was our designated rest day, so we stayed in our tents until after 9, hoping it might ease off, but no such luck. Eventually we got out and went for a walk anyway. As the day went on, we had some clearing patches, though some only lasted a few minutes. We walked downstream to Clarkes Gorge (the river crossings didn’t seem so bad in the pouring rain). The gorge was impressive, but we couldn’t go far on the exposed rocks in the rain. Instead we headed back upstream towards Nicole Gorge and explored the entrance to Cooleman Cave. A bit of a disappointment for a rest day, but at least we rested!

Thu 4 Nov – Woke up to sunshine but there was a solid frost. With a bit of clambering we managed to avoid getting our feet wet in the creek crossings. Passed by Oldfields Hut at mid-morning – it was our first sight of a hut and we stopped to explore. Further on, down on the plains, we saw our first herd of brumbies, though they were fairly distant. In the afternoon we turned off the AAWT and headed for Blue Waterholes, a “proper” campsite with fire pits and a toilet. There were other campers here, many doing caving trips in the area. We attempted some washing, but the sky was overcast and we are not sure of how successful it will be.  

Wed 3 Nov – Woke up to discover it was snowing, making it very hard to crawl out of bed. It stopped relatively soon and cleared to another sunny sky, though it was quite cold. That morning we encountered our first real river crossing knee-deep through the frigid water. The climb up to Murray Gap warmed us back up, and soon we had crossed the border into NSW. We did a side trip to Mt Murray (rather than Bimberi Peak, which was a little further than we had time for). The climb was steep through the scrub, but the views were spectacular. With clear skies, the temperature that night was very cold, even before we turned in for the night.

Tue 2 Nov – Left by 7:15 in a clear and sunny morning. The track was back on 4WD roads, so the navigation was straight-forward. Meandered down into the Orroral Valley, where we were greeted by lots of kangaroos, many with joeys. Next we climbed again, up to Cotter Gap and the weather did a repeat performance, with thunder and rain, just before we reached camp. After setting up, it cleared just long enough for dinner, then returned for the night.

Mon 1 Nov – Headed off bright and early (7:45) from the Namadgi Visitor Centre with blue skies and sunshine. The walk starts with an 800m climb of Mt Tennant (which is missing from our notes, I guess either a printing or transcription error!). The climb was a tough way to start out, but we got there in the end, just in time for the clouds to start appearing on the horizon. Once we turned off the main road, all the regrowth and burnt logs from the fires meant we misplaced the track a few times, and had to fight through the undergrowth to get back on track. In the last hour or so the heavens opened, with thunder, lightning and pouring rain. Fortunately our destination was an “official” campsite, which meant it had a picnic shelter, which we used until a break in the rain when we raced out to set up the tents.

Sun 31 Oct – Drove to Thredbo and dropped off fresh clothes ready for our return in two weeks time. Continued on to Canberra via Kiandra to drop off our last food resupply. Stayed overnight in Queanbeyan.

30 October 2004
At last the time has come and it’s time to go. This week we finalised all the planning and packing, and did another food resupply drop near Mt Skene. It’s a relief to finally be underway!Today we head off to Corryong, then on to Canberra and the start of the walk.ready_to_hike_small
 Packed and ready to go!
25 October 2004
Last Friday we got the news we had been hoping for: the Parks Victoria office at Omeo gave us the okay to walk through the previously closed sections of track. This had been a major concern for us as the time came closer and large sections of trackremained closed. With the all-clear received, we decided to put out one of the drops to save time next week. We spent a late night on Thursday packaging all the food into the barrels, and then Richard and Karen headed out to Omeo and the Benambra-Corryong Rd on Sunday. A total of almost ten hours on the road, but I’m sure we’ll appreciate it in a month’s time.Practice Hike: 8-hour Rogaine near Mansfield (never heard of rogaining? Check vra.rogaine.asn.au for details). We did an estimated distance of 22km in the time, with a couple of really solid hills.
18 October 2004
Only two weekends left and it’s time to dehydrate the mince for all those meals on the trail. The butcher helped us out by mincing 10kg of the leanest beef we could find, and we spent the afternoon boiling meat (mmm) ready for drying. We also got 5kg of
lean beef strips to marinade for teriyaki jerky (we had tried some other flavours, but teriyaki was a clear winner). In our spare time we started collecting all our gear together and checking that we had everything we would need. There’s just so much to consider: once the “main” items are organised there’s still all the little things: batteries, matches, sunscreen, toothpaste. After so long in the planning, we are pretty well prepared and only need a few more items – another fuel bottle, a water container, some spare tent pegs.
Practice Hike: Johns Hill, 12km (full-pack). We wanted to do a longer hike, but with so many other jobs to do (housework included!) we just didn’t have the time. We’d done this hike about six months ago, and we could really see the improvement in our fitness levels. Bring on the walk!
11 October 2004This weekend we headed down to the supermarket to complete the shopping trip for the non-perishable stuff (muesli bars, biscuits etc). There’s nothing quite like trying to choose 6kg of sweets and lollies for the trail mix!  The total cost was $479, though this equates to only a little over $3 per person, which doesn’t sound anywhere near as bad. 

food
The shopping! (Click for Food Summary)

We also completed the dehydrating of all the vegetable products – we now have a fridge full of shrivelled-up beans, corn, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and capsicum to add to the pasta sauces. We had decided to buy the onions pre-dried, as no-one wanted to be responsible for peeling and chopping, but couldn’t find them in the shops (they were there last year!) and in the end Richard took up the challenge.

Practice Hike: Mt Dandenong, 16km with 600m rise (full-pack). This was pretty much a “standard” day for the walk, and we had no troubles, so it’s a good sign. 

4 October 2004

This weekend we dedicated our time to cooking and re-drying pasta. Sounds fairly pointless, but actual cuts the cooking time in half.

Practice Walk: Lysterfield Lake: 23 km (medium packs). This was the first training walk with our walking packs rather than day packs, and you could feel the difference: everything was just a bit slower.

27 September 2004

With Richard and Karen in Newcastle for work, Karen’s sister Leonie stepped in and started the dehydration processing, single-handedly managing the 27 jars of pasta and curry sauces required for our trek. The result is nine different flavours of “sauce roll-ups”, which have now taken over the vegetable crisper in the fridge.