Mt Cobbler, the sleeping Indian

A tradition has formed over the last few years as two families of hikers, well at least Dad’s, daughter and son, come together to explore the mountains of the Victorian Alps. Together we have enjoyed the camaraderie and companionship on journeys over the Cross Cut Saw, around Lake Tali Karn and along the Moroka River. This Easter however was a little different. With both son and daughter now young adults directed by their own schedule, Johnathon and I were left to rethink how our twice yearly get together would work out. With no end of places to explore we settled on the Mt Cobbler, Mt Stirling area and I decide this would be a good trip to introduce my young son to hiking and take along a work colleague, who has a passion for movie making and dramatic scenery. Especially since we planned to visit Craig’s Hut, the set of one of Australia’s iconic movies; The Man from Snowy River.

Our adventures are strictly walking, but with no great certainty we could get the car to the trail head and with new adventurers on board we opted for a mainly driving experience with day walks. This threw me in the packing stage since we didn’t have to worry about pack weight and luxuries like chairs and coolers could be considered. Hiking is rugged but has a beautiful simplicity about it. One that causes you to have great clarity about just what you need to get on in life.

The balance struck and gear stuffing the back of the wagon for four, we were off with enough food to last into next season!

Mt Cobbler is part of the Alpine National Park, about 4.5hrs from Melbourne, via Cheshunt. The road turns to dirt shortly after the town and snakes its way up through the valleys and ridges on a road that is suitable for a two wheel drive.

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Mt Bogong, Alpine Challenge

Well rested we wake to a crisp clear morning. The ground is dry and so is the tent, a bonus for pack up. I’m listening for the stampede of feet and surprised not to have been woken earlier. Peering outside the tent their is little activity, just a few murmurs from other campers. The runners are no where to be seen.

Today’s plan is an exploration of Howman Falls and Maddison’s hut ruins. Leaving Cleve Cole the tracks meanders down to camp creek, a beautiful clear source of water. Before crossing the creek is a little track to the right which heads down to the falls. But thinking we needed to cross to get to them, we rock hopped and started up the other side. Nothing looked like falls territory and before long we found ourselves in a beautiful little valley and three choices of trail. I’d stupidly left the GPS back at the hut, this was after all just an easy side track! Staying put another walker passed by and set us straight. Turns out we were at Maddison’s Hut ruins, but with so little of it left, we’d missed it.

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Camp Valley and the Howman Falls area, so simple on the map

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Cleve Cole, snow blocks the trail

Bogong, indigenous for Big Fella, stands proudly as Victoria highest peak in the Alpine National Park. We’ve previously summited Mt Bogong but the opportunity to explore the high plains eluded us as the weather closed in and visibility reduced to mere 10’s of meters. The mountain seemed to simmer with the dissatisfaction of us being there. We safely descended the follow morning, you can read about it here Mt Bogong, expect the unexpected. The desire to explore the summit never went away.

Fast forward a few years and after helping Claire navigate year 12, the hiking black out was lifted and that meant Bogong was back in our sights. We wanted the perfect, cool but not cold, a bit of snow but no storms type conditions and November seemed the likely month to provide this rare confluence of season and climate.

Winding our way through Toowong Gap to Mt Beauty anticipation was rising with every corner that drew us closer to this spectacular mountain and the elation or disappointment that we had left our run too late. Cresting toward the lookout, Mt Bogong grew before us, its snow spotted dome, glistening in the sun, this was turning out to be perfect!

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Walking on the Dragons Back

On a cheeky layover in Hong Kong, I managed to score a weekend on the tiny island and having been surrounded by people all week, longed for the quiet escape that every city has secretly tucked away. The enclave of the CDB is surrounded by lush beautiful forests, most easily accessed from the cable car up Mount Victoria. For the more adventurous, but train bound explorer the southeast offers some interesting areas to walk, namely the Dragons Back.

The Dragons Back arguably the most scenic section of the 50km Hong Kong Trail, stretches 8.5km through the Shek O Country Park. Aptly named as it undulates along the ridge, Shek O Peak at 284  provides commanding panoramic views  across  Shek O, Tai Long Wan, Stanley, Tai Tam, and the South China Sea.

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Great Wall of China, a childhood dreaming

During the 70’s in the remote Northern Territory we had only the ABC, the government funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation to deliver us the news, soaps and educational viewing. As the 80’s dawned we started to receive commercial television courtesy of a set of videos flown in from Darwin and replayed locally. The news was a day or two late and so was the weather. Aside from these anomalies it opened up a whole new viewing experience and one of the programs that captured my imagination was The World Around Us.

It inspired a generation to explore our environment, with spectacular footage of the some of the most amazing places on earth. In one such episode the host adventurer was exploring the Great Wall of China. I was captivated by the history, the construction and most of all the environment, towering steep mountains and narrow ridge lines. I dreamt of walking it myself, stepping on its ancient stones and hearing the distinct music of China as I moved across the landscape.

It was just a pipe dream and I didn’t truly expect I would ever visit the far flung communist nation, but I could imagine. There were many documentaries throughout my teenage years that explored the Great Wall of China experience and I remained captivated by it.

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Mt Baw Baw snow, look don’t touch

Egged on by the guys at church talking of their snow camps, I was enthused to try a very different hiking experience. Growing up in the Northern Territory snow was something that you only saw on TV and even then it was rare. I had become more acquainted with the white powdery or white wet stuff depending on your experience living in Connecticut, USA, near the ski fields of Vermont. However I’d never pitched a tent in it.

With safety our first concern and given our familiarity with the area we chose the Baw Baw Plateau as our destination and began the wait for some snow to fall. The ski season officially starts in June but it’s never guaranteed, most years August / September turn out to be best.

The logistical nightmare was getting time off work, where there was good snow prior to the weekend with reasonable conditions after. Following three failures to launch the perfect weather pattern that had been eluding us for weeks presented itself.

The plan was set in motion, we would drive to Erica, hire snow shoes at Erica Ski Hire, make our way to the Mt St Gwinear car park (it’s free to park there), walk over Mt St Gwinear, joining the Australian Alps Walking Track and then look to pitch up somewhere near Mt St Phillack.

Snow had been falling two days prior, one of the biggest dumps on record. Claire and I were musing over how much snow there would be. Hopefully a forest of white and enough to pitch the tent on. Careful what you wish for! Barely onto the dirt road and the snow made an appearance. Shy at first, just a dusting here and there, but as we climb the curtains pull back to reveal a thick coating, tree ferns weighed down by the unfamiliar site. I never thought we would need chains but sure enough we did and it was about to get worse and glorious all at the same time.

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Eastern Tyers Creek,where to sleep?

Rising early, rubbing my eyes as I peer out the window the morning looks like rubbish and I think our plans to walk from the Thomson River bridge to Eastern Tyers creek might be thwarted by the weather. Given our previous experiences with the cold up on the Baw Baw Plateau (Baw Baw, Too Cold for Comfort) I’m not keen to hike anywhere it’s going to be wet. I’m also really desperate to get out of civilisation and breathe in the forest air and get amongst the great outdoors and wide open spaces.

I convince myself the weather will be better at the trail head and if not we’ll still make a day of it, a reconnaissance trip or something. The route takes us out to Moe on the Princes Highway and then up through the hills to Rawson and onto the river. We discover a shortcut through Erica and over a bit of dirt road that the Astra handles well cutting 15 minutes off our  180 km journey from Melbourne.

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