Mt Baw Baw, finding the one

You might recall an innocuous line in a previous post that went something like this, “With my temp gauge proudly hanging in a tree, it does little to comfort us that the day is indeed warming, stubbornly staying below the 5C mark.” if not you can read it here Mt Baw Baw snow, look don’t touch.

Well that one line set up a year’s expedition to recover a little piece of plastic that had far more sentimental value that it could ever have monetary value, let me explain.

At the conclusion of our first and very successful snow camp at Mt Baw Baw, I inadvertently forgot to collect my temp gauge out of the tree and didn’t realise this oversight until we were off the mountain and unpacking in the days following.

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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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Mt Bogong, expect the unexpected

Mt Beauty as the name describes is a picturesque little town nestled on the edge of the Alpine National Park, Gateway to Falls Creek, one of Victoria premiere ski resorts and Victoria’s tallest mountain peak, Mt Bogong.

Six months early fishing for trout on the pond on a cool crisp morning, daylight struck over the mountain revealing it snowy crown and the majesty of its peaks. I knew at that time I had to climb it. Clear of the city and now on the Hume, what had previously been just the imaginings of a hiker looking for the next adventure was about to become a reality.

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Hiking brothers, tennis or trails

My brother Nigel had made a rare visit to Melbourne and with one day to spare, it was a toss-up between the Australian Open tennis and a back country walk. He’s much fitter than I am and in his younger years had been involved in long distance running through the outback, so no surprise we chose the back country option.

I had recently been exploring the Baw Baw plateau, walking from the Mt Baw Baw resort to St Gwinear and from the Mushroom rocks car park to Mushroom Rocks, but not up to Mt Erica or through to Mt Whitelaw.

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Day 3 Crosscut Saw, visiting the clouds

We’d had a great walk into Macalister Springs and treated to a brilliant sunset over Mt Howwitt Day 1 Crosscut Saw, is that a toilet?. Our First full day walking took our breath away, such beauty in a remote and rugged land Day 2 Crosscut Saw, views beyond compare  But this was all about to change.

The muffled sound of rain drops splatting the tent is incessant all night, thankfully it hasn’t been accompanied by high winds. I poke my head out and we’ve been sleeping in the cloud, wetter than all those fairy tale pictures of laying in white pillows of fluff radiant in the suns glow.

I can see the droplets saturated into the fly, one false move, even a thought of a brush with it, will open the floodgates for dousing. We’re dry in the tent just the dampness of our breath can be felt. With boots on I pull over a jacket and step outside to examine the damage, but I’m taken back by the situation that confronts me.

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Day 2 Crosscut Saw, views beyond compare

We’d had a great walk into Macalister Springs and treated to a brilliant sunset over Mt Howitt Day 1 Crosscut Saw, is that a toilet?. But this day was to be even more spectacular.

I wake from a restless sleep with those same feelings of when you are strapped in a roller coaster ratcheting your way to the top knowing there is no turning back from what lies ahead. Relieved the tent is dry there are many more of them with a great number of campers having arrived overnight. There is a line up for the toilet and it not just for the view. We get on with the packing up and woofing down breakfast, we’re ready to head off. What we didn’t know is the rest of the party’s breakfasts are little more substantial and that equates to time. Never mind there is plenty of it, or at least that is what we think.

Finally on our way we cross the saddle and with one of our younger walkers, Lachie, who is training for the army setting the pace, we’re quickly up past the Howitt Plain and into the walk proper. The view is amazing a panorama stretching from Mt Buller to the far reaches of the Alpine National Park. I’m distracted by the majesty of this place and enjoy the early part of the journey, the walk so far is similar to the Mt Feathertop razorback.

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Starting out on the Crosscut Saw

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