Mt. Bogong – 21-23 May, 2010

Brothers Peter and Stephan have been going up to Mt. Bogong for a week’s cross-country skiing every winter for over 20 years. They have told tales of climbing up steep spurs laden with equipment, crawling along the exposed icy summit ridge in howling winds, magnificent long ski runs down through the trees, the steep climb back out of these chutes, the cosy hut at the end of the day, and lots more, so we thought it was about time we visited the mountain to see it for ourselves. The perfect occasion came up when Peter asked us to join them for the annual “taking up of supplies”  prior to the winter snows setting in.

There were six of us: Peter, Nadia, Stephan, Katrina and we two. We stayed at Eskdale Pub on Friday night and drove into the start of the walk (an hour and a half’s drive) the next morning. The weather was beautiful, sunny and quite warm. We left the car in a clearing and readied our packs. It’s been a while since we carried full packs but it came back to us!  The first bit was the hardest, a steep ascent from the clearing up to join the Australian Alps walking track, which we then followed along Long Spur, before climbing up to Bogong itself. There are other access tracks to Mt Bogong at Staircase Spur and Eskdale Spur but they are much steeper, and we were glad we weren’t struggling up those!

It is a magnificent mountain, massive and formidable – we were glad the weather was being kind. Many of the trees were burnt in the 2003 fires, but there is good regrowth and there was lots of lush vegetation and water flowing in the streams. We stopped quite a few times for a breather, snacks and lunch, and finally had the hut in our sights at about 3.15pm – very welcoming! Even better, four other hikers were already there and had a lovely fire going, ready for the cold night ahead. Some of us went to look at the sunset from the ridge above the treeline, others stayed in the warm hut and rested their legs.

We enjoyed a hearty dinner and cosy evening. It was a cold frosty night outside and we woke to a glorious golden sunrise, which turned the whole frosted landscape a vivid orange. Most of us walked to the summit after breakfast – a long but gently undulating walk once we were above the treeline. (Katrina did her homework in the meantime – very impressive!) The summit itself at 1,986 m is near the northern end of the mountain but the views are wonderful all along the summit ridge in all directions. The ground was sparkling with the thick frost and some of the valleys way below us were beneath the clouds. We could see the main range, Mt Pilot, Mt Feathertop, Mt Buffalo, to name just a few (Peter and Stephan know them all. They also pointed out some of their favourite ski runs -very steep!)

We returned to the hut and prepared for the hike out, retracing our route back down Long Spur. On the way we side-tracked to Howman’s Falls, the creek plunging over ice-covered rocks into a steep gorge – we’ll have to do some more exploring there next time. We had lunch on the grassy slopes before Long Spur once more led us away from the mountain and back to our cars.

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Posted on Sunday May 30th, 2010, tagged with events | 5 comments

Opening of Dr Forbes Hut – May 2010

We’d done some volunteer work with brother Peter in March at Dr Forbes Hut on the Swampy Plain River in the Kosciuszko National Park, and were keen to see the finished building, so we drove up for the day of the official opening. The hut had been more or less destroyed in the 2003 bushfires with much stone work needing to be totally redone. The builders worked from original and more recent photographs  and the rebuilt hut looked great, with the new roof, shutters, doors and doorposts, paths and stairs all finished. They’d cleared and removed more trees and brush from around the hut and hopefully that’ll protect it from future infernos! (The only thing missing is a toilet and that’s apparently still to  be built – they did have a Portaloo for the grand opening.)

It was a glorious sunny day. The tops of the crags above us were just obscured by cloud, but it was lovely and warm down below. At least 60 people attended (quite a few from the Kosciuszko Huts Association, of which brother Peter is a member, and of course many National Parks rangers and administrators) and it was all beautifully organised. There were several speeches and we heard about the early days of the hut from the son of its original owner and a family friend.  It was good to see Gary and Geoff get credit for all the hard work they’d done over only 55 working days, and to have the contribution of the volunteers also acknowledged. Finally  the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon took place. Everyone chatted, took photos and mingled.

After a picnic lunch we headed back home, stopping for a taste of schnapps at the schnappserie near Thredbo on the way.

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Posted on Tuesday May 18th, 2010, tagged with events | comments disabled

More mystery photos

It’s not as easy to take mystery photos as you might think! See what you can make of these…

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Posted on Saturday May 8th, 2010, tagged with arty | 5 comments

Mungo and Kinchega – April 2010

There’s been lots of rain (and flooding) in Queensland over the last months, sending floodwaters down the Darling (and elsewhere) and filling some of the Menindee Lakes for the first time in ten years. Plus there’s been quite a lot of rain in western NSW itself, so we thought we’d go and have a look at the “outback” looking verdant and lush, with some water lying around for a change. It’s a long drive and we were very glad to get as far as Hay without hitting a kangaroo ! (See Western Australia, 2008, part 1.)

Our first stop was Mungo National Park, part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage area. There is evidence of indigenous people having lived here at least 50,000 years ago when the area was lush and the lakes were full. The last time they were full was 15,000 years ago, before the Lachlan River changed its course. It’s all pretty flat, with wide dry lake beds and ancient eroding sand dunes separating them, but there was a lot of interest in the plants that survive and flourish in this harsh landscape. As there’d been some decent rain here, it really didn’t look like desert at all. Every time it rains, the dunes erode a little more and some more evidence of past inhabitants is uncovered. We saw the old wooden station buildings that were erected in the late 1800s when sheep were farmed here. The woolshed is huge and all built from local native cypress  (callitris) timber. One of the highlights of our visit was the sunset colours on the “Walls of China”. And the campground was great – roomy individual sites and beautiful nights with no moon and a  spectacular array of stars.

We drove on to Menindee via Pooncarie, and stocked up before going into Kinchega National Park which borders on the Darling River and encompasses some of the Menindee lakes. Our campsite was on Lake Cawndilla, which was just starting to fill, the waters being diverted through a series of weirs from the Darling River through the lake system. Lake Cawndilla is still filling as I write this (on 7th May) -you can see the storage levels rise on the web at We are intrigued to know what will happen downstream of the lakes once they are all full. There’s no doubt that everyone is heartened to see the waters flowing again; there were lots of people just watching the waters flow through the weirs – obviously a welcome sight!

At Kinchega we also visited the old homestead (now a ruin) and the shearing shed, only half the size of the original but still huge. It is said that six million sheep were shorn there between the 1870s when it was built, and 1967, when the area became a national park. Hard to believe that the river was the main transport route for many years – though we did read that the river boats were often stranded for months when the waters dropped .

After a couple of nights camping under the stars (it was pleasantly warm, even at night!) we headed down to Wentworth, then up the Murray River as far as Albury. We’d never been to the Hume Weir, so we checked that out on the way. Home to a lovely Canberra autumn display, and some more warm weather. No complaints!

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Posted on Friday May 7th, 2010, tagged with events | 1 comment