Monday, 20 April 2015

Western Plains Traverse - Victorian Alps National Park

Western Plains Traverse

Victorian Alps National Park

Bogong Village Victoria

Thank you to Glenn van der Kniff and his book Bushwalks in the Victorian Alps.

Saturday, 11 April.

We had planned to do the Green Valley Trail over this week.

A few weeks prior to the trip Shell suggested another trip to the Alps before winter might be the better option so we switched Green Valley to winter.

Instead we would do the Western Plains Traverse.

Car shuffling is almost impossible. 

We planned to hike in to Bogong Jacks, camp the night and do a return trip to Pretty Valley Pondage via Tawonga huts. Return to Bogong Jacks and hike back to the car next morning.

With prior commitments on Saturday we packed the evening before and headed to Yass for the evening.

We spent the night on the cattle property Fifeshire, about 30km outside of Yass.

Sunday, 12 April.

An early rise had us on the road from Fifeshire to Yackandandah before 7.00am.

A beautiful sunrise over Fifeshire.

Country roads are no place for slow moving pedestrians.

After catching up with family for a cup of tea in Yackandandah we detoured to Myrtleford for an early lunch at a cafe we discovered on our last Alps trip.

Access to the trail head from Myrtleford is via Mt Beauty.

Heading South on the Great Alpine Road toward Ovens and take the left onto Happy Valley Road.

Follow Happy Valley Road to its end, turning right onto Kiewa Valley Road.

Continue through Mt Beauty and on to Bogong Village on the Bogong High Plains Road.

Glenn van der Kniff states 'vehicles can be left on a grassy clearing opposite a fire track, about 300m south of the turnoff into Bogong itself'.

This is correct however the fire track is now tarred gated. It is the entrance to the Bogong water tunnel which supplies the drinking water to the village.

A clear sign on the gates states 'vehicle access prohibited'. 

Taking this literally we slipped past the fence and headed up the fire trail.

Vehicle access prohibited.

We arrived at he trail head around 2.00pm.

I had been following the weather for the previous few weeks. I tend to struggle in the heat and I was looking forward to hiking in the cooler climate of the Alps.

My research suggested temperatures between 0 and 12C. Considering we had a 1000m ascent to Bogong Jacks campground I was willing to concede it to be a little warmer at the trail head.

It was 26C.

Ready to go.

The walk to Bogong Jacks campground is on a fire trail. The trail leads up. And up some more.

No more than a few kilometres into the journey I began to complain. 

Tired and irritable from the drive and feeling childishly cheated by the heat I became unpleasant company.

Shell soon grew tired of my complaints.

A lengthy rebuke which I will not detail ensued. Suffice to say I was quickly brought to silence.

The trail up is simple with three path options.

All are easily navigated. Put simply you always head up.

Once on the Fainter Track, stay on it.

The first intersection.

For some time the hike is not inspiring. In my experience this is often the case with service trails.

Once the noxious blackberries disappear in some elevation is achieved you are occasionally given a view of the landscape beyond.

Noxious blackberry common lower on the trail.

Views during the climb.

It becomes apparent the service track is seldom used.

The climate is cooler at this altitude. My mood lightened despite the deserved savaging to my ego Shell delivered a few hours earlier.

After 9km and around 1000m in ascent the trail levels.

Soon after you reach Bogong Jacks campground.

Glenn van der Kniff writes there is water available from a spring before the campground. This spring was no more than a muddy patch when we arrived.

I would not rely on Bogong Jacks for water.

The campground is a large clearing. Fenced and gated I can only assume it was a mustering point for cattle when they were once grazed in the area.

After discovering Bogong Jacks hut off to the east we pitched the tent.

We rarely light camp fires. On this occasion we did.

The temperature was dropping quickly and the sun was setting. It seemed appropriate.

As the sun went down I realised I had broken my clear glasses.

The rather unimpressive Bogong Jacks hut.

Sunset in the Alps.

The temperature dropped below zero that night.

The Alps are my favourite place in Australia.

I lay there, naked and the sleeping bag open like a blanket to stay cool.

Next to me Shell had three layers on and was wrapped like a caterpillar trying to stay warm.

Looking out the vestibule I could see an infinity of galaxies and hear not a sound beside Shell's slow breathing.

It was perfect.

Sunday, 12 April.

I was up before dawn.

I hate to miss a sunrise.

A few merino layers and a soft fleece and I was not cold.

Ice covered everything.

The entire clearing was white. Covered in a thin layer of ice.

It was beautiful.

While Shell slept I watched the morning melt the ice.



Yet to see a bad sunrise in the Alps.

We made some breakfast and packed the day packs ready to walk to Tawonga Hut and onto Pretty Valley Pondage.

The plan was to travel light. Lunch was to be at the pondage and we would return to Bogong Jacks and hike out the next morning.


The trail leads out to the South heading up on a disused service trail.

As you reach the highlands the service trail soon becomes an actual walking trail.

The trail from Bogong Jacks.

We stopped briefly at Mt Faintier South for some food.

Sitting there with Mt Feathertop in the near distance, blue skies and cool air, we lingered in conversation.

Much was said. All of it personal. All of it good.

A place for conversation.

We left with a spring in our step.

We continued in light conversation.

I estimate we were 1-2km from Tawonga Hut when Shell went over on her ankle.

The same ankle she injured a few weeks before heading to Blue Gums in The Blue Mountains.

We both heard the 'pop'. She went down so fast. Clearly in pain.

I feared it was broken.

We sat for a moment where she fell. It was obviously worse than before but I no longer feared a break. A fracture was not yet out of the question.

I removed her boot. It was swelling and colouring fast.

I quickly bandaged it and put her boot back on.

I emptied her pack into mine and shouldered her pack on my front.

After a time, with the help of walking poles Shell attempted to weight bear.

She managed, but was clearly in discomfort.

I did the numbers in my head. It was 12.00pm. It was 10km back to camp and a further 10km to the car.

20km on a bad ankle.

I put it to Shell and there were no arguments. It had to be done. 

Should we make it back to the camp and stay the night she would not be able to walk on it at all the next day.

I contemplated a helicopter.

Shell produced some Ibuprofen and Mydol from her infinite supply and off we set.

The going was slow.

Time concerned me. Not time. Daylight.

Sunset was around 5.30pm. We would have light until 6.30pm I guessed.

At our current pace we would not make it.

Service trail on a bad ankle by torchlight? Sounded interesting.

Shell suggested I head back to the campground and pack the tent and everything I could in my pack.

I was loathe to leave her but it made sense. Especially with my rising concern over time.

I headed off.

I worried about Shell the entire time. I hated leaving the woman I loved behind and injured.

Soon after I was done I headed back up the trail to meet Shell. She was not far from camp and making better pace. Ibuprofen and Mydol are not to be under estimated.

It was 2.30pm.

There is not much to say of the trip down. Though it was not without incident.

It was entirely stressful.

Shell pushed on in clear pain. Her mental and physical toughness is incredible.

When it became apparent we might make the car before darkness I took us down the wrong path.

Not even remarks about the unfamiliarity of the path made me question the decision.

It was a large clearing which was entirely foreign that brought us to a stop. A map check showed my error.

I was furious with myself. I had just added four kilometres to the trip.

Furthermore it would be certainly dark when we arrived at the car.

Soon after we arrived back on the correct path we ran out of water.

We limped on.

The sun went down and the head torches came out.

Suddenly there were side trails everywhere and decision making crucial. Made all the more difficult without my glasses.

It was a hectic last few kilometres.

By the time we reached the car we had covered over 30km in a day.

It was a stressful hike. Tough going with an injured companion.

We made quick accommodation arrangements as we were driving through Mt Beauty.

We both suddenly became aware of how hungry we were. Having not eaten since breakfast it was close to 9.00pm.

We stumbled across a takeaway in Myrtleford which delivers the best hamburger I have ever eaten. EVER!

After a hot shower at the Motel we both fell asleep relieved and exhausted.

Monday, 13 April.

I laid awake for some time this morning.

Shell slept next to me. Safe.

I went through the previous day and evening in my mind.

We were truly in danger? What could I have done different?

At the time I was single minded in my effort to get us sadly back to the car. Beside the immediate threat of another rolled ankle I did not consider long term possibilities.

I rolled over and put an arm around Shell. Safe.

I fell back asleep which is a rare thing.

The last thought I can recall is where we might hike in the Alps in Spring.