The night spent at Cleve Cole Hut was quite relaxing. Especially so, as the bed area comes complete with mattresses. I can’t say I’ve seen that too often in huts in the past? I made a conscious effort not to snore, whilst being surrounded by about 27 people in the hut.
I’d constructed a pillow, which left my head almost vertical. In fact, I was so vertical it felt like I was sitting in a chair. I think it worked okay though, as no one attacked me in the middle of the night. Then again I wasn’t snoring, mainly because I spent most of the night awake, worrying about making any noise whatsoever. As a result, when the morning came I was knackered after having had no sleep. Oh well, that’s the way it goes.
There was a full moon over the hut, leaving a glow upon the landscape. The sky was quite clear also, which was a good sign we’d actually have a view when we reached the top of Mt Bogong. The added bonus was my compact camera had successfully dried out. Taking the battery and memory card out the night before did wonders, as it powered up normally in the morning. At least I have some photos to stick on the blog, instead of crapping on the whole time.
MK came through with the breakfast, having lugged a box of eggs and bacon to the hut. It didn’t seem to go down too well with the other clan, who appeared to be eating slops. Never mind, they set off before us and we had a chance to inhale our breakfast in peace.
The plan for the day was quite simple. Walk to the top of Mt Bogong and then return to the circus tent via the Staircase Spur. This spur is a common route and it suited me to be walking down it. Having climbed Eskdale Spur, it would be nice to be on something I hadn’t seen before.
We did find out the clan in the hut we shared with, were the people we heard on the first night, trying to re-start their car a million times down at Mountain Creek camp. They’d walked up Staircase Spur in the dark to Bivouac Hut, which sits half-way up the spur. Walking in the dark is not my idea of fun whilst hiking, as I do like a view. It did mean they had a shorter day after though, so I guess it can work.
Whilst the day was rain free, the wind was picking up and plenty of clouds were whizzing over our heads. We aimed to walk from Cleve Cole Hut to Mt Bogong and descend via Staircase Spur, which would be some variety compared to the ascent. We packed up leisurely and hit the track after 9 am. Cleve Cole Hut sits at 1780 metres, so we had to climb back to about 1900 metres before the path levelled out. It remains this way until the final climb up to Mt Bogong.
The hut sits quite protected from the wind, which we found out as we got a little higher. The wind was ripping across us and at times it would cause me to stumble. I was doing it better than the others though, as I’m built like a boat anchor.
Unlike my generous proportions, my companions are lean, so they were bouncing around everywhere from the sudden gusts of wind. Talking had to be done by shouting and I took off every item that may lift off. The pack cover went into the pocket along with my beanie. It was the sort of wind the Bureau of Meteorology would normally issue a toupée alert for, so one could be on the look out for rogue rugs.
The clan from the hut did tell us to look out for the sign saying ‘Rocking Stone Saddle’. Then, walk a short distance from the sign to check out the ‘rocking stone’. Sounds intriguing?
As you can see, the small stone moves and I guess its title is correct. Following this, we continued to stroll with temporary glimpses of Mt Bogong along the way. For a few seconds the clouds would lift and we could spot the large summit cairn, which was our destination. It was touch and go regarding a view, as there were more obscured moments than clear ones.
It’s hard to show what the wind was like, as most of the photos appear as if it was a fine, sunny day. That’s a little deceptive but the clearer skies did give me a chance to take in a bit of the surrounding hills.
It wasn’t long before we reached our favourite spot of ‘Hell Gap’ and once again the wind was howling and the clouds enveloped us. Being a novice to Mt Bogong I had no real sense of how far away the summit was. We decided when we reached the top of Staircase Spur, we’d drop our packs and then continue to the summit cairn.
We reached the top of the Eskdale Spur where we’d ascended the previous day, so we knew Staircase Spur wasn’t far away. Sure enough, we came across the signpost and dropped our packs. It was quite a relief to get the pack off and find how easy this walking caper can be without a load.
Up to the summit we headed, and it was a complete surprise for all of us to suddenly see the huge rock cairn loom up a short distance away. I had no idea the summit was so close to the Staircase Spur and it was almost pointless dropping the packs. In some way it was an anti-climax, but at least we were there. Pity about the view though, as the cloud had set in and no matter how long we waited, it wasn’t going to lift.
I was impressed by the accuracy of my GPS. Mt Bogong is 1986 metres and the GPS informed me I was at 1985 metres, which is pretty good going. I ambled around the top of the very large summit and really we could have been anywhere judging by the view.
I think I need to come back and explore a bit more in the future. There are plenty of tracks leading off the mountain, which might be interesting. Other than those thoughts, there wasn’t a lot to do in the clouds other than check out current 2011 IKEA catalogue. I still need a new sofa and I’m kind of warming to the Karlstad three-seater in ‘Isunda grey’ for $938.
After contemplating my shopping, it was time to go down. It should be plain sailing, as it was now downhill all the way. Whilst stopping to put our packs back on, the first of what I assume were day-trippers started arriving. In dribs and drabs they came past, puffing a ‘hello’ as they went. Quite a few were dressed in runners and carrying minimal gear. I’m a certified alpine panic merchant, in that I have everything I need in case there’s a problem.
Seeing people climb up into the clouds wearing t-shirts and carrying no gear at all is not something I’d be comfortable with. It also wouldn’t appeal to me to climb Mt Bogong on the Staircase Spur, hang around for a little while and then power back down the same way. I do have a proven history of not wanting to retrace my steps!
Then appearing out of the mist was a candidate for the ‘minimal gear for an alpine walk’ competition. By the way, I’m keeping this competition realistic. I’m sure a few people have summitted Mt Bogong in the nude before. If not, then I might give it a crack next time, although only in the warmer months. It’s snow bound in winter, and I don’t think it’s worth having a frozen ‘angle of the dangle’ for the sake of a bit of blog comedy.
Anyway, the minimal gear candidate was a girl who climbed past in the world’s shortest denim shorts. So short and so fitting, they really could be described as hot-pants modelled on a postage stamp. She was also decked out in a t-shirt and a pair of slip-on style runners. Although obviously fit, she was pushing the limits of ‘acceptable alpine wear’ I think!
After retrieving my eyeballs, which had popped out of their sockets, I continued down in the clouds. A short distance further, the ‘Gadsden Memorial’ loomed out of the mist. This was erected in memory of three skiers who died here in a blizzard in 1943.
It’s an eerie spot in the clouds, and it’s not helped by a constant hum and whine of the wind hitting the steel snow-poles along the way. The sound of these poles can really carry, and if one doesn’t work out what’s causing it, all sorts of things may happen. Probably the first thing would be the fastest descent of the Staircase Spur in history, whilst screaming and with the arms in the roller-coaster position. These poles are being replaced though by timber ones. The main reason being to stop hikers crapping their pants.
The path is steep in sections and it wasn’t long before groups of trees would begin to reappear. Mountains have such a unique look about them, which is so alien to what I would normally see day to day. It’s a pity most of the alpine areas are a solid drive from Melbourne, otherwise I’d be walking them every weekend.
We’d decided to stop for lunch at the Bivouac Hut, which sits at 1420 metres. As we approached it we were suddenly overtaken by the clan we’d shared Cleve Cole Hut with the night before. They were motoring down the spur, but there was a little piece of wisdom passed onto me in the process.
I was still wearing my raincoat that was handy on the summit, but was now a little annoying as the temperature was rising. I was sweating a bit, but knowing the hut was close I intended to disrobe when we stopped for lunch. “Why are you wearing your coat?” I was asked. “You should have taken it off earlier”. I guess I could have, but I wasn’t complaining about it, so I’m not sure what the problem was?!
I must look like a bloke who has never left his house before, as I seem to get opinion overload! Well, literally after being told to take my coat off, we walked around a corner and Bivouac Hut was there. Time for lunch in a nice bush setting. It’s a nice looking hut and I’d love to show you, but I forgot to take any photos of it! I guess I was too interested in filling my guts with food, so I forgot my photographic duties.
Lunch was handy and now the final section down consisted of forest, which was very humid. It was hard to believe it was the same day that we’d experienced an hour of so earlier. On top of Mt Bogong the wind was blowing, it was cool and there was no semblance of sunshine. Further down though, the sun was blazing and I could feel the temperature rise as I gradually got lower and lower.
The others had raced ahead and I had the track to myself. I was casually strolling down bracing each step with my walking poles, when at the last moment I saw a snake on the track in front of me. I was close to stepping on him, and in avoidance I adopted the position of both feet off the ground, whilst going backwards at the same time. It was a freakish form of levitation which David Blaine would be proud of, and it was a close call as the black snake slowly slithered away.
I must have been the unlucky one, as a short time later I came across an even larger brown coloured snake lying in the middle of the path. I really need to do a snake identification course I think, as my descriptions are lacking a bit. Following my levitation moment, I was on the lookout and I spotted the latest one with plenty of time to spare. A bit of stomping around and he took off into the bush.
The Staircase Spur does seem to go on forever. I was over the walk at this stage, as my still wet feet from the previous day were starting to grizzle a little. I could feel a blister forming on my big toe, which is something I normally never get. Wet socks and downhill walking were pushing my toes right into the front of the boots though.
I hadn’t reached hobble stage, but I was glad when I finally emerged from the bush, back onto the path alongside Mountain Creek. A bit of flat ground does wonders for the feet. It was now a casual half hour stroll back to the circus tent. It certainly was a different scene with the sun out, compared to the previous day. There was still a bit of water about on the path, but nothing too troublesome.
After some casual walking the parked cars started appearing ahead and the hike was officially over. We’d arrived back at the car park and as an added bonus the circus tent was still set up. It was good thinking by MK, as the warm day in the valley had dried it out from the previous days soaking.
It was a relief to peel the boots from my feet, whilst being entertained by the Cleve Cole Hut clan trying to get their car going. Yes, we had run into them again! They eventually fired it up and powered away. We now had our own fun of the 350 km drive back to Melbourne.
It was a great hike in which the weather gave us a memorably epic trip. The GPS was telling me in the two days, we had walked 30.38 kms and the total elevation climbed was 1670 metres.
By the way, I’ve just finished writing this and it’s way too late for me. That’s my disclaimer if there are a stack of grammar errors! I will correct this page tomorrow when I have a fresh brain instead of the blancmange feeling one that I have now…