It feels like I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately? One good reason is some of my recent walks have left me scratching my head as to how to write them up. This day hike is a good example, as this trip was full of nasty weather, some unexpected freaks and most of all horror fun. It’s hard to know where to start, but I’ll keep it chronological.
My walks lately have been quite sedate and lacking a bit of adventure, so I was keen for something more agonising. A few weeks earlier I’d picked out this walk in the Grampians, which is featured in Glenn ‘Sultan of Suffering’ Tempest’s book, ‘Daywalks Around Victoria’. It sounded promising with a quick scamper up Sundial Peak (802 m) followed by a descent and then a potential heart attack inducing tilt on Mount Rosea (1009 m). The walk notes suggested it was 16 km with a time span of six hours required. Mind you, could I do it? Remember my ‘six hour’ walk up Mount Buller took a lazy 12 and with the short winter day I knew I’d have to start early. I sort advice from Smuffin and his only comment was, “Take a headlamp.”
Oh yeah, did I mention the forecast for this day was for possible snow down to 800 metres? Mm… Interesting. Anyway, a week of work can take a toll, so I was shocked I was able to crawl out of bed at 4.30 am for the drive to the Grampians. An interesting drive as well, with rain falling and the lack of any decent daylight until 8.00 am. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I hit a dim, low cloud cloaked trail into the forest towards Sundial Peak.
The mist seemed to deaden all the noise around me and other than the odd dripping water from the surrounding trees it was silent. I wasn’t the only one up and about in the early morning, as I surprised a soaking wet kangaroo…
…and as he hopped away into the forest and I continued the gradual climb. I must say, mist amongst the trees makes for a nice photographic opportunity.
The climb to Sundial Peak is a quick one and in no time I was at the lookout. I looked out and saw nothing. Literally.
Apparently there’s all sorts of things to see, but I can’t say what they are. It was a bit chilly though, so I didn’t hang around too long. A few more photos of the shrouded peak…
…and the odd burnt tree…
…and I headed back down. I found a track, which descended into the forest, passing enormous rock outcrops on the way.
This was a fairly wet undertaking, as I waded through soaking ferns…
…whilst surrounded by the ubiquitous Grampians boulders.
The ferns were thick in places…
…and the track plummeted quite steeply.
The boulders kept coming…
…as the track passed by them.
Reaching Silverband Road, I was flying through the walk. Strolling up a short section of bitumen, I just managed to fit a hairpin bend into the one frame.
This is all very peaceful, isn’t it? How do you reckon the rest of the day is going to go? Well, it was all by the books until I reached the start of Burma Track. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the sign on the gate?
I read the sign, considered its message for about 0.3 seconds and walked around it. I can assure you, in this day and age, tracks in Victoria can be closed when twigs fall. I’ve walked on many and most of the time I can never find the reason for the closure.
Burma Track is an old vehicle track, which climbs towards Mount Rosea. I’d warmed up from the initial strolling and with the path ascending into the trees, I decided to slip into ‘lean clothing mode’. I can sweat with the best of them, so it was time to take the jacket off for a bit of t-shirt walking. This was a great theory until I peeled the jacket off and suddenly realised I wasn’t wearing a lightweight, quick drying t-shirt, but my pyjamas instead. Huh?
In my early morning struggle out of bed, somehow I hadn’t changed out of my pyjama top, but instead, thrown the jacket on before racing out the door. I should mention my nightwear is not of the flannelette variety, but a decade old, beaten and battered Dale Earnhardt Jr t-shirt. Complete with a gaping, torn hole from performing too many lat-flares in front of the mirror. For example…
A few things here. One, cotton is absolutely useless in the rain, as it needs to placed on the surface of the sun for it to dry and the second is, he’s not a bad driver. It’s not his fault he got lumbered with the ultimate fatherly ego indulgence of naming their son after themselves. If I’d named Ben after myself, he’d have the perfect right to drop a bowling ball on my head whilst I was asleep. Come up with some names people! Anyway, 19 cup wins is not something to sneeze at. So, with my pyjamas on and rain potentially about to fall, I decided to leave the jacket on. It was quite chilly as I climbed, so I wasn’t going to risk a wet cotton outfit.
The cold and damp weather was also taking a toll on my camera, as the next photo and many more to come show. Condensation on the lens and under the lens filter was driving me crazy, which resulted in a frustrating day on the shutter button. Moving on, quite a few trees were across the track…
…but, at no times did I have to go off the road to negotiate them. It was quite straightforward and I was wondering why tracks are closed in Victoria for months on end, when they’re still quite accessible. I received affirmation to this thinking when suddenly three motorbikes appeared.
Hang on. The track is closed to walkers due to fallen trees, but somehow motorcycle riders can ride down the same closed road with ease? Can I say this? Normally on a peaceful walk, motorcycles are a most annoying encounter with their blaring two stroke engines. On this occasion I have to admit, of all the people I met on this day, the three blokes on bikes were by far the friendliest.
They stopped and we had a chat about the conditions ahead. During this conversation I also learned, one of the other riders legs were too short, his bike too heavy, which is understandable as Husqvarna’s are sewing machines. After a while they moved on down the hill, as I continued up.
You know what? There’s not much to say, but the higher I climbed the wetter it became. Some handy track work was evident with steps cut into rocks, but I was feeling too stuffer to appreciate them. At times they did make handy seats though when I needed a breather.
As heavy rain continued, the camera didn’t appear out of its bag very often. Actually, the camera may have had a bag and by now I was wishing for one as well. A body bag. Talk about a slog, as the wind began to howl as I climbed higher.
Feeling like I was near the top, I decided to sit down for a minute to regain some mojo. As I did so, I looked and was shocked to see something enormous between my legs. Now now readers, calm down. Keep your mind on the job. I wasn’t clocking my package, but instead was mesmerized by the world’s largest tear in my dependable rain pants. At some point I must have performed an assman manoeuvre and blown them out. These pants have lasted quite a few years, so it was a traumatic moment.
Mind you, I was distracted from my trouser ogling when a lone figure strolled out of the rain and gloom from the opposite direction. It was the first walker I’d seen all day, so I was momentarily speechless. Not so much by the fact someone else was dumb enough to hike on a crap day, but by the observation this bloke was wearing floral board shorts and carrying an umbrella. Huh? Wasn’t he cold?
We had a brief conversation as he passed by and I noted an European accent. Don’t bother asking me where he was from, as I’m useless at accent identification. Do you know how bad I am? How’s this. There’s a bloke at work who I thought was Scottish, but is actually from Liverpool. As you can see, that’s not my finest moment.
Anyway, it was freezing, but at least I was wearing clothes, whereas this bloke was strolling around as if it was summer. No doubt when he goes home he’ll tell his countrymen, “Those Aussies are wimps, wearing all of their clothing during a slight shower.” He continued on and I was left alone again, ready to knock off Mount Rosea.
The fun and games didn’t end there though, as a short distance away I came across two people sitting in the rain having their lunch. What’s going on in this place? Is it rush hour? They’d climbed from the Mount Rosea carpark, which was the opposite side of the mountain I’d come up on. We only had a brief conversation, but it was enough to completely throw me.
Remember in another post (no idea where, I’m too lazy to check) where I mentioned I’m always confused by someone who tells me something with extreme confidence, but their statement just happens to be opposite to what I believe, and they end up being wrong? I’m a sucker for it.
On this occasion I asked if they’d been to the top of Mount Rosea, to which they replied they had. No worries there, but they told me the turnoff to the summit was from the track I’d just walked on and must have missed it. What? I began to think to myself, “Surely, I couldn’t have missed a summit turn-off?”
This got even more weird when I looked at my GPS, which indicated I was going in the right direction for the summit and it was still in the direction I was headed. Mentioning this, they again said it wasn’t and I was going in the wrong direction to reach the top. How can this be? I stopped for a moment to get my head around this and what was confusing me was their sheer confidence I was wrong. I started to second-guess myself and thought, “They must be right. How can they be wrong? They’re so positive!”
I was contemplating my situation when they packed up and walked off into the trees, which was in the direction I’d come up on. Now I was confused, as that was the wrong direction to the Mount Rosea carpark. I was scratching my head, but began to feel they were totally bamboozled, so I decided to continue on as I originally intended and just think the previous conversation had never occurred.
Guess what? I moved on through some trees and there was the summit ahead of me. Seeing how they’d come from the summit in the previous 30 seconds, I’m not sure how they could be so wrong by sending me in the wrong direction. No, I hadn’t missed a turn-off and yes, the summit was exactly where I thought it was. Talk about bizarro world.
Anyway, Mount Rosea lookout has a fence to stop punters slipping off and a small distance dial. It didn’t look appetising, but I was going to reach it for the bagging points. There was no colour in the next photo, so how about it in grainy black and white for something different?
I strolled up to the summit and checked out the no-view. Slipping out the Kestrel for a weather check I noted the windchill had the temperature at -1.8 °C. I don’t often get very cold, but on this occasion my hands were numb with the constant rain and biting wind. What could I see? Well, nothing of course.
There wasn’t much to do other than head down. Can I say this now? The route down to the Mount Rosea carpark is about a billion (yes, a billion) times more picturesque than what I’d experienced on the way up from Burma Track. I quite like a boulder and the descent consisted of weaving between dozens of them, leaving me bursting with boulder bliss (BBB).
I just know you’re sitting on the edge of your chair in concern about my camera and whether I’d destroyed it in the downpour. No I hadn’t, but it didn’t come out of the pack until the rain became intermittent. Once I felt it was safe, I took it out of the protective bag. This should be an easy undertaking, but somehow I lost control of it and it spun in the air before gravity grabbed hold and slammed it into a rock. Well, that wasn’t the plan. I immediately launched into free-form Tourette’s as I retrieved the DSLR and noted it now had a sizeable scratch on the battery compartment. Would it work now? I’ve no idea, but I decided to snap some pictures and hope for the best.
By now I reached the spot called ‘Gate of the East Wind’. It may sound like something out of an Ang Lee movie, but it’s actually a small bridge across an intimidatingly vertical chasm. It’s a remarkable spot, but my views were somewhat misty.
I took quite a few pictures here, but there’s not much to see on this occasion. Continuing down the views were fantastic with bare trees…
…and a rock covered valley.
The camera seemed to be working okay, but the moisture problem was the same. Clouds drifted by…
…and some rocks performed a balancing act.
It’s a remarkable landscape, so I might as well flood the post with some more pictures of trees singular…
It was getting late in the day now and with an early winter sunset, I was moving quicker than I wanted to.
You know what? Looking at the photo above convinced me to give the photos away for the day. Even with a lens cloth I was getting condensation under the UV filter and after the drop I decided to go into protection mode. One more of the descent…
…and that’s it. I’ll tell you something. Walking is so much faster when you’re not dicking around taking pictures. I flew downhill and within minutes I’d reached the Mount Rosea carpark. My car though was at the Sundial carpark, which wasn’t far away, but unfortunately required a short climb.
It must have been only 150 metres in elevation, but the incline had me blubbering in pain. I’m not sure how a little hill can hurt so much and after having quite a dry descent suddenly heavy rain fell, just to amplify the misery a little. It was also borderline headlamp conditions as the day was done, but I managed to reach my car in the fading twilight.
Wow. What a crazy day. It seemed to hurt a bit, so I was interested if the GPS reading could shed some light on why.
Mm… 17.74 km and 1032 metres of elevation climbed? No wonder I was knackered. Oh yeah, remember the start where I mentioned in the notes it’s a six hour walk? I was never going to do it at speed, but I think 9 hrs 15 mins was even longer than I expected!
So there you go. Sundial Peak and Mount Rosea, Grampians both done on a typically cold, wet, winters day. With the short days of July, I certainly didn’t have much downtime.
I may have picked the wrong day, but at least there was a bit of an epic feel over it. A week of mind numbing office work needs to be offset with some adventure now and again. I must say though, the weather forecast was wrong. Where was the snow?! All in all the walk impressed me so much, I’m going to return under clear skies. Just so I can see what I missed from the lookouts. Oh, I’m not interested in doing the same walk though. Next time I’ll go up and back from the Mount Rosea carpark. It’s by far the best part of the hike. Oh yeah, if I’ve got time I might have a quick look at Sundial Peak again as well.
The final wash-up? A new set of pants are in order…