Mt Speculation via Crosscut Saw, Alpine National Park

Okay, here’s my first proper post concerning this walk. The Viking Circuit. Whilst the previous entry essentially covered a jaunt from the car park, this days stroll tackled some iconic Alpine terrain. Firstly, from Macalister Springs and then heading to Mt Speculation via Crosscut Saw, Alpine National Park at the end of the day being the goal.

First things first though. I’m not even meant to be here writing this up. A few days ago I had an abortive foray at Wilsons Promontory to attempt the northern circuit. Usually I consider the weather for an upcoming walk, but I thought I’d be fairly safe for a summer walk down near the coast. Huh? What happened? It was 36ยฐ C last Monday and by the time I got to the Prom later in the week, it seemed to be no more than 6ยฐ C, with heavy showers and a biting wind. Is this possible? One other walker in the northern section also abandoned and once I saw what was in the sky, I thought to myself, “Don’t. Even. Bother”, complete with random full stops for effect.

I guess one has to know his limitations and I felt the solo walkers blues. I reckon if someone else was there, we could have re-mojoed ourselves by shouting at one another or wrestled naked whilst covered in baby oil? I’ve no idea what blokes do to motivate themselves, but the previous examples seem logical. In the end I abandoned without a foot being stepped and instead decided to acquaint myself with some Prom beaches and a saunter up Mount Oberon. This was okay, but the wind was so fierce at the top, my face was ripped off. That’s always disappointing. Try wearing sunglasses without a nose.

I guess having the ball of one foot constantly aching didn’t help my walking plans. Where did I do this injury? Well, the start of it was in this Alpine walk of course. The Crosscut Saw with its rolling terrain and notable hills was always going to moderately painful. Especially when I had the task of keeping up with my two whippet-like walking companions.

I shared the night at Macalister Springs with a bunch of wiry looking old timers who were doing the same walk, but in four days instead of our planned three. I wondered, if I was unable to keep pace with my lean and mean crew, I could hang back a day and finish off with these old blokes? I considered it for a moment, but whilst relaxing outside the Vallejo Gantner Hut in the morning, one of the blokes stepped outside, walked a short distance, stopped and with a grimace on his face, detonated a Richter rockin’ trouser cough, accompanied by a thud in the distance, which I presume was a koala hitting the deck due to vibration. It was at this stage I decided to finish the walk in three days.

I know what you’re wondering though. What was the blokes reaction to unleashing this ‘backfire that was heard around the world’? I kid you not, but it was fairly succinct,

“Oh”

Yep, that was it. It reminds me of a bloke when I was in the army. Mick Duncan (yes of course his nickname was ‘Drunken Duncan’) who attempted something similar on an exercise at night, whilst sharing a gun-pit with some poor sucker. Unfortunately for DD he followed through. His reaction? Yep, you guessed it. “Oh”.

Anyway, stop sidetracking me, otherwise I’ll never finish writing this up. The wiry blokes containing their frog-stomping companion had left and I bummed around for a while before MK and the General turned up. Mind you, when they did, they didn’t put their feet up. We were off and racing into the billowing clouds still passing over the Crosscut Saw. There was also a problem. I reckon we’d only walked a kilometre or so before I lost touch, with my companions powering off into the clouds.

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The Crosscut Saw. Itโ€™s there somewhere.

The Crosscut isn’t too bad. Although its up and downs take a bit of a toll, the undulations are not too severe. The only thing causing me heartache was vainly trying to keep up. Although I walked with two others, I don’t think for the entire three days whilst moving, they were within 200 metres of me. As the photos show…

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I was hoping the day would clear, as I was packing my camera gear and waiting to capture those vast Alpine vistas in all directions. There were brief moments of sunshine before it closed in again. This kept up for the first hour or so.

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As resident slow-coach, it wasn’t too bad, as I could use my distant companions for scale in any photos…

crosscut-saw-track

Before leaving Melbourne I’d checked the forecast and for this day, rain was predicted. I’m not sure where it was meant to come from, but looking out across Mount Buller in the distance, some dark clouds were brewing…

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…before lifting and returning to the traditional misty conditions.

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Finally, the clouds began to lift and our destination of the day, Mount Speculation, was clearly visible. Well, to me anyway, more on that in a minute.

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I admired trees clinging onto steep slopes…

tree-on-crosscut-saw

…and with the sun shining through, the overall object for the walk, the Viking, was clearly in view.

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The Viking

Fluffy clouds had now replaced the constant low cover, but it did mean one other problem for me. It was feeling quite warm and the sweat was beginning to flow.

trees-on-crosscut-saw

We’d arranged our first proper stop for the day would be on Mount Buggery. Yeah yeah, only the most puerile, immature fool would make fun out of that name, so you won’t see any schoolboy humour here in this respectable blog.

My companions had long vanished, but after a bit of up and down wandering, I suddenly found them lounging around having lunch. I thought we were stopping on Mount Buttslamย Buggery? According to MK, we were on it, but I was sure it was further on. This of course, leads to something I’ve mentioned in previous posts. If I have an idea about something, but someone says the opposite of what I believe, and says it in an insanely, positively confident way, I suddenly doubt myself.

Oh well, MK is pretty confident! This must be it! Suddenly I was thinking to myself, there’s only Mount Speculation to go and we’re almost done for the day!! Guess what? We descended down amongst trees and then after a steepish climb, we met the wiry blokes again. Where were we? Yep, it was Mount Buggery. Grrr…

Oh well, we’d already had our lunch on the Mount Not-Buggery, so didn’t stay long. Mount Speculation was now close, but unfortunately a lot of height is lost before the climb by descending into Horrible Gap. You do notice how there’s no Mount Comfortable on this walk? When I scanned the map beforehand I was hoping to see, Mount Getting-Fed-Grapes-By-Semi-Naked-Women-Whilst-Dressed-In-A-Toga. Where was that mountain?

Anyway, the Viking was still visible through the trees…

snowgum-crosscut-saw

…before entering a forested section…

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…and then steeply descending into Horrible Gap. Mount Speculation now began to loom higher as we dropped height.

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The steep forested slopes were also visible and that’s exactly where the track was headed…

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Once in the trees and out of the wind, it was quite stifling and my taps had been turned on. Sweat was flowing and I began to think to myself, “My god, this gap. It’s horrible!”

I almost looked forward to the inevitable rise, so at least I’d get some fresh air again, rather than the fetid stench of my sweating shirt flaming my nostrils. On many occasions though, I had to stop in order to lower my heart rate from potential ‘cook off mode’. At least there were a few stray bugs to inspect…

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Remember a minute ago, when I was longing for the Mount Speculation rise to begin, so I could get some fresh air? Well, good in theory, but can we have it a bit less steep next time, please?

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Rising up through this forested section, my face was one of anguish, with a look similar to someone who’s just realised their lunch has been stolen out of the fridge at work. I was glad to enter the open, but Mount Speculation doesn’t give up its slopes easily. There are three rock bands to negotiate and although not difficult, they’re not the most welcome thing when you’re an oversized man who’s sweating like a wild animal…

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Rock wall whilst climbing Mount Speculation.

I started clambering up…

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…whilst concentrating hard. A tumble here wouldn’t be pleasant. At least during climbing pauses, I got to see an elevated view of the ground previously covered…

trees-across-crosscut-saw

You know what? I always thought there were three rock walls to clamber up? Looking at the next picture there seems to be three after the one I’d just done. Huh? Have I led myself astray? Lucky I didn’t write three, otherwise I’d look like a complete dick.

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Oh yeah, here’s the photo, which I used in the overall Viking post. It’s one of my favourites, so I get to look at it again.

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One advantage of these little climbs is I enjoyed shouting out my full array of swear words. There were quite a few I hadn’t used in years. It was quite liberating.

There’s not much more to add, other than it goes up, so I might as well just finish off the climb in pictures, whilst I get a cup of tea…

track-up-mount-speculation

Another rock band…

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…along a winding path…

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…and the view looking back from the top of the rock wall.

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This continued until the finish line was in sight. Hardy trees were perched near the summit…

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…and that was it. There was no more up, and the summit was done. It was sunny, but on the exposed top the wind was quite cold. Actually, it was magnificently cold, as I got to cool off my sweat-soaked frame.

Hang on though. Where was everyone else? I thought my companions may have waited and there were no sign of the old timers. Anyway, I was in no rush, so I sat down with the summit to myself. Oh yeah, it’s never simple up in the hills. Whilst basking in the sun a sudden crack of thunder rumbled across the sky. A cumulonimbus cloud dumping rain a short distance away was initially a concern, but by looking at the wind direction, I felt confident it was headed away from Speculation.

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There was a clear view across the terrain covered for the day. Mount Buggery and the Crosscut Saw behind, with Mount Howitt in the far distance…

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I do love a storm and I think I spent more time on the summit watching the thundering clouds passing by. I liked it so much, you’ll get two photos, which more or less show the same thing. Just in case you missed it the first time.

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It’s impressive, isn’t it? So much so, here it is again.

cumulonimbus-alpine-national-park

You know what? I might enter the photo in the Australian Bureau of Meteorology weather calendar. I want to get at least one photo in there before I die and if I don’t, well, I’m not going to die. Instead, I’ll develop an ongoing cryogenic method where I can be dead, but my brain and arms will still be operating. Oh yeah, eyes as well, as I need to see through the viewfinder. Okay, I just made up this idea right now, so don’t criticise, as it’s a work in progress.

Now, back to the missing walkers. Where are they all? Although MK and the General had a clear plan for lunch, I wasn’t so sure about the final destination for the day. After topping Mount Spec (that’s what the cool kids call it) the traditional spot for camping is nearby at Camp Creek. It’s protected and water is on offer. The thing is though, my whippet friends wanted to push on a bit further to Catherine Saddle.

Mm… Just to make it tricky for your humble narrator, the track splits. One part descends down to the rugged Speculation Road and Camp Creek, whilst the actual walking path continues straight on, bypassing the creek. I stood at the intersection wondering and decided I had to check out both possibilities, so I descended to Camp Creek. I did find people there, but it wasn’t my crowd. It was the old timers and after helping them out with a map (why didn’t they carry a map?) I was pretty confident my companions had kicked on to Catherine Saddle.

So, I set off down a distinctly ankle-popping Speculation ‘Road’…

mount-speculation-road

…before it did eventually turn into something a bit more smoother. You know what though? I was feeling rooted and must admit, I plodded along with very little spring in my steps.

I passed the official walking track, which had cut straight down the hillside and popped out onto Speculation Road. A bit more descending and suddenly I could hear the voices of my companions. I’ve no idea how much faster they were, but they’d completely set up tents and all matter of comforts. I reckon they’d beaten me by an hour!

I flopped onto the ground and generally just groaned. The General must have been feeling sorry for my moaning carcass, so he volunteered to venture down the disused Speculation Road to get water for everyone. Apparently it’s about 500 metres downhill, and I must admit, I didn’t have much left for a down and uphill wander.

So, the General took off with all our water bags and after a decade returned. He then uttered the immortal words, “Well, I could hear it, but I couldn’t find it”. Huh? What does that even mean? Water was needed for the next day, otherwise we were in trouble, so MK and I decided to investigate in the morning.

What a day! What’s next? Well, it was off to bed in the wonderfully protected spot of Catherine Saddle. In conclusion, I’ve come up with some poetry that rivals Keats, in order to reflect on this beautiful evening,

In the cold still of night;
silence broken by the hoot of an owl,

Suddenly he’s silenced by a fright,
the mattress has exploded.