Let the fanfare begin. I think it was about four posts ago I said I’d write about a recent trip to the Grampians? It was on a long term hiatus though, as I needed one particular photo before I could tackle the entry.
Before I get into it, I must mention there’s one thing that’s kind of ironic (or is it annoying? I always get those two mixed up). This trip isn’t that exciting, so I’ve probably kept you in suspenders for no reason at all. In fact, I dare you to reach the end of this long saga and not need a kip at some point.
Oh, I bet you’re also wondering what amazing image I needed before going ahead with this narrative? Um… Don’t laugh, or get violent, but it’s the one above. It will all make sense later on, so don’t worry about it right now.
This walk in the northern Grampians isn’t a recognised one. Essentially it’s a bush-bash to the top of that huge lump of rock in the photo above. Ah, but there’s a secret to all of this. Here, I’ll show you a close up.
A few years ago, the Grampians was deluged in rain. I’m talking, ‘get the Ark out of the garage and load it up with the pets’ type of downpour. The result of this is evident above. An enormous land-slip has gouged its way down the hillside and left behind what can only be described as a walking highway. Instead of bush bashing all the way to the rock, a relatively gentlemanly approach has been provided by mother nature or possibly climate change.
Anyway, this is all good, but only a few months ago I’d never even heard of it. That all changed when I got an email. Usually the Fiasco Inbox is only full of Max Gentleman messages informing me where I can get cheap Viagra. How do they know me so well?
Besides all the usual stuff, there was one from Hans, who’s also known as the ‘Hanover Hurricane’. In it, he outlined three points, which were:
A) My name really is Hans.
B) For a hiker, you appear to be as soft as a tub of butter sitting in the boot of a car, which is parked in Satan’s car spot at downtown Dante’s Inferno.
C) Cathedral Rock exists, so why don’t you get your fat guts up it?
Mm… It certainly was a call to arms, so after about 0.23 seconds of research, I put together a posse to tackle this challenge and put it to bed, once and for all.
Who put their hands up for such a task? Well, Smuffin was one and I managed to convince him without actually telling him what the walk consisted of. If I did, he probably would have declined, so I’ve got to be circumspect about these things.
“Oh, it’s just a wander up a hill. It’s close to a road, so it’ll be less than 5 km and we’ll be home by lunch time”.
Naturally, this was a lie.
That’s not all, but another freak volunteered as well. Mind you, he’d been on some of my walks before, but previously he was known as ‘anonymous’, so although he was there, he didn’t exist.
This time though, he wanted to announce himself to the half dozen readers of this blog. What do we call him though? Smuffin is Smuffin, as his name is a mash-up of his favourite breakfast dish. Oh, it’s not Smurf either, as he doesn’t like it when people mix up his moniker.
This new bloke who wasn’t new at all needed something catchy as well. He was eager and declared, “Why can’t I be called the Ring-a-Ding-Ding-a-Ling or maybe the Piston Powered Pecker?”
Mm… Even though ‘RADDAL’ or the ‘Triple-P’ had a ring to it, we elected to focus on his occupation. He’s a botanist, so we had options of Bot-Man, Bot-Boy or plain ol’, run of the mill, ‘the Botanist’. In the end, I surprisingly went for the PG rated option, so he’s the Botanist from now on.
We rendezvoused at our usual caravan park haunt in the Grampians. It was there I produced all the maps and announced something surprising. I’m well aware that due to the Grampians hakea (surely the world’s most annoying plant) then any off-track walking will require a full get-up of protective clothing.
No, after seeing a photo of the landslip highway, I was confident I could get the walk done in shorts, which doesn’t sound too insane, as I’d have gaiters as well. Smuffin opted for the same, as it was a case of ‘one in, all legs get shredded in’.
Not the Botanist though. He perused the gaiters I’d brought and announced,
“You bunch of croissant munching funny boys! Wars aren’t won by men in gaiters!”
It was an epic speech and I was impressed. Well, it was part inspiration and part insanity, so one could only nod their head and ponder the statement. I quickly binned the inspiration aspect and concluded he was bonkers, as yes, he was going in shorts and with no leg protection. What on earth could go wrong?
So there you go. We all kitted up and headed to our starting point, which was Sheep Hills Carpark. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but this spot was formerly known as, ‘There are Sheep in Them Thar Hills carpark’, but was changed due to a protest from the Grampians cartographers.
This small parking area is more commonly used as the area where the tilt up Mt William starts, which then leads to the Major Mitchell Plateau. I’m sure you can find my previous adventures to both those places on the blog.
Arriving at the carpark, we quickly demounted and I was a little perturbed to see I was bleeding already and I hadn’t even taken a step. Is this possible? Somehow, yes.
The Mt William track is wide and gave us a casual stroll for the first few kilometres. Our basic instructions were to leave the track at the second creek crossing. Passing over a small bridge on the first, there were some nice reflections on offer…
…before reaching the second crossing…
…that was our cue to don the gaiters (for some of us) and then leave the track to head south along the creek.
Beforehand, I thought this section had the potential for being a bit of a slog and someone had even gone to the trouble of marking it.
Yeah, I’m not sure why you need to mark the actual creek, but after a hundred metres or so, it opened out and was pretty easy going.
We continued to rock-hop…
…before reaching the point we needed to leave the stream and then head straight for Cathedral Rock. This spot was easy to find as well. If you happen to miss it, all I can suggest is you get your Coke bottle glasses ramped up to Hubble telescope magnification.
I can’t even imagine what it would have been like on the night the rain fell and this landslide happened. I’d say I wouldn’t have wanted to be in a tent nearby, as the moving mass has gouged out a mark on the landscape from anything up to 100 metres wide.
Surprisingly though, some trees survived the onslaught of debris. This one is dead and I’ve no idea how it didn’t come down, but the ‘high tide’ mark is still visible, complete with bark stripped off it.
We began to walk up the highway of all highway walking ‘tracks’…
…before a halt was called. The Botanist had spotted something plant-like and it needed further investigation. I must say, generally on all my walks I have no idea of the names of plants I encounter. I used to spend ages online, trying to identify vegetation, so I could correctly label the photo before uploading it.
Guess what? I long ago gave up on that idea, as it’s way too complicated. Now if I see a yellow flower, that’s its name when I upload it. This might seem slack, but the angst began when I was trying to identify one particular eucalypt I’d come across. Sure, I’d find a comprehensive website, but it would ask, ‘tell us the name of the plant and we’ll show you some photos and give you the full details about it’. Can you see the problem here? I don’t know the name of the stinkin’ tree to start off with!
Anyway, with a bonafide botanist on hand whose name is actually ‘The Botanist’, we had an opportunity to clear up any plant identifying problems. A small bush stood out amongst the landslide debris and a book was produced for a precise identification.
Smuffin and I stood by, eager to be dazzled with the full Latin name of this colourful plant. Our knowledge was to be enhanced with its expert description. “What is it?” I excitedly asked. There was a pause, a flicking through of some more pages and then an answer was given. “I’ve no idea”.
He then bent down, snipped off a couple of leaves as a sample for a later investigation, put them in his pocket and then walked off up the hill. I must say, that really wasn’t what I was expecting.
A week later I mentioned this to someone and they said, “Ah, but is he a good botanist or a shit one?” Mm… I was left to ponder, as I don’t know how to identify either. Maybe he was having a bad plant naming day?
We all get an off day when working. A bit like the time I was at work and in the church office of a priest taking a report of a burglary. Unfortunately, it was post-lunch and I was full to the brim with an Acland Street Dagwood sandwich. My partner was writing away and to this day, I still blame the soporific surroundings for what happened.
I think I was seated for about 12 seconds before suddenly my head slumped into my chest and I lapsed into a coma. Then began snoring. This prompted the priest to ask my hard at work partner, “Is he alright?” It wasn’t my greatest moment.
Moving on, we continued to head uphill and it was steady climb at all times. Not nasty, but enough to raise a sweat with a few sections steeper than others.
Looking back, we were starting to gain some height and the Mt William Range was clearly visible…
…before we paused again to examine an unusual colouring in the rock. If we only had another walker called ‘The Geologist’ or at least the ‘Stripey Rocktologist’ with us to explain what caused this pattern.
All of this was a pretty casual affair. Slowly working our way up the enormous gouge mark in the hillside. I was thinking it was a bit of a breeze. Until I collapsed.
I’m still not sure what happened, but as I stepped on a rock, it gave way and I feel into some water. Huh? Yeah, I know. It might have been as dry as a nuns hat, but somehow there was water under the surface and it gave way under my two ton weight, leaving a hole and sending me arse-up.
It wasn’t too bad though, as during my lowering to the ground in pain, I managed to place the camera on a ledge above me, so it was left undamaged by my sudden plummet. How do these things happen? No idea, but here’s the hole and small well I created by stepping on a rock. Who needs to drill for water? I can just walk everywhere and you’ll get gallons of liquid. Maybe I can get a job in some arid places of Africa?
Wandering on, the climb continued…
…before something attached to a tree caught our eye. It was green, but certainly not natural.
A closer examination revealed some tattered instructions…
…that indicated a makeshift path through the bush to our destination. It’s lucky we were awake, as I was under the impression we’d follow the landslip all the way up to the base of Cathedral Rock itself. This isn’t the case and I’ve no idea who’s done it, but someone has been busy with scrub clearing.
That’s not all, but there were other similar markers, which if you can’t see, I got a helper to point it out.
Sure, some might have been a little rudimentary…
…but sardine can or not, it’s still classified as a track marker.
Oh, I’m sounding a bit relaxed about this bit, aren’t I? It was actually a proper slog, as the climb was steep with a loose surface underfoot to go with it. On a warmish day, enclosed amongst the trees, the sweat was flowing, along with the profanities.
We were aiming for the distinct notch in the centre of Cathedral Rock, which would give us access to the top. Any semblance of zig-zagging was gone, as the makeshift track went straight up a steep hill.
Gaiters or not, I was starting to get cuts galore on my knees and arms from the cursed Grampians hakea, but constant swearing made it less painful. We pushed through the bush, with glimpses of Cathedral Rock appearing…
…before we arrived at the base of an enormous buttress.
We still weren’t quite at the ‘V’ notch though, as suddenly the path pushed on through the bush again…
…before an opening was clearly visible.
Finally arriving under an enormous wall and out of the scrub for the time being…
…it gave us an opportunity to take a brief break. Whilst doing so, we had a chance to examine some unusual looking rock next to us. It almost looked like dripping wax.
At the bottom of these towering walls, it was a bit hard to see what was going on. That’s one reason why I went back there to get some distance shots, so the whole walk can have some perspective. Here’s a long shot of the notch, which was our climbing route. Oh, it’s probably not officially called a ‘notch’, but it’ll do for the purposes of this blog.
Pushing on, it was time to head left and try and find the highest point, which we’d been told was marked with a stone cairn. I actually thought the scrub would be lighter as we got higher, but it didn’t work out that way.
There were some quality scratches being dished out by the hakea, as we weaved slowly around boulders concealed in the head-height scrub.
The occasional cairn made an appearance, but it was more a matter of trying to find the best way without leaving ones skin behind. Clearly, Hercules had climbed this in the past, as upon a boulder, he’d left behind the worlds largest cairn.
After clearing an annoying little rock band, we finally reached a height where we had a clear view of our surroundings. Here’s the notch, now behind me as we continued upwards.
We were gaining height quickly and the vertical walls to the side were looking impressive. As long as we didn’t fall off of course.
It was interesting to see vegetation growing in unlikely places. This grass tree sat on a tiny ledge…
…which sat above a vertical wall, with the ground a hundred feet below.
Behind us, the view was pretty impressive…
…and this dead tree made a perfect off-set subject for a photo.
Amongst all this wide-eyed staring, one particular column of rocks stood out. Triple-H (Hanover Hurricane Hans) said it looks like an eagle. I’m not sure, but if you dim the lights, hit yourself across the back of the head with a large rubber mallet and then look at it again, you’ll see he’s definitely correct.
The eagles beak (or small rock at the top for you purists), suspended in mid-air was interesting and it created come conjecture amongst my fellow, blood covered hiking companions. The Botanist said it wouldn’t last more than a hundred years before falling off. Smuffin was adamant it would take at least a thousand. I on the other hand, argued if I could only step on it, right at that moment, I’d guarantee it would fall in 2015.
We’d reached a lovely, clear shelf of rock, thankfully devoid of leg scratching scrub and it seemed the perfect place to have lunch, complete with an expansive view to boot.
Things are never that simple though, are they? We knew there was a cairn up ahead and if it wasn’t reached, then had the rock been climbed? Smuffin was happy to down tools, but the Botanist was focused and really, I had to agree. I was cut to ribbons, so a bit more slicing and dicing wasn’t going to make much difference, as we faced another wall of scrub. Shouldn’t the bush have thinned out near the top? NO.
It was actually the worst of the hakea in this section, but a lone tree stood out ahead and we figured we’d at least make it to that point, as it appeared to be the highest thing around.
The Botanist vanished into the bush and after about five minutes proclaimed he’d found the cairn. Smuffin and I bashed our way to location of the voice and he was correct. We’d made it and it’s not a bad one either. Obviously the place has been well visited over the years or either one group had put in a mighty cairn building effort on their trip.
Anyway, it was all over for the time being and with some open rocks nearby, it was the perfect place to stop for lunch. Not to mention the sights whilst munching on sandwiches. A commanding view allowed us to view the Serra Range all the way to Mt Abrupt in the distance.
It wasn’t all about wide open vistas though. An inquisitive skink kept poking his head out from a nearby rock. Every time I moved he’d scurry away until eventually he decided to risk the enormous interloper nearby, as he was probably desperate to soak up some warmth. Cameras can be deceptive…
…as even though he was only six inches long, somehow I’ve made him look enormous.
That’s not all. In the theme I mentioned earlier of vegetation growing in unlikely places, this tree clinging to these rocks was another. Frankly, I think it’s already dead.
It certainly was peaceful at the top and I guess we stayed put for about an hour. Unfortunately though, the good times don’t last, as we had to face the whole thing again, except this time descending. The best thing about a new place is not knowing what’s ahead, but now, we knew exactly what we’d have to bash through to get down.
Heading off, it was time to wander in the delightful, Grampians scrub…
…before exiting out on the rock shelf where we first contemplated lunch.
Then it was time to head into the bush again…
…and into the notch with it’s manic, bushy track. Going up was hard on the lungs, but this descent killed my knees. Maybe I should take trekking poles on all my walks now, as any downhill walking is felt for days after. It didn’t help that every step had to be placed carefully due to the loose surface.
I must say, I was glad to reach the gouged out, super walking track, as at least we were in a scratch-free zone for the rest of the trip.
I hit hobbling mode down the long hill and was glad to reach level ground at the creek. It was a matter of a short wander in the late afternoon…
…before arriving at the Mt William walking track with only a few kilometres back to the carpark.
I must say, I was glad to see the vehicle as my legs were stuffed. You know how I always take photos of bodies bleeding on walks? I’ve never had such sliced knees before and I was going to get a photo, but I was too stuffed to bother.
Likewise with Smuffin, he was bleeding all over the place and I just forgot about it. How did the Botanist go without the gaiters? I’ve no idea what happened, but he barely had any cuts on his legs. How does that work?
I can only assume his lithe build went around cutting bushes, whereas Smuffin and I have a bulldozer approach that guarantees skin slaughter. What was interesting is I was the only one to have demolished knees. I’ve since come to the conclusion that when I walk, I lead with the knees, not to mention they’re big. Yes, I have big hooter knees. Do you want to see my knee rack?
Anyway, it was done and hopefully Triple-H was happy. We then got in the Smuffin-mobile and high-tailed it to a Halls Gap bar where ciders were drunk and DNA was left on the seats.
Would I do the walk again? Probably not, but I did have a far-fetched idea about climbing the rock and spending the night up there. I couldn’t see any clear spots to put up a tent, but a bivy would work. The idea of spending the night is for sunset and sunrise photographic reasons. Maybe. Finishing up, Cathedral Rock, Grampians is a bit of a rough and tumble affair in places, but on the whole not too demanding.
This has been a mega-post, so what’s next? I’ll tell you what it’ll be. It’s another Grampians number on a well known path, but I decided to add some off-track excitement. This was a great idea until I had the ‘Mother of All Falls’. You’ve no idea how big it was and as I was on my own, I don’t have any pictures to show you. In order to give it justice, somehow I need to get my head around explaining it in suitably graphic detail. Let it be known I haven’t walked since, as major bodily pain was inflicted.
Oh, I’m not sure when this post will be, as I’m seriously thinking of a blog template upgrade shortly, so wait and see.
I’ll leave you with another view of Cathedral Rock, which I actually took way back in 2012 during the Major Mitchell Plateau walk. I think the low cloud gives it a bit of mystery and I’m sure we all like a bit of mystery.