I haven’t written many posts lately have I? There’s a reason though and it’s due to the ultimate, outdoor blogging dilemma. Do you know what that is? Well, I’ve been doing too much walking lately which frankly is getting in the way of the blog. How can I write inspiring posts if I keep walking every weekend? Damn… I’ll work out this blogging caper one day.
Anyway, I’m sure you’ll get some entertainment from this trip. It consisted of a two day wander with the first climbing Mount Difficult, Grampians. Camping the night and then climbing Briggs Bluff the following day.
The observant reader would realise this walk has featured before in one of the more notable failures from the ‘fiasco vault’. Briefly, on a hot summers day, occasional hiking sidekick, ‘the Smuffin’, hit the wall physically during a steamy day of climbing and as a result we only completed half of the intended walk.
The incident on the Mount Difficult Range became known globally due to William Shakespeare, who whilst inspired by the story, penned what was quite frankly an abysmal play called, ‘The Taming of the Smuffin’.
In order to put this walk to bed, I’ve been wanting to get back to the Grampians for a while. A winter visit seemed to make sense, as at least I wouldn’t have to worry about lugging six litres of water due to the dry conditions like last time. Yeah okay, it’d be freezing, but I thought I’d have that in hand. Do you notice how I used the word ‘thought’? I wonder where this post is going?
On this occasion I’d be doing the hike on my own and I picked out the weekend to do it rather haphazardly. Calendar. Darts. That’s as technical a selection as I could come up with. The upcoming weather was of interest though and I noted the Saturday forecast of ‘showers’ and a maximum of 10 °C at the nearby town of Halls Gap. Mm… I’d be sleeping out at a higher altitude than the town…
If camping overnight, this particular walk has to be booked at the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre. When I phoned a few days before the weekend, I was told no other walkers were going.
Upon hearing this, I celebrated by tearing my trousers off, twirling them above my head and screaming, “I’d have the entire range to myself!”. Unfortunately I received this information whilst I was at the local library, so this celebration of ecstasy didn’t go down too well.
Well, the ‘no other walkers’ is a great theory, until I drove into the starting point at Troopers Creek Campground and observed multiple cars, plus the nemesis of the solo walker. Yes, the school group. Actually, has there ever been a group of about ten teenagers on a bush walk who don’t scream, yell and talk so loudly you’d think they’re trying to communicate to our neighbours on Abell 1835 IR1916?
This lot were no different and upon finding out they were intending to stay at my planned destination of the Briggs Bluff camp site, I contemplated an alternative overnight location. Anyway, I thought I’d give them a monster head start, so I didn’t set off for at least 40 minutes after they left.
There were another two blokes who were ahead of me as well and had apparently set off before I’d arrived. I told this by some elderly bloke called ‘Klaus’. He had been touring the area in a camper van and had stayed at the campground overnight. Klaus was fairly chatty and I noticed he’d perfected the ability to talk and not breathe as he did so.
He informed me he was going to knock off Mount Difficult as a day walk in the gear he was wearing. Fair enough, but I noted he was wearing a woollen jumper from the ‘Ötzi the Iceman Signature Series’ and a pair of slippers. I guess he had some more gear tucked away in his van, but one never knows.
So, that’s it. I was off and racing. My first observation was in winter the entire area had taken on a different look and feel. The range ahead was cloaked in low cloud and within minutes I was walking in a mist, which remained with me for the entire day.
Well, you can sit back now and relax, as the writing is going to dry up and I’ll head into ‘photo abuse’ time. There’s plenty of clambering on a rocky, tree strewn path to negotiate and I was moving gingerly to avoid falling over…
…as the area was soaking wet with the path like a small stream at times.
Remember the group who I’d given a massive head start to? Believe it or not, but I caught them within 30 minutes of walking. I’m not sure how that’s possible, considering my normal sloth-like speed, but whilst passing I did chat with one of the older blokes and asked him what the weather forecast was. His reply of ‘shower’s meant there hadn’t been any changes that I feared I might have missed out on. Looking ahead, the clouds were thickening…
…as I reached a fairly level section, which passes a towering wall of rock, covered in cloud.
The vistas were limited, but I was enjoying this misty walk in comparative silence, as I’d successfully left the screaming hordes behind. I then began a theme of this hike and that’s sections of weaving between huge slabs of rock.
On the last visit, reaching Tilwinda Falls seemed like a logical spot for a break. There are flat rocks to lounge on whilst taking in the vast views below, but in summer the falls were just a trickle. Again, it was a totally different scene with the water running.
This exposed area was where the first drama of the day began occurring. The conditions had been icy, but there was no wind or rain. That changed though, as suddenly the wind picked up and rain began to fall. Under completely grey skies I couldn’t work out what was in store, but I made sure to put on my ‘full wets’ of rain coat and overpants just in case.
Now it’s time for a video. Yes, you read that correctly. A video. I’ve taken the odd one here and there, but they’ve always being rough and ready, with a result they don’t interest me much. Also, I think I only take them when the weather is rubbish. They seem to make sense on those occasions, rather than footage of a nice, sunny day.
Before showing it, I suggest you turn down the volume or take off your headphones, otherwise the sound of the deafening wind may fry your eardrums. You don’t want to end up like me, who’s abused headphones for a lifetime listening to stuff like Young Man Blues by The Who at full throttle. My ears are officially cooked, but the music was great, which is the main thing, right?
Okay, I just crash-read the notes about uploading a video and I may have missed some details in the 17 seconds I took to read it, but here’s an experiment. It’s Tilwinda Falls just as the weather turned and I shot it in cinéma vérité style, which means any jerking of the camera was fully intentional and not due to me having no idea what I was doing.
That file was not exactly HD, but there you go. Now, the rain began to set in which meant the DSLR went away and I relied on a dodgy compact for the rest of the day. This wasn’t ideal either, as the forecast ‘showers’ appeared more like constant rain and only got heavier.
I continued to chip away at the climb until I reached the clearing of the Mount Difficult bush camp site, which is as far as we got on the last visit, On this occasion, it was only midday, so there was no point in stopping so soon. I figured I’d go back to my original planning and continue on to the Briggs Bluff camp and duke it out with the herd of kids who were intending to spend the night there.
I did want to look at the ‘view’ from the Mount Difficult summit though, so I dropped my backpack and headed up amongst the breezy weather. The summit trig point at 806 metres was looming in the clouds…
…and upon making it I made one fairly logical observation. It was BLOODY FREEZING. There was no view and I wasn’t sure why I was standing at the top, but it gave me a chance for another video didn’t it? Here you go, take in the sights.
I quickly hurried down and the plan now was to ‘get to the camp pronto’. The only bonus is the wind and rain was coming from behind me, so I didn’t have my crossover Joseph Merrick/Val Kilmer good looks being shredded.
I was also becoming aware of the length of this ‘shower’. As the rain had been pelting for hours, it felt like it may have been the longest ‘shower’ in the history of the world. Photos were now reaching farcical stage and I’d given up trying to keep water off the camera lens.
Do you think the lens is getting wet? Well, how about this then.
Just for a surprise though I made another video. Are you sick of them yet? There’s no half measures in the ‘fiasco world’, as I’ve adopted the all or nothing approach. This time the wind was getting stronger, but the walking was still doable. The only problem I had was the wet, tilted rock slabs were quite slippery to walk on. I was taking my time as I didn’t want to come a cropper in this exposed section.
I moved on dragging my soaking body along, until I reached the Briggs Bluff camp site, which was in quite a protected area than I’d been walking in. I found the two blokes who’d set off earlier in the day and asked them what the forecast was. They replied, “Showers”. So there you go, I wasn’t alone in thinking I might get the odd drenching, rather than the four hour constant rain that was showing no signs of letting up.
Now, you know what I did for this walk? I decided to take my bivy bag instead of a tent. My current tent is out of action and is in for repair and I discovered ‘the Smuffin’ has all of my others. Yes, for some reason he has three and all I had left was the bivy option.
Let’s say this here and now. Without some sort of tarp combo, the bivy bag sucks in wet weather. The rain was pelting down and I ended up cooking and eating outside, plus set up stuff which was creating some dampness in my gear. In fact, this is the first walk I’ve been on where all of my defences were breached. My feet were waterlogged and frozen, water had penetrated the backpack and the dry bags, which meant I was about to be acquainted with the ultimate hiking trauma. Yes, the sleeping bag was wet.
Not having a shelter meant there was nothing to do other than get into the bivy and sit it out, yet it was only 4 pm. This is what I did and I noted the sleeping bag was freezing cold and wet on the inside. Oh oh, where’s the story going to from here?
I’ll visit that in my next post and I suppose I should mention the herd of kids arrived yelling and screaming (why would it be any different?) and proceeded to set-up about six inches from me. Do people get lonely out bush? I ended up picking up all my crap and moving a further away, so the yelling was only mildly excruciating rather than suicide inducing.
To finish off, how about another video…
Good to hear you've been doing some hiking! Yeah, I went for a hike yesterday. The weather was supposed to clear and be sunny. But it had rained the night before and I got soaking wet walking through all the bushes! You just never know about the conditions. Can't wait to hear the rest of your story.
Hi Linda. yes that hiking business is ruining the blog. I need a few quiet weekends so I can catch up in here 🙂
You got soaked as well? I'm not jumping ahead of the story by saying I've had to reassess what protection I need on a wet hike! Once the stuff is wet it's all over! You're right though, the forecast may say one thing (like in this case) but prepare for the worst. I actually thought I'd done that though…
Wow, looks like you are reaching new levels of Fiasco'ness! Cant wait for the second installment.
Thanks Pini! He's still out there in the bush somewhere. This is the stunt double filling in for him 🙂
Ah yes, the walking Vs blogging line is a tricky one, isn't it? My output on the laptop has been shrinking in direct proportion to the growth of my "walking CV". It's no just that the weekends get eaten up either – I seem to require a good three or four days before I can even think about putting anything in words, and the chore of editing pictures etc…
It's funny, there must be some sort of fog voodoo at work among the blogging/walking people I know. Yours is the fourth reference counting my own I've come across in the last couple of days. Yours is the only one to involve intense discomfort, however! Well done! I had a BLAST walking and sleeping in mine, but it was a far more hospitable environment, temperate weather – and warm bedding.
The worst nights I've had on the trail have been in wet bags. I spent Sat night in a bivy too, but I'd normally have a tarp over it; it's very light and would wet out in seconds in your kind of downpour. The idea of lying in one all night while wet with nowhere to sit up and cook or whatever… Nasty.
Looking forward to the gruesome details!
Had my own trip planning fiasco on this one. Did this walk 20 years ago in reverse with 3 others (and 2 cars- this is relevant later) in overcast conditions, thank goodness, cause there was no water up on top. Started at Roses Gap with the heaviest pack I've carried – needed help to get it on – at least 24kg, long climb up to Beehive Falls, Briggs Bluff and undulated all the way to Mt Difficult. Then continued down that rocky section to camp at Troopers Creek just on dusk after a big day out. This camp is on the same road we started out on, but a few km further on! Hmmm.
The drama with the writing Vs blogging line is the pictures! I reckon I could knock up a post in an hour just writing crap, but it's the photos that slows me down. Yeah, I usually take so many and I like to re-jig them in Lightroom. I must say though that the rain caused me to take the least amount of photos of any hike I've been on lately!
I did notice the 'fog for all' lately! Oh yeah, I really should have dug out a tarp to go with the bivy. I really have no idea what I was thinking, but I have a hunch. A week of work that sucked the life out of me and it was a last minute pack to take off on Friday night! Okay, what I'm also saying is the work in getting in the way of the walking which then prevents blogging. It's a deadly trail….
Hey, thanks for dropping by and commenting. Comments are always welcome! This is the walk of the ages isn't it? I reckon if you came back in 50 years it'd still be the identical walk! I really think you may have ignored some of the principles of the ultralight philosophy with a 24 kg pack! That sounds beastly!
Yes, I was doing this walk on my own, so I don't want to pre empt the next post with a description of what happened in order to get back to my car (don't worry, it's not that exciting, but I have to talk it up somehow)
I'm in two minds about which is the better way to get to the top, either Beehive Falls or Mount Difficult? I think the Beehive Falls end is probably 'easier' although when it does go up it kicks up pretty sharp, but at least in short sections. Mm… I don't know, I'll have a think about that 🙂
I've got "normal 1 night dry or wet over 0 deg" pack weight down to 16kg (includes 2kg H20) and significantly boosted the ailing retail sector in doing so. That's heavy compared to the 12-14kg others with a lot more experience take. I can get weight down another 1 kg if I took more thought on gear selection eg. lighter weight tent for a good weather forecast, but usually I start packing from the gear spreadsheet from the previous walk and it takes mental effort to review the "goto gear" choices. Any less weight for me and there would be thermal compromises in the event of bad weather, eg fleece vs down jacket in the event of consistently wet weather.
The Mt Difficult campsite I saw was small, rocky, uneven and dry. We had enough time. I suppose that is why we carried on to Troopers. I would consider trying this as a day walk and car camp at Troopers next time.
Hi Peter, Yes, I think you'll find I've assisted the retail sector very nicely as well?! Actually, you won't find me telling you you're carrying too much weight on a walk, as I STILL carry too much considering what I've learnt over the last few years. I aim for sub 15 kg always, but that doesn't mean it always happens! At a guess, on this walk I only had about 10 kgs? Hey, where did that get me? I got wet and froze! In the end you carry whatever you feel you're comfortable with. Weight-weenies might tell you otherwise though…
Yeah, on the previous occasion up there we camped at the Mt Difficult campsite. Like you said it's dry! It's also not the most appealing, as we discovered that it appears to be the common spot for people to stop and take a dump! The joint was littered with land mines and I was scared to step foot in that area in the dark 🙂
Thanks for dropping by!
Enjoy reading your blog. Which hike do you think offers the best views out of Mt Abrupt and Mt Difficult? Planning on hiking out there this weekend and I'm keen on trying out my new DSLR!
Thanks for dropping by! Mm… I loved the walk up to Mount Difficult, as I liked the huge rocks to scramble over on the way. Mt Abrupt is a bit more casual on the climb. I reckon both have lovely views, especially late in the day. Camped on Mt Difficult once and the sunset was fantastic. Mt Abrupt would be the same!
If you're after non-stop views I wouldn't neglect the Major Mitchell Plateau up there either. Then again, Mt Rosea as well. Bloody hell, there are sights galore up there!
Enjoy the DSLR, as I can't survive without one 🙂