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 36° C last Monday and by the time I got to the Prom later in the week, it seemed to be no more than 6° 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,
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.
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…
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.
As resident slow-coach, it wasn’t too bad, as I could use my distant companions for scale in any photos…
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…
…before lifting and returning to the traditional misty conditions.
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.
I admired trees clinging onto steep slopes…
…and with the sun shining through, the overall object for the walk, the Viking, was clearly in view.
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.
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 Buttslam 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…
…before entering a forested section…
…and then steeply descending into Horrible Gap. Mount Speculation now began to loom higher as we dropped height.
The steep forested slopes were also visible and that’s exactly where the track was headed…
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…
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?
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…
I started clambering up…
…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…
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.
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.
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…
Another rock band…
…along a winding path…
…and the view looking back from the top of the rock wall.
This continued until the finish line was in sight. Hardy trees were perched near the summit…
…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.
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…
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.
It’s impressive, isn’t it? So much so, here it is again.
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’…
…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.
I remember well the final ascent to Mt Speculation. It was clear skies, hot and I'd run out of water. Talking of water it is very close to the campsite at Mt Speculation.
Reading that makes me tired, and my legs hurt. And I'm thirsty. And my legs hurt so much and I'm so tired I can't even venture to the tea room for lunch to even see if someone's stolen my lunch.
I couldn't even do more than snort at your funnyisms due to my immense exhaustion. I did however find the energy to admire those amazing clouds.
Must go; I need a cathartic cry and vicarious snooze.
I look forward to these posts so much! I am full of delight when my RSS reader informs me of another HF post. I especially like the multiple day ones. Do more longer walks you lazy bum!
Iconic very much summarises the Crosscut saw, it is one of the trips that every bushwalker must do, and what is more it is possibly the best ridge walk in Victoria. Mt Buggery, well it is deceptive, both in its location and the effort required to climb it. Speculation, another great peak and one on which I have camped which provided wonderful views of Terrible Hollow and the Wonangatta valley. And yes its is a challenging walk with many ascents and descents 2449 ft (746m) only tells part of the story. Looking forward to the next day.
Nice one mate!
More of the same please!
Nice post. I did Mac Springs to Spec and back in a long 10 hour day 14 months ago. 18C Took 4L water and ran out at the high point. Very dry up there.
Hi Ken, I reckon it would be hellish on a hot day once out of the tree-line. Pretty exposed and I was hot enough on the coolish day I had.
I did see on the map where Camp Creek was, but I didn't look as I was confident Catherine Saddle had plenty. Plus I had to look for my walking companions!
I'm sorry to wear you out! If you were tired after this post, wait until the one. It's a ball tearer!!
Ah yes, big fluffy clouds are another weakness of mine. Especially if there's a bit of rain in them!
I'm glad my misery is your entertainment! I've got a backlog of stuff, so hopefully you'll enjoy some of the stuff to come. I'm not sure if I've many multi-walks up my sleeve though? My next time off of any length is in March. Hopefully then, I can slot in something that goes more than three days! Best I get planning, as I don't want to be labelled a lazy bum! Very harsh 🙂
Yes Roger, I think the Crosscut is exactly what you say it is! Definitely one to do and even better if it's a clear day. Mt Buggery did catch me off-guard a little, which is probably why the first blokes who climbed it, called it the name it is!
I'd love to camp on Speculation one day just for the sunrise. If there are clouds within the valley, I can imagine it'd be spectacular. Definitely a place I need to go back to, but at my leisurely pace!
I was pretty tired at the end of this day and you're definitely right, as the overall elevation climbed doesn't reflect the effort. When I think about this walk now, I barely remember any sections of note with level ground. I seemed to be permanently going uphill or bracing my legs on a steep downhill.
Hi Darren, thanks! I'm working on the next post, but it will be hard to describe all of what happened. It was a killer!
Thanks JM. 10 hours? I must say you move quicker than me. It took me 10 hours to Catherine Saddle one way! That's the trouble with ridge top walks, not a drop of water anywhere. I go through a lot of water, so if things were ideal I'd carry 6L, but then there's the weight…
No wonder I walk in the cooler months most of the time!
If you go in early December, you find the log book entries for the Timbertop kids, where they walked back from Mt Spec to Vallejo Gantner Hut in 3 hours. They do from Mt Spec to the Viking and return as a day walk. It was good to see that some of them looked like not making it back in daylight. As they say youth is wasted on the young.
Beautiful shots, Greg. So nice to see some alpine scenery — you don't see that much in an Australian hiking context. As always, I loved the dry realism of the place/landmark names as well.
I can admire people who move really fast and chew up the distance. Twenty years ago, I reckon I would have done the same, but these days I feel like hanging around a bit more and absorbing the landscape. Three hours is almost a jog. Good luck to them!
Thanks Goat. I'm pretty slack, I really should get up to the alpine areas a bit more. A combination of the wrong car and too far to drive after work on a Friday are my usual excuses 🙂
I'm no racehorse. Small day pack. If you can't pause to take in the views from Spec, it's just an adventure race with blinkers to the next campsite/waterhole. With no prize at the end. I spent an hour having lunch under the tree at Spec, and that wasn't enough. HG must be programmed to be hot and clammy.
Mate, you sound exactly like the bloke I need to walk with! I definitely like the thought of ignoring the 'speed over distance' thinking and just enjoy being out there. To each their own, but I'm certainly not wanting to be a walker like my companions on this particular trip. It was all go, but not a lot of contemplation. At the end mentally, it just felt like I'd missed something?
Oh yeah, give me a ridge top with a breeze any day!
Did the same walk but in reverse as a group of 10, 15 year old girls in mid November. What a killer!!!!!
In reverse? I've wondered what that would be like and it's given me some ideas about redoing it with a whole new look to the walk. At least there wouldn't be the bizarre climb up from the Wonnangatta on the last day! Mm…
Oh yeah, I found this day pretty hard and the heat wasn't helping! I think my walking cut-off will kicking in within a few months due to hot weather 😉
Loved reading this, makes me want to hike it. It’s going on the list 🙂 who doesn’t stop to take in a view?? …you need better hiking companions for sure lol
It’s a great walk! Just need to go with people who interested in the surroundings, rather than doing it just for the physical challenge 🙂