Here we go again. Round two of a Boronia Peak triple post. Just think, there’s only one more after this, so the pain will be over before you know it. Don’t let that put you off though, as this isn’t just any old walk to Boronia Peak. This is Boronia Peak and more. Sure, that makes no sense right now, but hopefully it will by the finish of this sorry saga.
Anyway, for those who have just landed here for the first time (poor bastards) I’ll give you a quick background spiel.
Boronia Peak, Grampians is a hill overlooking Halls Gap and it’s an 8 km return from the Brumbuk National Park and Cultural Centre to the peak and back.
Remember the highlights from the round one tilt? I climbed Boronia Peak, but didn’t find the official top, even though I was standing higher than it. Yeah, I know. This makes no sense at all, but what are you worrying about? I’m the chump who had to live the experience.
Anyway, during my non-climb, but higher attempt, I spied a craggy, rock and tree strewn lump of the Mount William Range, which sat about 800 metres from where I’d abandoned. In order to conquer this unnamed peak that stands about 12 feet above Halls Gap, I would need better gear than what I was wearing on my first climb. A pair of shorts that were three sizes too small were never going to cut it with the off-track Grampians bush. No, for the second visit I’d be in long strides and gaiters. Ready to do battle with the scrub.
I knew bashing through the bush would be a profane affair, but I did have one trick up my sleeve. Once I’d climbed the Peak with No Name, instead of back-tracking, I’d continue on a bit further and then descend. Running parallel with the ridge is a track that sits only 400 metres in distance away, but unfortunately to reach it, would require some wild-man descending on an off-track, steep slope.
Sure, I’d halve the distance of the walk compared to back-tracking, but there was the possibility I may die on the steep descent. Mm… ‘Walk four kilometres back to the start or stumble 400 metres down to a track with the only downfall being death.’ Really, it was an obvious choice. Who could be bothered walking four kilometres?
One problem though is what you’re going to look at. The photos tend to be taken from the same locations as before, but you do get a change of weather, so I guess that’s something? Then again, photographically it’s slim pickings on the climb.
Originally, I was going to combine the pictures from all trips into the one post, so for this stroll, I didn’t need to take many until reaching the top. Don’t worry though. I can pad the post out with some crap before I get near the peak.
Anyway, there I was. At Halls Gap in the early afternoon with plenty of daylight to spare. Don’t laugh, but I even parked in the same car parking spot as the last trip. It’s like I placed OCD with a touch of Aspergers into a blender and this was the result.
Heading off, even though I was soon motoring along the gentrified walking track, I did feel some mild apprehension. In a short time, I knew I’d leave the manicured, wide path and enter a world of jagged rocks and prickly bushes. My skin would be slashed and blood shed, plus some bruising thrown in if I was lucky.
In order to confront what was coming, I pondered deep philosophical sayings for the purposes of motivation. In the end, I settled on a profound statement by Nick Conklin, who more or less summed up what was required mentally.
Perceptive. Erudite. Completely bonkers. Why am I grabbing my balls? What do I do with them once I’m holding them? Play conkers with them? Hang on, which head is he talking about? I’ll think it over and if I come up with an answer, I’ll let you know.
As I described the climb in the last entry, I might as well fast-track things. Along the way I encountered some wildlife. This kookaburra appeared to have collected an oversized insect…
…and an echidna began burying itself as soon as it heard my Richter Scale reading feet approaching.
Like the previous trip, the air was still on the west side of the range, but as I passed my favourite rock wall…
…I knew the track would switch to the east side only a short distance on. As before, when I reached the change of sides, a breeze was well received, as long pants and gaiters were certainly creating some heat. There was a nice open view to take my mind off spontaneous combustion.
It felt like I knew the track off by heart, for as soon as I passed this large boulder…
…I was aware the top wouldn’t be far away. It’s going quick, isn’t it? You might be thinking this post will be over in a few minutes, but unfortunately it’s just starting.
I climbed the narrow, rocky gully to reach the top and like before, instead of turning right and being on the peak, I headed left. Okay, this is clearly incorrect, but I’ll make amends in the next entry.
The ridge-line all the way to Mount William stretched out in front of me and now it was going to be a totally different walk. The gentrified track would be left behind and from now on, it would be rough and ready. I climbed a short rocky peak and surveyed the view to the east. On a clear day the views are pretty good…
…but there was a trade-off when reaching the ridge. Although the breeze was nice, I was now exposed to the burning orb above, but without any shade. Being tall as well, I stand closer to the sun, so it’s always a little hotter for me compared to others.
I had a short break to take in the sights of Halls Gap below…
…and to look ahead at my next objective. A rise in the rocks that was obscuring my main target, which was a larger peak about 800 metres away.
So what was the plan? I’ll tell you. There was no plan, other than reaching that stinkin’ peak and not lose too much skin in the process. Moving on, it was never going to be a stroll, as anything off-track in the Grampians won’t allow it. Rugged rocks and prickly bushes are de rigueur. In order to reach my Peak with No Name, I firstly had to negotiate the roller-coaster nature of the ridge-line. Rises and falls…
… that needed to be dealt with first.
By now the sun was beginning to bite, so I was officially melting. The clear skies did offer up the occasional sights though. A jet passed overhead, leaving a contrail in its wake.
I paused for a moment to watch and only one thought passed through my mind.
“Look at that. I just know it’s full of pricks munching on peanuts, drinking Sauv Blanc, reclining on their comfortable seats in air-conditioned comfort, whilst a high rotation of the Mile High Club is occurring in the comfort stations“.
That’s fairly standard on a domestic air flight, isn’t it?
Back to the task in hand, I bashed and banged my way through the bush and reached the top of a small rise and now the main aim for the day was clearly in sight. Oh, by the way. I was well aware I wasn’t heading into uncharted territory, as it was obvious a few others had stumbled over the same route. Okay. Make that hundreds, considering the rather man-sized, rock cairns…
…that were starting to appear.
It was slow going, as I performed balancing acts on various rocks. I may have been getting closer to the target…
…but trying to stay on the ridge was too time consuming. Clambering ahead, I was out of the scrub, but constantly dealing with precarious descents along the ridge in order to keep moving. Nearly all the rocks facing Halls Gap were tilted and with their vertical sides…
…a new plan would have to be hatched, otherwise I’d still be up there now.
I decided to drop down the eastern side below the ridge. Why not the western side? Well, that’s because most of it was a vertical drop and although it would have made for a quick return to Halls Gap, I’d probably have been in a dozen pieces as a result.
As is the way though, I may have being less likely to tumble off elevated rocks along the ridge, but now I was facing this sort of stuff.
Confronted with such a sight, it was time to unleash my foolproof off-track technique. This involves non-stop audible swearing and bulldozer-style bush bashing, as I powered through dozens of prickly trees (I’m sure there’s a technical name for them).
Trying to delicately walk in scrub never works, so I decided to power on and try to reach the Peak with No Name, as fast as possible. Alas, this meant the camera was parked for the most part.
If there was an opportunity to be out of the trees, I’d head there…
…before dropping down into the bushes again.
I was making progress though and eventually I reached a point where the peak was peak now above me. I abandoned the lower slope, headed straight up…
…and with a final effort, reached the top. It had been a bit of a struggle, but my mission was complete. Deciding to have a rest on the peak, I surveyed my surroundings. Lake Bellfield seemed closer…
…and behind me, the rough and rocky peak now obscured the route I’d come.
Oh, and to continue the theme that I’d probably being the one millionth person to make it to the peak, a stone cairn was visible. Okay, this one was a bit piss-poor, but I can understand its lack of oomph. If you make it to the little hill, you’d probably feel like I was. Too stuffed to be dragging rocks around to add to the cairn.
Now what? Well, in some ways, the fun and games were about to begin. Backtracking was never going to happen, as there’s no way I’d endure that scrub again, just for the purpose of reaching the manicured track. No, I didn’t have much to do, other than find a way down to the saddle between the Peak with No Name and the next rise in the ridge. Then I’d have to work out a route down the steep slope to the track below.
Okay, the path below was completely obscured by trees, but I knew it wasn’t too far away. Mind you, where I was standing was never going to be the area to descend. Those tilted rocks weren’t to be trifled with, as there was plenty of fresh air along their rocky sides to the nearest ground.
I felt quite high and the ridge appeared quite narrow. I figured I’d follow it for as long as it seemed safe to do so. As I headed off, things were going fine, until I reached the next spot. Rocks and a break in the trees…
…were handy for the traditional, ‘vertical branch off-set photo opportunity’. It’s an old favourite.
This might be nice, but there was now a problem. The ridge ahead suddenly plummeted dozens of metres down into the bush, so clearly it was a cliff. I’d have to get off it, but following the top was always going to catch up to me sooner or later. Somehow, I’d have to drop down, but the western side was suicide and the east was…, well… ugly.
I was facing a wall of scrub and I didn’t really know what was in it. I was hoping there weren’t vertical sections that would send me on a wild back-tracking expedition, so it was a matter of pushing through the bushes and feeling their delightful, stabbing feeling all over my body…
…until I cleared some trees and found myself in a dodgy position. Rocks were ahead and the ground to my left dropped down steeply. The following photos don’t do the area justice, as I was staring at the tops of substantial trees, which in the images, just look like little bushes.
Anyway, I was feeling knackered, but had enough wattage within the globe in my brain to realise this was a time to concentrate, as a substantial tumble was on the cards.
I could see the saddle wasn’t too far ahead, but I was way too high, so I thought it was best to inch down slowly, with frequent stops to reassess. Oh, plus take in the surroundings, which allowed the off-set branch photo to be taken again. Quite nice, don’t you think?
I was covered in small cuts and the thick layer of sweat across my exposed skin meant I was starting to look like my surroundings. Yes, it’s a scary thought, but I was resembling the Grampians scrub, as it was now attached to me.
Moving slowly, I was getting lower, but this next section…
…was a bit hairy, so I utilised the safest known descent method. The patented ‘slide on the arse’ technique. I managed to zig-zag down the various rocks until somehow I’d reached ground I could actually walk on.
Phew. I felt relieved, as I’d dropped off the ridge and somehow was in one piece. I’d reached the saddle and now all I had to do was find some sort of route down to the track below. As I’d thought, I checked the GPS and literally, the path was only 400 metres away, but the ground to reach it was steep.
Oh, plus I made a slight mistake. I’d employed full concentration to get off the potentially lethal ridge and was feeling relieved to have done so. Now, being in a more comfortable setting, I relaxed. You know where this is going, don’t you?
I made my way around the cliff that I’d been standing on earlier and was now on the west side of the ridge. There didn’t appear to be any more scary obstacles to negotiate. Just scrub and a steep, leaf littered hill-side. Oh, the next photo is quite nondescript, but you should enjoy it, as this is the last you’ll see for a while. Why’s that?
I’ll tell you why. I pushed through those trees and assessed what was ahead. It was steep and the leaf-litter was slippery under foot, so I thought I should brace myself against the various small boulders and rocks along the way. I spied one particularly large-sized monolith and stood on it. Ah, but you know those rocks in the Grampians? Hard as nails and they’ve been there for a few million years? Living up to their rock solid moniker?
Except this one. As my left boot touched it, suddenly the rock took off down the hill. Unfortunately, I was attached to it. With my foot taken out from under me, I was immediately unbalanced and always going to fall, but this one would be a little bit different.
When I used to ski, I’d always crash in Biblical style. There were some spills that were so impressive, they’d create cheers of delight from punters sitting on the chair lifts. Once, I incorporated a full cartwheel and when I came to, my skis and poles appeared to be a few kilometres away, due to the severity of the crash, not to mention I looked like a snowman.
The reason I’m mentioning this is because the Grampians tumble felt the same. As the slope was so steep, I didn’t just fall to the ground. Instead, as I fell forward, I was in the air a fair amount of time before hitting the dirt.
In fact, I performed a cartwheel, but with a slight variation. Instead of rotating with my hands, I used my head instead. I can assure you this isn’t the preferred cartwheel technique. No, my left shoulder was the first thing to hit the ground and due to the slope, I felt like I was travelling close to the speed of sound. For a brief second I did think I might cover the 400 metre descent like a dirtball. Oh, that’s a snowball without snow.
As you can imagine, even I couldn’t record this tumble photographically, so I’ve compromised a little. I hope you don’t mind.
Anyway, as I rolled from the shoulder to my head, I was aware I was vertical, but unfortunately the wrong way round for walking. I was never going to balance on my head for long and you know you’re in for a big one, when for a brief moment you see your feet. And blue sky.
As the rotation continued I felt reassured I’d brought my will up to date, as clearly I was in for the long haul. Suddenly though I stopped. My saviour was an enormous tree, blackened by a fire at some stage. I’d done a full rotation and then during the second spin, my left shoulder and side of my head slammed into the tree. I’d come to rest, looking like this.
I’m not sure if I’d been knocked out for a few seconds, but I felt like my right ankle was positioned at the top of my left ear. Definitely not comfortable. After the violence there was silence and I remember feeling my heart pounding and breathing being elevated. My eyes were shut for a moment, but as I opened them, I couldn’t believe my luck, as there was a bloke standing in front of me.
Great! He can assist me! Fancy that? How lucky was I to fall right where some stranger was located? Okay, he was dressed a little weird, but who cares?
He reached out his hand and I extended mine in appreciation, as it appeared he was about to help me to my feet. Guess what happened though? As our hands were about to touch, he suddenly disappeared. Huh? What a prick! I was feeling a little flummoxed about him suddenly vanishing, so I hope to catch up with him again one day, just to give him a piece of my mind. He looks pretty distinctive, so can you keep your eye out as well and let me know if you see him? Anyway, here he is and…
…I’ve heard your chances of meeting him are better if you speed in your car at night when it’s raining. Oh, make sure you’re not wearing your seatbelt either.
Anyway, I’d come to and I’m not sure if I was horrified by the tree I’d hit or was in admiration. A number of burnt, broken branches were sticking out of the trunk and somehow my head and shoulder hadn’t speared any of them. It felt like I’d dodged a spike trap in a platform game.
I must admit, I did lie there for some time, wondering why I was there. What’s the point of walking when it comes to a moment like that? Clearly, it’s stupid. The longer I was lying there though, the more I was aware that things were starting to hurt. My shoulder was allowed to ache as it had taken two big impacts. I’m not sure about my right knee though. The similarity to a skiing accident was complete, as I’d wrenched it at some point.
What about my gear though? There was a traumatic moment when I realised my Dame Edna’s had been pulverised. One lens had been sent into orbit and if you look to the eastern sky just after sunset, you might see it reflecting in the setting sun.
That’s not all though. I was well and truly aware of something metallic next to my ear. What could that be? Well, have a look at this. My HMG pack has aluminium stays along the back and somehow one of them decided to make a break for it. Yes, it had been driven up and then through the cuben-fiber until it almost removed my ear. Has anyone ever seen anything like this before? Cuben is meant to be tough, but clearly not strong enough for my use. I could be used as a test bed for all sorts of stuff. If I can’t break it, then I could officially approve it as ‘Fiasco Proof’.
What else? Other than some new scratches, the camera had somehow survived. I wasn’t sure about my body though, as I finally managed to stand up and was aware the knee was well and truly hurting. I still had to get down the steep slope, so I put the camera into the pack, as I needed all the mobility I could muster to get down.
Finally resuming, I began to inch down and I must admit, those 400 metres seemed to take an eternity. About a decade later, I finally made it to the track below and it’s massive size with no annoying scrub or rocks was well appreciated.
There was some serious pain from the knee, so any fast moving back to the car was out. It was slow-speed ahead hobbling and all you need to know is it took me forever to make it back. In all my disastrous walks, this is easily the one where I appreciated seeing the car the most.
It was time to dump the pack, get in the drivers seat and plant the foot, never wanting to see the Grampians ever again. Oh, except for the next time, as technically I still hadn’t climbed Boronia Peak. How’s this possible? Well, again, I hadn’t grasped the metal pole on the ‘summit’. Actually, I still didn’t even know where it was, but don’t panic, as I will reveal all in the next post. Yet again, I’ll put you through the same climb. This truly is the Trilogy of Terror. Minus Karen Black though.
Is there anything else about this walk to talk about? You know there is, as it resulted in a visit to the doctor. I’ll cover that in the next entry, as I shoved the distorted aluminium stay back into my back, removed a few kilos of Grampians vegetation from my pockets…
…and planned my next tilt. Oh, remember my smashed Dame Edna’s? Lucky they only cost $10, as all I did was get another pair. Ha! Take that Grampians! You didn’t win that battle, for I have spares…
…although I must admit, you nearly destroyed my shirt. You left it no longer looking pristine, but instead, made it resemble something you’d expect to find during an archaeological dig. A dust cloaked funeral shroud complete with bloodstains.
Finally this post comes to an end and really, I’ve nothing more to add to it. I’d only walked part of the range, but at least I reached the peak I’d set out to do. If you’re a real wild man, then in theory you could continue on, all the way to Mount William. Maybe.
Until next time…