Saturday, 4 May 2019

Six Years... Did Ya Miss Me?

Life is a funny thing, ain't it.

As you may have noticed (or are only just realizing now), I've been away from the old blogosphere for some time now.

Six long years as it would happen to be.


*insert long drawn out story of heartbreak and bad choices here*

So, the big problem with all of that happening is that along with losing every piece of gear that I owned, I went and got myself a tad plump too. This all meant that I had to start fresh. No gear, just me, a day pack, a camera, a set of wheels, and a pair of Volleys.

Oh, and I moved down south as well. 

I suppose this means that, whether I like it or not, I have got to get back into shape so I can go and climb mountains, and have other disgusting adventures in the bush.

You know... because it's there and all.

Luckily, I'm more than happy with that outcome.

Well... happier than I am about missing Game of Thrones this week so I can make the most of some pristine Autumn weather to go try and claim a long overdue summit, but that's a story for an upcoming post. ;)





It's bloody good to be back. ;)

Saturday, 27 April 2013

King Davids Peak, Walls of Jerusalem Hike - Day Two

Clumner Bluff on a crisp April morning

Cairns. Stacks of rocks placed within sight of people, to help guide people in the right direction. Only particularly useful if there is one set of cairns heading in the same direction.

Why is it that the National Parks wish people to not put cairns out on their travels? Simple. Because it leads to confusion, causes multiple pads to develop, causes more foot traffic than is otherwise desired in areas that are not maintained, yadda yadda yadda, the list goes on.

Having said that, it is not very often that I have a hard time navigating. Today was one of those days.

But let's start at the start shall we...

I awoke to a bitterly cold morning, a sleeping bag covered in a thin layer of ice that had developed as my warm breath froze in the sub 2 or 3 degree weather.

I was warm in my Merino thermals, fleece, two beanies, and after giving myself a full belly of food, I headed for Herods Gate, with the full intention of climbing Solomons Throne, King David's Peak, The Temple, and Mt Jerusalem.

It was going to be a bloody cold day.

Speaking of Merino, admittedly, I've never used it. Knowing that I was going to the Walls in border cold season (when is it not cold in Tassie?), considering that Hypothermia really is not that much fun, I thought there was no better time to give it a shot, wearing a Merino baselayer top with non Merino bottoms.

Truth be told, I haven't taken off my Merino top once this trip. I'm even wearing it right now at Wild Dog Creek, writing a draft for this post on my iPhone, as I do.

So... To cut a long story short, I will be investing in more Merino. It kept me very warm. And as an added bonus, it smells pretty good for a long time too. :)

Anyway, back to that story about what happened today.

It was bat shit cold. Headed up to Herods Gate, King David's Peak was under a little cloud, however the sun starting to wake up and make its presence known helped banish that cloud.

King Davids Peak is an impressive peak. I remember first seeing a picture of it in an old John Chapman book (a much older edition that detailed a route to the summit via the old climbing gully), and I never stopped wanting to climb it.

That was back in the mid 90's though, and as much as I have been to the Walls twice prior (both day trips), I had never climbed any peaks, or seen any major landmarks.

The further through the main valley you get, the views just get more and more impressive. The last time I was here, I got as far as a few hundred meters before the Pool of Bethesda, and turned around so I could get back to the car before dark.

The time before that, I got snowed in, and had to turn around.

This time, I had my eye set on climbing Solomons Throne, King Davids Peak, the Temple, and Mt Jerusalem.

The weather looked like it was going to permit it too.

But I had to climb Solomons Throne first.

And with the snow that fell on the Walls two days before, and the ridiculously cold night that I'd just woken up from, the climbing gully up Solomons Throne was just a wee bit icy.

Being the slow walker that I am, I let a few people catch up to me near the top, and made a joke about bringing crampons. Would have made the going just a wee bit easier for sure.

The view from the top was impressive, with most major Tasmanian peaks in full view. Cradle Mountain was hiding under cloud, as it did for most of the trip, and the full Du Cane Range was visible for a short while as well, before disappearing under cloud again.

Frenchmans Cap was visible to the south west, and on the far southerly horizon, Mt Anne and the jagged ridgeline of the Western Arthurs appeared to be having a perfectly clear day.

And of course, there was King Davids Peak, which I was about to head off to.

John Chapmans track notes speak of a 1.5 hour return trip, which was perfect considering that I wanted to summit another two peaks before the day was done. The way looked pretty clear too.

The thing to know about climbing King Davids Peak is that there is a fairly good pad that follows the main crest of the West Wall for around 750 meters or so, into a semi open saddle. From this point, there is a fair deal of boulder hopping, and battling with thick low scrub.

Whilst there are the odd few cairns through the climb to the top of King Davids Peak, there are multiple sets of cairns that head in multiple directions, creating multiple pads, some that lead to nowhere, and others that lead somewhere.

Some cairns lead to difficult scrambles up large boulders, and others lead to thick scrub, heading off the main crest.

In fact, the most difficult aspect of getting to the summit of King Davids Peak is finding a route through the boulders. At times, this is challenging, and scrubby.

But eventually, I did get there, and after one last scramble over the summit boulders, I was there.

Walking close to the edge, I got this epic view as well.

...and as much as I would have loved to have stayed for longer, the wind chill was not good at all.

Plus, the clouds that were moving in from the Western Tiers didn't look that much fun.

Finding my way back to the climbing gully of Solomons Throne was a little challenging, with some awkward scrambling from the summit to the open saddle, then an easy climb up to Solomons Throne, and an icy descent down to Damascus Gate.

Total return time was closer to 4 hours.

Then again, I am a slow walker.

The walk down to Dixons Kingdom was out of this world, being one of the most densely populated areas of King Billy Pines in the Walls of Jerusalem, crossing to the other side of Damascus Gate was like crossing into a completely different National Park.

I did become aware of a smell of smoke however... having passed a few young guys yesterday on their way up to Dixons Kingdom Hut, I was wondering if they had lit a campfire near the hut, however, the smell just got stronger and stronger.

Arriving at Dixons Kingdom Hut, visibility had dropped, with no peaks visible, and the tempreture dropped significantly too.

This made for a very quick lunch, and reluctantly, I decided to head back to Wild Dog Creek, so that I could:
  • A) Keep as warm as possible
  • B) Keep an eye on where the smoke was coming from

...however, as I climbed higher out of Dixons Kingdom, the smoke started to clear.

...and in its place, clouds obscured the tops of the peaks, and what appeared to be very fast moving winds that if the cold winds experienced on the peaks earlier in the day were anything to go by, meant that it would have been excruciatingly cold up on the top of The Temple. 

So, I headed to the Pool of Bethesda instead. 

I cant help but think of how much of an amazing place to camp this was, back before it became so overused that camping was banned here.

Such is life though.

And as much as I could have easily followed the old pad from here to the Pool of Siloam, it was getting pretty cold and windy, and it was time to head back to camp.

And that's about where this day ends.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Solitary Hut, Walls of Jerusalem Hike - Day One

I have never seen so much Wallaby shit in my life.

When I was walking up Wild Dog Creek from the saddle between Lake George Howe and Golden Gate, to the Wild Dog Creek camping area, that just seemed like an appropriate way to start this post - the first in a few.

See, at the time of writing this post, I'm at Wild Dog Creek. It's approaching zero degrees fast, but I'm toasty in my Marmot Helium wrapped in my thermals, and a bottle of warm water in the bag at my feet.

Best idea I was ever given on a Bushwalking forum. Apparently warm water in a Platypus Bottle works better. Sounds genius to me!

Anyway... Today started with a quick climb up to Trappers Hut - a fair climb of some 500 - 600 meters over two kilometers, however mostly gradual apart from a steep pinch close to Trappers Hut.

It goes on like this for a little bit.

And then after the track flattens out for around 200 meters, and climbs for a little bit, and...


Now things get fun.

See, back in 1983, an unnamed man decided that for some reason or another, he wanted to get away from life as he knew it, so he illegally built a hut in the Walls of Jerusalem, in a little traveled area near Tiger Lake, just east of Lake George Howes.

He lives in this hut for 18 months... Wait... He can explain it better in his old entry in the huts log book.

Click the image if you actually want to read what he has to say...

It's actually pretty rare to find a log book with entries that date back this far. Writing my own entry almost felt like an intrusion.

I'd been wanting to visit this hut for a while, and until recently, I knew nothing of the existence of a track to the hut.

The track to the hut is not on maps, but it does exist, and it is surprisingly very easy to follow from behind Trappers Hut.

I was surprised to see how well defined the track is, as it cuts through the scrub, and suddenly emerges into the open valley that runs parallel with Solomons Jewels, that is also filled with small pretty tarns, cushion plants, King Billy Pines, and views extending to Cradle Mountain.

By my standards, the track through here was quite well defined, and very easy to follow.

Having walked through Solomons Jewels a handful of times, I was pretty impressed with this route, having avoided the annoying steep pinch above Trappers Hut, and passing scenery that rivaled that seen near Solomons Jewels.

I'm pretty certain that I'll be following this route again. 

Lake George Howes appeared very unexpectedly out of nowhere.

And Solitary Hut appeared perched above Tiger Lake equally unexpectedly after following one of numerous pads that I hoped would lead me to the hut.

Turns out that this Solitary bloke really didn't want to be interrupted. The hut blends into its surroundings like no other hut I've seen. You only see the hut when you are a mere few meters away from it, so it makes me curious about just how the hut was discovered in 84 or 85 by passers by, leading to the Solitary Man leaving the hut behind, returning to life as he knew it, allowing passers by to use the hut.

...or so the story goes...

The magic thing about Solitary Hut is, like many of the old cattlemen huts in the Victorian High Country, is that this was someone's home, only recently, and it still is from time to time. It's history is still living as we breathe. 

With visits to the hut being rare, and by those who seek to find it only, you get a real sense that you are intruding when you find the hut, even though the Solitary Man has made visitors very welcome.

The hut looks like it has been lived in (and still lived in), and the log book in the hut tells many stories of those who set out to find it, including the late Frank Austin "Paddy" Pallin, and "The Punks" who spread hate and anarchy across the Walls of Jerusalem with very humorous log book entries.

Now... I had a pretty late start today. Originally, I'd intended to continue on through Golden Gate to Zion Vale, and onward to Dixons Kingdom for the night.

This didn't happen.

It was around 3pm, and with everything from the intersection of Wild Dog Creek onward being completely unfamiliar territory, I decided to head up Wild Dog Creek to... well... Wild Dog Creek, so I could set up camp before dark.

I'd seen this valley on maps, and on Google Earth, and it appeared to be very open, and very easy to follow.

I had also heard from others that it was a good valley to follow as an alternate route into the Walls.

As guessed, it was open country keeping to the right of the creek until around 200 meters before the Solomons Jewels Track, where a pad crosses the creek, and care needed to be taken avoiding the cushion plants before arriving at the main track.

Oh... and I've never seen as much Wallaby shit in my life as I did through this section. ;)

Seriously... it was everywhere.

And then, I remembered something important.

I'd never camped on a tent platform before, and had planned this trip to camp on the ground at Dixons Kingdom.

The problem with tent platforms (as I fast learned today) is that the anchors that are provided on the platforms are completely useless, and extremely hard to tension properly.

Not only that, but for a tent such as the North Face Tadpole 23 that I use, you need a few more lines in order to pitch the tent properly.

...and with my amazing luck, the temperature plummeted as I arrived at camp, making setting up the anchors particularly painful for my freezing hands, but hey... at least I was warm that night with my hot water filled Nalgene bottle in my foot baffle.

Seriously... one of the best ideas I've ever been given. But more on that next time when I talk about exactly how bloody cold it got that night.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Jetstar Stole My MSR Fuel Bottle!!!

"Yes sir, you are allowed to travel with empty fuel bottles in checked baggage for a liquid fuel stove, so long as it is empty and aired out. It's a common item that our passengers can travel with". 

That's what the Jetstar customer care representative told me on the phone the night before departing for Tasmania for a few days at the Walls of Jerusalem, a few days at Cradle Mountain, and a few days hanging out in Devonport with family.

I should have known better. The last time I flew Jetstar to Sydney, I was repeatedly told off by cabin crew for leaning back in my chair during takeoff and landing, when it was a fault with the chair, where it wouldn't stay upright.

Just a little safety issue. No biggie Jetstar.

Anyway, I'm a fuel bottle short, but managed to fight to save my stove. Turns out that any stove needs special clearance from the airline or something, but I managed to get it nevertheless.

...a little kicking and a screaming may have been involved here...

Lucky for me, the lovely folk at Mountain Designs in Launceston were able to help me out with a small fuel bottle.

They were also appreciative of their new found knowledge that Jetstar like to confiscate safe hiking equipment.

Thank god I'm flying home with Virgin.

If a bird is blocking your path to safety, you shall not pass!

I just hope that their emergency exits are allowed to be opened in the case that there is a giant bird blocking the emergency exit.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to have scary as shit nightmares tonight about planes and birds blocking emergency exits.

I mean... Anyone who has been offered to sit at the emergency exit would be familiar with their need to ask passengers the usual, "Are you willing to help in the case of an emergency" question.

If only they informed passengers of the potential dilemma that they just might face in the instance that everybody in the cabin is going to die because a giant friggin bird is blocking the emergency exit!!

...anywhoo, I've arrived in Tassie for a few days bush. I lived here for a bit, and whilst I did a whole lot of day walking, I just didn't do that much overnighting, so I'm here to catch up on that.

And it's Fagus season. Not much bad about that.

Oh, and I'm leaving tomorrow for a few days in the Walls of Jerusalem.

Just so long as I can get rid of this bad throat that I seem to have inherited at some point between Melbourne and Launceston.

God damn you Jetstar.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A Story About A's, B's, and Anything Inbetween.

This doesn't tickle.

"If it hurts, then why the hell do you keep doing it to yourself?".

I've been asked that question by just about everyone that has come and gone in my life, and truth be told, I must be completely bonkers.

Today, when getting home from an early(ish) morning 8 kilometre bike ride around Sunbury, I said to my better half, "You know, there's no better way to remind me what it used to be like to be a smoker, than putting me on a bike and telling me to pedal".

True story. On both counts I mean... along with losing 45 kilograms last year, I also smoked my way through my entire 20s, and have been quit nearly two years now.

And to think, I haven't even bought up my expensive taste for red wine yet... ;)

So, why is it that with a burning pair of lungs, I am planning my next ride? Or with a sore stiff set of legs, I'm planning my next hike?

Again... I must be bonkers.

Life of Pi. Exceptionally good story.

A few weeks ago, I saw Life Of Pi. If you haven't seen it already, do yourself a favor and see it. Or read it. It's an enlightening story.

The reason I bring this up is because of a really interesting segment in the book that discusses the freedom of captive animals.

Bear with me, I know you're thinking I've gone off the rails here...

Think about an animal in captivity. It gets fed every day, gets medical attention when it's needed, it has very little worry about being a victim of the food chain, or being killed by a jealous competitor within its own group, and gets a whole lot of love from its captors on a daily basis.

At least ours do.

Suki, Beethoven, & Butters doing what they do best.

An animal in captivity has to worry less about survival, gets to relax in the sun, eat, mate, rinse and repeat.

An animal in the wild however has freedom by definition, but needs to worry about becoming victim to the food chain, has to work hard to get food, and all of the above.

So, ask yourself, as a member of the crazy race that we are, what would you choose?

Oh come on... Be honest!!

That said, no matter where the interesting segment in Life Of Pi takes us, we all know, if you open up the door of a lions den, that lion is going to leave, and its going to have a blast fending for itself, but will always come back to where it is comfortable.

Kind of like when one of my cheeky buggers ran away a year ago, had an adventure out in the real world in his own, and after we spent hours looking for him, he turned up back at home, scratching on the back door when it got dark, and when he got hungry.

As much as its fun for a while getting the good stuff that life offers handed to you on a silver platter, its always more fun getting to know the world a little better.

Speaking to the friendly staff member at the bank Vs the home screen of your iPad.

Window shopping Vs browsing on eBay in front of the telly.

Having a few drinks in the bar with your mates on a Friday night Vs a hardcore online Call Of Duty session.

And so on...

Now, I know this isn't everyone, however the Planet Walker himself, John Francis, said it best when he told of the idea that we are prisoners to the concept of fast travel - that we are too wrapped up in getting from A to B, that we miss all the real adventure of life - discovering all the interesting stuff inbetween.

Whilst an animal in captivity is used to getting fed without needing to hunt, a wild animal learns how to hunt, and it experiences the adventure and the thrill of the hunt.

Not to say that I'm going to go to the nearest paddock, and try and spear a cow for tonight's dinner, but if I did opt to hunt my own cow for dinner, I'm sure it would make for more awesome conversation than speaking of that epic time I went to Coles and put my meat through the automated checkouts. ;)

Or maybe instead of both, I could just go to the local butcher who is always happy to have a yarn.

I might also ride my bike there and back, and get another case of stiff legs.

So, what was I writing about again?

"If it hurts, then why the hell do you keep doing it to yourself?".

I think you know the answer to that question. ;)

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A Somewhat Spiritual Trip To The Niggerheads And The Fainters

Last year, around August I think it was, I fare-welled my grandmother. She was an amazing person, and someone who I regret not spending more time with in her final years, although the time that I had with her in those final years, although limited, was memorable.

I remember the stories about how she loved the journey up Bungalow Spur to Mt Feathertop, how the scenery changed so often, all the way till the top of Mt Feathertop, and how she loved how the track was often covered in pine needles, before reaching the main crest of the spur.

So, when my Grandfather passed away suddenly in the 2000’s, it gave me great pleasure to know that his final resting place was a place that was very special to him near Rocky Valley Dam.

The Bogongs are of significance to both sides of my family. Once side that found final peace there, and another side had its roots in Harrietville and the cattlemen that used to graze the high country.

When I talk about the Bogongs being my spiritual home, at least you now know why.

Last year, my last conversation with my Grandmother before we said goodbye for the last time was about Mt Feathertop. In her words, it’s amazing that we have been graced with a world with such beauty. She was thankful that she was able to experience such a place.

Proudly on top of Feathertop after losing 45kgs

It is this conversation that lead to me dropping 45 kilograms so I could stand on top of Mt Feathertop again, although I’m afraid that the only spirit that would have shared the summit with me that day would have been my Grandfather, who no doubt was waiting for the day that my Grandmother would be reunited with him from that special spot at Rocky Valley Dam.

And whilst this weekend, as my Grandmother is reunited with my Grandfather in that same special place near Rocky Valley Dam, I would have loved to share the summit of Mt Feathertop with the both of them in spirit, and was actually going to be on the mountain with MUMC on a hut maintenance trip, I find it rather cute that with the closure of the entire area after the recent bush fires that burned from Harrietville to Mt Hotham, that the both of them get some alone time at last in their favorite place.

Frankly, I couldn't have thought of a better ending to their story.

Growing up, I remember my father and my brother going for a hike to the Niggerheads, a small mountain range that rises behind Tawonga Huts near Pretty Valley, named by a non aboriginal cattleman, who believed that the cliff faces that line the range shared a resemblance with aboriginal faces.

In fairly recent times, the name of the mountain range was changed to The Jaithmathangs (Pronounced Yate-Me-Tung), as an exercise in political correctness, however the term “Jaithmathang”, referring to a language apparently spoken by the local aboriginal population that used to inhabit the high plains, was actually incorrect according to local Aboriginals, many who were more offended at the change of name from something inspired by history that both the Aboriginals and white cattlemen shared.

Needless to say, I refuse to use the new name, not because I am racist, but because I believe that our history has a purpose, and the second that we choose not to acknowledge that through something as simple as the naming of a mountain range, is the second that we stop remembering where we came from.

/end rant

Anyway… feeling inspired by an old photo print that sat in the hallway of the house that I grew up in of my brother sitting on top of Mt Niggerhead, with the massive bulk of Mt Feathertop in full view, I thought it was about damn time that I walked the Niggerheads, and made a long awaited return to the Fainters, and maybe even a dawdle over the Bogong High Plains whilst I was at it.

Pretty Valley. It's actually quite pretty here. 

And whilst I was at it, I’d set up camp on the summit ridge of Mt Fainter.

Tonight's camp is somewhere up there near the top...

Now, I’d always remembered my Dad talking about the Niggerheads being untracked, requiring the placement of markers for the return journey, and I kept this in mind as I struck out across open country at the junction for Tawonga Huts and the Bogong High Plains, intending to follow the open ridge into a lightly timbered saddle, sidling a scrubby knoll before sidling into a bully before the summit.

The way is through the middle, to the right, then straight up!

So I suppose you could say that I was somewhat surprised when I reached the saddle in question, and found a perfectly cut track about a foot wide, complete with orange track markers, leading directly to the summit.

Definitely a contrast to the recent reports that a very faint foot track existed that often resembled a creek. By all standards, this was a track just as easy to follow as that across the Razorback at Mt Feathertop.

Classic Mt Feathertop from Mt Niggerhead

Photos just don’t do this place justice. You just have to see this place for yourself.

Rocky outcrops on the northern half of the range are reminiscent of the Main Range, and the view of Mt Feathertop is enough to take your breath away, rising some 900 meters from the valley below, displaying its north eastern spurs in all their glory.

The way is very obvious on the Niggerheads

After my usual lunch consisting of tuna and crackers, and coming to the realization that the next portion of the route will be a purely “off track” affair after finding no trails leading north from the summit, I found the easiest way down from the summit into the saddle to the north east, and found the going to be quite easy, with only very low scrub to battle with.

Navigation? No worries!

Navigation here is pretty easy, with light snow gum cover, you are generally always able to see Little Plain (the broad open plain that separates the Niggerheads and the Fainters), and the rounded knoll that marks the northern end of the range, that you need to sidle on its eastern side.

Poor rock needs some cheering up. 

I found a grumpy looking rock on my travels too.

Looks dry. Its not. 

An hour or so after leaving Mt Niggerhead, I finally reached the edge of Little Plain, and realized very quickly that you are to follow the edge of the plain to the track rather than cut across it to the Fainter Fire Trail.

See… Little Plain, in large part, is a myriad of small creeks that drain off from the numerous springs located within the Niggerheads, most of which are hidden under large tufts of grass, which makes huge potential for broken ankles.

Lesson learned.

Camp is just up there somewhere...

After a quick climb up from Little Plain to a high point at the eastern end of Mt Fainter South, I ended up camping just below the summit in a really sweet spot overlooking The Niggerheads and Mt Feathertop.

Spectacular Campsite Is Spectacular!

And after making a coffee, I made it to the top in time to get some sunset photos.

Someone forgot to tell Mt Bogong to stop showing off.

North Fainter pulling a pose.

Last time I was on or near Mt Fainter, we climbed up in a very long 18 kilometer day from Bogong Village via Bogong Jacks Saddle, camping at Little Plain, before walking out in zero visibility across the High Plains, so it was a nice luxury to enjoy the place a little more than I had in the past.

The next day, after a slight sleep in (a 7am wake up in the high country for me is a blessing!), and my usual two minute noodles and a handful of coffees (remind me to post about my coffee addiction one day…), I went for a stroll out to Mt Fainter North.

Mt Fainter South and its rugged spur

I’d always heard that there are a few heroes among us who climb down the extremely rugged spur leading down from the summit of Mt Fainter South, and immediately up the north eastern spur on Mt Feathertop.

A Heroes Trail. This is one is on my bucket list. 

I can’t say that the idea of following that route doesn't sound exciting, but cant help but imagine the utterly diabolical scrub on the lower reaches of both spurs.

I’m sure a few men have been made on both of these spurs.

Maybe one day. ;)

As for the rest of the day, following the Fainter Fire Trail to Tawonga Huts has never been all that interesting, if anything, the longest four kilometer stretch in the high country, so I’ll just skip ahead to the scene of my next night’s camp.

Tawonga Huts

I’m not kidding. The one thing that I remember on that day of zero visibility some twenty years or so ago when we set off from Little Plain to Wallace Hut over the High Plains was the amount of time that we spent covering the four kilometers along the Fainter Fire Trail to Tawonga Huts. It just never seemed to end.

Although back then, you could literally drive a 2WD on the fire trail, the Fainter Fire Trail past Tawonga Huts has become heavily overgrown in parts, although easy to follow, it was muddy in parts, and had a fair amount of fallen timber to battle with closer to the huts.

Of course, it made my afternoon lounging in the sun at Tawonga Huts even more worth it.

This hut was locked, apparently by the SEC.

…and apart from a brief thunderstorm, it was the perfect day.

The perfect camp site. 

…and it was the perfect place to camp too. The ground here is unimaginably flat in the yards in front of where the old huts stood.

Fail Glowy Shot Is Fail.

I’d promised myself for a while that I’d try and take one of those glowy tent photos, although this one didn't quite go as well as I had planned.

After an amazing nights sleep, and another classic 2 Minute Noodle breakfast with no coffee (I drank it all last night my bad… ), I was off up the quick climb towards the top of the High Plains, with one last view over the Niggerheads and the Fainters.

One last view of the Fainters

And an interesting perspective of the route that I followed on day one – straight up the treeless ridge in the center of the shot, meeting the track in the timbered saddle at the end of the treeless ridge.

The start of the route over the Niggerheads.

There are some really amazing views taking this route too. I’d highly recommend it.

Note the fire retardant on the front of the peak

I can’t miss a last photo of Mt Feathertop from the High Plains. I remember a few years ago on a traverse of the High Plains from Mountain Creek to Harrietville, reaching the edge of the High Plains before descending down Lake Spur to Blairs Hut, being struck in the chest with this view before dropping off the edge of the High Plains.

Every time I walk the edge of the High Plains, this view always blows my mind. Photos just cant do it justice.

Sun Screen. You need lots of it. 

There’s an interesting beauty about the High Plains, it’s a place that I have always enjoyed walking, although it is one of the most exposed days walking that you can do in the high country.

Looks longer than it is. 

The trail basically follows the rim of the high plains above Pretty Valley, as you sidle the slopes of Mt Jim, Mt Bundara (if you can even call it a mountain!), and comes to an end at Cope Saddle Hut, between Mt Cope and Mt Bundara.

Cope Saddle Hut. Not particularly roomy.

At Cope Saddle Hut, after running into a few people who had been a few hundred meters behind me for much of the length of the high plains, we struck up some conversation about a particular item that I carry with me on every hike.

Some people snigger at it, some are amazed, but frankly, it’s one of the things that I never leave without.

The chair. Next to the tent. Yes, that one. 

Yes, I’m talking about my folding chair next to my tent that I bring absolutely everywhere with me.

It’s a HelinoxChair One, it weighs in at around 800 grams, it is VERY comfortable, and it usually slots in my pack somewhere beside my sleeping bag or tent.

I know, people are weight conscious, but 800 grams is not going to break your back, rather it will save your back at the end of a long day.

I get asked a fair bit where to pick up one of these chairs, so if you want to grab one for yourself, they are available on the Helinox website, however, they do sell out from time to time.

/end free promo

To get back to Pretty Valley from Cope Saddle, I followed the fire trail towards Pretty Valley, taking every opportunity to follow the pole lines leading away from the road, with one in particular leading through a very pretty area, containing what may very well be some of the only un-burnt snow gums in the high plains.

Not too many green ones left!

To finish up, I had a thought when I was walking back to Pretty Valley, past those few green twisted and healthy green snow gums  and after seeing the whole Mt Feathertop area only a week or so after it was ablaze, not to mention, being at Cleve Cole Hut on Mt Bogong in 2003 when the Black Possum Spur fires started, and experiencing first hand how fires spread, not by burning a path, but by getting to the next flammable area by any means necessary…

The sheer fact that in the past decade, we have seen three major bush fires tear through our high country is staggering. There is no question, it is staggering.

Whilst there are many opinions and ideas around why these fires were able to spread so fast, in particular, the idea that the banning of cattle grazing in the high country has resulted in an increase in dry litter that fueled fires, the bottom line is that fire, as random as it is, is a natural part of the life cycle of the high country, and creating fire trails, fire breaks, back burning, and grazing a less than 1% portion of the entire national park is not going to stop a fire from spreading.

Having said that, I do miss the cows in the high country, just the same as Peter Garret does according to the log book at Tawonga Huts.

Peter Garret misses the cows too. 

Whilst everyone has an opinion on how to control fires, be it a lack of fire breaks, a lack of grazing, a lack of back burning, after seeing the change in the high country over the past decade, I have no doubt that there is something that is contributing to these fires happening more regularly, however it has little to do with political arguments, and more to do with something bigger and greater that we need to control now rather than later, and most importantly, something that we ALL have the power to control.

But of course, this is not a post about Climate Change, is it?