Thursday, April 18, 2019

Mt Sturgeon, Grampians National Park - April 2019

The view from the summit of Mt Sturgeon was fairly intimidating this afternoon.
Today was an interesting day, while I was sweating my way up Mt Sturgeon this afternoon that I had a bit of an unsettling, #Me Too type of encounter….and it was all my fault.

To put it mildly I was pretty well stuffed by the time I set off in the late afternoon heat to climb Mt Sturgeon. I’d spent the morning and early afternoon slogging my way around the Serra and Wonderland Ranges a little further north, on what was fairly warm day. So with well north of 20 kilometres and 1000 metres already under my belt, I was shuffling my way up onto the crest of the ridge that would lead me to the Mt Sturgeon summit even slower than normal, lost in my own sweaty world. With no cars in the carpark except mine, and thunderstorms all around me I wasn’t really expecting any company now. So to say I was surprised when someone behind me cheerily greeted me was an understatement!

Turning around and wiping the sweat stained tears out of my eyes I was greeted by a young, activewear clad lady, probably in her mid twenties. Now this lady looked like she was going a lot faster than me and to be honest I was pretty smelly and sweaty by that time of the day so I wasn’t really in the mood for company, oh yeah that and the fact that I’m old and grumpy as well! Anyway, I was keen to stop for awhile and let my knew friend go, but stupidly instead of just stopping to rest I asked my new friend ‘is there was anyone coming up behind me or was she on her own?’. Now my reasoning for uttering that was that it would be a good excuse to stop for a bit longer and wait rather than have another person come up behind me and scare the shit out of me again.

As soon as the sentence had come out of my mouth I knew how it would sound to this young lady though, but it was too late. So what to do? The young lady headed off up the mountain, now in front of me, and eventually I started shuffling my way up as well. Being a one way walk I was definitely going to bump into this lady again, so I decided that when I did I’d try and explain to her what I was trying to ask in my somewhat clumsy way and maybe reassure her that I wasn’t some mountain climbing, bushwalking creep.

Fifteen minutes later, walking along the ridge I did indeed meet my new friend again. The young lady was on a rock lookout 10 metres off the main track. Thinking that I might freak her out even more if I shuffled over to check out the view as well, I decided that after sharing pleasantries I’d just keep trudging up to the summit. Well that was the last I saw of her. I’m guessing that as soon as I disappeared into the trees heading up the mountain she made a bee line down the hill and back to her car.

Now while it was definitely a misunderstanding it still worried me enough that I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the way home that night, replaying in my mind how I should of handled it so I didn’t freak this young lady out. I take the piss a fair bit on my blog in regards to my weight and general lack of fitness, but at around 125kg and 6’3” (in hiking boots) I can understand why I might look a little intimidating to some people. So anyway, on the very remote chance that the young lady that was climbing Mt Sturgeon, late on a Friday afternoon in early April happens to read this waffle then I’m really sorry if I freaked you out, I didn’t mean it but I totally understand.
There is a lot of GPT work going on in the Grampians at the moment.
Hmm, so what about the actual walk? Well it’s a walk in three parts really. The first distinct section of the track had me tracking my way northwest along the base of the mountain. The pad along here passes through dry open Eucalyptus forest complete with quite a few Grass Trees. As I’ve eluded to in my rambling preamble, I was a pretty tired walker as I shuffled my way along the soft sandy track this afternoon, the hot and humid conditions weren’t helping with my Feral mojo either. Passing a spur track that looks like it heads towards The Piccaninny, which I guess is where the Grampians Peaks Trail will comes in.
This is a pretty well sign posted and easy to follow track for the most part.
The first part of the stroll tracks through open forest along the base of the mountain.
There are some views through the trees up to the ridge line.
After passing the spur trail my route contoured a little way further to the west before I started up he next distinct section of my walk. On this bit of the walk is the track climbs up a spur to eventually attain the Mt Sturgeon ridge line. Climbing up here the views started to open up a bit and glancing north along the range towards Mt Abrupt and Signal Peak didn't exactly fill my heart with joy. I’d spent all day rambling around various parts of the Grampians National Park and, apart from a few sprinkles, I’d largely managed to stay dry. Looking up the Serra Range and the looming black clouds, it appeared that my good luck was about to run out.
The climb up to the ridge is solid but not overly steep.
Being a Grampians walking track there is fair bit of rock involved.
The vegetation gets a bit more stunted up on the ridge.
The view north towards Mt Abrupt looked a little concerning.
Like I mentioned early I think that the pad that I was climbing now is probably part of the new Grampians Peaks Trail, the amount of dry stone steps and track work only really adding to my suspicions. Once on the ridge line I was suddenly walking through a a fair bit of low, wind pruned scrub as I tobleroned my way towards the summit. The good news up here was that the the views were almost constant, while today things were looking a little grim I’m thinking that this would be a great spot early on a crisp clear winters day.
It's a total guess but I'm thinking that this might form part of the new GPT when it's finished.
Mt Sturgeon. I had one more saddle to pass through.
Looking south from the summit overhead conditions didn't look too bad.
The ridge walk is the third distinct section of this walk and after passing over a few knolls and across some high saddles I started the last climb up to the summit. I was now really racing the weather a bit and looking along the Victoria Valley it looked like it was a race that I wasn’t going to win! So it was no surprise that just as I arrived at the summit the rain hit me. The grey conditions were already making taking photos hard work, but now with rain scudding through it was even harder trying to do justice to this place.
Dunkeld was spread out below me.
Looking across Victoria Valley towards the Victoria Range.
The small Piccaninny in the foreground, with the much larger Mt Abrupt towering over it.
Looking down at Dunkeld from the summit I was definitely looking at a ‘sunburnt country’ this afternoon, the agricultural land to the south was looking very parched indeed. Using a few short windows in the passing showers I was able to take a few photos without drowning my DSLR but I’m really keen to get back up here in more benign conditions. The summit up here is really a couple of rocky outcrops separated by a bit of a saddle and I would of really liked to have explored the area a bit longer but after managing to get a few photos there was no real point in hanging around.
There are two rocky outcrops of similar height, separated by a high saddle, to explore up here.
Looking north along the Serra Range as I descended.
Mt Abrupt
As I’ve mentioned this walk is a retrace type of walk and indeed my walk back to the ute held little in the way of surprises for me. With the danger of getting struck by lightning receding as I dropped off the mountain, the main interest was now getting back to the ute without getting totally soaked. Judging by the number of Wallabies and Kangaroos around the local wildlife seemed to like these overcast humid conditions and they weren’t hard to spot in the open forest, always a good thing in my eyes. Thankfully I did manage to retrace my steps and stay relatively dry, the rain only really arriving in earnest once I was safely back in the ute and heading home.
The track passes this big cairn.
Grass Trees and Native Pines...what's not to like?
Back on the flat the track is a little sandy.
The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 6.8 kilometres and climbed around 425 metres on what I’d call an easy-medium grade walk. This is a walk to do in clear cool conditions I’m thinking as the views are really the main feature of the stroll, hot and humid overcast conditions certainly weren’t ideal this afternoon. Mr Thomas has written this walk up in some of his old books and the Daly’s wrote it up in their Victoria book, but to be honest the Parks Vic stuff that you can get for free online is all you really need to safely complete this stroll. The track is well sign posted and defined and it looks like there has been a fair bit of work done on it for the GPT.

Relevant Posts.
The Seven Dials, Grampians National Park, 2015.
Wonderland Walk, Grampians National Park, 2014.

There was a lot of wildlife around this afternoon.
Arriving back at the carpark, it was time to head off on the four drive back home to chateau Feral.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sardine & Clear Water Creeks, Lerderderg State Park - April 2019

The pools in the Lerderderg River were looking pretty stagnant on this visit...I've never seen the river so dry.
A quick glance at my blog could reveal a couple of things about me, the first is that I’ve got a good head for radio (as they say) and the second is that I do a hell of a lot of this stuff solo, which come to think of it maybe related to my first point? Walking and travelling solo does present a few dangers I suppose, but I try and control the risks as much as possible.

The most common hazards that my friends ask me about are that usual ones like getting lost or getting injured or sick. While these things do occupy a bit of mind space I like to think with good preparation, caution and experience I can largely manage these risks. By far my biggest concern when it comes to heading bush on my own is stumbling into someone else’s dodgy situation and becoming collateral damage…as it were.

Occasionally you hear of a bushwalker going missing, never to be seen again, Warren Meyer up at Dom Dom Saddle being the most obvious example for me (ironically enough I did a ten kilometre walk out of Dom Dom Saddle the day before completing this stroll). The thought of stumbling onto someone doing something illegal and dodgy is a risk I can’t really control and mitigate that much.

Now there are a whole lot of people out there breaking the law in the bush and while some of those people are pretty well harmless, (mountain bikers on walking trails, horse riders in national parks, walkers camping outside designated areas, all spring to mind) there are also some that worry me a bit more. Stumbling onto an illegal plantation, illegal shooters, illegal 4 wheel drivers or trail bike riders, or just plain dodgy characters trying to keep a low profile in the scrub worries me a little more, you just never know how these people will react.

Every few months or so I’ll find myself in a slightly disconcerting situation (don’t forget that I normally head out at least twice a week) but my walk today out in Melbourne’s version of the Wild West at Lerderderg State Park had pretty much all the good stuff crammed into 10 kilometres. With Melbourne’s sprawling western suburbs getting ever closer, this rugged spot isn’t as remote as it once was. While it’s always been a little dodgy here, today I managed to stumble onto two 4wd’s illegally on a closed track, an abandoned camouflaged stealth camp a fair way off any tracks, and then there was all the troublesome signposts that had been sorted out by a 12 gauge…yep, it was fun times out in the bush this morning!
O'Briens Crossing was already pretty busy when I set off this morning.
I’m not sure when it happened but I seem to have become a morning person, although that’s probably more to do with my back forcing me out of bed after anything much more than 7 hours than of any great desire to greet the dawn. The good news is that my early starts allow me to spend more time in the bush though and this morning was no different. I’d finished my Macca’s toasties and coffee, pulled on my boots and set off from O’Briens Crossing, all by around 9am this morning.
The river had been reduced to a few stagnant pools at O'Briens Crossing on this visit.
Crossing the ford over the Lerderderg River as I set off I don’t think I’ve ever seen things this dry, the river had been reduced to a few, very stagnant looking pools. Now it’s pretty common for the Lerderderg to stop flowing over summer but there are normally plenty of deep pools to get drinking water from, not the case on this visit though. After crossing the ford I climbed up O’Briens Road for a couple of minutes before picking up a faint, informal pad that climbed an open spur and short cut the road a little. When my informal pad met O’Briens Road again, I immediately headed right again, this time up the steep and eroded Short Cut Track.
There is a informal pad that climbs a spur just after leaving O'Briens Crossing saving a bit of a road bash.
Just as my pad touched O'Briens Road again I headed right up Short Cut Track (in the trees).
Now you might be staggered to know this but Short Cut Track short cuts another section of O’Briens Road. While it’s shorter it’s not easier as it climbs very steeply in spots, although the good news is that the views improve quickly as well, although the grey overcast conditions weren’t really conducive to good views this morning. On reaching O’Briens Road again I was ready for some easier walking as I made my way along the quiet dirt road for a few hundred metres to meet up with the closed Trout Track heading off along a high spur to the north.
Climbing the steep, loose and eroded Short Cut Track.
The views get a little better as I climbed.
Popping out of the scrub onto O'Briens Road again.
Now while Trout Track has been closed to vehicles for years it looked like someone had cut down the bollards blocking out vehicles. Walking through what was meant to be the barrier it even looked like there were fresh tyre tracks in the dirt, although exactly how fresh it was a little hard to tell, but I was guessing that someone had been down here in the last couple of days. Once leaving O’Briens Road the initial section of Trout Track makes for some fairly typical Lerderderg ridge walking as the track stays fairly high on a broad spur before eventually starting a descent down to Sardine Creek, a descent that gets steeper the closer to the creek that you get.
There is a gate on Trout Track.
My 4wd mates obviously own a chainsaw....those tyre tracks look kinda fresh don't they.
Trout Track
The upper reaches of Trout Track make for good walking.
With the track getting steeper as I approached Sardine Creek I suddenly came across two 4wd’s around 50 metres ahead of me. Stopping back up the track a bit and taking it in it almost looked like the 4wd’s had been abandoned as there didn’t appear to be anyone in them. After taking things in for a minute from up the track I eventually decided to keep going, dropping down to the vehicles I could see that they couldn’t get any further because Trout Track was just too steep, loose and eroded. One 4wd was parked hard up against a tree on what was must be close to a 45˚ slope and the other one was also parked on a precarious angle…but where were the owners?
Dropping down Trout Track closer to Sardine Creek it starts to get pretty steep.
Too steep for these guys. The Cruiser was wedged hard up against a tree.
Looking down to Sardine Creek, I didn't stop to take photos.
Once again I stopped to take things in, I now heard a male voice coming from the direction of Sardine Creek below me. Now my walk had me dropping down to cross Sardine Creek before immediately climbing just as steeply straight up the other side of the valley, apart from abandoning the walk my only real option was to drop down and cross the creek. So I decided to keep going, although now I decided that it would be best if these blokes didn’t have time to prepare for my arrival so instead of clicking my way down using my walking poles I dropped into the valley very quietly. Once down at creek level I could see a rough camp set up ahead of me, one bloke to my left in the creek doing a bit of prospecting, another to my right in the creek doing the same thing and one at the makeshift camp. Crossing the creek I got a couple of metres away from the first bloke before saying hello, with three startled heads looking my way, I continued on through their informal camp and started climbing the continuation of Trout Track. With the continuation of Trout Track resembling a rock wall I was pretty confident they weren’t going to be in a hurry to follow me up.
The climb out of Sardine Creek is even steeper than the descent in I think.
This spot on Trout Track is about the highest spot on today's stroll.
It's an ambit claim I think.
Like on the descent to Sardine Creek the climb out was also a fairly nice walk, well once passed the initial steep section. I was while climbing up along here towards Ambler Lane that I reached the highest spot on today’s stroll, although at just over 600 metres it’s not really alpine. On reaching Ambler Lane I crossed straight over and continued on a continuation of Trout Track, ironically enough this section of Trout Track is open to vehicles but was free of them this morning. Arriving at a bit of an informal camping spot beside Clear Water Creek the relatively easy walking was over for the morning now, I was now going to head downstream along Clear Water Creek, off piste.
Away from the 4wd tracks the bush is quite nice.
Crossing over Ambler (quite appropriate for me really!) Lane I continued on down Trout Track.
Those pesky signs....that'll fuck em'.
This section of Trout Track is open to vehicles...
...although there was none about....
....oh, actually there was one vehicle that didn't make it.
Clear Water Creek has created a very steep sided valley but with the creek bone dry today the walking was pretty easy. I followed an old water race for a hundred metres or so above the creek before dropping into the rocky creek bed and following it down stream. Twenty minutes or so after leaving Trout Track I rounded a bend in Clear Water Creek and something caught my eye, walking a bit closer I once again was stopped in my tracks. This time I was looking a a very well camouflaged stealth camp set up, fuck me! After standing completely still for a minute or two I convinced myself that this camp was empty and slowly eased my way past, with more camouflage netting draped over it than you’d see on a repeat of MASH it was another freaky encounter on what was a very freaky day.
The small camping spot where Trout Track gets to Clear Water Creek is quite a pretty spot.
The view from the small camping spot at Clear Water Creek.
Heading downstream along Clear Water Creek I followed this old water race for a few minutes...
...before taking to the creek bed.
Then I stumbled through a left over set from MASH. Hmm, what could possibly go wrong?
Continuing on, Clear Water Creek heads through a convoluted series of interlocking spurs, the sheer rock walls meaning that the creek bed was the only real option to easily get through here. While the bed of the creek generally made for quick and easy walking it did also feature my walking Kryptonite in the form of log jams, while I don't mind rock scrambles I’m not overly keen on climbing loose, dead trees. With the occasional dry stone wall visible up the side of the steep valley I was pretty sure that I was getting close to the Lerderderg River though and sure enough, after one last particularly gnarly section of scrub I emerged from the bush onto Ambler Lane, virtually at the camping area.
Clear Water Creek meandered it's way towards the Lerderderg River through a series of interlocking spurs.
Clear Water Creek
It's not hard to see evidence of the area's old gold mining history.
The Clear Water Creek valley is quite pretty.
In theory I was going to follow a walking track from here back to O’Briens Crossing but after crossing the bone dry Lerderderg River I left Ambler Lane just as it started to climb away from the river and found….not much. Well, I did find some old mullock heaps and one piece of pink flagging tape and maybe what you’d call a Wombat pad, but really for all intents and purposes there was no track. I might not be the brightest but I quickly realised that the go would be to once again wander down the dry river bed.
Crossing the Lerderderg River on Ambler Lane, I was looking for a walking track on the right where the road heads off up hill.
I did find an old mullock heap...
...and one piece of flagging tape...
....but was soon tempted onto the river bed.
The good news was that the Lederderg River is a lot more substantial watercourse than Clear Water Creek had been, so I largely didn’t have too many log jams to negotiate. In hindsight the walk down the Lerderderg River bed was probably the best walking of the day, the wide rocky bed and encroaching cliffs of the gorge being very pretty. It was interesting and a little concerning on my river walk exactly how low the waterholes were today, the black marks on the rock faces that mark the normal water height were almost a meter above water level today.
Walking the dry river bed allowed me to appreciate the rugged walls of the gorge.
The pools in the river bed were very low.
Another relic from the mining days.
By the time I’d meandered my way back to the ute it was just after lunch time today. If you can be bothered to try and locate it in the scrub, the river side track would actually cut a bit of distance off the walk as the pad short cuts a few of the river loops. There must of been more than 20 vehicles at O’Briens Crossing when I got back so I was pretty happy to just jump into the ute and start making a mile heading home after what had been a somewhat unusual, and a little bit disconcerting walk. I’ve been considering buying something like a Garmin In Reach or Spot Tracker for awhile now but today’s walk has probably convinced me of it, it’ll definitely make Sam a little happier to know were I am.
The Lerderderg River approaching O'Briens Crossing.
The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 10.1 kilometres and climbed 399 metres on what I’d call a medium grade stroll this morning. As I’ve mentioned things can be a little hit or miss out at Lerderderg in my opinion, the spot seems to attract a lot of my bogan brother and sisters and while the majority of them are nice people you just never know sometimes, especially if you meet up with them while they are up to something dodgy. The walking here can also be hit and miss, although with everything from quiet dirt roads, 4wd tracks, walking tracks and off track routes there is plenty of variety! I used the notes out of Mr Tempests book Melbourne’s Western Gorges book this morning, Mr Thomas has also written up a similar walk in one of his old books.

Relevant Posts.
Byers Back Track & Shaws Lake, Lerderderg State Park, 2018.
Lerderderg East Walk, Lerderderg State Park, 2018.

Time to head home.