Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Bluff, Alpine National Park - 21st June 2014

Another Saturday, another crappy forecast. I decided that seeing the weather was going to be crap I may as well head up to where it would be at its worst, with snow showers predicted down to around 1600 metres I figured The Bluff at 1725 metres would fit the bill. So off I headed on the long drive to the track head, arriving at around 1 pm after much sliding around climbing up from the valley.
The start photo, I think the ute will need a wash by the time I get home!

It'll be another day for atmospheric shots.
The weather was indeed crap when I got to the start of the walk, so on went all the wet weather gear including my over pants, now if you peruse the rest of my photos you'll notice that its a rare occasion when I pull on long pants, its an even rarer occasion when I pull on waterproof pants. Suitably attired for the conditions I set off up the track towards the cliffs that protect the summit of The Bluff, sweating buckets in my waterproof gear within about five seconds.
Snow gum on the climb to The Bluff.
Starting to climb through the cliffs that protect The Bluff.
Scrambling up the waterfall track to the top of The Bluff.
Its a fairly steep climb from the car park near Refrigerator Gap, the whole time the cliffs of The Bluff should be in view above, today I settled for atmosphere instead. The good news was that I couldn't see in advance how steep the track was going to get, the bad news was there would be no sweeping scenery shots today. Climbing higher towards the cliffs I  stopped a couple of times to take shots of snow gums and lichen (actually I stopped to get my heart rate below 200 bpm).
Fire ravaged snow gums on the summit plateau.

The cliffs under Mount Eadley Stoney in the mist, from The Blowhole.

Once at the base of the cliffs the track twists and turns, following a series of small chutes and ledges, before suddenly popping out on the reasonably flat summit plateau of The Bluff. Normally from here I'd have a view that would include Mount Buller, Mount McDonald, Mount Clear and Square Top, but today no matter how long I lingered there would be no view. The conditions on top actually weren't that bad, I spent a little while having lunch and waiting forlornly for a break in the cloud, the disappointing thing was that there was no snow.
The track through the snow gums close to Bluff Hut.

Bluff Hut.
Heading down Sixteen Mile Road.
Eventually I headed of in the direction of Mount Eadley Stoney and Bluff Hut, the walk across the tops was generally easy going across snow grass plains before descending into snow gums as I neared Bluff Hut. Bluff Hut provide a chance to get out of the weather for a few minutes. From here on I would be tracking under the cliffs of Mount Eadley Stoney and The Bluff along a fire track on the way back to the ute.
Just about everywhere I like to walk has been 'storm' damaged n the last ten years.
What's left after the fires.
What its like before its roasted.
I've never walked this part of the track before so I was a little surprised when I had a good look at the map a realised exactly how far I had to go to get back to the ute. The walk along the fire track turned out to be better than I anticipated, the forest was a mixture of regrowth and stark, dead Mountain Ash. The skeletons of the Mountain Ash provided an interesting photo opportunity. There were also numerous fern lined gullies with streams cascading down the slopes and patches of forest that the fires hadn't touched. Just as the light was fading, Bluff Link Road started to climb some switch backs and I arrived back at the car. Throwing all my wet gear in the tray I was soon warm, dry, and heading down the mountain in the dark, arriving home at by 8 pm for a late dinner.
Mount Eadley Stoney towering over Bluff Link Road.
Mount Eadley Stoney.
The Dirt.
According to my GPS I walked 14.3 kilometres and climbed 724 metres. I used the notes from Glenn van der Kniff's Bushwalks in the Victorian Alps, I also used the VMTC 1:50,000 Watersheds of the King, Howqua & Jamieson Rivers map. The walk is well marked and the tracks a generally easy to follow, there is a short scramble through the cliffs protecting The Bluff. The walk back along the fire track is actually pretty good, there are views down into the Howqua Valley and also of the cliffs above. The main consideration on this walk is the weather, the open tops are snow bound for much of winter and the route is very exposed, Bluff hut provides good shelter halfway through the walk. I'd rate this as a easy medium walk.

Almost back at the ute, my only blue sky for the walk.
The author is cold, wet, and tired, after another nice walk.

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