Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mt Buller Traverse - March 2015

By the time your reading this post I should be on about my last day of my trek to Machu Picchu, that's the magic of the inter web for you. Any how before I shot through OS again I figured that I'd better get in one last training walk, not having any options for high altitude training in Australia I decided that if I couldn't get high at least I could give my climbing muscles a work out, so that's why I decided to head to the small Sawmill Settlement at the base of Mt Buller. At just over 1800 metres Mt Buller is the highest mountain within three hour drive from home and is more famous for snow skiing and mountain biking than bushwalking,  but there is one route that is moderately challenging and that is the West Ridge, in winter its one of the few places in Australia that you can ice climb, in autumn its a steep walk with a bit of easy scrambling. Being a fairly long and hard walk it was important that I got an early start, so starting out at 11:00am probably wasn't ideal but it was still fairly early for me.

I'm about to start climbing up the very dusty Doughty Road, note the logging truck sign.
Before getting to the West Ridge I had to walk a bit over 5 kilometres up the dirt Doughty Road, normally it wouldn't be too bad, but a long spell of dry weather combined with a logging coupe up the hill meant that Doughty's Road was a dust bowl. I put the camera away as there was no way that  could keep it clean as the timber jinkers rumbled by. I was lucky in that just before I started the climb up Doughty's Road a timber jinker rumbled down the hill, thinking that they were probably loading the next truck somewhere up on the mountain I hooked in hoping to get off the road by the time the next truck rumbled past. One hour, five kilometres, two 4wd's and 450 metres higher I left Doughty Road and headed on up the unmarked walking track.
This is the spot where I finally left the road and started up the walking track.
The pad climbed steeply through fire re growth up towards Round Hill, once I was past the re growth the walking was extremely scenic with plenty of views towards Mt Buller  and the rugged West Ridge climbing to the summit. Unfortunately the sky was very washed out so my pictures are fairly under whelming, climbing a bit further I started up the West Ridge , the land dropping away steeply on both sides. Now I could see why the sky was so washed out, the Department of Scorched Earth was doing some controlled burns, out towards Mt Skene I could see numerous fires burning.
Mt Buller and its West Ridge.
The open Snow Gum forest near Round Hill made for a pleasant ramble.
This is why the view was so hazy.
Climbing further up West Ridge the pad got very steep, there are a couple of rock bands that need to be climbed and require a bit of scrambling but its not too technical although there is a bit of exposure. Just before the summit the track climbs very steeply up the side of a scree slope and this is the final sting in the tail, shortly after topping out on West Ridge I passed the ugly fire spotters hut and arrived at the top of Mt Buller. Spread out before was not the usual wilderness but instead a ski resort, with the ski lifts idle and the runs empty the mountain had a bit of a run down feeling about it, however with a dusting of snow it would quickly come back to life.
There was a few wild flowers still out high up on West Ridge.
Entering the Mt Buller Ski Resort via the back door.
High up West Ridge it gets a little scrambly.
That's The Bluff through the smoke haze.
Having a bit of a break on the summit I surveyed the rest of todays route, I was now going down the untracked Mclaughan Shoulder until I hit Klingsporn Track at Thank Christ Corner. I could trace the route out and could clearly see my only navigational difficulty, I had to be careful not to bear to the north west down Mirimbah Spur and instead head to the north on Mclauglan Shoulder, from up here above the tee line it all looked clear enough but I knew when I got down in the trees it wouldn't be so simple. Starting down the very steep Mclauglan Shoulder my initial problem wasn't navigation, but Snow Gum re growth, the petrified Snow Gums were sticking out at all angles making for painful walking when I had to push through them. Just as I was starting to get the shits with it all I broke out of the bushfire zone and the walking went from tedious to sublime, I was now walking down a broad grassy spur  dotted with unburnt Snow Gums, with plenty of logs to sit on and great views of the surrounding mountains through the trees it was a great spot to sit and rest for awhile.
Behind the good lookin' bloke is my descent ridge, otherwise known as Mclaughlan Shoulder, I had to veer to the right in the trees were the spur changed directions, looks pretty easy from up here hey!
I spotted a couple of old walking track markers and the occasional faint pad on Mclaughlan Shoulder.
Negotiating these burnt and petrified Snow Gums was a slow and painful experience.
Lower down Mclaughlan Shoulder the walking was once again sublime.
It was getting late in the afternoon by the time I eventually broke out onto Klingsporn Track at Thank Christ Corner. I wasn't sure what to expect of Klingsporn Track as I knew that mountain bikers use it as a downhill epic, and I wasn't sure if I'd have to be diving for cover as the riders screamed by. As it turns out I didn't see one mountain bike but Klingsporn looks like an awesome ride, the mountain biker in me couldn't help but smile as I looked at the continuous downhill gradient, however I also winced a bit where I could see that some of the riders had come off in a big way. Less than an hour after joining Klingsporn Track I broke out onto Mt Buller Road at Mirimbah, from here it was a road bash back to the ute at Sawmill Settlement, the Delatite River burbling along beside the road made the road walk more enjoyable than may be imagined and by 6:30pm I was taking my boots off back at the ute.
Thank Christ Corner where my route down Mclaughlan Shoulder met up with the Klingsporn Track.

Klingsporn Track in the late afternoon, being a very average mountain biker I was able to check out all the potential spots to stack.......there were many!

The Dirt.

I used the notes out of Glen Tempest's Daywalks Around Victoria, its walk 28 in the book. According to my GPS I walked 22.9 kilometres and climbed 1328 metres over 7.5 hours. The walk served its purpose and gave me a solid workout before leaving for Peru. Unfortunately all the controlled burns going on around the state cut down the views somewhat. I'd rate the walk hard as the climbing is sustained and there is a bit of off piste action on the way down. The section along Mclaughlin Shoulder through the burn't Snow Gums tested my patience, it was a bit like walking through the set of a Tim Burton movie where all the skeletons of the trees are out to grab you, poke you, scratch you, or just generally f#%k you!

The last couple of kilometres from Mirimbah to Sawmill Settlement had me following the fairly uninspiring Mt Buller Road.

Although The Delatite River looked good from the road in the late afternoon sun.

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