With the access track to the trail head not due to open up from its winter closure until the Friday before Melbourne Cup Day (a public holiday in Melbourne) I decided that would be as good as any time to head up. Hopefully there would be a bit of residual snow still on the ground and at the very least it should make it easier to find water once I got up on the tops. Leaving home before 4am it was an alpine start for me, after a couple of stops for coffee and a quick breakfast in Bairnsdale I was turning onto Cowombat Track at the still early time of 10am. Now Cowombat Track is the access track to the trail head and as soon as I turned on to it I was confronted by a gate, a locked gate. This wasn’t totally unexpected as Victoria has had an unseasonably wet spring and I half suspected that some of the tracks would be a little later opening this year. So parking the ute on the side of Benambra Limestone Road I said my usual silent prayer that it would remain un-molested until my return and set off on foot.
|I guess I'll be walking from here.|
|Cowombat Track made for a very easy start to the walk.|
|The Australian Alps Walking Track joining Cowombat track, next years big adventure hopefully.|
After around an hours walking I arrived at the car park that signalled the spot that I had intended to start my walk. While having a bit of a break I consulted the map, the degree of difficulty would ramp up a bit soon as I would leave Cowombat Track to start my climb up to the tops. Setting off again I was looking for a spur that ran eastwards just after I crossed Bulley Creek on Cowombat Track. Once I identified the spur it was just a matter of climbing, keeping to the highest ground and pushing through the scrub. Now as far as scrub bashes go this was pretty good, the scrub was fairly light and with the spur fairly broad for the most part it was easy to make upwards progress and avoid the worst of the vegetation.
|Entering the Cobberas Wilderness Area.|
|I'd originally planned to start the walk from here.|
|After crossing Bulley Creek I headed east up an untracked spur.|
|The lower section of the spur made for fairly good off track walking.|
|Higher up the spur the ground got a bit rocky which sometimes made it a bit awkward with the overnight pack on.|
|At around the 1500 metre contour I got into an area of house sized boulders.|
Now while the scrub had been fairly friendly there is always a sting and in the Cobberas it’s the rough ground, there are a lot of rocks littered over the ground just under the light covering of ground litter which makes for fairly slow going, particularly with a big pack. The traverse under Moscow Peak was particularly rough going (well for an old bloke!) and I spent a fair bit of time climbing and descending my way around house size boulders. While the traverse was a bit rough it was fairly short and before long the ground to my left started to level out and I found myself on the saddle. Now there appeared to be a few options for pitching my tent up here, a small clearing near the crest of the ridge or a large flat grassy area near a spagnum moss swamp. After checking out both spots I decided on the ridge top in the snow gums, the grass bordering the swampy area was very damp and with the amount of frogs that I could hear I suspected it would also be home to a few snakes.
|The sphagnum moss swamp that is the headwaters of Moscow Creek had been spoiled a bit by the brumbies.|
|Cleft Peak in the late afternoon sun.|
I walked 10.8 kilometres and climbed 488 metres on this leg of my trip. I’d rate this as a hard days walking if only because of the off track stuff. Like I mentioned there are a couple of options for camping around the saddle, in the drier months the better option would be the grass near the sphagnum moss but in the wetter months the top of the ridge was the better option, although there is not a lot of room in between the snow gums. I had Telstra coverage at the saddle, but only just, I had to move around a little to get a signal. The other issue to consider up here was the amount of brumby tracks around, while they prove handy sometimes in the off track stuff you need to make sure you don’t camp somewhere that they are likely to come through in the middle of the night.