Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rumpff Saddle to Low Saddle, AAWT, Macalister State Forest - October 2017

I was almost at Mt Sunday by the time the cloud finally started to lift today.
Like on my night down on Black River my night at Rumpff Saddle was accompanied by the soundtrack of rain on the tent and once again it didn’t look like it was going to stop anytime soon. If there is a more uncomfortable feeling than pulling on yesterday’s wet and cold clothes and waterproofs I’m not sure what it is. Needless to say it was a fairly subdued Feral Walker as I once again packed up a wet tent after breakfast, my melancholy mood wasn’t helped by the fact that if anything visibility was worse than it was last night when I arrived at Rumpff Saddle. After moderately successfully packing up camp while at the same time keeping most of my gear fairly dry (that big plastic bag again), I set off up the AAWT along Middle Ridge Road towards Mt McKinty Road still not knowing what Rumpff Saddle actually looks like!
I never did get a good look at Rumpff Saddle.
The initial section of today’s stroll along the AAWT was actually pretty cruisey, Middle Ridge Road sidling a bit (from what I could tell - the mist was limiting views a fair bit). Around twenty minutes from Rumpff Saddle I arrived at an unmarked track junction, this spot is mentioned in some guides as an alternative camp but it was a bit hard to tell with the limited visibility today if it was any good. While I wasn’t thinking of camping I was keen to get some water so I headed down the old track to the east. I was thinking I’d have to drop into a scrubby gully to find water, as it turned out one of the advantages of all the rain I’d been getting was that I didn’t have to look too far for water on what is renowned as a fairly dry section of the AAWT. After filling my water bottle from the spoon drain beside the old road I returned to the track junction and set off again up Middle Ridge Road.
Middle Ridge Road made for a pretty easy start to the AAWT today.
There wasn't a lot of AAWT markers around today until I got to Mt Sunday, from there down to Low Saddle (where you need them) is pretty well marked.
I was now climbing pretty gently up the the intersection of Middle Ridge Road and Mt McKinty Road in a shallow saddle. As soon as I turned north along Mt McKinty Road the easy walking finished, on paper I thought that this track didn’t look too bad, but in reality Mt McKinty Road is a bit of a roller coaster, there isn’t much level ground along here. Unfortunately for me the mist was still largely ruling out any real views, Mt McKinty Road passes above both Peters Gorge and The Gorge and allegedly there are some nice views down into these gorges but I’ll have to take Mr Chapman’s word for that. Stopping for a bit of a breather near Peters Gorge the cloud lifted enough for me to see around a kilometre or so, the rugged country that I could glimpse only teasing me, it wasn’t a total loss though, as while I was waiting, hoping the cloud would lift, I was joined by a Lyrebird scratching around beside the track.
Starting up Mt McKinty Road the easy walking was finished for the day.
Mt McKinty Road drops a couple of hundred metres to pass above the head of Peters Gorge, I dropped out of the cloud a little along here.
I was teased a little with glimpses through the cloud.
While I was sitting on Mt McKinty Road having a breather I was joined by a Lyrebird....sweet!
After my Lyrebird encounter Mt McKinty Track started climbing towards Mt McKinty, this is a very steep climb in spots but the worst of it today was that it seemed every time I slogged up a near vertical climb in the gloom, the track would then inevitably plummet back down to a wet and muddy saddle and lose almost any height that I’d gained. Eventually I passed over the 1350 metre Mt McKinty , there were no views though so I consoled myself taking photos of the Snow Gums in the mist. I suppose the positive news was that now the AAWT eased off a bit, the frequent climbs and descents continued but the gradients weren’t quite as sharp.
Mt McKinty Road passes through a lot of these high saddles, they were inevitably wet and muddy spots today.
Some creatures were enjoying the inclement weather more than me today.
Nearing Mt McKinty I started passing through Snow Gums again.

Continuing on along Mt McKinty Road I was now heading towards my next milestone, Mt Sunday. For some reason I’d imagined that Mt Sunday was a lot closer to Mt McKinty than it actually is, after dropping for awhile I stopped for a bit of a break and checked out my map, only then did I realise that I still had a few kilometres to go to reach the summit. I did have a bit of good fortune as I started the last climb up to Mt Sunday though, for the first time in the last 24 hours the cloud lifted enough that I could actually see a little of the country around me and as is pretty normal for me my mood seemed to lift with the cloud.
The AAWT eases off a bit between Mt McKinty and Mt Sunday, the cloud was still blocking any real views today though.
Mt McKinty Road.
Finally, on my approach to Mt Sunday the cloud started to lift a bit.
Arriving on the wide grassy summit of Mt Sunday my luck with the weather ran out again and I was again socked in. Dropping my pack I grabbed my phone and was thankful to get enough of a signal to get a text through to Sam, relief again washing over me as I knew people wouldn’t be worrying about me for awhile. Maybe it was all the good Feral karma floating around the summit of Mt Sunday but almost as soon as I got the text away the weather started to improve. I was able to leave my pack under a Snow Gum while I wandered across the grassy area near the summit looking for the continuation of the AAWT, and better still the cloud had lifted enough that I could still see my pack to wander back over to it, any visibility over 50 metres was an improvement over the last 24 hour.
The flat grassy area near the summit of Mt Sunday.
Poke around the open grassy area and you'll find the continuation of the AAWT in the scrub.
The continuation of the AAWT as it leaves the grassy summit of Mt Sunday is a little vague to begin with but once the track is located everything is pretty straight forward as far as navigation goes. The old fire track meanders around the Snow Gums near the top of Mt Sunday for a few hundred metres before dropping onto a wide spur and swinging from north to east. Once out of the Snow Gums I was again back in dense regrowth but even though the old track had a fair bit of fallen timber across it was at least pretty straight forward to follow. I was now dropping down towards my camp for the day at Low Saddle and the more I dropped the better the AAWT became, I’m not talking a manicured walking track here but as far as the AAWT goes the walking wasn’t bad. After passing a flagged route that drops steeply through the scrub to a water point the AAWT started heading less steeply to the north. Crossing a couple of ferny gullies that probably would be worth exploring a bit if you were looking for water, I popped out of the scrub onto Mt Sunday Road a few minutes south of Low Saddle. Thankfully the showers had largely gone now and I set up camp at Low Saddle under a gun metal grey sky. With camp sorted I grabbed my water containers and set off down Low Saddle Road in search of something to drink, thankfully with all the rain that had been around I only had to walk down to where Low Saddle crossed the first big gully around 700 metres from Low Saddle, with a few blackberries around it wasn’t a pretty spot but the water was OK. The good news tonight was that for about the first time so far on the AAWT I wasn’t forced into the tent early by rain or mozzies, happy days!
Once dropping down towards Low Saddle from Mt Sunday the AAWT is pretty obvious. 
Ah yes, a Fat Feral Favourite, clambering through fallen trees.
The closer I got to Low Saddle the easier and more obvious the AAWT became.
How good's this, a track marker and a I can avoid a crawl as well, you beauty!
The Dirt.
I walked 17 kilometres and climbed 715 metres on another hard day on the AAWT. After eight days on the AAWT the stats are 136 kilometres with 6005 metres of ascent. Water can be a issue through here, I got water down the old fire track that branches off Middle Ridge Road about a kilometre on from Rumpff Saddle, there was ponded water along Mt McKinty Road but the quality was very poor and I’d give it a miss. As I mentioned earlier between Mt Sunday and Low Saddle the AAWT drops down a makes a sharp turn to the north, there is (was?) a flagged route that leads down to what I’m told is reliable water. Heading north towards Low Saddle the AAWT crosses a couple of ferny gullies that had enough mud on the track to have me thinking that they might be worth burrowing into the scrub to see if you can find some water. Once at Low Saddle I dropped down Low Saddle road to the first gully and found some water. (Jumping slightly ahead of myself, I crossed two good rills of clear water flowing across Mt Sunday Road on my climb up to where the AAWT leaves Mt Sunday Road to climb Mt MacDonald tomorrow). Camping wise today there is a spot in a small saddle near where I got water but it’s less than two kilometres from Rumpff Saddle. There are plenty of good spots along Mt McKinty Road near Mt McKinty, the open areas amongst the Snow Gums as you get towards Mt Sunday are particularly nice - but there’s no water. Navigation today was pretty straight forward, the AAWT leaving the open tops of Mt Sunday needs a bit of investigation to find the pad initially but once on the AAWT it’s all pretty cruisey, although I was climbing over and under some large fallen timber for awhile. I managed to get a Telstra mobile signal on Mt Sunday today. John Chapman provided the notes and maps for the day again and I also carried Rooftops Jamieson - Licola Adventure Map in case I needed an overview.

Relevant Posts.
AAWT, Day 1, October 2017.
AAWT, Previous day, October 2017.

My Low Saddle camp was under grey skies but the showers more or less held off.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Black River to Rumpff Saddle, AAWT, Goulburn State Forest - October 2017.

Jamieson Licola Road with Middle Ridge Road just visible heading off on the right of the photo.
My time down on Black River was accompanied all night by the patter of rain on the tent fly, with a fairly solid day in front of me today I didn’t really have the luxury of lying in the tent this morning waiting for the rain to dissipate either. So after pulling on my wet weather gear I climbed out of the tent to face the rain….and the mozzies and leaches! After a quick breakfast it was a matter of packing up while trying to keep everything relatively dry, not always an easy task when there is no other shelter around but my tent. Thankfully, apart from my dry bags I’d also put a very large plastic bag into my pack, this bag turned out to be one of the smartest things that I did. The big plastic bag not only proving very handy when setting up and taking down camp in the rain, something that happened quite often, but also was big enough to offer me a bit of protection when I sometimes decided to take shelter during the day from the storms that were rolling through during my days on the AAWT.
Climbing away from Black River in the rain, at least the AAWT is pretty well defined.
With brekky finished and all my gear stashed in my pack it was time to start walking. Today looked like it was going to be another very solid day, I was going to be climbing pretty much all the way to Mt Skene which I guessed would take me until late afternoon. Climbing away from Black River my notes suggested that the AAWT may be a bit faint up here, but the track clearing fairies have obviously been hard as work along this section. While the track was clear enough, it was steep though, so it wasn’t long before I was sweating up a storm in my gortex, this stuff might be breathable but it’s got no hope of keeping the Fat Feral Walker ventilated when I’m slogging up hill with a big pack. Reaching a knoll the AAWT changes direction and actually drops a little to a saddle, with thick regrowth bordering the route it would of been a pretty tough climbing up here if I’d had to have pushed through it.
The photo doesn't really show it but it's a steep climb this morning.
I was still in the cryptic section of the AAWT.
When the AAWT reaches a bit of a knoll deep in the regrowth it changes direction and starts to drop in a north easterly direction to a saddle. There had been a charity run along the AAWT just before I walked it, hence the t-shirt.
Leaving the saddle the AAWT starts climbing steeply again, I was now heading for the summit of Mt Shillinglaw. The pad up here actually deteriorates a little bit and I found myself pushing through a bit of wet regrowth and climbing a few fallen trees, occasionally I’d lose the AAWT altogether and have to scout around a little to find it again. There was some good news though on my slog up hill, thankfully as I was climbing the weather actually started to improve a bit, by the time I arrived on the broad open summit of Mt Shillinglaw the showers had stopped and I was able to enjoy my lunch without worrying about trying to stay dry. Apparently MacMillans Track meets the AAWT near the summit of Mt Shillinglaw, but I’ve got no idea were it was, actually I’ve got no idea if I was still on the AAWT exactly either.
The climb to Mt Shillinglaw after the saddle gets a bit rougher.
Towards the top of Mt Shillinglaw the forest opens up a bit, the AAWT is still pretty vague though.
Mt Shillinglaw, at least the rain has stopped.

After consulting my map, compass and GPS I wandered off in the direction that I figured I needed to go, after dropping a bit I met a very old, overgrown fire track that slowly got a little more distinct as I descended. It wasn’t really until I emerged out of the scrub onto the Jamieson Licola Road thirty minutes later that I was 100% comfortable that was following the exact AAWT though. I now had a bit of a road bash in front of me as I headed up towards Middle Ridge Road to where the AAWT again headed bush. It was while trudging up the road that I had my second interaction with people on my AAWT journey. I was slowly shuffling my way along the closed dirt road but I kept thinking that I could hear a motor somewhere, after a few minutes I was sure someone was coming and sure enough a grader soon rounded the corner behind me, I’m not sure who was more surprised to see each other. Stopping for a chat, the grader driver told me that he was out getting the road ready to be opened after the winter closure and that there was still a bit of snow on the road up at Mt Skene, he also mentioned that the weather forecast for the next week was looking pretty ordinary, hmmm that wasn’t overly good news.
I'm about to emerge from the scrub onto the Jamieson Licola Road.
Easy walking on the Jamieson Licola Road, the suns even come out.
Approaching the turn off to Middle Ridge Road on Jamieson Licola Road, the roads were still officially closed for winter.
After parting ways with the grader I continued on up to the spot where the AAWT leaves the Jamieson Licola Road near Middle Ridge Road. I had options here, the easy option would be to head along Middle Ridge Road which contours the side of Mt Skene all the way around to Rumpff Saddle and my nights camp, apart from a relatively easy walk I could also get some water in a couple of spots along here. The other option was to follow the official AAWT over Skene Lookout almost up to Mt Skene before dropping down to Rumpff Saddle, an option that promised a lot of climbing and descending and no water. So anyway with a choice like that I did what any sensible person would do….yeah I decided to climb up to Mt Skene, hey no one has ever accused me of being overly smart! Almost immediately after leaving Jamieson Licola Road I started to have second thoughts though, the AAWT was once again a pretty vague affair so I was pushing through a lot of regrowth, of more concern though was the thunderstorm that was coming my way. My main motive for heading up here was actually to try and get a mobile signal to get a message to Sam that all was going OK, but I was starting to think that in climbing up here in a thunderstorm was actually going to be worse than the fact that I couldn’t message Sam. Sure enough the rain hit me as I climbed, somewhat ironically I was still bathed in sunshine to start with, but soon enough the cloud blocked out the sun and I was pushing up hill in the mist.
The AAWT leaving Jamieson Licola Road, in hindsight I should of given this section of the AAWT a miss and just headed along Middle Ridge Road.
Leaving the dirt road things got a little vague.
The approaching storm was the biggest concern though.
With the AAWT up to Skene Lookout being vague, to put it mildly, and with thunder and lightning crashing around me I decided that it was time for a Feral Retreat. Retracing my route down the overgrown pad until I could once again see the Jamieson Licola Road below me I then scrub bashed down the side of the hill to meet the gravel road. Having wasted the best part of two hours I was now back at the start of Middle Ridge Road again, hey I might take that easier option after all! By now the weather had really set in so I set off along Middle Ridge Road in the mist, the wide almost level road making for a very easy way to finish the days walking.
All to soon it was pissing down raining, it was great fun pushing through the regrowth now!
I'm buggered if I know why I'm smiling?
Retreating, I dropped down to the Jamieson Licola Road as soon as I could see it below me.
Hey, maybe Middle Ridge Road is the go after all....!
Now while Middle Ridge Road is easier than climbing over the top it’s not shorter, so after mucking around for a couple of hours attempting to go over the top I was still looking at close to two hours in the rain before I’d get to camp at Rumpff Saddle. Meandering my way along the road I could sense that through the mist there would be some decent views out to the east, but sense is all I could do as the cloud never lifted. Middle Ridge Road winds in and out of a few ferny gullies on it’s journey to Rumpff Saddle and a couple of these gullies had nice little waterfalls cascading down them, so at least water for camp was sorted. It was just after 6pm when I arrived at Rumpff Saddle today, well I think I arrived as visibility was that low that I was having trouble working out exactly where I was. Finding a small grassy terrace away from the road I once again utilised my big plastic bag while putting up the tent in the rain thankfully still managing to keep most of my gear dry. Dinner that night was a pretty wet and miserable affair as I sat there in full waterproofs in the misty rain crouching over my cooker for a bit of warmth, needless to say tent o'clock came early!
There are probably some decent views off Middle Ridge Road normally.
Not many views today though.
So I looked for small details to amuse me in the mist.

The Dirt.
With all my mucking around today I walked around 17 kilometres and climbed 1200 metres on what was, you guessed it, another hard day. The AAWT stats so far are 119 kilometres and 5290 metres climbed. Surface water today was a bit scarce, although there was plenty coming from the sky. Once leaving Black River I didn’t pick up water until crossing a couple of the bigger gullies on Middle Ridge Road. If you go over the top then there’s no water at all and once you drop down to Rumpff Saddle you’ll probably have to head back down Middle Ridge Road to get some. Once up out of Black River there are some rough camping options near the top of Mt Shillinglaw but obviously no water, Rumpff Saddle is the next option with water from Middle Ridge Road. Navigation wise today was a bit of a mixed bag, the start of the long steep climb away from Black River was pretty easy but higher up things got a bit indistinct in spots, you shouldn't have too many issues if you keep an eye on the map but it’s all pretty vague. The next spot that’s a scrub bash is up from the Jamieson Licola Road towards Skene Lookout, not only is this very scrubby and overgrown but there is almost a total lack of track markers, personally I’d give this section a miss and just take Middle Ridge Road unless your desperate to get to Skene Lookout. Once again I used Chapman’s notes and maps along with Rooftop’s Jamieson - Licola Adventure Map for an overview. I didn’t get a Telstra mobile signal today.

Relevant Posts.
AAWT, Day 1, October 2017.
AAWT, Previous Day, October 17.

There are a couple of these nice little creeks cascading across Middle Ridge Road.
By the time I got to Rumpff Saddle I was totally socked in.
My camp at Rumpff Saddle.
Dinner was a wet and miserable affair tonight.

Mushroom Rocks, Baw Baw National Park - June 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I was heading out and doing a snow walk next and indeed that's how it turned out. The weather in Me...