Thursday, August 31, 2017

Snowy River Bush Camp to McKillops Bridge, Silver Mine Walking Track, Snowy River National Park - August 2017

The view from the ridge line today was pretty sweet.
I had one of the coldest nights I've ever experienced camped down by the Snowy River last night, I was in the tent just on dark and well before midnight the tent fly was a sheet of ice. I know that the tent fly was a sheet of ice because being in my senior years now I had to get up for a piss at around midnight, opening the vestibule I had the dubious pleasure of having the ice shatter and rain down on my head. Yeah, just what I wanted after crawling out from my warm and toasty sleeping bag. So when dawn finally arrived I wasn't overly keen on braving the day, eventually I decided to lean out the vestibule to get a photo of the mist blanketing the surrounding mountains before once again zipping myself up snuggly.
I didn't even leave my sleeping bag to get this shot...
By around 8am, after almost thirteen hours of snoozing in the tent, I decided that I could prolong the inevitable no longer. Climbing out of the tent I staggered to my feet, looking a bit like a geriatric toddler taking his first steps. Once safely up right I wandered down to the edge of the river, the mist had largely dissipated by now but there was still a few wisps remaining as I took in the scene up and down the river. I wasn't in a huge rush this morning as I didn't have a long walk in front of me today so I enjoyed a fairly relaxing breakfast while I waited for my tent to thaw out and dry off a bit. Eventually I ran out of reasons to linger any longer and shouldered my pack and set off on my journey back to McKillops Bridge.
By the time I did eventually surface today the mist had almost lifted.

Today's stroll immediately headed away from the Snowy River and started to climb a shallow valley. My notes suggested that the ruins of an old log cabin are visible along here but I think the 2014 bushfire might have finished off the old long cabin as I didn't notice it, while I didn't see the cabin I did see plenty of evidence of the old silver mining days as I gently climbed. My route up here followed a very old fire track, the old grassy track was now close to being reclaimed by nature in some spots, but the only real navigational issue was to pick the spot that I had to leave the gully and climb up a broad spur. While the start of the climb was a little indistinct there are enough track markers around to make things pretty clear on the ground. Once out of the gully the route climbs a track that has been benched into the hillside, it appears that someone has at some stage spent a lot of time and love on this walking track as the track was not only well benched but also featured a lot of dry stone work, it's a bit of a pity that it's so neglected now.
My day's walk today started off following this shallow valley up and away from the river for awhile.
There was a lot of fire damage still evident in the park.
At some stage a fair bit of money and effort had been spent on this track, but unfortunately now it looks like it's fairly neglected.
The cairn (in the shadows) marks the spot to head north along the ridge for a great view.
After around 100 metres climbing I arrived onto a narrow saddle, this was the spot that my notes suggested taking a side trip out to Snowy River View. According to my notes this sign posted side trip along a rough pad would require some easy scrambling in spots. So leaving my pack in the saddle I set off on the now un signposted side trip, apart from the absent signpost the other thing missing was the actual pad and the scrambling bit, well at least the view was still there. This side trip heads out a rocky, cypress pine covered ridge passing over a series of rocky knolls, the grandstand views of the Snowy River getting better and better the further along the ridge I went. Stopping at the final knoll before the ridge started to drop in earnest I enjoyed a Wedge Tail Eagle soaring on the thermals above me.
I think he may have been sizing me up for lunch.
Ridge walking.
Wandering back down to the saddle where I'd left my pack, there was a bit of low scrub to push through on this short side trip, but no scrambling as my notes had suggested that there might of been.
Returning to my pack I set off once again, I was now dropping down to cross another creek before climbing up one final time to meet up with Deddick Trail again. The benched track down to the creek actually traversed some fairly steep slopes so I was glad that the track builders had spent so much energy constructing this section, even if it was now fairly overgrown. After crossing the dry sandy creek the track climbed up a fairly rocky, open spur, the most notable vegetation being the cypress pines again. On meeting Deddick Trail my loop was complete and I turned and started my easy descent back down to McKillops Bridge, like yesterday's walk the open walking on the 4wd track was actually quite pleasant, especially considering the lack of vehicles on the closed track.

Dropping down from the saddle the benched track traversed some reasonably steep terrain.
My last climb back up to Deddick Trail was up this fairly open spur.
That ridge in the middle distance was my Wedge Tail viewing spot.
Meeting up with Deddick Trail again my walk was coming to it's end.
I didn't actually retrace my route all the way back down to the ute though, meeting a fairly neglected looking and un-signposted nature trail dropping away towards the river I decided to head down and check things out. The nature trail loops down to the river before heading up stream towards the looming McKillops Bridge. Like every other walking track in the McKillops Bridge section of the park the nature trail was fairly neglected and over grown, the track being almost indistinguishable from the scrub in spots, not that I was going to get lost with a bloody great bridge blocking out half the valley ahead of me. After avoiding a pig dog that was wandering around and then checking out an old Kurrajong Tree I climbed the last few metres up the grassy nature trail to emerge onto McKillops Road, the comfort of the ute now only twenty metres away. Climbing in I settled back for the six hour drive home, gee we live in a bloody big country.
Deddick Trail made for pretty good walking again today.
The end is in sight.
I took this un-signposted old nature trail back to the bridge.
The nature trail was almost non existent in spots.
The river is a shadow of its former self, the scrub covered depression is the bed of the original river before 99% of the water was diverted.
There are a few old Kurrajong Trees up here.
Unfortunately all the walking tracks that I walked up here were lacking a bit of love (and probably resources).
The Dirt.
I walked 7.6 kilometres at an average speed of 3.3 kph on today's leg of the stroll, with 376 metres climbing and an over night pack on my back I suppose I'd still rate this leg as an easy walk. Over the course of the two days I walked 19 kilometres and climbed 867 metres on what I'd rate as a medium grade over night stroll. The walk could be done in one day if you don't want to camp out, if doing it that way it would be a hard grade walk I think. I largely did the walk as written up by Glenn Tempest in his Day Walks Around Victoria book only really deviating at the end to walk the short nature trail back to the ute. John & Lyn Daly have also written the walk up in Take A Walk In Victoria's National Parks and Parks Vic have a very good free pdf of the walk available on line. Unlike the first day of this walk, today's walk largely followed walking tracks, in spots the old track is getting fairly neglected but it's still easily enough followed, it's a bit of a shame really as the walking track section of this walk is really enjoyable.
Relevant Posts.

Not a bad spot to finish my walk. The original bridge got washed away - it was only 10 feet lower than this one. The mind boggles imagining what this river use to look like.

Heading home up McKillops Road, this road will certainly get your attention.
There are some fairly serious drops off the side, this is actually one of the least scary spots.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

McKillops Bridge to Snowy River Bush Camp, Silver Mine Walking Track, Snowy River National Park - August 2017

The mountains around this part of Victoria are very much on the steep side.
I've looked at this walk a few times over the years but have never actually got off my ever expanding bum and made the six hour journey out to McKillops Bridge to do the walk. I have been through the area in a 4wd though so I had a fair idea what was in store for me once I left the banks of the Snowy River, yep the mountains up here are some of the steepest in the Victorian Alps I think, maybe only rivalled by the Wonnangatta - Moroka area. Anyway, that's all subjective waffle really, but if anyone reading this waffle ever decides to head to McKillops Bridge then this waffle will probably come into sharp focus as you drive down McKillops Road. While this road is easily driven by a 2wd it's a fairly intense drive, with narrow blind corners galore and drops off the side that you won't be coming back from, it pays to take it slow and steady and hope that anyone coming the other way is doing the same.
I hope it's still here when I get back tomorrow.
A little over six hours after leaving home I rattled over the 255 metre long, heritage listed McKillops Bridge and parked the ute at the day use area on the eastern side of the river. Now with this walk being so far from home I had decided to do it as an overnight walk, this would not only allow me to test out a few new pieces of gear before my AAWT walk but also allow me to take my time and enjoy the country. To replicate the weight that I'd be carrying on the AAWT I loaded my pack up with seven litres of water, so it was a bit of a shock to the system when I hauled the pack onto my back and set off today. Not to much of a shock though as I only journeyed around twenty metres before dropping the pack and wandering out onto the long wooden deck of McKillops Bridge, this bridge has to be twenty metres above the river level and was built that high after the first bridge on the site, which was less than three metres lower, got washed away in a flood before it even could be officially opened. Gazing at the Snowy River cascading below me through the wooden slats on the deck it was a little sobering to imagine the water in the river coming up so high, something that will never happen now due to 99% of the rivers flow being diverted by the Snowy Mountains Scheme into the Murray River.
McKillops Bridge is an impressive old structure for the middle of nowhere!
The Snowy River flowing under McKillops Bridge, the original bridge which was just under 3 metres lower than this one got washed away in a flood less than a year after being built.
Shouldering my pack again this time I set off in earnest, picking up part of an old nature trail before starting up the more substantial Deddick Trail. The country around here is fairly dry and a lot of the flora reminded me of walking in some of our semi arid environments, the cypress pines scattering the hill sides reminded me of the Flinders Rangers in spots. Deddick Trail is a 4wd trail but thankfully the tracks in the high country are generally closed up until Melbourne Cup Day so I wasn't sharing the trail with any of my 4wd brothers and sisters, it's one thing slogging up a track in the sun carrying what feels like a ton of bricks on my back, it's another thing altogether doing it while choking on dust as 4wd after 4wd rattles past. After passing tomorrows return route off to my right, Deddick Trail swung south east and started climbing up the side of Deddick Valley, the open farmland leading down towards the Deddick River being visible through the trees.
Deddick Trail.
The views were a constant as I climbed Deddick Trail.
I'd actually be climbing this ridge tomorrow.
Looking down into the Deddick Valley from Deddick Trail.
Deddick Trail stayed in the tree line as it climbed up the side of the valley, eventually coming to a hairpin bend were it swung to the south west. This hairpin bend also marked the spot where the trail got serious about climbing. I was now shuffling fairly slowly as I gained height quickly (if that makes any sense), the erosion mounds on the 4wd track providing short periods of relief on the climb. The good news though was that the views in most directions were stunning and include McKillops Bridge and the Snowy River, now a long way away, Mount Tingaringy was also drawing the eye. If I squinted into the sun I think I could make out the snow topped summit of Mount Cobberas Number 1 across the receding blue ridge lines.
These erosion mounds gave me brief respite on my climb.
I'm thinking the snow capped mountain in the distance is Cobberas Number 1 (although it could also be The Pilot?).
I've come a fair way - high up on Deddick Trail.
Deddick Trail nearing the intersection with Silver Mine Track.
Eventually my climb topped out as I met up with Silver Mine Track on a bit of a knoll. Silver Mine Track is a closed management track and it was my route back down to the bank of the Snowy River. As the name implies this area was mined back in the early 1900's and as Silver Mine Track makes its way down to the river it passes by a couple of gated old mine shafts. Apart from the mining history the other notable thing about walking down Silver Mine Track was the number of Cootamundra Wattles flowering in all their glory, the blaze of yellow is a stark contrast to the greens of the Australian bush. It's a fair distance down Silver Mine Track from its intersection with Deddick Trail and while the upper sections are pretty steep and the spur pretty pronounced the lower sections made for easier walking in more open country, looking quite nice in the mid afternoon light.
Silver Mine Track passes a couple of these old silver mines.
The Cootamundra Wattles high up on Silver Mine Track were a bit of a feature today.
Lower down the spur opened up a bit.
Silver Mine Track is a management track.

I emerged at the Snowy River almost underneath a huge fly fox, I'm not sure what the relevance of the flying fox is as there's no reference to it on my notes or on my map, it would be a wild old ride if you had to use it though as it must be at least 100 metres across. To be honest the Snowy River environs were a little bit of a disappointment on this walk, the river is choked with weeds, probably because there is no substantial flooding coming through now days with the hard won environmental flows still being held back by vested interests. The other problem is that the area was caught up in a big bushfire in February 2014 and it looks like the weeds and thistles have come back a lot quicker than the native flora. Now there is two ways to tackle the next section as I headed up to the walkers camp, you can walk the sandy bank of the river or the grassy terraces just above. I chose the second option and walked and intermittently marked pad up stream, now while the pad was only occasionally marked it was adequate to get me there safely with the crucial bits always having a marker.
I've just arrived onto the bank of the Snowy River. I'm not sure of the significance of this flying fox but it would be a wild old ride.
The reasonably open grassy terraces above the river made for pretty easy walking.
Arriving at the walkers camp it was obvious that this spot hadn't escaped the fires, my notes mentioned a sign post, fire ring and rudimentary seats, but now days it's just a basic bush camp with nothing in the way of bush furniture, not that it worried me too much. What was a little more annoying was the amount of thistles, it took a little mucking around to find a flattish spot to pitch the tent. The good news was the position though, with the Snowy River languidly flowing it's way to the sea just though the trees and mountains and rocky bluffs hemming me in, it wasn't a bad spot to sit a relax for the remainder of the day. Now today had been a nice warm blue sky day but with the sun sinking below the surrounding mountains the temperature plummeted. After eating dinner there would be no lingering outside tonight, climbing into my welcoming sleeping bag before it was even completely dark for a long night of rest.
The sun disappeared quite early in this deep river valley.
Your Feral correspondent looking pretty second hand after another long day.
The Dirt.
I walked 11.4 kilometers at an average speed of 3.2 kph today, with 491 metres of climbing involved and a reasonably heavy overnight pack on my back I'd rate this as a medium grade days walking. As I mentioned above, McKillops Bridge is a long way from Melbourne, allow at least 6 hours to get there. Oh yeah, McKillops Road is a seriously daunting stretch of road, while doing this post I did some googling on McKillops Bridge and came across plenty of information about McKillops Road on a site about Australia's most dangerous roads, not to mention some hair raising You Tube videos. I carried all my water for this walk mainly because I wanted to try out my new pack but you can obviously get water out of the Snowy River, although I wouldn't drink it without treating. The walkers bush camp at GR 242943 is pretty rough and ready, although the setting probably makes up for a few rough edges.
Relevant Posts.

Time for bed....

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