Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mushroom Rocks to Mt Whitelaw Hut Site, AAWT, Baw Baw National Park - October 2017


I woke up on day two of my AAWT walk to rain so I did what any hard core walker would do, I went back to sleep. Thankfully the rain relented at about 9am, otherwise I might still be lying in the tent at Mushroom Rocks. I’d been pretty lucky really, the rain only caught me out an hour before reaching camp last night, it had rained most of the night but that didn’t worry me as I was warm a dry in the tent, and now I was able to pack up and eat brekky largely free of precipitation, all good. With all the procrastinating this morning it was around 10am by the time I finally shouldered my pack and set off up the track, I’ll have to work on that otherwise I’ll be walking until next year.
It was still a little grey as I set off climbing past the rest of Mushroom Rocks this morning.
Mushroom Rocks
Leaving Mushroom Rocks the AAWT continues the climb towards Mt Erica that I started yesterday down at O’Sheas Mill, with a nights rest though I was shuffling along OK this morning, my spirits buoyed by openings of blue sky appearing through the grey clouds. As I climbed the forest was transitioning from Mountain Ash to Snow Gum forest, by the time I puffed my way onto the forested summit of Mt Erica it was more or less all Snow Gums and would stay that way for the rest of the day. With no real views on offer from the summit I continued on a bit further to the old Talbot Hut Site.
Still climbing, now through Snow Gums, on my way up to Mt Erica.
Track marking can be a bit hit or miss on the AAWT, the diamond shaped yellow one is one of the original markers that have now been largely replaced with a bland yellow triangle. The bottom one is a home made job, something that is reasonably common along the length of the track.
My first mountain on the AAWT.
The Talbot Hut along with the Whitelaw Hut were tourist huts built back in the early 1900’s to provide accommodation for walkers of the day, the huts are long gone now but they do make for nice spots to camp and they generally have water near by. Water was the reason I was heading for the Talbot Hut Site this morning, I hadn’t bothered trying to find any at Mushroom Rocks so the last water I’d picked up was late yesterday afternoon at the Mt Erica Car Park. With the sun out when I arrived at the site of the old hut I figured it was time for my first lunch, at the same time I could get a bit of tent drying happening, as it turned out keeping gear dry was something that occupied my mind on a lot on the AAWT.
Heading down to Talbot Hut Site.
Good tent drying conditions.
Suitably refreshed I set off across the undulating Baw Baw Plateau, the track across here use to be a bit scrubby but it’s been cleared in the last couple of years and now makes for beautiful walking. The Snow Gums allowed me glimpses of Mt Baw Baw in the distance, still with a few patches of snow on it’s flanks. When not passing through Snow Gums the track crosses small snow plains, inevitably these grassy plains were a damp affair but thankfully my boots were keeping my feet dry. Reaching the Rock Shelter I dropped my pack, grabbed the camera and the phone and headed over to Mt Saint Gwinear.
I got a few glimpses of snow speckled Mt Baw Baw through the Snow Gums.
The spots where the AAWT crossed the small snow plains were inevitably damp.
Most of the route across the Baw Baw plateau is more like this, Snow Gums and alpine scrub.
The Rock Shelter, yeah I think I might give that one a miss.
The short side trip over to Mt Saint Gwinear was a pleasant little interlude, the path drops a bit and crosses another snow plain, this one is a little larger and is also the headwaters of North Cascade Creek, which looks like a pretty reliable creek. After checking out the creek and a few tarns I climbed up to the summit of Mt Saint Gwinear, turning the phone on I was happy to see that I had a signal so was able to get a text out to Sam. The view from the open rocky summit allows for some nice views but it was the view to the north east of the Thomson River Dam that interested me, I was basically heading north west to make my way around this huge dam, thankfully I could see that I was making some progress.
The headwaters of North Cascade Creek.
The Thomson River Dam, I was slowly inching my way around this obstacle. 
The side trip over to Mt Saint Gwinear crosses this nice little snow plain.
Happy that Sam knew that everything was OK I returned to the Rock Shelter (a spot that is used frequently as a camp but is getting a bit tired) and shouldered my pack again. It was now mid afternoon and my luck with the weather was holding, my mood holding with the blue sky. I was now climbing a little bit more towards another forested summit, Mt Saint Phillack, which is the highest mountain on the Mt Baw Baw plateau. It was along here that I also started to cross some lingering snow drifts, it’s common to have a lot of snow up here in winter but not so common to have so much snow in late October, we had a late and big snow season this year in Australia and snow would feature more than once on my journey north.
These yellow triangles are the current AAWT markers...I still think the old diamond ones are better though.
It's fairly unusual to have snow here in late October.
The Mt Saint Phillack summit cairn, the highest spot on the Baw Baw plateau but no real views.
Dropping down to grassy saddle below Mt Saint Phillack I once again dropped my pack for awhile, it was time for my second lunch and besides it would be rude to pass by such a pretty spot without stopping. I generally stop at this small grassy spot every time I walk through here as you can normally find a nice sheltered place to sit for a few minutes and take everything in. After a bit of a rest I once again set off on my journey north, it was an excited Feral Walker (relatively speaking;) who climbed gently away from the saddle through another snow drift, you see this was the first bit of the AAWT that I hadn’t set foot on before so everything was new to me. The AAWT stays fairly high as it makes it’s way over to the Mt Whitelaw Hut Site, still passing through un burnt Snow Gum forest the track undulates a little more than it had this morning, most of the rises and falls are pretty short though so It’s not too bad and the (very) good news was that the track was wide and clear of scrub - how easy is this walking caper hey!
The view over towards Mt Baw Baw from my grassy saddle.
The Snow Gums in the other direction looked a bit more inspiring.
Shuffling on I was just starting to wonder if I’d actually missed the Mt Whitelaw Hut Site when I noticed the chimney ahead of me, it turns out that the pad actually passes right beside the old hut site. One of the peculiarities of the AAWT is the signposting and track marking, you need to assume that nothing is signposted or marked and then occasionally you’ll be pleasantly surprised, if you think the opposite way you’ll be frequently disappointed. So even though I knew that I was looking for the old Mt Whitelaw Hut Site I had no idea what it looked like or if it would be visible from the track. My luck with the weather ended at around the same time that I arrived at the old hut site, a cold misty drizzle started to drift through the trees so I got the tent up quick smart and managed to keep everything dry. Grabbing my water bottles I headed down a rough pad into the shallow open valley beside the hut site, sure enough there was a creek with what looked like a pretty reliable flow in it. That evening the old huts stone chimney provided a bit of shelter for me to cook near as the showers past through, but there was no lingering outside again tonight, with dinner eaten I was straight into the sleeping bag again for another long and restful night.
Shuffling up through the wet snow on my way over to Mt Whitelaw Hut Site.
The AAWT across the Mt Baw Baw plateau has been cleared in the last few years so it's not a scrub bash anymore.
Is it just me or is this a bit freaky? Someone had some time on their hands at some stage at the Mt Whitelaw Hut Site.
The Dirt.
I walked 19 kilometres today and climbed 750 metres on another hard days walking. The stats for the AAWT so far are 42 kilometres and 1925 metres of ascent over the two days. Water was available at many spots over the Mt Baw Baw plateau once I left the old Talbot Hut Site. Camping is also available at many spots. I got a Telstra mobile signal at Mt Saint Gwinear. John Chapman supplied maps and notes of choice but I also carried Rooftop’s Walhalla - Woods Point Adventure Map in case I needed a bigger over view as well as my GPS topo maps.

Relevant Posts.


Mt Whitelaw Hut Site.
There is what looks like a fairly reliable creek down in this shallow valley, I'm standing at the hut site.



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