When things go wrong on bushwalks you can usually trace a chain of errors that lead to the final problem.
Error number one – telling my wife I was hiking alone. If I didn’t mention this little fact I would have had a lovely walk during great weather.
Error number two – inviting my brother, which immediately changed the timing of the hike, delaying it a day or three while the weather slowly darkened, and also dragged it from three days to two.
Error number three – starting up Mt Bogong with someone who clearly wasn’t going to make it.
The problem was resolved by letting it be known that we can go somewhere else while we still could. So, after ascending The Staircase for just under an hour or so, and having covered perhaps hundreds of metres of the actual climb, we turned around. Destination number two was Mt Buffalo (you can see Bogong from there), setting up base camp at Lake Catani and enjoying various day walks and a bottle of red that wasn’t on the original menu.
Not far from the lake camping area is a short walk to a small peak where you clamber in and around granite boulders. As we started to climb amongst the tors, we noticed a hiker in front of us, near the top of a boulder. Beside the path was a jumper, which I figured he had left behind.
“Is this your jumper?” I called out.
“No, I’m not a jumper”, he responded.
“Is this your jumper?” I called out again.
“No, I’m not”, her replied.
The conversation continued in this way until we reached the gentleman, a Californian by the name of Chuck. We then learnt that what we in Australia call a jumper, Americans call a sweater, and what we in Australia refer to as someone attempting suicide by leaping off a cliff, Americans call a jumper. Chuck was just letting us know that, although it was rather warm, he wasn’t planning on taking his life. He explained he was going to pick up the jumper/sweater on his way back.
“It’s a circuit”, I said.
“No, where does the track go?”, Chuck asked, sounding somewhat disbelieving.
It was a good question as the track seemed to just stop. After a short bit of searching we found a kind of hole in the ground.
We descended into the hole, which led to a chasm, accessible via a ladder leading to a log with steps cut into it, and generally had a ball clambering around until we found ourselves back at the trail head. Along the way Chuck invited us over to his camp for a wine after dinner.
“What campsite are you on?”, we asked.
“That’s a coincidence, so are we.”
And so we were, though I think a sign saying twelve must have been souvenired.
|The way forward ... or down|
There are various tracks around The Gorge to various lookouts. The tracks to the points most distant from the car park were obviously less walked and at the furthermost lookout we were a little baffled as to where the track was. But, being experienced hikers who have made it a hundred or so metres along the track to Mt Bogong, it didn’t present us with too many difficulties. The lookouts are mainly on the north side of the Gorge with views to the Chalet and the ramp where the hang gliders leap off. There are also some interesting bits of history like the remains of a piano.
|The piano, or what's left of it.|
Closed for a number of years now, The Chalet is a wonderful building that is probably impossible to run at a profit, or to even manage so that it could scrape by with only minimal losses. Maybe one day … with significant dollars thrown at it. A fascinating step back into history to a time when railways were running massive tourism enterprises miles from any railway station.
|The Chalet sitting above The Gorge|
The explorer dudes who named Mt Buffalo Mt Buffalo thought the mountain looked like a buffalo lying on its side. I’m not sure where they were looking from - I’ve never really seen the resemblance myself; but, from the McDonalds on the freeway, it kind of sort of, if you squint, gives a sort of impression of a buffalo. Buffalos have horns and the bit that looked like a horn was therefore called The Horn. It’s the highest spot on the plateau and has fantastic views after a short, easy walk that takes about ten minutes to what was on the day a cold windy lookout. I’ve skied to the Horn but didn’t climb it – too icy and slippery I was warned – but wish I had of; with the plateau under snow the view would have been magnificent.
The Cathedral and The Hump
The Hump (another buffalo the animal feature) and The Cathedral (not found on regular buffalos) are peaks in the central plateau area and the short walk to the top The Hump is well worth the effort. It was here that I was reminded of the dangers of walking alone; jumping between rocks I nearly missed my landing, my foot sliding between two boulders in a way that would have neatly snapped a leg bone if I landed a centimetre of twelve over. The views are, again, fantastic, particularly of the nearby Cathedral. I snapped away, scoring a picture that made it to the ABC news a day or two later. The Cathedral is also accessible, but it takes a bit of off-track walking and to get to the very top requires ropes and climbing gear. Maybe next time.
|The Cathedral from The Hump|
|Climber on The Cathedral|
The Monolith is a huge boulder on top of a hill. Once upon a time you could climb a ladder to the top of the boulder but the ladder has been removed as it was considered too risky (I think it gave lawyers cold sweats). You can wander around the peak on which the boulder sits, take in yet more views, and probably, if you tried really hard, fall off and scare the lawyers. The top of The Monolith is still accessible to rock climbers.
This is where the camping area is, and it’s a pleasant camping area. The first thing you notice when you get there is that most of the campsites have reserved signs on them – not because they are actually reserved but because they might be – while a dozen or so are available for people who just turn up. The lake itself, well, I actually forgot to go and have a look this time, though I have paddled around it before and it is quite pleasant. The lake is the water supply for the camping ground though, for legal reasons, you aren’t supposed to drink the water without adding chemicals or boiling or filtering , none of which I bothered to do (the lawyers, having removed the ladder, have installed signs regarding the danger of the water). Dinner, wine – and Chuck had a campfire – made for a good night’s camping.
|Lake Catani from The Monolith. The campground is amongst the trees on the near side of the lake|
… and Mt Bogong