Major Mitchell and Mount William

I recently found a copy of Tyrone Thomas’ 120 Walks In Victoria, first edition from 1977.  Good ol’ Tyrone introduced so many  to bushwalking with his hike suggestions. The first edition included some where ‘running’ and ‘expert navigation’ were required (it should be mentioned that that particular walk does not appear in later editions). The description for day two of a walk over The Cathedrals reads “walk northwards along the crest of the range for four km then at the far northern end plunge steeply down any ridge eastwards, cross Little River and turn north back to the walk starting point”. Others require using compass bearings and maps, both of which apparently existed before smart phones.  Good old fashioned bushwalking.

I also have a 1984 edition in which some of the walks are recognisable as hikes that would appear in guides today. Walk 113, Bomjinna – Major Mitchell Plateau, isn’t, however, one of those and that’s the walk we were intending. Tyrone’s directions are simple: “First use a good foot track from the picnic area westwards. The pad leads up a valley in forest, then through the cliffs near Mount William right to the Mount William turntable”. Sounds simple enough. Fire and flood have, since then, removed the trail, which is now partly rehabilitated, partly overgrown and partly ‘around here somewhere’.

Climbing Mount William along a no longer there track 

The first stretch is still recognisable as possibly an old four-wheel drive track, although flood damaged despite some rehab work. At some point we left that track and headed south (I think) to climb a ridge from where we had a wonderful view of the cliffs ahead. From there the track disappeared but we headed in the general direction  of that way for a bit and then uphill and across and maybe slightly downhill and over to the right until we hit the line of cliffs, where we followed the person in front because we thought they knew where we were going. A check of a GPS app reassured us that the track was once around where we were walking, assuming the track was accurately mapped (unlikely) and anyway, the person at the front does know where they are going – I’m sure of it. Well, we soon arrived at the turntable, so they must have.

From the turntable it’s a 27 km slog along the bitumen to the summit of Mount William. Okay, 27 km might be an exaggeration distance-wise – it was probably about two – but it’s pretty accurate slog-wise. Bitumen! Argh! Lunch at the summit was very welcome.

The view from along the bitumen
Next was across the tops on the usual track, dropping off Mt William and climbing onto the Major Mitchell Plateau. This has to be one of Victoria’s best walks, with fantastic views east and west. As we walked, hikers heading the other way passed on rumours of another hikgn party up ahead “There must be at least ten of them,” one person said, while another said “At least a dozen.” It was going to be busy in the one camping area at First Wannon Creek. We briefly considered stopping the night after dropping to Boundary Gap but the absence of water and a couple of dead ‘roos put an end to the considerations and we pushed on to First Wannon, climbing onto the southern section of the plateau. The climb, at the end of a long day, was tiring and my poor muscles started to cramp,

The camp was crowded-ish with a group from Geelong, who kindly and without any fuss made room for us. Camp, food and an early night under stars with a special guest appearance of the space station flashing overhead.

Next day was cool; tents were packed up damp and we set off again. Despite the cool windy conditions it was superb day wandering across the plateau before finally descending east to where the cars were parked near Mafeking.

Not that cold really ...

Just a bit of a chill in the air

Across the plateau

The Major Mitchell Plateau is one of Victoria’s best walks, very popular so there are bound to be a number of hiking parties sharing it on any given weekend. One of the highlights was Will acting like a ten-year-old, leaping around on the rocks at the top of one of the climbs and saying rather excitedly how “Wow” it all was. He was right, it is very “Wow”.


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