When we went: Tuesday July 2
How we got there: we stayed in Bright overnight, and from there drove up to the park the next morning. The advantage of this is that you can enjoy a night out at 13 steps the night before (Monday night). Trust me, this is very advantageous. (Also note that for the evening on the day of our walk, most foodie places in Bright are closed on Tuesday night in Winter, but the burger place next to Woolies is great: nice burgers, a couple of local beers in the fridge, and a toasty warm place to sit.)
Activity summary: around six and a half hours of walking, the first half on tracks, the second half on a fire trail. Probably twenty minutes off-track. We had two ten minute breaks for a snack/drink and a half hour break for lunch.
What we did (the details):
We arrived just before 9am. Honestly, we’d prefer to start walking earlier, but it was at most -5C the night before, so we wanted to avoid an icy road up. We needn’t have worried, the road was dry and ice-free the whole way.
We’d heard that there was snow on the mountain, but we were surprised by how much there was. After walking here only a week earlier, the place was transformed by the white powdery blanket on everything. The snow was dry and clean, clearly showing us that noone else had been through since the snowfall 36 hours earlier. Well, no other humans, anyway; the track was busy with animal tracks for most of the journey.
The first section of the walk, from Reservoir car park to Og, Gog and Magog was on clear tracks. Everything being covered in snow made the walking easy: the irregularities of the small track were smoothed out by the snow, the larger puddles had firm icy edges and the track was a clear white line for most of the way.
But somehow at Og, Gog and Magog we followed the wrong trail, and ended up being led by track markers through the monoliths rather than around them. We assume in hindsight that we were on a rockclimbers’ route rather than the mapped hiking route. Maybe I was misled by the dingo tracks leading us along, but in any case the track semed to dead end in the rocks, so we were forced to decide whether to backtrack or look for a route. We initially tried scrambling up through the rocks, but the icy surfaces made this dangerous, so we backed out and made our way carefully through the snowy scrub until we sighted a track signpost in the distance down the valley. Luckily the open undergrowth and the snowy forest floor meant that it was fairly easy to work our way to the signpost and to the real trail. We probably lost twenty minutes or more though by losing our way.
Once back on the track, it was once more beautiful clear foot track walking through the snowy forest.
We reached Eagle Point turn off at 10:30, and gasped when we saw the ladders climbing their way around the rock faces to the top. The ladders were seriously beautiful; sturdy with crenellated edges for grip and black hand rails to soak up the sunshine. It was all great until the path crossed a small shadowed gap filled with little boulders. The stones were covered in snow which made me nervous about stepping across them safely, and the hand rail was just out of reach for me to use both the rail and the rock wall for stability. To be honest, I was terrified. Curse my short body! With my partner’s patient encouragement I made it across, and from there up to the summit. The views were beautiful, so well worth the climb. We stopped here for a snack.
Back on the track to Mollisons Galleries and another short stop at a beautiful rock platform before pushing onto the galleries for lunch. Stunning views and a sunny spot with NO SNOW. We set up our stove in the sunshine and had hot soup for lunch with meats, crackers, carrots and cheese, and tried to believe we’d walked through snow to get to this point.
Okay. So. This is where we should have turned around and gone back the way we came. But we didn’t, we followed the suggested loop walk in the maps, and this is where things got kinda messy.
We retraced our steps back to the Mollisons Galleries turn off and stared dubiously at the sign pointing to the Rocky Creek trail. It pointed off into unmarked scrub, no trail was visible. We wandered around in the snowy forest for a while, and eventually spotted an orange tape marker. We followed the fairly indistinct track for the next hour, through the snow, around and over fallen trees, leaping over running creeks and knee deep alongovergrown ditches. occasionally there were markers… But not often enough for surety. It’s fair to guess that this track doesn’t see much maintenance.
After finally crossing Stony Creek (which was beautiful: clear waters over gravel and well placed wobbly stones to hop) a few minutes later we arrived at the fire trail. Over an hour to travel two kilometres is hard going. I did take LOTS of photos on this section, I saw so many plants I’d never seen before, the vegetation in the creek valley was amazing. Mountain pepper is the most beautiful thing…
So then the fire trail. This was just a boring up, up, up climb. The lower reaches were edged thickly with blackberry, which made the whole experince pretty awful. I guess because it’s used as a ski trail, or maybe because of the 4wd access, I’m not sure, but it was pretty choked with the weeds.
As the trail reached the top plateau it opened up to beautiful apline plains with creeks running through snow covered buttony grass vegetation, and it became more enjoyable again. The last little creek hopping across teetering rocks, and the final section of track back to the car.
And then… as we carefully drove back along the icy gravel of Reservoir road, we saw a flash of yellow across the road. We both yelped “a dingo!” and stopped the car. The incredible golden creature also stopped in the grassland by the road and turned to face us, then watched us silently as we tore ourselves away and drove regretfully on. (Reminded me of this scene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRoLgBE9AOs .)
All those paw prints in the snow…
More photos: I am still adding captions, but if you want more photos of this walk, I have more on Flickr, here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pardaloteflits/sets/72157653961305942
Birds we saw: we didn’t really see any birds on the walk. We did see the usual crimson rosellas on the road to the park, as well as a grey shrike thrush. But we saw a dingo!!!
Maps: We used the Mount Buffalo Outdoor Recreation Guide for planning our walk.
- Parks Victoria has lots of info about the park here: http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/mount-buffalo-national-park
- But this is more accurate in its description of the track between Mollisons Gallery and Rocky Creek fire trail: http://www.highcountrytours.com.au/Mt%20Buffalo%20Walking%20Tracks.PDF of course, I didnt see this until after the walk…