Written by Lucie
One very hot weekend in December 2015, Mark and Lucie decided to escape the weather – by hiking up Victoria’s highest mountain. Another hot, steep birthday hike!
We started at Mountain Creek campsite (elevation: 600m), at the base of Mount Bogong near Tawonga and Mount Beauty. Having arrived at the campsite rather late the previous night we didn’t get up quite as early as we had planned. Unfortunately, this meant that by the time we had packed up, had breakfast and were ready to get going it was already pretty warm, and the temperature was rising (set to be about 40 degrees Celsius in Melbourne).
We walked to the start of the Staircase Spur and the began the long, hot, steep ascent. Only a short way along the track Mark nearly stepped on a brown snake, which then meant that everything looked like a snake for a while.
As we walked steadily uphill the heat continued to climb and we had to have quite a few pauses in little patches of shade. We were aiming to have lunch at Bivouac Hut (elevation: 1450m), but it seemed to take forever to get there! Mark keep saying it was ‘only another few minutes away…’, ‘just around the next bend…’. Thankfully he stopped jinxing us after a couple of hundred metres more relentless climbing and eventually we reached the hut. We’d hiked about 5km and ascended about 800m. If felt much further and took us longer than I care to admit.
After a delicious lunch in the shade, Mark had a little snooze under a tree and I topped up our water supplies. Then, we got back on the path and continued climbing up Mount Bogong. The summit was another 3km and 500m climb away and it was scorching. As we got higher the trees started to thin, which meant there was less shade to hide in. However, the breeze picked up which was very welcome and eventually the temperature started to drop.
Just before we got fully above the tree line, Mark wanted a short break in the shade. Just as he got comfy he realised that he had settled on top of an ant nest and was covered! He was sad.
Above the trees and at the base of the summit there are awesome craggy rocks (and an awesome cool breeze). From the top of Mount Bogong (elevation: 1989m) we had fantastic 360 degree views of the Alpine region and could see many of the surrounding peaks and AAWT paths that were done in 2014. We also saw a very low flying glider.
From the apex of Mount Bogong we crossed the high plains (one of my absolute favourite terrains) to Cleve Cole Hut. This section is pretty short and (unfortunately) was very quick to complete. It was a lot of fun and the scenery was beautiful. On the way we followed a few snow poles and a bright orange-breasted bird was perched on top of one of them, very reminiscent of our AAWT Winter Wonderland hike.
Cleve Cole Hut (elevation: 1780m) is a pretty fancy stone hut that is cared for by the Bogong Club. We met Gordon who had hiked in to do a bit of work to the front steps and was cooking up a steak on the permanent gas stove inside (I said it was fancy). We cooked our own dinner inside the hut (but using our own stove) because we were in a total fire ban.
After a very windy but very comfortable night we ate our hiking breakfast of muesli and then we were soon on our way. Gordon was already working on those steps!
Our first section was to backtrack across the high plains towards Mount Bogong. As with the day before, very early on we came across a snake, possibly the same large black tiger snake that Gordon had seen the previous evening.
The views were at least as stunning as they had been on the way to the hut but it was very, very windy. Just before the Bogong summit we turned off to start our descent down Eskdale Spur. The view at the top, looking down, was amazing.
After some very steep drops we soon reached the tree line and soon after that we were at Mitchell Hut. As the trees thickened the wind dropped (or we were protected from it) and the shade increased, but so did the temperature. It felt like the air got 5 degrees hotter for every 200m that we descended. The path was very steep and the surface was loose, which made it a bit tricky to hike down but we were still way quicker than we had been on the way up.
It was really interesting to watch the terrain and the surroundings change around us as we travelled down the mountain. Towards the bottom of the spur is felt almost like a rain forest, with big green ferns and a real humidity.
At the bottom of the spur we ate lunch by the creek and then there was a short stretch of 4-wheel drive track to get back to Mountain Creek campsite and the car. We found a few blue-tongued skinks (including one that I almost trod on!) and had a well-deserved swim in the creek (which sadly was cut short by the presence of a lot of feral bees) to cool off before getting back in the car.
Total Ascending: ~1500m
Total Descending: ~1500m
Total Distance: 27.5km