Walhalla to Stronachs Camp – AAWT

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AAWT Stage 1 (trip 2) – Walhalla to Stronachs Camp

With Jacob and Lorelei having well and truly kicked off the Adventure Gang’s 2014 challenge with their epic Mount Howitt to Rumff Saddle trek, it was time to pitch in for the 2nd (technically the 1st) stage of the Walhalla to Canberra Australian Alps Walking Track. This involved a 46.3km hike from the historic (by Australian standards) mining town of Walhalla to Stronachs camp through Baw Baw National Park.

All was looking good for the 4 of us; Jacob, Lorelei, Vanessa & I to do a 2-car key swap after starting at either end of the hike, until a couple of days beforehand when Vanessa decided that the demands of 22 prep children in their first few day of school had to take priority (damn them pesky kids). Undeterred by this, I decided to take one for the team & hike solo.

Friday night meant a drive down to Walhalla and using the excellent free camp site at North Gardens before an early morning start on Saturday (once Jacob got his shit together) from opposite the rotunda in Walhalla for Jacob & Lorelei and a drive along the mainly dirt road to Stronachs Camp at the North end of Baw Baw for yours truly, where I left Caroline’s car (taking a photograph before leaving it just to prove that it was actually left where I said it was).

Ready to set off in Walhalla

Using a copy of the Australian Alps Walking Track Guidebook for guidance, I set off, only to discover after a few minutes of walking that as it was written from the perspective of someone walking in the opposite direction, and was best read in reverse. Once I got used to taking lefts instead of rights and vice versa, it was almost a piece of cake! For the most part the route was easily distinguishable, if a little overgrown in parts but nothing to worry too much about. As this is one of the more popular sections of the AAWT, I had expected to bump into other intrepid hikers but with the exception of some really annoying march flies for the first half of the day there was very little in the way of company.

The majority of the day was uphill, although not overly steep. I took some consolation in the knowledge that the walk from the South was far steeper in parts and wondered how Jacob’s dodgy knee was holding up. I did consider for a moment that as I actually had the keys for both cars with me (oops) Jacob would not be too impressed if he had decided he needed to head back to Walhalla. Reaching Mount Phillack (the highest point in Baw Baw) early in the afternoon should have given me the comforting feeling of knowing it was mainly downhill from there…but that’s when it started to rain.

With the rain came a couple of positives: firstly I lost my buzzing companions and secondly there was little chance that I would run out of water if the streams were flowing. Initially the rain was fairly light but unfortunately, as the path was so overgrown in parts, I spent several kms getting soaked walking through chest high bushes which dropped all their moisture on me as I brushed past. Never mind I thought, the camp site at Talbot Hut should give me an opportunity to dry off 🙂

After between 6 & 7 hours walking I arrived at the camp site. Unfortunately the only remains of the hut was a stone chimney which afforded little shelter from the rain which was now a little persistent. 🙁 I selected the perfect flat spot to pitch my tent and was pleased to hear some nearby voices (the first of the day for me) as Jacob & Lorelei arrived. They began to set up their tents and the heavens opened, to the extent that standing under a nearby tree for shelter, I managed to fill a 1 litre bottle of water in less than 2 minutes from the water pouring off the tree trunk! As I did this Lorelei attempted to cook dinner for her & Jacob. Luckily I had pre-cooked my food which was easy to eat cold. Within 10 minutes my ideal site became a pond with my tent as a central water feature. We all decided to retreat to our tents for a very early night at 7.30pm.

Lorelei braving the elements to cook her beloved’s dinner (Jake all cosy in the tent)
View from old tramway coming into town (car is welcome sight in background)

At 6.30am the following morning it was still raining. Amazingly my water feature tent had kept the rain at bay. With little prospect of the rain easing off I ate my breakfast in the tent and explained to J & L that I would prefer to be moving in the rain than sitting around in it, so after packing up my mud-caked tent (and swapping keys…phew!) we said our goodbyes and I headed off at around 8am. The good news being that I had shed an excess 3 litres of drinking water I felt I no longer needed but in the process had gained a few kilos of wet and muddy gear. Fortunately it was mainly down hill for me to Walhalla.

Passing Mt Erica and mushroom rocks I saw my first fellow hiker (J & L excepted) in 2 days, who was looking as wet as I was despite only setting out that morning. As I dropped in altitude the rain and low mist started to clear and by 11am had all but stopped, with the sun making a welcome appearance. This made for a very pleasant final 11km walk from Thompson Valley road to Walhalla along the old tramway that runs high over the valley and river below, including the trek across Poverty Bridge; particularly as I dropped by gear at the road knowing that I would drive past to collect it on the way home.

Reaching Walhalla, fairly early in the afternoon, it was a welcome sight to see the Xtrail waiting for me in the carpark behind the rotunda. Unfortunately my phone was on the blink due to excess moisture content and I was back in sunny Melbourne before I could contact J & L to see how they had fared.

Trip summary:
Total Ascending (TA): 3430m
Total Descending (TD): 1975m
Total Distance of AAWT completed (TKM): 46.3km
AAWT Points: ((TA+TD)/1000)*(TKM/10) = 25.03 points

Watch this space for stage 3 of the adventure gang’s 2014 AAWT challenge.