What was going to be a three day walk was cut short. Our original plan was to complete a circuit walk starting from Breakfast Creek car park and finishing at the same location, however the first day was harder than expected and with a few uncertainties, including the unknown conditions ahead and availability of water, we took the safe option and turned back. On the positive side this was a good recce for a future walk when we would be better prepared.
The Saturday (29 October) was essentially all up with an ascent of 1020 metres over 10.5 kilometres and the Sunday down in reverse.
The first 4 km, from the car park to Sugarloaf ridge, was a steady climb along a well formed track gaining an altitude of 500 metres. This was a good heart starter and in the warm 25 degree October sunlight I could feel the sweat forming. We topped up our water bottles 10 mins earlier after hearing water trickling in the creek near the track (it should be noted that this water supply is very intermittent). We then had two litres each which would serve to keep us hydrated until the next water opportunity at Long Hill.
Then we had a steady stroll for 15 min before a steep climb up a grassy slope with numerous switchbacks. The track was becoming narrower all the time – it could be better described as an animal trail. As we looked behind us we had views of the Sugarloaf, a quaint picturesque hill to the south. At the top of the slope the track gave way to rocky ridge to The Crinoline. At 6.7 km (from the car park) we stopped at the side of The Crinoline for a relaxing cuppa whilst taking in the views of the expansive Wellington River Valley. Travelling from home that morning meant we didn’t get started until 1pm and given that the afternoon was fast disappearing we thought we had better get a wriggle on to ensure arriving at our camp site on the Long Hill prior to dark.
Some orienteering was required on the NW face of the Crinoline as it looked easier to skirt around the face rather than going up and over. We simply stuck to a contour just above one of the upper rock tiers and managed to avoid most of the shrubs. Then it was an hour plus of boulder/ rock scrambling and gentle walking for the next 3 km before reaching our camping spot for the night.
It had taken us longer than expected. Margie in particular was feeling fatigued from the ten plus kilometres walk and thousand metre ascent. We arrived at the tent site just before dark and quickly dropped our packs to walk down the gully to Long Hill Creek for water replenishment. Fortunately there was a nice flow of clear water at the headwaters of the Creek just above a waterfall. We could see that others had accessed the creek as there was a discernible path from the main walking track. Someone had marked “water” with an arrow on a rock to show us where to turn off the main track.
This was a bigger day than expected. To continue on might have been unwise as Long Hill was likely the last practical water access for the next two days! I had thought that we would simply drop into the head of a gully at our next camp but not having local knowledge or good information on water sources could have put us in trouble. Upon realising the lack of a constructed track and difficulty of finding water, and our lack of carrying sufficient water, we made a decision to turn back.
We got up at day break and made a quick visit to the creek to refill our water bottles. The weather conditions were deteriorating with strong winds forecast. Before daybreak there were strong wind gusts. Fortunately our Big Sky Chinook all season tent was proving resilient on the exposed site. With the wind getting stronger we packed up and were on the way by 7 am.
We soon made it to The Crinoline but had to take it slowly traversing the north west face as the wind was really packing a punch. We both had our hats blown off and had to scurry after them. Walking on the tops of the boulders and rocks was precarious and we occasionally had to stop and brace ourselves until the gust had passed. We were thankful to drop lower into the shelter of Breakfast Creek. A few drops of rain with what looked like worse to come. We got back to the car at midday.
Although we didn’t complete the full circuit we still had a great experience in some very nice remote country. We will certainly be better prepared next time when walking in this part of the Victorian high country. The main thing is to be self sufficient with water. There are a number of walks that have similar water challenges in Victoria including the Crosscut Saw section of the Australian Alps Walking Track. Carrying water for two days can be demanding as most of us prefer to travel light, however this appears to be a necessity for this walk.