Mt Gar, Briggs Bluff Traverse – The Grampians

Of the three multi-day hikes in The Grampians, the Briggs Bluff Mount Gar Traverse was my second choice. Like the Major Mitchell Plateau, it’s only an overnight hike.
While there are several ways to do the hike, I decided on a more direct route between the two – park the Pointy Brick at one end, walk to the other end and hitch/walk back. It could be done in one very long day, but for the enjoyment, I decided to do it in two – to give me more time to check out the wonders. Well it wasn’t to turn out that way…

I drove the long way to the Rose’s Gap to avoid all the dirt roads and parked the Pointy Brick at the car park. I donned my pack and headed off. The initial walk is 1.3km to the Beehive Falls and is a flat and wide dirt track. Once you reach the falls – which is only a trickle – the track changes.

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As I walked, I could make out the wind blown rocks above.

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The track then became a rock ledge climb. It wasn’t hard and in short order I made it to the top of the initial cliffs.

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Undulating ground almost like a plateau spread out before me, with the jagged teeth of the peaks across from me.
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I stopped for lunch and to dry off as the day had started pretty warmly. After lunch I walked along the plateau following yellow arrows and the occasional cairn.

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It’s easy to lose the trail as lines of flat rocks go off in different directions. At a certain point the trail heads towards one of the jagged peaks and climbs around the side of it. I gained a bit of respite as it clouded over and became cooler. From the higher vantage, I could see it was raining along the plains, but by the movement of the clouds, the rain didn’t appear to be heading towards the mountains just yet.

I reached a turn off to Briggs Bluff, the northern most section of The Difficult Range – Mt Gar is also known as Mt Difficult. I decided to walk to the bluff without my pack, so hid it in a small cave…

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…more to protect it from sudden weather changes than rampaging wallabies. An older German couple had just come back from the Bluff, so I stopped and chatted to them about the rest of the walk before climbing the 1.4km to the top of the bluff. The bluff is purely rocky ground, with plentiful steep climbs.

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I crested the top and sat for a while looking out across Victoria which was being lashed with rain. I headed back when I noticed that the rain was on its way towards the range. I had just arrived back at my pack when a small scattering of rain started. I put on my pack cover and headed out. It was only 3.4km to the wilderness camp.

Across the top of the traverse it seemed that the only way is up. If I wasn’t climbing a short steep peak I had a long slow climb along the plateau. The rain didn’t last long and I made my way across the spectacular low ridge line towards Mt Gar. It rained again briefly and looking out west, a lot more looked to be on its way. It was only an additional 4km from the camp to the base of the range so I decided to forego the camping.

I did stop at the Mt Gar Wilderness camp, leaving my pack under the protection of a Grass Tree man.

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I climbed the rocky face of Mt Gar, similar to Briggs Bluff, there were steep rocky walls to climb, but not difficult as the name would suggest. At the top, spectacular 360 degree views…

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…including that of Lake Wartook.

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With the rain due in short order, I hurried back down to my pack and continued. The rain began and didn’t stop for an hour. 4km will generally take an hour to walk on a fairly flat trail, but this trail was anything but flat, and it continued climbing slowly.

It climbed around the side of some of the steep rocky peaks with thin trails and plentiful boulders to climb.

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I took care because of the rain, but found my boots didn’t slip much. A hiker must trust his boots. If they can grip a 45-50 degree angled rock they’re great. If they can do that in the wet as well, they’re brilliant. Mine are brilliant. I love my boots.

I continued meandering around the cliffs, heading downwards occasionally only to find I had to climb again. At some places I had to crawl through low gaps in rocks, in others I had to take the pack off and haul it after me.

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Eventually the rain ended and the track decided it had had enough as well and headed down. I had to take care as there were several steep rocky walls I had to scramble down on my butt, and as the trail grew slowly less steep, I came to the bottom, a place known as the wind cave.

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It was only 500m to the road and it I don’t get a ride, 6km along a bitumen to my van.

At the bottom I met up with the German couple, who were sitting around a fire. They’d seen only one car on the road and had walked back – although they didn’t have full packs to walk with. They graciously offered me a lift to the Pointy Brick which I accepted. I arrived back at the caravan park exhausted and sore. I’m glad I decided not to camp on the range as violent electrical storms wracked the Grampians that night with plentiful rain.

After a couple of rest days, I’m heading off to the Brisbane Ranges near Melbourne to walk the Burchell Trail – a three day hike.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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