Mt Bogong Big River Circuit – Alpine National Park – Central Victoria

Alpine National Park is in the Central Victorian Highlands and is a well known Victorian skiing area. Mt Bogong is the tallest mountain in Victoria at just under 2000m above sea level.

Day 1 – Watchbed Creek Trailhead to Cole Cleve Memorial Hut
This morning I drove, from where I’d been resting for a few days at Mt Beauty (a township not a mountain), up to the Bogong High Plains and Watchbed Creek Trailhead. The Trailhead is about 1500m from the locked gate that is the beginning of the hike. I parked down the bottom as I didn’t deem the road suitable of the Pointy Brick.

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I was preparing to walk up the track and add the 1.5km to the already 20.5km for the day when an old lady drove up. She asked about the condition of the road and telling me how she used to come here years ago. She decided to drive it and offered to give me a lift.

From the gate, the trail walks out across the grassy high plains gently climbing to a point where it meets the Australian Alps Walking Trail. The AAWT, as it’s known, is a 650km long trail starting in lower Victoria and crossing all of the country’s highest areas to its end point near Canberra. I might do that another time. Maybe.

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Since the highland is above the tree line, the knolls and knobs are the mountains. Sadly, this makes them not as impressive as the rocky Tasmanian mountains. The trail climbed gently through the mountains with the distant sets of rolling mountains coming into view from time to time in all directions. The track is fairly easy to follow as it’s a 4WD track cut across the grass. The side tracks, of which there are plenty, are harder to see. Along the side of the track are snow posts each 3 metres tall.

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At a junction the track separates and I follow the less defined one. The other is my return track in a couple of days. After a couple of kilometres the trail heads below the tree line and shortly after I arrive at Roper Hut. The hut is surrounded in the white Snow Gum trees, their high branches standing white against the surrounding greenery. The hut itself was burnt down in the 2003 fires, and has been rebuilt. It looks new on the inside.

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The trail from here climbs steeply down 800 metres…

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…to Big River, which is probably a lot bigger during wetter seasons, where I stopped for lunch in preparation for the 800 metre climb on the other side back up the mountain.

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While the climbing was hard, it wasn’t too torturous but did seem to go on until 90 minutes later I arrived at the top and a junction. The AAWT went one way and I went the other to Cole Cleve Memorial Hut, another well set up hut, this one even had running water, a shower and a connecter to enhance your cellphone reception. This far up, I was expecting to be alone, but there were 3 other groups here.

Day 2 – Cole Cleve Memorial Hut to Big River Ford
While it was slightly cold on the highlands overnight, nothing a pair of socks couldn’t fix.

Today’s walk begins with a steep climb up to Mt Bogong, but as it’s above the tree line the time goes past quickly because you can see how much further you have to go.

Following the line of snow poles, I made my way up the mountain. Climbing in the highlands doesn’t have the same grandeur as some other places.

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Yes, I was climbing the tallest mountain in Victoria, but it felt more like I’d just strolled to the top of the neighbourhood grassy hill. There are no rocky fingers or parapets, just a grassy knoll high above everything else. Yup, that’s the high point…

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At the top of Mt Bogong is a giant cairn and 360 degree views.

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The views are awesome, lines and lines of mountains in all directions…

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and one large valley where sits the township of Mt Beauty.

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I crossed Hooker Plateau and found a spot for lunch looking along the valley. Then I was off again. The only way down is along Quartz Ridge, and awesome rocky spine. This was the fun part of the day with a deep gully on either side. I climbed along it cautiously.

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A few hundred metres later I broke the tree line and followed the trail down through the Snow Gums at times feeling like I was walking in a tree graveyard, the white fingers sticking up with growth around the base.

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A couple of tree covered knolls later I came to a junction and followed it for a kilometre to the Big River Fire Trail I’d left yesterday (when I headed to Roper Hut). Another kilometre downhill I came to the Big River at a ford about 8km along from yesterday’s crossing. The fire trail continued on the other side, but there was an open patch of ground that I used as a camping spot. Unlike Cole Cleve Memorial hut, there’s nothing here other than a flattened area of ground and a fire pit. Not even a toilet. I set up the tent and then went down for a dip in the icy river.

Day 3 – Big River Ford to Watchbed Creek Trailhead.
From the ford, the fire trail heads up at a constant slope up to the junction where I left it two days ago. Most of the walk was along the side of the mountains, meandering their way slowly up towards the tree line.

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Once at the junction, it was another 2 and a half hours retracing my steps back across the highlands until I arrived at the locked gate. This time there was no old lady to drive me, so I walked down to The Pointy Brick.

While the hike wasn’t as grand as others I’ve done, I still felt like I achieved a feat. Next, after a couple of days off, I go to the Kosciusko National Park, home of the tallest mountain in Australia, in the highlands of New South Wales. Mt Kosciusko is actually at the southern end of the National Park, but as I’ve already climbed it twice, I’m walking an area called the Bogong Wilderness at the northern end. This is the last hike of my South East Australian adventure, then after a short break, I head to Argentina to continue my travels.

The Lone Trail Wanderer.

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