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Climbing Mt McDonald in the Victorian High Country
First snows of the season

mt mcdonald to mt clear trip review

Last Autumn, the smoke from numerous burn-off operations across the state, left a thick haze which shrouded the upper Jamieson River valley. In the heat we had followed an overgrown logging road up a steep ridge, but as we gained height the ridge became more rocky and a faint foot-track lead us up to the recently burnt snowgum forest which marks the final ascent to Mt McDonald. Faint signs of regrowth were evident in the twisted limbs of the gums. Underfoot, the red shale crumbled, offering little support for the grasses and alpine herbs. The track soon disappeared amid fallen logs, and for the next two days we had only a map, the ridges and the odd cairn to lead us to Mt Clear.

With the sun setting behind The Bluff, we decided to conserve our dwindling water supplies and dined on salami, some nuts and an apple each that first night. The next morning the spine of Mt McDonald's east ridge glowed a brilliant red and marked our day’s journey towards the steep slopes of the The Nobs, High Cone and Square Top. Most of this area was burnt during the recent fires, and while some track clearing and marking has since been undertaken, the walk is one where you must be attentive to the lay of the land to guide you. A little before sunset we made camp at the saddle below Mt Clear.

As the sun rose on the third morning, we emptied the last sips out of our drink bottles and made our way up the lush southern slopes of Mt Clear. Gone was the reddish scree, replaced now by a rich mountain soil which stuck to our boots. At the summit we could see a stand of long unburnt snow gums, and to our surprise a fellow traveller. He told us that he had to head off, but had we been ten minutes earlier, he would have offered us a cup of tea. We must have looked thirsty, so after a few strides, our stranger looked back and said "There's spring water just 'round a bit if you're looking for a drink.” And so, following a foot pad that led from the stand of gums we found a small depression which water was percolating into. Cuppa Soup soon in hand, we feasted our eyes over the Macalister River valley, trying to make out the names of the distant peaks.

Early in the afternoon, we made camp besides  the  stream  at  Chesters  Yards:  the site of a now abandoned mustering yard. The smoke haze which had characterised the past two days had blown off with a stiff southerly wind,  and  we  went  to  bed  early  to  keep warm. I woke in the night to tighten the draw-cord on my sleeping bag and drifted off again to the sounds of the snow gums braving it aginst the wind. Opening the tent in the morning, I squinted my eyes against the glare.... snow. The magic of the year’s first snowfalls followed us across the high plains and toyed with our imaginations as we began our long journey back to Melbourne.

A new full colour edition of the classic Alpine Walking Track by John Siseman and John Chapman is due to be released some time in 2009. Notes to this walk are available in Bushwalks In The Victorian Alps by Glenn van der Knijff, $32.95.



Langtang Local
Langtang Forest

nepal’s lantang trek

After arriving in Kathmandu, we jumped on a hairy 10 hour bus ride to Bhaktapur (1800m) and then onto Dhunche (1950m) where we began our trek up the Langtang National Park. The terrain was amazing, the agriculture magnificent. The Nepalese use every land space possible to farm and grow wheat, corn and potatoes. Virtually isolated, the people live among cows and yaks.

On the eve of the trek, I was early to bed, with dogs barking everywhere and with what sounded like squirrels running around on the roof under a full moon. Early to rise the next morning, we headed up and down hills for what seemed like hours, off to Sing Gompa (2600m). After a few corners on the track, I slowly settled into a rhythm. For the rest of the afternoon, we hiked through amazing rhododendron forests and remains of cabins/huts made of stone.

On the way to Laurebina (3900m), we passed Sing Gompa's monastery, a little clearing in the forest. The views included old rainforest, moss everywhere and more rhododendron trees.

Early the next morning, we set off for Gosaikunda Lakes (4200m). This was one of the most strenuous parts of the trek and had the most amazing sites: clouds rolling in at impossible speeds and snow capped peaks all around and ice on the ground. Temperature changes up here are incredibly fast.

Passing waterfalls and stunning lakes, we headed to Laurebina Pass (4610m) our highest point. Next down to Gopte (3200) and then back up to Therapati (3600m) where I began to recover from altitude sickness. With an extreme change in weather, I rugged up into thermals, and waterproof gear, only to get drenched anyway, due to the speed of the down pour.Further down the trek, we passed sub-tropical rainforest lush with vegetation, only to arrive at the entrance of the Kathmandu Valley. With extreme heat and hot sun beating down, we finished the trek and jumped on a bus back to Bhaktapur where the adventure with the Guide Dog’s Global Challenge ended.



Pungalinga Caves
Olive Tree Python found near the caves

pungalinga caving in the gulf savanna

Over June 2006 I drove to Pungalina Station in the Gulf Savanna region of the Northern Territory. Along with 7 members of the Victorian Speleological Association, we were to undertake cave exploration. The drive was an adventure in itself: 7000km return, 7 days each way, $1000 of petrol. Not all of the drive was tedious. I camped in magnificent forest by the Darling River, went Bilby watching in Charleville, saw the “Crocodile Dundee” hotel in McKinley, and visited Lawn Hill National Park. Good roads all the way, except after the remote Hells Gate roadhouse, where petrol was a staggering $1.87 a litre. The last 170km stretch took  7 hours after cars got bogged in mud and stuck on sand-drifts.

Finally we were there, camped by a billabong, with 2 weeks food. No quick trips to the shops here! It wasn’t what I had expected: open forest with grasslands, not the red center desert. Birdlife was abundant, fresh-water crocodiles were spotted,  the fishing was fun, and Larry from the Robinson River Aboriginal Community visited, displaying his turtle catching skills.

Caving took on 2 main aspects; (1)either exploring, photographing, surveying and hunting for new passages in known caves, or (2) exploring the surface for new caves! This area was first explored by cavers in 2005, although the land owner Owen already knows a number of good caves, it has great potential for new discoveries.

Ballroom Cave was discovered on the 2005 expedition, and surveyed to 400m in length with 2 entrances. By the end of this trip, it was extended to over 1km in length, and 3 entrances. Tim was doing postgraduate work on invertibrates (bugs!) in caves. A number of ingenious traps were set up: a plastic cup was dug in to ground level and anti-freeze was added. The bait was a small lump of tuna  wrapped in a  cloth and suspended over the cup. The bugs would smell the bait, and fall into the cup as they were attracted to get it.

Totem Pole Cave has been known to the owner Owen for years. On dusk, hundreds of bats would fly from the entrance to feed overnight. Olive Pythons also found this an excellent feeding time, catching the bats as they flew past. Bat counts were undertaken: numbers of ghost bats was 80; the small orange horseshoe bat estimated at 500 - 700.

Elsa’s Cave was surveyed, and Paul spotted a new grovelly passage up which I disappeared, returning 15 minutes later babbling about a lake filled chamber I found. Subsequently named Lake Elsa, after Owens daughter, we later swam across it, and down a water filled passage to another water filled chamber we named the Poolroom.

A number of new small caves were found. Some were open entrances hidden in the long grass. Others required a few hours of rock removal until someone could squeeze through. This is the most exciting part of caving, going somewhere and seeing something that no-one has seen before. Sometimes being the only member of the group who could fit through, I am the only person to have been into 1 or 2 of these new discoveries!

Caving is unique, and Pungalina presents cavers with unique opportunities.




tasty tips

There is nothing better than getting to the end of a long day of hiking and sitting down to a hot meal that was quick to prepare and as tasty as anything you could prepare at home. While dehydrated food fills a hole, on their own you wouldn’t exactly call them a taste sensation. There are also many stock standard camp meals out there including gnocci, pasta and couscous, but here are some suggestions that I have for quick, tasty and nutritious meals that you may not have thought of.

Red Lentils : Cooking time; approximately 15 minutes. Red lentils are high in protein and high in carbohydrate. Add some dried herbs and a stock cube, or some miso plus any veggies or additions you want.

Laksa Curry or Soup with rice noodles: Cooking time; approx 5 minutes. Laksa is a Thai curry paste that you dilute in water and coconut milk (powdered) to make either a sauce or a soup. You can add some dried veggies or a sachet of tuna, or whatever else excites your taste buds. Rice noodles are a very quick alternative to rice or pasta, and there are a plethora of curry sauces available to throw on the top. or use a paste with some powdered coconut milk.

Miso Soup: Cooking time; approx 5 minutes. A more nutritious alternative to packet soup, miso is very high in protein. You can buy it cheaply in individual sachets from your friendly local Asian grocer and you can add anything you want to it to bulk it out. It is also an excellent alternative to stock cubes.

Lentil Burgers: Cooking time; approx 5 minutes. You can buy these in vacuum-sealed packs in the vegetarian section of any supermarket. Very filling, you can add them to any meal to bulk it out and they keep very well out of the fridge.

Muesli-Porridge: Cooking time; approx 5 minutes. For all you porridge haters out there try making it out of muesli instead. If you really want to save on cooking time, pre-soak it over night and then heat it in the morning. Full sized, juicy oats that you find in muesli or buy separately, make a much nicer porridge than the quick oat sachets.

The Wilderness Shop stocks a wide range of dehydrated foods including packets of dehydrated mince and veggies that you can add to the above meals to bulk them out and add extra flavour.



superfeet pop-green

superfeet product review

So your boots look like they are in excellent condition, the leather and sole is worn in but the foot bed is worn-out, or perhaps prolonged use is causing pain and discomfort in the sole of your foot and up your leg towards the knee. I was personally experiencing these difficulties, until I bought myself a pair of Superfeet® innersoles. I wear my La Sportiva Tibet's nearly everyday and have been doing so since I got them 2 years ago. However this amount of use has strained the innersoles to the extreme, over time the air cells in the foam became clogged and compressed and the insole ceased to support my foot. It was time to look at new innersoles. I found that Superfeet® innersoles were the solution, and here is why!

When it comes to innersoles, Superfeet® are in a league of their own. Their design has grown from one of the world’s leading podiatric orthotic laboratories, so you know that they are built from a sound physiological backing. They are made from a three part construction:

1. Stabilizer Capsule. This stiffer plastic layer locates the sole in your boot and supports the foam layer, in essence it is the skeletal structure your boot lacks, it supports everything that is above it and is key to aligning your foot with the rest of your body.

2. Trocellen™ Foam Layer. This layer is the main supportive layer for your foot. It is specially moulded from high-quality, durable closed-cell foam to consistently balance and support your feet while at the same time naturally cushioning impact.

3. Holofibre® Top Cover Increases oxygenated blood flow thereby improving circulation and muscle energy.

As a whole the patented shape with its deep heel pocket centres your foot, neutralizes pronation, stopping your feet from collapsing inwards and stressing the surrounding muscle joints and ligaments. Basically Superfeet® are super-comfortable! They are the best way to improve the comfort of your boots. $49.95



Little-River-Gorge-walk-02 Little-River-Gorge-walk

little river gorge trip review

To mark the end of our Uni degrees, a few adventurous companions and I headed off on an epic journey through the regularly passed, but seldom explored, Little River Gorge. Located in East Gippsland, The Little River confluences with the Snowy a few kilometres downstream of McKillop’s Bridge. The multi-day trip is a combination of outstanding remote canyoning, rock hopping and hiking through the deepest gorge in Victoria. The only way out once you’re in the gorge is to keep going, with little chance of escape up the sides, as the walls of the gorge are hundreds of metres high.

The group met at the start of the gorge and made camp. Two of our group had never abseiled with a belay device before and with the multitude of 15 to 30 metre abseils over the next few days we thought it best to rig up a quick demonstration off the bridge crossing Little River at our makeshift campsite.

Little River Falls (where there is a popular tourist walk to a spectacular lookout platform) marks the start of the trip down the gorge, with either a 30 metre abseil down the falls, or the quicker option of a sketchy scramble over the viewing platform’s railings and around the side. With our determination to make short work of the previous group of MUMC’s effort of four days through the gorge, we opted for the sketchy scramble, which left time for our best explorer poses at the base of the falls for a photo.

The actual gorge doesn’t start for a few kilometres, which meant there was some wading down the thigh deep river for a couple of hours which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the rich ecosystem until the banks started to steepen. Eventually, we arrived at the first waterfall of the gorge and managed to find a down climb, made easier by lowering the packs on the rope from the top.  Very soon after, the walls of the gorge started to rise dramatically and the growth on the sides starts to thin out. Progress from now on was a combination of rock hopping and wading through the shallows of the river.

After a few more abseils the pools begin to deepen and pack swims become more frequent. The sides of the gorge are absolutely enormous by this stage, combined with the vast array of wildlife and very little sign of human impact, made us all feel like privileged visitors to this seldom explored part of the world.

The last abseil of the trip involves rappelling off a few trees at the top of a spectacular waterfall. But before the rappel begins each member had to jump over a large gap between two ledges. With a long distance to the ground, the abseil is a little daunting for the less experienced, all in all requiring a bit of time, patience and encouragement.

After the last rappel, the gorge changes dramatically again as the walls start to shrink and river becomes less steep. The pools become longer and deeper and some lengthier pack swims become more frequent. This went on for a few hours, with the floating through the cool pools being a relaxing break for our sore muscles. There are a few spots where you can jump off the side-walls into deeper pools and these provided a little too much entertainment and time started to tick on. We had fought our way through the gorge and come out the other side in under a day (it usually takes a couple of days) and we now faced one hell of a bush-bash to get to a suitable camp spot.

Finding a camp-site became a hellish battle with brutish blackberry bushes, and we finally gave in and made camp on a sandy island in the middle of the river. We made a fire to thaw out our damp and weary bodies and fell asleep under the starry sky almost instantaneously after dinner.

The next morning, after a quick cup of tea, saw quite a few more hours of bush-bashing and wading through the river to the confluence with the Snowy River. The mass of tangled vegetation made progress slow, but a few encounters with some less than friendly snakes kept us moving. A quick lunch at the confluence and then a few hours making our way upstream to McKillop’s Bridge and we were at the cars.

The Little River gorge is an amazing adventure requiring a fair amount of prior experience in rope techniques to explore its depths. The price for the experience is definitely paid on the walk out to McKillop’s bridge, but it is definitely worth every drop of sweat and blood for anyone looking for a genuine Victorian adventure.

Mallacoota-exploring mallacoota-cliff-top-walk-02 mallacoota-cliff-top-walk

mallacoota trip review

On the boundary between Victoria and NSW lies a coastal wilderness zone with amazing scenery and a sense of remoteness.  While the 58 km walk can be done in three long days, we decided to take our time to soak it all up. The walking is generally not too steep, but the soft sand and exposure to sun and wind make walking a little strenuous sometimes. The best time to walk is definitely in spring as fresh water is more available and the temperature is more pleasant.

Having left a car at the Wonboyn area, we made our way back to Mallacoota and had one last meal at the local bakery, before taking a short boat trip across Mallacoota Inlet to the start the walk. We walked through the tea-tree lined track, then up over the sand dunes to reach our camp site at the beautiful Lake Barracoota.

Next morning the challenge of beach walking was first on the agenda. Finding firm sand was difficult, especially with a full pack laden with goodies.  As we made our way along the coastline we had the beach to ourselves to enjoy ocean sounds and views of Gabo Island lighthouse. Near this spot, the SS Riveriva ran into Tullaberga Island in April 1927 and the remains can still be seen protruding from the water.

The beach walking continued with one of the party members trying their luck at surf fishing to no avail. Drinking water needs to be carried from Lake Barracoota to Lake Wau Waka otherwise the only water to be found is in small stagnant pools. After a tiring day of beach walking we were pleased to reach our camp site.

Day Three we continued our beach walking heading towards Cape Howe. After Iron Prince Point we traversed some amazing sand dunes before reaching Conference Point with a cairn marking the Victoria and NSW border.

Moving along to Nadgee Lake we were pleased to leave the beach walking and head inland to camp along the Nadgee River. Following a successful day of fishing and gathering shellfish, dinner was quite a feast.

All along the NSW section of the walk the beach is guarded by beautiful sandstone cliffs up to 50 metres high. Perched on the cliff tops with the full moonlight and bracing winds we couldn’t believe our eyes as all of a sudden a whale breeched so close to the coastline that we experienced a very up close encounter, making all that tough beach walking worthwhile.

The following morning we made our way back down the cliff to the Nadgee River and headed towards Little River. This track was easy walking through coastal scrub. Suddenly the bush opened out into a grassy green paddock being Newton’s beach campsite, which was very upmarket with picnic tables, toilet, beautiful beach and flat tent sites on lush green grass.

Next Day we enjoyed exploring the beauty of Jan Spiers Beach and exploring the sea caves before making our way to camp at Merrica River.  Whilst Merrica River offers a menu of Wonboyn oysters it also had a resident tiger snake basking in the sun.

As we made the last leg of our journey to Wonboyn it was sad to say goodbye to this beautiful coast. Having spent many nights in five star camp sites, it is not surprising that many walkers make an annual return trip to Nadgee coast.

On a logistics note, it is probably easier to do the walk starting in Mallacoota, that way you can book the Mallacoota Inlet boat crossing in advance and avoid any waiting around time. Also, as this is a one direction walk, your options for getting home are either a 2 hour car shuffle, or hiring a local driver (ask the boat charters for a recommendation) to pick you up from Wonboyn.

Comprehensive track notes to this walk can be found in Walking the Wilderness Coast $27.50. The book has walking notes covering the entire coast from Lakes Entrance to Eden in NSW. If you have the time and energy, the 19 day, 213km walk from Cape Conran to Eden is an epic Australian bushwalking adventure. It rightly stands along side other classic long walks such as the Alpine Walking Track and the Larapinta Track.






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The Wilderness Shop has been servicing the needs of bushwalkers, hikers,  rock climbers and cross-country skiers in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne for over 30 years. The Wilderness Shop has a wide range of hiking gear and climbing equipment including hiking boots, tents (one man and two man), climbing equipment, sleeping bags and LED headlamps. We also specialise in outdoor footwear: hiking shoes mens and womens, leather and Gore-Tex® hiking boots. We stock quality canvas hiking packs, bushwalking rucksacks, lightweight trekking packs and quality daypacks. The Wilderness Shop have the best sleeping mats, such as Exped DownMats and self-inflating mats, and hiking sleeping bags, as well as ultralight sleeping bags. Not to mention our range of walking maps for Victoria, Tasmania and NSW. The Wilderness Shop is Melbourne's best rock climbing store, stocking a wide range of rock climbing harnesses, shoes and other rock climbing gear.