AAWT Day 14 – Limestone Creek to Buckwong Creek

2 weeks on the trail. It feels like forever and only a second, its gone so quickly but if I think about how much we have done already every day feels huge! We were us and going early today as although we only have 15kms, its mostly on routes which can be hard to find. A 200m steep climb first thing got us going and we were up and away, hearts racing, out of our little oasis. As we climbed we left the rich bird and insect song behind and ascended over a few creeks named cutely Smoke Oh and less nicely Dead Horse into dry forest.

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Route finding, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Tummy drum to relax, Photo Mia Schoen

The higher we climbed the drier and rockier it became. The morning cloud cover quickly lifted and soon the sun shone down hard on us as we climbed a near vertical slope. Straight up the mountain this path went, no faffing about. After travelling 3kms in 2hrs we finally made it to the top and lunch at Misery Rd and lovely forest and heaps of snow grass to cushion our cushions. The birds found us and we ate in full chorus.

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PCT girl gang! Photo Mia Schoen

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Flakes, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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Misery Rd, Photo Meg Wettenhall

Misery Rd was really beautiful, we could see mountains through sparse snow gums, the horizon blue on blue. We also caught glimpses of the Main Range so far away! We were enjoying ourselves so much that we walked right past our turn off and had to do some back tracking. Once we hit the route again the path got straight back into business by directly descending the other side, becoming scrubbier and scrubbier the lower we went. Our legs were really feeling it, our calves tired from the climb and our thighs really burning on the way down. We finally made it to the lush but eerie boggy grass flats by Buckwong Creek. 4 years ago Annie and I walked through a brumby graveyard here, and although all we saw were a few bones, the feeling was there.

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Simpsons clouds, Photo Mia Schoen

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Creepy bog, Photo Mia Schoen

The boggy track led us over huge quarts rocks to a super excellent camp, spongy grass, birds galore, deep creek for washing in, heaps of firewood. We were all pretty exhausted and quickly set about cooking so we could go to bed early. Harry found the chocolate and was pretty content eating and reading fireside. We plan to be up early tomorrow for our huge day of climbing, so sweet dreams to me!

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Camp by Buckwong, Photo Mia Schoen

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This is how you do it, Photo Meg Wettenhall

Some beautiful flowers (photos Meg Wettenhall):

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AAWT Day 13 – Cowombat Flat to Limestone Creek

NSW said goodbye to us very rudely, kicked us out in fact. It was a freezing night and we woke to frost covered ground and all of our condensation frozen on the inside wall of our tents. The billy that was left outside had 1cm thick ice rim. Victoria beckoned us with full sun from the other side of the baby Murray and we were late to rise due to the freeze. Coffee was mandatory this morning to help warm up, as a consequence we didn’t leave camp till 8.30 (Mia has a watch!).

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Baby Murray, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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1950s aircrash investigation, Photo Phoebe Robertson

We trudged up Cowombat Flat Track towards Native Dog Flat as the day became hotter and hotter. As the sun moved overhead the wide jeep track reflected more and more heat. It seemed to take forever, as though we had entered a slow-mo time zone, but after many ups and downs we made it to the turn off to Stoney Gully where we promptly had lunch on the softest green grass by a stream. We unfurled all our wet gear over shrubs and made ourselves a bit of a castle, but no one came by.

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Ups and ups, Photo Mia Schoen

The most exciting part of today was still in front of us, our descent to Limestone Creek via Stoney Gully. What a dramatic path, to stones for which the gully gets its name are everywhere, loose huge rocks or shale ready to slide from underneath you as we descended straight down the mountain past grand rock outcrops. We slipped and slid and made it to the bottom of the gully, and a few of the gang tumbled. Walking was pleasant when we followed the stream along the gully floor, passing excellent looking waterholes full of fish. The path would often sidle along the gully wall, we realised that jeep tracks make your brain lazy, today we had to think about every step.

We finally made it to camp after a final 1km walk along 4WD track, we sang to raise our spirits then bathed in the restorative waters of Limestone Creek, deep enough for feet floating and full body emersion. Bill was at camp too, and we all stayed up late chatting once again. There are fish jumping is the stream, frogs in the near by pond, and Mopoke owls (audible) in the trees, who needs brumby TV!?

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Gang plus Bill, Photo Phoebe Robertson

AAWT Day 12 – Tin Mine Huts to Cowombat Flat

It rained all night and was freezing! It was the first time I zipped up my sleeping bag, the cold seemed to be coming up from the sodden ground as much as it was from the sky. We started to fire in the hut again to dry everything out, as more snow was forecast today in Thredbo.

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Its cold! Photo Meg Wettenhall

After our late start, coffee and many trips to the dunny as it was our last for 8 days, we started walking…but(!) the track went down and to the wrong side of The Pilot (a mountain). It took an hour for alarm bells to finally go off in my head and I turned the gang around much to my frustration.

After our 2hr detour we finally set off down the right path, Cascade Trail, and moved quickly as we gradually climbed to the saddle next to The Pilot. It was exactly as I remembered! Annie and I had a very delicious lunch of donga (fried salami) after summiting The Pilot 4 years ago. One huge living tree at the intersection in a sea of burnt ones. It was a bit windy at the intersection to fully relive the experience so we moved a bit further down the trail for lunch, and then continued gently downhill on repudiative trail to Cowombat Flat.

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Brunby skull, Photo Meg Wettenhall

As ever, Cowombat Flat is glorious! To Cobberas overhead becoming some off track adventures for another time, the baby Murray River bubbling along, brumbies gathering at dusk. We washed and made a campfire which seem to attract all the other people camping in the Flat. It was a bushwalking party! We chatted to an older couple who are hear for a wedding anniversary and were so enthusiastic about the flat. We camped with Bill, who incredibly met on the AAWT 4 years ago! He got married mid bush walk on his last trip and although I only met him once, talk traveled the trail of his wedding. It was a nice weird coincidence to run into him.

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Camp life, Photo Mia Schoen

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Money shot, Photo Mia Schoen

After dinner 3 stockmen who are out here catching brumbies came past on horseback. The stopped and chatted and when Mia asked if she “could take their photos cos they looked like they were out of a movie” they answered “only if its not a gay one”. They were actually pretty nice, but did suggest having some drinks together multiple times, even after being indirectly being asked to leave more and more obviously.

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Man from Snowy River vs Brokeback Mountain, Photo Mia Schoen

Now I get to snuggle with Mia in the tent and lay down, one of my favourite parts of the day along with swimming.

AAWT Day 11 – Thredbo to Tin Mine Huts

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Fresh gang, Photo Keith Robertson

I was so surprised we made it to Tin Mine Huts, but we did! I was surprised because we are back up to approximately 20-24kg packs and we walked 26kms. Heavy. We picked up a lovely Mia during our day off in Thredbo, this is her first day out. She is a stoic trooper, not even slowest in the group, that honour as ever goes to me!

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Our snowy dreams of yesterday, Photo Mia Schoen

We climbed over a small ridge away from the Snowy Mountains Highway moving from open valleys with beautiful views of Kosciuszko into beautiful unburnt snow gum forest. It was sunny but strong winds buffeted us about.

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Thredbo River, Rams Head Range in the background, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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Snowgums! Photo Mia Schoen

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Cascade Hut, Photo Phoebe Robertson

After a break at Cascade Hut, which was very quaint, we set off into the dark of a storm on the undulating jeep track to Tin Mine Huts. This is 16kms of not particularly interesting or changing bushfire regrowth, a dense undergrowth which makes you feel like you’re on a bushwalking highway. Right after lunch, cutting us off suddenly from our break, the rain started and got heavier and heavier till just after we reached the hut when it started to bucket. So pretty good timing really. Mia saw her first brumby! Which kinda played with us trotting ahead on the path whenever we got to close, but not going far ahead.

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Brumby tag, Photo Mia Schoen

Tin Mine Hut has 2 1930s huts on great flat grassy lawns that are brumby maintained into 1950s lawns, also great for camping. The fire in the larger of the two hut dried out all our wet clothes overnight. We stayed up quite late for us, smoked jazz cigarettes and drank tea. Mia has brought dehydrated beer from the internet/US which is surprisingly pretty tasty! But ultimately we are all looking forward to bed and resting our magnificent strong legs.

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Tin Mine Hut #1, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Drying out, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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It nearly snowed, between the sunshine, Photo Mia Schoen

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The clouds were amazing, Photo Phoebe Robertson

AAWT Day Off!

We spent a day eating and washing our stinkiness away in Thredbo, our legs thanked us! Dad and Mia drove up from Melbourne with supplies for the next leg of the journey. Thanks Dad!

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Hiker cool, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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The only hikers in a (mountain) biker bar, Photo Phoebe Robertson

So it appears we spent most of our day off drinking, thats probably correct. Still went to bed at 9pm hiker style!

AAWT Day 10 Anton-Anderson Saddle to Thredbo Village

It seems surreal writing this from the comfort of a hotel bed when this has been one of the most extreme bushwalking days of my life! We woke up to no rain but howling winds and clouds moving so quickly through the pass I could never keep up with them. The never ending cloud bubble hugging the Main Range is what we walked through today, where do they keep coming from!?

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Somewhere on the Main Range, Photo Meg Wettenhall

 

We all had cabin fever after spending 14 hours in the tent and so we decided to walk over the top of the Main Range even though the Bible warned us not to. Our plan was to follow the faint pad/cairns we had followed the day before, if we lost the track we would pitch the tent and wait out the weather or retrace our steps. Dressed in most of our clothes we did a speedy pack-up and set out in a tight group to face the Main Range in appalling conditions.

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Crazy fools! Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Great views, Photo Phoebe Robertson

It was so cold my legs felt weak and we had to climb 500m in elevation over 4 mountains before he hit our first landmark, a lake materialised out of the cloud. Until this lake we had walked over 7km in winds that were knocking us over, over some of Australia’s highest peaks, but we could have been in Antarctica or on Neptune, we wouldn’t have known the cloud was so thick. When we crossed snow fields we would have to walk along the end of them till we found our track if we couldn’t easily find it on the other side. The path above the lake (our first proper track in 7km) clung to steep cliffs, and when the clouds cleared revealed vertical snow clad glacial slopes. It was amazing, but I also realised what perilous terrain we had been crossing disguised in fog.

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Cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Lake Albina, Main Range, Photo Meg Wettenhall

 

At the Muellers Saddle, after Albina Lake, we ran into another group of crazy hikers, our first that day. They gave us tips for the steep snow field crossings we had yet to pass. The public toilets just below Mt Kosciuszko summit, our decided lunch place out of the weather, was just in sight half hidden on the horizon. Between us and lunch were 3 large precarious snow fields. The first was simple enough to cross, Meg gave Harry and I a quick lesson about walking in snow and the correct way to position your feet for traction. This lesson was sufficient till I flipped out at the start of the second very steep snow crossing. Not feeling confident I decided to take the long detour under and around the drift, but while descending the steep wet slope running with snow melt I promptly fell over, hurting my knee and cutting up my elbow and lip. Meg came to my rescue yet again and chose an easier path for us up the snow and gently talked me through it. After yet another snow field route finding obstacle course we finally made it to solid ground/track and the public toilets!

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Or valiant snow captain Meggo! Photo Meg Wettenhall

We were so cold and tired after 12 tiring kms and 7hrs of solid walking,  and the public toilets so stinky that we pushed on for the comforts of Thredbo Village (hotel/shower/warm bed). This propelled us the the last 6kms along easy track to the chairlift. There were quite a few day hikers out for this last section and we felt they really didn’t understand the trials we had just been through. We could smell them too, so clean and fragrant (I’m sure they could smell our unique 10 day dirty perfume too). Harry and I screamed for the first minute of the chairlift ride as we were travelling so quickly compared to the last 10 days.

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Easy walking, Photo Meg Wettenhall

In town we went to the supermarket and brought a huge feast which we consumed so quickly on the lawns under the curious eyes of all the mountain bikers in town. We were in another world this morning and now I’m deciding which beer I want to drink at the pub.

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Luxury. Photo Harriet Robertson

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Hiking is tough (but so exciting!), Photo Harriet Robertson

AAWT Day 9 Valentines Hut to Anton Anderson Pass

We made it to the Main Range! It was glorious until exactly what we didn’t want to happen happened, a thunder and lightening storm rolled in with thick rain and cloud. The rain has stopped for now but visibility is about 10-20m and we are stuck in white out in our tent.

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Hello rain, Mt. Tate, Photo Meg Wettenhall

The cloud was clearing this morning at Valentines Hut promising a nice day. This promise was kept till about 4pm with high cloud in overcast sky. We powered through the first 10km to Whites River Hut, we stopped at Schlinks Pass as it was the first Optus reception we had in 9 days! Meg passed honours, yay! We chatted to family and gfs to update them of our living not lost status.

At Whites Hut the fire was still warm and inside was a cozy place to plan our Main Range attack, walking over very exposed peaks. We planned our route, land marks to look out for and what we would do if the weather turned. In a nutshell, stay together, consult the maps/think through our decisions, stick together and pitch the tent if visibility turns bad.

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Plotting in Whites Hut, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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Rolling on up to the Rolling Grounds, Whites Hut, Photo Meg Wettenhall

We walked up an old jeep track that soon petered out into the Rolling Ground, a featureless landscape with many false horizons and low hanging cloud. Another world of grass, sky and boulders, straight from a Miyazaki movie. We ate lunch on a ledge, sheltered from the wind and perfect for lounging. We could see mountains for miles and flocks of ravens diving into the wind.

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Rolling around on the Rolling Ground, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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This is how you lunch (when your to is covered in sweat), Rolling Grounds, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Siesta, Rolling Grounds, Photo Meg Wettenhall

After crossing many small rocky saddles we finally made it to Conset Stevens Pass, with its two valleys disappearing on either side feeding the mighty Geehi or Snowy Rivers. We started our climb of the spectacular and regal Mt. Tate, 200m above us. We passed huge snow drifts, mountainsides running with snowmelt, small scattered ponds full of mell camouflaged frogs. Our path became steep and upon reaching the top we saw that all was not well. The rest of the Main Range was under thick cloud and thunder was rumbling.

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Consulting the holy book, Chappy’s AAWT track notes, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Dorks on Mt Tate, Photo Harriet Robertson

We quickly descended past the Bluff and finally got wet as we were climbing Mt Anderson. Hail fell as we crossed a huge snow field on a steep slope, probably something in finer weather I would a second guessed. We kept walking down down to Anton-Anderson Pass and in a small break in the rain pitched the tent. The fog was rolling in quick.

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Tent Kitchen, Anton-Anderson Saddle, Photo Meg Wettenhall

We have now been in the tent since 5.30pm, reading allowed to each other and cooking in the vestibule. This is a small 3 person tent and we have quite sizeable hips and seem to be preforming an amazing feat of human/pack tetras. That we are still laughing is hopefully a testament to the great time we will have on the PCT next year. We are hard girls.

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Cutes and weary feet, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Cheers! Photo Meg Wettenhall