Oh no! Its our last full day on the track. I reckon this walk has been a success, and I have had a real adventure with my best friends and family. At the same time I am also looking forward to some of the instant and easy comforts of home; hot shower, eating things that you don’t boil, not being able to smell myself and chairs!
It’s Harry’s Bday today! We all woke at 5am to watch the sun rise from the magic Mt Wills rocks. We raucously sang Happy Birthday as the sun peeped over the horizon, and we watched the mountains to infinity change colour and light the Main Range pink and gray. Tendrils of cloud moved in from the west/Mt Bogong like fingers grasping for us. Getting cold we lit a fire at camp and made our last bit of cowboy coffee. I didn’t notice the clouds roll in while packing up the tent but when I looked up Mt Wills was shrouded in fog. It became colder and we all set out gaitered and coated up.
We meandered down the jeep track leading to Omeo Highway through the same brilliant snow gum forest as yesterday, only this time eerie in the mist. Taking a left turn we descended on a foot track down another steep and direct path out of the snow gums to Big River Saddle, loosing 600m quick! From the little clearing and intersection of jeep tracks we started our 900m climb up Long Spur to Cleve Cole Hut.
The first few kms went by quickly on well graded open dirt road, visibility had improved in the lower elevations, but cloud was still thick in the air. The jeep track quality quickly disintegrated and by the time we reached the crest of Long Spur we were breast stroking through thick vegetation over our heads. The mist was wet, the intermittent rain was wet, the foliage was wet, we got very wet, water managed to get inside raincoats and rain pants. We then entered a white out time warp with 5m visibility. On our undulating track which neither climbed or descended quickly we had absolutely no reference points to figure out how far we had gone. It felt like we were walking in a loop, on and on, never starting that final climb that would lead us to Mt Bogong proper. Meg was getting tunnel vision and asked for a pep talk as we too a break before our final climb (unbeknown to us in the mist). This is quite a feat, after 19 days of walking Meg struggles for the first time, Mia Harry and I have voiced, cried and got angry at the trail numerous times, Meg just once. Powerful lady!
We were all so cold and relieved by the time we reached Maddison Hut Site, till we realised that this was the point when we had to leave the AAWT, our trusted guide, who got us over Mt Kosciuszko in a storm, who led us over only 3 paved roads in 3 weeks, who showed us brumbies and native wildlife in abundance, and who was always there for us. AAWT we love you!
Despite our AAWT love we were all very excited to get to Cleve Cole Hut where we promptly made Harry her B’day blueberry pancakes and freeze-dried strawberry ice-cream, which was more of a mousse. Cleve Cole Hut is busy with 3 large families camped here. We had planned to hang out in the hut more but after 3 weeks of hardly seeing anyone we were a bit challenged by 15 people in a small space. The cloud had mostly lifted by late afternoon and so we pitched the tent and hung around outside, watching the surrounding mountains dip in and out of cloud. The sun even made a very brief appearance after dinner. Hopefully this signals a better day for tomorrow so as we are not swindled of views when we climb to Bogong’s summit.