Day 1 – Richards Carpark to Beeripmo Camp, 8kms
Hiking in winter can be challenging but we were lucky enough to have glorious sunshine for the whole weekend! It was still freezing at night though, which I (Quiz) remembered as I hopped off the train in Ballarat at 7.30 on Friday night. Freezing. Meg/Princess Layers/Crystals was was waiting for me and we drove back to her parents place in the surrounding hills. We were all leaving the next morning to hike the Beeripmo Track in Mt Cole State Forest in-between Ballarat and the Grampians. The name Beeripmo comes from the Beeripmo Balug clan of the Dwab Wurrung tribe, who occupy the area around the Mount Cole Ranges. The word Beeripmo means ‘wild mount’, which is believed to refer to Mount Cole.
The walk has been organised as a test run for a group of Meg’s family friends who are doing a 19 day hike in The Kimberly late this winter (keep an eye out for blog posts about that epic adventure). I am the only hiker not going on the Kimberly trip as sadly my dollars are all depleted after the PCT. There are 11 of us in all, Gib and Gayle (Meg’s folks) a bunch of their friends as well as Meg and her pal Joni. As we are walking such short distances we are treating this as a party hike (I have 1L of whiskey for camp in my pack).
Its only a short drive to Richard’s Carpark and the start of the walk. By the time everyone arrives it 11am by the time we set off. The bush is lush and full of tall mountain ash, there are mushrooms and tiny streams everywhere. After following a jeep track briefly we start climbing up a gully, jumping over rocks and tree ferns, and trying to dodge big grass clumps which i am sure are full of leeches. The track is reasonably steep and I am puffing and feeling my legs burn as i try and keep up with Meg and Joni. After a couple of kilometres we reach the top of a huge rock and look out into the tree tops and a steep enclosed valley, we really have been climbing! I looked this up later and it’s 1000m of climbing for the whole trail so I reckon that first push was probably 400-500m.
After a short break at the cliff the track climbs more gradually while we follow a small stream. Joni and Meg power on ahead but i meet them a short while later at jeep track crossing. We think about waiting for the older 3/4 of the group but we are too impatient and set out again deciding to meet them at lunch. We finish our climb to the top of Cave Hill and I spy a rocky ledge about 100m through the forest, the undergrowth has really thinned out as we have gained elevation. As we are way ahead we decide to go adventuring and discover the rocky ledge is really a huge gently descending rock face. We wander out and see the jagged peaks the Grampians in the distance. Meg and I immediately start discussing how there should be a track combining this walk, Langi Ghiran and the Grampians, as it was such an amazing looking bunch of mountains. We promptly settled in for lunch.
We heard voices in the woods and started calling Meg’s parents over to our rock shelf, only it wasn’t Meg’s parents but a bunch of teenagers, it was awkward but they were friendly and also thought the rock shelf was cool. After a really long break we thought we should go find the others so we returned to the track and kept hiking along a ridge that crossed a heap of other rock faces and we saw the beautiful majestic Grampians again and again and again. We reached another intersection and decided we had better wait for the rest of the gang.
Just as we put our jumpers on we could hear the loud chats of the rest of our party. Everyone was pretty impressed with the views we had already seen. From the intersection we dropped onto a long ridge and followed it to the bottom of another steep climb. By now the forest was beautiful and open, teasing us with broken views of the surrounding farm land. The climb to the top of Sugarloaf was short, steep and sweet, the track was made beautifully utilising large boulders as steps. Sugarloaf was a wooded peak but offered a few good views to the Grampians in the west and unending farmland in the south. It was also our last climb for the day.
The gang reformed at the top of Sugarloaf and walked the final kilometre into camp together. We arrived at 5pm and had to race the clock to set up camp before it got dark at 6. As we were late and in a big group we had to find all the remaining camping spots and many were already full. Surprisingly Gib (Meg’s dad) knew one of the other people camped there. After all our chores were done we lit a huge fire and drank wine and whiskey while dinner cooked. Our destination was originally the Grampians but as they have a no fire policy, even in winter, we chose to do this trail instead. It gets dark so early so you really do need a fire to help pass some of the many dark hours. We all got a bit drunk and had silly chats. At about 8pm Meg, Joni and I went a joined a group of guys campfire to see if we could yogi some more wine from them as our group had drunk our supply dry! We were successful and the 4L bag of goon the 4 guys had carried up the mountain tasted excellent. We stated up chatting for a few more hours before going to bed. Cutely the next morning Gayle asked if we had heard the amazing joke she had told that had everyone laughing very loudly, apparently she had made everyone laugh (no joke was told) to make us jealous of leaving their campfire.
Day 2 – Beeripmo Camp to Richards Carpark, 13kms
Mmmmm I slept so well and was so warm all night that I woke up feeling wonderful despite my suspicion that I was a bit drunk when I went to bed. Quiz/Phoebe is writing today and I should tone down my enthusiasm for last night as most of our 8 person strong group had terrible cold sleeps that involved wearing all of their clothes. Meg/Crystal’s neoair sleeping pad still squeaks with every movement and kept Joni up all night, its kind of a nostalgic sound for me now post PCT.
The sun doesn’t really start to rise till 7am now its winter, but as it shone its warm tendrils through the ridgeline trees I got up hungry, realised it was still pretty cold and quickly got my breakfast and book and went back to bed. 30 mins later Gib (Megs dad) came over to inspect Meg and Joni’s new UL Big Agnes tents and try and rouse Meg and Joni with tent compliments. It worked but we all knew that we were not in a rush, as this is a holiday kind of bushwalk and not a business hike. In fact everyone but me is using this hike as a gear test for a hike they are all doing in the Kimberly in the NT in August (blog posts to come)! After half packing up we wandered over to the fire and made coffee and chatted. Coffee made everyone happier and more functional. By the time we had packed up and hit the trail it was 9.30, leaving only a few other slow pokes behind in camp.
We followed jeep tracks along the top of the ridge, the light from the rising sun strobing through the trees. Meg told me about the forest and why this one was a prime example despite being regrowth because it has spacious leaving room for undergrowth. Climbing to the top of Mt Cole we passed an excellent tree that had two legs, it literally had a 2 meter high tunnel through its base! After thinking we were on the wrong path, backtracking and then backtracking again we met up with the parents part of the group who laughed at us and we all made our way to an excellent lookout. We could see Langi Ghran and then the Grampians in the distance. The Grampians is Harriet/Turkey D’s favourite mountain range ever and I missed her, so to cheer myself up I got everyone to do a butt photo.
From the lookout near to top of Mt Cole we had about 10 cruise kms down down down to the carpark. Descending gently is always fun as its kind on your knees and you walk fast without even trying. Meg and Joni sped out in front and I didn’t see them again till lunch. The path went from open forest into sleep gullies full of ferns and 50 million mushrooms, big ones, slimy ones, many tiny delicate ones with comically bent stems, others covered in red spots and obviously poisonous. They were probably all poisonous! I walked on my own and was busy climbing over a hug tree that had fallen across the path, butt in the air when Meg waved at me from some rocks high above the trail. ‘LUNCH’. I clambered up the steep loose slope to the rocks, filling my shoes with soil and losing my balance, once seated I got to watch all those behind me do the same, except for Gayle who was up in a flash.
Joni, Meg and I had wraps again, full of fresh vegetables, post PCT I will only eat cheese stringers and salami when I really have too, I’m still so sick of so many foods. After we had eaten our lunch we picked at Gib and Gayle’s gourmet spread and ate their leftover fancy cheese (Meg what was it called?), olives and beef. After scraping all the avocado from its skin and licking the dregs of chocolate from the wrapper we resigned ourselves that we really were out of food and packed up our stuff for a slippery descent back to the track.
We actually didn’t have much longer left to go after lunch. The track shortly left the steep hillside and meandered through flat dry forest, epacris in white pinks and red popping up in-between trees. The wet gullies felt far behind us but occasionally we would pass a log covered with mushrooms in the shade. We were back at the car park by 1pm but I would have happily done the whole walk again. Im gonna miss the bush as I probably won’t make it out overnight till Spring.