The highest mountain in Victoria, Mt Bogong, was in our list to climb for a long time. We wished to get to its summit almost since that moment when we heard about it. Our main concern was that has our son enough strength to get there? A year ago one of the experienced hikers and good friend of us advised that it would be probably be hard for our 8y.o. boy to get to the summit in one day, so we simply waited until Yegor grows up and gets ready for a walk.
Mount Bogong, here we come.
Mount Bogong (1986m) takes its name from a local Aboriginal word that roughly translates as "Big Fella". The description is apt and on a clear day, the view from the ridge line along the summit stretches out over surrounding hills and reveals glimpses of the Kiewa Valley below.
Before I go any further, here some technical details about a hike. The trip up Mt. Bogong starts from the Mountain Creek Picnic ground. Walkers should then follow the signs along the 4WD track, over the many stream crossings, to the start of the Staircase Spur walking track (there are other ways to the summit, but this is the recommended route). Turn right here and start your ascent of the mountain. The trail up Staircase Spur was formerly used by the Maddison family to drive their cattle up to the high plains. Staircase Spur, true to its name, rises in a series of steep climbs followed by relatively flat sections. The return trip is back by the same route, or by the Eskdale Spur. This is reached by retracing your steps until you reach Eskdale Point at Pole 1272, where the track steeply descends the spur. Michell Hut is an excellent refuge in bad weather. You will eventually meet up with a fire trail at Camp Creek Gap. Follow this north, then take the left-hand branch back along Mountain Creek, past the start of the Staircase to the picnic area.
I've marked our way with red dots.
Before the trip I read a lot of stories and recommendations of other hikers (see Related links section as an example). What I definitely gained from them was that the weather is totally unpredictable (true, we are in the mountains!), the track itself is very steep (ouch!) and it is a real challenge to get there and back in one day. So we’ve been prepared: took enough water, food and snacks and warm clothing. We stayed a night before and after the hike at Mountain Creek Campground, so we had plenty of time for a walk.
(no, this is not a picture from the campground, you have to get to the summit to see something like this)
After we got to the campground, we found that the Upper Kiewa Valley Lions Club will run their annual event - the Mount Bogong Conquestathon next morning. We were glad that we wouldn't be hiking alone. Over 200 people took part in this year's Conquestathon, so there was no shortage of people to talk to. We quickly enrolled Yegor as a participant, while Dmitriy and I named ourselves as Sherpa people.
We started on 8th of March 2015 at 8am.
Everyone who is going to the mountain, has to write down their details and information about the group leader, car registration number and so on, in case of emergency:
First 2 km up the 4WD track we quite easy, when we started to ascend Staircase Spur.
Over around 5 kilometres, Staircase Spur increases in altitude by just over 1,300 metres, to the summit of Mount Bogong. There was nothing to see around until we reached Bivouac Hut, where we had a 20-minutes break.
The remainder of the trail to the summit was a little easier. The vegetation thinned out as the tree-line approached, and the views were simply stunning.
On a perfect day you can see as far as Mount Kosciuszko from Mount Bogong's summit. I am not sure, but probably Mount Kosciuszko is of of these peaks sligtly visible far away.
Following the snow-poles and the fairly well-worn track, we soon found ourself at a track junction (at pole 1278), and continued a few hundred metres west to the summit cairn.
Can you actually spy anyone on this photo? )))
As would be expected, this is where most hikers had chosen to take a break and have their lunch, and it was impossible to get a photo of the cairn without a whole bunch of people in it. We had our lunch and headed further, as we thought that the hardest part was done.
Here we are:
About 600 metres from the summit is where the track intersects with Eskdale Spur. I’ve read that there is no any sign pointing to the Eskdale Spur and that you have to be very careful do not miss the right turn, but in our case the sign was there, so it was not a problem at all to find the right way.
The spur is very steep, so we had to be very careful. The views from it were stunning as well, but there was a huge cloud other the Mt Bogong, we tried not to stop very often and get back to the end of the spur as soon as we could.
We were very glad to see a hut (with the toilet!) and after a while an intersection with a 4WD track at Camp Creek Gap. From here we enjoyed heading west through an attractive ferny gully (for about 600 metres) where we stopped to pick up some berries. Again, some people say that they had to get their feet wet while crossing small rivers, but in our case there were small pedestrian bridges, so it was not a problem at all to walk the rest of the walk.
The only problem was Yegor who complained that he was tired at the end of the day after a long steep Eskdale Spur walk, but we had to get to the campsite somehow, so we kept walking. On our way back we found a nice shortcut - Fern Tree walk, which was 400m shorter that walking down the road, and really enjoyed it.
At 18-00 or so we got back to the campsite were Lions Club volunteers congratulated us and promised to send a special Mount Bogong Conquestathon medallion later.
Here you are some statistic. 1st checkpoint was at Bivouac Hut, 2nd: Mt Bogong Summit, 3rd: Eskdale Point, 4th: Camp Creek Gap.
Funny thing was that even Yegor was SO tired as he kept saying, he didn’t went to sleep immediately, but stayed with us while we were sitting next to the campfire and talking to the nice couple from New Zealand.
Next morning we packed our stuff and headed back to Melbourne. All of us agreed that this was one of the hardest, but nicest hikes with great views we've done so far. For anyone who isn't confident enough to set off hiking in alpine areas without assistance, The Mount Bogong Conquestathon is the perfect introduction. Even if you're an experienced hiker, there's no reason you shouldn't take part in this excellent community event.