Saturday, 25 April 2015

Alpine Surf and Turf

I took my mate Daniel the Spaniel up to DP on Thursday. In exchange for a few cervezas, food, a bed and some fishing and hunting, he would offer cheap labour helping me install a pair of crazy-heavy hardwood garage doors.
We had a relaxing roadtrip, stopping at Sam Miranda for some nice tucker and wines, and some more that evening in front of the fire after a scary evening's fishing on the Upper Victoria where we had a close encounter with some local bovines, dogs, and a trigger-happy cocky. In the dark and confusion, I actually lost Daniel in the bush and was worried he wouldn't be found in time to help me with the doors. Much to my relief, he eventually he turned up with a fading head torch.
Next morning we got up early and hiked down to the Victoria again from near the airport. It was cold and wet, but the fish were hungry and I soon had a half dozen. At one point I was getting strikes on most casts. 
We stopped fishing when our hands were too cold to tie knots and headed back to start the doors. After dismantling the old roller door, there was much faffing trying to erect the wooden frame. We decided to retire to the kitchen and cook some trout washed down with a fine Nebbiolo. The wine helped us to think a bit straighter, and Dan soon knocked up a couple of stellar drawings. He loves it when a plan comes together.
Implementing that plan was another story, one that took us well into the night, but which was ultimately adequate, despite challenging. 
Much (much) later that night, Xavier and Andy arrived from Melbourne for the night after many and sundry adventures on the Alpine Way, including (but not limited to) bad weather, and having to drive half way back to Melbourne for petrol. Being British they were a little miffed and I had to explain that Bright is actually one giant retirement village, and that even the owners of petrol stations have their supper at five and are in bed by eight.
We on the other hand ended up dining at one a.m.   
On Saturday we slept in. The forecast was fairly bleak, and pretty soon it was snowing heavily outside. With snow rapidly accumulating up the road, our original plan for a MTB circuit up onto the High Plains via Loch and the Red Robin was no longer feasible. Instead we opted for a lower altitude ride down to Cobungra, with Daniel happy to rendezvous.
With the radar looking promising, we headed off in light snow, and were soon below the snow-line and hitting the mud-line pretty hard. Goggles would have been a bright idea, and several descents were pretty wild, with the slick tracks handled headlong and blind with eyes hosed by grit.
By Precipitous Plain, the cloud was lifting to reveal Mt Tabletop and the Dargo High Plains under a pretty mantle of snow. Then the sun came out and the day actually started to get better and better, with awesome descents down through snow-gum forest, then mountain ash. At the turn off to the Victoria River Firetrail, we were enjoying ourselves so much we decided to continue to the Spring Creek Trail. There were several steep climbs along this ridge before a long descent down to the ford, and then another big climb back up to 1400m before the final massive drop down to Cobungra Station itself. The last descent down smooth rolling green pastures was particularly awesome, almost as good as a nice line on skis. 
The final numbers were about 40km, with 700m of up and 1300m down: a really great trip which will doubtless be repeated with various permutations.
We had a few beers at Rundell's (a fleet of one of every marque of MGs arrived on cue), and then a hearty alpine feed at High Plains Hotel before Andy and Xavier shot off back to Melbourne.
Daniel and I had a fairly chilled evening next to the fire and went fishing again the next morning. He got a half dozen to take back to his family, and I just played catch and release. I also went for a nice run a long way down the Victoria. It was very beautiful, and I was filled with wonder - a little piece of alpine paradise. There were also lots of fresh dear-signs, but we were obviously far too noisy. Dan at least found an antler, a trophy for his son. Next time I'll try and run one down. 
Our door frame turned out robust but a bit too snug, and I will have to return with an electric plane. I screwed the doors closed and we headed back to Melbourne.
The autumn colours in Harrietville were otherworldly.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Autumn with Lucie on the Bogong High Plains

Luce just turned eight, and although her legs are yet to sprout in any way functional for long distances, she was keen for her first solo trip to the mountains with daddy.
We headed up Friday arvo and got to DP in reasonable time after shopping for supplies in Bright. Luce set and lit the fire, then cooked her first entree of cheese on toast, followed by the passing down of my time honoured and cherished family recipe of spag bol.
We played some chess, watched a movie, and had a dance party. 
Next morning we woke early and went down to the upper Victoria to try and catch a fish. Unfortunately Daddy was far too noisy, clumsy and unprepared, and the trout just laughed at him.
We went back to DP to pack, then headed off down the road to road to Omeo for a baby-cino for daddy and double espresso for Luce. The autumn colours were splendid, and we continued on to Angler's Reach where they were even splendider.
Although the back route up to the High Plains is one of my all time favorite scenic Victorian routes, Luce was feeling every corner. Fortunately sleep came before any kind of duco destruction.

When Luce awoke, it was in time for lunch besides daddy's most favorite tree in the known universe. I don't know how to measure the age of snow gums, but this one is almost certainly more than a thousand years old. It is probably older than the dinosaurs. Anyway, we had a noodle slurping competition next to it.

Then we climbed Mt Cope. It was the first mountain amongst many in the future that we will climb together. From the summit we could see Mt Hotham, Mt Feathertop, Mt Bogan, Mt Kosciusko, and the water tower at Dinner Plain. There were dinosaur footprints on the summit. 

We visited several huts. Lucie would have preferred to sleep in the wood room of Wallace's over Cope Hut. But at Cope Hut we saw other people. These were the only other unplanned other people we would see all weekend.

The we parked our car near Fall's Crack, hauled our packs, and headed off on our awesome adventure. It was about five kilometres to Johnson's Hut... 






And got there in the end.

We met some friends there: Hans and Alex, and their kids Sophie and Greta who were wearing size eight and four.

Lucie performed a bit of planking and several random acts of arson.

For dinner we ate yesterday's spag bol leftovers which tasted even better the second time around.

After an interesting night's sleep, we headed off the next morning across the Bogan High Plains. Although we didn't come across any bogans, or another humans to speak of, we found plenty of interesting critters.
We climbed Mt Nelse, Mt Nelse North, and then kept going, all the way to Timm's.  

Luce was a bit disappointed that Tim wasn't home, and after another noodle slurping competition, she had a spontaneous little nap. Daddy left her napping and ran out the rest of the Timm's ridge-line to scope some of the incredible burly lines he'd like to ski this winter. He soon got scared though and came back to wake up Luce for the long haul back to the car. 

On the way home, we got treated to an alpine light spectacular. Storms were rolling in and building as we passed Nelse, and the autumn colours of the High Country were at their most vibrant. Even more so after some photoshopping.

Just before getting back to the car, right at the 21km mark for the day, Luce found a friend. It was her half-marathon butterfly. She carried it for another final kilometre before she, the butterfly and her backpack bid farewell to each other. 
Once driving, she was soon fast asleep and missed the evening light on the Bogong massif.
Maybe fortuitously because which (unbeknownst to her) is our next summit.