Thursday, 16 September 2021

Bundara Wilderness

 My mates and I were supposed to have a L'Haut Route reunion this weekend - the Victorian version; Bogong to Hotham immortalised by Charles Derrick. But with ongoing lockdowns, yet another plan was shelved until next year. However, with regional restrictions easing, my son and I were at least (at last) allowed to venture further than 5km. Whilst it's a very long way down to the Cobungra and back up onto the BHPs, I felt that Balti was probably up for it. We planned to stay 2 nights in Young's Hut, and so instead of a tent I packed an inflatable wing and a pump instead! 

Despite a decent base up high which we'd checked out from Dead Timber Hill the night before, everything north or west facing had been burnt off or washed away. But there was a decent late burst of snow in the forecast, and I was desperately keen to visit my favourite copse of snow gums on the Bogong High Plains, which I found just before mum passed away and have tried to visit as often as possible since.

It has to be said that I didn't have a whole lot of help sorting our backpacks in DP. Balti is 11 and still pretty useless, and was more absorbed in the footy (OK, so we both were a bit...). The next morning was raining at DP, so we waited for it to clear a bit before driving to the Brandy Creek trailhead where we were disappointed to find next to no snow at all. It was going to be a long bush walk in ski boots...

The Cobungra was very full and very cold from all the melt. Balti had a little (illegal!) fish whilst I lugged everything across, and then made sure he wasn't swept down to Omeo. There was a dead deer with huge antlers stuck on a log. With all of its fur washed off, it looked like a seal. We would see heaps of brumbies and deer all weekend right up into the snow line.

Someone on the forums suggested a while back that Paling Spur had been cleared. Well it hasn't, and is now almost impassable and quite challenging to navigate. Strava to the rescue again. A lot of the time the heath was over Balti's head. We finally got to put our skis on at 1500m.

Despite the lack of cover, the Bundara Plains were as pretty as ever. The weather suddenly came in, and it felt like the start of winter. By the time we got near the hut, it was puking so hard that I found it difficult to find it. We got the fire going and set up beds and dinner. As well as leeches, Balti's boot removal also revealed some worrying blisters...

The next day dawned very cold and pretty. There was 10cm of fresh dry snow, with ongoing flurries. We made our way up to "Annie's trees" where mum put on another spectacular light show for me. The ancient trees (I actually think that the six trees are all the one and the same tree...) were as glorious as ever and we spent a bit of time there before an other attempt on finding a nice line down into the Bundara...

Whilst there's an obvious line on google earth, (the nice MSC map calls the run "Enchanted"), its hard to find in bad weather of the kind i've had the last couple times here. You have to weave through a couple of copses, and there's solid forest east, and a cliff band west. Anyway, when it opened up it was obvious, and had collected nearly a foot of fresh snow. The top is gentle, but then a lovely steep middle section before dropping down to the river plains. The sun came out and so we climbed back up to Starvation Point for another magical run. Then back to Young's for lunch via Annie's trees once more.

Whilst another night and day's exploring was the plan, 2 years of ski season lockdowns have seen Balti's feet outgrow his brand new new Crispi boots. Even thermo-moulding in double sox hadn't been enough to ward off the blisters and ischaemic pain so that another planned day out to Westons and beyond was going to be challenging. He was also supposed to be doing a bit of homeschooling, however the wifi in Young's wasn't great. There was also not a breath of wind for my wing. And so we decided to hoof it back home. Given that we'd already done 9km and 500m of up, it was going to be a very big afternoon...  

We got 3 nice ski runs down the south facing slopes on the way back, and then some battlefield skiing down the top part of Paling. Balti could preserve his feet by swapping into his Salomons for the hikes up the northern aspects. We got some astounding views of Feathertop before braving Paling Spur which was even harder now under snow which had settled all the way down to the valley. Whilst undressing to cross the Cobungra which was now even colder and faster, Balti saw a platypus only metres away.
The climb up Brandy Creek firetrail was a killer.
I can't actually recall being quite that exhausted in years.
We finally got back to the car under head-torch at 8pm, after 25km and over 1km of up for the day, most of it with full packs.

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