What’s a double tap you might say? I’m sure if you look up Urban Dictionary there’s probably a number of definitions, but in this case I’m referring to making the summit of a mountain twice in one trip! Why would someone do that? If once is good, surely twice is better!
This trip was another jam packed one, taking off from home at 5:30am. I hate leaving so early, I much prefer a lazy departure (see last post on Buller!) but we had a 4+ hour drive ahead of us plus under the pump to climb the mountain and get over to camp before dark! There are many great things about getting outdoors in winter, the significantly shorter daylight hours is not one of them! Although it does mean you get an awesome night catching up on sleep!
Joe met at my place, we picked up Sharon on the way. Up the Hume hwy, coffee and bacon sandwich at Avenel, keep going, Great Alpine road and then up over the hills to the pretty little town of Mount Beauty. Another coffee and food stop for an early lunch before heading out to the trail head.
Mount Bogong is one of the most prominent peaks in Australia, rising around 1600m from Mount Beauty. This means that the only way to the top, is to work for it!
Having a 4wd means that you can get a little closer to the mountain, only around 1km in winter as most of the road is closed, but we’ll take it! It felt strange organising our packs at the car in relative warmth, putting in items like balaclava’s and crampons, but we were heading high up into some of Victoria’s most exposed terrain. A special mention to Sharon for this time leave BOTH deodorants behind, not just one! Alpine fast and light here we come!
There was a cold front expected to hit that day, and not depart until some time on Monday. All forecasts seemed very cold, but otherwise not bad, just a little snowfall on Sunday.
All packed we headed up the staircase spur only 6kms from base to summit, but took us nearly 4 hours! It’s a long steady climb, and it gets colder and colder as you ascend. We took refuge for a moment in Bivouac hut, then pushed on. The summit was calling and the warmth of the sun wouldn’t be around for long!
The first snow was seen on the ground not long after the hut, and become more frequent as we neared the tree line. A large patch of snow sat on the steep slope between us a and the top, but it seemed soft enough to kick in steps and skirt around so we continued.
It didn’t take long from there to be standing next to the summit cairn and realise how sheltered the lower slopes of the mountain were from the wind! We took the necessary summit photos on Sharon’s selfie stick and pushed on. It was an estimated hour and a bit around the ridge to Cleave Col Hut where we would spend the night, and there was only about that long until sunset!
As it turned out, Cleave Col was about 2 hours away, maybe a little more. The snow along the ridge was old, wind battered and in the now sub zero temperatures very hard and icy. It was definitely time for crampons.
I can’t remember how many times I was asked “should we stop and get out head torches out?” to which I responded “nah, I’m pretty sure its not much further!”. My last trip here was documents in the post “11 bloody seconds”, in which I did a single day trip up and over with a small trail running pack. I could have sworn it wasn’t this far… maybe we were moving a bit slower this time…
All of a sudden, there it was! The great big stone hut, just spotted through the trees and cloud, just in time with the last of the fading light disappearing. We quickly took refuge, got a fire going and settled in for the night.
The following morning we had a nice slow start, which is well justified in winter. The water pipes in the hut were dirty and a little dry, possibly frozen, so we set to collecting some fresh snow to melt to make coffee and get drinking water for the return journey.
Soon enough though we hit the trail, it was still very cold, and now very windy with a little snow. What would otherwise be a nice light snowfalls was chaotically swirling around through the tree tops and there was a loud drumming of the sound wind up on the ridge. It was going to be a rough!
Crampons on straight out of the hut, into the snow, and soon up on the ridge. Yep, I was right, battering winds… eventually we stopped and discussed the wind speed, I was the most conservative in my estimations say that maybe they were 40-50kms/h with gusts up to 60 or a little more. Minutes later, and a little further along the ridge, we had the same discussion and all agreed it was now a solid 80. There were gusts that were throwing us off balance, and walking in hard uneven snow with crampons on can get tricky!
According to my Suunto it was down to -4, but the wind chill would have been bad had we had any exposed skin. Joe was smart enough today to put pants on, and all 3 of us were wrapped up head to to in Gortex, blocking out all the wind, so as long as we kept moving we were all comfortable! The saving grace was we had pretty good visibility, we could see between 50-100m, and every now and then a whole in the sky appeared for a spectacular view!
Nearing Bogong’s summit again, we were presented with a choice. Follow the snow pole trail over the saddle and down the Staircase Spur, or blast up to the summit again for a ‘double tap’. Naturally we opted for the more adventurous option and were rewarded spectacularly with a little ray of sunshine!
Bug out was simple, down the same trail, lunch of Cave Bars, chocolate and thanks to Joe, a peanut butter wrap in the warmth of Bivouac Hut, then the long windy trail back to the car. It’s a lot quicker going down, but it always seems to drag on forever. Maybe its the thought of leaving the mountain?
Departed: 5:30am Saturday Returned: 9:30pm Sunday Time spent driving: 4.5 hours each way Distance hiked: 22km Ascent/Descent: 1400m up - 1400m down Nights out: 1 Load Carried: 14kgs Lowest recorded temp: -4C. (not including overnight)