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Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter Nov 14

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 9:09 pm

In Nov 14, I took the opportunity afforded by an interstate event to divert with a friend via the Alpine National Park in Victoria.

I had seen descriptions and some photos on this site, and had begun to gather appropriate maps and reports.
As always - there were plans made and then altered at last minute and then changed on the run.
It is always good to have thought about alternatives and escape routes.

So on the 17th we drove from Canberra to Lake Cobbler in a small 2WD.
The road up was just managable, testing our car on the longish steep part at the end but being fine at the pool of water at the lake outlet.

We took 2 hours hiking up to Mt Cobbler. Seeing some folk already on top of the main peak, we found a nice spot for our tents just down from the secondary peak.
It was a beautiful night to watch the sun setting from the tops.
Proceeding down the small cliff line and scrambling up the connecting spine to the very top we met the school group who had set up tents there. They said that above 200 kids were distributed right across the ranges doing walks.
We did happen to cross paths with a couple of these groups over the following days.

I think this spot was perhaps the standout of our entire walk. Relatively easy access to a marvellous grandstand and lovely weather to assist.
To the north lay the Buffalo Plateau with its granite tors
SE was Mt Buller and Stirling, and to the south was the grand arc of the ridgeline running from Koonika through Spec, Crosscut Saw, Howitt, etc to the Bluff.

I had fun that night with a small but powerful bike light mixing brief exposures of the trees with a background of stars.
Up early the next day to catch the sunrise. The sky was clear and there were valleys of mist far below - magical.

Panorama of Lake Cobbler

From Cobbler looking south along the arc of mountains. Koonika through Howitt to the Bluff

Stars amongst the Snow Gums

Fun with torch light - our tent site.

Pre dawn light to the east

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 9:17 pm

Cloud in the valleys

Mt Cobbler - main peak by morning light. You can see the school group coming down.

The return trip was relaxed, but then I had the bright idea of following Dandongadale River down to the falls.
Under estimating the distance, I was also unaware of the way the river cut down. So a short distance down, we thought better of it and looked to climb out onto the ridge.
We left our packs and climbed and then worked our way along the ridgetop immediately above the river. The drop down had become quite substantial by the time we crossed the proper track to the falls.
This dropped steeply down the nose before depositing us on a broad rock shelf that looked down onto the main drop of the falls.
A better vantage point was difficult to spot, so we made do with this viewing point over the highest falls in Victoria.
We then had to replicate our off track work back to the packs before working our way back to the Mt Cobbler track and then back to the lake.
It meant that we had missed that part of the track to the falls that probably led either to or near the other falls that cascade in a series of steps to the east of the Dandongadale Falls proper.
The return trip with off track adventures had taken 3:20 hrs

Looking down on the main drop of Dandongadale Falls

Dandongadale Falls as seen from the road

10_Mount Typo4085.jpg
The road to Lake Cobbler passes the curious flanks of Mt Typo

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 9:25 pm

The day was warming up, so we headed off after almost stepping on a black snake at Lake Cobbler [my first snake encounter for the year!]
Amongst my changing plans was the thought of camping at/near Craig's Hut, so we decided to make that a first port of call and took a long drive out and around to the Buller area.
It was getting quite late when we got to the 4WD road up from Circuit Road [Clear Hills Track]
Deciding to test the small 2WD out again - this time I managed to skim the bottom of the engine on a couple of large spoon drains deliberately built into the track.
I figured I could correct for that on the way back [which I did] but I baulked at the severe drop down the other side of the first rise.
I had to be sure I could get back up wherever I went down!
So we parked the car at the top and set up camp there.

We had gone over half way to the hut, and the walk along the road and then joining the track from Circuit Road Picnic Area was simple.
The sunset over Craig's Hut was also with a clear sky and was worth the journey. We shared the location with a few school groups who were eating on the nice grassed areas.
Apparently they were camped back along the road just down from the hut. Another chap was setup with a big tripod ready to get photos of the Milky Way above the hut, but we did not stay as we were yet to eat.

Craigs Hut at Sunset - Mt Cobbler in full light, where we had camped the previous night.

The penalty for staying near Craigs Hut was a later start from the Upper Howqua Campground next day.
The track along the river and then up onto Stanley's Name Spur was reasonable despite the warmer conditions and the annoying fallen trees.
However that all changed immediately past the turn off to the Crosscut Saw. The old 4WD track became much more overgrown, and there were a lot more fallen trees to contend with.
It was with some relief we dropped packs for a late lunch at a small tributary into King River South. The creek bed was dry at the track crossing, but there was a pool further in, and a bit of exploration revealed a delightful waterhole complete with flowing water.

Howqua River

On the old road to Queens Spur :(

A delightful pool at our lunch stop

The track improved as we continued on from there, and there was one other place we heard flowing water amongst the rocks before we attained the ridgeline of Queens Spur.
The track was faint but pretty good up here, but we were suffering a little from the distance and heat and took 2 hours to complete this part.
Coming out of the scrub into open areas, the views were great but the dramatic face of Mt Buggery brought some alarm to my friend.
I assured him we were not going straight up. Queens Spur heads to the south of the peak before ascending a still quite dramatic line of outcrops.
I had expected the track to work its way around into the gully behind, so it was a surprise that it stuck pretty well to the rocky edge.
We had a long pause when high up on this ridge due to our exhaustion.

The daunting face of Mt Buggery

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 9:35 pm

Our climb up Buggery followed the ridgeline

An Alpine Daisy - of which there were many

From Queens Spur looking north to Speculation, Koonika and a distant Cobbler

Our original plan was to push onto Mt Speculation, but we had enough water to last so we decided we were quite buggered enough and needed to camp on Mt Buggery.
Despite missing out on Spec, it was a good decision as there were 2 school groups we could see up on Spec, and we had a delightful camping area on Mt Buggery to ourselves.

The view from Buggery to the Wonnangatta cliffs and the Devils Staircase

Sunset from Buggery

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 9:42 pm

Close up of the Sunset

Next morning's sunrise was more subdued with extensive cloud cover. Our start was subdued, but the weather was good for most of the day.

Predawn vista

Enjoying the grandstand views north and south along the main ranges, and out to the east over the Viking as we went over the Crosscut Saw,
we eventually arrived at the edge of the Mt Howitt massif where we dropped packs to do the side trip out to Macalister Springs and the Vallejo Gattner Hut.
It was a novel spot with the plastic pipe providing easy access to the spring water. The hut was curious with its 2 level doors, and the elaborate toilet block with the grandstand views south was appreciated.

Ascending up to the start of the Crosscut Saw

The Razor

On the ups and downs of the Saw

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 9:47 pm

View north from the top of the Crosscut Saw

Heading towards Howitt

The Viking

Looking back to the Crosscut Saw

Looking over the Devils Staircase to the Razor and Viking

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 9:55 pm

Arriving back at our packs to find 2 more school groups having lunch, we pressed on till just before the summit of Mt Howitt to have lunch.
Our urgency had been increasing since the wind was picking up and was quite strong, and we were not sure how long before it started raining.

Flowers on Howitt

The camping area on the Big Hill / Mt Magdala saddle was very spacious and we setup in dry conditions, with a couple school groups coming in later but well spread out.
They went down to Hellfire Creek for water, so I checked it out. We had picked up a lot of water at Macalister Springs but the dribble of water here was requiring the kids to spend quite some time to collect it.
The rain came through that night, and morning saw us in a thick mist.

Mist moss on a misty morning

It meant that we climbed Mt Magdala and passed Hells Window in cloud. The difference in conditions added to our experience and was pleasant enough in the still air.

Rock column in Hells Window

Ascending along the eerie cliff of Mt Magdala

Some more of the marvellous flowers on display.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 10:02 pm

We had been unsure what the weather would do from here, but we broke out of cloud just after we had passed the profuse display of alpine flowers on Magdala's flanks.
From here on the day continued to improve until we were once again in hot clear conditions.
This was another day with relaxed walking, and we took some time to soak up the open saddle and then the clear edge of Picture Point before heading out to Helicopter Spur.

Emerging onto the ridge south of Magdala. King Billy 1 and Picture Point ahead

Heading out to Picture Point. A group of school girls was ahead of us.

I had things a little mixed up in my mind, so when we found the first cliff line to be a quite straightforward affair, I thought the worst was over.
We relaxed and had some lunch before arriving at the second cliff line. On reflection, it was not that hard if you knew what you were doing - and I think it would be easier to navigate going up.
However, when going down we ended up at the nose looking down a very vertical drop.
As is often the case when looking down, the areas of scree can resemble a path, so I dropped my pack and went exploring down the nose.
I was pretty sure it was not the correct route, but was hoping I could see to the bottom to get some clues.
I ended the descent above a sheer drop of at least 10m, and I edged out onto an overhanging ledge. This again affirmed it could not possibly be the route.
Climbing back up again - I realised that I had been rather foolish coming down here, as getting back up again meant sometimes pulling myself using clumps of grass.

At this stage we were wondering if we had to go all the way back to the Howitt Spur exit and I was preparing to explore around the southern side of the ridge.
But I happened to catch sight of an obvious cairn about half way down the northern side and perhaps 30 metres back from the nose.
Pity there was no equally clear cairn at the ridgetop at this point, as it had not been easy to spot it way down there.
It meant a very steep climb down the rocks and screes before eventually arriving at the crux of Helicopter Spur.
This is a very vertical gully. I climbed down it without pack and realised it was quite adequate for foot and hand holds. But we packhauled none-the-less.
I certainly would have climbed up it without pack hauling, but there is so much more uncertainty when coming down something that steep.

Looking back at the crux of Helicopter Spur - the vertical slot on the north side of the second cliff face

The second cliff line from further down Helicopter Spur

The path through the final cliff line was much more obvious but was hard on the feet as much of it was very steep slippery gravel.
It drops into a gully on the northern side again, next to some large columns of rock jutting out away from the main ridgeline.
The track can get a little undefined as the spur enters larger trees and undergrowth and broadens out.
We met a couple young guys just heading in which gave us more confidence, and it was not long before we came to an old road.

Coming out of the gully on the north side of the 3rd cliffline

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Mon 16 Feb, 2015 10:08 pm

Looking back at the 3 cliff lines on Helicopter Spur

No troubles with the track from here, but we still had a distance to go back to the car.
I was surprised to come out about 100m downstream from the toilet, as I had read that the track was just behind it.
This old road has had a big mound and hole built in front of it to prevent it being used by cars.
It had taken 3 hours walking just to descend the Spur, but it would have been quicker if we had been familiar with the track.

All in all, a really great walk with a gentle mix of weather to add to the experience.
Some sections had been quite tough due to scrub, heat and a bit of dehydration, but most had been on good tracks with many flowers on display and lovely green alpine grasses.
I can at least say I have been into some of the wilder parts of the Victorian Alps now.

I will add a couple other favourites from Mt Cobbler:
Looking through the snow gums on Mt Cobber to the Buffalo Plateau

Snow Gum skeleton on Mt Cobbler

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Tue 17 Feb, 2015 8:27 am

Wonderful report Eggs. We should have a section for report of the month nominations, this would be a big contender.
Thanks for posting.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Tue 17 Feb, 2015 9:05 am

Possibly my favourite part of Victoria. The Crosscut is special. Thanks for taking me back.

You can bypass those two steep gullies on Helicopter by sidling. To the right if you're descending, to the left if you're going up. Puts you on steep open slopes with a little bit of loose ground but easier for those who find the gullies a bit much. Or there is a really good scramble almost directly up (I wouldn't go down it with a full pack) if you're in the mood for a bit of fun. ;)

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Tue 17 Feb, 2015 11:24 am

north-north-west wrote:Possibly my favourite part of Victoria. The Crosscut is special. Thanks for taking me back.

Most definitely my favourite part. Big thank you from me too, eggs. :D

Love the photos, and I've never seen any of the Razor & Viking that clear before. Took me back to many a wonderful trip, including my first two-weeker, and a camp near the summit of Howitt in perfect conditions.

Love the wildflowers there too. And I'm with you on the weather. If I only had blue sky days on a trip out that way, I felt I'd missed out a little - somehow mist + snow gums + dramatic drops = something rather magical.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Tue 17 Feb, 2015 2:32 pm

Lovely photos. It was a bit less green above the treeline when I was up there a month ago, but nonetheless beautiful as always.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Tue 17 Feb, 2015 7:12 pm

Great photos eggs, I was on Cobler yesterday and could relate very much to your report. Also had been to Craigs Hut Sunday evening after doing Buller West Ridge and across to Sterling. I had to do the drive all the way around as well, it is such a long, long way after almost being close enough to reach out and touch Cobler from Craigs Hut. I wasn't game to tackle the 4wd track across and was thankful I didn't try after experiencing the Cobler Road.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Wed 18 Feb, 2015 10:41 am

Great photos and report.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Thu 19 Feb, 2015 8:34 am

Great pictures. Thank you for sharing.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Thu 19 Feb, 2015 1:34 pm

Love it, Thanks for taking the time to post up such great pictures and a good read.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Sat 21 Mar, 2015 11:22 am

Worthy of a look and read, thanks for sharing.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Sat 21 Mar, 2015 11:26 am

Stunning photos, thanks for taking the time to do the report.

Re: Visit to Alpine National Park - Cobbler to Helicopter No

Sat 24 Dec, 2016 9:50 am

That is an amazing trip report EGGS. Nice photos too. There is some tough scrub and steep stuff out there.You are braver than I am going DOWN Helicopter spur. I am yet to go UP it with a full pack.
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