AAWT Mount Speculation to Mount Skene, March 12-17

The Australian Alps Walking Track is a long distance walking trail of about 655km, starting at Walhalla, east of Melbourne, and finishing at Tharwa, on the Murrumbidgee River near Canberra.

The walk on this section of the AAWT started near Mount Speculation (south of Mount Cobbler) and finished at Mount Skene, on the Jamieson-Licola Road.

Awake bright and early Saturday morning we headed for Camp Creek, at the base of Mount Speculation with Ian at the wheel. He had only realised the night before that I expected him to drop us off. Thank God he has a sense of humour, well at least until he hit Speculation Track.

After a quick cup of coffee, and feeding Ian some chocolates, to help him on the return journey of three hours back to Moyhu, we headed off. The weather was very humid and misty, but became very hot once the mist was dispelled.

Sitting down to lunch on Mount Buggery (a very descriptive name), a family of five appeared, and by mutual agreement we trudged on together. We were making for Hell Fire Gap, but had heard the creek was dry, so decided to head for Macalister Springs instead. A good thing, as we got to the Springs at 5.30pm, and still had another hour or so to get to the Gap.

Packs were dumped at the Springs, and a discussion took place as to whether we wanted to be closer to the toilet, and Vallejo Gantner hut, or stay put. However, after 20 scouts walked past heading towards the Hut, it was a no brainer to stay put.

Peaks bagged for the day were Speculation, Buggery and Crosscut Saw. The scenery was exceptional, but not for the faint hearted, as the track over the Crosscut was across a very narrow ridge.

The next day we said goodbye to our adopted family, and headed for Chester’s Yards, our next guaranteed water supply. I spent a lot of time peak bagging on the way, and was lucky enough to have two champions that allowed me to do that, although Sylvia thought she had lost the track, then spotted us on Big Hill and hi-tailed up the slope to find that we had deviated off the track.

Mount Howitt, Big Hill and Magdala were summitted before we hit the King Billies. The sign said how high it was, but didn’t say how steep. There was some light entertainment happening below on the 4 wheel drive track, as a ute hadn’t taken a corner so well, and had fallen off the road. Fortunately, no-one was hurt.

We would have liked to take a sticky beak, and offer our unwelcome opinion, but alas the bush was too dense to scrub bash down to the vehicle track.

Sylvia managed to put the breaks on at Chester’s Yards, not because of the invisible Yards, but because of the only water we had seen all day. This was one of the best camping spots I might add, except for the wombat that decided I was on the route to his/her water source. Once I heard the ripping of grass I decided it wasn’t a carnivorous monster, and went back to sleep.

Monday was still an official holiday, and we were headed to our water drop, up and over Mount Clear and Square Top. A discussion took place as to whether Square Top was worth the effort, but a confirmation from two of the members (that the track was non-existent around the side) saw us take the easier option of sticking to the ridge, until the track reappeared. High Cone was looked at, with no interest to bag the summit, as was the second of the Nobs.

Our next driver, Trevor, was spotted at the helipad, and radioed to come get us, and re-radioed as he overshot the rendezvous, and headed off into no-mans land.

The next day we relished in the joy of not going to work, while other poor suckers were at the end of their holiday. Trevor decided to tackle Nobs Track again, as he remembered the excitement of going down there last time, while us girls donned day packs (such luxury) and headed for Low Saddle.

East Mount MacDonald was achieved without excitement, then the fun began of trying to find a track in heavy mist. Once I worked out, after getting into maybe a sticky situation, that there wasn’t a track, and to take the safest route on the ridge line, we were fine.

A predominant ridge was then followed down to a waiting Trevor, with a sign saying route only (that is, no formed track). Trevor then informed us he was off home, meaning it was back with the heavy packs for the 17km journey the next day. I had forgotten to ask if he could stay. Much begging went on from me, and I was lucky enough that Anne saw the funny side of three women kidnapping her husband. A meal was found for him, and luckily plenty of alcohol was left over from the night before.

Again with day packs, we said goodbye to Trevor, and headed for another day of peak bagging. We did however realise too late we hadn’t found breakfast for Trevor.

Mount Sunday was summitted, and then on to Mount McKinty. One of the group didn’t realise that a track goes up the mountain, and when it looks like it is descending, it means you have reached the top. But there was no cairn or sign was again the catchphrase for the day. Next we met some Marathon runners doing the whole track . They were averaging 60km a day; what we did in five days. We were out on the main road in good time for Ian to pick us up, with a discussion on what ‘main road’ meant. He liked the Jamieson-Licola Road even less than Speculation Track. A feed at Jamieson Pub (lucky there were only four other people there to smell our odours), then Moyhu bound, via Trevor’s house, to pick up our overnight packs.

Thank you Willy and Sylvia for accompanying me. I thoroughly enjoyed your friendship and company. A big thank you to Trevor for the water drop, and for staying an extra night, and Ian for his many hours of driving to make the trip happen.

[Adele Ritchie]

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