Southern Grampians Weekend of Walks

Text composite from emails and Angela M note. Images JK, JL, TW, AM, MB, CK, AM

Great walking in the Southern Grampians for 23 walkers over a long weekend in July. Our good run of weather continues. Early fog cleared to blue sky and sunshine, with temperatures around 15 degrees – perfect walking weather. Some wallabies were hanging around at Southern Grampians Cottages as the group assembled to receive instructions for Saturday’s walks, apparently there to make sure we got everything right.

The welcoming party

On the first day, the Scramblers took on Mt Sturgeon, via some of the excellent new walkways of the Grampians Peaks trail, as shown below. The wonderful wildflowers were on full display, including orchids, a great favourite of some of our members. The climb was a quite a challenge for some of our walkers, but all ultimately made it.

On the second day, with the promise of a truly gorgeous, sunny day ahead and after a car shuffle of “operatic” proportions, our enthusiastic long walkers set off from the Piccaninny East Car Park en route to Mt Abrupt/Mud Dadjug. We followed trail until joining the Grampians Peaks Trail in the Serra Range with Mt Abrupt in our sights. The track was initially sandy and a gentle rise took us through forest studded with native orchids, Heath, Austral Grass Trees, and rich and diverse flora. We climbed steadily as the trail changed to the stepped stonework, newly created for the Grampians Peaks Trail, marvelling at the mammoth effort involved in creating this network of beautiful hewn sandstone steps, slabs and pathways.  We encountered massive rock overhangs and shelters and enjoyed morning tea with extensive views to Mt Sturgeon/Wurgarri (582m), the Piccaninny/Baingug (422m), the Victoria Range and the surrounding plains.

A final uphill push through a sheltered basin forested with majestic messmates and we crested the rim of the escarpment and basked in lunchtime sunshine on vast stone slabs with champagne views in all directions, Signal Peak(780m) revealing itself to the North. Our mood was buoyant as we gathered at the trig point which marks the Mt Abrupt/Mud-Dadjug summit (805m) and shared the joy of this beautiful place.

Our downwards journey took us along the ridgeline, Signal Peak before us and wonderful views all around. At the Signal Peak trail turnoff we agreed to descend via the trail to the Mt Abrupt carpark. Our trail zig zagged across massive scarred gullies caused by landslips due to major flooding in 2011. The vegetation is recovering but the imagined force of the walls of water which caused the destruction was sobering. We emerged at the Grampians Tourist Road grateful for glorious weather, a wonderful walk, stunning scenery and great company, and with many thanks to walk leaders John Langford and Harvey Reese for a truly superb day.

The Amblers had alternate walks, a bit less demanding, but equally enjoyable. On the first day they walked about 6 kms at a very leisurely pace along the Wannon River. They saw hundreds of kangaroos and eight emus. Along the upper reaches of the river there are magnificent ancient River Red Gums. Each one tells a story, and the group spent a lot of time looking at and talking about them. A fallen tree bears a small sign ‘Protected Tree’, presumably denoting significance for the traditional owners.

The Wannon Falls themselves are beautiful. Some ‘Suicide Steps’ (Joan’s designation) lead to the bottom of the Nigretta falls. Our expeditioners fortunately found a less alarming way to get down.

On the second day they went up the Piccaninny, which gave a clear view of Mt Abrupt. They had lunch beside the dam which provides water to Dunkeld.

On the final day, the Scramblers took on another demanding hike, and the Amblers went to Hamilton for a bit of R&R.

The walks, scenery, accommodation (Southern Grampians Cottages), group dinner (Bunyip Hotel, Cavendish), and comradeship made the weekend very rewarding. Many thanks to the organisers and walk leaders, John, Harvey, Robert, and Mick (in absentia), who made it all happen.