Sunday 24 – Sunday 31 March 2019
Photos by Ainslie, Donna, Erika, Heather, Karen, Mary, Philip, Stewart and Tom
28 Batemans Bay Bushwalkers spent the week from Sunday 24 March to Saturday 30 March camped at the Big4NRMA Halls Gap Caravan Park for 5 days of walking in the Grampians National Park, Victoria led by Karen & Donna.
The weather turned unpredictable, leaving just a 4 day walking window between the hot and dry conditions and the cold, wet windy conditions with light hail and snow in the high country.
Day 1 – Monday
Dawned wet and very windy, so a hasty change of plans saw some of the group walk about 9km on a good bush track following Fyans Creek from the campsite to the National Parks Visitors Centre in Halls Gap and return. Followed by dinner in the Halls Gap Tavern, which surprisingly, was fully booked on a Monday night.
Day 2 – Tuesday
Cool, clear and sunny. 2 walks offered.
Walk 1 : 4.2 km return to The Pinnacle from Wonderland Carpark. The Pinnacle is the most popular walk and lookout in the Park. Avoid weekends and school holidays.
Ainslie writes . . . . . Wonderland in the Grampians had us full of wonder at the jumble of high rocks, but also wondering how we’d make it up yet more steps. Through the spectacular Grand Canyon with its sheer sandstone walls, then an even narrower cleft called Silent Street, and we were at The Pinnacle after a climb of 280 meters in 2.2 kms.
An international crowd less than half our age was admiring the view over Lake Bellfield and the brown fields of Halls Gap valley. One little French lass was 21 times younger than Val and Betty! Our group of ten was ably led by Bev Brazel; on a walk we graded easy/medium, but the Wonderland Walks brochure grades Medium/Hard. Wonder why.
Walk 2 : 8.4 km return Pinnacle Circuit from Halls Gap. We split into 2 groups to make the numbers more manageable and walked the loop in opposite directions. The group who walked the loop clockwise appreciated getting the many long series of steps out of the way first while fresh.
Day 3 – Wednesday
Cool, clear and sunny. 3 walks offered.
Walk 1 : 4.2 km return to Sundial Peak from Sundial Carpark, followed by 1.4 km return to Silverband Falls.
Ainslie writes . . . . . Ten of us led by Stewart went on an easy walk to Sundial Peak. After a smooth track we got to the top across rocks. We admired the excellent view of Lake Bellfield. Sundial Peak is so named because it is the first peak to get the morning sun. To commemorate this there is a well constructed sundial made by students in 1968.
We then drove to see Silverband Falls, reduced to a trickle, where we had lunch.
Walks 2 & 3 : To Mt Rosea, and once again the group split in half to make numbers more manageable. One group walked 9 km from Rosea Carpark to the summit and returned by the same route. The second group walked from Rosea Carpark to the summit and returned on a loop track – about 12 km.
The loop track has been recently realigned. Follow the signs from the carpark to Rosea summit. Then follow the signs towards Borough Huts. Then take the signposted track to follow old management trails back to Rosea Carpark.
Both are gorgeous walks through a variety of landscapes and rock formations with extensive 360 deg views from the summit.
Both groups visited the barely flowing Silverband Falls on the way back to camp.
Note: The Sundial Peak Loop shown in old publications no longer exists. Parts of the return track have been washed out and not repaired.
Dinner that night was at the Halls Gap Hotel, about 1 km from camp on the Stawell Road.
Day 4 – Thursday
Cool, clear and sunny. 3 walks offered.
Walk 1 : Zumsteins Historic Walk, MacKenzie Falls upper lookouts, The Balconies – about 7 km in total.
Diddy writes . . . . . . Five of us set off in one car at 9.30am with Mike as the driver and leader for the day. First stop after 20 kms or so on the narrow winding road was Zumsteins historic holiday resort of the 1920’s or so featuring old pise huts, hand dug swimming pool and a beautiful stroll through the bush block.
Next onto MacKenzie Falls where there were 2 lookouts. Broken Falls lookout and MacKenzie Falls lookout, both had spectacular views. After a lunch break in the shade we drove to have a brief view of Lake Wartook. Then onto Reeds Lookout and then a walk to the Balconies with expansive views to Lake Belfield and the Serra Range to Mount Abrupt to the far South. Last stop for the day was along the Mount Difficult road to Boroka Lookout overlooking Halls Gap village and East to the Pyrenees Range and the new wind farm. We returned to the caravan park by 4pm. A good day was had by all.
Walk 2 : 5.5 km return loop to Chatauqua Peak via Bullaces Glen. On the return leg we also walked the 2.3 km Venus Baths Loop.
Beautiful and varied walk starting in town. Good groomed track and some stairs up the hill with a short side track to Clematis Falls, which would be lovely when falling. Short, easy rock scramble to reach the summit. Excellent views over Halls Gap and the campsite. Descent goes via Bullaces Glen and another dry waterfall and cascades. Lovely ferny spot in more seasonal weather. The side track loop to Venus Baths is through a rocky gorge and leads to a string of swimming holes gouged in a sandstone rock bed. The creek was still flowing despite the drought.
Followed by a drive to Zumsteins for lunch and a stroll through the historic ruins. Followed by MacKenzie Falls where about half the group descended the 260 odd steps to the base of the Falls. The Falls are permanent and flow from Lake Wartook, the level of which is controlled by dams further upstream, ensuring there is always plenty of water coming over the Falls. We also walked the 2km return track out to the Gorge Lookout. Very popular spot – avoid weekends and school holidays.
Followed by a visit to Reeds Lookout.
Walk 3 : To the Northern Grampians to walk the Mt Staplyton Amphitheatre, a 6.6 km return challenging hike found in the book Daywalks Around Victoria by Glenn Tempest, published in 2011. On checking with 2 National Park Rangers to ensure the walk was still possible, we started from Hollow Mountain Carpark, and ascended Hollow Mountain. The published walk then continues across a trackless rocky ridge to the summit of Mt Staplyton. This ridge is where our walkers turned back, because the rock climbing was deemed too dangerous to continue.
Instead they returned to the cars, drove the short distance to the Mt Zero Carpark, and followed the 5.6 km return track to the summit of Mt Staplyton. The whole day amounted to about an 8 km walk through some fantastic rock formations to achieve more amazing views.
Day 5 – Friday
Cold, windy and possibly rain.
Another change of plans due to the weather. A group drove to the Mt William Carpark and walked 3.6 km return up the steep bitumen road to the summit of Mt William. This is the highest peak in the Grampians and there are views at every turn. At the top a squall came through, so we beat a hasty retreat back to the cars. Yesterday’s walkers who had not yet visited MacKenzie Falls and the Lookouts on Mt Victory Road set out to explore the area. Fortunately the weather improved and they were able to descend to the bottom of the Falls and walk part of the Gorge beside the McKenzie River and also take the track to the Balconies from Reeds Lookout.
The remainder of the group toured the area around Halls Gap, some visiting Stawell and Ararat, and some stopping off at Red Rock Olives and the James McMurtrie Glass Blowing Studio near Pomonal.
Day 6 – Saturday
Another cold, windy and possibly damp day. We abandoned plans to climb Mt Abrupt and divided into 2 groups.
Walk 1 : 2.5 km return climb of the Picaninny Hill overlooking Dunkeld. Followed by a walk around Dunkeld Arboretum and Dunkeld Village.
Walk 2 : 7 km return climb of Mt Sturgeon, also overlooking the little village of Dunkeld at the southern end of the National Park. This group also visited the village and arboretum.