- Winter camping
- Alpine exploration
- Australian history
“Next time you go to the snow take me with you” a friend of mine said, which was quickly replaced with “You are actually mentally ill” when he found out I was staying in a tent and not one of those fancy resorts.
It never really occurred to me that hiking into the back country and camping under the stars by myself for a couple of nights would come across as something other than an amazing adventure, but then again not everyone has that adventurous little spirit voice that says “no part of this seems like a bad idea” and that was it, the idea was firmly planted in my head that a winter camping trip to explore the high plains and some of the alpine huts was about to happen.
After bailing from work on Friday afternoon I made the drive 6 hours south to spend the night at the bottom of the mountain so I could have not only a fresh start in the morning, but a reasonably early one and in saying that, I had the snow shoes strapped on at 8:30 ready to head off. The trail starts at Falls Creek Village which is 4 and a half hours north from Melbourne (this is as far as you can drive in the winter) and for the most part is an actual road that gets closed during the snow season so XC skiers and snowshoers can explore the back country. Being an actual road, albeit covered in snow it’s wide and easy to follow and while it is in an alpine area the high plains are relatively flat with only a few hills so it’s a pleasant 10kms around the lake and through the snow gums to where I intended to set up camp.
Once I’d had some lunch and set my tent up I found myself a nice spot in the afternoon sun amongst the snow gums to rest and contemplate my next move. What is a camping trip without a campfire I thought to myself? And there it was… my challenge for the evening was to go into full bloke mode and create fire, in the snow. After gathering some larger dead branches that had fallen under the weight of snow, I collected the necessary smaller twigs and some lichen and bark for tinder. Armed with a match and optimism I began nursing the glowing embers and smoky ball of lichen into a flame and before I knew it I was standing around a roaring fire sipping congratulations from my flask, a fantastic end to the day.
I woke to another stunning day, the air was crisp and like the previous day there was an eerie stillness… the kind that really makes you pay attention. Sound is such a constant thing in everyday life you don’t even think about it but when there is no sound, you notice immediately, you might even have the strange experience of hearing your own heartbeat……. Time for coffee.
My campsite was near the historic Wallace’s Hut, built in 1889 by three young brothers who grazed cattle on the high plains in the summer months and it’s the oldest still standing in the National Parks.
I really love these old huts, the locations, the beautiful craftsmanship and most importantly the pioneering Australian spirit they represent. It’s hard not to sit back and imagine being in the same spot a hundred or more years ago as the cattlemen herded their livestock and relaxed around the fire at night, even more impressive is that besides the trees having grown a little larger the site remains almost the same as it was all those years ago.
The return trip can take as little or as long as you’d like, there’s always a little further to go or an additional loop trail or hut to hit up if the mood strikes and it’s entirely possible to go the majority of the way back on alternate routes to take in just little bit more of this amazing part of the world.
Play safe, be prepared and enjoy a weekend away experiencing something that is truly unique to our country.
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Essential gear required
- Hiking pack/camping supplies
- Food/water/camp stove
- Sleeping bag (at least -7) and insulated mattress
- Snowshoes or XC skis
- Beacon/first aid kit
- Flask (very important for inner warmth)
How to get there
Intermediate – be prepared and stay safe, common sense is a must
About 25kms return with a 500-600m elevation gain