Follow the progress of passionate environmental supporter and hiker Campbell Gome as he treks the Australian Alps for Climb It For Climate.
We continue our trek through the Australian Alps and I near my target goal of $1000. Should my walk inspire you, feel free to donate to my Climb It For Climate adventure here, or join up yourself!
It snowed through the night with gusts of high wind which made things exciting in our high and fairly exposed campsite. After considering various options over breakfast we agreed to commit to the 'party week' vibe and stay together as a single group, rather than split into two smaller groups for a few days. Our modified itinerary probably means removing Mt Bogong from our plans for this trip, but it'll be there another time. Under clearing skies we spent much of the day walking on a track following the Rocky Dam aqueduct which was built in the 1950s as part of the Kiewa Hydroelectric scheme.
Elevation gained today: 360m
Total elevation gained: 13635m
Distance today: 20km
Total distance: 269km
My partner and I were honoured to take on the role of being our nephew's godparents many years ago, but we're always a bit uncertain about the requirements of the role. It's been great to spend three days and two nights with young M, introduce him to overnight hiking and share some mountain time together. After another chilly night (-6.4 deg C) M and I walked down to Rocky Dam to meet my brother, his dad. We had hot chips at the village then walked up to the summit. A sign at the top commemorates the work of the Victorian Alpine Aboriginal Reference Group in and around 2007 that led to a geographic landmark in the area being changed to Jaithmathang (pronounced 'Yate-Me-Tung'), after one of the many languages spoken in this area. The others passed the day in various ways, cards, wood chopping and a day trip to Mt Nelse.
Elevation gained today: 780m
Total elevation gained: 14415m
Distance today: 12km
Total distance: 281km
A dying Alpine snow gum. Photo: Campbell Gome
Excluding our (vehicle-assisted) visit to Bright, today was the first time we've been below the snow line for over a week. From Fitzgerald Hut we came down a gentle track through blackwood, aromatic peppermint gum and magnificent candelabra and candlestick-like candlebark gums to our campsite by the Big River.
The snow gum in the photo is one of the oldest we've seen so far. Right next to Fitzgerald Hut, it was probably defended from the 2003 (and other) fires as part of the effort to save the hut. But sadly it looks like the longicorn beetle, aided by warming temperatures and drought stress, will now be the death of this ancient tree. We have seen many snow gums besieged by the longicorn beetle and there is a very real threat to the ongoing viability of these trees. Their loss would have a significant impact on the whole alpine ecosystem. Things are serious when you've got a scientist saying, 'I hope that the prognosis for snow gum is better than it looks at the moment.'
Elevation gained today: 100m
Total elevation gained: 14515m
Distance today: 16km
Total distance: 297km
Today was just a short stroll up the road to the old gold mining town of Glen Wills where we were welcomed and fed by more of Marc's extended family. Tomorrow will be a rest day marking the end of 'party week', after which we'll farewell our extra walkers and head onwards and upwards towards the border.
Elevation gained today: 50m
Total elevation gained: 14565m
Distance today: 6km
Total distance: 303km
Blue skies and proximity made it hard to resist a ‘packs-off’, Joe Simpson style side trip to the summit of Mt Bogong. Rani and Amrah joined me in the drive to Mt Beauty and walk up 'The Staircase' to the top of the highest mountain in Victoria. The twins are the other members of my 'party week' group and have been dear friends and outdoor adventure buddies for most of their lives and nearly half of mine. This walk was a bit of a milestone for us as it's the first overnight walk we've done together without their mum Lyndall.
Soon after 'Dark Emu' was published some colleagues and I had the privilege of hearing Uncle Bruce Pascoe speak one evening at Preston Library. He made the observation that in times of abundance, such as the annual harvest of Bogong moths, it was common practice among the First Nations People of this land, after preserving and storing some of the surplus, to invite neighbouring clans and nations to gather for ceremony and sharing of the harvest. I find much to contemplate in this idea in terms of social and environmental sustainability and equity. It is a radically different model from that which pervades our western coloniser origin story and mindset of unlimited and endless extraction, stockpiling and consumption of resources.
Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa) travel long distances from their breeding place as caterpillars in the Western Plains of NSW and Southern Queensland up into the Australian Alps each year. Sadly their numbers have declined since the 1950s, with a massive population crash in 2017, as we hurtle headfirst into the Anthropocene era.
I'm sending this off from Mt Beauty as I have no service down in the valley. This evening we'll return to Glen Wills for a pizza night with Marc's family.
Elevation gained today: 740m
Total elevation gained: 15305m
Distance today: 7km
Total distance: 310km
Today we set off from Glen Wills, farewelled by the pair of dingoes howling from the ridge behind the house. This will be a tough week — long days, lots of climbing. If we make it to Thredbo on schedule by Friday, we'll be almost into the home straight. We are walking very close to the headwaters of the Snowy River.
Elevation gained today: 655m
Total elevation gained: 15960m
Distance today: 24km
Total distance: 334km
Photos: Campbell Gome.
After a quick bit of scrub-bashing first thing, we walked the first few km of our day's walk on a recently graded wide dirt road.
Within about three minutes the first logging truck came roaring past, with others following every 5-10 minutes for the next half hour before we turned off the road.
This area was hit hard in the 2019–20 fires, overwhelming signs of stress response in the surviving trees and, as per earlier post, vast areas of alpine and mountain ash that have burned for a second time within 20 years.
The young ash are too immature to have seeded, so they are now gone from these hills. Presumably the logs being taken out are what Forestry officials call 'salvage logging'... What I saw today was truckloads of the last vestiges of bird and animal habitat and carbon dioxide sequestration being hauled away to be made into cardboard boxes or copy paper.
After spending much of the day walking through and bearing witness to what felt like the landscape of Picasso's 'Guernica', it was a huge relief to enter a beautiful old forest that was either unburnt or had had a cooler cleansing burn at ground level without fire reaching the canopy. We saw candlebark and huge peppermint gums well over 25m tall. May they stay safe from intense fires and logging.
I've been thinking about, and talking to trees a lot while walking. Earlier this year I spent time in a tree sit in Treasury Gardens in solidarity with the campaign to end logging in and around the Errinundra Plateau. And for the first time in eight years, this year (because of my walking and other plans), I'm not raising my usual 300 seedlings for local Landcare groups with TreeProject . But I'm looking forward to helping out with their planting days and working bees when I'm back home. If you have a bit of time and garden space (even a balcony), check them out. Seedling raising is a visible, practical and rewarding way to contribute to the revegetation of local ecosystems.
Elevation gained today: 1540m
Total elevation gained: 17500m
Distance today: 27km
Total distance: 361km