Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trip report: Mt Ligar-Mt Tamboritha Circuit - Sept 2012

Mt Ligar (also called the Crinoline due to it's similarity to a style of ladies' dresses a hundred or so years ago) is considered by some to be one of the more challenging summits for hikers in Victoria.   I was keen to see for myself and to get in a couple of nights in the area.

A lush crop that is done no justice by my iPhone camera

It was a 3 hour drive from Melbourne to the trail head at  Breakfast Creek - one of the last camping grounds in the Wellington River area just past the tiny town of Licola.  On the way I made the now obligatory stop at the Heyfield Bakery to buy one of their amazing meat pies - seriously, if you're not a vegetarian, you've got to try one.

Click map for larger map

Day 1 - Breakfast Creek - Long Hill Creek 8.5km

By the time I had found the start of the trail, parked and sorted out my stuff, it was 1:30pm.

Despite the sunny weather I decided to pack my Yowies on the off chance there was some snow on the tops.  I bumped into one of the teachers in the Melbourne Grammar School Camp, near the start of the trail.   He reckoned there was not much chance of snow.  I should have listened - would have been one less kilo to cart around.
Melbourne Grammar School Camp

Easy walking, but not for long..

The trail up out of Breakfast Creek - it's a stiff walk

McMillan's Track marker

Mt Sugarloaf

A nicely cut zig zag on the approach to the Crinoline

Views on the approach to Mt Ligar

Views on the approach to Mt Ligar

Views on the approach to Mt Ligar

Mt Ligar "The Crinoline"
Does Mt Ligar resemble a crinoline dress?  You decide.
My approach line to the Crinoline - coming from the south (right of the picture) would have been an easier route.
The surface near the Crinoline summit was loose and rocky

It was surprisingly tricky climb onto the Crinoline.  It was rocky and sandy near the summit and it was hard at times to get a decent purchase.  I probably made it harder than necessary by approaching from the south west rather than the south.  Anyway, it was hairy enough to get the pulse racing and I was glad when I finally came over the crest.

Quick break from scrambling  up the Crinoline to take get snap to the east.

View from the Crinoline

View from the Crinoline

Evening view from the Crinoline

Looking north from Mr Ligar.  The crinoline dress-like tiers in full display.
I didn't linger long on the summit as the sun was getting low in the west and I did not want to have to negotiate Mt Ligar's loose slopes in the dark.  As it was it took me a lot of mucking about before I found a line down, at the northern end.

Looking back at the Crinoline
The section from Mt Ligar to the base of Long Hill was littered with large boulders that needed to be negotiated carefully.

Boulders on the approach to Long Hill

It  was dark by the time I reached Long Hill and I used the head lamp to navigate my way through the often thick bush.  I lost the track a few times and had to rely on my GPS (iPhone with Mud-Maps app).

Occasional rock cairns were welcome discoveries, providing reassurance in what was a pretty lonely place. The soft hooting of an owl and a scurrying rabbit added some further interest to the bush-bashing.

"Blessed are the cairn makers!"
According to the map there are two tracks passing over Long Hill.  Just after 7pm I found a good, well-sheltered campsite on the crest of Long Hill, on the western track.  The eastern track just seemed totally overgrown.

I pitched the pyramid, then made a fire in a nearby fire ring. There is nothing more cheery than a fire in the bush in the dark of the night.   I didn't get long to enjoy it though, as in began raining after 30 minutes and my fire eventually sputtered out.

Day 2 - Long Hill Creek - Little Tamboritha 16km

I woke early the next morning.  Needing water, I took my  water containers and headed to the Long Hill creek, about 200 meters east of my camp site, using my machete to blaze marks on the trees to help find my way back.  (I had brought the machete after being told before the trip that some parts of the route were very heavily overgrown.)

Long Hill Creek

The path from Long Hill Creek to my campsite
The water from the creek was beautiful.  For the record I didn't treat the water and didn't get any noticeable effects.   I headed off at 9:30am.

My Long Hill campsite, tent already stowed.

The trail on Long Hill

The trail on Long Hill

Rain clouds to the north west of Long Hill

View north from Long Hill

An eagle rides the winds over Long Hill
(and a good example of where having a camera with a zoom feature would be handy)

For the most part it was a great walk along Long Hill.   I managed to head down a wrong spur a couple of times, but realised my error quickly both times after referencing the GPS - not sure how I would of gone in the absence of these marvelous devices.  The truth is I would struggle a bit I reckon - will need to do more work on my navigation skills.
View south across Long Hill

Long Hill

Long Hill

Long Hill

Long Hill

Long Hill
There was plenty of evidence to it being Spring.

Facing north from Long Hill

Facing north from Long Hill

By midday I had reached a point where the trail narrowed to a boulder-covered spur.  While it was fairly slow going, the boulders and rocks made for interesting views.

It was late afternoon by the time I arrived at the start of the four wheel drive track.   The track was in pretty good condition, with only a couple of fallen trees across it and it seems that it is being maintained as an access road.

First sight of the 4WD track

The track rose steadily and sometimes steeply over a few kilometers     At 4:30 I arrived at the base of Mt Tamboritha, at the point where the track meets the McMillans Walking Track.

Start of McMillans Track from the 4WD road

The northern approach to Mt Tamboritha

The trail that leads to Mt Tamboritha is very open and is an easy walk.

View south from Mt Tamboritha

Trail along Mt Tamboritha

Looking SW from near Little Tamboritha

There were plenty of possible places to camp on Mt Tamboritha and Little Tamboritha; however, there was still plenty of light so I decided to get further that day and reduce the next day's walk.

One noticeable thing about the trail in this section is the lack of trail markings.  The bush is quite thick there and a few signs would have been handy to avoid veering too far off the trail.

The frogs were very active at this billabong.
A little after dark I found a great camping spot in a saddle about 2 km east of Little Tamboritha, near reference 585100N 471000E.   I settled in as the frogs in the nearby billabong sang what I thought was their evening songs.  However, it turned out that that was their 'evening and all night songs', which was a bit of a pain given their jet airliner level volumes.   I finished "Into Thin Air" to the light of my head lamp.  This is an account of the ill-fated 1996 Everest season, when severe weather led to the deaths of a number of climbers.  The author John Krakauer (Into the Wild) happened to be on one of the teams on the mountain and is able to give a first hand account of what happened.   It's thrilling and intriguing reading - highly recommended.

Inside my mountain palace

Minus 15 degrees C?!  It probably didn't go below zero all night.
Time to get a  new thermometer (and spend more than $5 this time)

Day 3 - Little Tamboritha - Breakfast Creek 7km

Despite the frogs I had a decent sleep and was back on the trail by 8am.

Morning view of my tent, in a saddle below Little Tamboritha

The rise out of the saddle where I camped

Looking east along the McMillans Track

The spur veers to the left  (south) where this open section stops in the middle top of the photo
About 2 km from the saddle where I camped, the trail starts heading southwest, down a long, narrow spur.

Looking south from the start of the spur

There were plenty of trail markers around for most of the spur.

Odd found-thing.

For the most part navigation down the spur was pretty straightforward.  However, the lower section of the spur is very overgrown and I found myself wandering off the trail a few times.

Thick bush at the lower section of the spur

View of the Tamboritha Road

The last part of the spur drops steeply to the valley floor.  Again, markings were not always obvious and I found it best to simply ensure that I was walking in the centre of the spur. I'd been warned that this last section was a real knee-wrecker.  I will attest to that, but the walk was generally ok.

Made it!
It was quite warm by the time I got back to the car.  I took advantage of mountain-cool waters of Breakfast Creek to cool off for 15 minutes, before jumping into the car and heading home.

A great spot for a bit of 'footy style' recovery for my aching knees

Duration/Distance3 days 31.5km (19.5mi)
 - Printed Maps: Vicmap 1:50,000 series - 8223-S “Moroka” & 8222-N "Wellington"
 - e-Maps: 1:25000 - Vicmaps 8222-4N & 8223-3S (Avail. via Mud-maps iPhone app)
 - Guidebook - "Bushwalks in the Australian Alps" by Glenn van der Knijff - see walk #30


  1. Where did you find water for the second night? GvdK doesn't show the campsite for that section. You forgot to photo the Crinoline from the North side. You can sidle around Ligar keeping below that lowest rock band on photo 15 - but involves crawling under scrub and some steepish slopes. Overgrown since those track notes.

  2. Hi Peter

    Thanks for your comments.

    I only had the water I'd carried on the second night (in a saddle below Little Tamboritha)

  3. G'day Andrew. Great post, thanks for sharing. Is it possible to sleep under the rock shelter do you think?

  4. Hi Mick. Thanks. I suspect that there is a spot at the rock shelter where you could sleep with some protection from the elements, but I didn't see it as I passed thru. Take a tarp or tent as a back up.
    All the best


I would love to hear from you - post a comment here.