High Country Cup Weekend
High Country Cup Weekend Trip – 30th October – 3rd November 2020
A small but select group set out from the Little River BP Road-house; Ross with his passenger David Irving, Mark Mensch and Geoff Davey with Adrian Deppeler as passenger. Dale Robertson was keen to participate in his first trip with the Club but was a late withdrawal as he was concerned about the Parks Victoria notification of wetter than normal conditions this year necessitating delays in opening some tracks. In retrospect this may not have been a bad thing Dale, as the trip was on the difficult side as it turned out.
We transited Melbourne and exited the COVID “Ring of Steel” with no problems or delay. After refueling at Moe, it was on to Walhalla where it was burgers all round for lunch at the local store. Walhalla is a fantastic historic settlement where you could easily spend a couple of days exploring. The area was looking particularly green and we had the sense that the countryside was already generally damp, with the prospect of more rain on Friday and Saturday in particular. From there we headed north and onto Low Saddle Track and CMF track. On CMF track there is a very steep descent down Trig Track to the Aberfeldy River where we hoped to camp. We were initially unsure whether to descend, partly due to the prospect of rain but also due to a memorial plaque at the top of the descent which was a little disconcerting. However we gathered our courage and found a great little campsite on the river.
There was light but consistent rain over-night, which fortunately eased off as we decamped in the morning. The river was impassable at that point, so there was no option but to return up the Trig Track hill. This was damp, but the grip was reasonable and was negotiated by all (relatively) uneventfully. From there it was north on CMF track to our first crossing of the Aberfeldy River. The river was running moderately quickly as we had already seen at the campsite. This crossing was about wheel deep with a steep slippery exit. The ascent from there was also steep with slippery clay based sections. Ross made it up first, but Mark ran out of traction on the steepest section. His winch was not working so Ross snatched him up (with a long extension strap in addition to the snatch strap). Geoff also winched over that section. From there it was onto Dream Creek Track to re-cross the Aberfeldy River. This was to be our deepest crossing with water touching the windscreen of all vehicles. After safely negotiating the river, it was on to Merringtons Track and a stop at “The Junction” which is the junction of the Aberfeldy River and Donnelly Creek.
After leaving The Junction there was a double river crossing of both waterways and from there passed through the old Toombon mining area where there are many old relics and points of interest. After again crossing the Aberfeldy River we passed though the Aberfeldy township and found a stop for lunch. After lunch we headed towards Woods Point via Johnson Hill Track, crossing the Goulburn River and into the township. It was a relatively early arrival at Scotts Reserve Camp on the Goulburn River which made for a relaxed social evening with excellent ambiance.
On Sunday we set off on what was initially planned to be a relatively short day. First it was back to Woods Point, then on to Brewery Track which was marked as steep on the map. On rounding the second corner at the start of the climb, my passenger let out an animated expletive on seeing what lay ahead; he didn’t believe a vehicle could go there! We did do one “double take” on the way up, but it was all negotiated without too much concern.
The interesting part of the day started on Webber Spur Track which led to a crossing on the Goulburn River. The crossing itself was okay but the exit was slippery and deeply rutted. There were a couple of blokes camped there who told us that people had been having trouble getting up the other side. We all made it up, but I managed to wound my front right panel and door on a rock adjacent to the deep rut. There was not really much choice on line due to the rut. Not Happy Jan!
The climb from there was steep and rocky. Mark made it three quarters of the way up before he was stopped by a slippery rock step and ruts that kept pulling him in. After one too many tries (by definition) at getting up, there was a loud bang! Yep the CV joint had exploded. Long story short; Ross turned his car around on a switchback just up the hill and with winch extension straps and blocks we spent the next 2 hours getting Mark up to the switchback. Through this process we were joined by three young blokes and their girlfriends. The boys were very helpful and once we had Marks car at the top, one of them produced an angle grinder and cut off the CV drive shaft near the boot on the wheel. With the centre diff locked, Mark then effectively had a 3 wheel drive vehicle to continue.
The next problem occurred on Ross’s car. His winch initially didn’t work properly so he arranged a makeshift rewire to get it going. Unfortunately in retrospect he also interfered with a solenoid switch, which we didn’t work out until much later. This had effectively also disconnected power from his thermocouple radiator fan which meant we now had one partly crippled vehicle (Marks) and one which was overheating. Fortunately it was a relatively short distance to the top of the steep section of track, so Geoff towed Mark to the top and Ross drove it with a rising temperature gauge. Mark was then able to drive the rest of the trip under his own steam.
The trouble was not over yet however. Soon after, Ross blew the top radiator hose on his car. This was jury rigged with a modified Land Cruiser 200 hose and after cooling the radiator and replacing the water, we continued. The young blokes had still not caught us, as it turns out they were also having trouble on the hill. A few kilometers later Ross had to stop again with a boiling vehicle. By this time the young guys had caught us and gave us another hand to get Ross’s fans working with another direct rewire to the battery, which included inline fuses which also acted as switches by pulling them out to “turn off” the fans. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
We were then able to limp back to the Jamieson Licola Road, then over Mount Skene and into camp at Wrens Flat Camp on the Jamieson River at about 4pm (great scheduling Ross). By then Menschy and Ross’s car had both cooled down and we again settled into the standard campfire evening. As an aside the young blokes rolled into the same campsite by complete coincidence. They camped on the other side of the river from us. Later in the evening two of them gave us a social visit having crossed the river in their jocks (only) and then had a leisurely chat around the campfire with a couple of beers. It must have been a good campfire, because they didn’t seem cold at all. An hour or so later (in the pitch dark with no torches) they returned over the fast flowing river to their own camp!
Monday morning we went into Mansfield to get a new radiator hose and coolant for Ross. There was a bakery next to the automotive parts shop so we stopped there for lunch. Then who should roll in for parts at the auto parts and lunch at the Bakery, but our group of young friends! As there was no more four wheel driving to be done, we headed back to Fry’s Hut Camp were we set up camp early including a shower tent. This was a relaxed afternoon after a nice warm shower and clean up.
Thanks to Ross for organizing a great trip which had pretty much everything: there were deep river crossings, steep hills and descents, recoveries, bush mechanics, chance meetings with the same group of co-travelers, and maybe the odd bit of overtraining, perish the thought! Thanks also to all those who attended, it was a small group who all got on well and helped each other out. The weekend was thoroughly enjoyed by all despite the odd bit of misadventure!