Day 13-15, May 8-10, 2022
Ballarat – Halls Gap – Grampian National Park.
We left Melbourne early on Sunday morning and being Mothers Day there was hardly any traffic. We were on our way to Grampian National Park about 250km to the northwest of Melbourne.
Summarising from the-earth-story.com, the Grampians are a series of sandstone mountain ranges formed some 380 million years ago as sediments were deposited in the area by rivers. The sediments accumulated gradually, solidifying into bands of rock which finally reached a total thickness of 7 km (4.4 m). Later, the sandstone was raised, tilted and folded into a group of mountain ranges.
Although the Grampians are not very high, they are extremely rugged. Jagged ridges, broken lines of cliffs, massive rocky outcrops, deep gorges, dense forests and numerous waterfalls combine to give the ranges a wild beauty.
We passed through Ballarat, stopping for coffee. Ballarat was the centre of the late 18th century gold rush and the prosperity of that era is evident in some of the beautiful buildings in the main street. These days it’s a large town surrounded by mainly agricultural activity.
The gateway to the Grampians NP is a small village of Halls Gap. We arrived to a buzz of activity. I guess the nice weather and Mothers Day brought a lot of people out on a day trip.
Our campsite at Smiths Mill was in a valley close to Lake Wartook in the north of the park. We finished setting up our site when a bus pulled up opposite, a private school name emblazoned on its side. Our hearts sank a little, there goes the quite of the evening. They set up a few tents and drove away. Late into the night no one arrived at their site. We had a quite and very still evening enjoying the sound of silence.
Monday – I was slowly waking up in the predawn light when a chorus of kookaburras starting calling out. No gentle twitting for these birds but full throated chorus of laughter echoed through the tree canopy. That sound leaves no doubt that we were in Australia.
A cloudy morning dawned. As we drove to the southernmost section of the park the clouds lifted and a blue sky day emerged.
I was nervously looking forward to testing out my knee on this gnarly steep climb up to Mt Abrupt. On the lower sections the trail was fringed by Heath in various shades of red, pink and white. It was good to have a distraction from my pounding heart. Hammer danced effortlessly in front and I tried to keep up. As we traversed a saddle the peak of the mountain could be seen. It looked daunting as it rose up so sharply. The trail wound it’s way around and soon we were at the top. LouSeal was happy to take a quick dip in a survey marker pool, another trophy summit for her.
The steep descent was a bit trickier for me, physically and mentally. My eyes firmly fixed on the ground and each step. Looking at the ground I was so happy to spot quite a few carnivorous plants.
After a short lunch break we hiked the nearby The Picanninny peak which starts out through the most beautiful grass-tree filled valley before ascending through similar terrain as our earlier walk. The view from the top was just as impressive.
We had planned to also hike up nearby Mt Sturgeon but realised that we would run out daylight before we finished. We drove back north stopping to hike the short route to the summit of Mt William, the highest peak in the range at 1,167m. We got back to camp just before dark, to find about 50 schoolgirls camped across from us. Lots of chatter and laughter before they quitened over dinner. They were quite good camp neighbours in the end.
Tuesday – it was so cold overnight that not even the kookaburras could muster a laugh at dawn. Thousands of twinkling stars lit the sky. Droplets of condensation from the tree canopy dropped on the tent.
Only the second clear night we’ve had since we left home. We are camped in a valley close to a lake so the mist hung around for a while after sunrise.
Temperature was 0.5°C but it felt so much colder. We felt sorry for the school group, it was such a beautiful and mild morning yesterday.
We left the valley to explore some mountain peaks, lakes and waterfalls closer to Halls Gap.
Pinnacle Peak and Lakeview Peak were described as easy walks. And they sure started out that way. But soon the climbing over sandstone boulders started and while the trails were well formed they were definitely not easy. Although the view over the valkey below was certainly worth the climb. Particularly The Pinnacle peak which had a safety barrier on top forming an impression of a ships bow overhanging the valley below.
A short distance and a short walk away was a small waterfall – Silverband falls. Not much water flowing but a nice walk through a narrow valley. We stopped for a very pleasant lunch in the sun by a huge lake – Lake Bellfield
We saved the best waterfall till last, MacKenzie Falls. Deep in a canyon like valley the river flows over two ledges crashing into the valley below. A very popular walk with dozens of people posing for pictures.
Back at camp the school group was still set up across from us. It was boys this time, definitely noisier and more energetic then the girls were the night before. Their noise carried well into the dark.
Over the two days of visiting the Grampians National Park we’ve hiked approx 40km covering some incredibly beautiful terrain in beautiful sunshine. A week of rain is coming to the area so it’s a good time for us to leave.