Mt Saint Phillack (VK3/VT-006) at 1567m and Talbot Peak (VK3/VT-010) at 1525m are the two highest peaks in the Mt Baw Baw National Park. Mt Saint Phillack is the highest of three neighboring summits, Mt Baw Baw is just 3 meters lower and Mt Saint Gwinear 58 meters lower. About 8 kilometers south, Talbot Peak is a twin with Mt Erica (1409m). I was somewhat inspired reading Andrew VK3ARR’s account of activating both 10-point summits on foot, a 25km round-trip. Twenty points, 20+ kilometers, 20 years off one’s life, or something like that! So it was with a full day, a full water bottle and a sense of challenge that I set out to follow in his (and other’s) footsteps.
I left the eastern suburbs at around 7am and arrived at the Mt Baw Baw car park by 9:45am. The road from Noojee up to the summit is, as Andrew puts it, ‘twistiness personified’. It cannot be hurried. Mt Baw Baw village is an appealing township of ski lodges and includes a restaurant with a deck that faces east over a huge drop with an amazing view.
To get up the hill and onto the first of the Baw Baw plateaus I took the Village trail that departs from behind the Skiosk. This took me in a wide loop around the Baw Baw summit and across Pudding Basin, a plateau wetland and no doubt home of the endangered Philoria frosti or Baw Baw Frog, eventually looping back to the National Park Junction. I nearly turned back at one point because although marked with poles and trail markers the track was clearly not used much and quite overgrown.
The path I should have taken was the other end of the Village trail which goes straight up the ski slopes (from the Skiosk) between Summit T-Bar and Hut Run Platter, both of which are clearly signed. This is the right map for the resort area. Once at the National Park Boundary, Mt Saint Phillack is signposted and the walk up was a pleasant 45 minutes or so, first to Mt Saint Phillack saddle with views back to Mt Baw Baw, then up to the summit.
At the summit (image above) I strung up the 40 meter dipole on snow gums. The center wasn’t very high, and it was difficult to get the legs of the dipole free of branches, but I had decided this was preferable to lugging a 9 meter squid pole for 25 km. (Sidebar thought — maybe Santa could bring me a shorter squid pole this year, one that comfortably fits in the daypack).
The carefully balanced and well maintained cairn provided a riser for the radio and battery. It turned out to be a busy time on the SOTA summits, perhaps due to the time of day. S2S contacts were made with Matt VK1MA, Ian VK1DI, Nick VK3ANL north on Bald Hill, Glenn VK3YY north-west on Mt Vinegar in the Yarra Ranges, and Andrew VK1AD.
|00:53z||VK1MA/2||7MHz||SSB||s57, r55, S2S Matt on Mt Mundoonen VK2/ST053|
|00:59z||VK3FPSR||7MHz||SSB||s58, r51, Peter at Cobram|
|01:03z||VK3BHR||7MHz||SSB||s58, r56, Phil at Bendigo|
|01:05z||VK3PF||7MHz||SSB||s59, r53, Peter|
|01:06z||VK1DI/P||7MHz||SSB||s55, r52, S2S Ian on VK1/AC044 Boboyan Range|
|01:09z||VK3ANL/P||7MHz||SSB||s53, r45, S2S Nick on VK3/VE-137 Bald Hill|
|01:11z||VK3YAR||7MHz||SSB||s59, r45, Ray|
|01:13z||VK3LED||7MHz||SSB||s59, r57, Col at Bendigo|
|01:15z||VK3YY/P||7MHz||SSB||s57, r58, S2S Glenn on VK3/VC-005 Mt Vinegar|
|01:17z||VK1AD/P||7MHz||SSB||s55, r52, Andrew S2S on VK1/AC-038 Tuggeranong Hill|
|01:19z||VK2VW||7MHz||SSB||s55, r55, Brett|
|01:21z||VK7JU||7MHz||SSB||s59, r55, Chris at Cygnet|
The signpost at Mt Saint Phillack saddle indicates 8 km to Mt Erica. Talbot Peak is about 1 to 2 km before Mt Erica. Andrew VK3ARR indicated it was about a 2 hour walk south along the Australian Alpine Walking Track. It was a long but varied and interesting walk. The track is excellent, well signed and maintained with board walks over marshy dips and evidence of lots of brush-cutting. It took me a bit over 2 hours to get to Talbot Peak. The trig point is quite large but overgrown with snow gums, so you have to keep your eyes open to see it.
By this time it was 3pm and 40 meters was in the daylight doldrums. QSB was severe, taking several 5 and 9 chasers down to 5 and 2, and making my signals vary from 55 to undetectable.
|04:06z||VK3PF||7MHz||SSB||s59, r53, Peter|
|04:08z||VK1MA||7MHz||SSB||s59, r45, Matt|
|04:10z||VK2YW||7MHz||SSB||s59, r59, John at Wagga|
|04:12z||VK7CW||7MHz||SSB||s58, r55, Steve|
|04:15z||VK3FPSR||7MHz||SSB||s59, r59, Peter at Cobram|
|04:17z||VK2UH||7MHz||SSB||s59, r57, Andrew|
|04:19z||VK1DW||7MHz||SSB||s55, r55, Dean|
The walk back from Talbot Peak to Mt Saint Phillack was a long haul and the last third is up a steady incline. You need to get into a walking rhythm and try not to break it. However you look at it, it’s a long way. I took just under 2 hours on the return.
On the way south I had met Daniel and Lisa, two walkers carrying big packs who were 4 days into the Australian Alpine Walking Trail — with 46 days to go! They had left Walhalla and were over-nighting at Camp Saddle. On the way back I dropped into their now established camp site and had a chat. Despite being inexperienced walkers, they have planned this epic trek for 18 months and have food drops planted the whole way. They were a very friendly couple who were obviously determined to get to Canberra. That’s seven weeks without a break eating muesli bars and carrying 35 kg packs 15 to 20 km each day on an alpine trail! Great effort! Their facebook page is here, if you have an account.
From Camp Saddle to the Baw Baw village is another 5 km which was not too taxing, but tiring after the previous 20. By the time I got to the car at about 7:20pm I was seriously ready to get my boots off. The drive home was in daylight to Noojee then twilight and dark, arriving back home around 10:20pm — a very long day. Challenge met, 20 activator points in the bag, no mishaps and a chance to sample a small section of the Australian Alpine Walking Track.
If you try this, take plenty of water and trail snacks and be prepared for a long day. You may consider staying at the village or camping the night before to avoid the early morning alarm and nearly 3 hours on the road before you take your first step. The next day, I pulled up just fine, a few aches to remind me of what I’d done on the weekend.
Finally, three pictures of the remarkable ability of the Eucalyptus pauciflora (snow gum) to ingest steel trail marker plates.