Pulling back the curtains we were surprised by a rather sunny warm day in late August, which was a welcomed sight. A decision was made to head to the Victorian High Country for a quick overnighter as the previous months of camping were non existence due to weather and other commitments. By the time we tidied up from a hearty cooked breakfast and packed up Bones (a 1993 Toyota Hilux who you will get to know) the clock was reading 11am. Not our best efforts time wise but with the warm sunshine upon us we didn’t mind.
Arriving in Mansfield in the afternoon, a bite to eat and a quick catch up with a friend who gave us some local knowledge on track conditions and places to camp and we were off. After grabbing some diesel additive as overnight temps were heading towards -5° we started heading east towards Mt Buller.
Turning South onto Howqua Track around 4pm the golden sun contrasting against the cloudless blue sky we realized we had limited light left. Wanting to reach our desired destination of refrigerator gap by dusk we had to get moving! Driving along beside the Howqua river at the end of a magnificent sunny day was a treat and still being winter there were very few other vehicles to be seen.
Heading East onto Bluff Link track we started seeing signs of snowfall on the track and dotted along the banks. The more we climbed the more snow we saw, upon reaching our campsite we were greeted by a reasonable covering of snow on the ground. It was by no means heavy but considering it was our first time camping in the snow it was the perfect amount. Camp setup was quick as darkness was approaching, after getting a fire going we settled in for the evening adding many layers as the night wore on and the temperature fell.
Clear blue skies and crisp air greeted us in the morning, getting out of the swag was a shock to the system. The reason we chose to camp at refrigerator gap was so we could pack up camp and be at the Bluff Walking trail with minimal driving. Some tea and warm porridge were made before packing up partially frozen gear with numb hands and driving to the base of the Bluff.
The 1.5km hike to the Bluff was amazing. I had climbed the other side previously during summer but this was a totally different experience. The entire side of the Bluff had about a foot of snow covering it, sometimes more. There were small rivers of melting ice, icicles hanging from rocks and views of the high country getting grander as we climbed. Lucky for us there were some tracks from previous hikers who had compacted the ground and meant using my GPS for the most part wasn’t necessary. As we approached the summit we noticed the clouds were speeding past and soon we were surrounded in fog and a bitter wind was whipping around us. At the summit our views were partially blocked from the approaching weather and the wind made it a little uncomfortable, but we still took a moment to look around and take it in, as it was truly spectacular. There are some breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. I thought we should start to head down incase the weather really turned and with some careful footing we were soon back at the vehicle and the sun had returned.
Some lunch was had before we started making our way home. This was a great one night away, a simple trip that didn’t require to much planning, a little luck with the weather and we had a nice break from the daily grind.