Party: Alex Krew, Michael Arrell, Yvonne Almandinger, Trang Pham, Zoe Osborne, Christian Wilson (leader)
Bimberi Peak is the ACT’s highest summit, at 1913m high. It lies in the range of mountains behind Canberra, and the more I visit the area the more I find peace, wildness and some great mountains! So on Friday night of May 3, a convoy of 2 cars headed down towards Cooma toward our camp site near the Tantangara Reservoir in the northern Snowy Mountains.
It was a dark windy night and the forecast included showers and possible snowfall on Saturday night. After we reached Cooma, Michael’s car began to overheat. This meant we had to stop on our lonely dark road many times as he had to refill the radiator. Michael had only recently purchased the $500 car, which seemed like a good car, until this problem began.
We limped into the campsite by 3am, with light rain falling and bleak conditions. After setting up tents in the dark at a good campsite near the trailhead, we tried to get some sleep.
The next morning started with some fast moving cloud but quickly cleared to a sparkling autumn day. This set the scene for 2 days of delightful weather. The cold front must have already moved through!
After an hour of on big hill but otherwise easy hiking we reached Oldfields Hut, an old farm hut set in a picturesque valley overlooking the Goodradigbee River valley, Bimberi Peak & Mt Murray. It was hard to leave but we had a summit to climb!
Another hour along a fire trail got us up top Murrays Gap where the trail became a vague route marked with cairns and tape. It was once written up as a hard bush bash up a ridge, but I was thankful for the rough trail, as progress would be slow and tedious if you had to pick a route yourself.
Even with markers we lost the trail a few times.
A good 90 minutes later we emerged to a windswept open alpine plateau. Most of the trees leaned away from the prevailing westerly winds, showing the severity of conditions on this exposed summit. But it made for some spectacular snowgum trees, many bonsaied into strange shapes, including a Chinese dragon , one almost flattened, and a weeping one resembling a Japanese weeping cherry tree.
At about 3pm we enjoyed the autumn sunshine in rather chilly breezes but the 360 degree views all round were stunning. You could make out Black Mountain tower in Canberra, The Tinderry and Scabby ranges to the east, and Jagungal and surrounding mountains to the south. It was a hard spot to leave, but the daylight hours were close to ending and we had that vague track to follow.
Sure enough just as we thought we were doing OK, we lost the track. Then again soon after! My GPS showed we were only 20 m from the track, but it shows how easy it was to get lost.
Just on sunset we made the Murray Gap trail so walked the easy 4km back to the hut, partly in the dark. But the stars were brilliant so the clear night provided its own spectacle of a huge Milky Way arching over our hut.
The hut provided refuge and a warm fire, and dinnertime was shared with the resident possum who seemed pretty well fed. Everyone ( but me) decided the hut with its cosy fire made for a perfect place to sleep. I opted for my tent, ( I have a bag rated to minus 18C , so I was plenty warm enough) .
The morning came with a light frost, providing some lovely photo ops. During breakfast we heard some distant howling. There are wild dogs in these mountains and it was rather eerie as we heard them howling to each other. It did stop as the morning went on, but it is something to take note of if you decide to camp here!
Reluctantly we set off for the cars, leaving behind the stillness and beauty. Near the trailhead we came across a large number of brumbies,and despite them not being native, it was quite a sight seeing the galloping and grazing. (and no, they don’t need to be shot, Mister O’Farrell, they could be relocated , being such magnificent horses.) We even saw some on the road on the way out. Maybe we should have captured one for Michael. His poor car was in a terrible state, leaking water from the radiator. We tried some repairs at the trailhead but ended up just limping it back all the way to Cooma. It was a slow but pretty trip back. Poor Michael was left in Cooma with his dead car, he would find a way home after seeing a mechanic on Monday.
He ended up leaving it there for recycling and found his way home to Sydney without his little Mazda Metro.
Apart from the car woes, we had a lovely time. In Michael’s words “The views from Bimberi were amazing as were the stars that night and the hut was a magic place to stay. The frosty morning on the fields was beautiful and seeing wild brumbies in the alpine gums was very special”.
I hope to return to this part of the world soon, it has a charm and sense of isolation that is quite its own.
Thanks to Alex, Yvonne, Trang & Zoe for their great company, and a special thanks to Michael who despite his dreadful car woes, kept his cheerful and optimistic attitude throughout, and brought new meaning to the SUBW motto of “Press on Regardless!”