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This trip to the Victorian High Country was going to be a stretch. Can you do the High Country in a weekend? What 4WD tracks should we do in the High Country?

We know that we travel quicker than most. We notice this time and time again; maybe it's because we don't stop to smell the roses or perhaps we are well-prepared. But we like to make the most of our limited time off work.

We pack light; only taking what we need, we try to make smart purchases; items that are simple and not excessive. We are well-practised; working together and having a standard setup and pack down routine, and organised; a place for everything and everything in its place. If setting up takes us more than 15-minutes at a leisurely pace, something (or someone) isn't working. I can hear you saying, 'So what, you just rough it?' Anyone that knows us knows how far from the truth that is.

We decided to put our efficiencies to the test ahead of a mammoth outback tour — what better place to do this than the Victorian High Country. The stars aligned and we had four days off over the Queen's Birthday long weekend, just before it closed for winter. The weather forecast was for snow and low temperatures. The cold or 'adventure' as I tell Lyndall when she complains, was to be similar to the outback.

THE PERFECT VICTORIAN HIGH COUNTRY WEEKENDER

NEW 12TH EDITION AUSTRALIA
ROAD & 4WD ATLASES

HEMA HX-1 NAVIGATOR
THE ULTIMATE GPS NAVIGATION SYSTEM

Proudly Sponsored by
Hema Explorer App
hemamaps.com

The fast and light guide to a long weekend in the Victorian High Country

WORDS & IMAGES BY TOBEY BOSTOCK

TRAVEL

We found an appropriate spot to air down, reaching for the ARB EZ-Deflator (a must for time-saving) that is always in the storage bin under the driver's seat. Lyndall preceded me, removing all of the valve caps. We made a meal of what I've witnessed for others to be an arduous task. The deflator back in the storage bin, valve caps back on and excitement had set in.

The turn off to Blue Rag Range was with us soon enough. This track encompasses everything the High Country has to offer and must not be missed. At the top, we are met with 360-degree views of the range. Back down the hill we head, but not before chucking a couple of pies into the Travel Buddy oven fixed in the back; this eliminates preparing lunch (or dinners). Just throw your choice of frozen food in mid-morning and by lunch you have a no-fuss meal.

We take a turn down the Basalt Knob Track. This track meanders its way steadily along with the range before a very steep drop into the Talbotville campground. It was going to be hard to top the steepness of that track this weekend. And somewhere in all of that, we enjoyed hot pies, just like home!

Allow some time for your brakes to cool at the bottom before hitting the three water crossings leading you into the pristine campground with grass so green that would leave any homeowner envious.

BELOW Lay out all your gear – best way to know what you're forgetting

Setting off into the High Country
We made a rough (and extensive) itinerary of what we wanted to see and packed the truck. Packing is always done at least the night before, but a week or so leading up to the trip, all of the gear is laid out on the shed floor to give us a clear view. This can be an eye-opener of what may have inadvertently been packed; you could probably leave that coffee machine at home.

We leave Sydney early – 4am early. We wanted to make it to Bright and hit the dirt as soon as possible. Shooting down the highway with minimal traffic saw us at Bright around 10am.

Time wasn't on our side, so we stopped into a local café, filled with alpine diesel (a must for this trip) and headed up the hill towards the Dargo High Plains Road.


Talbotville – perfect spot

ALPINE DIESEL
When diesel becomes cold, it reaches a 'wax point' as you would expect, this makes it thicker and can clog your fuel system. In towns (such as Bright) around winter they will sell 'Alpine Diesel' this reduces the wax point by 4 degrees Celsius to avoid morning start-up issues.

“We popped out above the low hanging clouds, and were met with the most stunning view…”

First night camp, and dinner!
As we put it into park and pulled the handbrake, routine set in. The tent was taken out; I start pegging while Lyndall gets out the mattress. We pop the tent up together, the mattress and sleeping bags are loaded in. For this trip, we chose our '30 second' tent that we are well practised with and have it down to about 35 seconds.

Pre-empting the 'adventure' weather and long days I'd pre-split my timber; Lyndall is off to collect the kindling while I unload the Webber and start prepping the roast. I could go on, but you get the picture, working together gets shit done.

The Webber Q is one of our best time and space-saving purchases, it comes everywhere with us, I only bring a tiny 2kg gas bottle that will last for 10 hours at full pelt or I can run it off the Coleman 700g canister for shorter trips. We manage a roast, every trip, without fail.

Knowing we had another big day, we were up early. We slammed down a coffee and hit the tracks. The first order of the day was the 20 odd crossings of the Crooked River Track on the valley floor. A steep climb had us out of the valley but not before long dropping down to the Wonnangatta River, and deep and fast flowing crossings met us; on the cusp of being unpassable. The recent rain had made its way down into the valley and filled the river significantly.

We prepped our recovery gear (which is always in the same spot), grabbed the winch isolator key from the glove box (you guessed it, still there) and crossed the first with water lapping at the bonnet. Keeping a steady pace, we were to the other side. But as anyone that has travelled this area before knows; there is plenty more to come. We similarly crossed the next crossing.

However, after seeing the flow and width of the next crossing and dark clouds looming overhead, we decided to head up Randalls Track out of the valley. We bee-lined it for Dargo as the rain came down, stopping in for a late lunch and a beer at the well-known Dargo Hotel.

One of the many, many crossings

“Working together gets shit done!”

DRIFTA CLEAR TOP BAGS
CLEAR TOP
UTILITY BAG
DRAWER BAG
MILK CRATE CLEAR
TOP STORAGE BAG

We continued for the Pinnacles lookout as the layer of snow on the ground thickened. The sun was out, so we jumped out of the car and did the climb on foot to the fire tower lookout.  Back in the car, we made the ever-long drive along the Moroka Road and Howitt Road, delivering us to the 'western' side of the high country – I told you we wanted to fit it all in!

As time ticked on, we knew the destination of Craigs Hut wasn't looking likely. We descended King Billy Track in the afternoon sunlight, weaving in and out of fallen trees then climbing out the other side with plenty of cross axle action.

The highlight of the trip was just around the corner. We were back on the mountain range, and it was time to conquer the Bluff Track, before long we popped out above the low hanging clouds on the highest bluff. We were met with the most stunning view. It all became clear why so many people make a trip at this time of year!

Second Nights camp on Wonnangatta Road
It was time to find a camp on Wonnangatta Road. With ample choices, some with amenities and some without, we opted to bush camp at the bottom of Billy Goats Bluff Track. We completed our evening setup and even fired up the hot water system (one of those non 'roughing it' items) for a warm shower. A couple of wines by the fire and we hit the sack early.

Rising later than we should have the next morning, we packed down and headed for Billy Goats Bluff. It was chockers at the top, taking around twenty minutes to negotiate the oncoming vehicles, giving us plenty of time for some pictures of the snow that had fallen the night before; the camera was just where it always is; within arm's reach in its Pelican case.

BELOW Just hitting the snow line on Billy Goats Bluff Track

BELOW Above the clouds

ABOVE FROM LEFT The walk to the lookout. Yep, as cold as it looks // The type of traffic jam I prefer // Fire lookout at the Pinnacles – cold but a magnificent view

The sun had beaten us, but only just. We took our billy, burner, coffee and bread over to a picnic table and enjoyed breakfast as the sun rose over the clouds, bathing the hut in sunlight; a perfect setting for a couple of snaps.

We were after a test, and that's what we got — but not forgetting the fresh snow, deep mud, big rocks, adrenaline-pumping water crossings and beautiful scenery. What did we learn? I needed a better sleeping bag.

By now you get the idea, being organised and working together gets you to more places, it also involves all of your team in the experience, and that's what we all want, right?

We continued before making it to Pikes Flat Hut campground down in the valley, by now it was dark. The cold – I mean 'adventure' – was starting to set in. It was possibly the quickest ever setup – spurred on by the amount of 'adventure'. It's times like these that I'm glad we have a routine.

We woke early to a layer of ice inside the tent, having packed away everything but the tent the night before meant we were off to Craigs Hut before sunrise. We tackled a quick bit of fire trail and the rocky and muddy Monument Track; the perfect thing to get the blood pumping at this time of the morning.

BELOW Why this is the most stunning time of year

BELOW The iconic hut just after sunrise

ABOVE FROM LEFT Doesn't get much better! // A fast-flowing Wonnangatta, not for the faint-hearted // Damn it, that will take some cleaning

DESTINATION DETAILS
Closest Towns: Bright, Dargo & Mansfield
Accommodation: Mansfield, Dargo and Bright, everywhere – take your pick.
Camping: Everywhere – we camped at Talbotville, Billy Goats Bush Camp & Pikes Flat
Gear: Extra sense of adventure, -10-degree (at least) Sleeping bags
Difficulty: High – mud, rocks and deepwater at this time of year. Leave your camper trailer at home.
Permits: None
Best time to go: Any – just be prepared for varying weather and crowds
Check conditions before entering the park, regular road closures: parkweb.vic.gov.au

BELOW What everyone comes for

THE PERFECT VICTORIAN HIGH COUNTRY WEEKENDER

The fast and light guide to a long weekend in the Victorian High Country

WORDS & IMAGES BY TOBEY BOSTOCK

This trip to the Victorian High Country was going to be a stretch. Can you do the High Country in a weekend? What 4WD tracks should we do in the High Country?

We know that we travel quicker than most. We notice this time and time again; maybe it's because we don't stop to smell the roses or perhaps we are well-prepared. But we like to make the most of our limited time off work.

We pack light; only taking what we need, we try to make smart purchases; items that are simple and not excessive. We are well-practised; working together and having a standard setup and pack down routine, and organised; a place for everything and everything in its place. If setting up takes us more than 15-minutes at a leisurely pace, something (or someone) isn't working. I can hear you saying, 'So what, you just rough it?' Anyone that knows us knows how far from the truth that is.

We decided to put our efficiencies to the test ahead of a mammoth outback tour — what better place to do this than the Victorian High Country. The stars aligned and we had four days off over the Queen's Birthday long weekend, just before it closed for winter. The weather forecast was for snow and low temperatures. The cold or 'adventure' as I tell Lyndall when she complains, was to be similar to the outback.

HEMA HX-1 NAVIGATOR
THE ULTIMATE GPS NAVIGATION SYSTEM

NEW 12TH EDITION AUSTRALIA
ROAD & 4WD ATLASES

Proudly Sponsored by
Hema Explorer App
hemamaps.com

TRAVEL

Setting off into the High Country
We made a rough (and extensive) itinerary of what we wanted to see and packed the truck. Packing is always done at least the night before, but a week or so leading up to the trip, all of the gear is laid out on the shed floor to give us a clear view. This can be an eye-opener of what may have inadvertently been packed; you could probably leave that coffee machine at home.

We leave Sydney early – 4am early. We wanted to make it to Bright and hit the dirt as soon as possible. Shooting down the highway with minimal traffic saw us at Bright around 10am.

Time wasn't on our side, so we stopped into a local café, filled with alpine diesel (a must for this trip) and headed up the hill towards the Dargo High Plains Road.


BELOW Lay out all your gear – best way to know what you're forgetting

We found an appropriate spot to air down, reaching for the ARB EZ-Deflator (a must for time-saving) that is always in the storage bin under the driver's seat. Lyndall preceded me, removing all of the valve caps. We made a meal of what I've witnessed for others to be an arduous task. The deflator back in the storage bin, valve caps back on and excitement had set in.

The turn off to Blue Rag Range was with us soon enough. This track encompasses everything the High Country has to offer and must not be missed. At the top, we are met with 360-degree views of the range. Back down the hill we head, but not before chucking a couple of pies into the Travel Buddy oven fixed in the back; this eliminates preparing lunch (or dinners). Just throw your choice of frozen food in mid-morning and by lunch you have a no-fuss meal.

We take a turn down the Basalt Knob Track. This track meanders its way steadily along with the range before a very steep drop into the Talbotville campground. It was going to be hard to top the steepness of that track this weekend. And somewhere in all of that, we enjoyed hot pies, just like home!

Allow some time for your brakes to cool at the bottom before hitting the three water crossings leading you into the pristine campground with grass so green that would leave any homeowner envious.

ALPINE DIESEL
When diesel becomes cold, it reaches a 'wax point' as you would expect, this makes it thicker and can clog your fuel system. In towns (such as Bright) around winter they will sell 'Alpine Diesel' this reduces the wax point by 4 degrees Celsius to avoid morning start-up issues.

Talbotville – perfect spot

“We popped out above the low hanging clouds, and were met with the most stunning view…”

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

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First night camp, and dinner!
As we put it into park and pulled the handbrake, routine set in. The tent was taken out; I start pegging while Lyndall gets out the mattress. We pop the tent up together, the mattress and sleeping bags are loaded in. For this trip, we chose our '30 second' tent that we are well practised with and have it down to about 35 seconds.

Pre-empting the 'adventure' weather and long days I'd pre-split my timber; Lyndall is off to collect the kindling while I unload the Webber and start prepping the roast. I could go on, but you get the picture, working together gets shit done.

The Webber Q is one of our best time and space-saving purchases, it comes everywhere with us, I only bring a tiny 2kg gas bottle that will last for 10 hours at full pelt or I can run it off the Coleman 700g canister for shorter trips. We manage a roast, every trip, without fail.

Knowing we had another big day, we were up early. We slammed down a coffee and hit the tracks. The first order of the day was the 20 odd crossings of the Crooked River Track on the valley floor. A steep climb had us out of the valley but not before long dropping down to the Wonnangatta River, and deep and fast flowing crossings met us; on the cusp of being unpassable. The recent rain had made its way down into the valley and filled the river significantly.

We prepped our recovery gear (which is always in the same spot), grabbed the winch isolator key from the glove box (you guessed it, still there) and crossed the first with water lapping at the bonnet. Keeping a steady pace, we were to the other side. But as anyone that has travelled this area before knows; there is plenty more to come. We similarly crossed the next crossing.

However, after seeing the flow and width of the next crossing and dark clouds looming overhead, we decided to head up Randalls Track out of the valley. We bee-lined it for Dargo as the rain came down, stopping in for a late lunch and a beer at the well-known Dargo Hotel.

One of the many, many crossings

“Working together gets shit done!”

DRIFTA clear top bags
MILK CRATE CLEAR
TOP STORAGE BAG
DRAWER BAG
CLEAR TOP
UTILITY BAG

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ABOVE The walk to the lookout. Yep, as cold as it looks // BELOW The type of traffic jam I prefer

BELOW Fire lookout at the Pinnacles – cold but a magnificent view

Second Nights camp on Wonnangatta Road
It was time to find a camp on Wonnangatta Road. With ample choices, some with amenities and some without, we opted to bush camp at the bottom of Billy Goats Bluff Track. We completed our evening setup and even fired up the hot water system (one of those non 'roughing it' items) for a warm shower. A couple of wines by the fire and we hit the sack early.

Rising later than we should have the next morning, we packed down and headed for Billy Goats Bluff. It was chockers at the top, taking around twenty minutes to negotiate the oncoming vehicles, giving us plenty of time for some pictures of the snow that had fallen the night before; the camera was just where it always is; within arm's reach in its Pelican case.

BELOW Just hitting the snow line on Billy Goats Bluff Track

We continued for the Pinnacles lookout as the layer of snow on the ground thickened. The sun was out, so we jumped out of the car and did the climb on foot to the fire tower lookout.  Back in the car, we made the ever-long drive along the Moroka Road and Howitt Road, delivering us to the 'western' side of the high country – I told you we wanted to fit it all in!

As time ticked on, we knew the destination of Craigs Hut wasn't looking likely. We descended King Billy Track in the afternoon sunlight, weaving in and out of fallen trees then climbing out the other side with plenty of cross axle action.

The highlight of the trip was just around the corner. We were back on the mountain range, and it was time to conquer the Bluff Track, before long we popped out above the low hanging clouds on the highest bluff. We were met with the most stunning view. It all became clear why so many people make a trip at this time of year!

BELOW Above the clouds

ABOVE Doesn't get much better! // BELOW A fast-flowing Wonnangatta, not for the faint-hearted 

BELOW Damn it, that will take some cleaning

We continued before making it to Pikes Flat Hut campground down in the valley, by now it was dark. The cold – I mean 'adventure' – was starting to set in. It was possibly the quickest ever setup – spurred on by the amount of 'adventure'. It's times like these that I'm glad we have a routine.

We woke early to a layer of ice inside the tent, having packed away everything but the tent the night before meant we were off to Craigs Hut before sunrise. We tackled a quick bit of fire trail and the rocky and muddy Monument Track; the perfect thing to get the blood pumping at this time of the morning.

BELOW Why this is the most stunning time of year

The sun had beaten us, but only just. We took our billy, burner, coffee and bread over to a picnic table and enjoyed breakfast as the sun rose over the clouds, bathing the hut in sunlight; a perfect setting for a couple of snaps.

We were after a test, and that's what we got — but not forgetting the fresh snow, deep mud, big rocks, adrenaline-pumping water crossings and beautiful scenery. What did we learn? I needed a better sleeping bag.

By now you get the idea, being organised and working together gets you to more places, it also involves all of your team in the experience, and that's what we all want, right?

BELOW The iconic hut just after sunrise

BELOW What everyone comes for

DESTINATION DETAILS
Closest Towns: Bright, Dargo & Mansfield
Accommodation: Mansfield, Dargo and Bright, everywhere – take your pick.
Camping: Everywhere – we camped at Talbotville, Billy Goats Bush Camp & Pikes Flat
Gear: Extra sense of adventure, -10-degree (at least) Sleeping bags
Difficulty: High – mud, rocks and deepwater at this time of year. Leave your camper trailer at home.
Permits: None
Best time to go: Any – just be prepared for varying weather and crowds
Check conditions before entering the park, regular road closures: parkweb.vic.gov.au