2008 Kosciuszko - Dargals FT to Farm Ridge

summary: A group of four intrepid walkers head off to the wilds of Kosciuszko National Park at Easter 2008.
date: 20-23 March 2008
distance: 65 kms
views: 1790

The Plan

Easter this year was quite early, toward the end of March. There was a worry that this might mean more flies, and more heat. Well we were partially right!! The trip this year was attended by four people, Eddy, Graham, Richard and newbie to the walking group, Joanne. Our plan this year was to enter the park on Dargals fire trail, and wander slowly down to Pretty Plain, followed by a climb up to the Strumbo range. Across the Strumbo range, we then dropped down to Grey Mare fire trail, and back to Round Mountain car park via Farm Ridge fire trail.

Day 0 – Thursday – 2kms total distance

As always, we were a little late away from Wollongong, leaving at 3:30pm. We had planned to meet Richard and Joanne in Cooma at around 7:30pm. There were a few spots of rain along the drive, and there were a number of clouds hovering over the Kosi region. We met up as planned in Cooma and made what should have been a quick trip to KFC for dinner. I recommend that you never do this!! Cooma KFC is quite possibly the slowest ‘fast food’ restaurant in the world! In future we are going to stop at the pub as you leave Cooma to the south as it never looks busy, and it’s a pub!

We left Cooma a little after 8:30pm and made it to Round Mountain car park at 10:15pm. The road was slow as always, and should not be rushed as it’s a pretty dangerous and high accident area. The car park was already pretty full, and there were a number of people trying to find flat camping areas when we arrived. We were just dropping off our second vehicle here though as our starting location is a few kms down the road.

We reached the car park at the head of Dargals fire trail at 10:45pm, and after getting our gear ready, and toasting the trip with a glass of champagne, we were off by 11:00pm! The weather was fine at this stage, no rain, plenty of moonlight and a cool breeze. Our first decision came about two minutes into the trip!! Do we go straight, or turn left at the cross roads! We decided to go left, and it was the correct decision. We arrived at the newly re-built Paton’s hut around 11:45pm. After a quick check of the hut, we pitched tents, had a quick drink and then hit the sack.

Day 1 – Friday – 16kms total distance

Unlike most hiking trips, we all managed to sleep in a little on the first morning. Getting up at 8:00am, it was amazing to see the view from Paton’s hut which looks out towards the Toolong Dam. We looked around Paton’s hut in the day light, took some photos and eventually got underway at 10:00am. The track was easy to follow from the hut and wound around the plain and up the hill towards Tongue bend.

There were a number of tracks that intersected the main Dargals trail. First of all Thiess Village fire trail, and later the track to Wheelers hut. We were making good time and reached Tongue bend at 12:15pm at which point we need to go boots off and wade across the ford. It was at this point that Eddy realized the benefit of carrying a pair of thongs on a hike! We put boots back on and headed to Pretty Plain which would be our lunch stop for the day. We decided to break from the track walking and cut the corner of Hellhole Creek fire trail when we could, which probably saved us no time, but it was more interesting than walking the fire trail all day.

We found a great little spot alongside the Tooma River for lunch, which was a leisurely affair as we discussed the morning activities. We had also spotted what may have been a funnel web spider, so our selection of sitting positions was made with great care! It was around 20 degrees at this stage, so pretty much perfect walking conditions. We also managed to see the foot pad along the side of Pretty Plain while eating lunch.

We decided we should push past our estimated camping site for the night, so we got going again at 3:00pm. We started to fade shortly before 5:00pm so picked a nice spot just below the tree line above the Tooma. It took us a while to find the ideal place to camp, but with Eddy willing to keep looking while the rest of us sat back and rested, we knew we were in good hands! Eventually we had camp set up, although spread out, and we sat back with a great camp fire for the night, at the end of our first full days walking.

As we rested by the fire, we eventually realized that there was not going to be any sunset worth photographing. But that didn’t cause too much of a problem as we were very relaxed around the fire. The night was uneventful with no weather problems and not being too cold.

Day 2 – Saturday – 9kms total distance

This morning turned out to be even slower than yesterday with breakfast being finished around 9:30am, and camp packed up, and walking started at 10:15am! We headed south along the valley and looked for a spot to cross the Tooma, eventually finding the spot right in front of Pretty Plain hut. Once again the boots came off for this simple crossing, although Richard managed to keep his on, but only because he was provided assistance to get across.

Last night when we entered the park, there was a sign indicating that the park now contains European Wasps, and to keep an eye out for their location. Well here at Pretty Plain hut, we managed to find them!! We sat around for a few minutes and then head off again, continuing south along the valley. There is a small foot pad here, but we basically stuck to the valley floor and followed the creek. At one spot, Richard spotted a rather large snake, which managed to cause a little concern from us all!

The next challenge we had to contend with was the hill up to the top of Strumbo range. Previous attempts to climb this hill have also been difficult so we decided to avoid the overgrown fire trail, and hit the overgrown hill face instead! Well it took us quite a while, lots of cursing, and complaining, but we eventually got to the top at around 2:00pm, for another late lunch in the brilliant sunshine!

After lunch, we found the Strumbo fire trail again and headed up ice tree hill before breaking from the trail and heading toward Grey Mare Bogong peak. At the bottom of ice tree hill, we filled up all the water bottles as we were not expecting to find any water on the range. We had also realized we would probably not make it all the way to Ryries Parlour for our scheduled night’s camp. We eventually found a fantastic spot, just below Grey Mare Bogong which looked out to the West and to the setting sun.

We established camp around 5:00pm again, and then sat back by the fire and watch one of the most amazing sunsets we’d ever seen here in the mountains. The night was a little cooler, since we were camping at 1800m. We even got a little rain during the night, but not so much as to cause us any problems.

Day 3 – Sunday – 18.5kms total distance

We rose to another beautiful day, a little cloud around but no immediate threat of anything wet. We broke camp around 9:30am (a big improvement from the last two mornings!) and headed for the first stop of the day at the summit of Rocky Bogong Hill. The summit was easy to climb, but the views from the top were breath taking. It is not a location that many people would have been too, as its off the main walking trails, but it is certainly one of the best views you can find in the park.

After taking a few photos, we made a few decisions on how to get across to Grey Mare fire trail. The easiest way appeared to be across to Ryries Parlour, and then hug the contour of the Strumbo Range until we hit the trail. So off we went, down a rather steep hill which was moderately treed. It took us the best part of 2 hours to make it to Grey Mare, with mostly easy walking. In retrospect we decided it was probably just as easy, and possibly more interesting to have walked straight into the valley floor and met up with Grey Mare fire trail at the ford at the bottom of the valley…next time

We stopped at the ford for lunch, where we met up with a group of hikers from ANU. They had been just a few kms behind us for the first couple of days, until we turned off the Strumbo fire trail and across the range, they continued along the trail to Grey Mare Hut and beyond. Lunch was very refreshing and we were right to go again around 1:00pm. We had a pretty ambitious target today, although many alternative stops for camp if we tired early!

We continued along Grey Mare fire trail, turning right at the deviation with Round Mountain fire trail. Shortly after this, we met up with the ANU hikers again, and also another party that had just completed the Jagungal walk. We pushed on though, as we were trying to get to O’Keefe’s Hut before the end of the day. We passed the meteorological station at the base of Jagungal and then continued on to O’Keefe’s Hut. Although we were all pretty tired, we decided to press on to the Farm Ridge trail head. This would cut out not only a couple of kms for tomorrow, but also a very steep hill!

We arrived at our camp shortly after 5:00pm, with the slight sprinkle of rain starting. So we quickly set up camp and prepared for the worst…which never happened ☺ The rain cleared away, and we were able to sit around the camp fire comfortably again telling stories of the day, and of other days, which can only be told around a camp fire! Eddy spotted a scorpion while we were preparing dinner, which gave us a few things to think about. But the rest of the night was uneventful again, a few more spots of rain, but nothing serious.

Day 4 – Sunday – 12 kms total distance

Our final day, and of course the morning looked like it was going to rain again!! We broke camp around 9:00am (better every day!) and headed up Farm Ridge fire trail. We met up with another solo hiker, and walked with him most of the day. The rain did start quite soon, and we had to pull on the wet weather gear. It wasn’t too much at this stage though, but just enough to be annoying.

We continued getting some amazing views, despite the rain. And when we eventually started to descend into the Tumut river valley, we were all amazed at the sites that spread out in front of us. The river and its tributaries were flowing well, and the valley was green and shrouded in mist!! It really was spectacular! We made it down to the river crossing, took boots off and raced through to the other side, where we relaxed for a while and ate lunch.

With only one more hill to climb, we were all trying to savor these last few minutes of isolation. Shortly after starting up the hill, the rain started again!! And this time it wasn’t going to let off until we were back at the car park. We made a brief stop at Round Mountain Hut, where we caught up with some old friends, including a guy that we met on Gungartun Peak Easter 2007! The final hill was climbed quickly, and we retreated to the car park, where half our party continued getting wet, while the other half performed the vehicle shuffle that was necessary before we could all celebrate the trips conclusion with a mildly cool beer ☺

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