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Advice needed Bluff Hut to Gantner hut

Discussion in 'Backcountry' started by Conkers, Feb 25, 2020.

  1. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    Hi all, after many a trek to the Gantner hut over the years driving up via Licola we are hoping to do a ski trip this year entering from Bluff hut. To find our bearings we will try to do it on foot in autumn {once the alpine national park has fully reopened)

    Day 1
    Depart Melbourne, drive to Bluff hut (≈4.5 hrs) for lunch then hike to Lovicks hut to sleep (≈7km)

    Day 2 hike to Gantner Hut (≈12 km) (lunch at hells window)

    Day 3 depart Gantner hut, drop down to the upper Howqua Campground from Howitt (≈11km)

    Day 4 hike from the upper Howqua Campground back to the car parked near Bluff hut (≈13km) and drive back to Melbourne

    Questions;
    - How close to Bluff hut can we get with a good clearance 2wd and a chainsaw?

    - Any other suggestions for the return trip from Gantner back to Bluff? We're hoping to do more of a loop rather than backtracking the whole way (not keen on helicopter spur this time around)

    - What is the trip from upper Howqua back to the Bluff hut like? Just a fire trail? Much elevation change?

    - best place for dinner on the way home?

    - Also looking for a touring setup or just frame bindings and skins if anyone is selling. I'm 173cm / 76kg

    Thanks
    Conkers
     
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  2. Sean G

    Sean G Early Days

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    Last drove to Bluff Hut in November 2017. A good 2wd could get you down to the Howqua River and Upper Howqua Campground. However, on the other side of the river, the majority of the drive up Bluff Link Road was a steady climb on a fairly potholed dirt road. The last 2-3km up Bluff Hut Road are definite low range only, with the road covered in rubble.

    Howqua River to Bluff Hut is about 13km.

    Of course, the track may have changed in the last 2.5 years. I did it in an old Land Rover and loved the drive.
     
  3. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    Thanks Sean, recent fires and floods may have changed the conditions of the road, will report back in a few weeks. We will be in convoy so may jump into the 4wd for the last stretch.

    What is the track between upper Howqua Campground and bluff hut like? would you recommend it as a final day hike, or is doing a car shuffle the way to go?
     
  4. Onlybackscratchers

    Onlybackscratchers One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    I have a pair of 170cm Atomic Vantage 95C skis with Atomic Tracker 13 frame bindings in very good condition. Also fitted "Contour" skins in excellent condition.

    I just need to have a think about a fair price.

    Edit: Happy with $550. Nearly $2K RRP.
     
    #4 Onlybackscratchers, Feb 26, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
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  5. Sean G

    Sean G Early Days

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    You mean walking up Bluff Link Road from upper Howqua to Bluff Hut? It’s a fairly long slog if it’s a hot day. Some nice views as you get higher up. Is popular with 4wds on the weekends.
     
  6. Chaeron

    Chaeron A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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  7. GS

    GS Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    It'd be a boring walk IMO. I'd return the same way across Mt Magdala etc or car shuffle. Walking back the same way isn't so bad, the views are seen from the opposite direction!
     
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  8. TheFake

    TheFake One of Us

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    Just be aware that at the moment, the Bluff Link road is closed as a result of the fires. Was planning on driving up that way this weekend but it's still all shut.
     
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  9. Sledman

    Sledman Hard Yards

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    In winter, if you are parked at the locked gate below Bluff Hut and it heavily dumps snow while you are
    over at Mac Springs you may have difficulty getting down to 8 Mile Gap when you come back to your
    car. An alternative to the Bluff Hut winter entry is Brocks Road parking at the winter locked(?) gate
    just before the Cairn Creek Track. From here you can go up the Cairn Creek Track to Lovicks Hut or
    if the Jamieson River is too high to safely cross, you can go up Brocks Road, past King Billy No1 and
    No2 to the AWT turnoff to Mount Magdala. OK for 2WD but take a chainsaw.
     
  10. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    Parksvic have just reopened the Bluff hut and are hoping to have the track open for the long weekend, they've had their hands full this year methinks!
     
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  11. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    Super helpful, thanks @Sledman will check it all out in the green so I can gain some perspective for planning our trip. I got lost last night going through an old thread by @jonos over on smugmug what a quick epic trip without skins!
     
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  12. TheFake

    TheFake One of Us

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    Yeah don't get me wrong, I fully understand why the Bluff ridge area is shut, it's the King river/Pineapple Flat side I don't really understand...

    Where are you reading that the hut is open though? The Parks Vic website still lists it and the Bluff Track as shut?
    https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/get-into-nature/safety-in-nature/fire-affected-parks
     
  13. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    So it is, not sure what changed? Either I miss read the update or there was a glitch or they changed their collective mind! Two days ago the Bluff hut and Bluff track were listed as open but the Bluff walking track and Lovicks were listed as closed. I did speak to the mansfield office and was told that they were working towards opening up more areas for the long weekend.

    Is the road from the Upper Howqua Campground to the start of the Bluff track navigable in a 2wd to enable a car shuffle?
     
  14. TheFake

    TheFake One of Us

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    You might have got the Bluff Link track and the Bluff Track mixed up. The Link track is open (thats the road from Upper Howqua down to Sheepyard), but the Bluff track itself isn't.

    Based on the Rooftop map and my vague memory, the Link track should be fine in a 2wd. I'll let you know after the weekend.
     
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  15. TheFake

    TheFake One of Us

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    Looks like they have now reopened most of the Bluff Hut area on that Parks Vic information page from above.
     
  16. Xplora

    Xplora One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    I would be careful doing this in winter also if you have those weather conditions. While the car may be OK and out of snow a the Cairn Creek track junction, you still have to climb back up Brocks Road. I have driven on more than a foot of snow from the Jamison Hut track to the junction. It is a fair slog up Brocks Road from the locked gate to the King Billys. Some maps show the seasonally locked gate on Brocks road much higher up but a 2wd would not make it that far anyway. Cairn Creek track would give you the option of Lovicks hut if you needed.
    If this is just about a walk then Upper Howqua to Picture point via Helicopter spur then across Magdala would work and no car shuffle. It is a long drive from Upper Howqua to Bluff Hut. Helicopter spur will involved some scrambling.
     
  17. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    We are planning two trips to Howitt, the first in autumn with a 2wd and a 4wd in convoy to familiarise ourselves with the western approach the second will just be a 4wd in the white season.
     
  18. Xplora

    Xplora One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    A car shuffle from Upper Howqua will eat into a day but you will catch that up not having to walk back. If you are going to 4wd in winter then you should be fine going via Bluff hut but would take the usual gear. Chains, shovels, chainsaw etc.
     
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  19. mr

    mr Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    I love that area around the bluff. I have some voile vector BC 173s pattern base with telemark bindings on, that i would take off. I also have a spare fritsche freeride frame binding if you want to go that way, and put them on, i could get it done. Good touring ski, ski short perhaps but thats good for pack skiing. Going for a bargain $400. Hardly used. Paid $1000 or more. Brunswick.
     
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  20. mr

    mr Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    Dollar tomato, cheap avocado!
     
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  21. Mister Tee on XC Skis

    Mister Tee on XC Skis A Local Ski Pass: Silver

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    IMHO the road from 8 Mile gap to The seasonal gate below the Bluff hut track is NOT 2 WD stuff. The road has turned to shite and clearance & power to 4 wheels with All terrain tyres are factors that are no longer optional. I have driven my 2003 RAV4 AWD with all terrain tyres from 8 Mile Flat to 8 Mile Gap and up to the Bluff hut and back in green seasons past.
    If a tree comes down then it could be a huge one that may not be easy to cut through with
    just a 16 inch bar on a chainsaw . In a big dump of snow 8 Mile gap would be the last sane stop for a 2 WD . From there it is a 12 km walk to the Bluff Hut.
    @pegasusSki and I have looked at doing such a trip. It may well eventuate in a year or two. I have walked that terrain in green season. I would imagine the King Billy area to Mac. springs could become interesting and challenging in heavy snow.The Brock's road option sounds interesting. Brock's road past 8 Mile gap can become marginal for 2 WD in bad weather i.e heavy rain/ hail/ snow/ trees down etc.
     
  22. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    Well, didn't we have a lovely long weekend! Eight of us did a green season recon tour from Bluff hut to Gantner Hut and down Howitt spur to upper Howqua Campground with four kids under nine and a two wheel drive car shuffle along 16 mile jeep track... We didn't need to use my chainsaw but there were plenty of trees down that would have required a 30inch bar to get through! Wish I had a video of the Caddy conquering 16 mile jeep track. Will post some notes and questions after we have recovered.
     
  23. Mister Tee on XC Skis

    Mister Tee on XC Skis A Local Ski Pass: Silver

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    16 Mile jeep track is steep , and the clearance issues along it are hard core from The Bluff hut track intersection down to the Howqua River area . You took a 2 WD vehicle down that carriageway?. Are you winding me up?
     
  24. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    I had a set of chains that would probably be required to go back up the track but we elected to hitch instead. As we were running late in the day we left the Caddy at the Bindaree Campground, our reasoning was that we could leave the kids under supervision at the upper Howqua Campground and walk the extra couple of k's to pick up the car at the end of our journey. This was great in theory until we got back and saw how gnarly the river crossing is there! The rest of the drive out via Corn Hill Rd. was lovely.
     
  25. TheFake

    TheFake One of Us

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    With the amount of water in it at the moment, the crossing looks far worse than it actually is, you just need to take a sensible line. That said, you still probably wouldn't get a sedan through there without crunching the rear bumper on the rocks.

    I took a mate in a Pajero Sport through it a few weeks ago as his first ever river crossing. He had no dramas, but anything with a worse departure angle definitely would.
     
  26. Mister Tee on XC Skis

    Mister Tee on XC Skis A Local Ski Pass: Silver

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    I guess I could do that river crossing in my 2003 RAV 4 AWD with All terrain tyres.I know that crossing. It is right near the old hovel that is the Bindaree hut. With the water levels being what they are you have to pick the right line , commit in low gear, keep moving and make sure the bow wave does not come past the front bumper.
     
  27. TheFake

    TheFake One of Us

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    Theres no bow wave to worry about, the water barely reaches the axle.
     
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  28. Conkers

    Conkers Early Days

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    The water was well over the axles, no low range on the Caddy but a reasonable departure angle due to a two inch lift on the rear. The upstream approach was reasonably good but there is a deep gutter that would have caused me some heartache so had to begin on the downstream side then get a bit further upstream as I crossed. The water pushed the engine cover off its mounts under the car and the water washed about 15cm above the door sill. I was told afterwards that the bluff link Rd. Is a little more friendly.
     
  29. Sean G

    Sean G Early Days

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    I remember the first time I drove into Upper Howqua, there was a dude camping there out of his BMW M3. No idea why you’d drive that car down there.
     
  30. ecowain

    ecowain One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Why not just say RAV4? Do we need to know that it is from 2003, or that it has 4 tyres?
     
  31. Mister Tee on XC Skis

    Mister Tee on XC Skis A Local Ski Pass: Silver

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    Recent models of the RAV 4 are less like a jeep and more like a soccer Mum's shopping wagon. The first 5 years of RAV4 production (1998-2003?) models seemed to be aimed at a slightly more off road orientated/ capable and interested motorist.
     
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  32. Xplora

    Xplora One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    Does it have low range? No. Then it was never intended for anything more than a bit of gravel road and a few bumps. Any serious off road orientated/capable and interested motorist would only have one to drive to the shops or the snow. Later models did not change (lessen) its ability so your description of those who would buy one also fits your model. It has always been an SUV and never like a Jeep. I have taken people through this very country and worse in proper 4wd vehicles with only road tyres. AT tyres do very little until things get a bit wet and slippery but even AT tyres are useless once they clog up. Certainly would not assist much more than a road tyre in a river crossing. I also have a friend who has taken his EA Falcon on this very route. He did get a few raised eye brows but got through just fine. Driver ability is probably more important.
    Is this something you have done or just read somewhere? Gear selection for river crossings varies depending on the river base. As the RAV4 does not have low gear, I would assume you mean first gear. Some crossings, such as the Jamieson, have large boulders and you can stall easily if there is not enough power to get over so first gear may not be low enough. It may (from my experience definitely) be difficult to maintain a bow wave in such crossings. The purpose of the bow wave is attempt to prevent water from entering the air intake by creating a depression behind the wave which moves ahead of the vehicle. A blind (small ground sheet) over the front of the car can help if you do not have a snorkel. Owning a 2003 RAV 4 AWD with All terrain tyres does not qualify you to be giving advice about off road driving. Apologies to all the soccer mums but at least they understand their limitations.
     
  33. rowdyflat

    rowdyflat One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    There is a thread somewhere about this .
    Its a bloody hard ski and navigation can be tricky when poor viz.
    Its a real adventure though.
     
  34. Xplora

    Xplora One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    I can vouch for that. Probably would not do another winter trip into there without a downloaded track. Both in and out was a white out. Map and compass useless.
     
  35. rowdyflat

    rowdyflat One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    My last trip was last century which was pre GPS.