Outdoor Education

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Sugarloaf Saddle – Cathedral Ranges State Park


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I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management, tree hazard checks, managing the toilets and facilities. The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience.

Access
You can access Sugarloaf Saddle via The Mt. Margaret Road from Marysville or via Buxton. I’ll assume you are coming off the Maroondah Highway. Make your way to the Cooks Mill camping ground located off the Little River Road. Access with a 2wd is fine, albeit a little bumpy on the road in. Follow the signage west to Sugarloaf Saddle. It’s a little steep and doable in a 2wd but it’s a rocky and bumpy road. From Melbourne head east through Healesville and through the mountainous Black Spur. Once you have left the Maroondah Highway and have driven north of Buxton, you will see the signposted turn off to the Ranges. (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Camping at The Farmyard – Cathedral Ranges State Park


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I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management and tree hazard checks, The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience.

There are a number of campsites in the Farmyard area much of which is shady amongst tall beautiful Peppermint, Blackwood and Red Stringybark gums with the sound of lyrebirds imitating chain saws in the background.

The splendid, high-peaked ridge of the Cathedral Range offers spectacular walks and rock climbing routes to suit all levels of fitness and ability. The Cathedral Range is recovering from the extensive damage caused by the 2009 Black Saturday fires when 92% of the park was burnt. There is a pleasant old sawmill clearing (partially vegetated) sheltered in a forested valley near the bubbling Little River. This 3577 hectare park offers you a range of activities from relaxed camping by a clear mountain stream to an exciting climb to its high exposed peaks.Camping feeCaravan accessNo dogs/petsNo rubbish disposalPicnic areaRangerSpecial campsite (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Camping at Neds Gully – Cathedral Ranges State Park


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I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management, tree hazard checks, managing the toilets and facilities. The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience. (more…)

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Camping at Cooks Mill – Cathedral Ranges State Park


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Satin Bower Bird home

I’ve been camping here for over 30 years and not much has changed. Parks Vic (or whatever their name is these days) do a great job of servicing the park by doing tree checks, grading the roads, vegetation management, tree hazard checks, managing the toilets and facilities. The rest is up to you. If you want to camp somewhere that has everything done for you, this is not the place. Rangers have more important things to do than change the toilet paper rolls so be prepared for a beautiful simple camping experience.

There are a number of campsites in the Cooks Mills area much of which is shady amongst tall beautiful Peppermint, Blackwood and Red Stringybark gums with the sound of the Little River bubbling in the background.

The splendid, high-peaked ridge of the Cathedral Range offers spectacular walks and rock climbing routes to suit all levels of fitness and ability. The Cathedral Range is recovering from the extensive damage caused by the 2009 Black Saturday fires when 92% of the park was burnt. There is a pleasant old sawmill clearing (partially vegetated) sheltered in a forested valley near the bubbling Little River. This 3577 hectare park offers you a range of activities from relaxed camping by a clear mountain stream to an exciting climb to its high exposed peaks.Camping feeCaravan accessNo dogs/petsNo rubbish disposalPicnic areaRangerSpecial campsite

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Black Spur

Access
The camping area is located off the Little River Road just before it crosses the river. Access with a 2wd is fine, albeit a little bumpy on the road in. From Melbourne head east through Healesville and through the mountainous Black Spur. Once you have left the Maroondah Highway and have driven north of Buxton, you will see the signposted turn off to the Ranges. Upon making another right turn into Little River Road you will need to drive on a dirt road to reach the camp areas.

Bookings
Advance bookings and payment are required. Individual sites cannot be reserved; please select your campsite(s) within the campground on arrival. For bookings go here or call Parks Victoria 13 1963. One campsite costs $27.50 as at the time of posting. When you book one site, please note that it is unpowered and the site accommodates a maximum of six guests. Individual sites are not reserved; please select your campsite(s) within the campground on arrival.  30 days prior 50% cancellation fee. Less than 30 days prior 100% cancellation fee. No Transfers.

Walking trails nearby

Toilets

Pit toilets are available in a few different places in the campground. Don’t rely on there being toilet paper so please bring your own. Don’t toss your rubbish into the toilets.

Facilities

There are picnic tables a shelter that are available for use by campers. The Friends Nature Trail (proudly can say I was part of the initial group that put this together) is an easy route through manna gum forest and takes about an hour to do the loop walk. The St Bernards Track to Jawbone carpark is a little more strenuous (can say that a group of students made this track back in the 90’s on one of our programs).

Fireplaces

Note that the fireplaces do not include a cooking plate so you’ll need to bring your own. Plus, you’ll need to bring your own firewood as it’s prohibited to take wood from the park but wood can be purchased from the nearby towns of Taggerty and Buxton. Use a portable gas stove or similar for cooking.

  • Light fires only in the fireplaces provided or use a portable camping stove instead
  • Ensure fires are never left unattended and are completely out before you leave
  • During summer and autumn Total Fire Bans are common – this means no open fires can be lit
  • For information on Total Fire Bans call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667

    Little River

Water

Recommend you bring your own water in although you can take water directly from The Little River. I would recommend treating it if this is the case. One of the local rangers, Rhyll recommends bringing in your own water as there is still ash from the bushfires washing into the waterways. Plus the never-ending logging trucks that are well placed upstream probably have some diesel run-off. In other words – treat or filter your water if taking from The Little River.

Rubbish

Carry in, carry out. There is no rubbish collection within the park and there are no rubbish bins so you’ll need to take it home

Campsites

There are 30 campsites available. Some are suitable for camper trailers, campervans, a small caravan or recreational vehicle as well as tents. During peak season, this campsite gets a lot of visitors. Be mindful of how far you spread yourselves out over your campsite. Do not camp under tree limbs. Note: bring your own wood, as firewood cannot be collected anywhere in the park. Also note that the fireplace here doesn’t have a cooking plate.

Pets

Not allowed

Wildlife

I could say prolific but that’s only when I need a goods night sleep. During the day you’ll hear if not see lyrebirds. They’ll often imitate chainsaws from the loggers. kookaburras, cockatoos, galahs and even the protected peregrine falcon. At night, the wombats come out along with the possums. Beware that the possums will rummage through your food tubs unless you seal them up properly. Kangaroos and wallabies tend to come out at dusk and dawn but you will often surprise them on walking trails. The every so interesting Satin Bower Bird have nests here and well worth hunting them out. Please do not disturb them. Take photos only.

Phone Network

Dodgy at the best of times. It’s intermittent and can drop out quickly.

Extra info

No known swimming spots here. No fishing allowed. No horseriding. No canoeing or kayaking.

Vehicle-based campingWood fireplaceNow it’s your turn. What are your experiences like of camping at Cooks Mill? Share and leave a comment below.

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Lake Mountain Alpine Resort in Summer


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Lake Mountain is known for its excellent cross country ski trails during the winter months but it has more to offer than just snow and tobogganing when the weather warms up. Only two hours from Melbourne, it’s a hit with skiers but these days has become more popular with bushwalkers and mountain bike riders. With over 30 kms of trails, that weave their way amongst the snowgums, the stunning heathland, the wild flowers and natural beauty of an alpine environment – there is something for everyone.

Helicopter Flat looking south

I’ve worked at this mountain as a professional ski guide and as a recreational skier since 1989 and I knew it inside out. But after the 2009 fires, I couldn’t visit Marysville let alone the mountain for some years. Fortunately, I made my way up to the mountain more recently and was pleasantly surprised by the infrastructure and regrowth that has happened in nine years.

Let’s set the record straight – there is no lake at Lake Mountain. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to put tourists on the right track on that one. Lake Mountain was named after George Lake, who was the Surveyor-General of the area including the mountain.

What was previously one building a storage sheds for groomers is now multiple large buildings for Ski Patrol, Ski School, Ski Hire, Cafe, Toilets and more. It’s an excellent set up and well overdue.

Despite being a little disoriented at first, I was able to follow the trails (picturing them with snow) and making my way around the mountain to familiar sites. What a buzz yet filled with grief. The snowgums are beautiful with their stark white trunks set against the blue alpine sky. Yet they are all dead and regeneration is slow and challenging. This place will never be as it was, but perhaps will evolve into something new and better (crossing my fingers behind my back as I wrote that).

Prior to going up to the mountain you can download maps from the Lake Mountain Resort website here. They are excellent and it’s a good place to start, particularly if this area is unfamiliar to you.

  • How to get to Lake Mountain from Melbourne
  • Resort Map
  • Ski trails and snowshoeing Map
  • Walking and Recreation Trails Map
  • Mountain Bike Trails Map

I would also recommend you check the weather, particularly if you’re coming from Melbourne. What may be calm and windless in one place can be stormy and unpleasant on the mountain.

There is a cafe on the mountain if you’d like to utilise that for a meal and coffee but there is also free undercover bbq facilities available. The cafe is open 9am – 4pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday. You can contact them directly on 03 5957 7253. I’d suggest you bring some basic food and all the water you need (just in case) and plan for a big day out. You always have the opportunity to stop at one of Marysville’s great eateries on the way up or down.

Just as a side note, the water at the resort comes from the Echo Flat area of the ski trails. This is actually where the Taggerty River starts and it is an unprotected catchment. Under the provisions of section 6 of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Minister for Health has declared the water not suitable for drinking. Therefore, bring all your own water or you can purchase bottled water at the cafe on the mountain.

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So let’s start at the beginning as you leave Marysville. The resort is 22kms from town and will take you longer than you might expect as the road is windy and you need to take care as there are often many drivers (particularly motor bikes) going to and from the resort.

You can stop at a few points along the way if you need a break but you should be there in around 20 minutes. No toilets on the way so use the ones in Marysville.

There are a number of car parks on the way up but you’re looking for the very top one where there are two large buildings and massive car parking.

This photo to above is one of the Information Boards that will help you get oriented and give you ideas of what you can do.

Here you make choices: Do you walk to the summit of Lake Mountain, venture on the Flying Fox, go for a walk, have a picnic. I’d suggest a walk to start with. It takes 10 minutes to walk up to the Snow Gauge and is a gentle uphill walk easy for most people. Then it flattens out from there. In summer the trails can be tussocky but easy to walk on.

Make sure you have a map with you so you know where you’re going. Most trails loop and you can branch off at one point and end up at another that links up with your original starting point.

You can walk on many of the trails that will take you right out to the back of the Resort where in winter I’ve seen antechinus footprints in the snow or wombats shuffling under tree trunks to hide from the wide. In summer, you will see kites, currawongs, wrens, wombats, the occasionally wallaby or kangaroo and lots of skinks. Why not take the opportunity to bring a picnic and have a culinary experience in the alpine world. Beware the march flies are vigilant and I’d bring insect repellant with you.

If you’re not a big bushwalker, then try the walk up to the summit of Lake Mountain which tops out at the almighty figure of 1443m (highest point is 1480 on the Hut Trail). Mt Bogong which is the highest mountain in Victoria is at 1986 metres. If the weather is clear, the views from the lookouts are stunning and with any luck, you may even be able to see Melbourne highrises.

You can engage a professional environmental officer named Sue who can be contacted on 03 5957 7222 or emailing her at admin@lakemountainresort.com.au. Sue’s experience in flora and fauna is exceptional and will give you an insight into the environs that you may otherwise miss without her knowledge. Ideally you would have a group of 4+ to engage her services and you will need to prebook.

Flying Fox from the start looking to the finish

Up for Adventure?

Having spent some time in Northern Italy in 2016 I was thrilled to see how the managers of the ski resorts utilise their facilities all year round with mountain bike riding and other activities. This is what is unfolding at Lake Mountain. They have installed an amazing 240-metre Dual Flying Fox that is easily accessible from the car park. It’s an absolute hoot and highly recommend.

Flying Fox Rules and Regulations

In summer there is also the ‘tube run’ which is a ski trail where plastic is laid down the trail along with water and in a tube you can go for a hoot down the hill.

Signage to the Flying Fox

Finally, Laser Skirmish. This is new and who wouldn’t love the chance to pop some of your friends with paint. For more information on the Adventure Activities, go to the website here.

End of Flying Fox looking up to the start

Operation of the flying fox, tube run and laser skirmish are subject to weather conditions in the White Season. For these activities and guided wildflower walks, group bookings are essential in the Green Season. (quoted from the website).

Mountain Biking

The Resort continues to do great work on expanding the mountain bike trails around the area with over 20kms of single tracks that caters for the beginner to the advanced. You can bring your own bike or hire them at the  Lake Mountain Cafe & Visitor Centre which includes a helmet. The bikes are Kona mountain bikes and are in very good condition. Costs $15 for two hours or $25 for a whole day.

This is not my photo but not sure who took it but credit to them.
This is not my photo but not sure who took it but credit to them.

If you’d like to camp up on the mountain, you MUST contact the resort management for permission a there are designated camping areas. Remember this is alpine heathland and extremely sensitive to overuse.

NOTE – During the summer months when there is a day forecasted for Code Red Fire Danger, the resort will be closed. If you need more information visit Parks Victoria here.

The Ski Trails are also the walking trails and here are the distances below (taken directly from the Resort website). This will give you an idea of the distance and time it may take you to venture around the area.

Trail up to the Snow Gauge

 Walking / Ski Trails

  • Echo Flat Loop – 1.5 km
  • Snow Gum – 1.5 km
  • Muster – 2.6 km
  • Echo Flat – 6 km
  • Roystone – 2 km
  • Woollybutte – 2 km
  • Panorama – 3.5 km
  • Long Healthed – 3 km
  • Jubilee – 6 km

OPENING HOURS: 24/7 during summer months. Limited in winter.

LOCATION: Lake Mountain Alpine Resort, 1071 Lake Mountain Road, Marysville

PHONE: (03) 5957 7222. There is only Telstra 3G coverage on the mountain.

PARKING: There are two large carparks close to the buildings at the Resort and a few more further down the road to Marysville but these are used as spillover carparks in winter.

TRANSPORT: There is no public transport to Lake Mountain during summer. You can drive or ride your bike up the mountain.

DISABLED ACCESS: Around the buildings it’s pretty good but not on the trails and tracks.

ATM: There is no ATM on the mountain during summer although if the cafe is open they have EFTPOS.

ENTRANCE FEE: No fee during summer

DOGS: This is part of the Alpine Resorts Commission and therefore, no pets allowed.

TOILET FACILITIES: Toilets within the buildings

SOCIAL MEDIA:  Lake Mountain Resort on Facebook click here.

Lake Mountain Resort on Twitter click here.

Instagram @lakemountainresort and #lakemoutainresort

WEBSITE: Lake Mountain Resort

Now it’s your turn. Share your stories of spending time at Lake Mountain during the summer months. Leave a comment below.

 

 

 

Explore & Inspire, Living Simply, Outdoor Education

If not now, when?


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Care a little more.

Show up.

Embrace possibility.

Tell the truth.

Dive deeper.

Seek the truth behind the story.

Ask the difficult question.

Lend a hand.

Dance with fear.

Play the long game.

Say ‘no’ to hate.

Look for opportunities, especially when it seems like there aren’t any left.

Risk a bigger dream.

Take care of the little guy.

Offer a personal insight.

Build something magical.

Keep your promises.

Do work that matters.

Expect more.

Sign your work.

Be generous for no reason.

Give the benefit of the doubt.

Develop empathy.

Make your mom proud.

Take responsibility.

Give credit.

Play by a better set of rules.

Choose your customers.

Choose your reputation.

Choose your future.

Thank the ref.

Reward patience.

Leap.

Breathe.

Because we can.

It really is up to us. Which is great, because we’re capable of changing everything if we choose.

All we can do is all we can do, but maybe, all we can do is enough.

Credit to Seth Godin. You can find this on his blog here

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education

Rockclimbing for beginners at Mt Arapiles


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I’ve been climbing at Mt. Arapiles since 1989 with school groups, corporate groups, with my family and on my own. In this post I’ll share my experience and recommendations as a recreational climber and a professional guide. It’s not the be all and end all on the park, so please do your own research and I have put some links to sites that may also help you on your own time climbing.

Mt. Arapiles is approximately 350kms west of Melbourne and 115 kms to Naracoorte (and their famous caves) just over the South Australian border. You can drive or catch public transport to Horsham (train or bus) then bus to Natimuk then another bus to the edge of the park on the road to Edenhope. When leaving Natimuk by car, the road forks, you can take either route as they will both go to Centenary Drive taking you to the campground. I like taking the right fork to get the full view of the mountain and it’s breadth across the horizon. You’ll also see Mitre Rock which is a little further on from here on your right. If you take the left fork, you’ll pass the road that takes you to the summit and on Centenary Drive plus you’ll pass Declaration Crag. For further information on camping at Mt. Arapiles, please go to my post here.

Commonly referred to as ‘the mount‘, it rises 140 metres and considered by many as the best sandstone rockclimbing venue in the world. With over 3,000 climbs ranging from a gentle meander of five metres or more serious climbs of several pitches with overhangs and exposed walls. The mount has something for everyone.

The nearest town is Natimuk, 10 kms from the mount. Here you will find some excellent professional climbing guides you can hire for half and full days. I personally recommend The Climbing Company run by the talented Chris Peisker whose breadth of experience spans four decades. Another amazingly talented climber is Louise Shepherd who has been around since the 80’s nailing some of the serious climbs at Arapiles.

The diversity and accessibility to the climbs is also what makes this place unique. In the early 1980’s you could drive your car to the base of some of these climbs however, these days they are well partitioned off and frankly, it’s a very short walk to many of the climbs from the campground.

The Plaque

Aptly named as there is a plaque signifying Major Mitchell exploring the area in 1836 which he named after Arapiles near Salamanca in Spain. I was fortunate enough to have visited the same mount in Spain and frankly – it’s not that similar.

The Plaque is a two minute walk from The Gums campground and although not a big area it’s often swarming with climbers due to its locale. There is something for all climbers here – beginners to the seasoned climber. You can access the top of the Plaque by walking around the back and navigating your way along the ledge (it’s pretty safe). There are no loose rocks so you can spend time setting anchors for top roping or abseils without fear of knocking something off. For the lead climber, you’ll find good anchor points at the top to secure yourself too when belaying up the next climber.

The polished rock from years of climbers scooting up and down makes for interesting techniques. The climbs themselves are easy to protect although Maximus (13m / Grade 17) is all on small wires and cams. Other enjoyable climbs are Minimus (12m / Grade 14), Camelot (13m / Grade 10) a one move wonder. The test piece for many climbers is Dramp (15m / Grade 22) which is an easy first 5 metres into the little cave and from there is a series of one or two moves depending how tall you are to exit out and left. Climbed it once myself, on a top rope but never tried to lead it. Always enjoyable watching people throw themselves at this one. Bring a Crazy Creek Chair, sit down and watch the entertainment. If you do it in runners – you’re a star.

What I like about The Plaque is that there is a large slab of rock at the base instead of dirt or gravel which means your rope won’t getting trashed. It also means it’s a good place to sit and sort your gear, belay from and in the afternoon when the sun has gone down behind the mount, a delightful spot to hang out in the warm weather. During winter it’s a good spot for morning climbs but can get windy and chilly if the sun doesn’t come out. Be prepared to wait in a cue for some of these climbs during busy periods or at the end of the day. Some top ropers will just let you scamper up the cliff on their rope but due diligence – check their anchors and rope.

There are no toilets here or any other amenities. You’ll need to walk back to the campground if you need toilets or water.

Declaration Crag

500m east of the campground on the main road and unmissable if you drive in from the Edenhope Road is Dec Crag. You can explore the entire crag because there are climbs all the way around. One of the beauties of this crag is that if you’re top roping, the anchors are very good at the top.

At the back is a lovely chimney at the rear (7m / Grade 2) and a great place for someone learning to lead climb. There is good face climbing on the west side and fabulous beginner climbs that face the road. Try out Marshmellow Sea (14m / Grade 8) or Craddocks Crack (14m / Grade 9). There are also two good beginner climbs for those learning to lead between these two climbs – Deck Gully and Sunny Gully (14m / Grade 2).  From here you can walk around the crag to your right and find some excellent climbs. Try out Hammer Mall (12m / Grade 4) and Sickle  (12m / Grade 9). Like The Plaque, there are rock platforms around many of the bases so you can spread yourself out without sitting or standing in dirt or gravel. The test piece on this crag is Little Thor (12m / Grade 20) which is a steep, consistent climb with a small (and I mean small) roof that is the crux. Finally led this climb after years of top roping and although I did it clean, I did lead it on a top rope, then red pointed it before I went back a few months later and led it. At the base of Little Thor there are a few large boulders which make for a great viewing platform for onlookers. To the left is Marmot’s Mall (12m / Grade 15) that you’ll need small wires or your micro cams. It’s a challenging one to protect.

There are no toilets here or any other amenities. You’ll need to walk back to the campground if you need toilets or water. The car park is along the road.

Mitre Rock

At the western end of the mount on the other side of the road is a mini Arapiles. You can drive there or take a 40 minute walk from the camp ground parallel with the mount. Mitre is la big rock with a split down the middle where you can walk from one side to the other (east/west). Depending on the weather, you can choose which side to hangout.  In summer we would climb on the west side in the morning and east in the afternoon and vice versa in winter. There are fabulous climbs on the north side, one and two pitches. My first lead here was Exodus (36m / Grade 6) and is a classic route for those starting out. All the protection is there, but it is steep. If you are into top roping, Deacons Dilemma side is good for setups and climbs. For top roping try Prelate (15m / Grade 17) which has a quirky little finish.

There are no toilets here or any other amenities. You’ll need to make your way back to the campground if you need toilets or water. The car park is generous in size. The views from the top of the crag looking at Mitre Lake are magical, especially in September when the canola fields are yellow.

Bushrangers Bluff

A great place on hot days. You can walk there via the track east of the campground or drive back along Centenary Drive to the main Edenhope Road and then head up the summit road to the small carpark on the right. Walk in from here on the well-worn track. Bushrangers has easy and hard climbs plus a magnificent abseil off the top over Melville’s Cave. Beware that attaching to the large boulder slab could be perilous as it’s not attached to the main rock. Be diligent about what anchors you choose. You can access the top by walking around to the north and up through a gully. If you want some other good climbs, don’t go up the gully but veer right. Here are some fabulous intermediate climbs.

Please wear helmets here as there are often alot of people climbing and moving around the top of this area and there are a few loose rocks that still come off. Also, remove any rubbish. We once moved about 30 pieces of rubbish, often lolly wrappers from both sides of Bushrangers.

Melville’s Cave is easy to lead climb into with good pro. Some free climb into it but not for me. When my kids were little they loved climbing into the cave. You could belay two kids at once due to the low grade. This photo above was taken in 2006 with my kids all tied into the anchors set up inside. Below is a photo of my then 4yo climbing into the cave with her favourite soft toy tucked into her harness. The two kids on the left are also the same two in the last photo at the bottom of this post in 2015 at the west side of Bushrangers Bluff having a chock placement lesson from the talented Pete Holmes.

Another great thing about Bushrangers is you can choose which side to climb on depending on the weather. The west side in the morning if it’s warm and the cave side in the afternoon. Or in winter vice versa.

Time for a little self indulgence: I’d like to dedicate this post to Dennis Brown, one of my climbing mentors and an all round great guy. Dennis had over 25 years experience climbing in the military and in early 1990 he fell from the top of Bushrangers Bluff to his death (to the left of the cave). There is a small plaque in remembrance of him and every time I visit, I leave a small bunch of local blooms next to the plaque and say a private thank you to him for all his generosity and faith in me to become a climbing guide. If have alot of photos of Dennis and myself climbing but in those days we didn’t have digital photos and they are slides so unfortunately, can’t put any up in honour of him.

Believe me – he was a great guy and a wonderful friend. In that year there were five climbing deaths – three at Mt Arapiles (knew all 3 of them) and 2 secondary school students at Lal Lal Falls.

The Organ Pipes

The home of multi-pitch classics only a short walk from the camp ground and therefore, popular with beginners. You can sit at The Plaque and try to guess which climbs people are on, listen to their calls echoing across the park and at dusk, watch the head torches as people come down from their late starts.

These tall sandstone columns are jam packed with awesome routes all within a close distance from each other. You can rap off one climb, walk a few metres and try something completely different. D-Minor is a ‘must do’ (50m / Grade 13) but oh so polished from frequent climbers and well known for some spectacular lead falls. Tannin (40m / Grade 19) is brilliant and another must do.

There are no toilets here or any other amenities. You’ll need to make your way back to the campground if you need toilets or water. Take all your supplies for a day out. Pack out your rubbish (including poop), bring plenty of water and all your food / snacks as you’ll often by our for the entire day.

Bouldering

Bouldering is a popular past time and there are a numbers of places you can have a go that are sprinkled around the mount just above The Pines. Krondorf and Golden Streak area are the most popular. Take note that they are often busy late in the afternoon / early evening, particularly in the warmer months. I”d suggest you bring a bouldering mat because there are alot of loose rocks around it. Remember if you are going to climb to the top, think about how you’re going to get down.

One of the more popular bouldering places is The Squeeze (pictured left) which in 2014 a 24 yo man became stuck in it and had to stay overnight until rescued – click here for more information. I have many photos of my kids and their friends ‘squeezing’ through this but of course, they were 12 at the time and probably weighed 40kgs and as thin as a rake so it wasn’t something we were concerned about. Did this myself back in 1990 but wouldn’t try it these days. Get a tad bit claustrophobic.

Many outdoor companies have banned this for groups to endeavour to try due to the incident mentioned above however, recreational climbers still enjoy giving this a go.

There has been a push to cement this up so there won’t be another incident but frankly, I’d consider that sacrilege. We should all be allowed to push our limits and boundaries and sometimes the outcome isn’t always as expected but if we don’t try, then we don’t know.

Summary

Note: Dec. Crag, Bushrangers Bluff, The Plaque, Mitre Rock and the Organ Pipes are popular with groups. In saying that though, other climbers are often happy to negotiate with you on accessing the climbs.

Visitors are known to stay for months at a time, camped in The Pines nestled amongst the old pine trees, choosing the best days to meander up to the mount and tackle a climb or two.

It’s not uncommon to be serenaded to sleep with the sounds of a distant saxophone or the sound of protection jangling as climbers return from a late night descent.

In The Pines you’ll often see slack lines erected, fire stick jugglers and  all sorts of interesting characters.

You’ll need a guide book which you can purchase from the climbing shop in Natimuk (or any good outdoors store) and educate yourself about where to start. Note that many of the routes have lower-offs so bring the correct gear.

Please note that the grades and lengths I’ve quoted were taken from The Arapiles Guide Book however, these are subject to change as climbs are occasionally regraded.

Big thank you to the incredible Rob Ogilvie who is not only amazing climber but an outstanding leader in the outdoors. Rob helped me with this post so it’s as accurate as possible and his knowledge is more current than mine. Thanks Rob.

Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment below on your experiences as a beginner or when you were a beginner and feel free to let me know if there are any inaccuracies in this post.

Happy climbing.

 

 

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Outdoor Education – what can you do as a parent/student – Part 2 of 2


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Following on from my post a week ago (go here), this is the upside of the things you can do for your children (or if you’re a student – for yourself) that are simple and easy and frankly, you and I probably did when we were kids.

  • Make your kids to chores. It seems fundamental but these days, most homes have dishwashers, so many families have a cleaner come in once a week / fortnight (you know that time when you ask the kids to clean up the mess in their rooms because the cleaner is coming the next day), where we outsource dog walking, gardening, car cleaning and so on. Research has shown that chores foster interpersonal skills, improve mental health, create empathy and build on responsibility. More importantly, doing chores develops gratitude in children.

    My kids doing the camping dishes
  • Demonstrate and practice with your children how to peel and chop everyday vegetables. I’m not talking about kale or squash – more onions, potatoes, carrots, capsicums and so on. When a student cuts a carrot 1cm thick and is then disappointed when it’s still crunchy after a stir fry, you’ll be able to help them think ahead.
  • Let your children know that everyday chores (like cooking for some of us) are laborious, monotonous and boring. Be prepared to work against the self-concerned nature of children and work on developing a sense of social justice within them.
  • Have your children do the dishes. I remember taking my kids away when they were 3, 5 and 7 and realised they didn’t know how to wash or dry dishes because we had a dishwasher. Here started the lesson and by the end of two weeks they were experts. In particular, focus on hygiene and as always – try to make it fun.
  • Let your children pack their own gear. Take the list provided by the school, the scout group, the church group and have them lay all of it out on their bed. Then they can tick it off as they put it into their bag. Support and help them but don’t pack it for them as once they are in the field they’ll have to do it themselves anyway and they’ll be one step ahead of the pack.
  • You may not agree with everything on the gear list but stick to the list. Items such as sunblock, broad-brimmed hat, gloves, no cotton clothes, wide-mouthed water bottle and so on have been put there for a reason. People like myself have been in the industry a long time and we know what works best and what doesn’t. By all means query the list with the staff member involved, otherwise – stick to the list!
  • Don’t impart your anxiety or fears onto your children. You may not like camping or carrying a pack, but don’t underestimate your child. Ask open questions like ‘what was the food like?’, ‘did you sleep well?’, ‘did you make any new friends?’ instead of ‘it must’ve been terrible walking in the cold weather!’ OR ‘sleeping on the ground is dreadful isn’t it?’ OR my favourite ‘it must have been hard to walk with that heavy pack!’ No presuppositions. Only queries please.
  • Don’t be a helicopter parent. Let them make mistakes. Forget things. Lose things. Be mean. Be kind. Be helpful. Be rude. Get anxious. Get scared. Find their feet. As a parent – we can be so busy giving our kids everything we didn’t have, we forget to give them everything we did have. (see this post). If you think you’re a helicopter parent then you probably not looked upon fondly by staff due to your high needs and expectations, often over inflated value on things that are considered ordinary and most of which you project is about yourself not your child. B
    Mum showing how to chop veggies

    it tough? Yep but it’s something we deal with everyday.

  • So they forgot their lunch and water bottle for the first day of camp. Don’t chase the bus down and give it to them. Let them problem solve it. They won’t starve or dehydrate. That’s part of the learning. If you continually ‘rescue’ them then that’s what they’ll expect for the rest of their lives.
  • Don’t underestimate the awesomeness within your child/ren. I wish I could make an individual video for every parent and show them how their child consistently rises to the challenge. Most of the time, they put up their tent with their mates. They prepare a meal with others. They help out those they can see struggling. Or they ask for help if they need it. They ask good questions of staff. When we as parents step back and let our children be children you’d be surprised how amazing they are. Give them that chance.
  • Allow them to receive feedback and that there might have negative consequences for their actions. This instills in them the concept of mutual respect and the rights and interests of others. It sits uncomfortable as a parent but it’s essential to their growth.
  • Their outdoor education experience is their experience, not yours. Don’t presume or preempt what may or may not have happened.
  • Do expect that your child will come home tired, hungry and smelly. Don’t mention it. That’s part of being on program. Ask them before they go on their trip what they’d like for dinner when they return – favourites I know of are: roast, sushi, lasagna, Thai food, pizza or fruit salad.
  • Don’t be surprised by the lack of dirty clothes. When you’re living outdoors you tend to wear the same things over and over again (particularly boys – I have a son!). For a five-day program you only see a couple of pairs of underwear and one t-shirt – don’t worry. They were doing exactly what they should have – lived in the moment and disregarded fashion.
  • It’s not your experience – it’s theirs. Let their stories unfold when they return. They may not bubble out of them straight away or you may not be able to shut them up. Allow their stories be their stories. Quiz them. Challenge them. Encourage them. Look to the growth within the time they’ve spent away rather than the negative.
  • My final tip is – do not let them take any technology on a program. This is the one chance to disconnect from the WWW and reconnect with themselves and others around them. Anyway, the network is often available anyway and they’ll run out of charge within 24 hours. These days we are all so used to being able to speak to our kids, look up what the weather is doing next week, find out footy scores, Google anything – but I beg you to give your child the space to just ‘be’. Allow them to soak up their environment without the distractions from technology and you. As a parent, I know this can be hard but believe me, it’s worth it for them and for you.

Now it’s your turn. How have you found your experiences send your children off on camp? How have they coped? What advice would you offer other parents. Please leave a comment below.

Explore & Inspire, Outdoor Education, Travel Tips & Ideas

Outdoor Education – what can you do as a parent/student – Part 1 of 2


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Pancakes for breakfast (13 yo)

I’ve worked in the Outdoor Education field since 1989 and there have been many changes over that time. As an entity, our management of risk has improved tremendously, our programs are journey based and often sequential giving a sense of change and resetting the daily expectations, the quality of food and recipes are broad and nutritional, the equipment is well maintained and turned over within good time frames, the staff are better trained and equipped to deal with different groups and emergencies, venues are scoped to achieve outcomes for programs and so much more.

However, there have been many changes since 1989 and they are worth reading through as you may find some parallels with your own children / yourself. The Part 2 (go here) of this article will give you the practical tips and guidance to work through some of these issues.

  • Most students don’t know how to cut vegetables, particularly hard ones like carrots. Given a capsicum, a student will often look at me quizzically and say either ‘what is this’ or ‘how do I chop this?’
  • Most students don’t know how to cook. Asked to bring rice on a program for a group of three, I’ve seen numerous times a student pull out a 500gm bag on a self-cater program not knowing that this would feed an entire group + other campers nearby. This is despite encouragement to practice at home prior to the trip to work out quantities.
  • On a five day program, students would prefer to bring 8 Up & Go’s for breakfast than muesli, weetbix or other cereal and mix up powdered milk. Their reason? Too hard. If they are self-catering encourage them to bring healthy whole food.
  • With restrictions on perishable food being taken on camp – many parents are supplying their kids with expensive dehydrated dinners. This is missing the point. It’s about the process not the end result. Plus, they’ll receive a constipated child at the end of the week as these dinners are fine as a one off but not on a regular basis.
  • Two minute noodles do not count as a meal. I regard them as a nice snack while preparing dinner but not to replace a dinner. There is no calorific value in them and believe me, kids need all the nutritional value they can on an outdoor education program.
  • No lollies. No energy drinks. No processed snack foods. Stick to whole foods. They’ll offer more dietary value and get them through the program with my energy and less cravings.
  • Young people need to understand that it’s imperative they practice good hygiene techniques while camping. Gelsan isn’t enough. Soap, water and more soap, then more water. It’s all provided so use it.
  • Students in the 90’s would carry 15kgs packs, walk for five days, averaging 15 – 20kms a day. Today they’d be lucky to carry 12kgs (many students needing a pack shuttle), they’d rarely walk for three days and it would be unheard of a student walking 15kms – more like 10 – 12 kms.
  • There were no mobile phones in 1989 and in fact in 1992 on my BMLCC (Bushwalking & Mountaincraft Leadership Course – the only qualification around at the time for bushwalking leaders), someone brought a large brick style phone along to ‘test it out’. We were all horrified that a phone on our bushwalk would spoil the experience. We were walking to get away from the technology and here it was in our face. Within two years, as a leader if you didn’t take a phone on program you were regarded as negligent! How times change. However, we still encourage no technology in the outdoors. No MP3’s, phones, Nintendos, DS’s, tablets and so on. Not sure how we’ll go with the Apple Watch coming out but we encourage students to disconnect from technology and connect with what’s around them – people and nature.
  • Parents pass on their fears and expectations to their children. They don’t want their child to get cold and wet but that isn’t necessarily the same for your kids. And frankly, they need to be a little uncomfortable, a little stretched and stressed. Yes that word stressed. No one wants their kid to be stretched, least of all me as a parent. But I know that my kids have an awesomeness inside them and it’s only when I allow them to experience the goods with the bads and let them shine through that they appreciate the potential they have.
  • Your experiences camping will no doubt be different to what your child will experience. Let them find their own feet on the trip.
  • How can our kids grow if their world is a bubble of never experience walking with a backpack in strong wind, trying to put a tent up in the rain, putting on a wetsuit in the morning that is cold, sunburnt shoulders because they didn’t put on blockout, the hard slog up a hill with the reward of beautiful views. The world can be tough whether in business or working for yourself. How can we expect our kids to draw on their strengths if they’ve never had to face adversity.
  • Young people lack resilience and yet it’s the one word that is bandied around within educational institutions all the time – ‘help make my child resilient – but don’t let them work hard, do it tough, make them cold or wet or hungry or accountable.’ Grrrr. Effort equals achievement. Read this for more information.
  • Don’t make excuses for them. Here is a  list of the regular excuses I hear from parents: she’d too small to carry a pack, he has growing pains so he can’t carry a pack, she must have a shower during the week otherwise she feels dirty,
  • For those of you that camping is unfamiliar – I urge you to embrace it. I’ve consistently found that the best leaders have come from those who’ve taken onboard outdoor education trips. They are organised, prepared, flexible, can work in a team, take control if required, be a leader as well as a follower, think on their feet, be proactive, play devils advocate, problem solve, think laterally and creatively, mindful and respectful of others, work collaboratively, are often humble, see the greatness in others, sympathetic and much more. That’s not a bad list.
  • If a teacher or leader says your child ‘played up’ – they did. Whatever they ‘would never do that’ – they did. And probably more than once.

Now it’s your turn. How have you found your experiences send your children off on camp? How have they coped? What advice would you offer other parents. Please leave a comment below.