Mt Donna Buang – Boobyalla Saddle in snow

22 August 2017

Fist sight of snow
Fist sight of snow

Started from the BBQ area on Dammans Rd near Martyr Rd – it’s very handy, there is a toilet block on the other side of the road with potable water. It was a beautiful, sunny day; bit chilly so I got into schwung up on Martyr Rd which warmed me up in no time. The lady walking her two dogs coming from the opposite direction looked at me strangely.

People are nice – they’ve left sticks at the trail head for those who didn’t bring poles. I had mines – would never leave up this track without them. I was dreading the mud, but didn’t think it would be this much and this thick. Many times I took one step ahead and slipped two back; you could tell there were others who slipped there, too. It lasted about 3 kms and a bit, then it got a bit better. Still lots of deer foot prints at O’Shannassy Aqueduct crossing. That always makes me wonder where they might be…

I wasn’t in a rush, wanted to get to Boobyalla Saddle (at least) or to the Dom Dom Saddle turnoff a few kms further up and back. Could hear the lyrebirds and cockatoos, but didn’t see them. At about 4 kms into the trip (around 1000 m elevation) I’ve noticed something white where the fern tree’s leaves meet – it was snow!! Johnny Gee was right! He warned me about snow on Mt Donna Buang the day before. I took a few pics and kept going. More and more patches and I just couldn’t resist, had to take some more pictures.

Finally got to the Mt Donna Buang Road crossing. I always know when I am getting closer – can hear the creek flowing. There was snow on both sides of the road; not too much, but it was. Took some more pics, for good measure, then crossed the road and headed up the fire track towards Mt Victoria. Even more snow!! More pics… I saw a lyre bird, but when I got closer, it ran off into the bush. I stopped on the side of the road to put the Bonatti on. I knew it’s going to get cooler towards the top.

As I was approaching Mt Victoria, I could hear voices and some machinery – must be some works at the tower… as it turned out, that was the case. Two guys working – one on the ground, checking with the one on the tower – and three more standing by, checking their phones. Took some more pictures here, the snow was thicker and completely covered the ground, then kept going, saying hello to the one working (the rest didn’t care).

Mt Victoria Trak
Mt Victoria Trak

It was so beautiful and the snow was nice and soft in places. The kind of snow you can make a snowman from. About half way between Mt Victoria and Mt Donna Buang I took some more pics and a video. Wanted to capture the moment – can’t see snow every day, especially not this close to Narre Warren. I started to feel that the left shoe is hurting my ankle – no good, still a long way from coming back…

When I was getting close to Mt Donna Buang, I could hear noises. It’s usually very silent here during the week, but today it was a beautiful day with snow!! Grandparents took their grandkids for tobogganing and Asian tourist with sophisticated cameras were doing what Asian tourists do. There was a truck close to the toilets, pumping the shit, which then validated the smell I could feel on the way up. I said hello to those guys as I was walking towards the lookout. Climbed up, took some photos, said hello to the two people up there, then headed down. The track towards Mt Dom Dom looked awesome from up there!

it makes sense
Hmm… it makes sense..

Before heading down, took some more pics. I should stop mentioning this, it’s getting boring, but the truth is, I took about 80 odd pics on this trip. Running down that slope (people have been tobogganing on it earlier, based on the marks in the snow) was so much fun! I could do that all day. The sign that says “Warning do not go past this point in winter” was obviously ignored by many people based on the footmarks in the snow.

That’s the thing about out and backs – the awesome downhills are spoiled by the thought of having to climb back on return. That’s why I prefer loops, but here it’s not feasible, I checked.

The timber crossing at Cement Creek was covered by snow. As I was approaching, I thought “Ohhh… I won’t get sucked into slipping again!”, but the snow was kinda buffering the slippery surface, so I decided to give it a go and managed without falling. I was pretty impressed with myself then! On the way up to Mt Boobyalla, I was thinking that the overpants I’m carrying in my pack would be very useful in avoiding all the scratched to my legs, but then I thought I’ll just pull them out if absolutely necessary. Weather can change and it can get very cold and that’s when I’ll really need them. By this time my shoes were nice and clean (well, relatively) – all the mud I collected on the way up to Mt Donna Buang was gone, but my feet were wet. Sloshing wet!

Mt Boobyalla
Mt Boobyalla

When I got to Mt Boobyalla I thought, I’ll better keep moving, will go to the cairn on my way back. The downhill was awesome until the last steep descent onto Road 4. That was a bit hairy. Slipped a few times there. At the intersection I looked around – quite a different view from the other time I’ve been here, then headed left towards Boobyalla Saddle. At the Road 7 and Road 4 intersection I had a look at the “Unauthorised entry prohibited” sign and thought I have no intention whatsoever to head down that road right now – they can keep it for themselves! – then turned right and jogged a bit to Boobyalla Saddle. My watch beeped the 14 km mark. Took a few pics, then turned around.

Funny thing about these out and backs is, that you get to follow your own footsteps on the way back. It’s a reassuring feeling. Only Speedcross marks in the snow were mine, so that wasn’t so hard to discern. There were some not so friendly clouds ahead, but when I looked back, I could see blue sky. I was hoping I wasn’t heading into a rain or snow storm.

The sign towards Mt Donna
Now it looks quite different

Climbing back up that short section after the Mt Donna Buang turnoff was not exactly a piece of cake. It was steep and slippery. Not sure how I would’ve managed without the poles. Couldn’t wait to get to Mt Boobyalla, because I knew there would be some downhill after. When I got to the summit, I went around the cairn, and thought about that scene in “A Good Year” when they do the victory dance after the tennis match… The downhill wasn’t as much fun as I anticipated because of the scratching bushes along the narrow track. My legs were burning by now and my feet were kinda cold with all the sloshing. Not the chilly kind of cold, when you can’t feel your toes, but wasn’t warm, either.

At Cement Creek, I took it for granted that I won’t slip, so I promptly hit my leg when it slipped under the next timber. Dropped an f-bomb as one would in such a case. Climbing back on that hill to Mt Donna Buang was harder than I anticipated. As I was getting closer, I saw a snowman, then another one. This latter, even had a carrot nose. I thought I’d take a pic as I get closer. When I next looked, the carrot was gone (I thought I was seeing things), so I got closer to find out, the carrot fell out. Like a good citizen would do, I went there to put it back, but the damn thing kept falling out. Didn’t matter which end, the hole was icy, didn’t hold it anymore, so I put it next to the snowman, thinking that I would really love to eat that carrot.

Those were scratchy
Those were scratchy

Headed down towards Mt Victoria and suddenly heard noises. Saw an elderly couple struggling on the slope. Asked them if they were okay and if they needed help. They didn’t need any help, were so happy to see snow – they were from Western Australia. Found out the lady was Dutch and the man was Italian. He hasn’t seen snow since his twenties… we had a little chat, then wished all the best and I bolted down, enjoying the downhill in the snow. Thing is, running in the snow is pretty much like shuffling in the sand – very inefficient on the flat and uphill, but downhill is so much fun!!

The track to Mt Victoria was sloshy, as more people have walked it during the day. Wasn’t as much fun as on the way here and those low ferns have really scratched my legs now. At Mt Victoria the boys were still at work. Waved them and kept running to be startled by a dead deer just a few meters down the track. I hopped about a meter to the right (it was on the left side of the track), had a quick second look and kept going wondering how could I miss it on the way here… I can usually pick up some speed (well, compared to the rest of the trip) here, until I reach the road. There were cars coming down from Mt Donna Buang.

I’ve been eating quite a lot on this trip and I was sorry I didn’t bring my usual quarter sandwiches. The cold makes you hungry. I still had some chocolate, crystallized ginger and a VFuel gel – consumed everything else. Had plenty of water, only drank about 500 ml.

So much mud…

For a km or so the downhill was okay. I mean my legs still got strangled in wet and muddy bark, expecting to fall any moment, but I knew the hard and yucky bit was still to come. And come it did! Sticky, thick black mud, sometimes deeper than ankle height. I didn’t feel like flying down today, just wanted to avoid landing on my bum; managed for a while, but at some point I inevitably fell. Not really on my bum, but on my back, hitting the ribs on the left side. I lied there for a few moments until I could stand up propping the poles into the ground. Then I had to stand a little until I managed to breathe properly. I used that time to take a couple of mud shots… This downhill is very taxing on both the body and the mind, especially if you want to do it fast.

Couldn’t wait to get to Martyr Road. Once there I admired the beautiful flowers and the blooming trees. Couldn’t feel their aroma, because there was smoke coming from the chimneys, but the sight itself was worth it. Made me forget about all that mud for a little while. When I was back at the car, I got the dry clothes and shoes and headed to the toilet block to scrub up and change. It makes a huge difference driving home like that. I also had the few mouthfuls of steak I brought with me and really craved a beer. I thought I should just walk into the pub on the opposite side of the road and have one.

Took a while to clean these

All up it was a beautiful day, the snow was such a bonus. If I did it again, I’d take less pics and make it to the Dom Dom Saddle turnoff.

Food: two mandarins, a Nice & Natural roasted nut bar (choc apricot flavour) which gets a bit hard to manage when it’s nearly frozen; dark mint chocolate, crystallized ginger, an Endura Cool Mint gel (weird feeling when it’s a bit luke warm, but it does feel cool once you had it), Mocha Cliff gel (very sticky, but I like the flavour – if VFuel had something similar, it would be a winning combo). I left the VFuel last and didn’t end up having it.

Gear: I left in a Salomon lightweight jacket and took the Bonatti and the waterproof over pants with me. Didn’t use the over pants, but the thicker jacket would’ve been a better option.

Check out the full galery below