We kicked off from the small town of Eildon (125km North East of Melbourne) after a breakfast of pies and coffee from the “Eildon Bakery Cafe” (highly recommended). After refuelling at the Eildon Caltex (2 Centre Avenue, Eildon) we headed off along the Eildon – Jamieson Road towards Jerusalem Creek.
We came came across out first track (only 800 metres after turning onto Eildon – Jamieson Rd). After airing down to 20 psi we started heading up, and up and up. It was a wet day, and everyone was a little excited about the possibility of snow. If we knew what we were in for later that day, we mightn’t have been to excited.
The track branched off soon after starting and we decided to stick to plan (pre planned on the MAGELLAN 710 eXplorist) and turn left onto Lavell track which saw us climbing into the Lake Eildon National Park.
It didn’t take long before we noticed the temperature start to drop, and the occasional spots of snow became visible ahead on the adjacent hills.
Feeling a little excited for the “white stuff” after surviving a very hot summer just months before, we pressed on. The vehicles (a Toyota Prado, Jeep TJ Wrangler and Mitsubishi Triton) were enjoying the altitude and cool running temperatures rocked and jolted along the largely unkept tracks until we found ourselves in the white of it. At this point it was time for a break, and play in the snow. We were at this point on Steep Track, aptly named.
After a half an hour break we pressed on. About an hour later, after descending to lake level again, we came across our first river crossing – Jerusalem Creek
The current was fast but achievable so long as You keep the vehicle pointed at the exit point and a constant speed was kept. I opted for Low 3rd gear in the jeep to keep the revs up with also gave me enough torque to push through the water with ease.
Back in the mud half an hour later we were faced with a huge obstacle. A 300 m clay/mud 45 degree hill. As it was on our plan, no-one wanted to admit defeat this early in the day, so we pressed on. I attempted a run up to see how far I could get. Huge mistake. I make it a good 80m into the slop but this also left me in a position that prevented me from backing out safely. Oh wee !! onwards and upwards so out came the winch.
After two and a half hours of wincing we all made it up. Having leather riggers gloved onboard really saved my hands. I recommend having a pair somewhere in your vehicle if your running a wire winch cable as I was to prevent cutting your hands on those broken wires.
Before long, feeling a little exhausted, we found ourselves back in the snow. At this point, there was no turning back. Firstly descending the clay slope we’d just come up wouldn’t have been safe at all as there was next to no traction, and secondly we thought it was a better option to move forwards.
As in every off-road trip I’ve been on, you come across some amazing sights, places that are truely awe inspiring, and this trip was no different.
Moving on, and after a couple of rain and snow showers, we carried on towards out destination. Having traversed through hills and tracks we had absolutely no ability of back tracking through, what was supposed to be a 6 hour drive was pressing into the 10th hour. Night quickly fell and we found ourself with the perfect opportunity to switch on the LED light bars. At this point it was -4 Deg’s Celcius. The only thing preventing panic from truely settling in was the knowledge that we were no more than several hundred meters from The many bush cabins that litter the region.
Again frozen ground, knee deep snow and few winching points slowed our progress to a snails pace.
Frustration tests wills and patience. The cold tested our bodies, but what choice did we have but to continue. After winching up what appeared to be ski runs at times, the beauty of our surroundings kept showing themselves.
It soon became apparent that the tracks we wanted and planned to take were not an option as there was no way of knowing where the tracks actually were, not to mention The sometimes sheer drops off the side of the tracks we wouldn’t know we were in trouble until actually tobogganing into the bush.
Luckily enough someone else had also been through the snow (some hours earlier) and we were able to make out their tracks in the snow, so we ploughed on (literally). Having driven the tracks during summer, its amazing to see what the snow was hiding, making it somewhat easier if you could call it that.
3 more hours and several winching episodes later we found delineators (road markers) sticking out from the snow. The excitement in seeing something man made was almost unbearable. We were starting to think we’d never see anything that resembled civilisation again after complete and utter wilderness that had saturated the past several hours.
Soon we had found the Warburton – Woods Point Road that led into the outer suburbs of Melbourne. MacDonalds was beckoning, as was fuel (I was below 1/4 of a tank and starting become concerned).
Despite our best intentions, the day day turned into a 14 hour expedition that tested skills and patience. We all walked away from the day with a sense of accomplishment, although completely wrecked. At no time were we actually in danger as the safety equipment and communication devices meant that in the case we needed to be evacuated, we could have been. Having equipped vehicles meant that this wasn’t necessary. Without a winch, shovels and knowledge this trip would not have been possible at all.
What a day !!!
For video’s of this and other trips, go to:Facebook – click here and look in the video section 🙂