Words and images by Scott Rettino and Simon 'Esjay' James.
We’d come to the Victorian Alps to do a lot of riding – two days of cyclocross racing (in Mount Beauty and Bright), followed by two days of adventuring in the high country.
Our goal for this slack-packing adventure was to climb the ‘dirty way’ up from Mount Beauty to Falls Creek. Our plan for the first day was to head across the Bogong High Plains, explore a few gravel roads around Omeo, then be sipping beers at the Golden Age Motel in time for sundown.
Part of the appeal of this route was to be able to crunch through a little early season snow. We asked some locals about the conditions ahead. “Almost no snow on the Fainter Firetrail” they replied. You can see where this is going…
Still, with near-perfect weather, a tag-along mate from Sydney, and some brand new kits, we were feeling up for anything – even if our legs weren’t.
After an all-too-easy first 20km, progress slowed to a crawl. The Spring Saddle was where we left the flat and flowing West Kiewa Logging Road, transitioning us quickly (and steeply), over fallen trees and debris, to the Fainter Firetrail.
Ol’ mate Fainter
The Fainter Firetrail was originally ‘built’ in 1965, following what was, by then, an already well-trodden cattle route from Maddison’s Hut to Wallace’s Hut (covering just under 40km).
We would be following the Fainter Firetrail along its entire length; through Bogong Jack Saddle, past Mount Fainter South and Mount Jaithmathangs (a mountain that was, until recently, rather unfortunately named), and eventually onto the Bogong High Plains. Yep, we’d be on ol’ mate Fainter for some time, gazing out at a snow-capped Mount Bogong.
We wanted it, and we got it. Starting in small patches, the snow coverage increased exponentially, until it covered the track. Still, at least initially, it was not for long stretches, and not very deep. We had fun riding through the snow on the smaller descents, surfing through what felt like slow sand. Every now and then we’d have to walk, with the snow starting to push up above our ankles.
Bogong Jack Saddle
Being a convict country, we revel in our checkered past. Especially when it relates to our particular flavour of outlaw bandit – the bushranger. Or, in this case, Bogong Jack.
Jack was the first bushranger of note to put his extensive knowledge of the mountains to good (or, more accurately, nefarious) use. A well-educated Englishman, he soon became infamous for regularly outwitting local law enforcement between Gippsland and the Murray River. His main stock-in-trade was cattle and horse rustling, in the process pioneering many of the stock routes through the ranges.
Jack was eventually captured, but then released due to lack of evidence. He sought refuge in his hut near Mount Fainter (borrowing sugar from Mr Maddison and Mr Wallace we presume). Bogong Jack was never officially seen again, and his undocumented fate gave rise to a number of conspiracy theories that persist to this day. Did he turn to gold panning? Was he was murdered for his fortune? We pondered these, and many other, scenarios as we studiously munched on our Biltong.
This article originally appeared on Over Yonder.