Monday, 4 July 2016

Mt Stirling Early Summer Trip

I'd been wanting to get out for an overnighter, and mentioned this in a phone call to G. He thought that was a good idea and decided to come along.  That was fine except he had not bush camped for many years and had no gear except runners and thermals. After he failed to convince me denims were OK I offered to supply some more suitable clothing.  Inevitably failure to discover or respond to poor choices by less experienced participants results in some sort of a trip failure. 

I had a half completed pack and checklist, intending to go 2 nights out, and now I needed to get another set of gear ready.  Using my checklist as a basis I scrounged through my gear boxes and came up with spare kit.

By this time I had decided on a destination and trip plan. Keep it simple. There was a fine, dry and warm 17C forecast.
Available water on trip. Maybe tanks or small runoffs.
Wide trails with signposts and maps on them.
A few huts with nearby campsites to choose from. 
First rate views for the payoff.
Bit of a climb as a challenge.
Conclusion: Mt Stirling. Part of the Alpine Resort and a rare survivor from a developer challenge.

I have skied and winter camped Stirling on many occasions over 25+ years but apart from an aborted recce halfway up Bluff Spur in the '80s I had actually never walked its trails.  I might find water sources, a possible new camp site to try on the south summit area and also a pattern of usage of 4WD, trail bike, mountain bike and horse riding users.

I woke about 5:45am. G arrived on time. I discarded most of his mountain of food and tried 2 packs on him, opting for the ancient but full size harness 3kg 1989 model Mountain Designs Baltoro III pack. The foam shoulder padding had transformed into blocks of wood over the years in storage.  I insisted he take 3L of water because a long climb in warm sun under a cloudless sky was expected and water sources were doubtful. With all his extra food, I managed to keep his pack weight down to about 14kg. I carried the super efficient Trangia 27 stove kit with gas burner.

An ancient Robin Trower tape moved us down the highway in a blaze of 70s nostalgia. We arrived at 11:30am at Telephone Box Junction (TBJ) car park. About 8 other vehicles were there.

It's basically all uphill for several hours.  After I changed shoes we headed off up perhaps the easiest direct trail I could find to the summit - Upper Baldy trail via the machinery shed to Stirling trail.  (Fork Creek via No 3 Road to King Saddle may be easier when skiing with pack. ) This trail is pleasantly graded and like most trails lower down offers dappled shade.  A young athletic pair - he carrying a small daypack and a small water bottle between them - overtook us soon on the trail headed for the summit.

We plodded on in the warming conditions.  A few minutes later the athletic pair caught us up again.  They had taken the first turnoff which looped back to the top of the practice slope at the start of the trail.  A mistake I had fallen victim to in a ski trip the previous year.

About 40 minutes in there was water at a couple of places beside the Upper Baldy trail. (Where a stream crosses it on the trail map.) Also nearby were a couple of small camp sites among the mountain ash trees for snow trips not too far from TBJ, fairly easy to access and off the main routes.

From this point the views improve.
We blitzed past the machinery shed and took a detour along upper Fork Creek track around to Stirling Trail.  Some steep sections of track were taped off for regeneration, presumably to keep horses out.

No clouds shaded our progress for the day so it was unrelenting sunshine, high UV and higher-up, pestilent flies, as we ascended.

About an hour and a half in, there was a small clear stream flowing beside the track below Cricket Pitch on Stirling Trail above signpost/junction 27 / 32 of Stirling Trail and Fork Creek Trail.

Grass scarring caused from winter tents
With a few stops to adjust pack and take drinks we arrived at the so-called Cricket Pitch area which is just in the snow gum zone after 2 hours walk or ski. The tap handle on the tank at Cricket Pitch was missing from the spigot so don't count on getting water here.There are toilets there.

I have snow camped the Cricket Pitch years ago, before any infrastructure existed, in a 3 night basecamp, but now a private operator runs a few tents there in winter.

I urged G on to the pleasantly situated and fairly recent King Spur Hut not much further along the track. There is a fairly gentle climb between the Cricket Pitch and King Spur Hut. We took lunch inside away from the swarms of flies, then had a nap on the warm grass outside for an hour. There are 2 water tanks and a toilet.  There are views to the Crosscut Saw.

Horse droppings were seen on the trail up to here. 

The tap on the north tank was dripping.  I decided it was best to continue using this tank so as to keep the water in the non-dripping tank.

It is about an hour's ski from here to the summit, or 35 minutes to GGS Hut depending on your load and how much ice is on the groomed trail.

Refreshed and enthused by the prospect of the imminent summit we continued on up hill. The trail gets steeper from here but it is a really nice section with great views.

We had a look in GGS Hut then moved around to the South Summit area to explore possible dry camp sites. GGS hut now has a water tank, an annex (with resident hut rat) for gear storage and a wood shed at the back. There is a dual toilet at GGS as well.

The iconic South Summit snowgum. Ants are underfoot so no go for camping for anywhere near here.

Heavy erosion and significant 4WD damage affects the Howqua track near the summit.  Some sloping small dry camp sites at the Howqua track overlook the Crosscut Saw but are subject to nearby dusty convoys.  There is no shade for a pitched tent.

There were a few good spots near the South Summit area on snow grass but at each one we found that ants swarmed in soon after we sat down.  I hadn't reckoned on how extensive the ants were at South Summit.  I also had this problem on a high site near Mt Townsend, the common features being altitude, winter snow cover, prominence, location has full sun and a thick grassy surface seemingly ideal for camping.  So be warned. Maybe too high for echidnas there. Abandoning this area we summited briefly then moved down to Bluff Spur Hut which was a scene of shrieking adolescent girls. Now finding all our proposed campsites unsuitable for a quiet evening conducive of meditation and rest we moved on quickly.

View from West Summit trail towards the East.
Moving quickly around the undulating West Summit Trail, which is more sheltered than the summit track and was built to provide access between the GGS and Bluff Spur Hut, we revisited GGS and explored the nearby camp area just to the east.

Another small stream was seen beside the track on West Summit Trail above signpost/junction 37 of Stirling Trail with GGS side track.

I took a much needed rest stop to gather thoughts, but was disturbed by 2 dusty 4WD convoys moving along the deeply rutted Howqua Track just adjacent to this spot. The road is sunken 2 or 3 feet here, and even deeper higher up.  Not appealing to consider midnight visitors "dropping in", so we decided to move on.

The upshot was pretty much 2 failed prospective camp sites and an unexpected third site not reaching desired standards.
View of Cross-cut Saw in twilight

Feeling pretty whacked and thwarted we stumbled back down hill to King Spur Hut and pitched tents without ceremony. It had been a hot day with not much breeze. It didn't help realising we could have left our packs at the hut to circumnavigate the summit and return.  Anyway water was boiled in the gas Trangia and a brew made. The Trangia 27 with gas burner proved super-efficient again and very little gas fuel was used for the meal. This is one awesome stove and cook set up that seems to be much under-rated by bushwalkers.

 The sun was setting by the time we had eaten and cleaned up.  We'd used up all our chitchat so we had an early night and slept well. I woke up with the sunrise about 6am.

I went for a site with a view, shorter grass and morning light.  The One Planet Goondie 1 15D fly was dry inside.  The fly sits higher off ground.   It also has a top vent over the vestibule.  Might have been a better site than the Moondance or just better venting design.

The Mont Moondance is a well made 3 seasons tent.  I seam sealed it even though the seams are taped.  G decided to camp in shade on long damp grass.

The latest version of the Moondance has a much needed roof vent.

After a couple of nasty bush-related gastro-intestinal episodes, I am particular about water hygiene and cleaning hands in the bush. Nobody I know bothers to filter water. It doesn't take much extra effort with a bit of practice and the cut down 1.25l PET bottle is a good size for the UV pen to use.  After a pre-filter I then either boil or UV the water. I now have a Sawyer mini filter from Tiergear for those times when the water is muddy or cloudy. Lots of folks I know don't bother. They must have cast iron guts. I work in Danger Red mode when it comes to water security. Do not underrate consistent washing of hands and the use of hand sanitiser.  And make sure your toilets are properly buried with backup rocks.

Note: Always take a tent on your overnight trips and do not "occupy" huts. Do not rely on huts being available as free accommodation.  Huts are communal areas, used for cooking away from freezing conditions or insects or for sorting out gear or sick party members, treating injuries or drying off to avoid hypothermia.  They are not private mountain retreats, even if you can only afford bailing twine as your belt.

Ready to go early for cool walking without annoying insects.

As we moved down the trail to King Saddle Shelter we heard numerous gun shots getting fired in pairs.  Parked at the bottom were 3 4WDs, a brindle pit-bull type thing who gave me the hairy eyeball and a few camper persons, two walking back from a short track with a rifle. Note: Dogs and guns are specifically not allowed in the resort.  Plenty of signs indicate this. There is no excuse. Authorities are aware of the problem.

We walked on to Razorback Hut where a trail riding group was set to depart for No. 3 road.  We took the undulating Hut Trail back to TBJ.

Baldy Creek

Telephone Box Junction

The completed walk and camp took just under 24 hours.  A few days after our visit the area was subjected to heavy snowfalls and a few inches of rain.


In the short period of time we were there we had close firsthand experience of 4WD convoys, random shooters with attack dogs, horse riding groups and large school age groups. This is a busy mountain and seems a lot less like wilderness than when I was visiting in winter in the early nineties.  A busy user profile.  A much nicer experience skiing and camping in the short winter season, although the winter car parking fees over weekends are high.

Copyright (C) 2016 Bushwalking Light

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Review: Trangia UL HA 27-7 Cookset with Gas Burner

The Trangia 27 Series Stormcooker is a smaller version of the 25 Series. The Trangia 27 system is suitable to cook for 1 or 2 at a time. In Scandinavia it is called the "StormCooker" for its reputation to keep working in poor weather conditions.

What You Get
The out-of-the-box Trangia 27-7 UL HA (ultra light, hard anodised) cookset weighs 720g with the methylated spirit burner.   The kit includes stove base, windshield, 2 nesting 1 litre pots, frypan/lid, pot gripper and strap along with the methylated spirits burner with its lid and simmer ring. The two 1 litre pots and the pan/lid are anodised. The 2 nested pots look identical in size and nest very closely. There is room inside the packed windshield to fit a third pot if Trangia ever manufactured a slightly larger version. No kettle is supplied.

Another option Trangia offers is a Multi-fuel Burner.  This has a 0.32mm jet for canister gas and Shellite/kerosene use.  The Primus Omnifuel has a similar looking fuel system but there may be differences in connectors.

Trangia 27 nested pots with a firesteel
 This review mainly looks at the Trangia Gas Burner with this cookset.

Two Trangia 27 Systems

System 1  Add an 18cm 73g Multi-disc (lid/strainer/cutting board) ,  10g of 3mm CCF pot and pan cosies and a MYOG foil pot lid for a weight of 803g. A full 500ml (400g methylated spirits fuel, gross 516g) Trangia fuel bottle brings the total to 1,319g.  You can also store 70g of methylated spirits fuel in the stove which is enough to boil 2L with some left over. Add an ignition source. You can pack everything into the nested Trangia 27 system except the fuel bottle.
Trangia 27 secured for packing.

Under backyard testing, the Trangia 27 cookset plus spirit burner used 18g of methylated spirits and took 11 minutes to boil 1 litre of water.  That comes to about 22 boils for the 500ml Trangia fuel bottle.  Getting 20 boil-ups would be a good result and with 2 boil-ups per day, it may last up to 9 or 10 days.
Trangia 27 multidisc lid/strainer/cutting board

System 2  For the Trangia 27 cookset plus gas burner subtract the 113g methylated spirits burner and 516g full fuel bottle and replace these with the Trangia Gas burner at 183g and a 363g gas canister. That comes to a slightly lighter 1,246g cook system with 2 pots, fry pan and enough fuel for 5+ days at 2 1L boils per day (see stove test below).
Trangia Gas burner

You can store everything inside the nested Trangia 27 cookset except either the gas burner or the 363g gas canister.  One of these items will need to be stowed separately.

Gas burner installed on Trangia 27 base
The Trangia 27 cookset plus Gas Burner combo forms a remote canister stove system.  Since the burner has a pre-heater tube, the canister may be deployed upside down which makes for better performance in sub-zero conditions.
Hard to see in the photo, I rounded over the sharp right-angle corners on the burner spring mount with a file.

A Comparison with 2 Primus Omnifuel Systems

The Trangia 27 plus gas burner is nearly 200g lighter than a Primus Omnifuel in Shellite mode with a 2 Ti wide pot system like the Snowpeak Multi-Compact set. This system tested at 15 minutes for a 1L boil using 15g of Shellite fuel and weighs 1424g with a 514g full (400g fuel) Shellite fuel bottle for about 25 boil ups.

The Trangia 27 plus gas burner is 100g heaver than the Primus Omnifuel in gas mode with the same 2 Snowpeak Multi-Compact Ti pots. This system tested at 11 minutes for a 1L boil using 18g of gas and weighs 1145g with a full gas canister for about 12 boil ups.

Stove Boil Test Result

Trangia says the Gas Burner is high efficiency. When I tested the Trangia 27-7 plus Gas Burner I was astonished to find it did a 5 minute boil of  1L and used just 8g of gas in the process.  That is fast and efficient. I've done a few stove tests now and that beats anything else I have done.  This stove combination is a winner for gas fuel efficiency.  If that efficiency is sustained you can do 28 1L boils per 220g canister, however I would expect something less than that in the field.  I can usually get 10 and a bit boils from an upright stove and canister with a windshield. I use a reflector to stop the canister from overheating and keep a close watch on this by touching the canister from time to time.  At 2 and a bit boil-ups a day that does me for 5 days. 

A second test on the next evening took 7 minutes and used 11g of gas. I used a low heat in the test.
The ambient temperature for these tests was about 18C, using water from the cold tap.

One of the few negative features with this stove is you cannot see the flame while the pot is in place. So either lift the pot or go by sound when adjusting the flame. Suggestion to Trangia: I wonder if future gas regulators might possibly have small dial gauge.

On a field trip at 1,700m, this system prepared dinner and breakfast for two. A bit less than 2L was boiled at dinner plus a few minutes of simmering. About 1 1/2 litres was boiled at breakfast. I used a low heat setting and a total of 38g of gas was used.  This works out at a very low 11g of gas per 1L boil.

The gas burner has a pre-heater loop and can be used in "inverted canister mode" for below 0C conditions.  In mainland Australia it is unusual to get below -10C (frost hollows, wind chill effects etc. excepted), so it should be suitable in snow as long as the canister is  inverted.
Trangia 27 windshield and gas canister attached to base
With pot of water ready to be boiled

Using a striker and flint to light the burner inside the windshield can result in a small whoomp-style explosive ignition, so avoid placing hands inside to ignite. I suggest removing the windshield to light or else use long matches - which can be found with BBQ supplies in shops - or a taper. A long piezo igniter might work but I don't like these as I don't trust their reliability to work in all conditions.

The Trangia frypan can be used as a lid. There is high potential for heat efficiency here.

The Trangia 27 with Gas Burner delivers very good efficiency as well as outstanding cooking versatility, if a little bulkier than other systems.

The Trangia 27 with Gas Burner is worth considering as a solo combo kit in snow and hard to see what could beat it for a 2-person stove system in or out of snow. A bit more bulky and heavier than single pot upright canister stove solutions but more versatile.

Copyright (C) 2016 Bushwalking Light 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Survey - Tent Pegs

Tent pegs (or stakes) are an often neglected item of equipment. 

Every peg type will bend when used in rocky ground with enough force. Stepping on pegs to push them in may bend the peg or damage your shoe. Use a hammer stone with caution. If you feel resistance back off and relocate the peg.  If the ground is rocky then place the peg under a rock or tie the guy to a large rock instead.  Avoid abrasion of the guy on the rock.

You can use a free peg to lever out another from the ground. Having an attached loop of cord helps for non-hook types. Insert a free peg as a handle and lift.

Alloy hook pegs work well at sheltered grassy sites with firm subsoil.  While these bend easily, they are easy to hammer back straight and they are cheap.  It is easy to lose pegs and I find them all the time at popular sites.

The cheap steel hook pegs can be found at hardware stores and camping shops and are heavy for pack carrying but are good for car camps. Since they come with a flat cut end it will help to put a dull point on them.

Some pegs can also be used as anchors in snow or sand. Sticks can be buried as "deadmen" anchors in snow camps. If it ices up overnight they are hard to remove even from a shallow lie!

Sheltered camping sites should be sought when wind is present. Tents act like sails. Strong blustery winds can work pegs out of the ground.  Difficulties arise when the ground is hard or grass is so thick (such as snow grass) the peg hardly reaches the subsoil. Some improvisation with using sticks, rocks or bags of sand may be needed.

Long 23cm Y stakes are my preference for critical functions like pyramid tent corners, tarps, trekking pole tie-outs and non-freestanding tents.

Coghlan's 6061 alloy 23cm Y peg (19g)  are a little longer than MSR GroundHog 7075 alloy stakes (17g).  There's also fairly cheap Whites Group Gold 23cm alloy Y pegs (17g).

6061 alloy is inexpensive, heat treatable and when annealed has good workability. Magnesium and Silicon are the major alloy elements. 7075 alloy is one of the highest strength aluminum alloys available. Zinc is the major alloy element.

Easton stakes (23cm and 12g) are popular. These are used on tarps and pyramids.  Lighter and longer than alloy hooks.   I have seen a few blogs mention this style can lose the head caps. A youtube demo shows a few scratches can be made in the Aluminium at the top with a hack saw and epoxy used to reattach the head. Superglue might also work too.

The svelte 16cm Exped V DAC is elegant European design but a bit short.  I have seen similar product marketed as J-stakes.  I would like a 20cm version for a non-self-supporting tent, tarp or pyramid.  Similar N-rit V pegs have a support bead running along the valleys.

14cm is too short for a main tarp or pyramid peg but OK for mid points. It would require immense force to bend this one, but these are better off getting replaced with something longer.

The 25g MSR Blizzard is a very light snow/sand peg. 25cm.  These are pricey at about A$9.  If travelling to the US it may be worth bringing a few back.  They are about half the weight of the longer Hampton Works snow pegs (see below).  They can double as a trowel and a shoe horn.

Here is a rare product with "HW Made in England" stamped on it. Hampton Works in Birmingham, founded 1909.  I have used these for snow camps for over 25 years. Longer versions are available. It is claimed the holes assist in the holding power of the peg. My old versions weigh 45g.  The new ones must have a thicker gauge as they are 58g.  Reasonably priced at a bit over $3 each.

20 minutes drilling and filing burrs and you have saved 5 or 6g, or about 10%, in a snow peg.

You probably won't need all their 31cm length in still conditions.  Total weight of 310g+ for 6. 

The shorter 23cm Hampton Works snow pegs come to 38g each after extra holes drilled and a pull cord added. 228g for 6. 

Above: 16cm HW alloy V Peg 16g with a 23cm small sized snow peg

The alloy V pegs look like they have more holding power than the hook types. 
Titanium pegs are available with a significant price premium. Aluminium is a lighter metal than Titanium, but I've noticed lighter gauge Titanium can be used for greater strength.

For a tarp I might use 4 long Y pegs and 2 alloy hook pegs to make up at least a set of 6. For a pyramid tent 4 long Y pegs for the corners and 4 hook pegs for the guys and doors.  If you are expecting windy conditions take enough long pegs and longer guys.

 3 or 4 eye hooks may come in handy for pitching on platforms.

Copyright (C) 2016 Bushwalking Light

Trip Report - Bogong High Plains Southern Circuit Ski Tour July 2013 Day 4

I woke before dawn.  Sleet had been forecast.  A warm 0 degrees C night.  I breakfasted in the cold and gloomy hut. At least it had a table and rough seat. 

Walking in the sun and snow on the Eastern face down to the aqueduct I was sinking down to my knees.  The snow was dry, not very icy, loosely bound in underlying heath.

Morning sun penetrated the upper rear hut window.

The fireplace is covered in steel mesh and unusable, so the hut is now an icebox in winter. The inner wall is lined with a thick wind resistant sheeting of some sort that reduces the ventilation inside.

I packed and left Wallace Hut.   After a few hundred metres I was climbing  in sunshine and deep soft claggy snow.

  Heavy clag uphill makes for hard sweaty work. Just take your time and remember to breathe.

Herring-boning will only get you so far with a 20kg pack on, so I side stepped up the slope.
The sweaty struggle over, the view at the top of the rise of the ski runs looked like a 10 minute ski away.

The groomed surface of BHP road was welcome.  The fine weather continued, but I had no idea when it might close in.  The weather doesn't always come from the south west. Cloud can rise up from the northern valley quickly and envelope the plains in bleak and windy conditions with reduced visibility.


It wasn't long before a few skaters turned up. At Watchbed Creek I met quite a few skiers out for a day ski, but no campers. A rare clear day for this time of year.

Had a nice easy run, took a rest and fuel stop at Watchbed Creek and got back to Windy Corner in good form and took a shuttle down.

Ouch (x 3 days)

Copyright (C) 2016 Bushwalking Light