Visiting : Mt Torbreck
Distance : 9km
When : Sunday 20th August 2017, 8:00am @ Conns Gap Road

Winter 2017. So much snow. I was keen to get right amongst it but I also wanted to avoid… well… humans. I figured a solo hike up Mt Torbreck would fit the bill.

Another bike ride with no bike? Yes indeed.

I parked on the side of Snobs Creek Road just across from the start of Conns Gap Road, and started hiking up about 8am.

Not far up Conns Gap Road, a vehicle came down the hill towards me. The driver pulled up and called out, “Have you seen any dogs around here?” It took a bit of back-and-forth to get us both on the same page but it turns out he was a hunter looking for one of his beagles. It all made perfect sense after I got home and did a bit of googling, but at the time it seemed kinda weird. 

So, this guy and some mates were out hunting Sambar deer with their pack of beagles. This is a thing and it is legal in certain areas in Victoria. The guy said his dog went “off comms” and they’d been driving around looking for it for a while. Apparently, it’s standard practice for each dog to be fitted with a GPS so they can be tracked but if the GPS loses connection for whatever reason… The guy said if I did see his dog on my hike that I should catch it, look at the ID tag on its collar and call him on the mobile phone number written on the tag.


Apparently it’s law that each dog must have a tag with the phone number of the owner on it just in case it does get lost. I pointed out to the guy that there probably wouldn’t be mobile phone reception and he said I should tie the dog to a tree and call him when I got back into mobile reception.


Better than leaving it to run wild I guess. I expressed some mild concern about catching and tying up a random hunting dog in the bush and the guy was very matter-of-fact, “Nah, it’s a beagle, it won’t hurt ya.” Apparently, the beagles find the deer and chase them – they don’t actually attack the deer. They’re well-trained and used to being handled.

We parted ways and I was all set to do the right thing to the best of my ability if I did find the lost dog. I couldn’t help thinking though… does this happen often? What happens to the dogs that don’t get found? Do they just die of exposure and/or starvation? Or do they live and prey on all the easy meat out there in the bush? Become another wild dog, just like the thousands of wild dogs already out there…


Anyway, back to my hike.


Clearly I wasn’t the only one with snow hiking in mind. 

Everything was heavy with snow. 


The picnic area at Barnewall Plains was a winter wonderland.


Still no dogs to be seen.

The track to Mt Torbreck starts off mellow but kicks up steeply.


Plenty of bootprints in the snow. I wasn’t the only person out for some bluebird fun.

I love slogging up steep hills. It’s simple and meditative and it makes me disappear.


There were views over to Royston Range but what captivated me the most was the bluebird colours, the light and shadow, everything muted and softened with a blanket of snow. Couldn’t have asked for better weather.


The track flattens out as you gain the main ridge and the gentle stroll out to the summit cairn was carpeted with snow. I was wearing my old snow hiking boots and snowboard pants. Probably overkill but the snow was well up towards my knees in places and, y’know, the novelty factor and all that.


I was glad to see the summit cairn in its winter mode. Second time I’ve been up there and again it was blue skies and barely a breath of wind.


I’d love to see this place in bad weather. It’d be wild in a storm. But today. Views for days…

Looking down to Lake Eildon.

East towards Mt Terrible, Mt Skene, Mt Matlock. Mt Duffy in the middle ground.

So peaceful. Just me and the crows.

Seeing as I was in full bushwalking mode I climbed up onto the cairn and started cooking some lunch. Cat can stove, couscous. More novelty factor.


I’d anticipated that it might be glary up there so I brought my old snowboard goggles which I hadn’t used in, like, 8 years. As I stretched the strap over my head, the frames cracked and crumbled in my fingers. Use it or lose it hey?

I tried to capture every feeling, every impression, every image, knowing full well that I never could.


Wonder how many snakes are buried deep down inside that rocky cairn, waiting for warmer days?

The colours and shapes were beautiful. Clear, sparkling ice and snow.


Looking west over the Royston Range. The big white patch is a logging coupe looking particularly barren. Where some see so many stories in the landscape, past/present/future, stories to be read and preserved, others see a resource to be utilised, money sticking out of the ground just waiting to be picked up. Everybody who comes out here is after something different.

All good reveries must come to an end. I started heading down.

The descent was great fun. The conditions made it technical enough to require low-level concentration and moderate finesse. Not difficult but enough to keep your mind in the moment.

But, what’s this?


Ok, I don’t remember seeing those on the way up. Pretty sure I would have noticed them. So, beagles on the move?

I kept noting new dog tracks all the way down to Barnewall Plains.

A yellowy hole where a dog had peed.

Ah, and fresh human tracks now, intermingled with the dog tracks.


I continued down the track and made it back to Snobs Creek Road. At certain points on Barnewall Plains Road I wished I’d brought my snowboard. As it was, I humoured myself by stomping down the snowy road saying, “That’s rideable. Oh, totally rideable! Yeah, rideable.”

I made it all the way back to my car in good spirits and without seeing neither human nor dog, so the story of the tracks was open to interpretation.

One way of reading the story is that, after talking to me on the road, the hunter continued to drive around a little before deciding to hike up the same way as I’d gone. Maybe he took one of his other dogs with him to help find the missing one? They hiked up towards the summit a bit before turning around and driving off.

Or maybe the missing dog latched onto my scent and followed it up the summit track a little? Then heard his owner down at Barnewall Plains and raced down to meet him, have a pee and then trotted back down to their vehicle and off home?

Who knows.

If I’m writing the story, which I am, I’ll have the dog and owner reunited and driving back to Melbourne after a nice adventure with tired legs and stories to tell.

A happy ending.

See ya next time, Mt Torbreck.

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