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Easy alpine climbing areas at Mt Buffalo
5:22:24 PM
Can anyone recommend somewhere at Mount Buffalo suitable for basic mountaineering practice? I've done some basic alpine climbing with qualified instructors in NSW and NZ, and I'm ready to head out independently with my wife who's an experienced abseiler. I'm at the stage where I'm confident in my climbing skills but still cautious, and would like to practice somewhere relatively safe. We're looking for a short steep section of snow with a decent runout where she can have a go at abseiling on snow and I can practice setting up anchors and climbing. It's a while since I've been to Mount Buffalo; does anyone know of any areas that might be appropriate? I note that the southern side of The Hump towards Cresta Valley, and an area near The Horn have been mentioned, but I don't know if they'd be suitable for our purposes; any thoughts? Thank you!
6:35:42 PM
Why Buffalo? I wouldn't have though that that would have been the best choice. By the sound of things you want steep, snow covered and clear of trees. I'm not sure much of that exists at Buffalo. But maybe somebody else will correct me on that.

Feathertop is one of the better places though you will have to spend half a day to hike in. Though you have the benefits of two huts! It has great slopes to practice on.

The backside of Mt Buller also has opportunities for steep mountaineering / mixed climbing. This can be accessed from the summit (expensive) or from the base (free). But I think this is too advanced for what you are after.

("Safe" is all dependent on conditions and the aspect. If you have ice, then even a big run out can be dangerous. Feathertop has some areas that run out into a bowl type area, others run out into trees and can dangerous if iced up. Just ask the former water minister; )

7:11:38 PM
Hi Idshield,

If you're after basic steep snow practice, the best bet is Feathertop (very close to buffalo). It offers some nice areas to practice self arrest, snow anchors and your rope systems without being too exposed to the elements (very easy to access shelter via the hut or bail out via bungalow spur back down to harrietville if the weather turns). Not to mention it is also a stunning place to explore in winter!

As mentioned the only catch is you have to walk up there and camp overnight (a great experience in itself imo). The typical access is via Bungalow spur which is an 11km walk uphill and the last few km are well above the snowline. Allow 4 hours to get up to Fed hut.

Buffalo won't really get you much I don't think, unless climbing rock in a freezing environment is your thing!

If you have any questions about the area just ask.
9:34:32 PM
I seem to recall someone (maybe NeilM) making comments about some stuff off the Hotham road a few years back. Some crappy outcrops that were high enough to ice up.

9:58:30 PM
For full value for feathertop do the NW spur - that'll get the heart going if you are carrying full alpine climbing gear as well as the usual camping set up.
10:13:44 PM
On 27/07/2015 Pat wrote:
>For full value for feathertop do the NW spur - that'll get the heart going
>if you are carrying full alpine climbing gear as well as the usual camping
>set up.

Along with a nice creek crossing at the start... I don't believe one of the bridges has been replaced yet. ;-) (After the flash flood a couple of years ago.)
10:37:16 PM
I have ice-climbed at Buffalo many years ago. It is very limited and variable.
The best spot to try would be the SW side of The Hump, approaching from Cresta Valley. There's some gentle slopes to crampon up if conditions are good and one or two short bits of steep ice to top-rope.
I've also climbed in the Wall of China gully, which I quite enjoyed, but probably not suitable for what you're after.
The only advantage of going there is that it's really close to the car if it's in condition.
The other places mentioned by people are much better but if it stays really cold this week and keeps dumping little bits of snow at Buffalo then it might be OK. The slightest warming will turn things at Buffalo to water.
If Feathertop is an option then head for there instead, but if Buffalo is your only option make sure to start early.
11:30:09 PM
Thank you all for your thoughts! I had a few reasons for looking at Buffalo. We were looking for a quick single-day trip (going up the night before to allow an early start) that's within our capabilities. Part of it was also that I love Mt Buffalo but I haven't explored it properly, and it was a good excuse to take my wife there. It was also a process of elimination; I've been out to Feathertop several times on snowshoes and I thought it was probably too advanced for relative beginners. Stanley Bowl on Mt Stirling might be OK, but that's a half-day walk as well. The west ridge of Mt Buller was too challenging and the ski patrol would probably kick us out of the resort areas, and thus I arrived at Buffalo as the last mountain standing, although I realise the snow can be variable there.

I will have another look at Mt Feathertop; possibly the bowl below Federation Hut might be suitable, or if not we might have to bite the bullet and head up higher. Thank you all for your ideas.

1:43:05 AM
There is plenty of snow at Buffalo at the moment. Head up towards the Hump from the Cresta side and I'd sure you'll find some interesting terrain to practice on. Sounds like you're not after technical stuff, just some well angled snow within easy distance of the car.
10:52:47 AM
Yes, that's right. We haven't really done any technical ice climbing and we haven't got the gear for it anyway. Something steep but non-technical would be ideal, and if we can maximise on-snow time by driving close to the site then so much the better.
11:34:48 AM
Given the current conditions and what you're after Buffalo is definitely worth a shot in the next few days.
2:36:36 PM
Thank you all for your assistance. My wife and I went up to Buffalo yesterday and found that conditions were OK but not fantastic. I wasn't able to get there last weekend, so I think we probably missed the best of it.

After reaching the mountain we checked in with the ranger and headed out. From what we could see from the road through cloud there didn't seem to be great opportunities on The Cathedral so we headed on to Cresta.

We parked there and headed up the southern side of The Hump behind the Cresta runs, and found a small chute of reasonably steep firm snow to play on. We didn't head up very high but we could see the rocks towards the summit topped with snow and frost, and the rock we sheltered behind for lunch had a decent coat of verglas.

It struck me that it might be quite an interesting (and challenging) environment for trad climbing on rock in winter, as opposed to alpine climbing on snow/ice. I got a chance to practice building anchors and test out some new gear, and then we departed for home via the cafe at Dingo Dell.

on the way stopped at Absolute Outdoors, a ski hire shop in Porepunkah which sells a bit of climbing gear, for a chat before heading home. Thanks all for your ideas and suggestions.
10:15:56 AM
Idshield, I think I saw your snow shoe tracks heading up the old ski run?

On Sunday morning we traipsed up to the top ski tower on the far LHS of the resort area, soloed up some 60 degree pitches of hard pack crust sitting on corny groupel with a hoar topping.

Useless for setting up any kind of snow anchor with regular snow gear. I used a ski as an anchor which was only just big enough to have any kind of lateral resistance in the unconsolidated snow. However what we did find of huge interest to most on here was a wall, roughly 10m high with vertical to slightly overhanging ice, in good condition.
This has to be the most accessable vertical ice anywhere in Victoria. The genius bit is that the slope above it is studded with car size boulders that you can effect super bomber belays off. Rare in ice climbing terrain.

We then soloed the RHS squeeze chimney to access the upper ramp below what is the back of ariel block. The squeeze is the most obvious feature on the LHS above the boulder choke. It's a 30min walk from a carpark that is free to park in and climbs well, as well as blue lake or the buller chutes.

Years ago when Kev and I were writing the buffalo guide I tooled around out the back of the horn as well, but they were drought years back then, prolly take a look out there next week. I have pics but uploading them here is seems like a ballache. I don't have pics of the actual ice features (too busy white knuckling may way around to stop for a shot) but you can make out where we went:
3:30:21 PM
Yes, that was probably us. From the car park (as you're looking at The Hump) we crossed the creek, followed it to the left, and then headed uphill roughly along the lift line on the left side of the slope. I think we probably ended up just off the left side of the photo you posted on Instagram and we didn't make it up to the top tower. We saw some interesting-looking areas higher up but they actually looked more rocky than snowy, so we didn't go up there to check them out (possibly a mistake, by the sound of things). I'd be curious to hear about what you find out the back of The Horn if you go there. If you manage to get pics of the actual ice feaures online let us all know, I'd be very interested to see.
10:14:52 AM
I did a beginner mountaineering course in NZ this summer, had an awesome time at Plateau Hut. Been searching TR's looking for places in AU to practice this winter. A big trip to Blue Lake is on the cards and Feathertop again but wondering about the recent condition of Mt Buffalo - has warming done for it? And Bogong, from this article-

Looking for easy to get to places with low navigation / backcountry skills and to take advantage of small windows of good weather and snow.
10:32:29 AM
People have had a play around the Horn and above the old Cresta ski runs, but snow is in short supply there most winters.

Look at Mt Buller. Guide on this site is old but will give you an idea.
12:10:43 PM
Thanks Dalai, just read the Mt Buller one, looks like a good option.

Speaking of low navigation skills has anyone used the Garmin in-reach mini? The guides in NZ had one and it looked really good.

7:02:16 AM
Recently it was on fire so I guess that was pretty warm. I wonder how long it'll be before they reopen the park competely.
12:35:58 PM
Finally got there! With good snow falls last week I spent Friday and Saturday playing mountaineer above Cresta ski run. Steep snow was solid enough to practice in crampons and try some snow anchors. The area is in shade till midday so low temps hardened the snow, though rain and warmth Saturday it started to soften by the arvo. Access is awesome, just wonder up from the car park. Granite country in snow is very beautiful.
11:38:24 AM
Ski that Timmay!

There are 20 messages in this topic.


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