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Climbing Bimberi Peak

Australian Capital Territory


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StateMountainHeight (metres)
New South Wales Mount Kosciuszko2228
Victoria Mount Bogong1986
Australian Capital TerritoryBimberi Peak1913
QueenslandBartle Frere1622
Tasmania Mount Ossa1617
Northern Territory Mount Zeil1531
South Australia Mount Woodroffe1435
Western Australia Mount Meharry1253

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Climbing Facts

State Australian Capital Territory
Highest Peak Bimberi Peak
Elevation 1913m (6276 feet)
First climbed ?
Vertical Gain Pockets Saddle Road Gate
Murrays Gap
~650m
~430m
Total Distance (Oneway) Pockets Saddle Rd. Gate to Oldfields Hut
Oldfields Hut to Murrays Gap
Murrary Gap to Summit
Total
3.3km
4.3km
2.9km
10.5km
Estimated hiking time 5 hours (one way)
Difficulty Medium
Nearest Town Adaminaby (Cooma) to Pockets Sad. Rd 40km (103km)
Nearest Accommodation Adaminaby 40km
GPS Co-Ordinates 35° 39' S 148° 47' E
Required Maps 8626-4S Rules Point
8626-1S Renzezvous Creek
Date climbed December 2007

Australian Capital Territory

Australian Capital Territory - Bimberi Peak

| About Bimberi Peak|

Situated at the northern end of the Snowy Mountains, but the southern part of the Australian Capital Territory, Mount Bimberi scrapes in as the highest mountain in the ACT...literally (Bimberi sits right on the ACT - NSW border). Climbing the highest mountain in our nation's capital isn't as easy as simply catching a flight to the Canberra, visiting a few tourist hotspots and then bagging yourself a State8. While the ACT is relatively small, the starting point for climbing Bimberi requires a long drive around either the northern or southern part of ACT and entry from the southwest corner of the ACT.

Once underway the distance required to climb Bimberi isn't that far (especially once you reach the base of the mountain). However climbing the mountain is nevertheless a real b*tch. With no defined track for the last part of the climb, some real bush bashing is on the cards for anyone wanting to summit the peak. Yet the views from the summit are pretty awesome, with the summit sitting just above the tree line so you can see for miles in all directions.

| Bimberia from the West |

The starting point by car (2WD is fine) is accessed from either Cooma in the south or Tumut in the north, along the Snowy Mountains Highway. Just over 50km from Cooma along the Snowy Mountains Highway we took Tantagara Road turn-off just past Yarrongobilly Caves. Another thirty minutes along a dirt road (Pockets Saddle Road) and we reached the locked gates on the Gurrangoorambla Creek and the official start of our summit adventure. The weather forecast for trip was proving to be exactly as forecast heavy rain and gale-force winds. We donned our wet weather gear, threw on our packs and setout along the Murray Gap fire trail. Miraculously after only fifteen minutes of rain the weather actually cleared up some and the rain (not the wind) held out for the rest of the day.

The first hour of our walk lead us along a gently uphill sloping trail eventually opening up to a large grassy field, with Oldfield's Hut nestled in one corner. Every photo I could find during my pre-walk research showed hikers sitting under the Oldfield's verandah eating and after plonking myself on the ancient floorboards I could see why. A real tribute to all the hikers who had preceded us, this first resting spot is fantastic. The hut is well maintained with a brand new water tank allowing us to refill our water-bottles. An outdoor toilet sits behind a group of what looks like fruit trees, although none of ventured down to check out the facilities. Although only an hour into the walk, this is a good first resting spot where pack buckles can be adjusted, shoes laces loosened and the obligatory sitting the verandah eating food photo taken.

After a brief lunch we were off again, with a sign indicating Murray's Gap and the base of Bimberi just four kilometers away. This should only take us an hour I thought. However, no sooner had we returned to our walk than we came across the Goodradigbee River. I had imagined the ford marked on the map would involve us rock hopping over a few well positioned boulders and crossing the creek, however the heavy rain over the past few days had changed this creek into a raging stream (a huge difference I assure you). The creek was now about 1.5 metres deep and flowing really quite quickly. After a few failed attempts to find a shallow crossing we had no choice but to strip down to our underwear and wade across the creek, with backpacks held high over our heads. The girls took great delight in watching us cross back and forth while assuring them that the water was extremely was cold.

Forty-five minutes later, all of us now changed into our one dry set of spares clothes we were back on our way. Three additional fords later (though this time the deepest was only knee deep), another large grassy field (this time with wild Brumby's making an appearance) and another 1.5 hours of walking and we arrived at a locked gate marking the border between New South Wales and the ACT. I'm not quite sure why this gate is actually here. I'm pretty sure the flora looked pretty much the same on either side of the fence. Nevertheless, if nothing else this imaginary State border was going to provide us our route up the mountain and the departure from the well trodden walking trail and our entry into the Aussie scrub. I wandered briefly up to Murray's Gap (another 5 minutes walk) to see if I could locate an obvious track into the undergrowth. But not spotting any obvious signs of recent activity we decided to turn off the track at the gate and trail blaze our way up the mountain side. In hindsight, we probably should have started our bush bashing at Murray's Gap and followed the ridgeline up the mountain but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

[Note: Vicki R has emailed me to say that new bridges have now been installed over all the creeks. This means no more water wading. Thanks Vicki]

I'm not sure if there is any track up to the top of Bimberi. We sure as hell didn't find or cross one during our entire ascent. For the next three hours we slogged it out against the undergrowth, boulders, and scrub. I'm not sure I'd describe this part of the walk as particularly pleasant, especially when I was within a whisker of stepping on a red belly black snake. I'm sure snakes are meant to slither away at the first sign of humans but this one was not going to budge and we made a wide detour around the beast. This part of the walk really was quite hard going. I'm not sure whether the ridgeline would have been an easier climb. I find it difficult to believe that there is no track up the mountain whatsoever, and the ridgeline is probably the logical track other more intelligent hikers would have picked. I'll let others uncover this for me. We literally had to find our own way up the mountain and given the clouds hid the summit the entire time we were reliant on a compass bearing to keep us pointed in the right direction. Although up was always a good second guess.

[Vicki R has also noted that an overgrown path does exist soon after the Murray Gap sign (about 500 metres beyond the gate at the border). I don't think we walked far enough to even find the Murray Gap sign. Apparently the path up the mountain is still difficult to follow].

Finally, though we broke through the undergrowth and found ourselves on the windswept summit spur. As I waited for the other members of our party to slowly make their way up to our position, I could see a storm front rushing across the valley toward us. No sooner had we all huddled up together, again put on our wet weather gear than the storm front hit us. The wind was unbelievable. You were literally blown over and we had to move to the lee side of the mountain to get out of the wind and continue toward the summit. We pressed on for a few more minutes and then had to decide whether we were going to push on (as we were yet to see the summit with clouds now completely surrounding us) or find a camp site somewhere. It was now approaching seven o'clock, the sun was well on its way down, the wind was blowing a gale, the temperature had dropped to 10 degrees and the rain was starting up again. And then all of a sudden in a break of the clouds the surveyor's frame which marks the summit actual appeared in a break in the clouds. With renewed energy we pushed on and quickly reached the steel frame which marks the highest point in the ACT. The wind blowing across the summit was without doubt the strongest I have ever experienced. It really felt like it was blowing a hurricane, and I could imagine the hardship climbers must experience when climbing some of the peaks of the Himalayas.

Nevertheless, we had achieved our goal and our adventure was over...well almost. As if on cue the batteries in both the digital cameras we had lugged with us all this way conked out just below the summit. We managed just one or two photos on the summit between turning the camera on and it again going flat before we retreated back behind the summit to find a suitable camping site. As the light was fading quickly we didn't have a lot of time to find a flat site and instead pitched our tents between a group of gnarled dead trees, slightly sloping downhill and pocketed by clumps of grass. A scan the next morning would indicate the best camping on the summit to be directly to the north and west of the actual peak on the summit flat, however being out of the wind was far more important to us. By the time we had erected our two tents my fingers were completely numb with cold, we retreated into our tents and after a quick hot meal we all fell asleep. I checked the temperature just before turning out the lights...5.7 degrees.

On Sunday morning, after a few more summit photos, both the cameras and the weather seemed to have improved it was time to head back down the mountain. We tried an alternative route down the mountain this time, heading straight over the edge of the summit and the most direct route back to Murray's Gap fire trail. Although the upper part of the mountain was a little easier to traverse, the going soon became just as tough as the ascent, as we tried to navigate down a watercourse. The large grassy field (with the Brumby's) made a good target for us to navigate toward and another 2.5 hours later we finally broke back out through the undergrowth and onto the fire trail.

We had managed to bypass three of the four fords and the fourth, the deepest on the first day, had dropped significantly and we were able to find a spot where we could jump across the creek. The two hour walk back to the car was a breeze especially with the sun now beating down on us (I'm not sure why, but the sun always seems to come out as I'm finishing my hike).

Our three day hike had turned out to be only a 2 day hike.

The Bimberi summit return trip is roughly a twenty-five kilometer round trip, with most of the walk following a well marked fire trail. Only the final 3.5 kilometres up and back down the mountain is unmarked.

A rough breakdown of the walking times:

Gate at start to Oldfield Hut: 1 hour

Oldfield Hut to Murray's Gap gate: 1 hour

Murray's Gap gate to Bimberi summit: 3 hours up, 2.5 hours down

One final note, there are two ways to drive to the hike start; along the Long Plain Road at Rules Point, just past the Yarrongobilly turn-off or along the Tantangara Road (just under 20km north of Adaminaby). Having driven in one and back out the other, I can assure you that the drive across the Tantangara Reservoir along Long Plain Road is a much more scenic drive. Our maps indicated a number of fords which needed to be crossed; however this is not the case, so unless the river is in flood any two wheel drive will have no problems taking this road.

| The Weather |

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High
21°
21°
18°
13°
5.5°
12°
16°
18.5°
Avg. Low
11°
11°
-1°
Avg. Rain (mm)
45
60
60
70
75
110
120
135
130
95
95
70
(weather measured at Cabramurra ~45km away)

-->Cabramurra Australian Bureau of Meteorology Website<--

Temperature Converter (www.unitconversion.org)

degree Celsius [°C]:
degree Fahrenheit [°F]:

During winter Bimbera Peak is covered in snow. I had planned climbing Bimberi one year earlier (during June). I had picked the weekend, taken time off work and was all ready to go, when I thought I'd call the National Parks office nearby to find out what the weather was going to be like for the weekend (it had been raining pretty heavily). They informed me that the road had been shut and would remain closed for the rest of winter. So bare this in mind. Unless you want to walk the extra 20km or so, ensure the roads are open. These are closed during winter (about June to September).

Apart from this, the summit is pretty exposed, meaning high winds would whip over the treeless mountain top.

To give you an idea of the how the weather can change quickly, I've included a portion of the description provided by Phil and Daniel who attempted Bimberi Peak during the normally warm and sunny month of January (2012):

Wednesday 11th January 2012 we struck out for Bimberi Peak. forecast was 20 degrees with possible showers.
Actual weather rain- lots, wind to 50km/h, hail, sleet and just for good measure snow.
We drove to Goodradigbee Horse Camp then walked to Oldfields Hut following Murray Gap Fire Trail.
From there up to Murray Gap, finding the trail isn't difficult but we found a big boulder on top of the gap with a small carn built on top of it, this is the way in. There is hardly a trail but there are small piles of rocks here and there marking the way. We had a hard time following them. With rain and low visibility we lost our way a few times but pressed on. Then the wind picked up and it began snowing, I think we were about a kilometre from the top, temp was 5.5 degrees, wind chill maybe -5. We decided to head back down wet and cold, lost the track again but came out roughly 20 metres away from where we went in.
Heading back to the hut for a very late lunch the weather got even worse. Hail, snow and stronger winds.
We probably walked close to 20 kms by the time we got back to the car, Daniel was pretty buggered, mind you so was I, we left the car at about 8 am and got back at about 5 pm, 9 hours and lots of different weather is a big day for an 11 year old.
I'm not sure if we can cross this one off, we will go and find some warmer peaks to climb for now. We will probably have to come back and give it another go later.


On this adventure: Angus, Jacqui,Tiana, Roland

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