I thought cobbler was a fruit pudding topped with dough or batter or a person who mends shoes. Until late last year, when I remembered, from some twenty years earlier, a friend suggesting I camp at Lake Cobbler and hike the mountain that shares a dessert’s name. But I didn’t know how tough the mountain was – or even where it was!
Wondering if it might be a good addition for the second edition of Top Walks in Victoria, due out later this year, I discovered that Mt Cobbler is a 90-minute drive southeast of Whitfield, in Victoria’s Eastern Ranges, on winding, mostly unsealed and in places rough road; the hike to its vantage-point summit is not taxing; and I was foolish to wait so long to follow up my friend’s recommendation.
Having rendezvoused with Melbourne friends Dale and Philippa in Whitfield, in the heart of the King Valley wine region, we continued in their 4WD to Lake Cobbler, in the northwest corner of Alpine National Park, numerous bends bringing us to a stretch of road gifting dress circle views of Dandongadale Falls plunging 255m off Cobbler Plateau.
Dandongadale Falls is Victoria’s highest single drop cascade
Shortly after a photo stop opposite the falls, a 4WD-only side track branches right off Lake Cobbler Road. Over a rocky ford that would damage the undercarriage of low-clearance cars, we reached the camping area beside eucalypt-ringed Lake Cobbler, created in the 1960s when loggers dammed a wetland in the headwaters of the Dandongadale River.
The Mt Cobbler Walking Track (10km return) starts on the western (non-lake) side of the camping area between the pit toilet and a simple timber shelter built by the Wangaratta 4WD Club (on the site of previous cattlemen’s huts).
Following a route marked by occasional orange arrows, we crossed a creek and then the Dandongadale River;
Crossing the river
Followed a spur uphill out of the river gorge, dodging embedded rocks and exposed roots; traversed a clearing thick with mountain beard-heath shrubs and birds; and climbed through alpine ash and striped snow gums, with a mountain-and-valley vista unfurling behind us.
Having left the longer hike to Mt Speculation and Cross Cut Saw for another time, we turned right at the only formal track junction and walked on through juvenile snow gums, hollowed old timers with trunks like brushed stainless steel, and conglomerate boulders that look they were fashioned by giant human hands. To an opening on the right that should come with a drum roll for the view of mounts Buffalo, Feathertop and Hotham.
Up a rock slope patched with mosses and lichens and striped with water trails – we carefully avoided potentially slippery dark stains – we learnt that the “summit” we’d been eyeing off as we climbed is not the top. Mt Cobbler is a trickster that hides its snow-gummed rocky dome until the last minute.
Mt Cobbler hides its snow-gummed rocky dome until the last minute.
At first we couldn’t see how anything other than a mountain goat or close relative could scale the steep, final slope. But about 120m along the crenellations at the top of the granite slope there’s a break in the rock, from where a footpad drops steeply to the famous “cleft” between the summit plateau and the summit proper. Leaving our poles beside the track – they are more hindrance to help from here – we clambered the final few metres up conglomerate to the Mt Cobbler trig point at 1628m.
Channelling our inner mountain goats!
How do you avoid clichés to describe views on bushwalks? I can’t help it now because the spectacle wrapped around Mt Cobbler stole our breath, inspired wonder and even a little awe, and dropped our jaws with wonder.
Lunch atop Mt Cobbler comes with a breath-taking, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping view.
A careful clockwise twirl on uneven rock reveals the verdant King River valley, to the northwest, Buffalo Plateau, mounts Feathertop and Hotham, the Razor (1468m), Crosscut Saw, and mounts Stirling and Buller. Lake Cobbler is a patch of blue below and the road you drove in on a brown ribbon thread through green.
Cobbler is way more delicious than the dessert of the same name and I should have acted earlier on my friend’s advice. Sorry Don!