January 2016 was a month in which the planets aligned themselves nicely, and last night I took advantage of a few days off with lovely warm sunny days and clear night skies to head up to the rather remote Craig’s Hut at the rooftop of Victoria’s Alps and well away from major light pollution.
The original Craig’s Hut was built for the set of the Australian movie, The Man From Snowy River, but it fell into disrepair and was destroyed by a major bush fire in Dec 2006 (after reading the last blog post, you may be learning a theme – we cannot take things for granted in Australia, bushfires are a constant and increasing threat). It was re-built although not to the original specs, and despite this has continued to be an iconic image of Australia’s High Country which is dotted with huts although most have burnt down in fires and some re-built to provide shelter for hikers and skiers.
Road access to Craig’s Hut is 286km and just over 4hrs drive from Melbourne via Mansfield and Mt Stirling’s Circuit Road – a further 20km drive along a gravel road from the Telephone box Junction (TBJ), and if you have a 4WD with sufficient ground clearance, you can drive right up to the hut where there is a remote camp ground and drop toilet.
If, like me, your car is likely to bottom out on the access road to the hut, your main option is to leave the car in the parking area on the Circuit Road, and back pack up a grade 4 quite steep but well formed 1.7km walking trail which requires some 170m ascent but is readily doable even with a heavy pack and large tripod.
You can’t camp or stay in the hut grounds itself, and the water at the toilets is not potable. Hikers generally camp near these toilets amongst the snow gums, while 4WD campers use the dedicated camp ground some 100m lower down.
For some reason there do not appear to be the annoying aggressive alpine ants which gave me trouble at nearby Mt Stirling (see my blog post on this solo camp trip), and there were no mosquitoes of note, but lots of flies as soon as the sun rose.
Let’s get into some pics (all taken with the Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens):
Sunset on Craig’s Hut – note that you get 270deg views from the hut – all except the SW quadrant, this view is looking north towards Little Cobbler.
Evening shot of the Milky Way around Centaurus and Southern Cross with the two Magellanic Clouds rendered in sepia toning.
This is the shot I was waiting for and why I only managed 3 hours sleep, although I did extend my iPhone alarm to give me just that bit more!
This is just before sunrise and shows the centre of our Milky Way galaxy rising above the hut with the constellation of Scorpio directly above the hut and a meteor and the 4 planets visible:
Mercury near the fence, Venus the bright one above the fence near the hut roof, Saturn below Scorpio, Mars high above the chimney (Jupiter is out of this frame).
The Milky Way arching over with astronomic twilight well gone just before sunrise.
Jupiter high above the hut at dawn – hand held with camera resting on the fence for a 1 second exposure!
Just before the sun’s rays peaked over the alps but this image was shot with the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens.
I had a great time up there, even though this place has been photographed in almost every way possible, I am guessing this is the first time it has been imaged with a f/1.8 fisheye lens!
The Micro Four Thirds system’s weight makes uphill hiking such as this so much more enjoyable than a full dSLR kit, while the fisheye lens means I don’t have to waste my life doing panoramic stitches!