You know I’m all about women empowering other women, right?
If not, then you haven’t been paying attention. On my trip to the Victoria High Country last summer, I was more than a little thrilled to head out on a women-only overnight hiking trip with Skadi Adventures. I haven’t done much hiking in Australia, but it’s on my list!
The epitome of female empowerment, Skadi offers all-inclusive, guided girl power tours of the Mansfield Mt Buller region. Every age and every fitness stage is welcome. Plus they have a cool name (Skadi is the Norse goddess of the wilderness). Sold!
But first, coffee.
Nestled in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, Mansfield is the cutest little gold-mining town, and a starting point for several hikes in the area.
It’s also the gateway to some of Australia’s ski resorts (yes, there is snow in Australia) but I can happily attest that it’s pretty awesome come summertime too.
We stopped for coffee (essential) before heading out, but I wished I’d had more time to explore. Beautiful historical buildings line the main street, interspersed with artisan shops and gourmet eateries.
Our hike was a summit-to-summit adventure from Mt Stirling to Mt Buller and highlighted the versatility of the rugged Victorian wilderness.
Led by Ness Heinberg, our hike priestess (um hi!) we willingly submitted to finding our best selves in the mountains. All about getting all women into the outdoors, as much as I love hiking on my own, I also love being guided by passionate locals full of knowledge.
This part of Australia is pretty special. Beautiful with lovely birdsong and rolling mountains as far as the eye can see, it almost reminded me a bit of the Blue Ridge mountains where I grew up in Virginia! Just with more snakes and less rednecks.
The mountains are endless, rolling one into another as far as the eye can see.
Silvery eucalyptus, ash forest and gumtrees line the landscape while icy snow-melt streams forge a path. And though Mt Buller is renowned as a winter resort, guys, in summer it comes alive.
And it smells hot and beautiful, a totally different smell from our mountains in New Zealand.
Starting out off the mountain road you’ll first meander your way through forest before hitting a track, which leads you into the bush, expertly guided by Ness.
Purple heather adorns the trail and alpine flowers provide a colorful backdrop to the bleached pastels of the snow gums.
You’ll also see some pretty exceptional wildlife, with many local birds singing out, and also being on the outlook for snakes – hello Australia.
Also *pauses dramatically* there are wombats. WOMBATS!
Pretty much the cutest living doormats you have ever seen. Apparently, if you come across them at night they will follow your torchlight wherever you point it.
Wombats also apparently can charge you, like a bull AND they bite, so maybe don’t do that!
Another reason I love wombats is that they poop cubes. We found their treasures intentionally perched about on logs on the walks. Seriously, the coolest creatures.
Skadi Adventures provided literally the lightest gear ever so it wasn’t *that* much of a struggle. Except the heat, it was a perfect summer’s day!
We spent the afternoon taking out time and working our way up towards the Stirling summit where we would camp.
Early summer is the perfect time to get out amongst the hills in Australia before it gets too hot. The mountains also come alive with colorful flowers blooming, making it even more picturesque.
Some of the trees up near Mt Buller have been bleached white after a bush fire a few years ago, creating ethereal feel to the environment and a harsh reminder that mother nature always prevails.
Passing this ghostly skeletons we continued up eventually arriving to where we’d set up camp well before sunset.
Our packs were small and light, Skadi provides its guests with the lightest and newest gear (I seriously went out and purchased almost the exact same sleeping mat right after this trip!)
While Ness worked cooking up an amazing dinner involving fresh gnocchi (OMFG), I trotted around and took lots of photos as the sun began to dip behind Buller.
The food was divine but the company was even better. Ness is a truly amazing woman, passionate about the outdoors and sharing her home area of Australia with the world. Her beliefs about empowering women to get outside, experience nature and find themselves mirrors my own, and I don’t think stopped chatting til it was pitch black and time for bed.
After I made her check my tent for spiders. Sorry, Australia! No spiders.
I fell asleep hard but I woke up in the middle of the night – thank you insomnia!
Deciding to peek outside I had a feeling there might be amazing stars, since it was a still clear evening.
And I wasn’t disappointed! With no moon out, the entire sky was illuminated with millions of stars and a gentle warm breeze fluttering my tent! I stayed outside for the better part of an hour around 2am watching shooting stars and snapping a few pics of the Milky Way over my tent.
I’m always grateful to be in places like this with little light pollution so we can see the stars!
It seemed like I had just crawled back in my cozy tent when my alarm went off at an absurdly early time to watch the sunrise. I hate mornings!
But as soon as I unzipped my tent, I knew I was in for a treat as the sky began to turn every shade of red and pink imaginable. Ness and I quickly scrambled up to the proper Stirling sunset in time to watch the world wake up, and one of the best sunrises camping I’ve ever seen!
Thank you, horrible alarm!
After a beautiful brekkie with coffee we packed up shop and started to make our way downhill towards Mt Buller.
Today would be a day of downhill and then uphill before finishing, making our way back into the forest.
Continuing on, the trail widens and although straightforward, becomes a long descent to arrive at Howqua Gap – a clearing with several rustic huts – perfect for a breather (or chocolate stop) before the final leg.
From Howqua, it’s all downhill but is only a short, sharp climb – and believe me when I say, the hard work is worth it for the views!
Arriving at the summit of Mt Stirling, the dramatic vistas of the Crosscut Saw (an impressively jagged peak) and the mountains staggered me. I never thought Australian alps could be so beautiful! And to be honest, I never thought Australia had real mountains at all! (I can now confirm that they do) and it’s also a workout climbing them.
I’m sorry I doubted you!
Honestly, hiking around the Mt Buller area blew me away. Totally different than what I was used to, I really enjoyed my time there, and I know I’ll be back soon!
Have you been hiking in the Australian Alps before? Does this adventure seem like something you’d love too? Share!