The Dirty Rat
By Will Hartnett |
The Dirty Rat Is an Exploration of Gariwerd using Ararat as the starting point, none of the events have ever shared the same route. The further you head west the harder it gets and there’s almost no resupply unless you detour to Halls Gap. Over the years this has taken the form of double century day rides to 5 day treks at a leisurely pace and everything in between. Like any good ride you may not end up staying the course but there are plenty of shoutcuts and bailouts along the way.
Below is a desription of the most rewarding route I’ve come up with after about 20 years of failed missions, massive stitch-ups (just ask me about the 2002 traverse of the Major Mitchell Plateau) and some of the best weekends ever rolling 20 deep with a bunch of friends.
The gravel roads around Ararat and out west towards the Grampians are sublime. Within minutes of leaving town you are very quickly onto the dirt and starting to enjoy the rolling hills. Soon the Mt William range comes into view and sets the scene for the next few days, fire trails and single track among craggy outcrops of ancient limestone. It’s slow going at times but you are paid back in spectacular views. This route is best done over three to five days but could be drawn out longer with some optional peak bagging detours and options to sleep in some caves. Alternatively if you are time poor then ride into the night on day one then pick up the trail the next morning. Easy access from Melbourne on the Vline makes for a great weekender. Leave Friday night and ride the 40km to camp and return Sunday evening.
Once you leave the rolling green farmland out of Ararat you follow closely under the towering Mt William range, there is a detour to Kalymna falls and a nice campsite to spend the night if you want to call it early on day one. Soon after the Kalymna detour the road climbs around a spur near the old gold mining settlement of Mafeking and gets pinchy before descending down to Jimmy creek campground. Water is usually available from the rain water tanks here but if not you may need to filter some creek water. At 70km it make for a good day one goal for those taking it more leisurely. It has also been the base camp for some of the best editions of the Dirty rat day rides.
Out the back of the campground the track heads over the Serra range and gets you right into the centre of the Grampians National park and the Glenelg river valley. A steep descent tests out who has secured their bidons tight enough. As you cross the Glenelg river valley the Victoria range becomes the highlight of the trip. The road is steep, rocky and can be in various states of disrepair depending on the season and recent rainfall. Some fantastic hiking detours can be had either onto Mt Thackery or into The Fortress if you are really keen.
Coming down the Goat track from Mt Thackery is a real morale lifter after a few hours of slow going across the range, the views are also spectacular!
Once off the Victoria range it’s a relaxing ride through the Valley and time to think about camp. Boreang Campground is not too far away and a good place to fill up on water. If you are still feeling good you could head up onto the main range to Smiths Mill campground, If you are feeling a bit cooked or short on time, climb up the Glenelg river road climb from Boreang to meet up with the route again.
Wherever you end up on the morning of day three you will be soon rewarded with the sun hitting the eastern face of Mt Rosea as you traverse below its summit. The Borneo track has taken a beating from recent flood events but this makes it a fantastic bikepacking track now that the double track is almost a single track now. If you are feeling a little less adventurous keep heading down Silverband road to the Grampians Valley road.
At the bottom of the Borneo track get onto the bottom of the Mt Rosea walking track to find the bridge into Borough huts campground and your last water refill before heading over the Mt William range one last time and back to Ararat. If you are totally spent at this time you can always head into Halls gap for a hot meal then take the road to Pomonal and back onto some gravel into Ararat.
I would suggest at least 40mm tyres out here but really you will have a lot more fun on 2 inch +.
The beauty of this route is there are several ways to shortcut back to Ararat if you are running out of time or underestimated how tough it can get out here. Have a good pour over the Ride with GPS squiggle or pick up one of the great detailed maps of the Grampians.
This route is best avoided in Summer due to the heat and bushfire risk and also the lack of water in creeks .
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