There are a couple of things you should know upfront if you’re going to tackle a mountain like Donna Buang.
- It’s going to be steep, muddy and slippery. You will fall over. If you’re anything like me, you’ll do it many times and maybe even chuck a small tanty about it.
- If you don’t own a trail stick, take one from the start of the track and return it when you’re done.
- If you forget to take a trail stick from behind the sign, look out for the support lines along the side of the track to help you up the steep bits.
- Unless you’re an actual martyr, you don’t need to start at the bottom of Martyr Rd. There’s plenty of parking at the top.
It’s a Sunday and the dismal weather clears to beautiful, blue sunny skies.
A few places online say we should park at the bottom of Martyr Rd. So we do, even though it adds 100m ascent to an already brutal climb. When we see everyone else’s cars at the top of the hill, we console ourselves that we’re the only ones doing the entire walk.
We pass the signpost for Donna Buang and are suddenly dismayed. The trail begins by going downhill. ‘No!’ He says. “Don’t take Martyr Road away from us!” In a 1250 metre peak climb, every step of ascent is precious.
Fortunately it doesn’t go down far before going uphill again. The trail sidles up to an open paddock, fenced with barbed wire. Let me just say, it’s not the safest thing to put barbed wire next to a slippery trail where human instinct is to grab onto the nearest object to stop from falling. I found that out the pointy way.
The trail crosses the O’Shanassey Aqueduct Trail before the real uphill section begins.
Then it goes up, and up, and up and up and up and after awhile you kind of get used to the upness of it. It’s steep for about 3-4 hours. Yep, you heard me, 3-4 hours of relentless upness.
I know that sounds bleak, but it’s difficult to feel hard done by when you’re surrounded by so much beauty. Believe me, it’s absolutely stunning. The Donna Buang trail is a rich, green, leafy, sunlit forest. All you hear is the wind roaring through the high treetops (my most favourite sound), bellbirds, lyrebirds, crickets and the occasional yelp of people slipping on their way down.
Mt Donna Buang is covered in magnificent temperate rainforest, with large tree ferns and twisty, moss covered Myrtle Beech trees.
I’m proud of myself. I don’t start to regret the climb until we get above 700m and by that point, the forest starts to open out. As we ascend, the dense rainforest gives way to towering Mountain Ash. A few glimpses of the valley below let us know how high we’ve climbed. The rush of accomplishment pushes us on.
I’d like to say the trail levels out, but a more accurate description is that it becomes less steep and that feels like blessing enough.
We hear the cars long before we see them. We know the path gets easier at the road, so the sound of passing traffic is its own sweet music. The track shadows the road for awhile before taking another steep turn to cross the road itself. I don’t mind the cars so much. It’s the motorcycles rip farting obnoxiously around the bend that tear into the peaceful bird noise. It seems so unnecessary.
We have a choice. Over the road, the path picks up again to include Mt Victoria (a smaller, secondary peak). It’s a detour that adds several kilometres onto the walk and we’re so tired that we choose instead to go straight to Mt Donna Buang peak. We follow the road to the left for a km or so. It’s easy walking after the slog.
Just before the 10 Mile Picnic carpark, the Donna Buang trail picks up again. Only 1.2km to the peak! It doesn’t sound like much but as the path ascends again, it’s slow going. It isn’t as steep, but our muscles are like treacle.
I’m not going to lie. Donna Buang is the upper limit of my fitness and maybe even a little over.
There’s something magic about the forest at the mountain top.
There’s two very distinct layers. The ferns at our feet and the tall canopy above. It’s another world up here. If it’s possible to be powered by beauty, I think it’s happening now.
The sign says it’s only 600m to the peak but my legs are dead. Longest. 600m. Ever.
We stagger out into the carpark and spy a picnic table to rest our weary bones, wolf down some protein and have a cup of tea from the thermos. There isn’t really a view from the top. It’s not like the peaks in the Grampians or Cathedral ranges where you ascend to a rocky outcrop.
Donna Buang is above the snow line but it’s completely covered in forest.
A tall, metal tower structure takes you above the treetops for a 360 view of the surrounding Yarra Ranges. I’m overtaken on the stairs by people who drove and can’t understand why I’m so slow.
The hike took us about 4 hours up and 2.5hours down – 6.5 hours in total.
I’ve read that super fit people do it in under 5 hours, which is damn impressive. I can’t imagine the relentless energy required to match the relentless upness of Mt Donna Buang.
For the rest of us mere mortals, it’s a killer hike but definitely a worthy challenge.