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In my humble opinion a 4WD adventure up into the Victorian high country during the peak of winter is an absolute must but preparation is key.
Ask just about any tourist on our shores what their impression of Australia has been and I reckon words like sun, beach, oceans, deserts, hot and dry would make up a large percentage of their answer – and with good reason too. Australia is, after all, an island 'girt by sea' with a huge, hot, dry desert smack bang in the middle. This is one very good reason why you simply must experience a 4WD adventure up into the Victorian high country during the peak of winter. It’s just so darn unique.
At a time when most folk are putting bathers and fishing gear in the 4WD and heading north to catch a tan and lounge on a beach, it seems counterintuitive to be heading into the mountains. However, to do so is to experience, in my humble opinion, the single best 4WDing in the country at that time of year.
Yes, it’s going to be cold. But just as you don’t head north without a hat and sunscreen, it’s all about preparation. I’ve always maintained that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation. Head into the hills equipped to deal with the conditions and you will be just as comfortable as you would anywhere else. Quality clothing and shelter is paramount to a successful winter snow journey. Your old A-frame tent from Scouts and a raincoat just isn’t going to cut the mustard. That said, with modern gear these days, most of us are ready to go without needing to buy specialised equipment.
The white elephant is of course that pesky 'track closure' issue. In short, yes areas of the high country are closed during the winter months. However, there are still more tracks up above the snowline than any person could ever hope to drive in a holiday period. I’d go so far as to say you won’t even notice track closures; it’s simply not an issue worth cancelling a trip over.
As far as your vehicle is concerned there are only a couple of considerations you’ll need to keep in mind outside the ordinary trip prep you’d do for any off-road escape. First, carry snow chains. These can be hired from numerous places and it isn’t a costly exercise. Be sure to get chains to fit your tyre size and do yourself a favour and practise fitting them BEFORE you need them. Secondly, if you’re heading high and anticipate sub zero temps (which you’re almost guaranteed to get) be sure to fill up with Alpine Diesel (if you’re running a diesel vehicle) or grab a bottle of additive to add to your tank. Other than that, treat a winter trip as you would any other from a vehicle preparation point of view.
So, what are the rewards of heading high rather than north during winter? Well in my opinion the rewards are massive. First and foremost, getting to experience a winter wonderland via your 4WD on a desert island has to take the crown. It’s unlike anything you’ll have done before. A roaring fire under snow laden stunted gums among that alpine tussock grass is worth the price of admission alone. Then there’s snow driving. It’s addictive and the most fun you can have in a 4WD. Throw in the single most dramatic views over snow covered alpine peaks and I think you can see the picture I’m painting. Oh, and finally, because we humans are creatures of habit, there will be virtually zero crowds. In fact, chances are you’ll have the place to yourself!
We all have a bucket list of locations and experiences we want to tick off and I can’t be more enthusiastic about you adding a 4WD trip to the high country during the middle of winter. It’s the single greatest place to be with a 4WD at that time of year and an experience that you will never forget. If you’re as passionate about outdoor adventure as I am, you’ll be planning your next snow trip before the first has even finished!
Oh, and don’t forget gloves and a beanie… trust me on the gloves!
What’s on your 4WD destination bucket list? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.
As a presenter and photojournalist, Graham Cahill is regarded as one of the luckiest men in Australia. Currently part of the 4WD Action Magazine team, Graham is known for his outrageous personality and passion for the bush.