• Ness Hinneberg

Warrambat (Mt Timbertop) - 1279m: The Jolly Little Old Man

Updated: May 30, 2018

On the road heading east out of Mansfield towards the mountains, the first and most prominent peak you’re greeted by is that of Mt Buller. She stands tall and seemingly alone, right in front of you, both welcoming you and warning you: “Please come and play with me, but do so with respect and prudence.”

The moon rises over Mt Buller (L) and Warrambat (R)

Off to her left, or your right, you’ll see a stumpy little hill with a flat, slightly sloping summit that appears ringed by baldness. That’s Warrambat, or Mt Timbertop as he’s become known over the last hundred or so years. From every angle, Warrambat looks a little different. His north and south aspects are wide and flat; from the east and west, he looks narrow and pointy. He stands above us and we see his northern side - his best side - which immediately makes me think of a squat, cheerful little gnome-like man. He’s got a flat top and an odd hairline, almost as if someone has shaved a ring around the side and base of his head but left a thick tuft on top, like a monk from the Middle Ages. He doesn’t seem to mind, though.

Warrambat at sunset, as seen from Mt Buller

Warrambat is the first mountain I met properly as a hiker, on a day I’m not likely to forget any time soon.

It was mid-February and it was hot and muggy, almost tropical. The clouds were low and trying their hardest to release their moisture, which would have been a welcome reprieve from the unrelenting humidity (there’s a very good reason I live in sub-alpine Victoria and not Far North Queensland!). It would be my first ever hike up a mountain. And what better mountain to teach me than the gentleman that is Warrambat. And so off we set, meandering towards the base of this happy little hill. It’s starting to drizzle, which is lovely, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m sweating buckets. I’m not used to this pack-hiking business, and my body is finding it quite challenging. My soul, though, has become this bubble of golden euphoria, and I’m marching up the side of this hill with a bizarre glee. I feel more alive than I have ever before, and for some reason I feel that this mountain has something to do with it. It’s as though he’s laughing along with me, encouraging me, inviting me to reach the top and share my joy with him. “Come on, Ness! Come and be merry with me!”

The walk becomes steeper and steeper as we climb over Warrambat’s shoulder and up his neck. There are rock scrambles too, which only seem to augment the fun-and-games element of his personality. It’s like he’s got them there not to test us, but to remind us that we aren’t just walking; we’re adventuring! There’s something charmingly childlike in this old man’s character.

Atop the mountain is a whole different world. A grotto of snow gums welcomes us with a serene peace. Warrambat is happy that we’ve joined him, but it’s now not a silly puppy-like happiness. Now it’s blissful tranquillity. This is a calm place, where the golden bubble has burst and immersed me in warmth and comfort.

This is home.

The twisted snow gums on Warrambat's summit create a spectacular sanctuary

On a clear day the views from here are incredible: to the north are the sprawling pastoral lands of Mansfield and surrounds, all the way out to Lake Eildon and the Strathbogie Ranges. To the south and the west is the opposite: vast expanses of unadulterated backcountry, rugged rolling hills whose piercing peaks punctuate the varying shades of blue that are cast off by the eucalyptus canopies. Warrambat stands between the worlds of the wild and the tamed, something of a gateway from the land of human to the land of nature in all of her glory, and he excitedly wants to show you both.

Views of green pastures one way...

...and rolling backcountry the next!

Unless it’s foggy. In this case, he just wants you to sit with him and appreciate how the colours of the snow gums become so vivid and contrasting when they get wet.

The misty fog provides a different kind of mysterious beauty to the mountain

In winter, sometimes we won’t see Warrambat’s head for days, even weeks, as he hides in the clouds. He wears a thick shroud which comes to sit just below his shoulders. And then after a while he’ll lift it off and we will see that he’s made his face up completely in white. Snow white. Warrambat is just tall enough to be kissed by the snow gods when they present us with their gifts, and sometimes it seems as though he’s embarrassed by his new facade, so it takes him a few days to show it off. He looks so handsome when he does, though! But he never keeps it for too long, usually only a few days before he goes back to his typical self. It’s a look that he puts on and takes off many times throughout the winter.

A snow-capped Warrambat on a beautiful winter's day, with Buller poking her head up over the nearby hills!

Warrambat is one of the few mountains around here that want you to come and play all year round. He doesn’t make it too treacherous to join him in the snow gums during winter, and in summer he’s conveniently close to safety if a bushfire threatened to attack. He’s a good-natured, gentle, playful soul who wants you to know that you are safe in his presence, and that he doesn’t seek to hurt you. Even on the hardest of days hiking or running up and down, he is there to guide and support you, never to test or trick you. He may not be the tallest, prettiest, wildest, most spectacular or most demanding of all the mountains in this area. But to me, he is so much more than he looks. Of all the mountains in this area Warrambat is my first, kindest, and favourite friend.

Have you visited Warrambat, aka Mt Timbertop? How would you personify this lovely little mountain? Let us know in the comments below!

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