The Fortress and Billywing Gorge – Southern Grampians

Many thanks to Jacq for this trip report on a overnight walk into the Billywing Gorge of the Grampians in Victoria. Jacq has kindly let us reproduce an email she sent to a friend who did not make the trip. We also could not make it, and after reading Jacq’s notes, are quite happy about spending the weekend at home.
The plan was to find a “hidden cave” , know as the Goat Cave and camp there overnight. Below is the “Goat Cave”

What you missed out on over the weekend:

About 6:30 Friday night it started to drizzle, then progressively pour, so by the time we reached Dunkeld at 8:00 it was consistent drenching rain. Being the brave souls we are we head off to the Buandik campsite, with Michael making a wrong turn that had us heading out of our way. A convenient stop to check the map resulted in a discussion which saw us at Balmoral sleeping on the floor of one of our fellow walker’s daughter’s house.

A nice dry floor in freezing teacher accommodation built in about 1930, very inviting (especially as a little bit of repair to the old wood fire helped); much more luxurious than a freezing and wet campsite. Not to mention the thought of packing up a wet tent, the car was looking very cosy at one point.

Arriving at the campsite the next morning backed up the decision to do an extra hour drive to Balmoral, as it was soaked with puddles in every spot where you would have put the tents.

Anyway, having rounded up Davey and Michaela, we headed off under grey skies and were stopped very quickly at the first creek crossing with the dilemma of how to cross what was now a river. We eventually found somewhere up river, requiring skills in throwing and hauling oneself across. Lots of fun.

The river had to be crossed again, after the heart starter hill and downward slope. This is where the first injury occurred. Michael, John and Colin attempted to haul a log, to make it easier to cross the river, and unfortunately Michael hit his arm on the outer side above his wrist. This was followed up later by bashing it into rocks as he tried to save himself from a slide on the rocks. Nice swelling and bruising started to occur, which required some pressure bandaging to reduce the lump that was growing. I followed this up as we edged along the river by stabbing my upper leg with a stick, that reduced my thigh to a quivering mess for 5 mins until I could regain my composure.

At the normal snack stop the river had eaten up the beach and all you could see was white foam and rushing water, but it remained low enough to edge around the face to get where we needed to go. As we sidled around, I decided it was time to try and fall into the river and started a downward slide, rescuing myself before I made the water but bruised my hand and hurt my wrist reducing me to one hand. About then it started to drizzle, but we were doing okay though the rocks were slippery.

Finally we got to a point where we thought the cave would be and sent out scout Michael to look around. Michael found the cave just as the rest of the crew started to get hypothermia from the temperature had drop, and it was raining again. So down the gully we head and then across the sloping rocks, this is where things started to get messy. Below is some of the rock that had to be climbed to access the cave.Michael did his arm again, I fell on my wrist again, John did a fall that should have removed his manhood for ever, Michaela at one point looked like she had done both knees as they were at weird angles, but as 16 year olds do, bounced back. No sense wearing hiking boots, total waste of time, it was like walking up a slide with grease on it. Everyone had one decent slide that could have ended in disaster.

Cave was as we remembered and once the fire was started and we got soup into Michaela everyone was happy.

Saturday night it poured, which left us with no option but to have to head cross country to the Fortress, as the rivers were now impassible. Weather was kind with no rain and cool temperatures. Normally you use the rocks to keep the speed up and reduce the bush bashing, but as per the day before, this was not an option. It would have taken us two days to get out at the pace we could walk on the rocks. We eventually made our way to the Fortress up and through gullies, with one particular rock stack resulting in some clever thinking to get ourselves through and to the other side. This was followed by a lot of pushing through scrub to finally fall across the track after lots of climbing. Then it’s a 2 hour net downhill trip back to the car on track (though some parts had been turned into a creek). Big weekend and there are some sore bodies today.

Many thanks to Jacq for the words and Colin for the pictures.


  1. Anonymous says

    Fires may only be lit in
    fireplaces provided at
    designated campgrounds
    (please see map).

    (No thoughts on this?)

  2. Frank and Sue says

    Agree with your comment and was a bit surprised they lit a fire.
    At least the conditions were so wet there was no danger of it spreading…..

    • Frank says

      Hi Sam,
      Sorry mate, I don’t know the exact location as I was not on that trip. I am guessing if you look up the Fortress you might get close to it!
      have fun!

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