To mark the end of our Uni degrees, a few adventurous companions and I headed off on an epic journey through the regularly passed, but seldom explored, Little River Gorge. Located in East Gippsland, The Little River confluences with the Snowy a few kilometres downstream of McKillop’s Bridge. The multi-day trip is a combination of outstanding remote canyoning, rock hopping and hiking through the deepest gorge in Victoria. The only way out once you’re in the gorge is to keep going, with little chance of escape up the sides, as the walls of the gorge are hundreds of metres high.

The group met at the start of the gorge and made camp. Two of our group had never abseiled with a belay device before and with the multitude of 15 to 30 metre abseils over the next few days we thought it best to rig up a quick demonstration off the bridge crossing Little River at our makeshift campsite.

Little River Falls (where there is a popular tourist walk to a spectacular lookout platform) marks the start of the trip down the gorge, with either a 30 metre abseil down the falls, or the quicker option of a sketchy scramble over the viewing platform’s railings and around the side. With our determination to make short work of the previous group of MUMC’s effort of four days through the gorge, we opted for the sketchy scramble, which left time for our best explorer poses at the base of the falls for a photo.

The actual gorge doesn’t start for a few kilometres, which meant there was some wading down the thigh deep river for a couple of hours which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the rich ecosystem until the banks started to steepen. Eventually, we arrived at the first waterfall of the gorge and managed to find a down climb, made easier by lowering the packs on the rope from the top.  Very soon after, the walls of the gorge started to rise dramatically and the growth on the sides starts to thin out. Progress from now on was a combination of rock hopping and wading through the shallows of the river.

After a few more abseils the pools begin to deepen and pack swims become more frequent. The sides of the gorge are absolutely enormous by this stage, combined with the vast array of wildlife and very little sign of human impact, made us all feel like privileged visitors to this seldom explored part of the world.

The last abseil of the trip involves rappelling off a few trees at the top of a spectacular waterfall. But before the rappel begins each member had to jump over a large gap between two ledges. With a long distance to the ground, the abseil is a little daunting for the less experienced, all in all requiring a bit of time, patience and encouragement.

After the last rappel, the gorge changes dramatically again as the walls start to shrink and river becomes less steep. The pools become longer and deeper and some lengthier pack swims become more frequent. This went on for a few hours, with the floating through the cool pools being a relaxing break for our sore muscles. There are a few spots where you can jump off the side-walls into deeper pools and these provided a little too much entertainment and time started to tick on. We had fought our way through the gorge and come out the other side in under a day (it usually takes a couple of days) and we now faced one hell of a bush-bash to get to a suitable camp spot.

Finding a camp-site became a hellish battle with brutish blackberry bushes, and we finally gave in and made camp on a sandy island in the middle of the river. We made a fire to thaw out our damp and weary bodies and fell asleep under the starry sky almost instantaneously after dinner.

The next morning, after a quick cup of tea, saw quite a few more hours of bush-bashing and wading through the river to the confluence with the Snowy River. The mass of tangled vegetation made progress slow, but a few encounters with some less than friendly snakes kept us moving. A quick lunch at the confluence and then a few hours making our way upstream to McKillop’s Bridge and we were at the cars.

The Little River gorge is an amazing adventure requiring a fair amount of prior experience in rope techniques to explore its depths. The price for the experience is definitely paid on the walk out to McKillop’s bridge, but it is definitely worth every drop of sweat and blood for anyone looking for a genuine Victorian adventure.

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