​Scrambling Melville Caves

Adventure addict, Troy Jackel, spent a day exploring everything the boulder-strewn Melville Caves had to offer. Here's his high velocity guide.

It's Sunday. I've got work tomorrow, am yet to find a birthday present for my 15-year-old brother and I have a burning desire to escape the bustle of the city for a few hours. Can I do it all? With a cheeky day trip to Melville Caves, absolutely.

Situated approximately 220km northwest of Melbourne, the Melville Caves are an under-the-radar gem and the perfect solution to my predicament. My brother loves adventure, so taking him hiking, scrambling and bouldering for a day was the perfect present.

A Bouldering Pickle

With my Millican Smith the Roll Pack (25L) loaded full of snacks, film photography gear, rainwear and water, my brother, sister and I were set for a self-sustained day amongst boulders, hills, gumtrees and a whole lot of wildlife. Upon arrival, we ascended a gentle trail to a grouping of boulders that seemed placed by the hands of a divine being. Towering lumps of granite with various cracks, edges and platforms awaited our eager hands and feet.

My sister, who prefers photography over bouldering, elected to keep two feet solidly on the ground and document the antics of my brother and I. Soon enough, we found ourselves perched atop a lofty boulder with an exquisite view of the surrounding countryside.

Feeling accomplished, and perhaps a little invincible, brotherly rivalry soon reared its head as we raced each other to reach flat ground once more. It was at this moment a realisation came over us both. The metre-and-a-half leap we made to reach the top wasn't so feasible on the way down. The steady flow of laughter and teasing didn't help. As our options for descent diminished, however, a mild sense of concern began to take hold. The most direct route to the bottom was a 10 metre press through a crevice in the granite, followed by an awkward drop into a cave below. We were eager to unearth a gentler, less disquieting option.

Meanwhile, our sister was in near hysterical laughter at the pickle her siblings found themselves in. Fuelled by her amusement at our expense, and a desire not to be photographed looking so unequivocally stuck, efforts to find a path to the bottom were re-doubled. Thankfully, mercifully, and delightfully, we found our way to the ground thanks to my brother's resourceful use of an overhanging tree branch. Safely back on stable-land, we paused to view the considerable bouldering feat we had just completed.

We eventually continued on our way, spending the next few hours exploring on and off the beaten track to find new bouldering problems, better challenges and more great views. Our lunchtime break consisted of muesli bars, bread and a spot of tuna served by my trusty Mountain Designs spork. It's the simple things.

Upping the Pace

Feeling revitalised and ready for a change of pace, it was time to test our trail running prowess. I was wearing my Salomon Speedcross 4's and eager to make a start. Putting these shoes on literally hardwires my brain into 'running' mode. I was also wearing a Mountain Designs Delta Tee, coupled with incredibly lightweight trail shorts. My sister opted for her Merrell Moab FST's and a Mountain Designs Speedwork tee. We were ready.

Moving west from the sprawling masses of boulders, we came across a 'lookout' trail that encapsulated each of the three spectacular lookout points that pepper the Melville Caves surrounding forest. Our pace was fierce as we began the trail, reaching the first lookout (only 2km along) in a short period. Inspired by the view from this first lookout, we continued towards lookout number two. The terrain throughout this section of trail doubled in difficulty, as trail running progressed to something similar to scrambling.

Our pace began to slow significantly as the terrain became more difficult and we were captivated by the epic views as we crossed a rocky and barren ridge-line. Soon enough we stumbled upon lookout number two and, between gasping for air, took in all that we could of the expansive forest around us. After pausing for a quick photo opportunity on a rock platform and rehydrating, we were off to lookout three and onwards to the reserve where our adventure began.

After lookout three, the sun was dipping and the forecast late afternoon storms appeared to be rolling in. You would assume it was time to go, but our adventurous side took hold. We took an optional extension of the trail that resulted in an additional 10km final leg of our journey. At this point, we were no longer trail running, but simply walking and wondering how far we really had traversed. As the first heavy rain drops started falling, we popped out of the trail into the Melville Caves Reserve. Each of us, feeling weary to different extents and in different areas, fell into the car and began the return trip home.
Thanks Melville Caves. You fit the bill quite perfectly.

Gear Reviews

Salomon Speedcross 4 Shoes

The grip from my Speedcross 4's was exceptional here, giving me confidence over everything from gnarled tree roots, to sheer granite steps.

Men's Mountain Designs Delta Short Sleeve T-Shirt

The Delta Tee is my companion for all things active and exciting. Whether it's running, cycling, or anything in between, the lightweight breathability of the tee literally has my back. It's that shirt yI know I can rely on. I wear it well beyond the point where it requires washing, simply because I couldn't bear to go without its comfort and performance. My Delta Tee and I have seen some epic times together now, and with no signs of wear or tear, I'm confident in saying I've found a keeper.

Women's Mountain Designs Speedwork T-shirt

My sister loved the comfort, functionality and breathability of the Speedwork tee. She said the close-fitting design of the tee means it moves with you, while also keeping you fresh due to the lightweight and odour resistant fabric.

Women's Merrell Moab FST Gore-Tex® Shoes

I was not alone in enjoying the traction offered by my shoes – my sister commented relentlessly on the stability of her Moabs.

About the Author

Troy 'The Jackel' Jackel is a mountain biker, Rock-Climber, surfer, and trail-runner. When he's not out on the trail, you can find him in Mountain Designs Melbourne, doling out advice and rocking his impressive beard.

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