Bushwalking: Feathertop and Bogong again

Bogong summit

Mounts Feathertop and Bogong, located in the Alpine National Park provide some excellent walking. I’ve climbed both several times before, but wanted to try a couple of different ascent routes, both of which are lesser used because a 4WD is pretty much required to reach the starting points.

Mt Feathertop via The Razorback from the north

The approach to Feathertop along the Razorback from Mt Hotham is a deservedly popular approach. This walk also follows the Razorback, but from the north and is a much lesser used route due to the difficulties in accessing the start. The walk itself is quite attractive, beginning with good views from the launching point which is just above the tree line. The path then drops back into the trees and a saddle before beginning a steep ascent that soon reaches the tree line again and then follows the spine of the Razorback south to the summit.

Except for a small section just after the start, the path was reasonably clear for the whole length. Once you are out on the ridge navigation is very simple in good weather – the only way is up.

I descended via the Bungalow spur as I had arranged a car shuffle. Total time for me was around four and a quarter hours including breaks (about two hours ascent to the summit), which makes this easily the quickest way up Feathertop and certainly provided a welcome change to the usual routes.

Walk date: Dec 20, 2009
Time: Around 4.25 hours for me including breaks
Map: VICMAP Bogong Alpine Area Outdoor Leisure Map (1:50,000), SV Maps Bogong Alpine Area Outdoor Recreation guide (1:50,000) [new edition]
My rating: B+

Access: Easiest access is via the Snowy Creek road which leaves the Great Alpine Road not far out of Bright. This gravel track leads to an intersection with Dungey Track which is followed until it eventually reaches an intersection with Stony Top Track. From this point Stony Top Track is followed and a 4WD is the best choice, the track gets particularly rough after the seasonal road closure gate at the boundary of the national park, some 2km prior to the end of the road. Note that there is not a lot of room to park or turn around at the end of the track.

Mt Bogong via Granite Flat Spur

Originally I planned to walk from the end of the 4WD track on Granite Flat Spur, however we ended up turning back about a third of the way along this track after reaching a particularly difficult section where a large part of the right hand side of the track had been washed away. We decided that it would be best not to risk negotiating this section and returned to the junction with The Hollow Way where there is room to park, and from which point I commenced the walk.

I initially walked back up the Granite Flat Spur jeep track, providing an enjoyable 2km or so ramble through attractive bushland before the track ends in a small clearing which provides room to park and turn around and would make a pleasant camping spot.

From the parking area there were good views of the walk ahead and a clearly marked walking path quickly began a fairly steep ascent of Granite Flat Spur. After a kilometre or so there is a sign-posted side path to Michell Hut on the Eskdale Spur and not too much farther on the walking track joins the Eskdale Spur walking track and breaks through the tree line. This point which provides magnificent views into the Kiewa Valley, across to the Staircase Spur, and up to Mt Bogong, is a nice place for a quick rest before the final ascent up the Eskdale Spur.

This final section is fairly steep, but once the main ridge line is reached, it’s an easy stroll up to the rounded summit of Mt Bogong.

I had again arranged a car shuffle and so descended the Staircase Spur, which as previously, seemed to go on forever.

Total time for me was around 5.5 hours including breaks, with the ascent time being about 3 hours.

Walk date: Dec 21, 2009
Time: Around 5 hours for me including breaks
Map: VICMAP Bogong Alpine Area Outdoor Leisure Map (1:50,000), SV Maps Bogong Alpine Area Outdoor Recreation guide (1:50,000) [new edition]
My rating: A

Access: We approached from the Mountain Creek camping area, following the Mountain Creek 4WD track that proceeds east from the camping area, passes the bottom of the Staircase Spur and then climbs to Camp Creek Gap at the base of the Eskdale Spur, before descending very steeply and then ascending steeply along The Hollow Way to a clearing and the junction with the Granite Flat Spur jeep track.

Mt Feathertop, Alpine National Park, North-East Victoria

Panoramic view from the summit of Mt Feathertop

Mt Feathertop, located in the Bogong unit of the Alpine National Park in north-east Victoria, is the second highest mountain in Victoria (1922m) and a popular destination for bushwalkers. It’s my favourite bushwalking destination in Victoria, and I have climbed it many many times since my first ascent in 1988. The name is supposedly derived from the line of snow that remains on the summit well into summer and looks like a white feather. Unlike the more rounded peak of Victoria’s highest mountain, Mt Bogong (1986m), Mt Feathertop portrays a classic mountain form.

In the early part of the 20th century, Mt Feathertop became a destination for skiing, and a small lodge was built on the upper part of the Bungalow Spur (the ‘Feathertop Bungalow’, destroyed by the 1939 bushfires). The well graded Bungalow Spur track is a result of its construction as a track for horses to take visitors to the Bungalow – it was built by the Victorian Railways to encourage tourism and train travel; the railways also built and operated the Chalet at Mt Buffalo.

A walk up Mt Feathertop is a must for all keen bushwalkers.

Walking
Thankfully Mt Feathertop can only be approached on foot, and all the possible routes require a decent amount of walking.

The main routes are as follows:
1. Bungalow Spur – a very well graded track that starts in Harrietville. Note that although the track is well maintained and relatively easy to follow, it’s still a decent walk (including over 1300m of height gain) and is exposed to alpine weather conditions. The track passes the ruins of the Feathertop Bungalow, the site of the Old Feathertop Hut (a guide to walking the Bogong High Plains, published by Algona guides in 1979 records that this hut was still there then but in disrepair, there’s no evidence of it now) and Federation Hut, originally built in 1968, burned down in 2003 and rebuilt a couple of years ago. The area around Federation Hut, built at the edge of the treeline, provides an excellent campsite.

2. North-West Spur – commencing at Stony Creek next to a trout farm, this track follows the ‘Tom Kneen’ track along the north-west spur of Mt Feathertop. Parts of this spur are very steep and it is more suited to experienced bushwalkers. The Melbourne University Mountaineering Club (MUMC) Memorial Hut sits on a shoulder of the spur just past the main treeline and commands excellent views.

3. The Razorback – probably the most popular route, it commences underneath the Diamantina Hut (an A-framed refuge hut only) on the Mt Hotham road and follows the spine of the Razorback to the summit of Mt Feathertop. The track is well-defined and easy to follow in good weather, providing superb views – however as it is almost all above the tree line it is very exposed and potentially dangerous in poor weather and the return trip is well over 20km so it’s a decent walk by any definition.

Other routes:
1. Bon Accord Spur – commences in Harrietville and slowly climbs up to the Razorback, joining the ridge not far from Mt Hotham – this track was used by horses to carry visitors to Mt Hotham.

2. Diamantina Spur – this commences on the much more remote east side. This route will require an overnight walk via the Bogong High Plains, or Mt Hotham via Machinery or Swindler’s spurs to Blair or Dibbins Hut.

3. Champion Spur – commences at the same place as the Bon Accord Spur, initially following a jeep track which quickly becomes overgrown and then disappears completely about 1km or so shy of the Razorback.

4. The Razorback (from the north) – this commences at the end of the Stony Top track (4WD) to the north of Mt Feathertop and follows the Razorback to the summit. An attractive option and the fastest way to the summit, but lesser used due to the difficulties in accessing the starting point.

Photos
Link to my Mt Feathertop gallery (nb. requires a modern browser and broadband connection).

Bushwalking – Mt Feathertop via Diamantina Spur

Mt Feathertop from Diamantina Spur

Diamantina Spur is the main spur that approaches Mt Feathertop from the east. Because the spur starts in a more isolated valley, with access either by walking in or all-wheel drive vehicle, this approach is not nearly as well used as the Razorback or the western spurs (the Bungalow and North-West spurs). It does however provide an interesting alternative route for experienced walkers who have tried the other approaches, and could form part of an excellent two or three day walk. Despite having climbed Mt Feathertop on numerous occasions, it’s some 20 years since I last used this spur, so I decided to revisit on a recent trip.

If approaching the top of the spur via the razorback, the path commences eastwards from the Razorback about 1.5km south of the Bungalow spur junction, or about 8km or so from Mt Hotham. The track junction is just to the north of High Knob. Initially easy to follow, the track soon becomes very indistinct. The spur has also been ravaged by bushfires, completely eliminating any sign of the track in places as well as consuming many track markers. I walked down the spur, and despite my best efforts to follow the line of the main spur, including frequent stops to assess the lie of the land and check my compass, I realised about two-thirds of the way down that I had slipped down a side spur, which required about 20 minutes of bush bashing along the contour of the hill, back to the main spur line. This was very hard work as a result of the fires – there were lots of trip hazards from burned out tree trunks and branches as well as lots of new growth. The surviving tree trunks were also still covered in soot, and by the time I made it down into the valley, so was I.

As a result of this experience, I’d suggest that going up the spur will be easier from a navigation point of view. Note though that either way is going to be hard work – the spur is not well graded like the Bungalow Spur, and in some places is particularly steep. This makes getting into a steady walking rhythm impossible, reducing effective speed and increasing tiredness.

The spur joins the access road into the valley (the road leads to the Diamantina Horseyards and the Red Robin Mine – it is closed to vehicles immediately after the Diamantina Horseyards turn-off) at a curve in the road by the banks of the West Kiewa river – as far as I could see the start point is not signposted, although the spur is pretty obvious.

Once in the valley I continued along the jeep track south, past Blair hut on the left. Eventually a junction is reached where you can continue up to Mt Hotham either via Dibbins Hut and Swindlers Spur or via Machinery Spur (which passes Red Robin Battery and Mine). The path via Dibbins Hut is in my view more attractive being a walking path, rather than a vehicular fire track, and Swindlers Spur is a lovely route up through forest and then alpine meadow, however it is steep in places. Machinery Spur, as expected for a vehicle track, is much better graded, but somewhat more monotonous. Red Robin mine is interesting to see however, and the track also passes by Mt Loch which makes an excellent short side trip.

An overnight walk suggestion for experienced bushwalkers is to start at the Mt Loch carpark on the Mt Hotham road and then descend either Machinery Spur or Swindlers Spur to camp at either Dibbins or Blairs Hut. The next day would be an ascent via Diamantina Spur, then a short walk along the Razorback to the Bungalow Spur junction and then camp at Federation Hut, 500m down the Bungalow Spur. The final day, after an ascent of Mt Feathertop, would be back along the Razorback to the Mt Hotham road, and then a short road bash back up the road to the Mt Loch carpark (alternatively, you could park by the side of the Mt Hotham road below Diamantina Hut – the launching pad for walks along the Razorback – and then do the road walk on the first day).

You could do this as a two-day walk, combining either the Diamantina Spur and Razorback or the descent into the valley and then climb back up again along the Diamantina Spur into one day, but this makes for an “unbalanced” walk with one easy day and one very tough day – definitely for the experienced and fit only. Less experienced walkers should start with the Razorback or Bungalow Spur routes.

Diamantina Spur path Blairs Hut from the logging track

Walk of the Month: Mt Loch (North-East Victoria)


Summit of Mt Loch (560px)

An attractive short walk across the high country around the ski-resort of Mt Hotham in north-east Victoria, with great views.

The walk commences at the Mt Loch car park on the Great Alpine Road (B500) about 1km before Mt Hotham village. The walks follows a fire track that starts at the left hand side of the water recycling dam that has recently been excavated, immediately north of the car park. Follow the jeep track (which is also the Alpine Walking track) as it undulates and then starts to steadily climb northwards, passing numerous ski runs and lifts on the right hand (east) side. There are fine views of the Razorback and Mt Feathertop to the left. The poles that can be seen every 40m are snow poles designed to assist navigation in poor weather and continue all the way to Mt Bogong.

After about 1.5km, at Derrick Col, the track turns eastwards briefly before reaching a track junction. The walk continues on the jeep track that heads north to Mt Loch, now about 1km away (the other foot track continues along Swindlers Spur to Derrick Hut). The original access footpath to the summit of Mt Loch, which leaves the jeep track shortly after the junction, is now closed to allow revegetation and Parks Victoria encourages walkers to use a new access track which leaves the jeep track immediately to the west of Mt Loch (about 350m further on). Follow the access track for a 100m or so to the summit, marked with a large summit cairn. There are great views in all directions from the summit. If it is a clear day you will see Mt Hotham to the south, the Razorback and Mt Buffalo plateau to the west, Feathertop to the north-west and Mt Bogong and the Bogong High Plains to the north-east and east. To the immediate north the jeep track follows Machinery Spur before dropping down to the West Kiewa River.

Return to the car park via the same route. For a post walk drink head up the Great Alpine Road to the attractive Dinner Plain village.

SIDE TRIPS: There are a couple of additional side trips that could be taken on this walk:

  1. Red Robin Mine – Continue along the jeep track north as it follows Machinery Spur until it drops via a series of zig-zags to the east and reaches Red Robin mine, classified by Heritage Victoria due to its status as the sole surviving alpine gold mine.
  2. Derrick Hut – At the track junction mentioned above continue along the foot track (the alpine walking track) as it follows the snow pole line south east descending to Derrick Hut. Derrick Hut is a refuge hut, built by the Wangaratta Ski Club for Ski tourers. It is situated in a lovely alpine meadow.

Mt Loch fire trail Mt Loch summit with view of Mt Feathertop Red Robin mine Derrick hut

Walk date: Dec 28, 2007
Time/level: 1 day easy (around 2.5 hours)
Maps: Rooftop’s Mt Feathertop – Hotham Forest Activities Map (1:30,000), VICMAP Bogong Alpine Area Outdoor Leisure Map (1:50,000)
My rating: A

Bushwalking – Mt. Feathertop (via Champion and Bungalow Spurs)

Emerging onto the Razorback from Champion Spur

This route provides a bit more variety, especially for walkers who have already been up and down the Bungalow Spur, while still remaining a circuit walk and thus avoiding a car shuffle.

The route could be done in either direction – we did the walk up Champion Spur and down Bungalow Spur. Either way, the route starts and ends in Harrietville. The track up Champion Spur starts in the same place as the Bon Accord Spur, before splitting and heading south-east while the Bon Accord Spur track continues south. Following an initially well formed fire track, the track slowly deteriorates before disappearing completely about 1km or so shy of the Razorback ridge. The 2003 bushfires swept through this whole area, and their effects are still apparent; the scrub had started to grow back strongly when we did this walk however, so that last km or so before the ridge was rather hard going. Then, as we reached the Razorback, we experienced a brief summer snow shower – a reminder that the weather in this region can change fast.

Once the Razorback ridge is joined, a distinct track continues north, passing the track down Diamantina Spur to the right, and then about 1.5km further on, the Bungalow Spur track to the left. This marks the start of the descent, but the summit is still another 1.5km north-east along the razorback (passing the north-west spur to the left on its way to the summit).

This walk can be done as either a hard one-day walk (at around 25km it’s a tough day) or as a moderate overnight walk, with camp at the (excellent) Federation Hut site on the Bungalow Spur just down from the junction with the Razorback. If you’re doing this as an overnight walk then note that the first day is still pretty tough if you ascend via Champion Spur (easier if you go clockwise – ie. up Bungalow and down Champion). If you’re not sure about walking in untracked bush, then an easier option is up and down the Bungalow Spur, or if you can organise a car shuffle, along the Razorback from Mt Hotham, and then down the Bungalow Spur (a superb walk).

Walk date: Champion Spur section Dec 27, 2004, Bungalow Spur and Summit section, numerous times, the last on April 7, 2007
Time/level: 1 day hard (allow 7-9 hours), about 25km, 2 days moderate
Map: Bogong Alpine Area, Outdoor Leisure Map (1:50,000)
My rating: A, a lesser used but worthwhile route

On Champion Spur Snow Gum on the The Razorback Summer snow on The Razorback Summit of Mt Feathertop