|Mt Loch, with the snow covered Mt Feathertop behind it.|
Day 1. Mount Hotham to Cope Hut. 22 kilometres
With most of my recent posts either featuring me snorkelling in some tropical paradise somewhere, or swimming in a water hole somewhere in the north of Australia I thought it was about time for a bit of variety. Not having really walked anywhere cold for a little while I had to search through the Feral way back machine again, after a lot of coughing and spluttering (and that was just me as I watched our cricket team collapse again) I settled on a walk I did from the Jurassic period. These are my hazy recollections from a three day walk from Mt Hotham to Mt Bogong over the cup weekend back in 1992 with my friends Dave and Naomi.
|Being Spring there was of shortage of water on this walk, this little stream was just before Derrick Hut.|
After the massive car shuffle the night before, one which saw us finally settle into our hotel room at Harrietville well after midnight, it was a bit of a relaxing start to the day today. We finally shuffled off mid morning on what was a reasonably warm alpine day. The majority of this walk had us following a numbered pole line which is also a section of The Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT), so navigation wasn't going to be an issue as we set off towards Mt Loch this morning. Less than an hour after leaving we were taking in the view of the snow covered Mt Feathertop with Mt Loch in the foreground, itself with a fair snow drift still on its flanks. Dropping gently down towards Derrick Hut we stopped for awhile to refill the water bottles at one of the many cascading streams.
|Lunch on day 1 was at the idealic Dibbins Hut.|
The AAWT slowly descended down Swindlers Spur after passing Derrick Hut, back in the day when we did this walk the snow gums hadn't been burn't and I remember the upper sections of Swindlers Spur being particularly good walking. The lower section of Swindler Spur dropped us steeply down to Dibbins Hut, with the sun out and the sky blue a more perfect spot for lunch you'd be hard pressed to find. The afternoon had us climbing up past the Basalt Temple onto the Bogong High Plains, the open rolling grassland made for fairly easy walking and by late afternoon we had made our way across to Cope Hut. There isn't a lot of flat ground for camping around Cope Hut but with the hut being empty we settled in there for the night, Cope Hut is one of the flashiest huts in the high country and we had a very comfortable night, which was just as well as we were all pretty tired after a fairly solid day.
|Dave relaxing on The Bogong High Plains near Mt Jim.|
Day 2. Cope Hut to Big River. 20 kilometres 42 kilometres total.
We had been really lucky with the weather so far on this walk and this morning was no different, waking this morning to warm and slightly overcast conditions. After breakfast we set off on our journey along the AAWT again in pretty good spirits. Today promised to be a little easier than yesterdays walk with the map promising no great climbs to contend with, initially we followed a pole line that ran just to the east of the Bogong High Plains Road until we arrived at the rustic Wallaces Hut, don't quote me but I think this little gem is listed by the National Trust.
After our second breakfast at Wallace Hut we once again headed off in the direction of Mt Bogong, avoiding the quarry on Basalt Hill we admired the views over the large Rocky Valley Dam as we dropped down to Langford Gap. For some reason we then headed along the Bogong High Plains road for a kilometre or so to pick up Big River Track near Watchbed Creek, the AAWT actually heads east at Langford Gap to cross Langford East Aqueduct at a rather quaint roofed bridge so I'm not sure why we wondered down the road. Big River Track is superb walking along here though, (at least in good weather) as it crosses some of the highest most exposed country in Victoria. Walking across the open alpine grassland our next objective was in sight, Mt Nelse and Mt Nelse North which at 1884 metres is often listed as our third highest mountain, actually though our third highest point is about a kilometre west on a gentle knoll on the Spion Kopje Track, which comes in at 1893 metres.
|Me on Mt Nelse, Mt Bogong is the washed out mountain in the distance.|
While it technically might not be our third highest point only train spotters would worry about it, and today it gave us a grand stand view of the patchwork of snow drifts blanketing the high plains and Mt Bogong, now suddenly looking very close at hand. Between us and Mt Bogong though was a little obstacle called Big River, to cross it meant a knee crunching descent of over 800 metres off The Bogong High Plains down Duane Spur to the river. After passing the old Ropers Hut hidden in the snow gums the route got steep and stayed that way all the way to the bottom, when the track dropped off the crest of the spur and headed down even steeper we soon got our first views of Big River rushing through the trees. Arriving at the chain on Big River our next problem became obvious, with the spring thaw in full flight Big River was flowing a banka, with the icy water lapping at the top of my thighs I eased myself across the chain safely. The job wasn't finished yet though, being the chivelerous bloke that I am I then dropped my pack and headed back across for Naomi's pack before wading back in for the third time. Eventually we were all safe and sound on the north bank and that's where we set up camp for the night, we'd arrived in the mid afternoon so the rest of the day was spent relaxing around camp and even taking a very quick dip in the river.
|Heading towards Ropers Hut.|
Day 3 Big River to Mountain Creek 17 kilometres 59 kilometres total.
Our luck with the weather officially ran out today. We were woken by torrential rain and to be honest it didn't really let up much all day, nowadays that would make for a lot of watery, rain on the lens, atmospheric type of photos, but back in the day with no water proof camera it just meant no photos. What I do remember though was the relentless climb up T Spur in the misty rain, before the very welcoming Cleve Cole Hut materialised out of the gloom. A hot lunch was enjoyed at Cleve Cole while we slipped on almost all the clothes we were carrying. After leaving Cleve Cole Hut we endured an hour of tough walking as we made our way through the storm towards Mt Bogong, Naomi getting blown around like a rag doll in the wind. With absolutely no chance of a view today we gratefully dropped down Staircase Spur before we reached the summit cairn and headed for the tree line. After another quick break and a bit of a re group at Bivouac Hut we set off once again, descending reasonably quickly down the slippery track, although now we were well and truly below the tree line the conditions weren't anywhere near as hostile, we were now really just contending with rain. It was three very wet and bedraggled walkers that eventually arrived at Mountain Creek Car Park late that afternoon, drying ourselves off a bit we piled into my old XR Falcon (complete with front bench seat.....I was retro cool before I even knew what it meant!) and headed off for our regular pit stop, Maccas at Glenrowan.
|We had a relaxing afternoon and evening at our camp at the bottom of T Spur on Big River.|
This is probably a medium grade walk, although looking back now, 25 years later, I'm amazed at the distances we covered and how quickly we covered them, I could do this now but I certainly wouldn't be setting up camp by mid afternoon nowadays! This is still a really good walk featuring what is arguably Victoria best alpine scenery, there are a few things to consider though. The first issue is that the walk requires a massive car shuffle, we're talking around 2 hours each way. The second issue should be obvious, with the walk traversing some great alpine country then the flip side of that is that for large parts it's fairly exposed, while there are lots of high country huts around you still have to be careful. The third thing to consider is the crossing of Big River, when the river is in flood or the spring thaw is on it's not a crossing to take lightly, even with the safety chain.
|The weather on our last day wasn't so flash!|
|Climbing T Spur in the rain on the last day.|