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:
- 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.
- 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.
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
“…Pillar, a fine bold mountain overtopping all else around and forming a high barrier between the valleys of Ennerdale and Mosedale”
Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains
My first attempt at climbing Pillar ended without attaining the summit. The weather on that day was particularly bad – I ascended initially via the Dorehead screes (not a good idea). The wind was blowing over the ridge that leads north-west from Dore Head to Red Pike with brute strength, at one point a strong gust from the west blew my legs under me to the east, and I hit the deck. It was also raining – the wind driving the rain into my jacket and through the neck and arm holes so by the time I had reached Little Scoat Fell and started the final ascent to the east, I was cold and wet. At this point, with visibility down to less than 10 metres, I decided discretion was the better part of valour – leaving the summit to another day I descended down the rough footpath that cuts between Green and Elliptical crags, back into Mosedale and a very welcome late lunch at the Wasdale Head Inn.
I eventually climbed Pillar a few years later. As it happens, the weather was still fairly ordinary on the day (hence the lack of decent photos), but nowhere near as bad as the first time. The route we followed starts at Wasdale Head, following the bridleway that pushes north into Mosedale to the east of Mosedale Beck. After a junction with a path that continues northwards and forms the return of this route (the Wind Gap route – fairly indistinct last time I was there), the bridleway slowly curves to the north east crossing Gatherstone Beck and becoming the Black Sail Pass, eventually attaining the east ridge and a track junction. From here the path proceeds westwards, climbing for most of the way before finally reaching the summit.
The descent proceeds steeply south-west into Wind Gap before turning south east onto the screes and then a rough footpath that drops down into Mosedale and ultimately joins the bridleway from the start of the walk that leads back to Wasdale Head.
My rating: A
Maps: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000), the very start of the walk also requires OL6 – The English Lakes: South Western area
Wainwright’s guides: Book seven, The Western Fells
“The traverse of the fells on either side of Newlands is a joyful exercise of sustained exhilaration with views both beautiful and dramatic every step of the way. Nowhere is the walking difficult; there are no hazards and a steady pace can be maintained along the tops. I rank the Newlands Horseshoe among the best”
Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains
And for what it’s worth, I rank this amongst the best walks in Lakeland as well. The walk starts at the accurately named Little Town, there’s a small carpark just south of the village at Chapel Bridge. From the car park walk back up to the village and then west on to the bridleway that climbs uphill to join a path between Cat Bells to the north (left) and Maiden Moor to the south (right). Take the path south to Maiden Moor and continue along the ridge almost due south to High Spy, enjoying the great views into the Newlands Valley and Derwent Water and Borrowdale.
From High Spy the track continues southwards, descending to Dalehead tarn; when I was last there the actual path passed to the right of the tarn (the map shows the right of way to the left of the tarn) before a steep uphill pull westwards to the summit of Dale Head. From Dale Head continue westwards along Hindscarth Edge before turning north for the final climb up to Hindscarth. From here, the track descends along an attractive spur to Scope End before executing a u-turn and proceeding south to Goldscope Lead Mine and then turning back north along a footpath back to the start point at Chapel Bridge. The Swinside Inn, up the road to the north, provides an excellent spot for a post-walk beer.
A longer alternative, recommended by Wainwright in his Favourite Lakeland Mountains book, is to start at Hawes End, on the west bank of Derwent Water. From here you need to head due south up the spur to Cat Bells. Descending from Cat Bells into the col, you can pick up the track described above. On the return, you would need to continue through Little Town and pick up the footpath that continues on to Skelgill and then the road back to Hawes End.
My rating: A+
Maps: OL4 – The English Lakes: North Western area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The North Western Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Six (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells)