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

Gear: Brasher Hillmaster GTX Walking Boots

Brasher Hillmaster walking boots

I bought this pair of Brasher “Hillmaster” GTX boots back in 1999, and they have since given 8 years of sterling service. I’ve used them in all conditions – from snow and pelting rain to hot dry days. They’ve covered many, many miles around a good part of England and Wales as well as Switzerland and Australia, along all kinds of terrain.

The boots are constructed of a leather upper with Gore-tex lining and a rubber sole. The waterproofing is generally very good, although it is wise to remember that no boot can ever be completely waterproof, given water can get in from the top and around the tongue. The soles on my pair have worn down quite a bit but still have plenty of life left, and they are still firmly attached to the uppers. I’ve had no problems with seams coming undone or indeed any other manufacturing issues. I should add that the boots have often been stored wet and have not been cleaned that often, I’ll also have to admit that I have sometimes opened up the boot bag in which they are stored to discover dust and dirt and a rather fragrant pair of socks stuffed in them from the previous walk, which makes their longevity all the more impressive. Comfort has been excellent right from the start – no blisters at all, and at around 1.3kg they are quite light for a solid pair of boots and this makes a big difference towards the end of a day of walking.

In summary, definitely the best pair of walking boots I’ve owned: comfortable and light with excellent performance and quality. I’m retiring this pair now because the leather on the top of the boot at the front has finally cracked after the flexing of thousands of steps (the leather in this area has also become a bit brittle), but my next pair will be Hillmasters Supalites.

(Link to manufacturer’s site)

UPDATE: Well I visited a Field and Trek store while I was in London fully intending to buy a new pair of Hillmasters…but I tried on a pair of Brasher Supalites, and after much deliberation decided to give these a try instead. First impressions have been good, again they were very comfortable out of the box, just a little rubbing at the top of the ankle at the back – but I get this with all new shoes and it didn’t cause a blister. 

The boots are and feel lighter but the trade off here is that they don’t feel as sturdy and I don’t expect they’ll last as long. I’ll report back in a year or so.

New year updates

I’ve updated the walk descriptions for the two walks in the Grindelwald area in Switzerland to include scanned copies of relevant maps. I’ve also substantially re-written the Mt Feathertop – Razorback walk description and added some new photos from a walk there in late December.

The new year resolution for this blog is to update on a more consistent schedule – I’m aiming for weekly updates, to be done on the weekend.