Fellwalking: High Street

View of High Street from near Kidsty Pike

“High Street is in stature the most massive of the fells on the far east of Lakeland, in altitude exceeding all others in that company … yet despite these credentials, High Street is unassuming and unpretentious and so accommodating to travellers that the Roman surveyors and engineers, during their early invasions of this country, laid a road across its broad top for the movement of troops and supplies in preference to their usual practice of seeking routes through the mountain passes. This ancient highway, still to be seen, gave High Street its unusual name.”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Another great day out in Lakeland, this time at its far eastern edge. We started at Mardale, leaving our car in the small carpark there. From the carpark a path curves around north-east to join the Rigg. From here it is almost due west straight up the ridge, over Rough Crag to eventually attain the summit ridge along which the Roman’s built their road. There are splendid views in all directions in good weather and a cairn marks the summit at 2718 ft.

The path soon leaves the old Roman Road to turn south-east to Mardale Ill Bell. Not long after it crosses a bridleway which could be  used to return to Mardale Head, but we continued on past Harter Fell to eventually join Gatesgarth Pass and then a moderate descent back to the start of the walk. The Haweswater Hotel, on the road out, provided a good spot to relax and have a beer.

My rating: A
Map: OL5 – The English Lakes: North Eastern Area (1:25,000)
Wainwright’s guides: The Far Eastern Fells (50th Anniversary Edition):Book Two (A Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells)

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).

Fellwalking: Eel Crag (Crag Hill)

Summit of Eel Crag (Crag Hill)

“The great feature of the mountain is the north-east flank, steeply descending in a wild confusion of crags and outcrops and runs of scree that repel exploration; the south face, too, is defended by a line of cliffs and only westwards is there a slope of easy gradient”

Wainwright’s Favourite Lakeland Mountains

Another day in the Lakes marred by rather poor weather – not much rain, but not much of a view either due to a very low cloud base, although the sun came out for long enough to give me a bit of sunburn! Notwithstanding this, an enjoyable walk that would be even better on a clear day.

We parked by the south of the narrow road that leads south from Braithwaite, just after a junction with Stoneycroft and took the path westwards along sleet Hause and over Causey Pike, climbing steadily to reach Sail and then across The Scar to Eel Head (Crag Hill on the OS maps).

From the summit you could return the same way, but we decided to drop down to the west and then loop around north-east towards Force Crag mine before taking the faint footpath south by Birkthwaite Beck to the footpath that passes High Moss and Outerside. Alas, the weather had closed in completely at this point and we ended up curving too far to the south-west, climbing the screes to meet the path close to Sail.

After this short detour, we picked up the correct path and headed eastwards past Outerside and then by Stonycroft Gill back to the start. The Swinside Inn is not far down the road and provides a good place to relax afterwards.

My rating: B+
Map: 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)

Mt Field East, Tasmania

View of Mt Field East, Mt Field National Park, Tasmania

Mt Field East, located in the Mt Field National Park about 90km outside Hobart, provides an excellent target for a day-walk. If the weather is fine, you’ll get superb views from the summit.

I did the walk as a circuit, which requires a bit of a road bash. Parking at the Lake Fenton car park, I took the path by the south-eastern end of the lake that climbs steadily and affords excellent views. After a quick detour to Seagers Lookout (worthwhile) I proceeded across Windy Moor to the obvious summit.

After taking in the great views from the summit I took the path down by Lake Nicholls which eventually reaches Lake Dobson Road, and ultimately back to the parking area.

At around 4 hours I found it a moderate day-walk. The trail is generally pretty well marked, but some sections will require a bit of navigational care. The final pull up to the summit also requires a bit of rock hopping. I’d recommend doing the circuit clockwise as the path down from the summit to Lake Nicholls is quite steep and drags a bit – going down here seemed preferable to climbing up. The final road section is uphill but the grade is much less steep. This whole area is an alpine environment so please ensure you are properly equipped.

My rating: B+
Map: TASMAP Mount Field National Park (1:50,000)

Bushwalking: Mt Howitt, Alpine National Park

View of Mt Howitt from West Peak

Mt Howitt is a major attraction of the Wonangatta-Moroka unit of the Alpine National Park, with sweeping views in all directions, including of the impressive Crosscut Saw. This moderate day walk is a highly recommended Victorian bushwalk.

The walk commences at the Upper Howqua camping area. The path follows the Upper Howqua road for the first 3.5 kilometres. The road, which was closed some years ago (you used to be able to drive to the base of Howitt Spur), is easy to follow. There are however three fords required – the bridges marked on the out-of-date Vicmap have long since collapsed.

Eventually the road meets a small clearing and a signpost. Ignoring the overgrown vehicular track that climbs to the right, cross the clearing and then the Howqua River to join the Howqua Feeder Track footpath, which soon becomes quite distinct. From here it’s about 4.5 km to the summit. The path climbs moderately at first before getting steeper as it approaches the tree line. West Peak is reached first and there are magnificent views. It’s an easy walk to the summit of Mt Howitt from here.

From Mt Howitt summit you can return the same way.

[Alternative return: Walk downhill north-east from Mt Howitt along an obvious path to a track junction, taking the left (north-ish) branch slightly uphill along the first part of the Crosscut Saw. Continue along for about a kilometre to a saddle where a faint foot track proceeds off to the left (and was marked by a small cairn when I was there). Follow this path – it soon descends steeply along Stanleys Name Spur and eventually will reach Queen Spur Road, an old logging road which is now overgrown. At the road, turn left (south) and follow it back to the clearing at the base of Howqua Spur and then back along Howqua Spur road to the start.

Please note that this is for more experienced walkers – there’s some scrambling involved on the initial very steep section down from the Crosscut Saw, and the path along the spur is indistinct in places and towards the end could not be seen at all, having been hit with bushfires, leaving me traversing a rather nasty fern-filled gully to reach the old Queen Spur ‘Road’ (now a heavily overgrown and indistinct footpath). Given these issues, it would probably be better to do the circuit in a clockwise direction, i.e. ascend via Stanleys Name Spur and thus more easily locate the launching point onto the spur from Queen Spur Road, and come down the Howitt Spur.]

Walk date: Jan 2, 2009
Distance/time: around 16kms, 1 day moderate (about 6 hours), 1 day hard if returning via Stanley’s name Spur
Map: VICMAP Howitt-Selwyn (1:50,000)
My rating: A+

Access: The Upper Howqua camping area is reached via Mt Stirling – take the road to Telephone Box junction and then follow the right-hand branch of the Stirling Circuit Road until it reaches a junction with Bindaree Road. Follow Bindaree Road until it meets the Upper Howqua Road, turn left here and the camping area is reached almost immediately. The road should be passable by 2WD vehicles in dry conditions.

Walk of the Month: Mt Cobbler, Alpine National Park

Summit of Mt Cobbler

An excellent and not particularly difficult walk to the summit of Mt Cobbler starting at the attractive Lake Cobbler.

From Lake Cobbler follow the sign-posted track to Mt Cobbler as it follows an old vehicular track initially, before leaving to drop down and cross a small creek. Some of the track markers in this area have been burned, so are hard to see.

From the other side of the creek the path climbs steadily through forest until it reaches a track junction. From here turn right (north) and follow the path as it breaks through the treeline onto the Cobbler Plateau. Walk up the rock slabs (a path is marked by occasional cairns but in good weather you won’t need them) as you walk up this section you’ll probably wonder how the summit will be reached as it is cut off from the main ridge. Fortunately there is a small land bridge that connects the two; some simple scrambling is required, although it’s steep on all sides so a head for heights would be useful.

After exploring the summit area and taking in the superb views, return to Lake Cobbler via the same path.

Walk date: Jan 3, 2009
Distance/time: Around 8kms, 1 day easy (3 hours or so)
Map: Vicmap Howitt-Selwyn (1:50,000)
My rating: A+

Access: Lake Cobbler is about 50km south of Whitfield, along a forestry road that is unsealed for the most part. My car is an all-wheel drive Subaru Forester which had no problems negotiating the track, access by 2WD should be possible with care in dry weather – note that there is a steep climb up from the upper Dangdongadale River valley and a short ford just before Lake Cobbler is reached.

Update: See comments for an update on current conditions (Mar 2011)