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.┬áLess experienced walkers should start with the Razorback or Bungalow Spur routes.

Diamantina Spur path Blairs Hut from the logging track

Walk of the Month: Wilsons Promontory (Victoria) – South/East circuit

Sealers Cove (Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit)

“In wild splendour the high granite peninsula of Wilsons Promontory pushes into the cold waters of Bass Strait to form the most southerly point of the Australian mainland, 225 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. In a relatively small area this national park protects an extraordinarily diverse range of environments: wild heathlands and swamps, moist pockets of rainforest, granite mountain tops, and dunes and seashores.”

Jocelyn Burt, “The World of Wilsons Promontory”

Wilsons Promontory (or just ‘the Prom’) is probably the most popular national park in Victoria and one of the most beautiful. A circuit around the southern part of the prom is one of Victoria’s classic bushwalks.

The walk begins at the Telegraph Saddle carpark below Mt Oberon. Generally you can park here, but on busy spring and summer weekends the road to the carpark may be closed in which case you will need to take the (free) courtesy bus from the Norman Bay carpark at Tidal River (leaves every 30 minutes). The circuit takes in Waterloo bay, Refuge Cove and Sealers Cove, and can be completed in 1, 2 (camping at Refuge Cove) or 3 (camping at Little Waterloo Bay and Sealers Cove) days, clockwise or anti-clockwise. I once did the walk in a day, but don’t recommend this unless you are in training for something else, as at 37km it is a long and tough day and you will have no time to rest and enjoy the many sights and locations along the way. My recommendation is to make it an overnight 2 day walk, camping at the lovely Refuge Cove, and travelling anti-clockwise to get the road bash (along Telegraph Track) over with at the start of the walk. Note that you need a permit if you intend to camp overnight – these can be obtained from the park office on the day you start, but to avoid disappointment if the campsites are already booked up, the permits can also be booked in advance by calling Parks Victoria (if you do this, you can also pick up the permits at the office at the park entrance).

From Telegraph Saddle carpark, take the 4wd Telegraph Track southwards. The track descends briefly and then stays relatively flat for the 6.5km to the junction with the Waterloo Bay walking track. Take this track almost due East to Waterloo Bay and its magnificent white sands. At Waterloo Bay the track turns north and continues just to the left of the beach before joining the beach just south of Freshwater creek. To continue along the track, cross the creek (this can usually done without getting your feet wet by hopping across the rocks) and then locate the track, fairly well hidden amongst the boulders at the northern tip of the beach. The track climbs steeply initially but soon descends into Little Waterloo Bay camping area. From here the track continues to hug the coast and proceeds east and then north-east to North Waterloo Bay.

From here, the track moves inland and climbs towards Kersop Peak (accessed from a track that branches south-east from the main track). The track continues northwards and descends into Refuge Cove, and the overnight camping area.

Telegraph Track Waterloo Bay On the trail from Waterloo Bay to Refuge Cove Cove Creek at Refuge Cove

From the overnight hikers camping area drop down to the beach and continue to the northernmost point where the track ascends inland and climbs northwards to a lookout near Horn Point. From here the track turns westwards providing a superb view of five mile beach to the north, before descending into Sealers Cove. Passing through the overnight camping area, the path descends to the beach where it is necessary to ford Sealers Creek. It is wise to try and avoid arriving here at high-tide as the creek will be very deep at this time (the park offices at the entrance and at Tidal River have a list of low and high-tide times) and potentially very difficult to cross. We arrived a couple of hours after low-tide at which time it was still only calf-deep (but very cold!).

After crossing the creek, the path is along the beach for a kilometre or so, before a signpost is reached (just before the remains of an old jetty) pointing to the track inland. The track continues west through Sealers Swamp (this whole section is now along boardwalks), an attractive area where occasional shafts of sunlight break through the dense foliage. Eventually, the boardwalks stop and the track then ascends moderately but relentlessly to Windy Saddle, a small grassy area and a great spot for a final break before that last section of the walk back to Telegraph Saddle.

Looking towards Five Mile Beach Track through Sealers Swamp Path between Sealers Cove and Windy Saddle Windy Saddle

Walk date: Nov 10/11, 2007
Time/level: 2 days moderate (around 5 hours each day)
Map: VICMAP Wilsons Promontory Special (1:50,000), Parks Victoria Parks Notes
My rating: A+, One of Victoria’s best

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

Bushwalking – Mt. Feathertop via the Razorback

Looking towards mt feathertop summit

This route is probably the most popular way of all to approach Mt. Feathertop. Not only does it avoid a long climb, but it provides a magnificent 10km ridge walk along the Razorback, prior to the final 1.5km pull up to the summit.

The walk starts just below Diamantina Hut on the road up to Mt. Hotham (there’s generally plenty of room to park by the side of the road). The track is well defined and for the most part follows the spine of the ridge. A short distance from the start there’s a Y junction, the left spur continues to the top of a large hill and the junction with Bon Accord Spur, before descending into Big Dipper, the right spur avoids the climb up the hill by sidling along the east side. From Big Dipper the track continues about another 7km or so before it is joined by Champion Spur on the left (west) side. From here Twin Knobs (to the east) are passed and then the path passes to the left of High Knob, which is the top of the Diamantina Spur. The Diamantina Spur track (which avoids going up and over High Knob) joins the Razorback shortly thereafter. The path then curves slightly to the north-west, passing Molly Hill before reaching a track junction next to an old gnarled snowgum that has sheltered many walkers over the years (and miraculously escaped the devastating Razorback bushfire in 2003 which took out most of the ridge and Federation Hut).

At this track junction, the path to the west – the Bungalow Spur track – leads down 500m to Federation Hut, and a very attractive overnight camping area. The main path continues north-east, soon passing the north-west spur track to the left (the walking track on the north-west spur is called the Tom Kneen track after a skier who died when the cornice on Mt Feathertop collapsed under him as he was making a winter ascent). From here the track starts to climb, first moderately and then very steeply, before finally attaining the summit. Note that at the summit there a two ‘peaks’ close together; the highest is the second one when approaching from the south.

Views from the summit are, in good weather, magnificent.

To return, follow the same route back to the Mt Hotham road. Note that while this is an attractive walk in the warmer months, the ridge is very exposed and you should be prepared for poor weather at any time, including rain and strong winds (and snow, even in summer). Note also, that although there are no big climbs, the walk is still over 22km return, so get an early start, particularly if you are relatively new to bushwalking.

Walk date: numerous times, the last on 27 Dec 2007
Time/level: 1 day med (allow 6-7 hours), about 22km
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+, one of my all-time favourite walks


View Larger Map

storm over ovens valley looking down from mt feathertop summit

Photos from December 2007:
The Razorback - junction with Bon Accord Spur View of Mt Buffalo plateau from the Razorback View from the Razorback at the junction with Bungalow Spur Old snowgum on the Razorback at the bungalow Spur junction

Bushwalking – Mt Bogong (20th anniversary)

Mt Bogong summit cairn

Mt Bogong is the highest peak in Victoria at 1986m. Thankfully, unlike Mt Kosciusko in NSW, there are no roads going close to the summit – however you approach, there is no ‘easy’ way. The most popular approach is from the north, utilising the Staircase and Eskdale spurs. While I would normally recommend travelling clockwise (i.e. up Eskdale and down Staircase) on this day, twenty years since my first ascent, I chose to go anti-clockwise – the same way we had taken in 1987.

This route also makes for a particularly fine overnight walk, with camp at Cleve Cole Memorial Hut.

Walk date: March 10, 2007
Time/level: 1 day, hard (allow 7.0-8.5 hours)
Map: Bogong Alpine Area, Outdoor Leisure Map
My rating: A. An essential Victorian bushwalk.


View Larger Map

bivouac hut looking back down staircase spur junction of eskdale and granite flat spurs michell hut