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).

Walk of the Month: Mt Loch (North-East Victoria)


Summit of Mt Loch (560px)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Mt Loch fire trail Mt Loch summit with view of Mt Feathertop Red Robin mine Derrick hut

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

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

Cathedral Range (North Circuit)

South Jawbone

The Cathedral Range rises up from the Acheron Valley about an hour and a half outside Melbourne and provides some excellent walks in rugged bushland. The range is encapsulated in the Cathedral Range State Park and can be reached from Melbourne by following the Maroondah Highway through Buxton. About 9km after passing through Buxton there is a turn-off on the right (east) along Cathedral Lane, a narrow bitumen road; a couple of kilometres further and another right turn (south) takes you into the park along a rather rough gravel road (accessible by 2WD vehicles with care).

This walk takes in the northern section of the park, including the North and South Jawbones and The Cathedral. The walk commences at Neds Gully car park, which is the first car park reached if approaching from Cathedral Lane. Cross the gravel road to a track (Little River Track) that continues south alongside the Little River. This track eventually reaches the extensive Cooks Mill camping area. From here the track continues east up to the Jawbones Carpark, where it descends briefly before climbing steeply to The Farmyard (passing a junction with a sign to the North Jawbone) a pleasant grassed area where camping is permitted. At the Farmyard follow a signed path westwards up to the South Jawbone for excellent views westwards.

From the South Jawbone, descend back to The Farmyard and then retrace your steps towards the Jawbones Carpark and the aforementioned path junction, taking the signed path north to the North Jawbone, shortly thereafter there is another sign pointing eastwards along the short track that leads to the North Jawbone summit – also with good views, but somewhat more obscured by trees and vegetation.

Descend back to the main track and continue northwards. After following the track for another kilometre or so a Y junction is reached and a decision needs to be made. To the right a well formed path descends to Neds Saddle, to the left a track climbs onto the ridge. The ridge trail traverses the rocky ridge and requires a fair bit of scrambling with steep drops to the east; in many places there is no clear path and in wet weather this way could be quite slippery and treacherous. It also provides a challenging walk and magnificent views. If the weather is good and you feel confident with some rock scrambling, take the ridge path, otherwise the path to Neds Saddle provides an easy route back to the start.

The ridge trail continues for about a kilometre or so north to The Cathedral. Once The Cathedral is reached, retrace steps south to a track junction with a path east that drops very steeply into Neds Saddle. From here follow the clear and well made Neds Gully Track back to Neds Gully.

Walk date: Nov 6, 2007
Time/level: 1 day moderate/hard (allow 5 hours or so)
Map: Cathedral Range Outdoor Leisure Map, Parks Victoria Parks Notes (nb: these seem to have disappeared from the Parks Victoria site)
My rating: A

Little River Track Approaching South Jawbone North Jawbone view from The Cathedral

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 Buller West Ridge

View of Mt Buller

Mt Buller stands at 1805m, and an approach to the summit via the West Ridge makes for an excellent days walking with great views. The only (minor) drawback is that Mt Buller is also a major ski resort, so the actual summit itself is a bit of an anti-climax, with a road almost to the top – so getting there is most of the fun, and the approach from the west ‘hides’ most of the ski resort development until you are almost at the top.

Mt Buller is located about 45km from Mansfield. The start of the walk is a track just off Doughty Road about 5km or so from the turn-off from the main Mt Buller Rd just after Sawmill Settlement, about 30km from Mansfield. The track climbs to Round Hill before descending into a saddle and then climbing steeply to Mt Buller Summit about 5km from the start.

This whole area is snowbound in winter, and like the rest of the Victorian Alps is subject to cold, wet and windy weather at any time. There’s also a bit of scrambling involved on the narrow ridge, so this is not a route for beginners.

Walk date: Easter 2005
Time/level: 1 day moderate/hard (allow 4-5 hours), about 10km
Map: Buller-Stirling Outdoor Leisure Map (1:25,000)
My rating: A, a very good Victorian bushwalk

over round hill mt buller west ridge 1 mt buller summit sign mt buller west ridge 2

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


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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