Feathertop and the Razorback

posted in: Mini Adventures | 0

Written by Lucie

Mark, Lucie, Jacob and Lorelei on and around the Razorback (Mount Feathertop to Mount Hotham) over a hot weekend in December 2013, sort of in celebration of Lucie’s birthday.

Day one

Having driven up to Beechworth on Friday night and made ourselves well acquainted with Bridge Road Brewery, we started our hike a little later than planned. We also had to deal with some unplanned harvesting – plums the night before, and lychees from the petrol station on the way to Harrietville. However, we finally set out, a little dehydrated, in the full heat of a mid-December day.

It was tough.

Even if all factors are in your favour, the hike from Harrietville up to Mount Feathertop via Bungalow Spur is full on and we were attempting to hike in a bit of a Team Irresponsible mode.

We parked at the base of the mountain, right next to the Harrietville Blueberry Farm (imagine trying to drag Lorelei away from that place). From there it is 9 kilometres, vaguely west, to Little Mount Feathertop and Federation Hut. However, it’s also about a 1250 metre elevation gain. Did I mention that it was the middle of December, in excess of 30 degrees Celsius and on the night before we got a bit too into the Bridge Road beers?!

On the way to the brewery Lorelei got pretty into this tree

So yes, the climb was long and hot. Lucie had to stop for a mini nap at the site of the Feathertop Bungalow ruin (elevation approximately 1475 m). But eventually we made it to Federation Hut. There, we dropped our packs and collapsed in the shade cast by the hut. However, there was still another 147 m elevation to go in order to bag Mount Feathertop. After a very brief internal debate, Lucie decided she was much more into sitting in the shade with a bottle of water and a Nat Geo for company and bid the others farewell, although only after she promised Lorelei that she would read all of the words and not just look at the pictures.

The climb to Mount Feathertop was uneventful and much nicer without packs and in slightly cooler weather. When the team reconvened at Little Mount Feathertop Lucie was putting up the tents. We had a splash with some cool tank water (don’t worry, we were sparing with the water) and got dinner on the go.

Lorelei actually carried half a coconut to eat her curry out of

After dinner and a round of Best and Worst we cracked out the cards for some 500. We also hung out in the hut for a little bit, Mark brought out his stash of hiking port and Lorelei presented Lucie with a secret birthday blueberry cobbler!

Day two

On day two we were able to get going at a much more reasonable time and set off south along the Razorback Track towards Mount Hotham. This was a very enjoyable 8.5 km over gently undulating craggy ground with views right to Harrietville State Forest, left across peaks that would form part of the following year’s AAWT challenge, and in front to the very non-snowy Hotham resort.

Beautiful view to the north

The only bad part of this section of the hike was the flies. Dear God, the flies. Each of us had a fly city hitching a free ride on our packs and there were constantly flies trying to get in your mouth, in your ears, your nose, and even managing to get in between your eye and the lens of your sunglasses. It was so annoying! Lucie got one stuck in her sinus cavity for about 10 minutes until a large sneeze dislodged it. After that she hiked with a bandana firmly around her nose and mouth.

The start of the Razorback Track

When we reached the junction of the Razorback Track with Bon Accord Spur we stopped for lunch (with bonus flies) and to consult the map to decide on a path back to the car. Our options were: go back the way we had come, past Feathertop and down Bungalow Spur (boring); continue to Diamantina Hut on the Great Alpine Road and try to hitch a ride back (also boring and also unlikely to be successful. Unless all four of us managed to hitch back it would be a long, slow, twisty drive back to pick up those left behind); hike back via the Bon Accord Spur (which said it was closed, but we thought it would probably be okay and would be the north-west hypotenuse to our hiking triangle).

Awesome craggy rocks

We decided to take Bon Accord Spur. A helpful sign (that actually turned out to be very unhelpful) told us it was about 7 km to a campsite at a creek and then another 4.5 km to Harrietville, just a kilometre from where we had parked the car. Our map seemed to agree with this. Our bodies and watches when we were actually walking, most definitely did not agree. Let me talk you through it.

We started off down Bon Accord Spur and it was all pretty dandy. Fairly quickly however the conditions of the track deteriorated. The ground underfoot was very loose scree which made walking really hard, particularly downhill because every step had the potential for you to end up sliding down the hill on your backside (in hindsight, perhaps not a bad option). It was also good ankle breaking ground. Every now and again it would flatten off and we would be in a beautiful grassy oasis with a canopy of gum leaves creating a picturesque tunnel to walk though. In one of these spots we found the ruins of Bon Accord Hut. But then the fire damage would be prevalent again and we’d be meandering around, considerably adding to the 7 km toted by the sign.

The start of Bon Accord Spur

Jacob and Lorelei got ahead and once they finally found the campsite at the creek excitedly filled up with water before having a slightly concerned chat: would we make it out that day? Did we have enough food to cobble together dinner and breakfast for the four of us? What about the Flexi Car hire?! When Mark and Lucie finally caught up and had refilled their lungs and water bottles we had a chat but decided to ‘smash it out’. This choice was aided by a loud crack, as a large tree toppled over about 20 m upstream from us. We didn’t fancy sleeping under those trees after that.

Fortunately, from the creek the path condition improved to no end. Gone was the fire damage and scree to be replaced by a cool wood and a soft foresty path. It was fun and we all got a second wind and picked up the pace. On the track we heard lyrebirds, found a feather or two for Cheeky and then we heard something big and heavy charging down into the creek bed to our side. We quickly scrambled back in time to see a wild buffalo careering up the other side to the path just in front of us and then disappear off. It was awesome.

As we continued out our stomachs started to growl. We finally reached the point where the track became more of a vehicle track and official signs proclaimed the start of the Spur. We also spoke to someone whose job was to hike in with tools to cut back the weeping willows that were crowding the creeks and causing damage to the native vegetation and landscape. Hardcore.

Spurning the spur and its promise of a 10 km walk to the Razorback

We reached the road as the darkness set and raced into the first pub we saw (probably the only one in town).

“Oh my God, are you still serving food?!”
“Uh, yeah the kitchen is open for just another couple of minutes. I’ll just grab you some menus. And on special tonight we also have a venison burger and…”
“Stop there, four of those please!”

We freshened up in the pub toilets, ate some amazing food and then started the long drive back to Melbourne.

Trip summary

Total Ascending: ~1700m
Total Descending: ~1700m
Total Distance: 34km