Mount Hotham to Mount Bogong via the Razorback and AAWT

posted in: Mini Adventures | 0

Written by Lucie

For Easter 2021, the Adventure Gang returned to the Victorian High Country for some Alpine hiking.

We planned a route from Mount Hotham to Mount Feathertop, down to the Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT), along to Langford Gap and north to Mount Bogong.

We left Melbourne after work and traffic was, unsurprisingly for a long weekend, heavy. We reached Mountain Creek Campsite – at the base of the Mount Bogong Staircase – just after 11pm and decided that we were too tired to do the car shuffle that night. We found a spot for our tents (there weren’t many left) and went to sleep.

The next morning, we left one car at Mountain Creek Campsite and drove about 90 minutes to Mount Hotham. We parked at the end of a long line of cars at Diamantina Hut, at the end of the Razorback.

Day one, Diamantina Hut to Blairs Hut, via Mount Feathertop

20km, mostly undulating, ends with an 800m descent.

We hiked north along the Razorback, from Mount Hotham to Mount Feathertop.

The weather was great and we had beautiful views of Hotham to the south, Mount Buffalo to the west, Mounts Bogong and Feathertop to the north, and the Bogong High Plains to the east.

The track was quite busy, which we expected for a beautiful, public holiday weekend. We climbed up and down the various bumps of the ridge line. We took a group photo at the turn-off to Bon Accord Spur, and reminisced about our previous extreme adventure (26km for Lucie’s birthday).

We found a nice spot to sit and eat lunch after we’d been walking for about two hours.

After another 45 minutes we reached the turn off for Diamantina Spur (8.4km from the hut) and dropped our packs. We continued with just water bottles in hand to reach Mount Feathertop (another 2.7km). We could see Little Feathertop and lots of tents at Federation Hut. We peeled off to the right to climb Mount Feathertop, which at 1922m is the second highest peak in Victoria (behind Bogong)

Feathertop was a steep climb, with several false peaks in the way up. However, the views were beautiful.

After a short stop, we returned the way we had come, back to our packs. Then we continued along Diamantina Spur.

The Spur was tough. It was undulating for the first, roughly 2km. Then, over the next 2km we descended about 500m. It was VERY steep. And it was covered with dry leaves so the footing was very loose. There were lots of shaky knees and sore legs by the end of it. 3/10, would not do again!

We reached West Kiewa Logging Road and walked another 2km to Blairs Hut. It was packed! But we were tired and it was getting late so we forded the shallow river and set up camp.

After a wash, dinner and filtering water we went to bed.

Day two, Blairs Hut to Langford Gap

23km, starts with a 500m climb, then undulating.

We weren’t particularly quick out of the gates and took our time with breakfast and getting ready for the day.

When we set off, we aimed for Cobungra Gap (4km away), where we joined the AAWT (the midpoint of Mark and Lucie’s Winter Wonderland hike from seven years ago).

We climbed up the steep track (400m climb over 3km) from Cobungra Gap, past the Basalt Temple, to the Bogong High Plains. Along this section we joined up with the snow poles (starting at 198), which we would be following for the rest of the day and some of tomorrow.

The views from the top were stunning and we stopped to soak it in and have a snack. We could see Mount Hotham and the ski fields at Hotham, Mount Feathertop, the whole Razorback and Diamantina Spur dropping down into the valley. In the other direction we could see the ski fields at Falls Creek.

We set out across the High Plains, which we would be walking on for 10km, until we reached a road. Like last time, the ground was moist with stepping stones in many places to help you across the boggiest patches. Little streams trickled along and a few small birds flitted around. We stopped for lunch next to Mount Jim (and its magnetic anomaly) and in the distance we could see a group of 12 brumbies.

The Plains are relatively flat and we kept on the AAWT. The track follows a line of snow poles so it’s easy navigation too. There are a couple of other tracks criss-crossing the Plains, which you can pick out from a distance by way of the marching line of snow poles.

We were very lucky with weather and had horizon to horizon blue skies every day. This meant we were getting quite warm and so we stopped for a short break in the shade of a copse of trees and marvelled at the colourful stripes in the bark. Then, it was on to Cope Saddle Hut, which we reached at about 3pm and found somebody setting up camp next to the Hut and the aqueduct.

We kept on and crossed over the Bogong High Plains Road at Cope Hut (not the same as Cope Saddle Hut). At this point we were starting to feel a bit tired and joked about sticking out a thumb and hitchhiking along a little way! Alas, we did not and pushed on the 2km to Wallace Hut.

The AAWT between Cope Hut and Wallace Hut went through the bush and was a different route to what we had on the map and in our memories from last time. We kept a close eye on our map and determined that this was just a nicer, bushier track and we were soon at Wallace Hut, as were a lot of other people.

The Hut is quite picturesque we sat in front of it and refuelled for the remainder of the day’s walk.

From Wallace Hut, we walked along the aqueduct about 4km to reach Langford Gap. The wind really picked up and the temperature started to drop. At Langford Gap there is quite a bit of flat ground for camping, but the wind was really howling. So, Mark and Jon dropped their packs and went to scout a little further along the aqueduct. They came back after about ten minutes, having found a much more sheltered patch of ground about 400m further along the trail.

We kept on and stopped at snow pole 633. There was just enough space for our three tents (four at a push) and we could get water out of the aqueduct. We set up camp, had dinner, looked at the stars and went to bed.

Day three, Langford Gap to Long Spur

21km, gradual uphill all morning, then 800m steep down and 800m steep up.

We woke to a beautiful sunrise and treats from the Easter Bunny. After having breakfast and packing up camp we set off towards the sun, at a much more respectable time than the previous two days.

Around a couple of bends we found a gorgeous little pool and some flat ground, which would have been the perfect spot to camp, if only we had had enough energy to go that far. Alas, we took a photo and continued on to the bridge over the aqueduct, which we could see thanks to its little roof.

At this point the AAWT turns north and leaves the aqueduct and we started to climb up along a narrow path. As we got up above the treeline there was a gorgeous view behind us of the Rocky Valley Storage reservoir and parts of Falls Creek.

We were then walking along the Big River Firetrail, a wide path above the tree line. About 5.5km into the day we came to the two side tracks that lead down to Johnston’s Hut (1km to the east) and Edmonson’s Hut (1km to the west). We could see a few people along these trails coming out from the camps.

We kept pushing up the hill to Mount Nelse and the views around us were very impressive. To the south west, we could make out Hotham and the mountains and plains that we had crossed over the previous two days. To the north we could see Mount Bogong, where we would arrive the next morning. And to the north east we could see Mount Kosciuszko and the highest peaks in Australia. We could also see Mount Buffalo and other key mountains ranges around us.

After Mount Nelse it was about 5km gently downhill to Roper’s Hut. This is such a beautiful little hut set amongst the gum trees and wildflowers. We stopped for morning teas and admired our surroundings.

From Roper’s Hut things got hard! We needed to drop about 800m over 4km to reach Big River. It was steep (although not as steep as Diamantina Spur!). The T Spur path was narrow and surrounded by trees. At one point there was a big snake on the path and we had to stand back and stomp our feet until it lazily moved off into the bush. We passed a few people climbing up the hill too, who told us that the river was about knee deep).

When we reached the bottom there was nowhere to stop (on the south side) so we took off our shoes and socks and undid the waist and chest straps on our packs (this is so that if you slip and fall face first, you can easily ditch the pack and avoid having its weight keep pushing you under the water). Lucie and Mark had hiking poles, the others had picked up good sticks along the route – sticks/poles were very useful.

Lucie went first and scoped out the crossing. It was very cold and a little bit fast moving in the middle, but (as we’d been told) no more that knee deep so by walking carefully and using the poles for support it was a simple crossing. There were mixed reviews on whether it was nice – too cold for some, delightfully refreshing for others!

On the north side there was a bit of space to sit next to the river (but in the shade of the big hill we needed to climb next) and we had lunch, filled up water etc. Just around the corner of the path there was a bigger clearing where you could pitch a couple of tents.

After lunch, we put our shoes back on and started the climb up, which was very similar to the other side! We had about 800m elevation gain over 4.4km. It was a slow but steady slog. There a few points where it looked like we might be near the top, but then we kept on climbing. At a point where the path levelled out a little, we stopped for a chocolate hit and a short rest (Jon’s best of the day!). Then there was a little more uphill before we reached a small creek (near the ruins of Madison’s Hut). There was a small clearing where two people had pitched tents, and some more flat ground around this area. After a quick discussion we decided to pitch our tents here. It was about 4:30pm and this spot was sheltered and had water. The two people already there told us that the next spot was more exposed and that there were lots of people out towards Cleve Cole Hut.

We pitched our tents, had a wash in the creek, Lucie went for a little explore and came back covered with burrs, which she then spent the rest of the evening picking off so she would not spread the seeds the following day. It was a beautiful little spot and we enjoyed getting to camp a bit earlier so that we could relax. The stars were amazing once again.

At about 2am we all (except Mark) woke up to hear a lone wild dog mournfully howling at the moon a couple of kilometres away.

Day four, Long Spur to Mountain Creek Campsite

14km, gentle uphill then steep down 1300m.

Our last day in the High Country. We woke to another beautiful sunrise and after packing up and eating breakfast we turned west, leaving the AAWT and heading out towards Mount Bogong.

We walked along the creek (which was not accessible because it was hidden by undergrowth) for about 750m then came to a big clearing and skipped across the creek. This was the other camping option. Then we climbed gently up for 1km to reach Cleve Cole Hut where they were quite a lot of campers packing up.

After a quick peek in the Hut we kept on up to the top of Mount Bogong. It’s only 4km away but it took a long time because the views were incredible and we all kept stopping to take lots of photographs. Lucie wanted to stay there all day.

From the peak, we had 6.5km and a 1300m descent to get to the bottom of the Staircase. We stopped at Bivouac Hut – the halfway point for a snack and met a group of guys who were walking up… in their fashion/street clothes… with no food… and no water! Jon gave them some water and we suggested that they turned around and went back to the car. We were very glad to see them coming down behind us!

Once at the bottom of the Staircase, it’s a pleasant 2km along the ferny creek walk back to the car. Jon wanted to be helpful and bring the car to the rest of us, which caused some confusion, but we all made it to Mountain Creek Campsite for lunch and a wash in the stream.

The only thing left to do was drive to Bright, leave Lucie, Vanessa and Patrice to get snacks and sit in the brewery while Jon and Mark went to get the other car from Diamantina Hut. And then it was the long drive back to Melbourne.