Selwyn Creek Road to Mount Loch Car Park to Omeo Highway – AAWT

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AAWT Stage 7 – Selwyn Creek Road to Mount Loch Car Park
AAWT Stage 8 – Mount Loch Car Park to Omeo Highway

Mark and Lucie’s ANZAC weekend, winter wonderland hike.

What way? There is only one way… almost made it to Canberra!

Day One – Selwyn Creek Road to The Twins

After resisting the temptation to stop in Beechworth for some delicious beer the night before, we got dropped off at Selwyn Creek Road by Jacob and Lorelei at 9:30am. After some sweet photo posing we started our hike with a steep uphill section of vehicle track (the Twins Track), and a free camping mug that we found in the ditch. We joined up with the Mount Murray Logging Road and quickly started to fear for our safety: first of all we came across a dead bird and then a definite homicide crime scene (or possibly just the entrails of another dead animal, we saw a ute a little further along with a hunted deer slung over the back). We then met a park ranger who was definitely a weird lizard man, both of us were waiting for a forked tongue to come flicking out of his mouth, but we lived to tell the tale. At this point we left the Twins Track and climbed up to the crest of the Great Dividing Range, which we followed for a while and then found a lovely grassy clearing where we stopped for lunch.

So many things to find along this trail...
So many things to find along this trail…

Back on our feet Mark got really excited to see the Viking (which he had tackled a couple of weeks before). Continuing along the crest of the Range the path became very rocky with beautiful views to both sides. A short while later the path disappeared and we didn’t see another trail marker for a long time.

Some pretty sweet views

With map and compass in hand we trekked across ridges and knolls, through clumps of trees and once got close enough to see the Twins vehicle track below us. After climbing up to a small peak we found an unexpected water tank, in the middle of the bush with nothing else around it. Then, with a bit more navigating and a tiny bit of guesswork we worked our way down a very steep downhill section (Gregory hated it, I was happy) where we joined the vehicle track and a turning circle at the base of The Twins. Then, it was straight back uphill, away from the vehicle track, to the peak of The Twins at 1703 m. As we were climbing the wind really started to pick up and upon reaching the summit I had to hide from the wind by crouching down under the trig point whilst Mark took a couple of panoramas. It was cold!

The view from the top of The Twins is pretty spectacular: Bogong, Feathertop and Hotham to the east; Buffalo to the north, and the Viking and the Barry Mountains to the West

The walk across to the lower Twin was pleasant and then we encountered our second super steep downhill section for the day and once again met up with vehicle track. By this point it was just getting to 5pm and the sun was starting to dip below the hills so we decided to make camp in the relative shelter at the base of The Twins. After having dinner we turned into the tent early to hide from the cold and passed some time singing Christmas carols (it’s coming into winter, we’re British!), Phantom of the Opera, and teaching Mark the Welsh National Anthem.

Not a pleasant sight for any member of the downhill haters club

Day Two – The Twins to the Bogong High Plains

On day two we were up at 6:15am and found that we had a new friend – someone had pulled up in their car about 100 m from us and was sleeping in the boot. We hit the track at about 7:30am and followed The Twins Track to the Great Alpine Road.

The only pose that is acceptable in front of the crudely named Mount Blowhard

We walked past Mount Saint Bernard, but it was too cloudy to see much, and then on to Mount Smythe and the snow depot. By now the wind was really picking up and the clouds were closing in. When we reached Rene’s Lookout the wind was crazy and we had to stay a good few paces back from the edge. As we pressed on the rain came down and quickly turned to sleet with some serious gales. We decided that we quite liked being alive and so didn’t go to the incredibly exposed peak of Blowhard but dived into Blowhard Hut to put on waterproof trousers and find a few more layers to ward off the biting, snowy wind.

Rugged up and refuelled we continued along the Great Alpine Road, barely able to see five feet in front of us, and passed an insane cyclist heading in the opposite direction. We reached Little Baldy and then Diamantina Gateway to the Razorback and Mount Feathertop, and our beloved Bon Accord Spur (from my crazy birthday weekend the year before).

Although it was still before noon we sought refuge for an early lunch in Diamantina Hut, hoping that the wind would move some of the low lying clouds so that we could see where we were going. It didn’t work. We did meet a few people getting ready to hike the Razorback though, in jeans. I bet they struggled.

After our early lunch we stepped back out into the apocalypse and started up to the peak of Mount Hotham. The wind was ridiculous – Mark was using me as a kite, and we’ve had better visibility whilst scuba diving in the worst surge. I, being constantly blow over half crawled half hid behind Mark and then hunkered down behind the low cross wall on top of Mount Hotham. Out of the gloom we could just about make out… something. It turned out to be a large building about five metres away.

Great views from the top of Mount Hotham…

Back on the road the next part of the trail goes through Mount Loch car park and next to the reservoir that is used for artificial snow. We nearly missed the car park, we simply couldn’t see to the other side of the road, but fortunately a car turned into it just as we were walking past. Once in the car park it took a few minutes to locate the reservoir – that was right in front of us the entire time – and then as we walked past it we were nearly blown straight into the, presumably icy, water. Fortunately a hard collision with a metal barrier saved us. At this point Mark and I looked at each other and said “if we die, I love you.” I’m being serious.

We made it to the other side of the dam, found some snow poles and followed them along the top of several ski runs, snow machines and chair lifts, not open at that time of year. We found the Charles Derrick memorial cairn and dropped down to Derrick Col saddle. Somewhere around here there was the option for a short side trip up to Mount Loch, but given that we couldn’t even see Mount Loch we didn’t think it was worth it.

After leaving the limits of the Mount Hotham resort we stopped off for a snack in Derrick Hut and admired the ornamental ski tip sun on the outside wall. The plains we were now walking through offered a bit more protection from the weather and we even caught one, fleeting glimpse of sun! Following Swindles Spur downhill into the valley we filled up water at Cobunga River, just outside Dibbins Hut, which was our intended campsite. However, it was still before 3pm and there was a group of people already making camp so we decided to continue on. Dibbins Hut did have some wicked sweet camping platforms and a rather nice toilet though.

From the river the trail climbed uphill to Cobunga Gap and then to the Basalt Temple and Bogong High Plains. At about 4pm, just before we broke above the tree line we called it a day and made camp in the relative shelter of some mountain ash. During dinner the clouds started to clear so that we got some nice views as the sun was setting. We then retired to the tent to play games away from the cold.

Day Three – Bogong High Plains to Langford Gap

Getting up on day three was hard – it was so cold outside and the tent was so icy the flap opened like a solid door. However, we eventually sucked it up and got moving fairly sharpish.

Ice covering just one side of the leaves – pretty awesome!

The first hour’s hike was beautiful. It was like being in a winter wonderland. It was misty, but not foggy or cloudy like the day before, the sky was a pale icy blue and everything was covered in frost, which glistened and sparkled in the dawn sun. As the clouds and fog had been blowing over the hilltop the previous night a thick layer of ice had built up on just one side of all the leaves, grasses and other objects in our path. Occasionally we came across trees adorned with icicles. It was bliss.

Our ANZAC Winter Wonderland. Beautiful.

Snow poles marked the way across the Bogong High Plains and we came across several cloud bows, bright orange birds and even a group of three brumbies. At several points the plains were crossed by small creeks and flat areas liable to flood and these were traversed by the boulder stepping stone challenge. A bit further on the mist returned but never too heavily and it seemed like no time at all before we reached Mount Jim (30 m above the plains!) and the magnetic anomaly. Lucie’s watch stopped, Mark’s phone got lots of weird interference and the compass didn’t know which way was north.

Bwumbie fwiends on the High Plains!

Continuing further we next came to Cope Saddle Hut and a short while later to Cope Hut, where we stopped for lunch. At Cope Hut the AAWT guide says that the track ‘follows the vehicle track east, soon veering onto a foot track heading north-east’. This is not what the markers do! However, you can follow either the markers or the guide to reach the aqueduct. We passed the Rover Scouts’ Rover chalet and met an older couple who said ‘it’s good to see a man in shorts… and a girl with ears on her hat.’ We thought it was a pretty strange comment, and I was totally thrilled about Mark being a ‘man’ but me being a ‘girl’ in the same sentence. Apart from that though they were nice and we could imagine that they could be the Mark and Lucie of the future.

The mightily impressive Mount Jim and its weird magnetic anomaly

The walk along the aqueduct was nice, although it did get a little awkward when Mark and Lucie both realised that they needed the toilet but the terrain and proximity to water wasn’t particularly favourable. Mark looked at the map and said that he thought there were be a toilet where the car was parked and so we walked for the next short while wondering if we could hold on, deciding who would have first dibs on the toilet and trying to distract ourselves. When we got to the car at Langford Gap there was no toilet, we only had one roll of toilet paper, but we were both too desperate to wait. Mark ripped off a few sheets and dived in one nook of the hill sides whilst Lucie took another.

Relieved, we got the key out of the key lock (we were very happy to see that the car and key were still there), and then found some tasty treats left for us by Jacob and Lorelei. We drove around, struggled to work out where we needed to pick them up from, but eventually found them and started down the Omeo Highway Bogan Express back to Melbourne.

Cope Saddle Hut – I assume the orange roof is so it can be spotted in the snow?

Trip summary

Total Ascending (TA): 2470m
Total Descending (TD): 1990m
Total Distance of AAWT completed (TKM): 51.1km
AAWT Points: ((TA+TD)/1000)*(TKM/10) = 22.79 points