New Zealand 2020
Mt. Bogong is Victoria’s highest mountain at 1986m. It doesn’t have the classic mountain point like Feathertop but instead flattens out on top with a gentle ascent to the summit (once you’ve done all the crazy climbing and made it to Hell Gap mind you). The views go on for miles, mountain range after mountain range. When hiking the AAWT on a clear day you can see more than a week ahead at this point, with Kosciuszko sitting on the horizon some 150km away.
We drove into Camp Creek Gap and took Eskdale spur up to Bogong the next day. From this side there’s 3 ways to approach Mt Bogong. Here they are in order of most painful to least:
I’ve descended the Staircase before (it’s long, it’s steep) and would be interested in walking up it, but we had a long day ahead and needed to reach Mt. Bogong early if we were to have any chance of finding Cairn Creek hut again. So we chose Eskdale spur which has a couple of very steep parts but overall pretty good. We took a breather at my namesake hut ‘Michell’ which is about halfway, and then continued onto Mt. Bogong making good time; which we needed as we’d done our usual and not left the earliest. Quick break at the summit and then headed west down Quartz Ridge to the Cairn Creek turn off.
Cairn Creek hut was the first ‘elusive hut’ I wanted to find back in 2016. I managed it with the help of my friend Chris but it wasn’t easy - it’s only 2km from the main path but it took us 2hrs (have you ever walked 1km an hour because of terrain? It’s not easy). The hut was built by the SEC in 1952 to measure the results of a diversion intended for Big River, but the tunnel was never built.
We were losing light and I wasn’t feeling as confident. The hut is at a junction of two rivers so if you come down at the right spot you should be able to see this, unfortunately this time we’d come down too far to the west and I wasn’t sure if we needed to go east or west, all I could see was one river. It was nearly 6pm at this point and getting close to head torch time. We decided to head east and scrambled up the bank for 100m. I was feeling very uncertain and went to turn around when Mickey saw the hut in front of us (probably because I move out of the way!). We then had to cross two rivers to get to it at about 6.15pm. Luckily neither was swollen and we only had to take off our shorts.
Cairn Creek isn’t exactly the most amazing hut but you feel pretty good when you find it. It’s small with a little heater that has a smoking problem. There’s charming historical items in there including a first aid kit with ointments, bottles, a kidney bowl and instruction manual. There’s also various farming equipment, enamel bowels and a bunk bed you would not want to sleep on. The log book had a number of entries since 2016 but not many and the book goes back 20 years - in popular huts log books can change every year.
The 2nd day we made the hellish climb outta there, just getting to the main track before it started pouring. We took Timms Spur and walked through Big river with our shoes on because let’s face it, we were already wet. Luckily we had a nice ascent to keep us warm and the weather blew over soon after. We stayed at the lovely Ropers Hut that night. It burned down in 2003 and was reconstructed in 2008 using traditional techniques. It’s a very nice hut.
The 3rd day was only 9km, but within that you descend 800m, cross Big River and ascend straight back up 800m! We left at a sprightly 12pm and rocked up to our destination, Cleve Cole, surprisingly late. Cleve Cole hut is a very well loved hut, I’m sure every other hut is extremely jealous of the attention it gets. Built in 1937 as a memorial to Cleve Cole, (who died skiing Mt Bogong after getting trapped in weather) this hut is maintained by the Bogong Club and has over 100 members.
There’re bunks, toilets, a table, heater, sink, running water, stove (for members) and even a rudimentary shower. Unbeknown to us the Bogong club had an Easter holiday working bee on. I’ve never seen so many people cramped into a hut. Everyone was having a good time eating and drinking. They very nicely made space for us and offered the stove (they put the stove in because when there’re lots of people it’s dangerous to have so much cooking gear around). The locked room for members was open and random luxury items like guitars and sheet music came out. (Some poor person carried those up that spur…)
Of course it soon became apparent that we were musicians and inevitably the guitar got passed over. Luckily Mickey can play guitar because I certainly can’t and for some reason there wasn’t a harp in the locked room. We settled on the Beatles book (of course) and a sing-a-long began. Mickey is a left-handed musician and it is to my great amusement that people pass him right handed instruments expecting him to play them - I can tell you that this never happens the other way round. He can play them though and remarkably well (I suppose that’s the result of being a minority). I feel a little sorry for him though as a lot of the time I’m the only one in the room who can appreciate the difficulty of playing up-side-down, and this was certainly the case 1760m up in a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere with a group of hikers just wanting to hear their favourite Beatles tune.
4th and last day we left Cleve Cole and headed back down Eskdale spur. A nice clear day it was great to descend with such fantastic views. We reached Camp Creek Gap after lunch and drove on outta there. This loop is truly fantastic with fantastic huts and views. Navigation (apart from Cairn Creek) is easy, you just need a bit of fitness for all the ascents/descents. x
Bringing in the New Year with a 3dayer hike (which was meant to be 4!) around Hotham. We started at Harrietville – this is easily my favourite mountain village, I have started and ended so many hikes here and couldn’t recommend the pub enough.
We drove from Melbourne to Harrietville in the morning and started walking about 1pm. From Harrietville we took the Bungalow Spur up to Federation hut/Mt Feathertop. This is a really nice spur for an accent of 1300m over 12km - lots of switchbacks and a good slow incline, so you don’t burn yourself out.
Made Federation hut with loads of light left (thank you summer) and set up camp. We then went up Feathertop without packs in time for the sunset. Best decision ever. It did mean walking back 1.5km with 300m of descent in the dark, but it was totally worth it. We then had an extremely late dinner (tuna mornay!) in the dark. We’re not really stereotypical hikers; the amount of times we leave late morning and eat dinner in the dark is ridiculous (and yes we are often judged by other hikers). The thing is that you can do your own thing, as long as you’re safe, warm and have food and water, it doesn’t really matter what you do. Still, there’s raised eyebrows when you show up to camp as the sun goes down. On the plus side, there's no judgement in the morning as everyone's left by 6am and you have the hut to yourself!
2nd day we walked along the Razorback to Hotham, then down Swindlers Spur to Dibbins hut for the night. Dibbins is one of my favourite huts. I’ve been there 6 times on various hikes. It’s pretty basic on the inside but so iconic on the outside and in the most beautiful alpine meadow.
Unfortunately the famous Dibbins rat got into our packs and gnawed holes through the plastic food bags (just like that scene in Wallace and Gromit where Wallace tries to pour cereal but it comes out the other end where Shaun the sheep ate it). Mr Rat even tried to get through the peanut butter jar, thank god its teeth were no match for the plastic or else Mickey may have walked out then and there.
3rd day we headed north at Cobungra Gap and up past Blair Hut turning west at Diamantina spur. I’ve once been down this spur and I can definitely recommend ascending. (Dad doesn’t speak fondly of Diamantina spur... I enjoy bringing the name up around him because he has such a wonderful wide-eyed reaction: 'oh that spur' and then proceeds to relive the whole painful experience). Look it’s pretty steep in parts, and generally (for my knees sake) I’d rather be walking up the hill. Diamantina gets you back to the Razorback in Fed hut, but our destination that night was MUMC on the Northwest spur.
This hut looks like something that could land on the moon. It stands for Melbourne Uni Mountaineering Club. Apparently members have extravagant events where they bring up instruments, fancy clothes, drinks and make pasta from scratch.
We reached MUMC hut by 4.30pm for a well deserved rest. The plan was to stay the night, but a pub meal was calling us and we figured that it’d probably only take 1.5hrs to walk 5km down Northwest spur, which takes you to a main rd about 7km from Harrietville. So off we went. The track started out fine, but got more and more overgrown as we went. In fact it took us closer to 3hrs to get outta there, sometimes that just happens. It’s a pretty fun spur but needs a bit of clearing in parts. We made the rd by 8pm and luckily some locals offered us a lift into Harrietville where we made dinner by only a few mins!
Would totally recommend this (almost) loop. You get to see some of the best mountains in Victoria. It’s definitely a hard hike with a lot of ascent/descent, but you could make it easier by taking more days. x
To say I was unprepared for the AAWT would be an understatement. Mish called, saying she needed a new hiking partner for the final 3rd of her 650km hike from Victoria to Canberra. Having zero gear and even less experience, I felt like the perfect man for the job.
I had three days to quit my jobs, move out of my house and get down to Canberra for a lift to Thredbo. Once there it was decided my high school joggers with holes in them weren’t going to be sufficient, I bought some decent ones and was gifted my very first spork (a fetching hot pink). Before you knew it we were setting out from Thredbo the next morning.
Before we’d even left though, a young hiker came back into town having decided to quit the hike after 400km, his leg pain and the weather proving too much for him. To prove this ill omen didn’t worry me, I held in the vomit that’d been trying to escape my body for the first 20 minutes (the cold and lack of sleep over the past few days catching up). It worked and I think I’d have made a very promising new companion to Michelle if I hadn’t been holding my compass upside down.
But eventually I adapted. The long walks and the incredible cold make the warm food and sleeping bag at the end of the day all the more comforting. On the second night, we were somewhat forced into becoming the two most elevated sleepers in Australia, having lost the track over the Main Range in the snow. A brief flirtation with hypothermia was not enough to take away from the astonishing views and the incredible feeling of your body becoming an energy burning, mountain ascending machine.
There is something very satisfyingly primal about a lack of reception, screens or even standards of cleanliness (the latter of which I’ve never particularly adhered to anyway). Long stretches of isolation, no news from the outside world and fresh food, people always ask me if I got bored but honestly, there was no time to. With all the planning, the eating and 8 hour plus of sleep every night, boredom just wasn’t an option. Not to mention that when you know you're walking to Canberra, every kilometer comes with a tremendous sense of worth.
Then all of a sudden the hike was over. It was a very rude shock. During the hitch into town our driver told us that gay marriage was passed (finally)! Somehow society didn’t collapse and I was able to enjoy my first shower in 15 days. I’ve definitely got the bug, so stay tuned for more of my zany adventures of ill-preparation in the mountains!
Now this was a biggy. I remember first finding out about this hike when I was 23. My dad took me on a 3 day hike up Mt Feathertop, finishing at Mt Hotham. I was absolutely blown away. As we walked higher and the trees started to thin out to beautiful alpine meadows I remember thinking ‘this is it, these are the places I want to know more about.’
For some background, the AAWT is a 650km hike of mountainous and often remote walking from Walhalla (VIC) to Tharwa (ACT) across the great diving range. I spent a year planning and preparing for it with my friend Chris. To my complete surprise and pleasure I managed to complete it on the 18th of December 2017 in 43 days! It was an epic challenge to say the least and touch and go in parts managing injuries. I had a surprise hiking partner change 2/3rds into the hike which found Mickey on his first overnighter, which just happened to be 212km!
Yes yes the hike changed me and all that, I just don't think that you can do something this out of your comfort zone and not have it affect you? I definitely came back wanting more. I have since decided that some of the more rewarding experiences come with being a little apprehensive and uncomfortable (physically and mentally). Couldn't recommend it enough. x
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Mickey or Michelle, depending who has more to say on the subject :)