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
Mickey or Michelle, depending who has more to say on the subject :)