Mount Hotham Circuit Hike - 22 - 25 April

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Mount Hotham Circuit Hike - 22 - 25 April

Postby HikerBrad » Fri 28 Apr, 2017 9:44 am

Hi all,

My recent trip to Hotham and Feathertop made me keen to get back there again and the Anzac Day public holiday gave me the opportunity for a four day trip so I planned out a route to pack in as much as I could. Following is the report of my four day trip over the previous weekend.

Times are as best as my memory allows and distances are approximate based on the Bogong Alpine Area 1:50k map

The forecast was a bit more promising than last time. A shower or two the first three days with estimates of only a few millimetres of rain and then rain on Tuesday (6 to 25mm).


Saturday 22 April - Mount Hotham to Wallace Hut - 26km

I was up early Saturday morning and left Melbourne just after 5.30am. It was an uneventful drive up to Bright and Harrietville with clouds sitting on the peaks of the surrounding hills. As I approached Mount Hotham the clouds got increasingly closer and the last third of the drive to the top was slow through dense fog. At the Mount Loch car park the visibility was less than one hundred metres although at least it wasn’t raining. I got myself organised and headed off along the AAWT just before 11am and sure enough after about ten minutes it started to rain. At least I’d had plenty of practice last trip so I got my rain gear on and continued.

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Foggy starting out
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I passed Derrick Hut and headed down Swindlers Spur to my first stop at Dibbin hut for lunch which I ate inside to get out of the rain. Happily as I headed back out again the fog had lifted slightly and the rain stopped so I had an enjoyable walk to Cobungra Gap and then up to the Bogong High Plains. The rain returned as light misty drizzle for a little while as I made my way across the top but by the time I got to pole 333 the clouds around the edges of the plateau were lifting and patches of blue sky were appearing.

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Clearing up nicely now
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It was pleasant walking across the open landscape taking in all the surrounding views and the relatively even gradient made it more enjoyable. Sections of the track had rubber matting which made for very easy walking.

I passed Cope Saddle Hut, collected water at a creek crossing, had a quick look at the Cope Hut camping site before deciding to keep going a bit further and went past the Rover Chalet before reaching the days end point and camped near to Wallaces Hut, arriving about 5pm.

The skies were now clear and I pitched my tent and cooked dinner (or at least boiled some water and added it to a dehydrated meal). It was an enjoyable first days walk, the weather had turned out well and I had my fingers crossed for good conditions the next day.


Sunday 23 April - Wallaces Hut to Cleve Cole Hut - 26km

I woke thankfully to clear skies and the discovery that Wallaces Hut when placed in the foreground of a rising sun filtered through alpine tree branches is a popular location for people to come and take photos. I snapped a couple of photos as I had breakfast and packed up and was off just on 8am.

In the morning I followed along the aqueduct section of the AAWT which allowed a good pace along the even track. The views were spectacular away from the plateau and down into the surrounding valleys.

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Spectacular views all around
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Back towards Falls Creek

I noted the turnoffs to the different huts and signs to the various highpoints, Mt Nelse etc for reference for future trips although with still a few kms in front of me I didn’t have time to stop. As I approached Warby Corner I looked out along the spur to Mt Spion Kopje - another trip for another time. In front of me I now had views across to Mount Bogong.

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Bogong in the background
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I reached Ropers Hut about 11.15am and had a welcome short break to sit down and have something to eat and drink. I was getting a hot spot on one of my toes so I took the time to apply band-aids in an attempt to avoid blisters. All too soon I was back on my feet and headed off down Duane spur to Big river. l took a deliberate and steady pace downwards placing my feet carefully and watching the surrounding hills gradually rise as I proceeded down to the river. At the bottom the chain across the river was about 15cm above the water at the closest point and I didn’t quite get wet up to the knees as I crossed, the cold water felt very refreshing on my legs. I stopped on the far side and had a break for lunch enjoying the peaceful surrounds and gentle burbling of the river.

I still had some way to go so lunch wasn’t a long stop and I drank plenty of water, filled up a one litre container and headed up T Spur about 1:30pm. I took a steady continuous upwards pace occasionally glancing back at the bottom of the valley to confirm that my efforts were getting me higher. Eventually the steeper ground gave away and I reached the Long Spur intersection and made my way through Camp Valley. Being a Sunday, I (foolishly) thought that Cleve Cole Hut might be quiet. It turned out to be not the case as there plenty of tents and people around.

I arrived about 3.30pm which gave me time to set up the tent and fetch some water from the lower reaches of the creek (there was no water directly at the back of the hut). The clouds had been building around the high points during the day but fortunately any rain stayed away and the tent had time to dry off the dew from the morning before the last of the sun disappeared. There was barely any wind and it was another pleasant evening sitting out to cook diner and eat.


Monday 24 April - Cleve Cole Hut to Bogong Jack Hut - 31km

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Start of a big days hike
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I had a big day planned today so I was up at 6.30am and packed and on my way by 7.30am. I headed off to Mount Bogong past some keen campers in a prime camp spot right at the top of the Staircase and had the summit all to myself. The conditions were excellent, superb views and clear skies in all directions with barely any breeze. I soaked it in before heading off across to the Hooker Plateau and the start of Quartz Ridge. As I stopped at the top of Quartz Ridge I could see the days walking laid out in front of me : down Quartz Ridge to Bogong Creek Saddle, up Mount Arthur to the intersection with the Grey Hills spur then down the other side to eventually reach Bogong Village and from there back up the other side on Spring Saddle track and lastly south across to camp at Bogong Jack Hut. It didn’t look too bad at the time…..

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It's just down there, up there, down there, up there, over to there .....
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So off I went down Quartz Ridge. I had been up twice before but not down and had obviously put the early up and down (and up and down) sections that occur when going up out of my mind. So I got through the steep section at the top and saw that it was still a long way down to the saddle and then proceeded through downs and ups and downs before gratefully reaching the intersection with the Big River fire track and stopping for a rest.

Then it was on to the climb up Mount Arthur. From the view at the top of Quartz Ridge it didn’t appear to be too far so I kept that in mind as I put my steady continuous upwards pace back to work. The track was reasonably easy to follow although in the upper sections there was chest to shoulder high scrub which caused some difficulties. At least navigating up to the top of a hill is easy, just keep going up, any up and you’ll get there. Eventually I reached the top and was able to look north to Bogong from where I had come and west over to the valley and ridge on the far side where I had still to go. The Grey Hill spur ridge, comparatively flat lay temptingly to the south east although at this point my intended direction was now the quickest way back.

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View back to Bogong

The Black Possum spur track (Mount Arthur Track) lead from the top of the hill down to the valley. It seems the map makers left off the “steep” description for this section of track because it seemed as steep as any of the other sections on the mapped thus marked. The track was reasonably distinct most of the way although there were quite a few fallen trees on the track which meant a lot of climbing over and under to progress. Towards the bottom the spur flattened out and the track became indistinct and I lost it a couple of times. A quick check with the compass was enough to keep me heading in the right direction and the track became more well trodden and I soon dropped onto the fire trail proper. While I was pleased to get back on to some easier walking it was still a long way to the bottom of the valley and a couple of blisters did not add to the enjoyment. The fire trail itself was pretty steep and seemed to go on for much longer than the map indicated and the valley floor grew closer agonizingly slowly. I was happy to finally reach the bottom and soak my feet in the river before having a rest and lunch in the park.

As I stopped to rest with still some distance ahead of me my enthusiasm level wasn’t high. Some food, water and rest revived me somewhat and I took solace that the remainder of the days walking was on a fire trail so at least shouldn’t be too hard. I found what I thought was the start of the Spring Saddle track but observed a significant obstacle in the way of my progress. I used my GPS to confirm that I was in the right location and then recalling the words from a previous trip report I had read about the track I quickly resolved my access difficulties and was shortly on my way.

Throughout the day I had been watching the weather and while the clouds bubbled around in various shades of dark grey they had remained on the high points and rain looked unlikely. The remainder of the day was pretty much a slog. The walking was easy enough, the fire trail was reasonably evenly graded but there were a few steep sections and enough sections that felt steep due to the exertions already undertaken. It was approximately 6.5km to the top of the hill at Spring Saddle and I was very pleased to get there. That left only about 4.5km to the days camp at Bogong Jack hut. Thankfully this part of the track was mostly level although any uphill felt steep at this stage. I finally reached the camp ground just before 5pm and I was done in, exhausted. I pitched my tent, got some water and got dinner going and sat down for a rest. The campground is in a fantastic location with views to the north east back to Mount Bogong and views to the west of the setting sun. There was a group of school students camped there with the Bogong Village outdoor education school, just at the end of a few nights out. They had a fire going and I had a pleasant evening talking to the students and instructor. The sky was clear and the stars bright. It was a very relaxing conclusion to a taxing day.


Tuesday 25 April - Bogong Jack Hut to Mount Hotham - 27km

The forecast for Tuesday was rain and so it duly started raining around midnight. It was initially light rain that pattered against the tent but soon turned more steady. I dozed through the night and about 6.30am came to the conclusion that it was unlikely to ease up so got on with packing up my gear and having breakfast in the tent. I wasn’t in so much of a hurry today as although I still had a fair distance to walk there wasn’t the severe elevation changes of yesterday and the last half of the walk I had been on before so there wasn’t a great concern about navigation. So I took my time and somewhere around 7.30am everything was done and I was in my wet weather gear with only my shoes and gaitors to put on. I still held out some vain hope that the rain might miraculously ease up but I soon accepted I was fooling myself and finished getting dressed and got outside to take down the tent. Despite my best efforts at squeezing the water out of the tent as I rolled it, the rain was constant and so my normally lightweight tent felt pretty heavy as I put it in my pack. At least I’d eaten most of the food and didn’t need to carry much water in the conditions.

So off I set, I had dried my socks overnight and had the feeling of dry feet for the first five or ten minutes of walking. With the amount of rain the fire trail was two mini rivers and despite my best attempts to avoid the running water and puddles my shoes were soon soaking and I resigned myself to wet feet for the remainder of the day.

With the walking done over the past three days my legs felt tired from the start and mentally I broke the walk up into smaller sections to make the day easier to deal with. The first section was to Tawonga Huts. An initial uphill stage got me back on top of the ridge heading past Mount Fainter North and South. Here the fog was pretty thick, visibility of about a hundred metres and the rain was constant although not overly heavy and there was some wind to add to the atmosphere. The fire trail was very obvious and the only one around so it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to get lost and I was also carrying a GPS in case of emergency. Still, in the conditions I didn’t want to take any chances of getting “temporarily misplaced” so I used the “stay found” approach and followed my progress on the map I was carrying so I always knew where I was, rather than walk for some indeterminate period of time and then try and figure out where I was.

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A wet and foggy start
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I passed Salt Camp Creek and soon headed along the east side of the Jaithmathangs which took me out of the wind and I reached Tawonga Huts about 10.30am. Here I was very fortunate to meet a couple of guys involved in the deer eradication program who were just having breakfast. They offered me a cup of tea which was just what I needed to warm myself up. They had a fire going and it was a tough decision to leave the warm and dry hut and head back out into the cold and wet.

The second section I had decided was to reach Dibbin Hut. The walk back across the high plains was best described as wet. The track was running with water, the stepping stone sections were under water and water lay all around in puddles of various depths.

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Water, water everywhere .....
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There was still a bit of wind about and it was cool, around 6 degrees so I was happy enough to reach the edge of the high plain and head back down to Dibbin Hut. I passed a couple of large groups of students on the way down the hill. They were just heading out and planned to be out until Friday. The weather forecast was for cold conditions and snow so they were in for an adventure.

At Dibbin Hut I stopped for lunch as a third group of students were just heading out. With not much distance to go and keen to get to the finish I ate the rest of my food, finished off the water and headed off back up Swindlers Spur. As I left the rain had temporarily stopped and it held off as I got up the initial steep section but then returned as I reached the easier slopes and accompanied me on and off as I made my way back to Mount Loch Car Park.

As I slowly plodded along, soaking wet, with sore feet and tired legs I thought about how tomorrow I’d be sitting in a warm dry office and the feeling ran through me that I would miss waking up in a tent with a days walking in front of me and my thoughts turned to planning future trips.

I arrived back at Mount Loch car park about 3.45pm and thankfully there was a break in the rain and I was able to get changed into some clean dry clothes which just left me the long drive home to Melbourne.

On reflection, I did what I set out to do - walked the route I had planned, pushed myself, saw a lot of great countryside and beautiful scenery and really enjoyed it - I just planned out a bit too much hiking and so spent more of the trip concentrating on my rate of progress, distances and ensuring I was on track to reach each nights camp rather than just soaking in the beautiful environment that was all around. Now I have a better sense of this area I’m already thinking about some more relaxed pace trips for next Spring and looking forward to getting back out there.
HikerBrad
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Re: Mount Hotham Circuit Hike - 22 - 25 April

Postby neilmny » Fri 28 Apr, 2017 11:15 am

Great report HikerBrad, you are a machine :)
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Re: Mount Hotham Circuit Hike - 22 - 25 April

Postby ianslater » Fri 28 Apr, 2017 5:56 pm

I think that circuit would have taken me a week, and then maybe some more! Well done Brad , a gr8 read .
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Re: Mount Hotham Circuit Hike - 22 - 25 April

Postby north-north-west » Fri 28 Apr, 2017 6:35 pm

Ahhhhh,lovely. I miss the Bogongs . . .
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: Mount Hotham Circuit Hike - 22 - 25 April

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Mon 15 May, 2017 10:44 pm

Oh man, that was a super human effort. I would have settled for 15- 20 kms per day max.
In good weather it is better to rock up to camp/ the next hut at about 3 pm and just chilax. The side trips in the area are worth it including the nameless 3rd highest peak in Vic. near Warby corner, Fitzgerald's hut, Ryder's huts and more. Bogong Jack Saddle is a good base for two nights and you can go to Tawonga huts and back for the day via the Fainters' and Mt. You ate
my tongue summits .
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Re: Mount Hotham Circuit Hike - 22 - 25 April

Postby Xplora » Tue 16 May, 2017 5:35 am

One of the best trip reports I have read in a long time. I do hope you come back and set a more human pace. Yes there is a great deal more to see on the High Plains which is better done when you have more time to look around but you now have a pretty good lay of the land. Spion Kopje and the Grey Hills is a nice way of getting to Bogong via Quartz or if you are keen, Cairn Creek Hut and Granny spur. Cleve Cole hut is getting very busy (in fact anywhere there is a hut seems to attract great numbers of hikers) so Camp Valley is a much better option if you do not like crowds. Water at Cleve Cole is usually found inside at the tap over the sink. It runs continuously from a spring and piped into the hut.
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Re: Mount Hotham Circuit Hike - 22 - 25 April

Postby HikerBrad » Mon 19 Jun, 2017 4:04 pm

Hi all,

Thanks for the feedback. I take on board the comments re the pace. I'm going to try and get back there once the snow melts to do a bit more looking around up top at a more relaxed pace.

Thanks for the tip re the water at Cleve Cole :D . I think I might have overheard someone mention it at the campsite but I figured it couldn't be too far to get some from the creek. As it was I squelched around for a while in swampy ground getting wet feet before eventually getting downstream enough for the stream to form enough to get some water. I'll be going directly to the hut next time.


Thanks.
Brad.
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