Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Spring

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Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Spring

Postby oyster_07 » Sun 25 Jan, 2015 6:56 pm

Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Spring

Having completed a variation on the circuit around Mt Howitt, the Crosscut Saw, Mt Speculation, the Viking, and the Wonnangatta River, I will not write about the overall circuit as this has been done at length by many others. Instead, I will write about an untracked route.

Prior to heading to the area, I had read suggestions and reports that a track once lead up an un-named spur from the Wonnangatta River to Macalister Spring. These assertions were little more than rumours, and wanting to avoid the drudgery of Zeka Spur Track I decided that I would take this route, track or no track.

Prior to reaching the Wonnangatta River, the route from the South Viking was rough and heavily overgrown with regrowth. The majority of the route was trackless but nonetheless straightforward from a navigational perspective: essentially it’s just a matter of following the spur downhill. While the easiest route would be to simply ride the spine of the spur downhill, it is necessary at most times to hand-rail the spine at varying distances to find a path of least resistance through the regrowth.

Most maps show a track following the river’s course that eventually leads up to Catherine Saddle. While I did not seek the top of the trail when I passed through Catherine Saddle earlier the same day and thus cannot state whether it exists higher, I can confirm that it does not exist anymore at the lower levels. With dense vegetation on both banks, I embraced the natural highway of the river and went feet-wet. There were times when evidence of a previous track was seen and followed, but these disappeared into walls of vegetation just as soon as they had appeared out of it. Most of these remnants started and finished corresponding with deeper sections of the river, and I suspect they may now be ‘maintained’ by the deer (that populate the area) as they seek to avoid the deep water. I waded my way up-stream for 4.4km.

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The day was coming to a close as I made my way to the base of the un-named spur, and I began contemplating either a squashed night in a confined area near the river or a night on an incline on the spur. I was fortunate to find a perfectly flat and suitably sized area that was both mostly clear of vegetation and immediately above the river bank at the very base of the spur (at 683m elevation). Some long-since cut tree trunks next to it further suggest that the track once existed and perhaps others had used this spot to camp. The location was most convenient; however the proximity to the river and the afternoon’s rains guaranteed plentiful mosquitoes. Thankfully they disappeared shortly after darkness arrived.

The following morning I commenced my search for a track leading up the spur. Vegetation was as dense as it could be and simply had to be pushed through manually and very slowly. No evidence of a track was found on the lower parts of the spur, and once the vegetation thinned (relatively) above 800m the going was aided in some places by conveniently located and orientated deer tracks.

Navigation up the spur is simple. So long as the spur is followed and the going is steeply uphill, the way is correct. Growing steeper as elevation is gained, virtually all the hard work is over once the 1427m spot-height is reached (GR 717 869). It took me 2:35 to cover the 3.6km distance and 744m elevation gain to this point.

After some short respite in steepness, the 1490 spot-height (GR 715 866) is reached and a small ledge provides clear and expansive views over the Terrible Hollow from the Devil’s Staircase to the Crosscut Saw and round to the spur down from the South Viking to the river.

A small demolished cairn graced the ledge and clearly others have enjoyed this view previously. I suspect (however) that any recent visitors have probably come down from Macalister Springs rather than up from the river. This is because following a short area of further dense vegetation over rocks and dead trees, a faint track emerged. There is no doubt that the areas between the 1427 and 1490 spot-heights would be great places to spend a night (and carrying water down from the spring would be negligible in terms of effort). Once atop and among the snow-gums, the route to the spring is self-evident.

20150122_04_Crosscut Saw to the Viking from 1490 spot-height on un-named spur (IVO GR 715 866) (1280x357).jpg

20150122_02_Eastern side of Devil's Staircase from 1427 spot-height on un-named spur (IVO GR 717 869).JPG


In summary, this un-named spur is not for everyone. It took me 3:42 to cover the 4.8km distance and 966m elevation gain to the top of the spur. To provide comparison, the route up Helicopter Spur from the Howqua River (GR 610 857) to the junction with the AAWT (GR 643 830) is 6.2km with 814m elevation gain, and this took me 2:20. The spur is rough, there is no track, and the vegetation is dense or worse.

One last thing: wear pants or high gaiters. I wore ankle gaiters.

photo.JPG
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby Pika » Mon 26 Jan, 2015 5:14 pm

Great read oyster.

Thank you for sharing.

Look after those beat up legs!
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby Snowzone » Mon 26 Jan, 2015 6:52 pm

Many Thanks Oyster as I am wanting to get over to do the Viking Circuit at some stage soon.
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby walkon » Mon 26 Jan, 2015 7:27 pm

I thought that from sth Viking down to the river was pretty good going except for the last few hundred meters. Reasonably open most of the way down.
That inner spur up to Mac Springs is one of the gems of the area. A good hard walk/bush bash which is rewarded with spectacular views, I love it! Not a place for sooks that's for sure.
Last time in the area I came up one of the other spurs. It was a bright clear day, the flowers in full bloom and the scents of these were the strongest I've smelt anywhere, from a citrus bouquet to wild flower fragrance. Absolutely magnificent, there wasn't anywhere else you'd prefer to be that day.
I wear shorts and high gaiters so the scratches are more localized . My wife is horrified but I just take them as dues paid.
Hats off to you Oyster.

Not a bad idea snowzone
Cheers Walkon

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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby oyster_07 » Mon 26 Jan, 2015 7:55 pm

Agreed, and skin repairs itself...

Certainly the track down from the Viking is quite distinct in parts, but it's current condition is overgrown, but you are right in that the bottom part is the most overgrown.
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby walkon » Mon 26 Jan, 2015 9:39 pm

Yeah the last time I was up there was melb cup weekend just gone. I like it that a chunk of this walk is just following your nose checking out for rock cairns and seeing whereit all goes , then you can make it interesting if you want by picking a different spur
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby ErichFromm » Fri 30 Jan, 2015 12:14 pm

Well done Oyster_07. Better you than me - call me a bit of a wimp but it makes me very nervous bush-bashing and not being sure where I'm headed. Always the lingering fear you're headed in the wrong direction. Maybe I'd feel a little different if I had a GPS but doubt it...

I was doing the track down from Mt Speculation to the river once and ended up turning around due to the regrowth. A bunch of wise-acre teenagers I'd seen earlier (finishing a 10 day hike) had quite a laugh when I turned up at Macallister springs...

How did your equipment hold up? I do a little bush-bashing and find my pants and pack suffer...
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby oyster_07 » Fri 30 Jan, 2015 5:05 pm

ErichFromm wrote:Well done Oyster_07. Better you than me - call me a bit of a wimp but it makes me very nervous bush-bashing and not being sure where I'm headed. Always the lingering fear you're headed in the wrong direction. Maybe I'd feel a little different if I had a GPS but doubt it...

I was doing the track down from Mt Speculation to the river once and ended up turning around due to the regrowth. A bunch of wise-acre teenagers I'd seen earlier (finishing a 10 day hike) had quite a laugh when I turned up at Macallister springs...

How did your equipment hold up? I do a little bush-bashing and find my pants and pack suffer...


Thanks Erich,

A map and a compass should keep you well placed. Counting paces and knowing how many paces make a certain distance can help, as can moving between features that you can estimate distance to (such as prominent trees that stand above the undergrowth). A GPS is handy, and obviously I had one with me, but the map and compass are always the staples.

My gear fares well dealing with scrub, although clearly in this case my legs took some treatment. I find it better to finesse a way through rather than bash a way through. Think of it as 'slow is smooth, smooth is fast'.
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby Eljimberino » Fri 30 Jan, 2015 6:00 pm

Thanks for sharing.

Anyone ever ventured in to nearby hollows?


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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby gbedford » Wed 04 Feb, 2015 9:37 pm

A friend and I completed a similar circuit earlier in January. The spur down from the Viking was great walking until the last couple of hundred metres. Like you we wandered up the Wonnanngatta but got sick of the scrub and turned up a ridge after about an hour. The next couple of hours were some of the meanest scratch inflicting bush I have pushed through in ages. I can sympathise with your wounds as we also wore ankle gaiters. Fortunately for us the top section of the Old Zeka track was lovely county although there was a lot of fallen trees.

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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby Pika » Thu 05 Feb, 2015 6:54 am

I was wondering if you get to name the spur now oyster?

What would you call it?
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Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Spring

Postby oyster_07 » Thu 05 Feb, 2015 11:49 am

I would call it Dog's Leg Spur.

It climbs over the two small crests towards the top, and the kink as it does so reminds me of a dog's hind leg.
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby gbedford » Sat 07 Feb, 2015 6:26 pm

A good name and I think we should call it that but it has been walked before as a search of this forum will reveal. Of course it was certainly walked prior to 1970 as it is mentioned in Bushwalking in the Victorian Alps published by MUMC in 1970.
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby oyster_07 » Sun 08 Feb, 2015 7:01 am

gbedford wrote:A good name and I think we should call it that but it has been walked before as a search of this forum will reveal. Of course it was certainly walked prior to 1970 as it is mentioned in Bushwalking in the Victorian Alps published by MUMC in 1970.


Most certainly. There was evidence of there once being a track.
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby bernieq » Thu 19 Feb, 2015 3:54 pm

oyster_07 wrote:I had read suggestions and reports that a track once lead up an un-named spur from the Wonnangatta River to Macalister Spring. These assertions were little more than rumours

Rumours?? you didn't do enough searching on this website - this post was quite recent - Jan 2014 !
viewtopic.php?f=46&t=15613#p213848

We did this as part of a 3-day loop. Day 2 was from Viking South, down to Wonnangatta, up the river then up the spur to Mac Springs. It's a tough climb after the long descent but great fun.

Thanks for bringing back the memories - yeah, dog leg. I reached the top of that knoll thinking that it was the ridge behind Mac Springs - somewhat disappointed at the unexpected descent. The knoll is considerably higher than the contours suggest.

It's certainly the route I'd take next time.

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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby oyster_07 » Thu 19 Feb, 2015 8:42 pm

bernieq wrote:
oyster_07 wrote:I had read suggestions and reports that a track once lead up an un-named spur from the Wonnangatta River to Macalister Spring. These assertions were little more than rumours

Rumours?? you didn't do enough searching on this website - this post was quite recent - Jan 2014 !
viewtopic.php?f=46&t=15613#p213848

We did this as part of a 3-day loop. Day 2 was from Viking South, down to Wonnangatta, up the river then up the spur to Mac Springs. It's a tough climb after the long descent but great fun.

Thanks for bringing back the memories - yeah, dog leg. I reached the top of that knoll thinking that it was the ridge behind Mac Springs - somewhat disappointed at the unexpected descent. The knoll is considerably higher than the contours suggest.

It's certainly the route I'd take next time.


Credit where credit is due. I did see your post (I remember the map - quite useful), I just noted that it was referencing 2011.

I agree that it's a much better route than the Zeka Spur Track, even with the seemingly much denser growth than back in 2011.
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Re: Un-named spur from Wonnangatta River to Macalister Sprin

Postby icefest » Fri 20 Feb, 2015 9:48 am

I have the mumc book from 1970 if you want a look. I think that route goes over the southern spur though, not the one that was walked by the op.
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