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3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 2015)

Fri 22 May, 2015 9:40 pm

Total distance: 90.03 km
Total ascent: 4652 m
Total descent: 4652 m
Total time: 26:30


The shoulder season can be a surprise when it comes to conditions, and this quick three-day circuit around Mt Bogong and Mt Wills lived up to this expectation in a positive fashion. The days prior to the trip were characterised by weather reports of a cold blast and warnings of up to 60cm of snowfall in the High Country, followed by a few days of fine weather. This was an accurate forecast in the most part, although I am not sure that close to 60cm of snow fell anywhere in the vicinity.

Day One (14 May 2015)
Mountain Creek Campsite – Staircase Spur – Mt Bogong – Quartz Ridge – Timms Spur – Roper’s Hut

Distance: 29.4 km
Ascent: 2311 m
Descent: 1187 m
Time: 7:26

After driving from Melbourne the previous afternoon and camping at Mountain Creek Campsite, I set off at just on 0730. It was 3oC and, although solidly grey, the clouds were higher than Mountain Creek Campsite (~600m) but not as high as Mt Bogong.

The route up Staircase Spur was without surprises as I moved up under the protection afforded by being below the treeline. The first signs of snow were encountered slightly below Bivouac Hut at around 1400m elevation, yet at this stage, it was just a dusting.

Once above the treeline, snow cover was complete and ice dominated most exposed rocks. By the time I moved past Castor and Pollux Outcrops, I had reached the clouds, the wind was increasing, and snow depth was around 30cm. Visibility was low as I made it to the junction with the main shoulder leading to the summit. The summit cairn was not at all visible at this point.

20150514_08_Pollux Outcrop.JPG

The climb up Staircase Spur necessitated only a long sleeve technical t-shirt, an over-shirt, and softshell pants. Once I made it to the summit after 2:47, the wind was fierce and gloves and jacket became essential. I sheltered in protection on the northern side of the cairn as I donned the extra layers.

Clouds completely shrouded the summit and surrounding areas, yet the wind kept them moving and allowed glimpses to the High Plains through brief gaps. They were visibly covered only at the top with snow.

20150514_10_Towards Eskdale Point from Mt Bogong summit.JPG

20150514_12_West Peak from Mt Bogong summit.JPG

I would be passing over Mt Bogong again in two days at which time the forecast was for better conditions, so I did not linger long on the summit. Dropping down through Black Saddle and skirting Hooker Plateau I made my way towards Quartz Ridge. The wind remained fierce and the snow remained between 20 – 30 cm deep on the southern faces. Fortunately the going was easy with the snow being well compacted albeit slippery in places. At around 1750m the snow began to slowly thin as I dropped below the clouds again. A short while after I was able to remove my jacket and gloves.

The route down Quartz Ridge was quick and the track was in most parts unobstructed. I reached Bogong Creek Saddle (~1320m) at just on noon after 4:46. The crossing of Big River was not quite as cold as I expected it would be, and then following the fire-track up Timms Spur was fast and easy-going. By the time I had regained most of the lost elevation at Timms Lookout (1800m) and the route ahead was levelling out again, it was time once more for the jacket and gloves to return. It was at this point that again the snow completely covered the ground to around 15cm of depth, and iced-over pools of water dominated the ruts of the fire-track. Fortunately the wind had reduced somewhat.

20150514_15_High Plains from Quartz Ridge.JPG

I reached the junction of Timms Spur and Duane Spur at 1440, 7:09 after starting that morning. From here it was an easy stroll down to the vicinity of Roper’s Hut and my night location.

Reaching my destination at just on 1500 gave me a good few hours of daylight in which to relax and pick the best spot to set camp. I was impressed by the rebuild of Roper’s Hut in the original style, and the surrounding area has bounced back after the fires that destroyed it in 2003. After setting camp, enjoying a hot drink, taking a stroll around the area, and having dinner, I was under my tarp by 1830 for restful night.

The night was breezy, and perhaps outside of the protection provided by the surrounding light vegetation would have been stronger. Clouds remained well past nightfall.

Day two (15 May 2015)
Roper’s Hut – Timmins Lookout – Big River – Frog Track – Mt Wills

Distance: 26.1 km
Ascent: 1302 m
Descent: 1290 m
Time: 10:37

Waking early after an equally early night, I was greeted by a clear sky soon to be graced with a rewarding sun. I was walking by just after 0730 and although cold, the morning was shaping to be a superbly pleasant day.

I retraced my steps of the previous day back to the junction of Duane and Timms Spurs, then rolled over the small knoll to the northeast of Warby Corner. All areas above 1780m remained under snow, however I expected that the day’s sun and forecast temperature of up to 4oC would reduce the cover over low vegetation.

20150515_13_Mt Bogong from above Duane Creek - Copy.jpg

20150515_19_Mt Bogong from junction of Duane Spur and Timms Spur.JPG

From the small knoll, I surveyed my route ahead and commenced my decent towards the saddle formerly occupied by Batty’s Hut (marked on some maps as Betty’s Hut), also destroyed in the 2003 fires. Once below around 1650m, the vegetation was thick and no definitive remains of the former track to the Batty’s Hut site were identified. Navigation was tree-to-tree on compass bearings, usually through dense scrub, although at times fortuitously aligned animal tracks could be taken for short distances up to 30 or so metres. The animal tracks never cleared the route; they just thinned the vegetation slightly.

At approximately 1115, after 3:45, I reached Timmins Lookout. Pausing shortly to survey the available routes down to Big River, I decided the initial drop would be best made to the southeast rather than the northeast as originally planned. This would increase distance and force me to cross numerous re-entrants as I corrected the route northward once lower, but the initial drop from the lookout seemed safer.

The drop seemed safer, maybe not entirely safe in all weather conditions. Fortunately for me, the north facing route had already had a morning’s worth of direct sunlight and was free of frost. It remained nonetheless steep and unstable underfoot. Going was slow, deliberate, and technically satisfying.

Once down from the steepest and rocky sections, and having dropped approximately 300m of elevation in around 700m of travel, I commenced the correction over repeated re-entrants. The vegetation was significantly denser that that encountered around the Batty’s Hut site, and also particularly more established with stronger, more horizontal, and more overlapping branches. Navigation was again from tree-to-tree as picked on the compass bearing. I aimed for two distinct dog-legs in the river’s course that were south of the river’s junction with Frog Track on the far bank in order to ensure I could then follow the river up-stream and find the junction. It took 2:10 to cover the 2.1km from the point of my correction northwards to Big River.

20150515_26_Self at Big River looking down-stream at Frog Track.JPG

I was expecting Frog Track at Big River to potentially be difficult to find, however this was not the case. Identifying on the map that it was on the almost perfectly north-south alignment of the river, and almost directly opposite a creek confluence from the west, I located it with ease and was surprised to find it clear and without an overgrown junction with the river. By aiming-off and deliberately needing to follow the river upstream for a short distance, I was able to keep an eye out for a suitable crossing point. Conveniently, I found one almost directly upon the junction. Crossing was colder than the previous day, past the knees in parts, and forcefully firm. I had previously noted that this location had been used by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to monitor water conditions in 2009 and 2010, and perhaps it is still used for this purpose (as vehicle access would be possible).

Ascending from the river (920m) was not particularly steep but was rather constant and gentle. Frog Track was in good condition for a vehicle track, although in parts it is not particularly pretty due to being in a state forest rather than a national park. This point notwithstanding, there are several nice views southward over Glen Valley along the route.

20150515_27_Looking south towards Glen Valley from Frog Track.JPG

One of the reasons for heading towards Mt Wills was to scout some locations for a food cache for the AAWT. I headed north from Big River Saddle for this reason. After returning to the saddle, I hit the steep uphill towards Mt Wills. The lower parts of this climb were taxing on tired legs that had been fatigued by the slow and rhythmless push through vegetation towards Big River earlier in the day. At this stage, the sun was getting quite low in the sky and I estimated my arrival at Mt Wills would be almost exactly at last light. Pushing on, and appreciating the reduced gradient further up, I reached Mt Wills just after last light after 10:37 of walking (and pushing through vegetation). Setting up camp under torchlight, I enjoyed a warm feed and a hot drink under the clearest of clear night skies, and was in my bag and bivy quite soon.
Last edited by oyster_07 on Fri 22 May, 2015 11:10 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Fri 22 May, 2015 10:00 pm

Day three (16 May 2015)
Mt Wills – Long Spur – Howman Falls – Mt Bogong – Eskdale Spur – Mountain Creek Camp

Distance: 34.5 km
Ascent: 1039 m
Descent: 2175 m
Time: 8:27

The night remained clear throughout and there was a distinct stillness to the air. Waking again to a fine morning, I promptly ate and packed my gear in order to have time to climb the granite boulders crowning Mt Wills and enjoy the sunrise with a hot coffee. This was the best possible start to the morning: it was cold but still, and in my insulated jacket and beanie, with a hot coffee to embrace, I watched as the sun first projected and then appeared over the mountainous horizon. With clouds a good 500 – 700m below me and perfectly clear air above, Main Range was visible on the horizon with more snow than the Bogong area, perhaps due to the same weather pattern that caused extremely heavy rainfall in Sydney in early May.

20150516_07_Looking east from Mt Wills - Copy.jpg

20150516_13_Looking east from Mt Wills.JPG

20150516_16_Self looking east from Mt Wills.JPG

After heading north from Big River Saddle the previous day, I had a look around the track leading towards Mt Wills hut as I departed the area again at 0730. I am confident that while the track towards Mt Wills is less friendly for a 2WD sedan, it offers more suitable and practical locations that can be reached on foot from the Omeo Highway.

The upper slopes leaving Mt Wills were crisp with ice and overnight frost, giving that satisfying crunch with each step. Creatively, the lower slopes would have been negotiable on skis such was the cover of layers of thin wet bark on the steep downhill.

After reaching Big River Saddle, I retraced my steps from the afternoon prior towards Long Spur Track. I followed the AAWT markers along a slight ‘short cut’ that takes a few hundred metres off the route that follows the vehicle track to the junction with Long Spur Track. It would have been better to simply follow the vehicle track as the ‘short cut’, although short, was certainly the longer of the options in terms of time.

It is little wonder where Long Spur takes its name: it is long, but not arduous. On a clear day like I had, the views out to the east, north and west in many places are superb. Although a vehicle track, it does not link to others and assumedly gets negligible traffic. As such, there is plenty of birdlife.

20150516_19_Mt Bogong from junction of Long Spur and Mulhauser Spur.JPG

20150516_21_Looking north from junction of Long Spur and Mulhauser Spur.JPG

Reaching the end of the vehicle track and the start of the foot track towards Mt Bogong, I was pleased to be on the spine of the ridge. The day was sunny a relatively warm 5oC at the 1600m elevation, so the opportunity for some air movement was welcome.

I turned southward at Bossiede Hill (1780m) at 1130 after 4:00. Patches of snow remained in places, but much had melted. The snow-pole line southward towards Howman Falls was soggy in many places.

I detoured and stopped at Howman Falls for a brief rest and snack. Were the weather warmer, the clear waters would have looked infinitely inviting. On the day however, many of the rocks on the northern and western sides of the gully, shadowed from the sun as they are, were covered with ice, many with water running underneath.

Continuing past Cleve Cole Hut, I turned towards Mt Bogong again and commenced the final climb. Snow cover increased and was complete at around half way up to Tadgell Point at around 1860m. Continuing over Lendenfeld and Audax Points, the snow was not as firm as the snow of two days earlier. Clearly the previous days and that morning’s sun had been enough to soften the icy crisp.

The views as I rounded Audax Point were splendid and a world apart from those of two days prior. Visibility was quite literally as far as the eye could see. At this point, the snow once again had its firm crust, thus making passage quicker and easier.

I reached the summit of Mt Bogong at 1230 after 5:00. Only the faintest of breezes moved the air and I was quite comfortable spending half an hour on top with only a long sleeve technical tee on my upper body. Looking around, snow had clearly melted and receded on Bogong and the High Plains. The faintest of white was visible on Mt Hotham, whereas no snow was visible on Feathertop’s (albeit sun exposed) northern face. A puff of cloud was visible above Main Range, evidence that the clear and sunny conditions persisted north of the border too.

20150516_28_Hooker Plateau and Quartz Spur from Mt Bogong summit.JPG

20150516_36_Self on Mt Bogong summit.JPG

20150516_45_Looking south from Mt Bogong summit.jpg

After enjoying some rest and a snack, and after taking the obligatory photos, I descended via Eskdale Spur. Very little ice remained, and the ground was either snow, water, or rock. The route down the spur was fast and I relished the quick-footedness of it. An hour after leaving the summit, I was at the base of the spur at Mountain Creek. After following the track downhill for a further hour, at just after 1730 I was back at Mountain Creek Campsite with just enough light to drive through Tawonga Gap Road before darkness, en route Melbourne.


Total distance: 90.03 km
Total ascent: 4652 m
Total descent: 4652 m
Total time: 26:30

  • A thoroughly enjoyable walk over three days, without a single person being seen until the final day just below the Bogong summit.

  • All walking was completed in daylight with the exception of the smallest of distances on the second day.

  • While the weather was cold, windy, and grey on the first day, this did not diminish the enjoyment of this part of the world at this time of year, and the second and third days were superb.

  • The route down from Timmins Lookout should not be attempted by everyone. In addition to off-track navigational skills, it demands physical agility and pluck, plus the perseverance to negotiate a very slow couple of kilometres of dense vegetation.

  • Birdlife was abundant below the treeline. Although a thrill to quickly see deer, I am glad I only saw a single pair of the feral animals (but did hear numerous others). A single feral cat was also seen.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Sat 23 May, 2015 10:36 am

Thanks for posting. Very impressive trip and great photos.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Sat 23 May, 2015 9:22 pm

Very impressive, you are one fit and intrepid unit. Nice pic.s too. I assume you are using ultra light gear ? It would have taken me 4 or 5 nights, at least to cover that route.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Mon 25 May, 2015 4:06 pm

Thank you, and yes: my gear is pretty light.

I didn't weigh my pack upon departure, so I can't give an exact figure. It was all in a 34L pack though.
Last edited by oyster_07 on Sat 30 May, 2015 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Mon 25 May, 2015 5:04 pm

Incredible work Oyster.

Thanks for sharing your trip report and photos with us.

I think my daypack is around 30L and it was full for my day trip to Mt Bogong on the 17th, so you sure must have been traveling light on this multi day hike with a similar size pack!


Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Tue 26 May, 2015 10:18 am

Fantastic work, Oyster! Wonderful pictures, turn of phrase and I really appreciate the time you put in to convey your trip to us. I'm in agreement with the others, you must have been moving at quite a pace for that amount of ground to have been covered. (If you have time/inclination could I trouble you for a packlist?)

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Tue 26 May, 2015 4:44 pm

Thank you. I appreciate your comments.
I can definitely provide my gear-list. I don't have one ready now, but I'll compile one for the trip and include weights.

3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 2015)

Fri 29 May, 2015 9:56 pm

Here is my load-list for this trip.

* Carried (less consumables) - 7.17 kg
* Worn (basic clothes & footwear) - 2.06 kg
* Consumables (inc reserve) - 2.87 kg
* Skin-out total - 12.1 kg

Please feel free to ask questions.

Load list.pdf
(44.44 KiB) Downloaded 382 times

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Sun 31 May, 2015 9:48 am

Firstly, I really like the formatting. I can't say I have a hobby of looking at packlists, so maybe that's the format but I found yours to be easy to overview.

Secondly, it's light. You know this, I'm sure, but for the type of hike you went on it strikes me as being at the limit. Once again I'm not really sure what other people do, so maybe you're the norm. I'm a solo hiker, I don't really know many people who hike so my capacity for juxtaposition is poor at best. I generally pay for good quality and light gear but then will take the saved grams and use it for a luxury. Earlier this month I took my sizeable bedroom down pillow to make for the most beautiful nights sleep out at Fed Hut (coupled with my Western Mountaineering Antelope and Exped Downmat UL). I think though that I need to take a leaf out of your book and make (what I see as) sacrifices. Hopefully they will enable me to push myself further.

Once again, thanks for the time you took to make this! :)

3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 2015)

Sun 31 May, 2015 1:39 pm

Thank you, and you are welcome.
I must admit that I can be a bit of a nerd about these things.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Sat 06 Jun, 2015 9:52 am

I am not easily impressed but I loved reading your report. You wrote up an impressive achievement with style. simplicity and humility.


Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Tue 16 Jun, 2015 11:00 pm

Thank you for that kind appraisal.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Tue 16 Jun, 2015 11:39 pm

Gorgeous pics and an inspiring trip report!

Looking through your gear list though, I am wondering what's in a 20g first aid kit! I can't imagine I'd ever be comfortable with so little, but I'd be interested to know what you prioritize, given so little weight.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Wed 17 Jun, 2015 10:55 am

Good question Alex.

The first aid kit is light, but practical. It includes a number of adhesive bandages, a gauze, a zip-loc bag, and a few ibuprofen tablets.

The bandages, gauze, and ibuprofen are self explanatory. The zip-loc bag can be used as a seal and/or one-way valve for a bodily puncture. Should I need further bandage or a tourniquet, items from my other gear can be used to fulfil this need.

I know that not everyone would be comfortable with such a kit, however it is first-aid knowledge that empowers a lightweight kit. I will also add to this kit depending on the duration, terrain, and conditions of my trip.

Re: 3-day circuit around Mt Bogong & Mt Wills (14-16 May 20

Sat 01 Aug, 2015 11:00 am

Omeo Hwy to Mt Wills hut is about 45min on foot. There is no vehicle access past the Tallangatta ski club which is a short distance from the highway. For good information about the area you can visit the Mt. Wills retreat and speak to Gordon. He gets into Cleve Cole to ski and knows the tracks well. There are a number of logging tracks around Mt. Wills which would be suitable for 2wd vehicles in good weather. They are logging at the moment so the roads are being maintained but you would need to be careful of the trucks. He also offers an affordable overnight bed at the retreat and has catered for many AAWT visitors who want a break, hot shower or need to rest an injury. Food drops are often left where the AAWT meets the Omeo Hwy.
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