April - 8/9 - Mount Hotham

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April - 8/9 - Mount Hotham

Postby HikerBrad » Tue 11 Apr, 2017 9:13 am

Hi all,

I’ve been reading the trip reports here for a while so it’s time I made a contribution. Following is a report on the activities from last weekend up at Mount Hotham.

I had planned a trip to take advantage of a rare free weekend a few weeks back. The plan was to start from Diamantina Hut at Mount Hotham and head along the Razorback and stay overnight at Federation hut before returning via Diamantina Spur to Dibbins and Derrick Hut and back to Diamantina Hut.

I’d been watching the weather in the week leading up and the forecast wasn’t great. Cloudy with a late change on Saturday and rain, snow and wind on Sunday. At some point during the week the forecast for Sunday changed from “Very Windy” to only “Windy” so I figured that was a good omen.

We headed off from Melbourne about 7am on Saturday, stopping for a coffee in Bright. The peak of Feathertop was covered in cloud and it rained on and off on the way up from Harrietville to Diamantina Hut. The fog (low cloud) was thick and visibility poor as we reached the hut just before 12pm.

It has been some time since I’ve hiked from Mount Hotham so I was very surprised at the large number of cars lined up along the road. We found a parking spot and as we got out of the car the rain started again so we put on our rain gear, sorted out the packs and headed off.

The fog was still heavy and I pointed out the valleys and hills we would have seen if it hadn’t been so foggy. It was rainy for the first hour after which the rain stopped and it was only foggy. We stopped for lunch soon after the rain stopped and took in the misty grey scenery. After lunch we proceeded on to the turn off to Diamantina spur. A couple of times close to the Champion Spur junction the mist cleared slightly and we had limited views down into the valleys alongside. At least I think it was close to Champion Spur because if it was signed then I missed it. The wind had been light so although there was not much in the way of views the closed in grey cloud and on and off drizzle had certainly made that part of the walk atmospheric.

From Diamantina Spur it was a short walk across to Federation Hut, the skies clearing slightly as we reached the junction to Feathertop. They didn’t stay clear for long and as we reached the hut about 3pm the rain started again and we held off putting up the tent for a few minutes.

When the rain stopped we pitched the tent then went inside the hut to have a snack and enjoy the warmth from the fire that was going. While we ate it cleared up significantly outside and we decided it was worth heading up to Feathertop. The cloud had lifted all around and only sat on the top of Feathertop. As we climbed the wind raced up from the west blowing mist up and around us making for a spectacular view as we climbed up towards the top. The views lasted two thirds of the way up and the last third was fogged in with no view. On top there was not quite enough visibility to see across the mini summit points. Even though there was no view the cloud and wind and feeling of isolation made it a memorable experience.

We stayed for about fifteen minutes before heading back down to the hut for a cup of tea, dinner and some snacks before turning in for the evening.

It was windy overnight although at somepoint the skies cleared enough that the moonlight came through and lit up the tent. Early in the morning the wind picked up whistling through the trees and it rained on and off. We got up about 6.45am, had breakfast, took down the tent, sorted out the packs and headed off about 8am.

We headed back along the Razorback to Diamantina Spur and it cleared a little as we walked along the Razorback offering views back toward the hut but closed in again as we got to Diamantina.

The walk down (and up and down and up and down) Diamantina was in to increasing wind and gloom. The cloud became thick and visibility short. After each up and mini highpoint I confidently announced : “I think this is the last one” and repeated it until eventually I was right and there was only down left to reach the river. It started to drizzle more on the lower section and it felt like a long time until we finally reached the road at the bottom.

On reaching the road we stopped for a rest and had only had time to open a muesli bar when it started to rain. Rain wasn’t so bad but then there was a flash of lightning and a few seconds later the accompanying crash of thunder. Although the plan had been to collect some water here we decided it wasn’t a good idea to be stopped standing around in the open in a thunderstorm so we shoveled in the remaining muesli bars and opted for walking along the road in the open in a thunderstorm instead.

We walked along in increasing heavy rain until we got near Red Robin Battery and briefly considered stopping for shelter. There had been some more lightning but distant enough not to be concerning. As we slowed there was a brilliant flash of lightning and almost instantaneous crack of thunder which just seemed to peel along the valley and all around us. As our hearts started beating again it also started to hail and by now we were just at the gate to the Battery so we headed in. The hail had started as small pellets but quickly turned into fingernail size lumps which stung as they hit. Thankfully we found a tin roofed lean to in which to shelter and watch the ice and rain fall. The ice stopped after a few minutes and the rain eased up soon afterwards. The wind pushed the storm away and the skies became slightly less grey and so we continued on up the track making a beeline for Dibbins Hut. It continued to rain lightly but steadily all the way to Dibbins Hut where we stopped for lunch. I collected some water for the remainder of the trip (in the continuing rain) and we headed off again about 1pm.

We climbed steadily up Swindlers Spur and as the slope eased off and we neared Derricks Hut the rain eased up and was replaced with snow as the temperature dropped. At times it was small pellets and at times it became light fluffy flakes. There was enough to start accumulating on the ground and start providing a light white covering. It was getting cold now and we only stopped briefly at the hut where I put some gloves on before heading on. We soon reached the Hotham ski infrastructure and started along the gravel road. It was cold and windy although for a brief moment on a slight high point the sky opened enough that a ray of sunlight came beaming through and we were walking in bright sunlight with our shadows across the road. It was only taunting us and in about a minute it was gone and we were back to grey skies and thick fog which closed in heavier than ever. We continued along the road and reached the water storage pond at which point the visibility was barely half the length of the pond. We reached the road and it was a long cold walk back to the car at Diamantina hut. We stuck to the inside of the road to keep out of the cold wind racing up the hills.

As we walked along we noted the build up of watery ice on the road and as we approached the car it started to snow again and this time it was real snow flakes being blown around and settling on our clothes. It was all very picturesque and a nice finish to the end of the walk however in the matter of a few minutes at the car sorting out our gear the road had started to get a build up of white all across it and thinking that the longer we took the more treacherous the road would get we chucked everything in the boot, jumped in the car and got going. The car now had a layer of snow on it and we got the heater and demister cranked up to create some visibility through the front window. There was enough snow on the road that it didn’t need much braking to cause the front wheels to lock and skid so we drove along slowly and in about ten minutes we had descended enough that the snow had thinned out and we continued on safely. We stopped at Harrietville to finally get changed then on to the freeway and home to Melbourne.

All in all a very enjoyable weekend, challenging conditions and a great experience.
HikerBrad
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Re: April - 8/9 - Mount Hotham

Postby ChrisJHC » Tue 11 Apr, 2017 1:11 pm

Great report and well done on going ahead when many would have "pulled the pin"!


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Re: April - 8/9 - Mount Hotham

Postby eggs » Tue 11 Apr, 2017 1:17 pm

Great report. Thanks
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Re: April - 8/9 - Mount Hotham

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 11 Apr, 2017 11:08 pm

You covered some serious kms and in tough conditions and the descent down the Diamantina spur wiped me out.My legs were jelly after that . I limped onto Dibbins hut and set up camp there when I did that route in Jan. 2016.How was the bottom of the Diamantina spur? Someone said the track has been pruned back a bit. It was quite overgrown when I went down it.
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Re: April - 8/9 - Mount Hotham

Postby HikerBrad » Wed 12 Apr, 2017 3:43 pm

Hi. Yes - it's a tough descent. The track was pretty clear, just a bit of growth from the rain and warm weather over summer.
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