Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

A forum for discussing the Australian Alps Walking Track. This is a 655 km long track from Walhalla (Vic) to Tharwa (ACT)

Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby jvangemert » Thu 13 Jun, 2013 10:36 pm

We all know that our alps are low and worn down by comparison with other continents so we do need to make sure that we put our best foot forward. The AAWT is not about the quickest way from A to B but the most scenic. In Victoria the route could be refocused in two main areas to give a much better outcome and bag way more peaks along the way.

1. Spion Kopje and Mt Bogong link. This is a no brainer as it uses existing link tracks, only need to re-erect some snow poles.
At Warby Corner turn west and follow the Spion Kopje Fire track to the Grey Hills Track. Short side trip to Spion Kopje 1841m. Continue north over The Crowsnest which is one of my favourite little peaks on the Bogong High Plains, the Grey Hills with Grey Hills 1700m and Mt Arthur 1682m. Descend down to Bogong Creek Saddle where there is good camping possible. Turn east and walk to the base of the Quartz Ridge. Climb Mt Bogong up this spectacular ridge. Near Hooker Plateau it is possible to do a short side trip to West Peak 1962m via Stirling Gap. This area does need to have the original snow pole line reinstated. Some of the poles can still be seen laid down in the grass. West Peak offers the views and summit feel missing from the main summit.
Continue NE to the main summit of Mt Bogong 1986m. The spectacular ridge, mostly above 1900m, is then followed east to Hell Gap before turning SE and descending to Cleve Cole Memorial Hut. Shortly after crossing Camp Valley the AAWT can be "re-joined" at Maddisons.
Some may say that this is more dangerous because of the high level traverse in bad weather. Well yes but the Duane and T Spur option is open in those circumstances. Lets not also forget that the Big River Crossing at the base of the Duane Spur can be onerous which is something the new link avoids.

2. Feathertop to Fainters Link. This involves a couple of new short link tracks and some clearing of existing old logging tracks.
At Mt Hotham use the Razorback to access Mt Feathertop. Arguably one of our most scenic ridge walks in Victoria. Continue over Mt Feathertop 1922m and North Peak. This is still called The Razorback and this side is also worth the visit. Veer right to descend to Dungey Gap on an existing track. From here a new link track (around one km long) is required to go SE and down to the Kiewa River where there is excellent camping. Diamantina Spur could also be used to access the Kiewa River in poor conditions.
Another new short link track (around 400m long) would be nice to have but not essential to bring you up to the West Kiewa Logging Road at the next spur. The spur contains many disused and now over grown logging track and it will not be hard to link them up and provide access to the ESE and join the r Fire Trail at the 1600m level. From here follow the fire trail SE climbing Mt Fainter North1845m and Mt Fainter South 1883m as short side trips. At Little Plain where there is excellent camping follow the existing track south over Mt Jaithmathang 1852m. The low level route around The Jaithmathangs is possible in poor conditions.

So the peak bagging count is an extra nine and they are all worth it:
Spion Kopje 1841m
Grey Hills 1700m
Mt Arthur 1682m
West Peak 1962m
Mt Bogong 1986m.
Mt Feathertop 1922m
Mt Fainter North1845m
Mt Fainter South 1883m
Mt Jaithmathang 1852m

Hands up all those who think that this will dramatically add to the AAWT experience for really very little extra work.
I am willing to help, mark, clear and otherwise assist.
Regards
John
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AAWT_Feathertop to Fainters link.jpg
Feathertop to Fainters link
AAWT_Spion Kopje and Mt Bogong link.jpg
Spion Kopje and Mt Bogong link
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby vagrom » Fri 14 Jun, 2013 3:43 pm

Admiration for initiative. I don't know the Fainter area to comment but your own remarks support the likelihood of Bogong's remaining unchanged. The Grey Hills will remain burnt and ugly for many years yet. It would be a pity to miss the Roper area. You're right about the river crossing but I don't know if anyone has yet had to remain camped on one side for days, as used to happen with the Gordon in Tassie.
This Big River section as it stands is a mega-challenge down and up, but with a chance to rest and visit Bogong and Cleve Cole as a side trip. Imagine if you particularly wanted to take in Bogong as part of the route onwards. All those extra km's via the Grey Hills versus the present option, I can't see being considered an attractive alternative. The extended, high exposure is definitely a disincentive. But why not Timm's?
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby madmacca » Sat 15 Jun, 2013 12:48 am

My understanding is that AAWT tries to avoid long and high exposure on the route itself. The highest peaks are generally reached by side trips in good conditions.

The Razorback is a great walk, but can be deadly in the wrong conditions. Tim Holding anyone?
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby Mark_O » Sat 15 Jun, 2013 11:39 am

As someone who has completed both summer and winter traverses of the AAWT I would certainly support such an adaptation. In my mind the route of the AAWT should definitely include the higher peaks and the more scenic areas of both states and the ACT.

In NSW the fact that the official route does not proceed along the ridge line of the Main Range is a significant error and major loss in my opinion. The reality is that many of those doing full traverses end up adapting the route to the conditions and their ability anyway. There is almost always the option of taking lower more sheltered routes if conditions or abilities dictate this whilst in winter with good snow cover many 'tracks' become namesakes only.

I have walked and skied the Grey Hills-Quartz route, the Big River route and the Timm's Spur-Quartz Ridge route and I think the Grey Hills is the best route for the AAWT although I personally would not like to see any additional additions to pole lines. To me the fact that it is an exposed extended ridge is the incentive to use it, with its fantastic views of Bogong's West Peak. Yes there is significant re-growth there but last time I was there it was less than 1km of really thick re-growth and the remainder we were able to ski no worries. If people don't have the skill or suitable conditions for this route then they can always take the traditional route.

I think the Fainters-Jaimathangs route is also a good one despite its extra length. This is a beautiful area in both summer and winter and there is always the easy 4wd traverse track option as stated in the original post. Obviously it adds distance but no one who walks 650km is going to worry about an additional few kilometres.

My opinion is that if people don't have the skill to walk the Razorback then they should not be doing the AAWT. Likewise someone who does not have the skill/experience to ski/snowshoe or use crampons to safely navigate the Razorback and Feathertop or to use their judgement to take an alternative safer option should not be attempting the AAWT in winter. Both the North Razorback and Diamantina are fantastic routes in both summer and winter although certainly in winter you need appropriate conditions and experience to undertake them. That said the Razorback is much less serious than the Crosscut Saw in full winter conditions and is actually relatively straightforward for those that know what they are doing. I was on the search for Tim Holding and I think since then and also due to the death of an experienced skier on Feathertop, many bushwalkers and the public now have a much better understanding of the dangers of icy slopes. I doubt that re-routing the AAWT in almost name only is going to contribute to more people putting themselves in situations where they require SAR.

Ultimately people do and should adapt the AAWT route to suit the trip they are doing and their experince level but I would love to see the official route highlight our best and highest alpine areas.

Regards, Mark
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby andrewbish » Sun 16 Jun, 2013 6:31 am

Good idea. I have walked almost all of the sections you propose to add and agree that they represent the best bits of the area.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby sunshine » Mon 17 Jun, 2013 1:11 pm

Great thread!

For me, the AAWT is more than a route - it's an idea. It's not necessarily a ridge top walk from A to B, even though that's a large part of what it does.

I think that everyone who wants to walk the AAWT has a responsibility to understand their own objectives in doing the walk and therefore takes ownership of the route that they choose. The "official" AAWT route does not follow the main range N of Kosciusko, does not traverse the Cobberas, and as pointed out here, does not traverse Mts Feathertop or Bogong. There are other attractions that are either suggested as side trips or are bypassed completely.

I am currently planning to complete the AAWT, S to N, in late 2015 (when my last child finishes year 12). We are planning to go via Feathertop, Diamantina Spur, Blair's Hut and Weston's Hut. Still haven't decided how we'll handle Bogong. I hadn't thought of going via Spion Kopje and the Grey Hills - but I have climbed Mt Arthur from Bogong Saddle, recently.

Any decision about the "best" route is always a trade off. For example, going via Feathertop means bypassing Dibbins Hut and the Basalt Temple. Not a problem for me, as I have travelled that route several times. However, I think that it is misleading to imply that the peaks have more to offer than the rest of the route. Roper's Hut is one of my favourite campsites (as is Dibbins Hut). The low route past Mt Magdala is also stunning - not just as an alternative in bad weather. However, you can't see everything!

My objectives in attempting this walk are largely around spending an extended period in an undeveloped and challenging environment. I wouldn't do that without a route to follow but the time in the bush is more important than the destination. It's an excuse to meander and take everything in - not to race to the end. But everyone has different objectives.

In any event, the planning and anticipation only serves to heighten the experience.

Happy walking!

ps The Fainters are well worth a visit!!
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby Kinsayder » Tue 18 Jun, 2013 1:33 pm

Great thread! As somebody who has done Bogong a couple of times and made repeated trips to Feathertop, I think that this shows a great level of thought and initiative. Will you submit a proposal to Parks Victoria?
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby Bill P » Wed 19 Jun, 2013 5:03 pm

John, I reckon this is a superior, more worthy route AAWT route. A full traverse of the Razorback and also the Bogong massif!. Brilliant.

It will make the NSW section appear even more of a bureaucratic road bash.

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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby jvangemert » Thu 20 Jun, 2013 9:04 pm

Thanks for the comments thus far,
What is coming through is that we all have our favourite places and these alterations will help pick up quite a few more for those who are less familiar with the area which is the whole idea. Parks so far have been unresponsive but I am going to push and bit harder.
Regards
John
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby Lophophaps » Sun 23 Jun, 2013 12:08 pm

This is an interesting idea worthy of serious consideration. I did the AAWT when it was a baby, the AWT. If my long-suffering memory serves a map had what were called AWT feeder tracks and alternative routes. The best of the latter was to go over Timms and hence Mt Bogong, taking in the summit that would otherwise need a side-trip.

Is it possible to have a series of routes, all designated "AAWT"? Or could one route me the main route, with alternatives? The route has changed quite a bit since I did the AWT, noticeably hitting NSW at Dead Horse Gap instead of Tom Groggin, avoiding a very long and dusty road bash. The Thredbo road was unsealed then.

Other sections need rationalisation; may have been done. About ten years ago I was on a track near ... Skene, Shillingaw ... can't recall. We went south on a 4WD track, gentle up. Then the track, still 4WD, went up very steeply. Logically, there should be a track that cut the corner at a moderate angle. I reported the matter but received no reply. Other sections could easily be improved. Maybe a list could be made.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby wobbly » Sun 23 Jun, 2013 3:17 pm

John

I'd suggest you contact a few of the Victorian bushwalking clubs or (if it exists) the friends of the AAWT and try and get them onside before confronting Parks. A racous mob of walkers will have more clout and possbily better contacts with the necessary authorites than a lone voice no matter how good the idea.
cheers
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby Lophophaps » Sun 23 Jun, 2013 4:02 pm

John's idea has merit. See http://www.vicwalk.org.au. I found my notes.

At the saddle near Peter Gorge there is a traverse and a short sharp climb to the last bump just before the Barkly River Road. In my view, the track should start climbing at the saddle rather than the present route. This new track would cut the sharp climb at about half height, and then keep to the west of the road, ending at the Barkly River Road. It is recognised that there are limited funds and competing priorities, but it is hoped that the idea will at least make it to a list.

This may have been done. Does anyone know?
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby jvangemert » Thu 27 Jun, 2013 9:42 pm

I have heard from Parks on my proposed extensions to the AAWT and it will be put to the management committee. Any new tracks are unlikely to succeed was the additional comment which I guess is fair enough.
So the Feathertop and Fainters link could be amended to go down Diamantina, north down the West Kiewa River valley then using those "to be cleared" logging tracks, access the Fainters as before.
I can see that it would be a reasonable compromise. So the proposed extensions would add traverses of;
The Razorback
The Fainters
The Jaithmathang
The Spion Kopje Spur
The Grey Hills and
The Mt Bogong massif

That is a pretty good "additional" list.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby andrewbish » Thu 27 Jun, 2013 10:52 pm

Crossed fingers
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby jvangemert » Sun 14 Jul, 2013 5:33 pm

Interestingly when you login to the AAWT site the banner photo across the top is of the Razorback on route to Mt Feathertop, a section which is not currently included on the AWWT.
I have also now included a couple of photos of:
Feathertop from Molly Hill, The campsite at West Kiewa and the proposed link track (to be cleared) off the Fainters.
Fainters link trail.jpg
The proposed link track (to be cleared) off the Fainters
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Dawn shot of Mt Feathertop from Molly Hill
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West Kiewa river campsite
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby icefest » Fri 26 Jul, 2013 6:24 pm

I agree with the general sentiment that if you can't do it safely you shouldn't be doing it anyway.

I've only seen the crowsnest covered in snow, at which point I was more worried about avalanche/slip risk than how it looked. I think this is it:
Image


There is just one thing that I could see being a problem:
jvangemert wrote:From here a new link track (around one km long) is required to go SE and down to the Kiewa River where there is excellent camping

That's a 400m descent in less than 500m. However you build it it will be expensive and/or prone to erosion.

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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby north-north-west » Wed 07 Aug, 2013 9:48 am

The option to do the route this way more or less exists anyway, whether it is official or not. After all, very few people do the official Charlotte Pass/Smiggins/Guthega route, but rather go cross country from Twynam at least past of the way to Schlink.
Personally, I agree with your idea - it's ridiculous that the AAWT doesn't include the highest and best peaks when tracks exist to/over those peaks anyway.
I'm kind of glad you don't include the Cobberas in your proposed amendments, though (although that route would be an even greater improvement). I love being able to walk there without tripping over people all the time.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby ryantmalone » Sun 11 Aug, 2013 6:09 pm

I agree than the descent from Dungey down to the Kiewa River would be horrendously steep, and definitely prone to erosion, requiring frequent track works, etc. Thinking of that reminds me of the old track heading down from Mt Speculation, I remember in the late 90's, the state of that track was horrendous, and from what I hear, its shockingly bad now.

The only other thought that I'd have that could be more exciting/interesting, would be to follow the spur down from just as you hit Stoney Tops. This looks like it would be initially quite steep, but more gradual, and a bit more exciting than a blunt downhill. Would also have some very nice views of Feathertop towards the top, plus a nice perspective of the Fainters.

Here's a pic I got from the Fainters last summer, its the obvious spur on the right of the image, and it happens to end right at the spot where the original idea ends.

Image
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby jvangemert » Tue 12 Nov, 2013 12:44 pm

Good input and valid comments about the steepness. I will try, over this summer to look at the alternate ridge/spurs for a gentler descent.
Meanwhile it is interesting that the AAWT website banner has the Razorback depicted.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby Smeagle » Sun 17 Nov, 2013 9:20 pm

I would be keen to try this layout over my christmas break and winter attempt of aawt, and give some feedback, i have a week to go so might even do a mad dash up tommoz for the feathertop section, we shall see
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Feathertop to Fainters Link

Postby pete0762 » Sat 23 Nov, 2013 11:52 pm

Hi,

I have a question if anyone has done the described Feathertop to Fainters walk ? Seems possible to do, but concerned that it may all be badly overgrown off ridge and off track - and even though I don't mind some bushbashing if it is fighting through jungle I loose interest/enjoyment after a while. SO if anyone done that any route (off track part) condition description would be great

2. Feathertop to Fainters Link. This involves a couple of new short link tracks and some clearing of existing old logging tracks.
At Mt Hotham use the Razorback to access Mt Feathertop. Arguably one of our most scenic ridge walks in Victoria. Continue over Mt Feathertop 1922m and North Peak. This is still called The Razorback and this side is also worth the visit. Veer right to descend to Dungey Gap on an existing track. From here a new link track (around one km long) is required to go SE and down to the Kiewa River where there is excellent camping.
Another new short link track (around 400m long) would be nice to have but not essential to bring you up to the West Kiewa Logging Road at the next spur. The spur contains many disused and now over grown logging track and it will not be hard to link them up and provide access to the ESE and join the r Fire Trail at the 1600m level. From here follow the fire trail SE climbing Mt Fainter North1845m and Mt Fainter South 1883m as short side trips. At Little Plain where there is excellent camping follow the existing track south over Mt Jaithmathang 1852m. The low level route around The Jaithmathangs is possible in poor conditions.

Regards
Peter
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby icefest » Sun 24 Nov, 2013 12:16 am

Considering the area, expect the bottom to be not unlike the base of the NorthWest Spur (MUMC Hut) track up Mt Feathertop.
I'd be up for joining you but my summer is fully planned out.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby madmacca » Tue 17 Dec, 2013 5:41 pm

jvangermert,

You post has been nagging at the back of my mind for several months, and has inspired me to include it on my wander around the Bogong High Plains this summer.

For those of you who have indicated you may also be doing it this summer, which option are you taking to descend from the Razorback down to the West Kiewa.

I see about 6 options:

Option 1 would be to continue the Pyramid Hill Fire Trail north and around. This would be the longest option, but the gentlest and entirely on trail (apart from Dungey Gap to Pyramid Hill)
Option 2 would be to take the fire trail 2K north from Pyramid Hillm then take the spur heading NE, and descend to Dungey Trackl. This is the gentlest of the non-trail options, and about 3K shorter than option 1
Option 3 would be take the spur that heads east then north from the National Park Boundary.
Option 4 would be to take the spur that runs NE from the north peak of Feathertop. This would be the most direct, but a beast of a descent/climb - about 1000 vertical metres
Option 5 would be either of the spurs directly east from Feathertop. Apart from avoiding a little bit of backtracking, I can't see why this would be preferrable to Dimantina Spur.
Option 6 would be Dimantina Spur.

At this stage I am leaning towards options 1 or 2 out of respect for my knees. But I would be interested as to what others think.

AAWT_Feathertop to Fainters link options.jpg
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby scroggin » Wed 18 Dec, 2013 12:04 pm

I seem to recall in an old Wild magazine with track notes of someone tackling Mount Feathertop directly from the Fainters but from memory they came strainght down from Fainter South and took the spur heading SSW over North Peak. I'll see if I can fish it out tonight.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby icefest » Sat 04 Jan, 2014 8:38 am

Options 3,4 and 5 are all long decents down untracked spurs. Going the opposite way that wouldn't be a problem but I'm sure you know how much harder or is to follow a spur downhill than uphill.

I'd probably take the red route, armed with a pack hauling rope and gravity.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby jvangemert » Wed 20 Jan, 2016 9:56 pm

I will get in contact with the Falls Hotham Alpine Crossing to put some suggestions forward and suggest an extension out the other side to Mt Bogong and end at Mountain Creek. Then it will be able to be called an "alpine crossing" of 6 to 8 days with lots of options.
I will drop the Dungey Gap section. As Ryantmalone has suggested it would be too steep and easily eroded. Instead coming down on the long NE ridge off the North Razorback will end up at the Kiewa River anyway.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby Lophophaps » Thu 21 Jan, 2016 4:14 am

This would be a much better walk than the current proposal, which is discussed at viewtopic.php?f=37&t=21730
It's important that track upgrades be sympathetic to the region, and that there be minimal or no new camps. Certainly no new huts. Having a harder option than the two "icon" walks so far is good.
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Re: Put the Alps back into the AAWT Victorian Section

Postby jvangemert » Sat 21 Jan, 2017 7:55 pm

All this will be used in my submission on the "Alpine Crossing". So that we have a real Alpine Crossing from Mountain Creek to Harrietville.
So that we we don't get laughed at by the kiwis who know what an alpine crossing really is.
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