Helicopter Spur advice

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Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Sun 21 Nov, 2021 7:12 pm

Hi,
It seemed that Howitt road was closed and the easiest way toward Mac Springs was from the Howqua, so I thought I'd do my bi-annual try and fail of the Helicopter Spur.
I got to the tricky bit on the second rock band and still had energy to keep going.
I started ascending on the right, but it is a sort of wedge shape, and basically seemed a bit tricky as the backpack was getting stuck in it when I was trying to lift myself up.
So, I backed out, went up the left, climbing up a bit till I hit a point where I'd have to commit to throwing myself up on a rock and if I didn't stick the landing, do some nasty falling on rock action.
I couldn't reach the higher snow Gum you see in the photo below.
I wasn't able to shimmy to the right from this point.
The photo seems very tame, but it was a bit precarious up there, I managed to remove my pack, and grab a small rope I'd brought for pack-hauling, but still couldn't see how I'd throw my fat *&%$#! up on the rock.
So, I took the coward's attack and retreated. Lowering the pack down, and then sliding down on my *&%$#!.

I remember walking down to the car, that on BigKev's Feral blog, he was able to reach the gum and get over the 'chockstone'.
He might be especially tall, but I'm guessing he also went up the right side, and thus was more or less directly under the tree.

So, is this how you do it? I'm unlikely to try again in a hurry, but my missus looked at the photo and thought I was complaining about nothing.

Is the track up to west peak of Mt Howitt easier?
It seems that it is, and in that case will probably be the track I take next time I'm starting from Upper Howqua campsite.

Related question for those with experience: is this climb more difficult or less than the Viking Chute ascent?
Assuming I went the right way up and just didn't have the cohones to complete, then I won't have them to complete the Viking Chute either if it's similar difficulty.

Anyway, thanks for any tips. I think I might need to recalibrate the level I aim for.
Two weeks ago I found the climbing around Mt Difficult Loop fine, but not this little pinch.

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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby CraigVIC » Sun 21 Nov, 2021 8:42 pm

This doesn't sound right, it's a while since I was there and I don't remember it clearly but there's no committed reaches required like you're describing. May have been following a false pad?
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby north-north-west » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 5:23 am

You definitely got off the right line there. There's nothing that bad on Helicopter.
Usually sidling to the left gets you around the low cliffs on a steep, slightly loose slope, but even the direct climb is not like that.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Lophophaps » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 5:31 am

NNW's advice is correct - it's a scramble, not a climb. There was a trip report in the February 2021 edition of the magazine.
"Approaching the first rocky band, we initially headed to the right of the spur, then, at the base of the cliff, the track swung to the left. Following a foot pad below the cliff, we found an easy route up the cliff.

"The first rocky band wasn't too hard (from memory). The second was a little more involved. While we didn't need ropes going up, I suspect you would need them coming down. Or, just throw the packs down, as some folk were doing! Not a favourite idea of mine."
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby bigkev » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 5:39 am

Hi Baeng,

You are definitely going up the gully that I used. I can't remember whether I went left or right of the snowgum. I'm am fairly tall so I've got a reasonable reach (although I'm also old and broken and hauling 130kgs so that kind of negates any reach advantage I can get from reach :roll: ).

It's hard to tell from the photo however I'm guessing I went around that first snow gum and then up the rocky chute on the left of the gully until I reached the second (higher) snowgum?

The feeder track up to West Peak is a fairly straightforward grunt - nice views near the top though.

Have a look at the West Peak of Mt Buller, some easy scrambling and great views on that one too.

Cheers
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Drew » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 7:59 am

I went up Heli Spur on Saturday morning for the fifth time (I think), and agree with the others that you had definitely lost the track there.

Howitt Spur is a long climb (although I've only ever descended it) but definitely less scrambly than Helicopter, and a nice walk up along the river before the real climbing begins.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 10:17 am

Thanks for the replies.
I think I was on the right pad, it was a well worn track. You head up to past the first rock band, the start of the second is pretty easy (apart from steep), then get to this sheer face of rock, you follow the track to the left, and around the side there's the gully.

In the first photo you can see the V shape on the right (basically bisected by a line from top to bottom snow Gum)
From Hiking Fiasco http://hikingfiasco.com/2012/02/15/heli ... onal-park/
Image

In the photo from going feral, the lower or bottom snow Gum is in front of the V.

From Going Feral one day at a time https://goinferalonedayatatime.blogspot ... ional.html
Image

None of the photos suggest anything steep or dangerous, even my wife said it just looks like something you walk past, but still said I was never to attempt it again if I felt it was so dodgy. :D
[EDIT] - Can I post a video here? The video of me contemplating this before starting is a bit funny, a big F-bomb while the video surveys the gully.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 10:45 am

Just found this, it looks a little bit steeper, so there's that.
This rocks in the mid-left is the left side I went up. The V shape is that partially obscured groove on the right running from the base of the tree to the middle of the right edge of the picture.
Anyway, it does look easy. Maybe I was more cooked in the noodle than I thought and turned a molehill into a mountain?

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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby neilmny » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 11:25 am

Nicely reported regardless Baeng72.
The smart move was being brave enough to back out of what at the time was a dodgy situation for you.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 12:41 pm

Drew wrote:I went up Heli Spur on Saturday morning for the fifth time (I think), and agree with the others that you had definitely lost the track there.

Howitt Spur is a long climb (although I've only ever descended it) but definitely less scrambly than Helicopter, and a nice walk up along the river before the real climbing begins.

I'm not sure I was wrong, or if wrong, so were BigKev and Greg from Hiking Fiasco by the looks of it. :D
Ah, so those were probably your footprints? There were obvious new footprints in the dirt/soft bits on the way up.
Thanks for the info on Howitt Spur.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 12:43 pm

neilmny wrote:Nicely reported regardless Baeng72.
The smart move was being brave enough to back out of what at the time was a dodgy situation for you.

Thanks Neilmny.
Brave? I remember the point I gave in when I couldn't see a safe way to get up higher saying aloud to myself 'OK, I'm a coward'. :D
Possibly a bit harsh, but I did want to get to the top of that Spur and then never see it again. :)
Still, I'd rather walk back down (much easier this time, I didn't find the descent difficult), tail between legs than have half a dozen BSRV or SES folks deprived of their Sunday to move me for medical aid if I slipped and broke something or worse.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Hiking Exped » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 1:52 pm

I have always found Helicopter Spur a bit like a Bermuda Triangle when finding the right route. It looks like you were heading up the more difficult way, there is definitely an easier scramble, but it’s not just you, it’s problematic finding sometimes. I have the same issue on Koonika from the King, sometimes I’ve located the right route easily and at others animal or others tracks have caused me issues. Very easy to get wrong when a few trees are down too after winter as these routes rarely get maintenance. Takes more courage and wisdom to retreat though. The right choice. I’ve not made it up either of these yet this year, but will give both a go again.

The Howit Spur is much much easier than both. A few easy river crossings unless lots of rain, then a nice formed track until below West Peak where there is a lesser formed track with an easy scramble bit.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 3:47 pm

Thanks for the reply.
Hiking Exped wrote:I have always found Helicopter Spur a bit like a Bermuda Triangle when finding the right route. It looks like you were heading up the more difficult way, there is definitely an easier scramble,

That makes sense now. There's other way(s), and so maybe why others have found it a bit easier.
I'd better not send that letter to Parks asking them to 'Grampians Peaks Trail' the spur with some nice steps and hand rails then... :wink:
The Howit Spur is much much easier than both. A few easy river crossings unless lots of rain, then a nice formed track until below West Peak where there is a lesser formed track with an easy scramble bit.
Good to know!
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby north-north-west » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 6:08 pm

Baeng, if you have a GPS I should be able to dig out a GPX file for you. Wouldn't do this for everyone, but you've put so much blood, sweat and tears into this route and I want to see you get up it.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 6:29 pm

Thanks NNW, that's very generous.
I do have a GPS track from TrailHiking https://www.trailhiking.com.au/howitt-helicopter-spur/
I'm a bit of a bonehead, as I didn't look at it on the EarthMate app that I use with my Garmin, or check Avenza apps which has a trail as I was under the impression there is only one way up that part of the 2nd rock band and I'd found it.
I was pretty close to the path of that GPS track according to the tracking points. My Avenza map must have been having a shocker, as it marked that I was all over the shop.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby north-north-west » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 6:54 pm

PM incoming.
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby badd0g » Mon 22 Nov, 2021 9:02 pm

I think the others have given you enough to get your butt up Heli once and for all. Re Viking, if you've gotten this far up Heli, you'll have no probs with the chimney - the navs not as bad and the chimney is very doable sans pack :)

Howitt is a long slog and I'd take Stanley Name over it if you want something a bit more interesting.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 23 Nov, 2021 9:07 am

Dude, the formula for the Helicopter spur ascent is Left , Left and then right at the third band of vertical rocks. The third band of steep rocks is the least demanding of the three challenges that make the route reasonably tough. I would not go down it and I would avoid it altogether in the wet .

Beware of false tracks that have led other suckers/ trekkers astray.

You did well to call it as too hard / iffy and retreat. Solo trekkers/ ski tourers/ off road drivers need to have this common sense at hand at all times. I did this route with a group of also experienced walkers/ grovelers and they all helped locate the correct route and helped each other with the tricky scrambly bits.
I nearly came unstuck going down S.N. Spur. I slipped and could have rolled all the way to the bottom.
:-0
My guardian angel somehow disallowed this potential disaster.
I ascended Helicopter spur with a 3 or 4 day pack in Nov. 2020 and we found the right route the first time. I have only done it once. It was quite steep and taxing but not outright dangerous. It is a scramble that is a tad more demanding than ascending or descending
Stanley Name
spur. The terrain at the top is gentle and meets an old 4 x 4 track. That makes a good lunch spot after all that toil .

The Howitt track is the simplest way up from the Upper Howqua campsite onto that that ridge line. The track seems to go on forever. The route is maintained by BTAC .Once you reach Summit West
of Mt. Howitt you will want to have a quick rest if the weather is co operating.
S.N. Spur is well worth a go. You should grovel up that one!!
I have yet to attempt King Spur.

Muesli spur is easy to follow but does have a steep section where gripping onto branches and rocks when ascending seemed to be necessary. The Timbertop school groups use Muesli spur as a way to reach Lake Cobber. Mt. Cobbler and Mt. Spec..
I am looking at walking in Buller /Howitt Map area before Jan.1st arrives. I will weigh up the options but a base camp at Mt. Spec., having left the car at Lake Cobbler and day hike out to Mt. Buggery may end up being as far as I go .
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Tue 23 Nov, 2021 9:26 am

badd0g wrote:I think the others have given you enough to get your butt up Heli once and for all. Re Viking, if you've gotten this far up Heli, you'll have no probs with the chimney - the navs not as bad and the chimney is very doable sans pack :)

Howitt is a long slog and I'd take Stanley Name over it if you want something a bit more interesting.

Thanks for the info regarding the Viking. I might still go have a look when I get the chance!
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Tue 23 Nov, 2021 9:28 am

paidal_chalne_vala wrote:Dude, the formula for the Helicopter spur ascent is Left , Left and then right at the third band of vertical rocks. The third band of steep rocks is the least demanding of the three challenges that make the route reasonably tough. I would not go down it and I would avoid it altogether in the wet .

Thanks.

I went Left, Left, and found the gully that I'd read about and seen on blogs and didn't get up the gully. So, I descended, which is much easier than ascending. :D
Next time, I might get to the 3rd band and go right. :)
I was planning on doing 3/4 days up there, so my pack was bulky enough.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 23 Nov, 2021 9:43 am

You could have had plan B from The Upper Howqua which could have been Stanley Name spur / Mac. Springs and The Howitt spur as a loop or Plan C which is The Thorn Range/ Circuit Road/ Bindaree road/ Upper Howqua Rd. . This would be not so much fun if you do not have two cars .With a car shuttle you can make it a long day pack hike with a car at The Stanley name
Gap on the Circuit road and a car at the Upper Howqua campsite. That is how we did it.
The foot pad over Mt. Thorn and Red rock saddle can be sketchy so keep an eye on the navigation aspects of the hike.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Tue 23 Nov, 2021 9:47 am

paidal_chalne_vala wrote:You could have had plan B from The Upper Howqua which could have been Stanley Name spur / Mac. Springs and The Howitt spur as a loop or Plan C which is The Thorn Range/ Circuit Road/ Bindaree road/ Upper Howqua Rd. . This would be not so much fun if you do not have two cars .With a car shuttle you can make it a long day pack hike with a car at The Stanley name
Gap on the Circuit road and a car at the Upper Howqua campsite. That is how we did it.
The foot pad over Mt. Thorn and Red rock saddle can be sketchy so keep an eye on the navigation aspects of the hike.

A loop with SNS & Howitt Spur would be interesting.
Xplora said SNS was on a par with Helicopter, and I believe it's a bit of Blackberry hell down lower, so I haven't really considered it.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 23 Nov, 2021 1:18 pm

That loop is one I have done at least twice . I have walked it in both directions , I believe. The Blackberry hell on the abandoned Old Queen Spur Log road is only for a few patches. Leeches are an issue there too.
It needs some major work from BTAC & P.V. plus the number of fallen trees/ logs were a PITA when we were there 12 months ago.

Otherwise it is fine. Timbertop school leaders had marked out the SNS route with blue tape and the Lower Thorn range route from Red Rock Saddle down to the dug out fire shelter near the 4 ways track junction. The best line up or down the SNS cliffs was marked out with blue tape.
That was handy because some upper sections of SNS are vertical if you pick the wrong line. The last / first rocky bluff on the summit area of SNS where it leaves the AAWT on the Cross cut saw walking track sidles around the worst bit of the Rocky bluff but the descent to the campsite half way down is steep and relentless and the rocky bits require concentration. There is water flowing near the SNS saddle campsite. It flows all year round. You can hear the
water flowing when you get there. The foot pad to the water is obvious.
Camping there was enjoyable. When Mac. Springs is too busy then Hellfire creek and SNS campsite are better options. The water in Hellfire creek at Big Hill Saddle is not as reliable as SNS campsite is. That spring on SNS is a source of the King River.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Sun 28 Nov, 2021 4:22 pm

This is probably just the musings of a warped mind, but ...

I was checking out Brookes walking map, and the route up the Helicopter Spur diverges from all the others I've seen.The consensus seems to be keep high on the spur, and left, left, right at the bluffs/rock bands.

Brooke's map actually contours before the first rock band (I'd guess at the bottom of the small outcrop you go over just before you see the first band, about 1160m, heading few hundred meters left. It then ascends the side of the spur, instead of the high point, and if the map is accurate, avoids rocky outcrops.

I wonder how accurate this is?
heli-brookes.JPG
Brookes
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GetLost with regular track marked
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The outcrop as pictured in my first erm, 'glorious' failed attempt last December.
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Outcrop
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Tracking location:
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Tracker
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Avatar » Sun 28 Nov, 2021 4:40 pm

As a side note to all bushwalkers, Stuart Brookes, who made many popular bushwalking maps, among many other contributions that others can cover better than I, passed away recently. Funeral is on Wednesday, 1 Dec.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby CraigVIC » Sun 28 Nov, 2021 9:05 pm

Why not just daywalk it without a pack as per the Tempest notes, Baeng? It will be easier in every way.

Otherwise, Helicopter is just a way to get on the aawt section really and not the best part of the walk. You could achieve the same by doing a return walk from Howitt using the high and low Mt Magdala routes.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Sun 28 Nov, 2021 9:55 pm

Short answer: I’m denying reality. Longer answer: I’m a fat, 49 year old. If I can complete quixotic hard challenges like this, I’m not quite ready for the knackery yet. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. :)
But I do like your idea about the day trip. Since I’ve never made it up and stayed overnight, all my attempts have been day walks with a heavy pack.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby Baeng72 » Sun 28 Nov, 2021 9:56 pm

Sorry to read about Brookes’ passing. I don’t know much about his exploits, save what I’ve read in Chapman’s notes on the Viking Circuit.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Mon 29 Nov, 2021 8:48 am

I read trip report somewhere of someone going up Helicopter spur with a day pack and returning the same day via the Howitt spur. The hiker started at day break during the daylight savings period and he/she was walking the last section in the dark along the Howqua river with a head torch . They were also beyond spent by that stage. Just exhausted but happy. Maybe Big Kev did it. He 'd be up for that sort thing !!.
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Re: Helicopter Spur advice

Postby CraigVIC » Mon 29 Nov, 2021 9:09 am

It is written up as a daywalk in Tempest's Daywalks Around Victoria. Generally speaking it is worth doing some of his shorter walks before committing to a long one so you can get a feel for his grading of walks. Like a lot of guides the dry style can understate the difficulty on occasion.

Whatever way you get up Baeng it's wise to ensure you can come down another way. Most people will find going down something harder than going up. Any scramble I do at my limit I consider one way only.
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