Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

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Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 10 Jan, 2022 10:22 am

After having a taste of Mt Howitt area, I had a chance to go up again.
I had wanted to go via Howitt Road, but wasn't sure of road condition and there'd been heavy rain forecast in the preceding days, I decided to enter via Upper Howqua again.
Turned out the rain didn't happen, and several people I spoke with had driven their 2WD cars in that way, avoiding potholes, but passable...

Day 1, Upper Howqua to Mac. Springs.
When I got to 31km marker on Circuit road, a tree was across the road.
I don't carry a chainsaw, so turned about, thinking I'd head the other way around the circuit.
A few minutes later I saw some vehicles approaching, flagged them down and let them know the track was blocked.
They had a chainsaw, so I followed them back and they cleared the road. Thanks guys!
They were going down to pick up some people who'd walked a section of the AAWT.
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Tree circuit road
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I was starting later than I'd like in the first place, then the road cleared delayed things more.
I walked up Howitt Spur, about the same time as 2 weeks ago, but didn't feel as fatigued when I got to Mac Springs.
I was sweating buckets all the way up, but otherwise it was good.
I saw 3 Alpine copperheads, one made me jump as I thought I'd stepped on it, another was right near my foot looking like it wasn't impressed with me.
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Unimpressed snake after I moved back.
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I was thinking of going somewhere else before evening but it was getting late (late start & delay), by the time I got to Mac. Springs and a few drops of rain started, with a forecast of 4mm of rain & possible thunderstorm, so I decided to camp.
When I was getting water, I thought there must have been a bushfire for a second, as a white cloud billowed up over the saddle between Mac. Springs and Mt Howitt.
cloud0090.png
Cloud coming up from valley
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I worked out it was rising cloud, or fog.
It soon enveloped the whole area and stayed until early morning, when it receded back into the Wonnangatta valley.

Day 2, Mac. Springs to Upper Howqua
I left Mac. Springs about 7am, the fog had cleared, no clouds above.
When the Terrible Hollow became visible, you could see a 'sea of white cloud' eveloping the Razor & Viking and heading off in the distance.
viking.jpg
Sea of cloud

I dropped pack at the Crosscut and walked a bit, didn't go far, but the views were great.
The Howqua valley was clear of cloud.
I wanted to push on to Mt. Magdala, and then see how far I would get before deciding how to get back down that day or stay another night.
There's a nice campsite between Big Hill & Mt Magdala, and I think a red marker on a tree indicated where to head for Hellfire Creek, but I didn't check it out.
I felt good so far, and wasn't until the ascent of Mt. Magdala I started to feel it a bit.
The break for a view at Hell's Window was much appreciated, as well as the chilled breeze.
hells-window.jpg
Mts Buller & Stirling through the window.

The hardest thing is when you're below the treeline, there's barely a breath of wind and with the sun at it's peak, I really felt hot and was sweating heaps again.

After Mt Magdala, I slipped on loose stones a bit on the way down and fell once, nothing terrible, just annoying.
I spoke with 2 young blokes who were doing a 7 day trip from Upper Howqua to the Viking via dry creek anticlockwise (I think).
They'd ascended Helicopter Spur the day before, realized they'd left something, so went back down leaving packs behind, got what they were missing, and went back up. Hard work.

The day was warming up (or felt like it) and the climb/walk up to Bluff Track was slow and hot and I was feeling it.
By this stage I'd decided I was going to get down the Helicopter Spur or die trying.
PCV had suggested walking along the Bluff track to Bluff Hut, staying the night, then heading down Bluff link as a way to get down, but I was starting to run low on water and wasn't sure where to find it near King BIlly 1 and was starting to suffer from the walking/sweathing/blisters/chaffing that it felt like heading back to the car the shorted route would do.
The Bluff road was hot and boring in that section anyway.

Anyway, I found some water near the campsite at the top of the Helicopter, there was a big puddle, with water about 5cm deep, so I filtered a bit.
The March flies were becoming a pain, and drawing blood a lot.
I sprayed 40% deet on my clothes & arms. That only seemed to inflame them, as they kept trying to distract me and drawing blood down the Spur.

I started heading down the Spur, wasn't sure of the route at first, as people seemed to have walked out various ways leaving trails (or animals?).
NNWs GPS track came in handy here!
Once the Spur starts, it's easy to follow, and soon enough was at the top of the Third (highest) band of rocks.
I went down the rocks with pack on, a little bit sitting on my bum, and lowering down until legs touched something firm, a little bit facing rocks gripping plants/rocks.
It felt a bit like I could slip and in hindsight taking off the pack and lowering would have made it easier.
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Looking back up 3rd band
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Onto the 2nd band.
I found the dreaded chute, lowered the pack down, looked at the options.
The place I got stuck on last time didn't look enticing.
The V-shape seemed good and I noticed the slab in the middle which forms part of the V-shape had notch or step like features and would probably be the easiest way to ascend or descend facing the rocks.
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Looking down at V-shape, pack down below.
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I decided to go down into the V, and twisted under the gum tree while facing forward, and using hands and feet lowered myself down.
It was very simple, gravity helps a bit I guess.
bottom.png
Looking back up, success!
'Steps' in middle of photo.
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I continued on, but was really feeling the exhaustion/dehydration and found on the last step I felt unsteady on my feet with the pack.
I took off the pack and tethering it with the cord I'd brought, would push it down a bit in front of me and slide after it, or walk down a bit and drag it down to where I was to get down the steep part of 1st band.
Ugly, slow, but effective.
Anyway, I've completed the Helicopter Spur (if going down counts)!

My phone died at about this point, so no more pictures.
After that, it was just a slow slog back to the campsite.
It took a long time to get down the Spur and a bit of suffering was involved, but the height/exposure thing never bothered me.
Weird. Maybe too tired to care?
About 13 hours from when I left Mac. Springs to I got to Upper Howqua with lots of 'photo' breaks, but not too many pack-off stops. Just snacking along the way.
I'm just slow.

I decided to drive home.
I got massive cramps in the hands just after I hit circuit road, so much so that I had to pull over for 10 minutes to keep stretching my hands out as they cramped into deformed fists....fun!
I'd been drinking sports drink and water with hydrolyte throughout day and had more in the car which I hopped into at the end of the walk.
They seemed to kick in, as after that only a few small cramps in the legs and arms on the way home.
I nearly hit a Lyrebird who thought it was 'road runner' just before Howqua gap.
Got home in 1 piece, so all good.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Mon 10 Jan, 2022 5:50 pm

A good effort but I would have camped at the Upper Howqua camping area after completing the trek. Driving home when you are dehydrated and exhausted is unsafe IMHO. I have done such a thing once after a 12 hour day in the Mt. Clear area and wished I had not driven home at all. It was just stupid.
I could have flaked out in my tent after such a trek and got up refreshed at 0430 and then driven home.
Your fixation on Helicopter spur is seemingly part OCD and part tenacity.
Maybe drive into The Upper Jamieson Valley via 8 Mile Gap next time and walk up to Mt. Clear and over to The King Billies. You can come back over the Bluff and down Refrigerator Gap track. Overall The Buller / Howitt area is too hot and March fly infested after Jan. 1st and finding water becomes tricky in places and I prefer the BHP area thenceforth until Autumn sets in and it becomes time to go surfing !.

I saw the chainsaw operators in your photo had ZERO safety gear on. No leg protection chaps, no goggles, no ear protection, no gloves, not a sausage.
:-0.
Last edited by paidal_chalne_vala on Mon 10 Jan, 2022 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 10 Jan, 2022 6:38 pm

I was mentally fine for the drive, and would have pulled over if I was starting to not feel alert.
The previous trip to Upper Howqua, I started driving home early afternoon, and soon started to feel tired, so pulled over at Bonnie Doon and had a nap.


Your fixation on Helicopter spur is seemingly part OCD and part tenacity.

I might just be stubborn?
I do zero in on things and tend keep returning to them when I get a bit fixated.
Once their done or something removes the fixation, I forget about them or at least move onto to the next thing.
I think with OCD you have to keep doing it, with me it's a case of done and dusted, or done and it's no longer a high priority.
I can't see myself going down the Helicopter Spur again unless it helps me do something else I want to do.
I'm a bit odd I guess. :wink:
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby bigkev » Mon 10 Jan, 2022 7:29 pm

Well done Baeng. Isn't it nice driving home with that euphoric feeling you get after completing a challenging walk - or maybe that's just me :roll:
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Mon 10 Jan, 2022 8:41 pm

bigkev wrote:Well done Baeng. Isn't it nice driving home with that euphoric feeling you get after completing a challenging walk - or maybe that's just me :roll:

Thanks bigkev!
I don't think it's just you.
There were a few yeah!s and perhaps a fist-pump or two. :)
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Mon 10 Jan, 2022 10:30 pm

Good for you old chap !.
Where to next??

Maybe you could consider doing a chainsaw handling course and getting a 16 Inch bar two stroke chain saw. A Makita or a Husqvarna perhaps. You'd be surprised when and where trees will fall unexpectedly when out in the bush driving on dirt roads.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby badd0g » Tue 11 Jan, 2022 5:56 pm

Nice work @Baeng72.
Down counts too! ;)
Do you still have a hankering to go up now that you know the way?
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Tue 11 Jan, 2022 6:07 pm

badd0g wrote:Nice work @Baeng72.
Down counts too! ;)
Do you still have a hankering to go up now that you know the way?

Right now, no. My feet are a bit of a mess and I've 'scratched the itch' by successfully bashing my body up.
But in a few weeks....who knows? :wink:
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Tue 11 Jan, 2022 6:08 pm

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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 11 Jan, 2022 10:10 pm

I enjoyed the video. :-)
You should have camped out a second night near Lovick's hut and done the steep descent early on day 3. If you get a spare 4 litre bladder to cart extra water
around with you then you can make camp in dry places without the risk of dehydration..
However I did not see any mention of the King Billy Tree. You would have walked right past it. It is a protected Heritage listed Snow Gum. It is an extraordinary living thing and hundreds of years old.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Wed 12 Jan, 2022 8:17 am

paidal_chalne_vala wrote:You should have camped out a second night near Lovick's hut and done the steep descent early on day 3.If you get a 4 litre bladder to cart extra water around with you then you can make camp in dry places without the risk of dehydration. I enjoyed the video. :-).

Thanks, glad my suffering provided entertainment!

I had a bladder, which I didn't use. I'd spoken with someone the night before about the water near King Billy 1, and heard it was hard to find, so didn't go look. I didn't carry extra water from Mac Springs, or filter from puddles on Mt Howitt or checkout Hellfire Creek. 3 missed chances to have plenty more water before I was getting low on water.
Perhaps I thought I'd be faster or what is the same, it'd be easier to walk?
I'm good at underestimating the walk and over estimating my ability.
I'm still learning and you make your choices on the fly...not an expert.
Anyway, there were a million things I could have done different, and some probably would do different in a similar situation, but I judged I could get down Helicopter and get to Upper Howqua in 1 piece.
Whether it was luck or good judgement, it all turned out.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby LLSC » Wed 12 Jan, 2022 2:19 pm

Congratulations on getting there after your repeated efforts. It made me feel good: l was pleased to share your sense of achievement, particularly so at the end of what sounded like a long, difficult day. Well done, mate.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Wed 12 Jan, 2022 3:05 pm

LLSC wrote:Congratulations on getting there after your repeated efforts. It made me feel good: l was pleased to share your sense of achievement, particularly so at the end of what sounded like a long, difficult day. Well done, mate.

It's a nice feeling to have finally done it!
Thank you and thanks for your recent private message and your report made more confident about going down.
I should thank BigKev who reached out with a private message too.
And NNW for sharing a GPS track.
And the forum for advice. Very helpful.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Hiking Exped » Wed 12 Jan, 2022 3:07 pm

Good trip report and well done getting down HS. I was up there Mon, Tue, back this morning. Did not come down HS though, it has been a while since I went down it. This time I took feeder track up and SNS down. With a wander along the top. Hellfire Creek still running as is water on SNS and at Camp Creek for those that need to know. Good photos too.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Wed 12 Jan, 2022 9:41 pm

Hiking Exped wrote:Good trip report and well done getting down HS. I was up there Mon, Tue, back this morning. Did not come down HS though, it has been a while since I went down it. This time I took feeder track up and SNS down. With a wander along the top. Hellfire Creek still running as is water on SNS and at Camp Creek for those that need to know. Good photos too.

Thanks. I've got two things I want to check off in that region. SNS & Viking Circuit. Given my pace, I'm guessing Viking will be a 4 day (at least) trip.
I don't know if you saw the video I linked to, but for future reference, to find Hellfire creek, do you walk south at the campsite between Big Hill & Mt Madala at the tree with a red marker? It was beside/south of a big fire place/spot.
hellfire0286.png
Possibly Hellfire creek marker.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Mercury » Thu 13 Jan, 2022 9:53 am

Hi,

This looks like a great trip, I've been wanting to do some hiking in this area, but always unsure about whether to risk taking my 2wd up the Howitt Rd.

I assume you accessed Upper Howqua via Circuit Rd then Bindaree Rd?

Could you let me know what was the condition of the road was?

THANK YOU!!
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby indented » Thu 13 Jan, 2022 10:09 am

Baeng72 wrote:to find Hellfire creek, do you walk south at the campsite between Big Hill & Mt Madala at the tree with a red marker? It was beside/south of a big fire place/spot.


Looks that way from LLSC's report - "Note the red markers on the trees, indicating 'walk this way for water'"
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Baeng72 » Thu 13 Jan, 2022 10:29 am

Thanks, I had forgotten that bit of LLSC's report, but that explains why I associated red-markers with water. I've just checked my video, and there's the other marker, which I don't remember noticing on the day. Anyway, all good, now I know!
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby LLSC » Thu 13 Jan, 2022 3:32 pm

Yes, Baeng72, that is the way to go. Once i saw the markers, it became obvious that there is a natural valley just where the markers are, and that the markers perhaps aren't really needed. Just another one of those things in life that are obvious afterwards. Also, the route down to the stream is shown on the SV map, and suggested in the Chapman aawt book.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Thu 13 Jan, 2022 7:18 pm

I have always found Hellfire creek and the water down there without any red markers. Finding footpads in the Vic. Alps that lead to water is something I can say I have some aptitude for.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby stevage » Tue 18 Jan, 2022 3:06 pm

LLSC wrote:Yes, Baeng72, that is the way to go. Once i saw the markers, it became obvious that there is a natural valley just where the markers are, and that the markers perhaps aren't really needed. Just another one of those things in life that are obvious afterwards. Also, the route down to the stream is shown on the SV map, and suggested in the Chapman aawt book.


I've added it to OpenStreetMap now too, so it will show up on any OSM-derived maps.

https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=19/- ... /146.54353

It looks like someone has put some serious effort into that trail recently. It's not some kind of vague footpad, it's a very clearly defined and maintained path.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby stevage » Tue 18 Jan, 2022 3:08 pm

Mercury wrote:Hi,

This looks like a great trip, I've been wanting to do some hiking in this area, but always unsure about whether to risk taking my 2wd up the Howitt Rd.

I assume you accessed Upper Howqua via Circuit Rd then Bindaree Rd?

Could you let me know what was the condition of the road was?

THANK YOU!!


We took our low-clearance Ford Falcon into Upper Howqua, and it was fine. Circuit Road to Bindaree Road is in really good condition, and Bindaree Rd is fine, all the way through to to the ford at Bindaree Flat.

(The far side of Circuit Rd is a bit rougher, but still fine - we ended up circumnavigating the whole road last week).
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 18 Jan, 2022 5:41 pm

The part of the Circuit road that is not included in the Mt. Stirling resort is usually a rougher road.
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Re: Howitt Spur-Mac Springs-Helicopter Spur 8-9th Jan

Postby Stew63 » Fri 06 May, 2022 1:06 pm

As you ascend Helicopter Spur between about 900m and 1200m there's lots of small shrubs either side of the track with tiny needle like spikes - what is the name of that plant please?
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