Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cope Hut to Big River, AAWT, Alpine National Park - November 2017

The flanks of Mt Nelse hold snow well into spring some years.
Mt Bogong from Timms Spur, all going well I'll be crossing over the top tomorrow.
My night up at Cope Hut was my coldest on the AAWT so far, only rivalled by my night at Whitelaw Hut Site really. I wasn’t using my snow bag on this walk reasoning that most of the time I’d be too warm, so with a bag good down to around - 3˚ I had a couple of marginal nights where I found myself pulling on an extra layer and last night was one of those nights. Still, all in all I had a very pleasant night by myself at Cope Hut and waking up this morning it looked like today was going to be a cracker of a day as well. Without a wet tent to pack up I was on my way well before 9am, hey that’s an alpine start for me!
Cope Hut is in that small copse of Snow Gums on the right side of the track.
I've walked this section of the AAWT quite a few times over the decades, the AAWT is now back on it's original alignment along here.
Leaving the front door of Cope Hut I turned left and headed back up the hill towards the Bogong High Plains Road. Now apart from that being the most boring sentence in the history of blogging the other slightly interesting thing was about the fact that the AAWT is now back following it’s original alignment along here, for a long time the AAWT has headed right, down the hill from Cope Hut until picking up the Langford West Aqueduct. Now, following the original route again the pad meanders it’s way across open snow plains and small copses of Snow Gums as it makes it’s way over to Wallaces Hut. Walking the open country, complete with the occasional snow drift that was still lingering was a very pleasant warm up for the day.
My mornings meandering walk over to Wallaces Hut was a nice start to the day.
There was still plenty of snow around.
Reaching the historic Wallaces Hut I dropped the pack to check out the old hut a bit, camping is now banned at this old National Trust listed hut but Snow Gums and green grass make this a very nice spot for a break. I’m sure this hut use to feature on a television ad with a young boy battling through the elements to arrive at the refuge of the hut and cook up a steaming meal of something (I’m thinking Uncle Tobys) but for the life of me I can’t find any information on it? Anyway after poking around the old hut for a little while it was time to once again shoulder my pack a resume my indeterminate journey north. Leaving the hut the AAWT drops down a bit to meet the Langford West Aqueduct and re joins the route that Chapman has in his book.
Wallaces Hut
Wallaces Hut is a spartan old hut.
When the AAWT reaches Langford West Aqueduct the walking got even easier.
Langford West Aqueduct contours the eastern fall of the Bogong High Plains, with the land frequently falling steeply away to the east there are quite a few long range views along here. Closer up there was plenty to check out as well, with a few nice little creeks cascading down the hillside to join the aqueduct and plenty of large snow drifts to check out or negotiate. After passing the small Refuge Hut at Langford Gap I set off along Langford East Aqueduct, this can be a very bleak spot in bad weather but with barely a cloud in the blue sky today I didn’t have anything to worry about. My next milestone on the AAWT was a fairly unique feature, a covered bridge (think of a poor mans Bridges of Madison County set up). While a covered bridge has limited uses the bridge did make a nice spot to sit in the shade and have an early lunch today, on what was now a pearler of a day.
There were a few alpine streams cascading down the side of the hill into the aqueduct.
Contouring along the eastern fall of the Bogong High Plains the Langford West Aqueduct allows for some great views.
I'm just arriving at Langford Gap, this is a bleak spot in dodgy weather.
If the weather is a bit crappy at Langford Gap there is a small refuge hut.
There's a good swimming spot on Langford East Aqueduct, although it might not be strictly legal in the true sense of the word;)
Now here's something I don't see on every walk.
Crossing over (or is it under?) the bridge I left the Langford East Aqueduct and headed up a walking track towards The Park. The AAWT along here passes through a bit of alpine scrub as it climbs fairly gently, higher up I started to traverse a few beautiful snow grass openings. The open areas also gave me my only views across to Rocky Valley Dam, shimmering under the bright sun in the distance. Trudging on at my usual sloth on valium pace surprisingly it wasn’t that long until I arrived onto the Big River Firetrack, the old road that would be my path for the remainder of the day. This area of the Bogong High Plains is probably the bleakest that the high plains get, the track generally keeping well above the tree line for long periods.
Heading up towards The park the AAWT passes through a bit of alpine scrub.
There was a couple of views across to Rocky Valley Dam.
The AAWT climbing gently towards The Park.
Shuffling my way north I had my first sighting on my AAWT walk of a mob of brumbies, these feral horses are a real pain in arse up here, doing massive damage to the sphagnum moss swamps, unfortunately this was far from my last encounter. It’s a little hard to know what to do about the feral horses, the governments are easily spooked by the flag waving ‘brumbies are our heritage mob’. The pollies are never going to win a PR battle against the tabloid media keen to feature a pony tailed little tyke from the local pony club or a weather beaten cattleman from central casting (which every redneck sees themselves as). Anyway enough Feral rambling, I’ve probably just pissed off any remaining readers that I had! I’ll probably return to this theme a bit later on the walk with some fairly damning photos of the damage that the horses are doing. Leaving the horses the AAWT started a fairly long and gentle climb up towards a high point near Mt Nelse North, passing the turnoff’s to Johnston and Edmondson Huts on the way, either of these high country huts make for great spots to spend the night.
I met my first brumbies on the southern slopes of Mt Nelse.
Mt Nelse
Looking back towards Falls Creek, with Mt Feathertop in the distance from the flank of Mt Nelse.

Mt Nelse is sometimes said to be the third highest mountain in Victoria but the reality is that the highest spot is actually an un-named spot a kilometre or so to the west along the Spion Kopje Track, not that it really mattered to me much today, I was more interested in just getting through the AAWT in one piece than bagging every high point. Passing Warby Corner the AAWT starts a slow arc around the head of a high valley before reaching a track junction a kilometre or so from Ropers Hut. This junction signalled the spot that I would take my biggest diversion off the official route of the AAWT on the whole of my journey to Canberra. Instead of heading along the AAWT to Ropers Hut and down Duane Spur to Big River I was heading west down Big River Track along Timms Spur and down to Big River. I had a few reasons for going this way, the first was that the drop down Duane Spur and then the climb up T spur doesn’t really have a lot going for it in my eyes, well apart from it being quick. The second reason was that the official AAWT doesn’t go over Victoria’s highest mountain Mt Bogong, whereas my alternative route would take me right over the top. Lastly, being smack bang in the middle of the spring thaw the chain crossing down at Big River off Duane Spur can be a little marginal when it comes to safety, so with the crossing of Big River on the Big River Track being a few kilometres up stream my theory was that it should be marginally shallower, although there is no chain.
Mt Bogong
One of my first views of the Main Range up in Kosciuszko National Park.
This is where I left the AAWT on an alternative route that would take me over Mt Bogong.
Anyway, leaving the AAWT I set of on my diversion. I’ve never walked down Timms Spur before and while it looks pretty good on a topo map, I’ve heard a few reports that it’s a bit of a road bash. The reality on this beautiful afternoon was that this was a very pleasant way to finish up my days walking. Initially the track continued to contour around the valley that I’d been arcing around since way back at Warby Corner, before eventually starting along Timms Spur which got more pronounced the further I went. The good news was that the spur proved pretty good views, at least initially anyway, the view across the deep valley of Big River towards the huge snow streaked bulk of Mt Bogong was particularly good in the late afternoon light.
Big River Track heading across to Timms Spur.
Dropping down Timms Spur.


Dropping down Timms Spur the snow drifts thinned out and I found myself walking down the clear track through a sea of dead Snow Gum stubble. Big River Track zigs and zags a bit as it drops down to meet the river, after my numerous scrub bashes on the AAWT on the southern section, the clear walking down here made a pleasant change. I was pretty well stuffed by now so was pretty relieved when Big River came into view down in the steep valley to my left. After contouring along high above the river for a few hundred metres Big River Track made it’s final descent down to Big River. Having never been here before I was pretty happy to find enough reasonably level ground to pitch my tent just before the river crossing. Being deep in this river valley the sun had already gone by the time I arrived at camp tonight, while the air was brisk though I didn’t feel as though it was going to get anywhere near as chilly as last night over at Cope Hut, so I was able to comfortably muck around cooking dinner (well boiling water for my freeze dried - but that’s cooking for me) and listening to my small radio for a bit before climbing into the tent and the welcoming embrace of my sleeping bag.

Big River Track made for nice walking this afternoon.

Mt Bogong was getting a lot closer now.
Heading down Big River Track through the stubble of dead Snow Gums.


The Dirt.
I walked 25 kilometres and climbed 450 metres on what was a another hard day for me. My AAWT stats after 18 days so far are 302 kilometres along with 14,845 metres. Water isn’t an issue today, it’s available in many spots. Camping likewise is possible in many spots, once again only really limited by the need for shelter from the elements, my camp at the bottom of Timms Spur at Big River was OK but there isn’t a lot of flat ground near the crossing (there is plenty of room a kilometre up the track at Bogong Creek Saddle though). Navigation is easy today, there are no real tricky bits. Once again the exposure to the elements could be an issue as the majority of the day had me crossing some very exposed country. I got a Telstra signal from Warby Corner today, although I'm thinking that I probably would of got a signal in a few other spots as I was more or less circling Falls Creek for most of the day. I used John Chapman’s notes and maps as well as Rooftop’s Bright - Dartmouth Adventure Map for an overview.

Relevant Posts.
AAWT, First day, October 2017.
AAWT, Previous day, November 2017.
Mt Hotham to Mt Bogong, Alpine National Park, 1992.

After all the scrub bashing south of Mt Hotham this was a welcome respite.
Big River has just come into view, ah yeah I'll be dropping the pack soon!
My Big River camp on Big River Track.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mt Hotham to Cope Hut, AAWT, Alpine National Park - November 2017

Time is standing pretty still up here on the high plains.
After three days off, chilling out at Mt Hotham I was a pretty keen and fresh Feral Walker when I set off from the wind swept Mt Loch Car Park this morning. After waving goodbye to Sam as she headed off down the Great Alpine Road I quickly moved to the shelter of a nearby ski lift building and pulled on another layer. The wind was cutting up here this morning and there isn’t a lot to impede it’s progress across these high ridges. Suitably rugged up I set off in earnest on my days walk, the plan for today was to get to somewhere in the vicinity of Cope Hut. I was thinking that all going well that should be reasonably attainable, although yesterday’s crappy weather had me wondering a bit, although with plenty of camping options across the high plains I could always camp early if the weather deteriorated too much.
There goes Sam, I'll see her again when I get to Thredbo in a couple of weeks.
It was bloody cold up here this morning.
Leaving the Mt Loch Car Park the AAWT drops a little as it follows Mt Loch Spur which connects Mt Hotham to Mt Loch along an old fire track. With my pack now full of food again I definitely noticed when the pad left the old fire track and started climbing a bit to bypass the summit of Mt Lock, a little to the south. Puffing my way along here I was now passing through the eastern most extremities of the Mt Hotham Ski Resort, the open grassy slopes allowing for some nice views on what was already turning into a pretty nice day. The weather was now looking that good that I dropped the pack near a big snow drift before Derrick Hut and started to shed a few layers of clothing. With my body temperature now back at the safe level I once again resumed my journey, soon leaving the resort boundary and passing Derrick Hut in the Snow Gums. Being the last day of a Victorian long weekend the hut had a few punters in it so I didn’t get a photo of the interior of what is a pretty spartan hut, but I did manage to snap one from the outside without anyone getting into the photo.
Wandering through the back country of the Mount Hotham Ski Resort.

The sign posting is pretty good up here.
The AAWT crosses the headwaters of the Cobungra River just before it arrives at Derrick Hut. 
Derrick Hut is the first legal camping option since leaving Twins Track about 13 kilometres ago.
The AAWT now starts a fairly big descent down to Dibbins Hut on the Cobungra River. I haven’t been down here since the fires and what use to be a beautiful walk along down Swindlers Spur is now a walk down amongst the bleached white Snow Gum skeletons, while the dead trees have a certain macabre beauty they aren’t a patch on the living versions, I suppose the good news is that the dead trees allowed for some nice views across to the snow streaked Mt Feathertop. It was a little odd but my other recollections of heading down here was how steep a long it was, but today it seemed like I was walking onto the grassy flats beside the Cobungra River in no time, maybe the previous 16 days on the AAWT had toughened me up a bit…? After getting a couple of photos of the old Dibbins Hut I wandered over the bridge and down to the camping platforms and toilet for Parks Vic new(ish) Falls to Hotham Alpine Walk, for a bit of a break. I think this walk is a bit of a marketing ploy by Parks Vic and the alpine ski resorts of Falls Creek and Mt Hotham to entice more punters up here in the warmer weather, Parks Vic have built flash camping platforms and toilets, added a few signs and track markers and improved the track in a couple of spots. The wisdom of sending what can be some pretty inexperienced walkers across some very exposed terrain is still up for debate though, in my eyes anyway.
Dropping down Swindlers Spur, the flat open grassy valley just visible through the trees is my next objective.
Dropping down Swindlers Spur I was getting some nice views over towards Mount Feathertop.
Dibbins Hut
The AAWT shares this section of track with the flash Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing walk.
Cobungra River
There are nice new facilities to cater for the Falls - Hotham walk.
Even some camping platforms.
After refilling my water bottle I set off on the longest single climb of the day up onto the Bogong High Plains. Like my descent down to the Cobungra River the climb passes through Snow Gum country, after passing the rock outcrop that is Basalt Temple the climb eases a little and the trees start to thin out. Cresting a low knoll along here I met up with a group of around 10 boys and there minders from Melbourne Grammar, they were starting a trip from Mt Hotham to Mt Kosciuszko. It seems that there were around 10 groups spread along the track but thankfully they were generally dropping off the track to camp and were doing long alternative sections on MTB’s and kayaks, anyway if all the groups were as polite as this group it wouldn’t be an issue camping with them. Climbing a little higher the Snow Gums disappeared altogether and I was on the Bogong High Plains.
The higher I climbed towards the Bogong High Plains the better the scenery got.
Mt Hotham was receding into the distance.
The Bogong High Plains.
The Bogong High Plains are an open area of wind swept plains that stretch for kilometres in every direction, in fact I’d be walking them now until late tomorrow. Without a lot of distinguishing features you would think navigation could be a bit of an issue along here but the high plains are largely tamed by snow pole lines reaching out in numerous different directions, since leaving the Mt Lock Car Park I’d been following a numbered pole line that would take me all the way to Mt Bogong if I was so inclined. This is big sky county up here, with long ranging vistas opening up everywhere and the ever present pole line striding off into the distance. I was now heading a little north in a big arc around the diminutive Mt Jim, every time I come up here I think that I’ll make the small detour and climb Mt Jim but I’ve never actually got around to it, today was no different. It was now mid afternoon and the sky was a beautiful blue with only fluffy white clouds floating through, the golden grass of the high plains still with a few remnant snow drifts scattered about made it hard to take a bad photo this afternoon.
The pole line makes navigation reasonably easy across here, the real danger is the exposure to the elements.
Mt Jim
Mt Feathertop
This is big sky country up here.

After skirting around Mt Jim the AAWT strikes out easterly across the plains, following a high ridge above Cope West Aqueduct. The Bogong High Plains form part of the catchment Kiewa Hydroelectric Scheme, and there are a few aqueducts scattered around as well as the large Rocky Valley Dam. After contouring around the shoulder of Mt Bundara the pole line started descending a little, leading me gently down to Cope Saddle and it’s tiny little, bright red roofed refuge hut. The longer I walked today the better the walking got really, climbing very gently away from Cope Saddle the AAWT now passes to the north below Mt Cope, the late afternoon sun lighting up the occasional small copse of Snow Gums.
The AAWT skirts around to the north of Mt Jim.
The pad was a bit damp in spots on this trip.
Looking across the high plains towards Mt McKay and Falls Creek.
You can't go wrong photographing Snow Gums I don't think.
Heading down to Cope Saddle, the little red spot is the roof of the tiny Cope Saddle Hut.
I was starting to flag a little by now but soon after crossing the crystal clear Cope Creek I sighted the Bogong High Plains Road twisting its way into the distance, the road signalling my imminent arrival at Cope Hut. With the High Plains Road still closed after winter I didn’t have to worry about traffic as I crossed over and descended a few hundred metres down an old fire track towards some old Snow Gums which have Cope Hut nestled within them. Arriving at the historic hut I was very happy to find it empty, camping is a little limited in the immediate area around the hut, only really being feasible on some camping platforms built for the Falls - Hotham walkers, so I was hoping to sleep in the hut tonight, all was looking pretty good.
Cope Creek, this is probably the closest camping option if you're not planning on staying in Cope Hut but want to stay close by.

Cope Hut is a little unusual for a high country hut in that it isn’t a cattleman's or SEC hut, Cope Hut was actually built for tourism I believe. Probably for that reason it’s a pretty flash old hut, with plenty of bunks, an open fire and a bit of bush furniture it makes for a very comfortable place to spend the night. After setting up my bed I wandered back up to the Bogong High Plains Road where I picked up a signal and gave Sam a call to make sure she’d got home OK, relieved that all was good I meandered back down to the hut in the now very late afternoon sun, stopping every so often to take in the scenery in the golden glow. With dinner eaten I was once again up watching the surrounding country change colour as night overtook day, although with the darkness came the cold tonight so I didn’t linger too long, quickly climbing into my sleeping bag.
The Bogong High Plains Road was still closed for winter.
Cope Hut
The Dirt.
I walked 22 kilometres and climbed 700 metres on what was, you guessed it, a hard days walking on the AAWT. My stats after 17 days on the AAWT are 277 kilometres along with 14,395 metres of climbing. Water was available pretty much when ever I wanted it today, the only time you might have to walk far for water up on the high plains might be at the end of a long dry summer. Like the water situation camping spots are really only limited by your imagination and the need for protection from the elements across here, probably the best spots are near the Cobungra River and down at Ryders Yards south of Cope Saddle. Cope Hut has very limited options for camping unless you’ve paid to do the Falls - Hotham Alpine Walk, the hut is an emergency refuge so if anyone turns up you just have to make some room, I wouldn’t use it if it was in the busy times. Navigation wise everything is pretty easy today, the track is well defined, sign posted and lined with snow poles. The issue today isn’t really navigation it’s more exposure to the elements, the pad crosses ground way above the tree line for large portions of the day and in bad weather this can be terrifying country (I’m speaking from personal experience here). I used John Chapman’s notes and maps as well as Rooftop’s Bright - Dartmouth Adventure Map for an overview.

Relevant Posts.
AAWT, Day 1, October 2017.
AAWT, Previous day, November 2017.
Dibbins Hut, Alpine National Park, 1998.

I was living the life tonight!

The sunset views from Cope Hut were pretty sweet tonight.