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.

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