Rambles of ambles and sagas of suburbia

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mt Feathertop & the Razorback Spur, Victoria. January 2012

Mt Feathertop
Mt Feathertop

Well, this was the final day of the Mt Feathertop saga and I woke up feeling surprisingly well. The previous evening I'd barely been able to move after the Diamantina Spur slog, and not helping things was the monster blister on the outside of my heel which was starting to bite. It wasn't a big problem with only one day to go, as Smuffin had brought sports tape which I would use to convert my foot into a Tutankhamen replica. That was until I asked him for it and after about five minutes of rummaging through his pack he looked up and declared, "I've left it on the kitchen bench". We really should have asked some questions at the start, as I had a huge roll of the stuff sitting in the boot of his car, but neglected it with the thought, "Nah, Smuffin lives on tape. I'll use his if required."

The day was sunny, but quite cool and I was looking forward to a cup of tea. Do you know where this is going? First of all, there were some nice sights of the arching trees surrounding our camp area.

trees arching at Federation Hut camp site

I'd brought along the Kovea Supalight Titanium stove which I always use and it's fine for the solo walking I usually do, but it was getting a little overwhelmed with three people cooking and the issue of how many gas canisters to bring for the trip was about to pop up. I thought two would be enough for two nights out bush, but on this morning whilst I was hanging out for some porridge and a cup of tea, Smuffin announced, "Well, that's it for the gas. Do you want some cold porridge?"

Smuffin wasn't doing well with delivering the news, so the end result was a complete poverty breakfast of salmon in a bag, whilst washed down with some cold water. Actually, if the salmon came with bacon and hollandaise sauce then it'd be passable, but in its current state it was as underwhelming as anything I've had out bush for quite some time. I have no idea how two canisters couldn't last any more than three days, as I've used the same amount over a week on my own. Oh well, it was time to pack up and get out of there with the lure of a hot brew at the end of the walk.

skink lying on tree branch

The plan was to scoot up the extra 200 metres of elevation to the top of Mt Feathertop, have a look around and then head straight along the Razorback Spur back to the car. The distance to be covered was bearable and there were no ugly hills to negotiate. The rush hour of day trippers on the Razorback would be in full swing, so there wasn't going to be many isolated moments of walking. Smuffin was adamant he was going to ignore the summit of Feathertop and make a mad dash for the car as in his words, "My legs have only got 12 more kms in them. Additional climbing has not been factored into my energy reserves."

It was time to head off and get some time on the 'six man pyjama clan' who were still in bed after a solid night of TALKING LOUDLY. Up above it was jet contrail madness which is a photo opportunity that I like to abuse.

jet contrail near Federation Hut camp

There's a slight uphill rise to the turn off for Mt Feathertop summit. A huge Snow gum tree sits at this spot and it's unfortunately copped its fair share of name engravings by dickheads over the years. I guess they're the same people who interact with nature by throwing rubbish away after they've used it? The older I get, the more potential I'll be the next Winnebago Man, as the whole interacting with society and people is a bit tiring for me mentally.

Anyway, it was time to drop the packs and head up to the summit. Smuffin still had no regard about climbing due to the 'unfactored' energy expenditure, until some bloke came running past us, said "hello" and then continued powering up the track to the summit. We all looked at each other and decided that if some nut can run up Mt Feathertop, then Smuffin could drag himself up by walking. So, off we went and the contrails kept coming.

jet contrail near Mt Feathertop
Jet contrail near Mt Feathertop

The final climb is certainly quite comfortable without a pack on and I kept thinking that I must come back in winter. Even on a sunny, summers day the summit looks like a bit of a beast compared to how it must look when covered in snow.

Mt Feathertop from the path whilst climbing
Mt Feathertop

The running man had already summited, but I did catch him walking up the final metres when he thought no one was looking. As a former runner, that's the oldest trick in the book. If people were watching, I'd power along with chin up and arms pumping, but as soon as I got around a corner I'd resume my normal Emil Zátopek technique of head rolling and tongue hanging out.

jet contrail near Mt Feathertop
Another jet contrail?

There is of course a 'double hump' to the summit and it's the second one that apparently is the official peak. By the time we made it, running man had set off back down so we had the top to ourselves.

approaching Mt Feathertop summit
Closing in on the peak

At 1922 metres it's a great spot to sit down and relax. There was a haze to the sky, but the views were still clear unlike my previous time when clouds were constantly whizzing past me. The south side of the mountain drops off alarmingly, and whilst showing Smuffin my agility and skill of 'sitting and then standing at rapid speed' I unbalanced myself and nearly fell down it. Now, that would be the ultimate hiking fiasco.

view of Diamantina and Razorback Spurs from the summit
Diamantina and Razorback Spurs from the summit

There was ample opportunity to admire the hellish Diamantina Spur from another angle. I noted that the point I thought I had almost climbed it was way off, as there's a substantial climb towards the end before it hits the Razorback Spur. It's visible in the photo above, being the spur in the middle of the picture.

Great views and guess what? Yep, more bloody contrails.

Jet contrail from Mt Feathertop summit


Well, that's it. The summit was done and after resting for 20 minutes or so we set off back down. A steady line of people were heading up, so it was a good time to keep moving. In fact, I reckon I passed at least 20 people walking up in dribs and drabs. I said a powerful "G'day", to all of them as they went by and the reply rate was roughly 90% which is pretty good going. I've had some people look at me and not speak before and this was no different, but at least they were in the minority.

descending Mt Feathertop on path
On the way down...

Smuffin and Anon had gone a fair way ahead which left me with an opportunity to snap a few photos at my own pace.

alpine wild flower

alpine trees near Mt Feathertop

weathered rock

I also had one last chance to turn around and look at Mt Feathertop up close for the last time for the day.

Mt Feathertop

Well, we collected our packs and began to head off on the Razorback Spur. My blistered foot was at a very high state of annoyance, so I was glad to be finishing the hike. Unfortunately when one's in that frame of mind the Razorback is not the greatest place to be, as the end is visible for nearly the whole days walk. What's bad about that is, it seems to remain at an eternal distance away!

Razorback Spur

Initially the track passes 'High Knob' which intersects with the Diamantina Spur. Actually, everyone we'd met the previous day called it 'Little Mt Feathertop' which makes no sense at all as 'Little Mt Feathertop' sits next to Federation Hut. Oh well, following the 'High Knob' the track passes the two other rocky knobs which are called guess what? Yep, 'Twin Knobs'. If you've got a knob fascination they're all in the photo above. The only thing that's missing from the ridgeline that day is the 'Big Knob', but I was too busy taking the picture to be in it.

tree on the Razorback Spur

You know what? The rest of the walk was by the numbers as we set off for the car. Smuffin may have been worrying about his energy levels, but it didn't appear to be a problem as he set off at a mild sprint. In fact, from the point we put our packs back on at the turn-off, I didn't see him for the rest of the day.

The day trippers were now coming thick and fast which takes the fun out of any walk. My mouth was dry from both exertion and the amount of times I said "G'day" in the one afternoon. There were some sights of interest though, including three blokes with mountain bikes who were pushing them along the track. I'm not sure what point there is in having a bike if you're not actually riding it? I like both riding and walking, but not combined. If I'm going to push something along with wheels on it out bush, I'd rather settle on a gelato cart.

rocks and trees on the Razorback Spur

I'm struggling to think of many more highlights over the last few hours of this walk. It doesn't help writing this stuff after a day of work and my brain has thoroughly switched off. That work business really gets in the way of some proper blog writing.

Oh yeah, there was a couple in our travels who I noted had quite distinct European accents. I didn't think too much of the origin, but decided in my fatigued state that they were from the Netherlands. The reason why? Well, the bloke had bright orange pants on which was enough to convince me of the Dutch connection. He was also a bit of a thrill seeker as he had his shiny, bald head totally uncovered in the sun, which was causing a bit of a 'tomato effect' from burning. I grimaced a bit when I saw his flaming scone, as I'm frightened of our sun and I cover up so much outdoors that if I was in France I'd be arrested.

small forest on the Razorback Spur

Anyway, this story leads back to Smuffin who had vanished miles ahead. The Tomato couple had caught up to him as he was lying on the side of the track begging for food. The gas fiasco at breakfast time had clearly taken its toll. Apparently Ms Tomato took so much pity on Smuffin's dying corpse that she offered up her supply of Oreo biscuits to get him to the end of the walk. Great! I love the Tomato couple!

alpine flower growing between a rock

There were still some nice sights on the way. The Razorback Spur is not totally exposed as there are sections where it descends into some nice forests with quite lush grass in them. They'd be nice spots to pitch a tent if only there was a water source somewhere. On this summers day the forest sections were protected from the wind which made for a hot and steamy walk. I really was looking forward to the finish. What else? Oh yeah, a few more photos.

sap on the bark of eucalyptus tree

bee on wildflower

The last time I walked along Razorback Spur the scene was completely different as I was up to my knees in snow. Mt Feathertop looked completely different on that occasion.

Mt Feathertop and Diamantina Spur under snow
Mt Feathertop and Diamantina Spur in the snow

On a warm sunny day it was certainly looking a lot more casual.

Mt Feathertop and Diamantina Spur

Actually, come to think of it the Razorback itself was a lot more exciting with the low cloud and snow cover. The photo below shows Ben slogging his way up one of the many undulations of the spur.

Razorback Spur under snow

There's even a picture of me plodding along before we abandoned that particular walk. If the planets align correctly this year I might get back up there for a snow sequel.

The spur is a bit of a killer towards the end as the path never seems to conclude, and still the road doesn't get any closer.

following the track on the Razorback Spur

Razorback Spur track

The final section of the spur is open with only a handful of trees around, so I was lucky to spot a red Wattlebird watching me as I passed by.


This walk is wrapping up as of now. There's not much else to add other than meeting three women wearing sandals complete with a dog in a handbag asking if the track had "lots of hills in it". That was my last 'highlight' I'm afraid, but Smuffin had one more of his own. We of course had started the walk from the Mt Loch car park which was 2 kms from our finishing point at the Great Alpine Road opposite Diamantina Hut. This was an annoyance at the end of the day and I didn't really want to do that 2 km road bash. Smuffin who was now running on Oreo's managed to hitchhike to the car, collect it and meet us at the end complete with the remaining biscuits. Yeah!

All in all it was an entertaining walk even if the last day was a bit flat. The final days statistics via the GPS indicated, 12.90 km with another 452 metres of elevation climbed. The total for the three days wasn't too bad, being 41.45 kms long and 1691 metres in total climbed.

A final mention must go to the Kathmandu Tonalli shoes which I wore for this walk. Yeah, they're okay for short walks, but failed miserably on this occasion. I think I worked out the cause of my blister and that's a crap inner sole which had moved and compressed until it had a number of small ridges on the outside edge. I think these rubbing against my heel was the culprit. The solution? Well, how about an IKEA Finiss rubbish bin modelled by a pair of Kathmandu Tonalli shoes?

Kathmandu Tonalli shoes sitting in IKEA Finiss bin


  1. I just got back from doing bungalow spur,staircase spur,over 4 days,and you are correct,id do the bungalow spur type of assent over the staircase spur any day.
    Man staircase was hard going with 14kg.in your estimate,what is harder,diamantina spur,or staircase?.
    Also seen people running up to bogong summit on australia day,and day hikers with no water bottles/?
    P/S DID NOT treat my water,on both climbs,and suffering the classic symtoms,yuck.
    but lucky not until i got back to geelong.
    Thanks for your advise on all the climbs alpine np.

    1. Darren, that's a nice walk! I've only been down the Staircase Spur and that was enough I think. I went up via Eskdale Spur which supposedly is the 'easier' way. I guess it is as it's slightly longer, but it still gets to the same height in the end. A big difference in weather this year isn't there? Last year my Mt Bogong trip was in the middle of a summer monsoon! It was heavy rain all the way up the Eskdale which made for an interesting walk, but it cost me $400 in repairing a waterlogged camera! For sure, the Bungalow Spur is a cruise compared to the Staircase if you forced me to choose :)

      Yeah, Mt Bogong is a funny one for what people are wearing. I was done up like an explorer and there were people all around me in shorts and runners and like you said, tiny little water bottles. I'm not sure how they do it! Did you get sick from tank water? I've got away with that in the past (luckily)

      Now you've tried a few climbs in the alpine area I'm sure you'll want to get back for some more soon (maybe!)

      Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Hey Greg, the comment procedure seems to have changed on your blog - for the better! No more annoying separate pop-up Blogger box! Me like!

    Great pictures of a remarkable looking bit of Australia. As for peak-bagging, you win. My Jeju Island ascent was a balls-up. I am no snow-lover.

    Re: knobs. On the Appalachian Trail there are a few knobs to contend with, the prize for best name going to High Cock Knob. Perhaps it looked like a rooster?

    1. Hey Goat, yes, Blogger decided to incorporate an individual reply to comments feature. I believe it's something that you've had on Wordpress since about 1945?! Blogger is way down on the list of importance in Google products I think. I have thought about switching to Wordpress, but the steps are mildly frightening. I can imagine sending my blog into deep space by accident! Anyway, this comment method is a lot better than what was before.

      I just looked at your blog and I can sense a disaster awaiting! Snow ascent? Up a volcano? On your Korean Hawaii?! That has fiasco written all over it. Up in the alpine areas here it's hard to take a crap photo. Fantastic place which I've barely touched on in the blog, so I'd better pull my finger out and get to a few more hills.

      High Cock Knob? That's pretty good and surely whoever named it was taking the piss a little? There's no way he named that without a smile on his face!

  3. loved reading about your hike.
    came across it as i was searching for mount feathertop hikes.

    i am planning on doing a 2 day hike with some friends around easter.
    But we are a bunch of noobs. Any advice?

    1. Given the dates, you've probably already found an easy hike, but for anyone else coming through here; I find Mt. Erica a really nice (and quite easy) climb. There's only one part where the Mt. gets really steep, after the large boulders, which is a pretty good place for lunch anyway, so being well rested isn't too hard, plus the walk to the camping spots at the old hut really isn't that long. Nothing like Featherop.

  4. Intractable, thanks for taking the time for a comment. I'm not sure if I'm the best bloke for advice because most of my walks have a disaster in them! Where are you planning to hike? Alpine/Feathertop area? Easter is busy, so you won't be alone at most of the main places!

    The easiest of all of the Feathertop hikes would involve a car shuffle. Start at Diamantina Hut on the Alpine Road near Mt Hotham. Cross the Razorback Spur and go up Mt Feathertop from there. Then descend back to Harrietville on the Bungalow Spur. Very comfortable! If you can't do a car shuffle then you'll have a hard day somewhere just getting up to the height. It'll be a 1000 metre climb for sure. The other circuit I did up there was up Bungalow Spur, across the Razorback and down the Bon Accord Spur to the car. If you get the 'Spatial Vision Bogong Alpine Area' map it will all make sense when you look at it :)

    1. Thanks for your reply.

      Diamantina Hut across razorback spur is what I was looking at. then to Harrietville. We should have 2 cars so that would be fine. Good to know it is the easiest one. Camping in big groups always end up in disaster. so I am not planning on brings too many.

      Do I definately need to have water purifying tablets or is it just for precaution.

    2. No worries, it sounds like a good plan. It will make for a comfortable day coming from Diamantina Hut.

      There's two rainwater tanks at Federation Hut which has a standard Parks Victoria sign on them warning 'Untreated rainwater, do not drink' or something similar. The other week I drank out of them without treating as I think rainwater is okay! In saying that though, I took a punt that it would be fine. I carry water purifier tablets on all the walks I do and I think it's wise to do likewise. Depends on your constitution though! If you're a little wary I suggest treat it. Rather be safe than sorry for sure. Generally with tanks I don't bother and I haven't come undone yet! Fingers crossed though :)

    3. Actually make that one tank and two taps at Federation Hut, not two tanks. I shouldn't do anything online when I'm half asleep :)

  5. Hi Greg, Almost time for the hike.
    I need to ask a few more question. Where can i get a map of the area. Is there mobile phone reception (telstra)

    Do I need to sign in with the rangers?


    1. Hi there.

      The map you'll find in the main hiking stores and the one you want is the 'Spatial Vision Bogong Alpine Area'. That's a nice map to use and I bought it at Paddy Pallin in the city. I assume all their stores have it. Bogong hiking store in the city has it as well. If you're not going to the hiking stores another option is somewhere like the Melbourne Map Centre, 738-740 Waverley Rd, Malvern East. That has plenty of good maps and I've been there quite a few times in the past.

      There's no signing in with Parks staff, but there's a walkers intentions book where the Razorback starts at the Diamantina Hut end. It's in a little box at an information board at the start of the track. There's also another at the base of Bungalow Spur. You just have to look at it and it will make sense.

      Umm...I'm trying to remember, but I think up high we did have Telstra phone coverage. Definitely at Federation Hut we had coverage and I'm assuming the Razorback would be the same, but I didn't use my phone along there, so I'm only guessing. It's not far from Mount Hotham though which being a ski field has coverage. I think that's it? Great place to visit. Hard to get bored up that way!

  6. thanks again greg. Gold mine of information.
    Cant wait for the hike in 2 weeks. I'll give you an update in 2 weeks!

    1. No worries. Hope it all goes to plan for you! It's pretty straightforward as long as you have good weather. If you have any other questions I'll happily help you out if I can!

  7. Hi Greg, really enjoyed your commentary of the trip, I'm just looking into bush walking as an activity to enjoy the serenity, Mt Loch was a first choice as it appears to be a good way to start out, your description of that part of the walk would confirm that. Any suggestions for a 53 yr old newby to bush walking would be appreciated, my wife and I have enjoyed smaller walks and have done some of the walks at Mt Buffalo which have whetted the appetite for more, for me at least, look forward to your suggestions, cheers Ross

    1. Hi Ross, thanks for dropping by. Yeah, if you start from where we did for this walk you'll hit Mount Loch in no time, as it's just a short walk from Hotham. What sort of walks are you after? Overnighters or something a little longer? If it's an overnight one then I've always heard the 'Beeripmo' walk is a good one to start off with. One night, terrain not too ugly and the distances each day are quite short. I've got the notes in a book somewhere, but if you Google it it'll probably come up.

      I can probably give you a longer reply if you send me an email to greg@hikingfiasco.com. Cheers!

  8. Hi Greg
    My husband and I just finished our hike on Hotham yesterday. For my first ever alpine hike we decided to do an easy circuit. My husband is an experienced walker so I was always checking him out from behind! We started at Diamantina Hut and started on the Razorback - federation hut (1st night) - (down) Diamantina Spur ( by your account, the best way to go!) - Dibbins Hut (2nd night) - Swindlers Spur - back to Diamantina hut. This was a great start for an inexperienced hiker, although we did start off with my parents but after the 1st night they decided to head back to the car via the razorback and are planning a fitness regime to make their next hike a little easier.
    On arrival at Federation Hut there was no water available. My husband hiked down 1.2km down bungalow spur to get some for us and my parents return trip. Thank god he did. We drank 3lts each down diamantina spur. The sun was fierce and at 25degrees, it was bloody hot.
    I read your blogg through tears as I was laughing so much about your Diamantina fiasco. As we were desending I remember thinking thank god we arent going up this thing!
    Both my husband and I drank both the water from the bungalow spur and cobunga river without treating it. We were fine, although we do live in the country and we have rainwater tanks we drink from, so we probably already have a good constitions.
    All in all, this circuit was challenging but fun. I'm grateful we didnt run into "the hermit" as I was in no mood for chit chat after slogging it down Diamantina spur!
    We are already planning another trip and cant wait to get more time off work to head back into the high country.
    Thanks for your blogg, it's great to read other peoples stories.


    1. Hi Eve, thanks for your expansive comment! It's nice to hear about your trip.

      I'm glad you didn't do that walk in the direction we took! Even though I loved the walk, Diamantina Spur hurt a lot on the warmish day we climbed it. It sounds like you had the same problem heading down though? Again, it would be hard on the knees getting down it. I hate to think what it would be like if wet!

      I've been to Federation Hut twice and never had a problem with water in the tank. It's interesting it's dry, but it probably indicates the dry weather over the last month or so? I remember the first time I climbed Bungalow Spur coming across that little spring about a kilometre from the hut. I filled up there wondering if the tank would be dry, but in the end it was full. Lucky for the spring as an alternative!

      I'm a bit of a panic merchant, so I tend to treat water everywhere! You're probably right, but it'll be a while before I convince myself all water is okay :)

      Yeah, that bloke we ran into was annoying! Talk about making things convoluted! Then again, things like that can be good as it helps the blog write itself!

      Maybe a walk up around Mt Bogong next? I'd like to get back up there, but the weather has been a bit steamy for me lately!

      My high country knowledge is limited, so you'll probably end up doing more trips up there than me!

  9. Hi Greg,
    I came across your blog a few weeks ago while looking for info for walking to Mt Feathertop. I came to the conclusion that if a not-so-young guy with crook knees and an overnight pack could do it; I, as a 57yr old, with knees that aren't too bad at the moment could do it as a day walk, as long as I gave myself enough time. I climbed up the Bungalow Spur to the top and back, which took 9 1/2 hours. Cool weather, and fantastic views. The next day I drove up to Diamantina Hut. I thought I would walk along the Razorback to Feathertop and back that way, but having started at 10.30, didn't have enough daylight and didn't want to overdo it as I was weary from the day before. I got about halfway along the Razorback and the views were glorious all the way. I've never walked a substantial walk on my own before and it was a great confidence boost.
    I'm loving reading all your other stories on the blog, the photos are great too. So much more interesting than guide books that can be very dry. You have such a way with words, making even a short day walk into an amusing adventure!
    cheers, Rosemary

    1. Hi Rosemary,

      Yeah, if an overweight bloke with rickety knees can get up there, then anyone can :) Then again, I'm not saying it isn't going to hurt!

      As I'm sure you're already aware, it's so much more relaxing to do it one way, preferably starting at Diamantina Hut! The whole thing is a pain though if you're on your own. On my first trip I did the Bungalow Spur, Razorback and then back to the start via Bon Accord Spur. Makes for a long second day though and frankly, I only rate the Bon Accord as a mode of getting down, as it's endless and there are few views to take the mind off things! Quite a shocker :)

      Thanks for your kind words about the blog! It's always nice to get some feedback. as I only do it for the love. It's certainly not helping to pay the bills!

      Hope you can keep getting some walks in. If you can do Feathertop, then I'm sure you can easily do the majority of walks I've described in the blog :)

  10. I'm a pretty solid sort of person too. 95kg, and 180cm ... but I frequently ride very long distances and I've done quite a few hikes, including Feathertop in knee deep snow, as I saw you have as well. I'm planning on doing Feathertop, solo, tomorrow, and I can't really figure out how much water I should take along. I'll be riding my bike from Bright to the start of the Feathertop track, and refilling my Camelback in Harrietville, but do you think that 5lt is overkill? I pour sweat given the opportunity, but the weather is going to be a mild high of 11c!

    1. Sorry I missed your message, but I was on an extended blog hiatus.

      Anyway, I'd love to be under a 100kg. The last time I was it was a previous century! 1999. One day maybe.

      Hopefully you got a stroll in up that way and didn't die of dehydration in the attempt :)



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