Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mt Feathertop, Victoria and snOw, yeah!!!!!

My 2nd AUMC trip – to Mt Feathertop, Victoria , north east of Melbourne. Another epic journey for me in 2009 history. This was the first time i went interstate, not going to those famous cities or icons, but to one of the most beautiful region in Victoria state. Something i will not forget :)

When Alex first post up this trip, it got me so excited that i asked him during AUMC annual meeting for my possibility of joining the trip since i have ZERO alpine and snow experience. He make it CLEAR in the post that this trip is not someone beginner and must have adequate experience. He told me during the meeting to email him, and he’ll send me a list of things he will bring, and in that mail he stated that if i can get all the IMPORTAT necessary gears then he’ll allow me to go.

And that list (what he will bring) goes like this:
Snow Tent with Snow pegs (Snow pegs you can buy from Anaconda quite cheaply)
65 Litre Rucksack
-10 Sleeping Bag
Winter Sleeping Mat
Hiking Boots
Snowshoes (MSR Denali is the brand and model)
Snow Goggles
Waterproof Goretex Jacket
Waterproof Goretex pants with in built gaiters
Waterproof Gloves
Warm lightweight gloves for camp
Fleece beanie
Down jacket
Fleece tracksuit pants
Midweight fleece top
Midweight thermal top
Lightweight thermal top
Stove (canister gas) and food
Small water bottle (1 litre)
First Aid Kit
Map and Compass
Snow Shovel
Twine or lightweight cord
Medication & toiletries
Field repair kit

I was totally hold back by the list!!! Of all the stuffs in the list, i only have a normal sleeping bag, a lousy beanie, gloves, a not sure is down made jacket???

Plus, i have an injured right leg from Flinders trip, the trip is just 20 ish days from the Flinders, will my leg recovered??

With pure desire and determination to join the trip and a possible chance to see snow for the very 1st time, i joined the trip in the end!!! Spent heaps of money on gears (which i have not regretted), borrowed some gears from my postdoc, bought myself painkiller to make sure i can make it through the whole trip (YES, that’s how much i love hiking).

Originally, we were supposed to head off to Mt. Bogong, the highest mountain (1986m) in Victoria. But due to bad weather forecast and deep snow, we changed our destination to Mt. Feathertop last minute which also located in the same mountain range but have better shelter in the worse case scenario of bad weather compared to Mt. Bogong.

This journey take basically 13hrs++ continuous drive over 990+ km setting the record for the longest ride i ever have in my life so far!!! Crossing through many towns across South Australia and Victoria. In addition, this is a 5 day trip, drive through the nite – camp – drive – climb to Federation hut – camp – summit (depending on weather) – camp , etc. Another record for me was i’m carrying more than 15kg of rucksack up 1330 metres.

epic journey 
1 Mt Feathertop (1922m), located in the Bogong unit of the Alpine National Park in north-east Victoria. This is the second highest mountain in Victoria and is often called the Queen of the Victorian Alps. In many ways it is the most elegant mountain in the state as it consists of a narrow high razorback ridge. It faces the prevailing winds and during most winters a very large cornice up to 20 metres high builds up on the summit ridge. The remnants of the cornice are often there until mid-summer and the thin white line of the cornice appears like a white feather hence its name.

With local walkers this is a very popular walking area. Most visit the mountain in summer. Experienced walkers often come here in winter as well and the steep western gullies provide ice climbing practice at sunrise.

There are two huts, both built by walkers for walkers and several well used tracks. The most popular track is the Bungalow Spur. This is well graded as it was originally created for horses. The spur leads to the Federation Hut, which is a tin hut built by the Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs. The hut itself is not a great place to stay in. The grassy ridge next to the hut provides excellent camping and is a very popular tent site (

Met, and started driving. Again i joined Jono’s car with Nina. This time, Jono drove his dad’s car which is gas fueled car (gas is cheap than petrol, so the plan is to safe money by using gas-fueled car).

The drive was fun, catch up with Jono, and made new fren with Nina which has a very friendly character, we planned to drive a lot so that we can camp closer to the alpine national park and wake up the next day and climb earlier.

It all went well until Jono’s car ran out of gas!!!! We thought we can get gas at the bigger town, Swan hill so we did not put in much at the smaller town. The unexpected happened that the servos in Swan Hill were either gas pump broken down, servo shut, no gas pump which is a hell shit for us, haha. It’s just so funny to think about it and writing it down now. We drove through the whole town and still didn’t get any gas. We had to lookout for the closest campground (we are not allowed to simply camp anywhere, otherwise you’ll get fine if you were caught), and camp earlier than planned. Eventually we camp near a lake which is not a designated campground, haha. The plan is to get up and get gas as soon as the servo opens.

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Early sunrise!!!! Photo taken by Jack, nice shot eh!!!! Eventually, we camp by a lake that was totally dry even though it’s early spring only!!!


The others continue driving in the direction to Alpine national park, while we turned back to Swan Hill to get gas. Guessed luck wasn’t on our side,  we only realized that it’s running out of gas too, the servo we went have very little gas left in its underground tank and it got us >10 mins to pump the last bit of gas. We have to get gas at another servo, haha. Because of that we were quite far behind again.

Finally after hours of driving from early morning till noon with a few stops, we were on the Great Alpine road to Alpine national park. Along the road, we could see some alpine forest grow for logs and other purposes. The weather looked cloudy but alright. We managed to reach Bright, one of the most beautiful countryside town during Autumn by 1-2pm. We made haste in getting stuffs we wanted at the shops there, Alex already got us snowshoes for those like me that doesn’t own one, the hire was 50$!!!

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After that, it’s another short drive to the hiking point, along the road you can see signs of “road frosty when cold, drive at 40km/hr”. We were already running late of Alex’s schedule to climb, so we made haste too when we got to the bungalow spur trek entrance which is already at ~440 metres high. The weather was getting a bit wet too. I had some painkiller before starting, hehe.
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The trail is well-marked, and to my surprise, this park is quite a mix of mountain ash forest sub-alpine, and gum trees, haha. Quite like Msia’s tropical rainforest bottom vegetation with all the ferns growing everywhere but still less dense. The place was quite green :)
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Stopped at picture point, an area once cleared for of trees to provide a clear view of the panorama beyond Harrietville and the Upper Ovens Valley for people on their way to Bungalow Hut in the 1920s. But now, it’s blocked by tress. As the elevation got higher, the vegetation changed to tall straight alpine ash trees but seems to suffer from bushfire and growing back.
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The climb was considered fairly hard with the heavy rucksack behind me and long (i’m already carrying less and Jono help to carry the alpine tent!!! Though most of the trek was not steep, but it really took a toll out of me especially at some STEEP point!!!! It was hot as i was wearing a thermal, a jacket and a weather jacket on me to lessen my rucksack burden. Luckily it drizzle along the climb which helps cool my body. I have to use the strategy of hike and stop, breath in hard and breath out HARD!!! Make short aims to walk to and kept on looking at the ground instead of further ahead, haha.

As i got higher, i could see some icy patches, haha which got me quite excited because this meant that i might encounter snow on top, haha. Pass through old Feathertop bungalow site which was destroyed by fire in 1939 and never rebuilt (bottom right pic, can you a big saw there??)
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The higher we got, the path looks really pretty, hehe, felt a bit like going up along the Mesilau trail of Mt. Kota Kinabalu. The 1km u saw in the bottom right pic was a long one still, trust me.
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Finally, i reached the federation hut 1700 metres, OMG, just can’t believed i made it. The whole trail (~11km) took me ~4hrs. The best thing was though i didn’t see any snow falling down nor fresh soft snow, but those icy patches were enough to excite me for the moment, haha. We had the federation hut all by ourselves as there’s no other people there, haha. Make our cooking and prepared to call it a day.
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Jono, Jack, Nina and me slept in the hut as it was too late or dark to pitch a tent and it’s freezing cold outside.

Early sunrise with a good weather was what i’m after :). woke up very early (can’t sleep very well, haha) to walk nearby areas.

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I JUST LOVE THESE VIEWS, early morning view of the bogong high plains + alpine national park.
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Mt Hotham and skiing resort at the far end of Razorback (right bottom pic).
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Alex’s high quality super expensive tent, haha (bottom left pic).
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Nick, Nina, Jack, Jono and Alex (left to right) on the right bottom pic during breakfast :)
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Jack with the axe to prepare dry wood for burning later when we got back from our summit attempt.

GOing to the SUMMIT , yeah!!!! Have to put on our snowshoes for some sloppy snow part, otherwise our leg will just sink in the snow and got soaked, haha. Jono getting help from Jack, who is another experienced guy with snow. Me too got his assistance :)
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My snowshoe stepping on the icy snow, yeah!!!!
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As you can see, the mountain was covered with patches of snow like a dairy cow, haha.

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Alex leading the way, he’s really good!!! He’s been here couple of time and knew how to navigate by just looking!!

Looking over to Bright (the middle fresh green valley).
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The icy cliff plus cornice, Alex make sure we don’t walked too near the edge!!

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Me on the climb up (Jack said i’m just like on another alien world, LOL).

Shot courtesy of Jack. Thanks dude!!!

On the summit of Mt. Feathertop!!! Yeah!!!! Alex could recognized the distant mountains suck mt. omeo, mt. tabletop, etc.

The top was getting more and more windy the higher you got, and the snow fog was concerntrated on one side of the ice/snow.

Like the pic (right bottom) of Nina and Jack going up the summit!!! (photo courtery of Jono)
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The view on top is 360 degree view which was AWESOME, unfortunately huge fog block part of the view which was kinda expected due the cloudy weather. We didn’t stay on top long, felt really short while on top. Alex suggested we moved on as it may be dangerous if we were trap in the weather on the peak.

We next moved on to hike to MUMC hut. Melbourne University Mountain Club (MUMC) hut is situated on the North-West Spur close to the tree line. It has a unique dome shape, and has an upstairs sleeping area

The MUMC hut with the panoramic view of Mt. Feathertop and bogong ranges!!!! It’s amazing how they have all of this build up here!!!!
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The top deck for sleeping. The whole place is quite ideal and have table, a drill to get water from underground…..etc.
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The guestbook of MUMC hut, a real thick one, haha. Dates back to quite long dy.
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Enjoying the snow slide while making our way back. This was actually a shortcut, haha, but it was TOTALLY FUN!!!!! SYIOK!!!
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Like this picture too :)

That’s our snow slide!!!! Yeah!!!
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On the way back, i’m getting tired already, and my leg was hurting again, i have no choice but to drag myself and have 2 more painkiller. Have to walk slowly to prevent further injury to my leg :(.
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Looking at where we been to at night, haha. Again by night time, it’s freezing cold and raining.
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Jack writing the federation hut log book. And apparently by near midnight, slowly the rain turn into ice!!!!

And then it's SNOWing!!!! GOt me very very excited, grabbed my camera and went out to feel what snowflakes is, haha. Imagine a kid first time saw snow after 24years!!! Though the snow was not big enough and melted fast as it hit the floor or body. Wanted to make snowman, but the snow was just starting to accumulate and not deep, haha. So can’t make snowman, plus no tool too. Apparently, not all Aussies seen snow before, Jono and Nick were the same as me, saw snow for the 1st time :)
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Jono and me decided since it snow, we should experience sleeping in the snow :) and quickly pitch our tent (though he’s better at pitching, i’m just learning and helping nia).
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Next morning, ……
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Everywhere was covered with snow like a blanket, and it’s still snowing whole day. The snow was getting deep already and the whole place was just WHITE, like a fairy wonderland and if only it was XMAS now, haha :). IT WAS AN AWESOME Experience for me to see all of this :) Another dream came true )
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Again we had our breakfast, the water tank was frozen, haha. Nick has to pour in cooked hot water to defroze the tank. Smart!!! Alex decided to go for the summit again, and we all agreed to it especially the Bunzies were excited, haha. SOme of us started packing stuff 1st and taking down the tent before going for the summit.
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It was a TOTALLY DIFFERENT LANDSCAPE now compared to yesterday, we have to walk all the way using snowshoes as the snow has build up and deep. It’s really hard to walk on snow now. Moreover, the weather was windy and kinda like blizzard.
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As we got higher and higher, it’s seriously getting more and more perilous, the visibility was pretty bad, it’s really SNOWSTORM now, it’s so windy that Alex reckoned it might be 60km/hr. I’m seriously having problem in catching up as my snowshoes wasn’t good enough and i did not tighten/wear my snowshoes very well thus it’s not strong enough to kick into the ice at steep climbs. I fell many times, tried, felled, till i’m so powerless, this attempt was really hard for me, i felt at that moment, i felt like i’m climbing the last bit of Mt. Kota Kinabalu where i’m totally exhausted and felt like giving up.

At one point, i was slowing them down which i felt bad that i requested them to leave me behind and wait for them. But i guessed it’s too dangerous to do so too in this snowstorm (actually, we are not allowed to go out in this snowstorm, haha). Plus my leg was hurting me now even though i took the painkiller especially at parts where i have to use my leg force to kick into the snow to climb the steep part which hurts my leg. At the last steep climb, my legs really can’t make it, no matter how many times and how hard i kick into the snow and wanted to elevate myself to the next step, i felled. Really at the point of giving up many times, luckily Alex and Jack came to the rescue and never give up on me. Alex asked Jack to bring me through the less steep through the corner of the peak but seems to me more dangerous of sliding down if i had a foot step wrongly.
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When i was on the peak, i couldn’t believe it myself, i asked Alex are we at the peak?? Alex: “YES, you are, you made it!!!!” I quickly thank him for not giving up on me, his reply was something i’m touched: “Can’t leave you behind, must bring you up!!!!” I was so relieved, but it was so stormy that you can’t see anything. The last few climb was so hard for me even though through the less steep corner. Jack quickly helped me to tighten and adjust my snowshoes for me on the peak which was VERY VERY considerate of him at such cold harsh conditions to make sure i can walk better on my way back. He took this photo below, thank you so much, JACK!!!!

Going back, i was slow due to the fatigue climbing up, but managed to keep a fairly good distant with them. I was so glad i made it to the top and got back to the federation hut one piece!!!!
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Photos with my fellow mates, and Heroes!!!!
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Lunch (ate quite a few maggie goreng, haha) and the Bunzies even make something special like jelly (something sweet and red in the blue bowl) and try to freeze it outside, haha. But due to we were aiming to go down and it’s till not freeze yet, we drink it, hahhaa. WE even used the ice up here for boiling drinking water.
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Descending, time to say goodbye to Mt. Feathertop :( and it’s still snowing!!!! haha
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We were quite surprised that it kept on snowing though we went down lower than 1000meteres already.

WE then make our move to drive back to Adelaide, stopped by Bright’s pub, returend our snowshoes. As Jono, Nina and me wanted to reach Adelaide earlier on Sunday, we made our move first to drive as much as we can while the others camp for the night and cooked. Again Jono was the driver, Gosh, imagine this, he drove all the way up , climbed, and drove all the way back, he’s really FULL of energy, haha. We stopped by one of the town to have our dinner, haha. Taste not bad :)
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Again luck was not on our side, we still can’t get any gas in Swan Hill. Though we tried not to rely on Swan Hill for gas by looking at towns before Swan Hill, but apparently, there’s not much choice. Swan Hill is supposed to be the central station of our journey no matter how we drive. Jono was really cursing this town, hahaha.  We have to drive further down to a place that Jono remembered have 24hr servo, however it was shut too when we got there!!!! WE have to sleep in the car to wait for the servo to operate early morning.
Next day, on our way back, i was introduced and recommended A MUST to try Farmer union’s iced coffee, haha which i really like it besides mocha now. It’s kinda a milk shake coffee, haha. Apparently i was told that South Australia is the only place that have it’s coffee outsold softdrinks!!!!
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Finally we were in SOuth Australia region, at Murray river, Jono showed us one of the place he used to hang out and the weird monster, haha.
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We made a detour to tea tree hill region as Jono wana get some stuff, it was another lovely place with green green grass and rocks. Saw the BIG GIGANTIC rocking horse, haha and classical car show in which people showoff their antique cars by driving them on the road. Quite a lot of people drive up here to watch the event.

All in all, it was another memorable trip with AUMC and lots of fun with Jono and Nina. AWESOMEEEEE!!!
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  1. wao snowwwww,wat an awesome experience u had there....a very long blog entry but never bored me,haha,i enjoy reading:)
    u knw those scenic panoramic view n the spirit show by u guys......really impressed me!!!!!

  2. haha, thanx!!! Yeah, relly hv to thank Alex and Jack esepcially for helping me in the snow :)

  3. Great pics! Made me relive all those great memories particularly those gas incidents and the sleeping in the car...

  4. thx Nina the nice comment :),
    I enjoyed the trip alot and great to have know u.
    yeah, those gas incidents and the sleeping in the car in front of the servo were extraordinary, haha

  5. Hey Eddie.
    Great trip report mate. There are some awesome pics in amongst there too!

  6. Hey,
    Can't remember your name except Barnesy. THanks for visiting my blog. How did u find your way here? U got facebook account?