Mount Feathertop (1922m), the second highest peak in Victoria, looms large over nearby Harrietville. As Australian mountains go, having something that actually looks like a mountain worthy of a climb (Mt Kosciuszko, cough) is a nice goal to have. It’s bulking alpine presence, covered white in winter, an experienced backcountry skiers paradise, transforms to a bushwalking mecca in summer.
Like Mecca, people can approach from several directions, with different tracks offering something different in terms of vistas, difficulty and quality of track. The area needs to be treated with respect, deserving of its location and altitude, given that weather conditions can change quickly and the access to drinking water on the main Razorback Spur is non-existent. As long as you’re properly prepared and have the fitness (and endurance) needed, you’re in for a real treat.
Day 1 : Harrietville to Washington Creek
Having travelled along the popular Razorback Spur a year ago and keenly eyeing off the other (less busy options), my friends and I left a car at the base of the North West Spur, before heading to the base of Bon Accord Hill at the south east end of Harrietville.
Walking it today, it’s hard to believe that Bon Accord Hill was the original route to Mt Hotham (by horse and foot) before the Great Alpine Road was built. Meandering with gentle undulations, contouring alongside the Ovens River, we made good time on the well defined single track. Held within the heavily timbered gullies of this river valley, it’s hard to catch glimpses of the climb ahead of us on day 2. Until then, we settled in for a night beside the gentle gurgling of Washington Creek.
By itself, this is a pleasant enough walk (Bon Accord Harrietville Trackhead – Washington Creek – return), so if you’re lacking experience or fitness, or find it tricky getting to this point… best to turn around now as hard work is about to get real.
Day 2 : Washington Creek to Federation Hut
We started early, moving away from camp at 7.30am. The track starts going up immediately and doesn’t stop. Ceaseless incline, ramping away from the only water of the day, meant it was essential to carry enough to see us through a tough, long day ahead.
Glimpses of the main Razorback Ridge and Mt Feathertop started to tease us, through the trees to our left.
And like a gift that keeps on giving (from your crazy old Great Aunt, the kind you don’t want), you realise that the steep incline you’ve been on for the last few hours is about to get steeper. Thanks Auntie.
Finally, the investments we’d made in an early start and solid effort pay off as we break the treeline, birthed onto the alpine meadows of Victorian High Country and the perfect spot for lunch.
Sure, we could’ve taken the easy way to get to this point (it’s about 1km easy walk from the road at Mt Hotham on the Razorback Track), but where’s the fun in that?
Joining the Razorback and heading north, our pace picked up significantly (it needed to) as we hugged the ridge on the way to Federation Hut. Marvelling at the alpine flowers and views that go forever, we continued along the kilometers, before turning down Bungalow Spur for Federation Hut and our campsite for night. The popularity of this site evident by the 15 or so other people camped there, the sorry state of the toilets and the graffiti riddled hut…but don’t get me started, as the sunset was spectacular and the company of friends priceless.
Day 3 : Federation Hut to North West Spur via Mt Feathertop
The delights of a lazy-ish, short day, started with the final pinch to the summit of Mt Feathertop and then a run down. My mates had earned extra Brownie points by summiting for sunrise… good on em… I enjoyed my sleep. Distance for the day was measured in single figures and the delight of a relaxed afternoon at camp near the top of the North West Spur, gazing across to The Fainters, planning our next adventure, signalled that our time here was coming to a close. Another cracking sunset and a home dehyde delight.
Day 4 : North West Spur to Harrietville
The truth within the cliche, ‘You never know what tomorrow holds’, was borne out on this day. Check out this post to find out the end of the adventure and how everything changed in a heartbeat.
Important: This trip report is not track notes. Do not refer to this for navigation or critical trip planning.