Feathertop NW Spur - Diamantina-Westons-Tawonga-Falls Creek

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Feathertop NW Spur - Diamantina-Westons-Tawonga-Falls Creek

Postby NickPom » Tue 26 Sep, 2017 10:06 pm

We Started on the NW Spur 22nd September 2017. 10:30am. Sunny & Warm, with 22C predicted for Harrietville
Early signage and the track is easy to follow.
NWSpur.jpg (50.7 KiB) Viewed 9833 times

After only about 400m there is a post that appears to have been cut down, complete with trail marker. This threw us a bit.
However, do follow the arrow pointing right!

We didn't realise this and follow what was probably a cattle track, continuing parallel to the creek until it was too indistinct to be the trail. Fortunately I had loaded a route onto my GPS so I loaded it, and it showed that we should be further away from the creek, nearer the property fence line. The Track up there is very easy to follow. Until where I presume the bridge once was.
As noted by esteemed posters on this forum, there is a "fallen" tree just down stream from that crossing point. I think it may have fallen with help from an axe. However, it is vital as the creek was flowing far too fast to be able to easily wade across this time of year.
The tree *is* walkable, as proven by my hiking buddy, but not without significant skill. I opted for the straddle approach, which is fine until a small branch near the far side. A small saw would have sorted this out quite easily, but my companion was carrying it, and was out of reach. An awkward crossing resulted for me, but dry for both of us.

After the crossing, at maybe 1km the climb starts, and doesn't really stop at all until the MUMC hut.
It is described as hard, and though not at all technical, it was described on the day as "pretty relentless". There were not many trees down or obstacles to avoid. We certainly worked up a sweat and stopped a couple of times to air shirts and take a 5 minute break. Including a 30 minute lunch break just before the snow line up at 1200m or so, the trip up to MUMC took 6 hrs, almost to the minute.
The last 1-2km were done in very soft snow in snow shoes. It would have been possible but more tiring without them.
It is, as they say, harder than Swindlers spur.

MUMC hut was in excellent condition, with only 1 hut rat, a friendly native, maybe a Broad Toothed. The rat does not climb as well as a brown rat, so the food on the shelf next to the door was still in tact.
The water pump took a full 20 minutes to get any water from the tap, so be patient!
As soon as you stop pumping, one can hear the vacuum releasing, and the water drops back down the pipe, so have all your water containers ready unless you want to spend more time pumping!
MUMC interior.jpg
MUMC interior.jpg (76.79 KiB) Viewed 9833 times

The view from MUMC is perhaps the best from a hut in the Victorian high country, not obscured by trees in any direction.
MUMC sunset1.jpg


It was windy at night, the BOM observations suggest 45-55kph. You can certainly hear the wind in the hut, but it beats being in a tent.
Removing a few thin branches and leaves from the gum trees next to the hut to prevent them scraping on the walls was definitely worth while.
I can imagine that if it rained the hut would be quite noisy.

The next morning at 8am we continued up the NW spur. There was a warm breeze and the snow was soft. At least 40cm deep, sometimes deeper, so the going was quite slow. We decided not to take the normal track connecting to the summit trail west of little feathertop as that involves heading down and then back up again, which would be tricky and more tiring in the soft snow, so we continued up the NW spur until maybe 50m vertical from the summit, and traversed the face to the summit track to where there was exposed grass and rock.

I agree with other posters on this forum that if the snow was hard and icy this traverse would require crampons, and perhaps an ice axe, as a slip would be very difficult to arrest. On our warm day, crampons would not have gripped, and snow shoes and poles were ok.

Leaving the packs on the south-west summit track, it was only a minute or so to dash to the summit. It was Very windy so we stayed about 10 seconds before heading down to the Razorback. This side had a more crisp surface which was good to descend.

We were very surprised to see No tents or sign of people at Federation hut. Some fresh looking prints looked like a couple had headed along the Razorback earlier in the day (before 9am), but we were expecting plenty of tents being the first Saturday of school holidays and excellent weather.

We carried on South on the Razorback to High Knob, which was fairly slow going due to the soft snow.
Diamantina spur comes off the Razorback to the East and is fairly easy going for a few km, some up, some down. Glissading in snow shoes was possible in the soft snow.
When the trees start to come onto the spur the going gets harder in snow, and more technical in snow shoes with descent tricky. As the snow becomes thinner we ended up taking our snow shoes off for 20m when there was only rock, only to have to put them back on when deep snow cover came again.

We got to the "Steep Bit". There is a marker at the top, which appeared to point south, but probably doesn't.
The trail wasn't visible due to snow at this point so we moved further down the spur to the south before traversing the cliff back to where the trail should have been.
A 50m rope probably would have been useful, but in it's absence we moved very slowly and carefully placing each foot and hand hold. Sometimes dislodging snow piles to place feet. At one point I needed to move through thigh deep snow moving from one area to another. It was pretty sketchy.
SteepBit1.jpg (154.23 KiB) Viewed 9833 times

After the cliff section the track had no snow and was easy going down to the logging road. The track has been cleared by someone to prevent overgrowth, but bracken is trying hard in places to make it difficult to find.
After 6 hrs we had a 30 minute lunch stop by the river (good water).
Heading South on the logging road, we made our way to Blair hut, via a partially overgrown path just after one of the concrete bridges. An easier, but longer route would be to keep on the logging road and then head back on a larger track.
Blair hut was in a very poor state with lots of debris from the ADF strewn about the hut, including a discarded radio and ration packs.

There is No signage to anything from Blair hut.

Following the trail past the toilet we worked up hill on what is probably Westons track, but is not signed at all.
It was easy enough to follow, though once the snow started after only around 1km it was tough going, and we took 5 minute turns to lead the trail and put in footsteps. There was 5 or 6 trees down across the patch which weren't easy, but certainly possible to get around or over.

Westons hut was a Very welcome sight.
Westons is still looking very new and clean and lovely. There is not water tank or toilet here.
In this hut the ADF had actually left a Heap of ration packs nice and neatly. A Chocolate ration each was welcome.
At 4:30pm, and with thunder around we needed the chocolate encouragement to head up the hill from westons to the high plains.
Westons.jpg (88.69 KiB) Viewed 9833 times

The flatter high plains were very welcome with a strong, but still warm wind buffeting us. The observations from Mt Hotham at that time show a gust of 102kph.
Looking back at the sunset, you can see Feathertop and Diamantina heading into the valley where we had been hours before.
FTSunsetRoute.jpg (50.47 KiB) Viewed 9833 times

We worked our way North, following the snow poles to Tawonga huts, arriving just before dark.

After 11hrs of hiking, with only the 30 minute lunch and 10 minute clothing and chocolate break in Westons, we were pretty spent when we arrived at Tawonga.

There was also no one at Tawonga, and the huts were in reasonable condition. The sleeping hut was very welcome.
However, the toilet was the shortest long drop I have seen in a while. It wouldn't be much longer before there is no drop at all! (no joke)

The next day, we left at 8am to try and get going on the high plains to Falls Creek before the predicted rain. We made it up to the Cairn on the Fainter Fire Trail before the winds hit us. The Observations from that time suggest that we experienced sustained 50kph, gusting to 96kph. It was sometimes difficult to make forward progress.
After pretty valley hut, small(2mm) ice pellets blasted us, and were quite deafening on the inside of the waterproof hood, and stung through the waterproof pants (It wasn't that cold so I was only in shorts under the waterproofs).
When we eventually got the the Falls Creek ski area it was almost total white out, with perhaps 3 snow poles visibility, but when not following poles, only about 4m snow texture and nothing else at all was discernable. I would insert a photo here, but instead put your head in a white pillowcase while someone points a huge fan at you, and you will get the idea.

We did eventually see another person as there was a few hardy XC skiers around the Falls Creek area making the most of their weekend. All lifts were obviously closed.
Tawonga to Falls central plaza took us 4:15 (with a brief stop in an unoccupied ski hut. We decided that white out and 90kph ice pellets made us "authorised personnel" for as long as it took us to have a snack and put on some warmer clothes under the waterproofs. Thanks Falls Resort mgmt.

All in all, it was quite a hard hike, but not seeing anyone for the 3 days was a nice surprise, and the sunsets were good.

And the return to the NW spur to our car? Did I say I've got the best wife?? :)
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Re: Feathertop NW Spur - Diamantina-Westons-Tawonga-Falls Cr

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Wed 27 Sep, 2017 12:10 am

Well done. Some of those easier bits would have been a tad less labourious in XC skis but you did it !!.The Descent of the Diamnatina spur in deep soft snow sounds treacherous.
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Re: Feathertop NW Spur - Diamantina-Westons-Tawonga-Falls Cr

Postby Xplora » Wed 27 Sep, 2017 6:29 am

Good effort. I would have added another day as the thought of 11 hours in soft spring snow is no longer appealing. We have a friend stay over the same period and took her out for a snowshoe on BHP Sunday in that crappy weather. One of my snowshoes popped a rivet and from there is was about 4km of postholing to above my knees. As there was no freeze until yesterday I can imagine how sloppy things were for you. The snow line was about 1550m for cover that required snowshoes and above 1600m it was hard going. Perhaps our route on Diamantina was a bit different. The track is not well defined and we avoided steep rocky sections. The thought of adding a 50m rope to the pack just for one pinch is not appealing. I agree about signage in that area being poor and you should make an official complaint about the ADF. They would have lodged their intentions with Parks so could be tracked down. Mt. Beauty office would handle that and I can provide some contact details if you would like to speak to the boss there.
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Re: Feathertop NW Spur - Diamantina-Westons-Tawonga-Falls Cr

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Fri 06 Oct, 2017 9:58 pm

11 Hours of ceaseless toil in soft snow sounds like total insane masochism to me. Bear Gryllis would have wept and wanted his mum!!.
I would have crashed and set up for the night at Weston's at if not before that , at Blair's hut.
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