Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Great Alpine Walk: day 6

The alarm rudely woke us at 6:00am. We spent a little while repacking our bags which had been tossed as we searched for hats and other items to lend to fellow walkers.

The breakfast once again was very nice. This morning I decided scrambled eggs and tomatoes would be the go and they were very nicely done.

We left Dinner Plain at 8 and headed through Hotham to the start of our walk along Razorback and out to Mt Feathertop. From the road we could see the path going along the ridge and, just before a climb, divide with one continuing up the ridge while the other skirted around the side. Fortunately we were taking the lower track which Phil told us was actually the quickest route. He got no complaints from us.
Looking out along Razorback

The start of the Razorback Trail
I had checked the log before setting out and found the entry for Prue and Brenton so they had tackled Mt Feathertop on the previous weekend as they had planned.

We had been warned that the track was stony and rocky for much of the way out and it was. It was hard underfoot. Phil set a fairly fast pace for the lead group. We stopped from time to time to make sure that everyone was accounted for before pushing on. Storms had been forecast for later in the day and this, in part, may have been the reason for the speed.

One of the stops with l-r: Trevor, Phil and Maria

Morning tea break

Due to the uneven surface, and the sometimes quite narrow track, much of the walking required close attention to where we were putting our feet. At times the track clung precariously close to drops. Not for the fainthearted!

The rough and stony track across Razorback
Some of the rocky surface we walked over. Note the upright sharp shale.
 The track was often narrow necessitating us to walk in single file.

Trevor is at the back of this group heading along this narrow trail

Often the views were obscured by vegetation so watching our foot placement meant that we were not missing as much as would have been the case if there was no view blocking trees.

Looking over the ranges from the Razorback Trail

Beside the path we were delighted by a glorious array of alpine flowers cheerfully showing their colours for our enjoyment. I must check whether dandelions are natives as they were growing in profusion through the areas ion which we walked.

All but one of the group had opted for the walk through to Harrietville. Maria turned back before reaching the start of the ascent up Mt Featuretop so that she could pick up Trish along the track back to the start of our walk and drive the bus down to Harrietville.

The wind had come up and at times it sounded like waves breaking on the beach. Quite eerie so high up.

Just before the track up to the summit of Mt Feathertop we spied Federation Hut and its most welcome toilet. Visiting these facilities had to wait until after our attack of Feathertop.

Phil gave permission to Joan, Maria Teresa and I to commence the climb up Mt Featuretop sand for us then to come down and go on the Harrietville.

Trevor had opted to stay at the junction and guard the track to make sure no one escaped.

Trevor (lying down in the centre) guarding the track
The climb was made difficult by the rocky surface, loose stones and narrow track. There were times when the track narrowed and hung out over drops.

 The wind also added the the challenge as it buffeted us throughout the climb.

These rocky, uneven steps were a welcome part of the climb up Feathertop
The flora changed during that final ascent. There was still the odd tree, but they were quite rare. Flowering plants were in profusion along the track and across the slops.

If we had thought that the insect life was busy during the earlier part of our walk it had nothing on the insects that assaulted us up on the top. I was pleased that I was wearing long pants.
The final bit of track to the top with hikers savouring the views.
We sat down on the rocky summit and ate our lunch while fighting off the insects. As we ate the rest of the group arrived in ones and twos.

The views across the ranges back to Hotham and down into the Ovens Valley provided quite a contrast to that from Mt Tabletop. The footprint of man was very evident in both directions. According to my GPS reading we reached 1901m which is the highest I was on this trip.
View from the top of Mt Feathertop looking towards the Ovens Valley

Lorraine on top of Mt Feathertop
Refreshed we headed down the mountain with me in the lead. I think I had an advantage as I didn't have poles to contend with on the narrow track. The training I have down on the rough tracks on Mt Arrawang and Mt Taylor meant that I was used to tackling uneven surfaces and coped quite well with the climb down.

Back at the junction we picked up Trevor and headed over the Federation Hut. This is a relatively new structure and was equipped with mobile phone connection points. The toilets were most welcome and used by most the group even if the supply of toilet paper had been exhausted. I knew that I had carried toilet paper for a reason.

Being suitably relieved we prepared to head down the track to Harrietville. Trevor, Alec and Marie-Louise joined Joan, Maria and I. Making sure that Phil would be informed as to who was in the lead party we set off down the mountain. We were facing an altitude drop of around 900m across 9km of track. Maria lead us down with me taking up the rearguard position. We made good progress down the mountain. It was encouraging to get notification of how we were progressing by my Runtastic app at each completed kilometre.

Making our way down to Harrietville: l-r: Marie-Louise, Trevor, Alec, Joan (most obscured by Alec) with Maira in the lead.
About a third of the way down the temperature started to rise and the humidity increased markedly. Both got worse the further down we went. The vegetation also changed. We left the alpine flora behind and moved into tall mountain ash, bracken and other ferns and a variety of different plants. The snow gums disappeared.

The downward track had been hacked out of the mountainside and this probably left many of the trees a little more vulnerable. There was evidence of the destructive power of wind and water with a significant number of fallen trees both above and below the track. In places trees had fall adjacent to the track and the huge root balls lay next to what was left of the track. In some cases the roots had been wrapped around numerous rocks that lay exposed in the tangle of roots of the fallen giants. In some places the track had almost been wiped out by the falling of the trees and care was needed to negotiate the significantly narrowed tracks where this occurred.

One of the many trees that has fallen next to the path and taken a chunk out of the track

In other places toppled trees lay across the track and we had to scramble over them.

Marie-Louise scrambling over a tree which had fallen across the track
As we zigzagged down the mountain we needed to make sure that everyone in the party was adequately hydrated. Alec and Marie-Louise did not have bladders so we needed to make sure that they had regular drink stops. Marie-Louise confessed that she and Alec had not started out with adequate water and they were pleased that Phil had pressed a 1.25l bottle of water on to them.

Part way down Maria Teresa started to be troubled by a sore knee and she and Joan dropped back to the rear of the group so that she could nurse her knee during the remaining descent.

Trevor took up the lead position.

As we descended we started to see the township below us through the trees.

Some of the lush vegetation encountered on the bottom half of the drop down to Harrietville
Even though we continued to drop Harrietville kept appearing to be in the distance until finally we passed a cleared area which contained a number of cabins but still we had not reached our target: the Snowline Hotel in Harrietville. We did reach a sealed road which was being spotted by drops of rain. Alas, that was all the rain that fell.

Almost there: l-r Joan, Maria, Trevor and Marie-Louise
Following Phil's directions to the hotel probably added a kilometre to the walk however it allowed us to check our the offerings of this small townships which included an ice creamery which we visited after we refreshed ourselves.

We had walked 21.3km with climb of at least 605m and an overall drop of 1762m. No wonder our glutes were a little sore the next morning.

Marie, our second guide, met us in the main street of Harrietville and provided us with refreshing cool drinks. Next came showers and a change of clothes. Our clothes were wet with perspiration and were hung up to dry overnight before being packed for the journey back to Melbourne.

Suitably refreshed we made the hot walk, along with quite a few of the other walkers, down the street to the ice creamery to partake of the offered gelato.

Dinner was scheduled for 7 o'clock at the pub and most of us got over there before the appointed hour to grab more cool drinks. We needed to replenish our fluids.

We had been able to check out some of the dinner options as people were served their meals as we waited for everyone in our party to arrive. They certainly looked interesting. I ordered a vegetable curry and Trevor the fish. Around our table we had a variety of selections from the menu and everyone was delighted with the quality of the food and the innovative touches that the chef had used to make the dishes both interesting and tasty.

The quality of the food served throughout the week was excellent. Pubs and county eateries have certainly changed over the decades and offer well prepared dishes that would put many city restaurants to shame.

I was really beat after five big days of walking and could hardly stay awake during my very tasty main course so forewent any thought of desert, no matter how interesting they sounded, and headed off to bed.

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