I should start off with an ‘incoming multiple monstrous post’ disclaimer regarding my latest three day walk. Well, that was easy, but while I’m at it I should also apologise for the longish title. I wanted to add more, but there’s only so much that should be crammed into a post title. As you already know, this blogging business is way trickier than anything James Joyce had to put up with.
Now, the year is well and truly under way and I’m mildly panicking about my fitness level for my upcoming longer hikes. Feeling like the Michelin Man is not ideal, so what should I do? It’s a simple answer really and that’s to regularly destroy myself walking, which will hopefully trade off with some benefits within a few weeks.
I planned this hike in an ‘off the cuff’ style by picking up the ‘Bogong Alpine Area’ map and looking for something to do that would be a circuit and three days in total. After about 0.3 seconds I selected a ‘fiasco special’ which had two days of mild walking and one day of horror. I do like to mix up walks that way and go from nice strolling, to wishing for an early death to put me out of extreme hiking pain.
I decided it was best to share this hike, so I recruited Smuffin and Anon who doesn’t exist, but has previously not appeared on the Grampians walk. Ben was meant to come, but due to Facebook commitments elected to stay home and polish his pants on the leather couch.
Anyway, the personnel were ready to go and it was a matter of working out the finer details such as how the hike was going to work. Mt Feathertop was the ultimate aim and by far the simplest way is to park the car at Diamantina Hut and sprint across the Razorback Spur, head up to the summit and then zip back within a day. There’s only a few mild undulations to slow you down as the walk begins at height to start off with.
I wanted to get to Mt Feathertop an uglier way though, so I picked out the Diamantina Spur. A couple of words caught my eye on the map and they seemed right up my alley. ‘Steep track’. I wonder what that would be like? Surely it would hurt a little?
Starting off, we’d walk from Mt Loch to Dibbin Hut where we’d spend the night. In order to do that, we’d park at Mt Loch carpark and follow Machinery Spur. Have a moment of staring at the surrounding hills from Mt Loch and the continue onto Swindlers Spur. Passing Derrick Hut and finally finishing at Dibbin Hut. Nice and easy hey?
Day two was to head north up the track which leads to the West Kiewa Logging Road, passing Blair Hut on the way. Then the fun and games would commence as the climb up the Diamantina Spur began. If we had no deaths on the ascent, we’d stay at the surrounds of Federation Hut for the night.
Day three was a quick trip up to Mt Feathertop and then homeward bound on the Razorback Spur back to the car. How easy is that? Well, they’re all good theories, but it was never going to be that simple!
It was clear and sunny, but thankfully not hot as we parked the car at Mt Loch car park. I’ve been having a complete shoe dilemma lately. I’ve always worn a pair of leather boots on my longer hikes, but it’s struck me lately as being a bit of overkill. Full leather and Gore-Tex make for a heavy boot. How heavy you say? How about 918 grams per boot! No wonder my legs get tired at the end of a days walking. I’ve played around with lightweight trail shoes and just can’t seem to get the comfort I’d like, which was no exception on this walk. Well, drive actually, as I hopped out the car ready to go hiking and found I already had aching feet due to the lightweight shoes I was wearing. Mm… this wasn’t the best start, so I elected to drag out a familiar pair of Kathmandu Tonalli shoes and go with them. I’ll return to this shoe business later in the trip.
You know what else? I left my mobile phone in the car as I wanted to clear my brain of the constant communication option. I do live on the edge sometimes. Anyway, we were off and racing on a nice smooth track with Mt Loch being our first objective of the day.
Smuffin came up with the goods early with a unique find. It’s not every day a wheel is found in an alpine area and after a bit of an examination I decided it was dated circa 2011.
During planning I’d looked at the map and wondered if there was any sort of effort required to get to Mt Loch. Rest assured it’s extremely minimal and the turn off to the summit was reached pretty quickly. I dumped my pack for the final walk up to the top whilst accompanied with Anon. Smuffin bailed out as he suddenly realised his pack was wet and whilst he went on a fact finding mission with the suspect being a ruptured bladder (hydration bladder, not his) we took off. Actually we concluded he was ‘peak bagging’. We went to the peak whilst he minded the bags.
Before I do any more walking though, let’s have a look at some of the landscape in this area. I was weeping due to polarizer abuse and surely there isn’t a more magnificent invention? I guess underpants comes close, but I still think the polarizer is marginally in front.
I’m feeling a little light-headed, but I can continue. The sight of fields of wild flowers is also another reason to get up into the high country during summer.
I loved the unobstructed horizon with the sky and clouds beyond. Excuse me whilst I wipe the tears from my eyes.
Mt Loch was now within easy striking distance.
We headed up the quiet track with a substantial rock cairn on the summit being our target.
Do you want proof the walk to Mt Loch is not exactly a frightening ascent? Well, when we reached the top I was greeted by some bloke who had arrived a short time before. On a bicycle. Yes, he summited on a bike. Oh well, it was a nice view from the top although a little breezy, so I wasn’t going to stay too long.
I had a bit of a conversation with the ‘bike bloke’ and all he did was leave me feeling confused. He came out with stuff like, “I was told I really should climb the fort”. What? Where’s that? Is Mt Loch called the ‘fort’? I just nodded my head in approval whilst thinking, “What’s he banging on about?”
As ‘Bike bloke’ pedalled away from the summit, I had my first drama of the day. Whilst taking photos I strolled down and suddenly realised I’d lost my hat. I’m not sure why I didn’t realise it was missing from my head, but if you’ve come here for logic then this is the wrong place. So, like a wildman I resummitted and luckily found it wedged up against a small bush instead of being blown off the mountain. Whew.
We rejoined Smuffin who had corrected his bladder with the hope his pack wasn’t too wet. Well, hopefully the sleeping bag at least as it happened to be one of mine. It was time to head off and the walk continued on a fairly level ground as we made our way to the next item of interest being Derrick Hut. There were plenty of opportunities to check out the Snow gums on the way and they’re definitely one of my favourite trees.
Derrick Hut was reached in good time and for the life of me I can’t find a photo of it. I guess I was distracted upon arrival by some bloke coming out the hut with a saw in his hand. I’m not sure what was going on there, but the best I could do was take a detail shot of the exterior.
I was going to have a look around, but with ‘saw man’ on the prowl we decided to keep moving. The walking was still remarkably easy and for a first I don’t think I was even sweating.
The other two had sprinted off ahead and I was left walking on my own which was quite enjoyable. There’s a section of forest in which the path closes in, but it was easy to follow and of course, still great to look at.
The level walking continued, so we’d covered ground pretty quickly and it was no time at all before we were almost on top of Dibbin Hut. There’s a fairly steep descent into the valley in which the hut is situated, but that did make for a few more million photos.
The descent, although steep, wasn’t tricky due to it being dry and we reached a lovely valley of long grass. There were a couple of other blokes already set up in a clearing, so we elected to camp closer to the hut itself.
Talk about an easy walk. That had to be one of the most comfortable days of hiking I’ve had in a long time, but it was still good value. We set up the tents and relaxed as the sun got low in the sky and the air began to get cool. The camp is at 1300 metres, so the nights are still cool even in summer.
Whilst setting up I had to admire how Smuffin is bringing style back into hiking. It’s not every day you see a pair of Aviator sunglasses and a $3 ‘Las Vegas’ emblazoned hip flask filled with Chivas Regal. I’m not sure what the hip flask was made out of though, but I suspected cardboard as it spent the entire day oozing Scotch which left Smuffin smelling like an old wino. As a result he went for the, “It’s leaking so much, I’d better drink it all now” approach.
Now, things were going lovely until a minor grievance started at about 8.30 pm when we heard voices coming down the track nearby. Yep, a group of six blokes were arriving late in the day and where do you think they’d set up? Well, about 20 feet from us of course. Has there ever been a group arriving late in the day somewhere who are not a complete pain in the arse? Don’t think too hard as there hasn’t been.
These blokes were friendly enough, but they had one extremely annoying trait and that is they TALKED REALLY, REALLY LOUD. For the life of me I don’t understand why some people have to yell at each other in normal speech. Do they really think they’re so incredibly special they believe the whole world has to hear what they’re talking about? What’s worse is the shouting was the most boring crap I’ve ever heard. Example: “I LOVE TABASCO, BUT MOTHER HAD TAKEN IT AND I SAID, MOTHER WHERE’S THE TABASCO?”
You know what? I’m not even joking, that’s actually what they were shouting about. It got even weirder after they’d set up for the night and one walked to the comfort station wearing pyjamas. Again, I’m not making this up. I last wore pyjamas in March 1983, so I just don’t get the allure of pants in the bed, not to mention jim jams whilst out hiking.
Even though we’d gone to bed, the ‘talking’ continued until it was too much for Smuffin who read the riot act. Following this, things were a little quieter. Well, talking wise, but I’d fallen asleep and I snore like a Yeti with a stubbed toe, so there was that to contend with as well.
How far was the walk? In all, only 10.29 km travelled with the total elevation climbed of 231 metres. Now that’s casual. Finishing up this day of leisure are a couple of photos. One is of a memorial, which we’d passed earlier in the day for Charles Derrick who one of the huts is named after.
The last shows our destination for day two. Mt Feathertop with Diamantina Spur in the foreground. You just know the next post will be a beauty when I mention the walk officially became ‘difficult’, not to mention an ongoing ‘lost prescription glasses’ fiasco involving an annoying hermit who refused to leave us alone…