The Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) goes from Canberra in the ACT to Walhalla in Victoria. Colin did this track with some other equally crazy members of the Victorian Mountain Tramping Club (VMTC) in November/December 2016.
The first part of the AAWT adventure is to finish off the logistics. Susie, the trip leader, and I, have the last two drops to do. This involves a lot of driving, then hiding our buckets of food under logs, far enough into the scrub that they won’t be found. Of course we need to be able to find them, so we take a gps waypoint and a photo as well as a bearing from a nearby landmark.
The first drop was at Dead Horse Gap (near Threadbo). The second at Blue Waterholes which is a couple of days walk south of Canberra.
We camped at Blue Waterholes for the night. There are lots of wild horses in the area. A lot of them came into the camp after dark. They ate all the charcoal out of the fire pit! One of the grey nomads camped near us sat up with them and watched. Apparently she could pat them. They all left just after sunrise.
Right now I’m camped in an air BNB in Canberra waiting for the rest of the crew to fly in. Tomorrow we are off into the wild😵 Don’t know what phone coverage we will get or how I will go with charging the phone from my solar panel so you may not hear from me for a while.
We got away from Canberra bright and early wed. Up up up to start the trip, a 900m climb over Mt tennent followed by gently undulating terrain for the rest of the day. We camped at Honeysuckle creek for the night where the old space tracking station used to be. 17 km all up today. Blue skies and mild breeze, mid 20’s, so the weather couldn’t have been better☺
Overnight was the usual battle with possums in a big Public campground! Jackie woke to find her breakfast missing😕. Three medium climbs today (250m), 18km all up. Camped at Pond Creek Flats. More good weather for the day. Mid 20s and blue skies again.
Off to an early start today 7.00am, to beat the heat. Top of 30 today. An easy stroll past Cotter hut. Then a 500m climb to Murray Gap. Three of us did the 5 km 500m climb side trip to Mt Bimberi. This is the highest peak in ACT. Great 360 deg views. Camping tonight at Oldfield’s hut. Lots of roos!
We have decided that 7.00 am is good time to start walking each day. So we are up with the sun now at 5.30am each day. Bit of a climb out from Oldfield’s hut up to the Cooleman plains. Lots of Brumbies! We met a school group from Canberra grammar. Four times as many people as we have seen from the start. They were taking 8 days to do what we had done in 4.
We camped tonight at our first food drop😎 Blue Water holes. So lots of goodies for dinner. Suzie’s mum and dad met up with us. Her dad Bob is joining us for a couple of days. Most of the afternoon was spent exploring the gorge at Blue Water Holes, which is pretty spectacular. Also great for a swim.
The camp site had lots of other campers. Fortunately for us our neighbour had guitar and could sing quite well, so we went to sleep to a few Paul Kelly songs. The horses were back again in the night. Lots of grubbing around in the fire and licking. I think there was about 20 of them in camp.
Another hot day coming up, 30 deg and late storms. Lots more Brumbies on the plains. We did another side trip to Old Cooleman homestead. Very well preserved. Still has all the old magazines stuck to the wall as wallpaper. Has a fantastic view across the valley. We watched a solo rider attempt to round up some Brumbies. He wasn’t having much luck.
Arrived at Ghost Gully camping area at about 2pm and set up camp just as the storms started.
We are now over the 100km mark 😁
Another fine day. Headed off on a side trip to …. Hut. Track was not well marked so spent an hour looking for it. Forded the Murrambidgi river today. About 10 m wide and knee deep. Camped at …. Hut. Saw lots more horses today.
Another fine day. Walked all morning till we got to Kiandra where we met up with Susie’s mum with our next food drop. She was fantastic, Susie had been texting her with our orders for food and strapping tape etc. She must have spent hours getting it all.
After we loaded up with 8 days food we headed up a big climb to Four Mile hut where we spent the night.
Jackie slept in the hut. Don’t think she got much sleep. The resident mouse spent all night trying to steal her food.
The weather finally broke. Bucketed rain all morning. We did 15km including a 1.5km scrub bash to get to Happys hut before lunch. We spent the rest of the day at the hut while it rained and hailed out side. Jackie and Huw are sleeping in the hut. Will see if there are any hungry residents in the morning.
Passed the 150km mark today 😎
Rain hail and snow overnight. Heavy frost as well. The tent was frozen up inside, so a chilly night. The weather looks good for the next few days.
Met lots of other walkers heading to Canberra. Stopped at Mackie’s hut for lunch, fully furnished great hut.
Lots of river crossings on four wheel drive tracks today. Camped at O’Keefe’s hut for the night, just below Mt Jagungal. Had a big day 25.4km for the day.
Passed the 180km mark today.
Scrub bashed to the top of Mt Jagungal 500m climb took 3 hrs. Great views across to the Main Range and Mt Kosciuzko. See attached photo. Then 15 km stroll to Greymare hut for the night. The hut is next to an old mine so lots of old mining gear around.
Lots of river crossings this morning so wet feet all around.
Passed the 200km mark today. Also quarter of the way in the number of days.
22km all up for the day. 800m climb, 490 descent including 5 km off track across The Rolling Plains.
We are not following the standard Aawt route as it just follows the road through Perisher and Guthega. Much more specy off track. Camped tonight at Consett Stephen Pass which is notorious for bad weather. Blue skies and no wind so far☺ Hope to be in Thredbo day after tomorrow, two days ahead of schedule.
We are averaging over 20km per day. Which is good considering the climbing involved.
Cold night on the pass. The inside of the tent was frozen this morning.
Lots of great views as we climbed Mt Tate, Mt Anderson, Mt Anton, Mt Twynam, Mt Lee. These are all joined by high passes. Quite a bit of snow still around, much slower to traverse as you have to kick in steps all the time. 17 km all up for the day, lots of climbing!
Tonight we are camped at Muller Pass just below Kosciusko ready for the assault on the summit tomorrow. Well the walk up😎. I can remember driving to within 100m of the summit and just walking the last bit as a child.
Tomorrow we are staying at the Thredbo backpackers. Hot showers, and hopefully a cooked dinner (by someone else) With a bit of luck we can use a washing machine. All a bit smelly🙃
Woke up to blue skies and 80km winds. Had to be careful packing up the tent so it wasn’t blown away 😉
Climbed to the summit of Kosciusko. Fantastic views. We could see across to Mt Bogong in Victoria on the horizon, still has snow on it.. Will be a couple of weeks before we get there!
Strolled down the 4km to the Thredbo chair lift. Had to cross a lot of big snow drifts on the way. Caught the chair lift down and went to the Thredbo bakery for lunch 😋. Lots of the locals were interested in our trip. We convinced one of them to drive us to Dead Horse Gap and back to pick up our food drop.
Staying in the Thredbo YHA for the night. Showers, washing machines, beds😀
Left the comfort of Thredbo behind and headed off into the Pilot Wilderness. We are heading to the source of the Murray river and the start of the Black- Allan line. This is the straight part of the Vic/ Nsw border, the other end of it is near Gabo island. It will take us a couple of days. I don’t expect much phone coverage on this area. Tonight we camped at Cascade hut. Really pretty campsite and historic hut.
Today we followed the 4×4 track along to Tin Mine on the way to the Pilot. We did a side trip to a view point for Tin Mine Falls. Took an hour longer than expected as there is a lot of regrowth in the area so lots of scrub bashing. Camped at Tin Mine Hut for the night.
Met a couple at the hut out for a few days on their honeymoon. They were on three horses, one horse carrying the supplies and bed roll.
Finally into Vic. Camped at Cowombat Flat. Great sunset. Lots of horses.
Passed the 300 km mark today ☺
Great campsite at Lime stone creek. Lots of fish. Hugh put on a fireworks display with his stove tonight. Don’t think he screwed the stove onto the canister properly. Lots of flames out from the top of the gas canister. We all ran for it and waited well back till the flames went out. The stove still appears ok! Will test it for leaks tonight under water.
Three huge climbs today. Mostly on Aawt, no 4×4 tracks. Long descent after lunch to the campsite at Buckwong Creek. Met two guys and their sons at the campsite. The sons are doing the aawt the opposite direction to us. They finished their HSC exams and headed off to start the walk the day after. The dads were the support crew. They would meet up every 4 or 5 days. So light packs and younger legs than us so much faster.
Easy day for us, only 21 km. Most of it down hill and on good track. We set up camp by 2.00pm. Went as far as we could before the big climb tomorrow over Johhnys Top 800m climb, 900m descent. Then on to the next food drop at Benambra-Corryong road.
The long climb over Johhnys Top and down to our next food drop took from 7am till 5.30pm. I’m told the stats for the day were 900m climb, 1000m down, 25km all up. A long day for us all.
Pigged out last night with the food drop. The bottle of pears in my drop says it serves 5, it lasted me about 2 minutes for the whole bottle😋 Ian’s food drop was auctioned off between the piggies. He was coming on the trip but had to pull out at the last minute. So bonus chocolate and other goodies all round.
This morning was a long climb followed by an easy road bash to the campsite at Four Mile creek. In camp by 2.30, so nana nap this afternoon.
Half way, in number of days today😁
Over half way in km as well, 385km so far😵
Also crossed the Mitta Mitta river which is the lowest point on the whole trip.
We had a visit from an 80cm Highland Copperhead snake during dinner last night. It did a lap of the tents then headed off into the scrub again. Quite beautiful (and poisonous).
Big climb first up this morning 800m. Getting to be the norm for each day. The climbs get bigger as we go further south into Victoria.
Each night we have a chux wash in the creek and wash and dry our clothes to try and keep the smell under control. Within an hour of starting each morning they are saturated in sweat, so limited results😒
All up 17 km for the day, total of 1200m climb.
Passed the 400km mark today😊
Camped at Glen Wills Historic Area. Was an old gold mining town. No water so we had to walk about a km along the Omeo highway to find a creek.
A steady climb in the morning got us to Mt Wills and the hut at the top by lunch time. The weather forecast was for 100km winds in the afternoon and snow overnight so we stayed in the hut. Lots of thunder, lightning and rain all afternoon. The winds were shaking the hut. Good call to wait it out in the hut. Met A.J. In the hut, he was heading north so he had to endure all our stories for the afternoon😄
Woke up to light snow and sunshine. Another great day. Climbed ‘Long Spur’ up to Cleve Cole hut, where we set up Camp. Then headed off to bag our third summit for the trip. Mt Bogong, the highest peak in Victoria.
Just another 1200m of climbing for the day.
We are off to Ropers hut tomorrow to meet up with Pauline and a bunch of other VMTC members. Looking forward to seeing Pauline and some different food😋
Big decent down to the unimaginatively named Big River. Followed by an equally big climb back up to Ropers hut. We are getting better at the climbing. Arrived before lunch😁. We all had time to have a Chux Super wash in the creek and do some washing before the VMTC (our walking club) arrived.
Glad to see Pauline again after 27 days. The longest we have been apart😕. The crew had bought in lots of yummy food which was appreciated by us all😋. We all sat around telling stories well into the night, well 8.30 when the sun went down and it got too cold. Ian deserves a special mention as he bought in salads!
Our team has shrunk by one today. Hugh is leaving us for a tour of tassie in the car. Gone soft on us 😎. We are sad to see him leave. He is always positive and has an endless supply of funny and informative stories.
We had a late start at 8.00 this morning. Headed out across the High Plains past Falls Creek to our Camp at Cope Hut. All up 19 km for the day.
We are now at 462.4km.
Off to the next food drop at Hotham tomorrow and a counter lunch at “The General” at Hotham😋
Had a windy night at Cope Saddle Hut. Off to the usual 7.00am start. An easy walk across the high plains past Mt Jim then down to Dibbins hut and back up via Derrick hut to Mt Hotham. Didn’t see any horses, and only one pile of phoo. I guess they are managing them better in Vic. I think it was 19km and about 600m climb for the day. We were at Lock car park by 1.00pm, which is just as well because Susie’s uncle was there with a 5 seater van. He and his wife are doing the 7 peaks bike challenge. All a stroke of luck for us as we got a lift down to The General, the pub at Hotham where our food drop was. So after a counter lunch we decided to stay the night in an apartment. The girls wanted to have their second hot shower in 4 weeks and wash some clothes.
The food was great, even if it was only pizza. Someone else cooked it, and it wasn’t dehydrated😵.
We saw our first TV in 4 weeks (only foxtel), underwhelming is the nicest I could describe it. No wonder we only record abc and sbs at home😒 Why anyone would pay for TV with ads is beyond me!
The apartment also has a mirror, we have all lost a lot off weight!
Tomorrow we leave the last post of civilization (Hotham) till the end at Walhalla. Off into to the dry Barry mountains, so not much water for a couple of days. Should get reception via Hotham, Bulla and Baw Baw.
We left the comfort of Hotham with mixed feelings. No more showers, flushing toilet, washing machine, padded couch with a back on it. No more Wi-Fi and power points to charge from😩 .
This was the most dangerous part of the entire trip. The trudge on bitumen for 7 km down the Great Alpine Road. Chances of being run down were higher than all the other stuff we had done!
After a successful traverse of the bitumen we left the cars behind at Mt St Bernard and headed west past The Twins and on to our Camp near Mt Murray. Spectacular views all the way along here. As Hugh says – if we look back we can see the horizon where we have come from, if we look forward to the horizon we can see where we are going. This is more obvious along this piece of track than ever as we can now see All of our objectives – The Viking, The Razor, Mt Speculation, The Crosscut saw, Mt Howitt. We can also see on the southern horizon Mt Baw Baw and Mt Erica, which is just above the end of our trip at Walhalla😀
We have now been walking for four weeks, two to go☺
21km all up for the day. Plus a 1.5 km round trip with 250m climb to get water at the campsite.
Had up to 90km winds all night with some rain. The radar looks like it will pass in an hour or so. And just as Susie ordered, the rain cleared at 7.00am.
Long day across the Barry Mountains. Mt Selwyn had good views otherwise in the trees most of the day. Lots of climbs, about 1000m all up and 19.5km for the day. Camped near the new Barry Saddle water tank.
Tomorrow we climb the Viking then the Razor which we have had glimpses of for the past two days. The Viking is one of my favourite mountains 😁
Today we climbed the Viking. For those that are not familiar with it, the mountain has two peaks and looks like a Viking helmet from a distance. Always fantastic views from the top.
The descent to the campsite at Viking saddle is always interesting, it goes through a chimney in the cliff face. You have to take packs off and scramble down the chimney.
All up for the day 15.3km, 1350m climb.
Overall we are now at 530km and have climbed over 20,400m. For comparison Everest is only about 8200m above sea level.
The attached photo is The Razor taken from the Viking.
Tomorrow night we are meeting Darryl (Jackie’s partner) at Camp Creek which is just below Mt Speculation. He has all sorts of goodies for us😜
Not much water at Viking Saddle. We had to go right down to the water fall where there was still a small flow and three or four small pools.
Off to the usual 7.00am start. The track across from the saddle to the Razor used to be a pleasant stroll through tall forest. It has all been burnt out and the dead trees are now falling. The track is a maelstrom of fallen logs and regrowth, so slow going.
The Razor and Mt Despair tracks are about the same so we made better progress. Arrived at Camp Creek just after lunch. We have the afternoon off😵 Awaiting for Darryl to arrive with the goodies😋 I hear a car engine… Have to go😜
Big Thanx to Darryl and Jackie who feed us lots of spuds, steamed veggies and steak for dinner last night😋 Especially Darryl, who did a lot of shopping for food and gloves etc.
Susie ordered some rain overnight which cleared before we left this morning. However, she forgot to order lifting the cloud 😒 so no views from Mt Speculation, just white out 😥. By the time we got to Mt Buggery the cloud had started to lift. The rest of the day across the Crosscut Saw and Mt Howitt was Pan-O-Ramic. Lots of photos! This stretch of mountains are some of the best views in Australia!
Our plan of starting at Canberra where the hills are smaller and building up our fitness as we head south has paid off. We climbed the Infamous Mt Buggery (250m climb) in 20 mins, it’s just another bump to us now.
It’s interesting to see the difference between a week long walk and four weeks. Things that don’t matter after a week really start to kick in when the trip is longer. We have all lost a lot of weight, including some muscle mass. We all now eat a lot more than we did at the start to try and keep up the carbs required each day. Looking forward to raiding Ian’s food drop in a couple of days😁 Thanks Ian, we will reimburse you for the goodies😋
Camped at the saddle between Big Hill and Mt Magdala tonight. Great campsite, good water at nearby spring.
Photos are Darryl preparing dinner (yes we are food obsessed now) and looking towards the Razor and Viking from about half way across the Crosscut Saw.
Ps Darryl had folding Camp chairs with him. It’s luxury to sit in a chair with a back on it😎
Well the weather was forecast as sunny today, we woke up to a dusting of snow😜. Happily it cleared by about 7.30am to a mostly sunny day.
We had about 10 other campers with us last night. Guess it’s because it’s the weekend. We haven’t seen anyone doing the Aawt the other way since Ropers hut.
Todays entertainment was Mt Magdala, King Billy 1 & 2, Mt Clear, Square Top, with our Camp just past High Cone. It’s water is not reliable so we carried water over Mt Clear and Square Top. Did I mention how much i hate carrying water😒 Susie has gone off to check out the water source, it’s nice to have but not vital.
Another sunny day😎. Followed the ridge from High Cone across to Mt Macdonald. Great 360 deg views. Ate the last of our food for lunch. It’s mostly downhill from here to our food drop (750m descent). Pig out tonight.😋
Done about 580km so far!
Susie must have bumped the controls on her weather machine last night. We woke to thunder storms. Lucky for us the rain didn’t start till after we packed up😀.
Climbed over Mt Sunday, Mt Mckinty and on to Rumpf saddle which is just below Mt Skene. 17km all up for the day. The rain cleared by the time we got to Mt Sunday so it turned out a pleasant day after all. Forecast looks ok all the way to next Tue when we finish😎.
Not going to be many panoramas from here on. The book says that Mt Macdonald which we crossed yesterday is the last mountain without trees on top😒.
Day 33 pt 2
We arrived at our food drop at Low Saddle and opened all the goodies. Susie and I pigged out while Jackie got her stuff organized. Then to everyone’s surprise Darryl arrived with some tape for Jackie that was missing in the drop at Camp creek. We ate all his fresh fruit and dumped our rubbish in the car. He picked up the empty bins and headed back to Melb. Long trip!
We passed the. 600km mark today 😊.
The day started out with thunder and lots of cloud. We managed to pack up before the rain started. Another big climb over Mt Sunday, Mt Mckintey and on to the camp at Rumpf saddle which is just below Mt Skene.
Got woken up at about 2.30 am by log trucks. I assume they are getting an early start.
Cold morning, with lots of cloud around. Forecast was for a sunny day. We climbed up near to Mt Skene, then followed the main road for a while before branching off to Mt Shillinglaw. Then descended to camp at Black River. Finally a river big enough to have a wash in😁 and wash our clothes☺
Less than 100km to go😵
Left Black River Camp and crossed the river twice on log bridges. Then a huge climb to Mt Singleton. Saw two Copperheads on the climb. Bit of a road bash from then on to our Camp at Fiddlers Green.
Susie tells us there are no more climbs over 900m between us and the finish. Which of course means there is at least one that is just under 900m to go. Big day tomorrow, 24.4km and 840m climb. Should be fun😒
Not many sleeps to go till the end😜
Turned out to be a hot day😒. Did a bit of a road bash till we got to the Thompson dam catchment. Then dropped down to Red Jacket. The old town was burnt out in the 39 fires so no buildings to see. The cemetery has been restored. I took photos of the three remaining headstones for Lee.
Wandered along to Blue Jacket site. Only a camp site and some historic markers left. Then the mother of all climbs, up the Casper Creek track and over Mt Easton. Followed by a big descent to the Thompson River. I just dumped my pack and walked straight in for a swim☺
We are now at 660km. Looking forward to our next food drop tomorrow at Stronarchs Camp. Hopefully Darryl will have some extra goodies for us. We are all very food focused at the moment.
Started the day with a ford of the Thomson river. Did a couple of kilometers up the road, then a long climb up Trig track. The Aawt then leaves the track on a footpad. This would have been nice if it wasn’t next to a logging coup. The loggers had left a lot of fallen timber over the track. So lots of climbing under and over. We eventually arrived at Stronachs camp where we camped for the night. Darryl arrived about 3.00pm with the food drops😎.
Susie had a home made vegan Xmas pudding in her food drop. She cooked it up with vegan custard. It was delicious😋. We had it a day early so she didn’t have to carry it😵
Merry Xmas 🎅 everyone.
Only two more sleeps to go (and 45 km).
So for Xmas day we traversed the Baw-Baw plateau. It was mid twenties with a bit of a breeze. Really pretty country, lots of snow gums. Met a solo walker going to Thredbo, she was giving herself four weeks to get there. Her husband who can’t hike any more was the support crew. He was driving in along the way where he could to meet her😄.
We camped at the old Talbot hut site just below Mt Erica. Most of tomorrow is down, about 1100m down. We will pass 700 km tomorrow morning😁
The discussion over dinner tonight was about how things will be when we return to civilization. Will we still get up at 5.30am and start walking by 7.00am😵
The weather was predicted to rain later in the day so we were off to our usual 7.00am start. Long gradual descent down Mt Erica to the campsite at the Tyres River. Went for a swim/wash in the river, then napped the afternoon away till the rains came. We actually saw a Ranger for the first time on the trip. He wanted to know if we were “moving on”. Apparently you aren’t allowed to camp in this spot unless your doing the AAWT, and only for one night.
Bucketed rain most of the night but cleared before we had to pack up 😊. For the final day we wandered along the track down to the Old Steel Bridge, then on to Walhalla. We met Susie’s parents along the way. They had walked out to meet us. Lots of photos at the finish. We also met up with Hugh and Pauline who had a picnic of fruit and ice cream waiting for us😊. Pig out again!
The General Store in Walhalla issued us all certificates and a real “Alps Walking Track” metal sign for completing the walk! I will have to get it framed 😊
We all had a final lunch together in the Walhalla Pub before heading off home. Another pig out!
Total length including side trips – 720km
Total climb – 29,580m ( that’s 3.5 times from the ocean to the top of Mt Everest)
Total descend – 30,820m
We all lost a lot of weight during the trip, despite eating everything in sight I lost 7kg.
A huge thanks to Susie for organizing and leading the trip, and to my fellow walkers Jackie, Hugh and Bob for being such wonderful companions. I would also like to thank Ian for allowing us to scrounge food from his drops.
It will take a while to settle back into “normal” life again. I have to mow the lawn today and there is lots to do in the garden. I also have to sort out the 1200 photos I have. The book I ordered before I left about hiking the Te-Araroa trail in NZ (3000km) has arrived, looks like a great trip, maybe at the end of 2017 after Pauline finishes her contract???
Until next time Coln….