This was a Dec 1975 to Jan 1976 National Parks Association (NPA) of NSW walk from Walhalla, near Moe, Victoria to Harrietville via Mt Feathertop along the then new Alpine Walking Trail (Vic) which ultimately became the Australian Alps Walking Trail (AAWT). It was led by Ted Wishart and was the first long distance walk I ever did. It was hot, it was hard but life changing. Carrying initially 41 lbs in an old style H frame pack was tough especially over those vertical Victorian fire trails. Interesting to see our clothes, haircuts, tents & equipment. Oh how things have changed! We got lost a few times as the trail was poorly marked & we relied mostly on Forest Commission of Vic maps. While the official trip ended on 4th January, several of us went on to Mt Buffalo, meaning I did not finish until 10th Jan
Featured image is a Cairn on top of the Viking. The Razor is in the background
We started by assembling at Walhalla an old Gold Mining town inland from Moe. I think we caught the train from Sydney to Melbourne, then train or bus to Moe and then taxis to Walhalla. This was 20th Dec 1975. That night we camped on a grassy area near the old hotel.
The Team was led by Ted Wishart a CSIRO employee from Sydney. Others were Diana Schneider and her friend John Morgan, Paul McCann, Simon Cripps-Clark, Lloyd Jones from Boambee (near Coffs Harbour), Peter Draper young rice farmer from Leeton, Karen Heyman, John Broadbent and ornithologist, Christine & Karl, & me Greg Hutchison.
1. Day 1 – 21st Dec we Walked from Walhalla to the Erica Car Park on Baw Baw
Initially we crossed the Thompson River at an old steel bridge. At this date it had no decking which made it quite hard to cross carrying a heavy pack. It was possible to wade the river. Then there was a long hard 3000 ft (ie about 1000m) climb up to Erica via the East Tylers Road.
2. Day 2 – 22nd Dec we walked from Erica Car Park to Whitelaw Camp
We had good walking climbing 700ft in 2 hrs. Then it was from Mt Erica (4950ft, 1509m) to Mt St Phillack (5200 ft 1567m) which was undulating and took around 2.5 hrs. We then walked from Mt St Phillack to the Whitelaw Camp in 1.5 hrs which was mainly following cairns. Water was available at Mt Erica, Mt St Phillack & Baw Baw junction and Whitelaw Camp.
3. Day 3 – 23rd Dec we walked from Whitelaw Camp to Upper Thompson River
Initially it was all downhill to Stronach Camp taking 2.5 hrs. Then we had to walk to Suckling Rd which took 2hrs along a gravel road. There was water at huts along Suckling Rd. Then we went down a very steep road to Whitelaw Hut on the Upper Thompson River.
4. Day 4 – 24th Dec. Upper Thompson River to Red Jacket
We crossed the River and climbed a ridge to Mt Easton. Then it was down a ridge to the Jordan valley. The valley was covered in blackberries. That night we camped at Red Jacket about 3.30PM
5. Day 5 – 25th Dec Red Jacket to Black River
We climbed up from Red Jacket along the road to Roberts on the Matlock – Aberfeldy Rd. We apparently did it incorrectly and should have gone up an overgrown track along Victor Spur to Mt Victor. There was a long haul along the road to Mt Singleton dugout where there was water. We had an early dinner at the dugout (Note it was Christmas day) and then headed down to the Black River arriving around 8.30PM. It was a bad camping spot as the river banks were overgrown.
Day 6 – 26th Dec. Black River to Mt Skene
We left early at 0800 for Mt Shillinglaw. Climbing from the Black River we found there was no water at the Mt Shillinglaw dugout. The track up had been difficult and hard to follow.
Then we had a long hard climb to Mt Skene fire tower where there was water and we were able to enjoy a shower. It was a good camping spot with great views.
Day 7 – 27th Dec Mt Skene to The Low Saddle
On this day we met Christine & Karl. We continued and climbed along the Divide to Mt McKinty for lunch. We then continued to Mt Sunday and then went down to the “The Low saddle” for our overnight spot.
Day 8 – 28th Dec The Low Saddle to Mt Clear
We climbed along the ridge then went to Mt McDonald (1626m) and then Mt Clear (5600ft). The group ended up scattered along a road near out food depot. It rained overnight
Day 9 – 29th Dec Mt Clear to Lovick’s Hut
It rained all day. We picked up our food and proceeded to Lovick’s Hut which is an old cattlemen’s hut in the mountains. We had to leave the AWT slightly to visit the hut which was west of King Billy No1. Other walkers & pack saddlers were in the hut when we arrived but luckily they left leaving us the hut for the rest of the day & night
Day 10 – 30th Dec Lovick’s Hut to Mt Speculation
It was cloudy but no rain. We continued and climbed Mt Magdala (5600ft, 1725m) and then Mt Howitt (5700ft, 1742m) for lunch. The Howqua Feeder track joined the AWT near here. We then crossed the Cross-Cut Saw & Mt Buggery (1606m). We then climbed Mt Speculation (5600ft, 1666m) in mist where we spent to night. It was misty all night and again in the morning. It was cold that night so we had a blazing fire.
Day 11 – 31st Dec Mt Speculation to Barry Saddle
Karen left us at a dugout at the bottom of Mt Despair (1464m) getting a lift with Mike & John Kettlewell to Melbourne. We proceeded along the bottom of the Saw-Tooth Razor (1404m) to the Viking Saddle for lunch.
Karl, Christine & John Broadbent left early to reach the Hotham Rd. We then climbed The Viking (1508m) and then down to the Barry Saddle. We had no water so half the part went down to the West Buffalo River to fetch some water
Day 12 – Thu 1st Jan 1976 Barry Saddle to Mt Selwyn
During this day our leader Ted had heart trouble symptoms. Simon ran to Katherine homestead down on the Buffalo River and obtained help from some fishermen in land rovers. The remaining 7 continued on. We had dinner early then continued to 8PM about 1mile south of Mt Selwyn.
We were in the Barry Mountains and apparently it had a reputation of being dry and thus water was hard to find.
Day 13 – Fri 2nd Jan Mt Selwyn to The Twins
In the morning we climbed Mt Selwyn (1424m) which gave us great views with some logging visible in the west. We continued along some cattle pads rather than a road until we had lunch. We then climbed to the Mt Murray track. There was water 1km down that track. We then continued on to The Twins (1703m). We found water 1km along a jeep track near here. The best camping here was at north side of the Twins.
Mt Selwyn to the Twins was 8 hrs walking
Day 14 – Sat 3rd Jan The Twins to Feathertop
It took us 1hr to walk from the Twins to the Mt St Bernard junction with the Hotham-Omeo Rd. We then walked up the main road to Diamantina Hut (I am unsure if the hut was there in 1976?) turnoff which was 7km and took us 1.5 hr. We had no water so we left out packs near the junction and walked to Hotham Village to where we had lunch and a beer. We returned to our packs and then took the Razorback Track on to the MUMC Hut near Mt Feathertop. (Altitude of 1600m on the North West Spur of Mt. Feathertop) This took us some 3.5 hrs to Feathertop plus 1 more hr to the hut. It is a geosodic Hut in excellent condition, great views and with water. I remember it was exceptionally hot
Day 15 – Sun 4th Jan MUMC to Harrietville
It took us 1.25 hrs to back track to Mt Feathertop. We had lunch at Federation Hut but there was no water. From Federation Hut it took us 2 hrs to reach Harrietville along the Bungalow Spur Track
Great site on Feathertop & the area & its history.
There was water at lower levels
We camped at the camping ground on west Ovens and had dinner at the general store. The weather was hot, with fire bans and stormy weather. Melbourne had its hottest day 40.6C since 1968.
Day 16 – Mon 5th Jan. Harrietville on Mt Buffalo
We all took a taxi bus (car) from Lang’s of Bright 25Km to Bright $6.50 for 7 of us.
Simon & I then hitched a lift to Porepunkah then to the Buckland Bridge, and walked up Goldie’s Spur to Green Hill, The Rock. Then we bush bashed to the edge of the Buffalo Plateau and camped amongst the rocks. We found water in cracks and pools. There was heavy drenching rain overnight but we stayed dry. It cleared in the morning but we had a late start.
Day 17 – Tue 7th Jan Mt Buffalo
We found “The Back Wall” track quickly and followed it to Tatra Inn which I don’t think is there any more and is called Cresta Valley Area. We then hitched to Lake Catani and walked a track to The Chalet, 2Km. We then walked back to Lake Catani via the Monolith Track. We had a cold dry night.
Day 18 – Wed 8th Jan Mt Buffalo
Paul McCann found us at breakfast. He had walked from Myrtleford. Simon & I walked up river to Mt Dunn Reservoir, then to Og Gog Magog (1480m) for views. I walked back then to the Chalet via the lake walk. There was some drizzle early.
Day 19 – Thu 9th Jan Home Trip for Some
We left at 0730. Walked to the Chalet then to Mackey’s Lookout. The after walking 3Km along the road got a lift for about 8Km, then had to walk the last 6Km to Porepunkah.
Then at 2.30PM we got a bus ($2.80) to Wangaratta. Simon was able to get a seat on the Spirit of Progress to Sydney that night. I had to take 7.28PM train to Melbourne $16.20. I arrived at 8.15PM and booked a daylight seat to Sydney for the next day $20. I then stayed at the Spencer Hotel, $6.50.
Day 20 – Fri 10th Jan Melbourne to Sydney
At 8.40AM the train left the old Spencer Street Station. It rained from Cootamundra. Arrived at Sydney 9.25PM. I had been sick on the train after the efforts of the walk and the change of food. I still had some buffalo wog.
I can’t remember when Paul got home. I think he spent another day or two at Mt Buffalo.
I don’t think I saw Simon again, but I had some adventures with Dianne, John and Paul in the future.
Things I remember of this trip
Lloyd Jones was a real nice character. He used to wander along playing his flue or mouth organ and sing to the tune of the Old Bark Hut. He knew all the words and wrote them out for me. He had his own muesli & granola recipes and also wrote them down. It open my eyes to new ways to create an interesting cereal. Now I do something similar bit I have add quinoa and chia etc in the modern era
John Broadbent was also interesting. As an ornithologist from the Aust Museum he keenly identified numerous birds from their sound and tweets and listed them down against several grid squares we travelled through. Apparently there was an Aust wide project to identify as many as possible of bird species in geo grids several.
Peter was rice farmer from near Leeton. Ne could read the weather sometimes from the cloud formations and he correctly predicted rain as we approached Lovick’s Hut.
I also remember the Victorian 4WD tracks we seemed to use relentlessly. Especially south of Mt Skene we seemed to go down 3000ft after breakfast, then up 3000 ft before lunch, then more climbing in the arvo. And they didn’t do zig zags like in NSW, they went straight up and straight down. I remember the constant 20 paces up, stop for a breather, then continue, ad infinitum!
Google Photos – Note sorry for scratches & marks. Scanned from color negatives using a Wolverine F2D-Mighty in April 2017
In later years I went back with the Melb Bushwalkers in 1977 and did several sections I had already done, and in 1978 I walked solo from Healesville, joined the AWT at Mt Skene and walked right through to Tom Goggin where it finished at that time, although I took a 2 day break and went into Bright. And in 2012/13 I walked from Guthega Power Station to Tharwa (ACT) in 2 tranches with guys from the Southern Highlands of NSW. I have also walked a section near the Pilot and Cowombat and walked bits of the Tabletop, GreyMare and Valentine trails in Kosciuszko over the years.