2 DAYS, 21km
Although it is not Victoria’s highest mountain (it comes in at No.2, 64m short of Mount Bogong), Mount Feathertop is probably the most elegant summit in the high country. It can be reached on an excellent walk that can serve as a perfect introduction to multi-day hiking: the walking is challenging but not impossible, the scenery is outstanding and camping is outside Federation Hut, which provides some of the comforts of home (assuming you live in a rustic shed in the middle of a great alpine wilderness).
Day 1: Mount Hotham to Federation Hut (13km, 5 hours)
The track starts opposite the A-framed Diamantina Hut on the Great Alpine Road a couple of kilometers west of Mount Hotham ski village. Fill out the trip intentions book and follow the clear track north along the ridge of the Razorback towards Mount Feathertop, which rises in the distance. Most of the day’s walking is exposed so if the weather is bad it is best to reschedule.
The path climbs to a knoll at the top of Bon Accord Spur – ignore the track down to Harrietville on the left – and continue to the Big Dipper, a gash in the ridge where the track drops suddenly, crosses a gully and climbs steeply up the other side. The track continues up the ridge, passing through a patch of snowgums and a picturesque meadow to a knoll with grandstand views of Mount Feathertop, now just a short distance ahead.
From here the track contours beneath the rocky bluffs of Twin Knobs then hugs the western side of the ridge. Federation Hut comes into view to the left as the path drops to a memorial cross at a junction. Turn left here and follow the track for about 300m past Little Mount Feathertop to Federation Hut.
Federation Hut, rebuilt after recent bushfires, has a wood stove and water tank, and there are plenty of great campsites outside – no camping is allowed inside the hut. There is also a composting toilet nearby.
After setting up camp, grab a water bottle and a muesli bar and head back to the track junction and continue east, following the signs to Mount Feathertop. It is an unrelenting 1.5km climb to the summit cairn at 1922m, but the reward is outstanding views in all directions, including back up the Razorback to the distant Mount Hotham, which gives a nice sense of achievement.
Day 2: Federation Hut to Harrietville (6km, 2.5 hours)
It’s worth getting up early and finding a vantage point to watch the early morning sun light up Mount Feathertop before packing up camp and heading down the Bungalow Spur trail behind the hut.
The track is downhill pretty much all the way with some historic points of interest – about 1.2km from the hut is a small clearing, the site of the original Federation Hut. Less than a kilometre further on is the site of the long-gone Bungalow Hut.
The track descends steeply from here; take a break at Tobias Gap beside a wide hairpin in the track. It’s just 4km from here to the end of the track. For the last kilometre or so it flattens out in wide zig-zags before crossing a creek twice and emerging in a car park. Make sure you have left a car here or organize for someone to pick you up!
NEED TO KNOW
This is a one-way trip so make sure you organise a car shuttle. If you can’t, the simplest solution is to spend day two retracing the track back along the Razorback. This area is completely under snow in winter and bad weather can occur at any time of year, so be prepared. This is a multi-day walk and you will need appropriate equipment and supplies; make sure you check with the rangers that you have everything you need before you head out.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Alpine National Park is home to some of Australia’s best walking trails. Mt Loch is a good half-day trip from near Mount Hotham and there are a lot more to choose from on the Bogong High Plains, accessed from near Falls Creek. This is also a great area to go mountain bike riding, and skiing in winter. There are chair lifts on Mount Hotham and intrepid adventurers can cross-country ski across the Razorback, but there have been several tragic deaths on the slopes of Mount Feathertop so this is definitely not an expedition to be taken lightly.
ACCOMMODATION AND SUPPLIES
Harrietville has five motels and a caravan park, numerous cottages and guest houses. More options, and outdoor supplies, are available a bit further back up the road in Bright.
These descriptions are a guide only. While we have made every effort to make them accurate, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained while using them. Make sure you use an up-to-date map and consult rangers before heading out.