“It looks like this is the path”. My husband stopped short and assessed the hill ahead of him. The marked path had petered out and we could just make out a winding dirt trail creep its way up the hill at an angle of about 60 degrees. Stretching out a hand, he helped me make the ascent, my feet struggling to find traction on the loose dirt. His sure footed boots reverberated behind me and helped me keep pace. My pack weighing heavily on my back, my camera posed clumsily around my neck, I was unaware that for the next couple of hours, up would be the only way to go. The further we would climb, the steeper the path would become. The once loose dirt solidified into large sharp rocks, forcing me to climb on all fours just to overcome them. With the heat of the sun, and my waning water supply, I stopped at every landing just to rest and reassess the distance ahead. Whilst we had passed a handful of other hikers already, all of them had been heading against us and it was no wonder they were all smiling. They were approaching the Diamantina Spur the best way possible; down.
There are many walks you can do in the Alpine National Park, which together with the adjacent Snowy River National Park, Victoria, Kosciusko National Park, NSW and Namadgi National Park, ACT, make up the Australian Alps. Alpine National Park is the largest park in Victoria and is home to Hotham and Falls Creek ski resorts and a section of the 655km Australian Alps Walking Track.
We had come to the Alpine National Park to spend a couple of days camping and hiking over the easter long weekend. The plan had been to check out some of the historic huts that can be found throughout the park whilst taking in the autumn scenery. Given the variable conditions that can be experienced in the alpine area, there are over fifty historic huts scattered in the park which are designed to be used for refuge in inclement weather. Many of these huts can be accessed by hiking trails such as the Dibbins, Mount Loch circuit, which leads to Derrick, Dibbins and Blair Huts and can be completed over two days.
In the case of Dibbins and Blair Huts, there are places to freely camp around the huts as well as access creeks for water and long drop toilets. It was on this circuit that we had commenced our hike, but after spending a relaxing afternoon at Blairs Hut, we decided not to complete the circuit but to take an alternative trail over the Diamantina Spur towards the Mount Feathertop area and Federation Hut. After an evening camping near Federation Hut we would then take the more popular Razorback walking track back to Diamantina Hut and the Great Alpine Road and follow the road back to Mount Loch carpark.
Whilst the Mount Loch circuit navigates reasonable terrain, taking in grassy plains, creek crossings, Alpine bushland and fire trails, the Diamantina Spur and the Razorback provide for a slightly tougher challenge. Climbing up Diamantina Spur towards Mt Feathertop, will not only leave you physically exhausted but you will finish the day so ravenous, you will find any dehydrated camping meal enjoyable. On the other hand, the Razorback follows the ridge line between Mt Hotham and Mt Feathertop and sitting above the treeline, provides fantastic views of the surrounding Alpine scenery. However, given the exposed nature of the track, there are few places to seek shelter if the weather moves in suddenly.
Completing one half of the Mt Loch Circuit and crossing over to Mt Feathertop and the Razorback, took us four days at a leisurely pace. Given that the Easter weekend is often a peak hiking period in the park, we had set off a day early and didn’t really encounter any difficulty in finding suitable camping spots away from other campers, until we arrived at Federation Hut. Even then, we were able to take a small 45min detour down Bungalow Spur to another campsite for the evening and given its lower position, this campsite also provided us with greater shelter from the windy conditions.
The Alpine National Park is a great place to explore for both short and long hikes. However, prior to undertaking any hiking within the park, it is important to be prepared for all weather conditions and bring appropriate maps and navigational tools. The weather can change instantly in this area, and even in peak periods some trails do not receive extensive hiker patronage so help may be difficult to find if needed.
Route: Mt Lock Carpark to Derrick Hut- 4km (approx)
Derrick Hut to Dibbins Hut – 4km (approx.)
Dibbins Hut to Blairs Hut – 4 km (approx)
Blairs Hut to Mt Feathertop – 7 km (approx)
Mt Feathertop to Diamantina Hut – 11km (approx)
*Dibbins Hut, Blairs Hut and Federation Hut each had long drop toilets and were accessible to flowing creeks.