Hiking Victorias highest peaks

Early January 2018 , Rowan and I planned to go along with some friends on a multi-day hike from Mt Feathertop to Mt Bogong. Foolishly, I didn’t do any research or preparation prior to committing to doing the hike. I had done a few days bushwalking here and there, including what I perceived to be some really tough ones, and I thought that was it? How much harder can it be to do the same thing for a few days in a row?

Oh how wrong I was. Unbeknownst to me, the Harrietville > Bogong five-day hike is one of Victorias toughest.

The night before the hike, we drove the four-hour stretch from Melbourne to Harrietville, set up our tent at the trail head and bunkered down. It was pouring with rain. Brilliant!

In the morning, after packing up our tent and gear in the rain, we quickly ducked in to the local cafe for one last luxury – a nice hot latte before we headed out. By this point, I was already totally soaked through. My rain jacket was obviously not as waterproof as I thought it was.

Luckily Rowan has a spare raincoat in his car – a high vis jacket he keeps for the coldest, and wettest mornings at work. I was warm and dry again.

We set off. Within an hour of starting, the trail had significantly increased in altitude. we were ascending at a much quicker rate that what I had anticipated. I had new hiking poles, and my friends Megan and Wayne were giving me  a crash course in how to use them effectively, as we continued up and up.

The rain did not let up for the first few hours. Thankfully, the day before, we had seen the forecast and had made a quick stop at Kathmandu to buy some pack covers; so we took comfort knowing our home for the next four nights wouldn’t be sopping wet when we arrived.

As we continued our ascent, I could feel a burning sensation in my heels. I was already struggling with the weight of my pack, the rain, the steep trail, and trying to use these new hiking poles, so I didn’t voice my concerns and told myself I was imagining the pain.

Finally, the sun came out and the rain eased. We all dried off and stopped for a snack in the warm sunshine, before continuing upwards.

Victorias highest peaks hike

By mid afternoon we reached Federation Hut, near the summit of Mt Feathertop. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see it! Now all we needed to do was set up our tents and relax for the afternoon.

We set up our hike stove to boil some water and make some hot tea, and then sat for a while.

Eventually, I took off my boots to assess the damage. Blisters the size of the palms of my hands were on the heel of each foot. No wonder there was that burning sensation!

After airing out my damp, damaged feet, we whipped out the first aid kit…  We use the antiseptic cream, bandaids, metho and tape, and my feet are looked after as best as they can be while we are out on the trail.

I was well and truly done for the day. We set up our tents, and then headed inside the hut to start a fire and try to dry out some of our gear.

I don’t think I have ever slept as well as I slept that night. Pure fatigue, combined with a tummy full of warm food and a nice cosy tent.

The next morning, we awoke before sunrise and put on every layer of clothing we had (despite being the middle of January, the mornings are still very cool in the Alpine areas). We grabbed our head torches and finished the final steps to reach the summit of Mount Feathertop! Amature hiker Sarah Rourke, totally unprepared and unskilled, had now hiked to the summit of Victorias second highest peak!

Sunrise at Mt Feathertop

I had only learned that Mt Feathertop was our second highest peak about half way up it the day before, so I was pretty proud of my achievement!

We watched the sun slowly creep up over the rest of the Alpine vista ahead of us. We were all so excited to be there together, witnessing such a spectacular sunrise. We wrote our names down in the little book we found with the names of all those who had conquered this peak before us, and headed back to the hut.

Victorias highest peaks hike

The other thing I had found out the day before, was that Feathertop is second to Mt Bogong (the one we had planned to hike to over the next few days), Victorias highest peak, and that days two, three and four are anticipated to be much tougher than day one. Considering my inexperience, and the baseball sized blisters on my heels, Rowan and I decided to part ways with Megan and Wayne. We went back down the way we came, while they continued on with out us.

 

Giving up on day two was pretty disheartening; we said goodbye to our friends, wishing them well for the rest of their walk. We packed up our tent, had some breakfast and set off down the mountain.

The twelve kilometre descent was still a pretty tough gig, but we got down to the car a lot faster than it took us to get to the top. The weather had improved, and we had a beautiful clear day to walk in and enjoy sweeping views from our vantage point above the valleys below.

View from Mount Feathertop - Victorias highest peaks hike

 

Victorias highest peaks hike Mt Feathertop

Once we’d reached the bottom, the disappointment set in that I had given up. I dreaded answering anyone who asked “How was your hike?” (as if my hobbling around for weeks on end while my blisters healed didn’t give it away) but, despite my first experience at multi day hiking, I am now hooked.

Just like anyone else, who has gone into something totally unprepared, I learned a lot. Basic stuff like what to wear in wet weather, to be prepared for anything, and how to pack my backpack are all things that would have been really handy to know before hand, but I don’t think other people’s advice is ever as good as first hand knowledge, so whatever – at least I know that stuff now!!

The endorphin rush I got when I was standing on top of a mountain I had just climbed is worth every ounce of pain I felt on that hike, and then some. I have memories that will last a lifetime, and now I know I can do it! If I achieved that, with zero preparation, no training, lack of correct equipment, and carrying about five kilograms more than I needed, imagine what I can do with a bit of training!

Victorias highest peaks hike

 

I cant wait to tell you all about my upcoming hiking plans – there are a few good ones coming up!

Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think in the comments below. Am I crazy? Do you want to go hiking now? Did the description of my blisters gross you out?

 

Until next time,

Sarah

xxx

Camping packing list

Recently, a friend was telling me about their first camping trip.

They had been invited on a group camping holiday, and the whole family were excited! It being their first time, no expense was spared as they eagerly prepared for their holiday.

After weeks of planning, packing the car, and a long drive out to the campsite, they began setting up. Eventually the kids asked:

“What are we sleeping on?”

Well.

Turns out the air mattresses/ camp-mats had either been forgotten and left at home, or forgotten and never borrowed/purchased in the first place.

This made me remember the first time I went camping with a group of friends (who were also virgin campers at the time).

I’d known my whole life that I’d wanted to go camping and also knew, that given the opportunity that I would enjoy it. But, there I was,  20-or-so years old had still never managed to actually go.  I spent days, weeks, maybe longer, preparing for the trip. I was so excited for our Easter weekend camping trip I had bought everything I thought we would need – a tent, a butane stove, camping cutlery sets, you name it, I bought the budget (cheapest I could find) version of it.

Finally, the weekend came. Buzzing with excitement and anticipation, we packed up, headed off… And drove on to what ended up being the worst camping experience of my life.

One of our friends brought his girlfriend along. She didn’t even make it the first night! Her parents (lucky for her) made a three-hour-drive across town on Easter weekend to rescue her from our nightmare trip.

My boyfriend (at the time of the dreaded trip) had accidentally already (or drunkenly) eaten the food (all of it) that I’d bought specifically for camping, but didn’t tell me until I was starting to pack the esky, and all the shops were already shut for Easter. The lilo I had borrowed from a friend leaked, and went flat after we set it up. I’d forgotten to pack a torch. All five other campers also forgot to pack a torch.

It was a comedy of errors, really. And in hindsight, now that I’m an experienced camper, I know that given our inexperience, all these outcomes were inevitable.

Fast forward to now. After listening to my friend recount their failed camping trip, and reminiscing about my own failed trip, I thought about all the other people I know that have had a similar experience, and have never even wanted to consider going back for round two.

I hate that thought!! Camping is so much fun! For all age groups, and in a lot of cases, you can even bring the dog! Getting outside and appreciating this beautiful country we have is one of my favorite past-times, as I’m sure it is many of yours.

Sarah camping circa 2008

This photo is not from the fateful camping trip I described… We didnt get any photos of that trip (we all wanted to forget it ever happened!) its froma much more memorable trip to Hazelwood in approx 2008… Where we were all still young and less-prepared, but nowhere near as bad as that first attempt.

So, in an attempt to help out anyone who hasn’t been before, or maybe it’s been a while, or maybe someone like me who is a little forgetful (I forgot my head-torch last weekend which led to me falling down a 1.5-metre-deep hole in the dark), I decided to create a basic, printable, Camping Checklist.

You can get a copy of it here

Please feel free to pass it on to anyone who may need it, or even use it yourself. There is also a handy “add your own items” section where you can include anything I haven’t thought of, or you think you might specifically need, and then check off as you are packing. I reckon it’s also a great way to get the kids involved and teach them a little bit about the preparation that goes into camping too.

As always, I’d love some feedback! Is there anything on this list you think is totally unnecessary? Or have I forgotten anything major? Let me know in the comments below.

Cheers,

Sarah

PS – I’m going to put together a few more of these packing lists. Next is a lightweight 5 day hike checklist, as I’m planning a walk from Noosa to Rainbow Beach soon. Are there any other lists you want to see? or examples/photos of our regular setup?