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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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,