AAWT, Mt Skene to Mt Howitt, April 2023

I joined a group of 6 bushwalkers from YHA Bushwalking to tackle a section of the Australian Alpine Walking Track over Easter in April 2023. The planned route was to walk from Mt Skene to Mt Howitt over 4 and a half days covering around 70kms. The weather forecast was for the coldest Easter in 80 years! It was looking like rain for most of the trip and the possibility of snow showers on Saturday and Sunday.

Day 1, Car Shuffle and short walk to Rumpff Saddle/Mt Skene

Having stayed in Heyfield on Thursday night we set up a car shuffle on Friday. Two cars were left at the Howitt Plains car park. We then headed back to Licola and picked up the other walkers and drove two cars to a point on the Jamison Licola Road about 7kms short of Rumpff Saddle.

We set off on our walk at around 2pm in overcast conditions. It soon started to rain. The rain lasted for most of our 2.5 hours walk to Rumpff Saddle. We came across another walker camped there. He was part way through his quest to walk the full length of the AAWT.

With light rain and no chance of a fire to keep warm we all retired to our shelters not long after 7pm. No photos worth showing of Day 1.

Day 2, Mt Skene to Mt Sunday

Wind and light rain overnight kept things damp for breakfast and pack up this morning. Today’s walk would be along a 4WD track. Light rain and mist accompanied us for the most part. I did not take many photos.

We made it to Mt Sunday by late afternoon. We found a good place to camp not far from the track and set up for the night. It seemed to rain most of the night (at least it was each time I woke up!) and was quite cold. I was toasty warm under my quilt though and slept reasonably well.

Day 3, Mt Sunday to Nobs Track

We packed up and started walking by 8am. We had around 14kms to walk today so not a long distance but we would have a long steady ascent of Mt McDonald to do. The longest ascent of the walk (from S to F on the graph below).

Before starting to climb Mt McDonald we had a long and sometimes steep downhill section to Low Saddle to complete. Fortunately for us, the track clearing angels had recently cleared this section – it had been overgrown with lots of tree-fall but was now very pleasant to walk along.

We exited the track onto Mt Sunday Road and promptly got attacked by leeches. They came up off the road and onto our boots in a flash. I picked off 5 or 6 or so of them from my boots and gaiters. We decided to keep moving. After about 2kms of jeep track we arrived at the next section of walking track that would take us up Mt McDonald. This was a steady uphill walk along a rough and rocky track.

In good weather I am sure the views would have been amazing but not so much for us. We got some sleet on Mt McDonald and we did not linger long up there. Towards the end of today’s walk the weather cleared a bit and we got to see some views through the clouds.

Camp tonight was at a clearing along Nobs Track. We had to walk down the track for about 20 minutes to pick up water from a creek. The temperature was quite cold overnight. My feet took ages to warm up but eventually they got toasty like the rest of me cocooned in my hammock sandwiched between the under-quilt and top-quilt. I wasn’t sure if the 20f degree quilts would be warm enough but they were.

Day 4, Nobs Track to Chesters Yard

Today’s first destination was The Nobs, two pimple-like mountains very close together, although we would only ascend one of them. The weather was a bit kinder today and we got to see more of the mountains around us.

It took us about 3 and a half hours to walk from High Cone to Mt Clear. A few times we lost the track and managed to recover it, usually by going back up towards the ridgeline. The walk from High Cone to Square Top is mostly a sidle and it was easy to lose the track. The bush was quite thick and the track very indistinct in places too. Mt Clear is a large flat open area with no real distinct peak. We saw a few small patches of snow on the way up.

We almost missed the exit point coming off Mt Clear. Beware if find yourself heading too far north-west, it cuts back north-north-east and drops down. We decided to push on to Chesters Yard rather than stay near Mt Clear. There was a nice spring at Chesters Yard as opposed to the puddles in the flat clearing coming down from Mt Clear. It would make tomorrow’s push to Mt Howitt and Mac Springs a bit easier too.

The campsite was quite small at Chesters yard and the tenters had to cram themselves in close to each other. I found it a bit of a challenge to find two good tress to hang from as many of the trees were looking a bit iffy (dead branches) or just not two good ones near each other. I could have got the Trekking Treez pole out but prefer two trees if I can as the tarp ends up quite close to the hammock when I use the pole. I found somewhere a little way from the campsite. It was a bit damp but as I was off the ground it did not matter much. One of the trees looked like it had seen better days but it did the job well. The night was quite still so no limbs came falling.

Day 5, Chesters Yard to Mt Howitt and Macalister Springs

The weather gods finally smiled on us. Apart from early morning fog and a bit of drizzle it was a mostly fine day. Lots a blue sky and some great views.

King Billy No. 1 was followed shortly thereafter by …. yes, King Billy No. 2. The last of the fog and cloud and the views really opened up.

We really soaked up the views from King Billy No. 2 before pushing on. We had to drop down from King Billy No. 2 at 1,716m to a saddle around 1,500m and then back up to Mt Magdala at 1,725m.

We dropped down to Magdala Saddle for lunch. And then it was to sidle around Big Hill and make our way up Mt Howitt, the last mountain and highest point at 1,746m of our walk.

A few more looks at the Crosscut Saw before finishing up for the day at Macalister Springs.

It was a fantastic day to finish off the walk. The fine weather was a real treat after the rainy earlier days.

Day 6, Macalister Springs to Howitt Plains Car Park

We had a short 5km walk this morning to the cars we left at Howitt car park. The day started off fine but it was raining as we were packing up. We walked in steady rain back to the cars. And that was pretty much it. The rest of the day was spent reversing the car shuffle, getting some lunch in Heyfield and driving back to Melbourne.

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