Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mt Buggery, Crosscut Saw & Mt Howitt (Nov 2012)

If you have been following this blog, you will know that I do a lot of solo hiking.  Partly, because I like my own space and to be alone in the elements ... and partly because no-one ever wants to go with me. :)  For this walk I convinced my wife, Tania, and 13 year old daughter, Zoe, to join me for an alpine overnighter during the long Melbourne Cup weekend in November.

The original plan had been to go to the Cathedral Ranges, an area that is quite close to our home and offers family-friendly hiking and camping. However, I'd left it too late to book a campsite there so had to come up with an alternative adventure.   I decided to revisit one of my first alpine walks, over the Crosscut Saw.  I blogged about that trip here.

The cast


We were treated to a beautiful late Spring day for the drive to Mansfield, then on to Mt Stirling, then the Upper Howqua Camping Area.   It was a long weekend in Victoria so not surprisingly the carpark was quite full.  We managed to get the 4WD across the river and into the main camping area, where we parked, donned out packs and headed off up the track along the Upper Howqua River.

Tania & Zoe

Zoe takes a quick break

We were all in good spirits as we crossed the river and followed the trail up into the Thorn Range.

Zoe and Tania cross the Upper Howqua River

It's a stiff climb from the river and after an hour of this my party was starting to feel it a bit.

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From the Thorn Range ridge line the trail follows an old 4wd track, which has not had any love for a long time.  Trees have fallen in many places and it is otherwise very overgrown.  This was another challenge for the team but they took in stride, boldly leading the way through the thick vegetation.

Not another tree?!

Can you spot the hikers?

By the time we arrived at the base of Queens Spur, an hour so later, the team was now fairly tired, but spirits remained resolutely high.   We stopped to get some water then before starting the next section.

A short break before tackling Queens Spur

The thing is, in suggesting to the girls that do this walk, there was one aspect of the trip that I had put to the back of my mind and that was the next section.   You see, last time I did this next bit I couldn't find the trail as per the map and got a bit lost..and tense...while bashing through some very gnarly vegetation.    I had hoped that this time around I would be have more success in finding the easy path.   

As it turned out, I didn't.  Actually, it was a little worse this time around.  Rather than follow a contour to meet the spur at the same height (as per the route on the map), I thought it would be quicker to just head up to the spur at a 45 degree angle.   It probably was a more direct route; however, it was also chock full of fallen trees and thick scrub, making if very slow going.

Suffice to say I was not the popular one in our small party and my wife was not very happy with the situation at all.  I charged on ahead to forge a path (and to get out of earshot of her dire mutterings - you know:   references about navigational inadequacies, lack of due care, divorce, etc).  While her parents were busy imploding, young Zoe bounced along brightly with "Boom, boom, boom!" playing on her headphones, seemingly impervious to the adult shenanigans and she then brought the rapidly-declining mood to a happy close, when, from up ahead she announced that she had found the top of the spur!

[EDIT: In a later visit to this same area I did in fact find the road!  You can read about it here.]

It was three very relieved people that gathered on Queens Spur to take in the views and enjoy the respite from the bush.    When I announced that we would camp there for the night, no-one protested.

A hot dinner of chorizos calmed the savage beasts.

Sunset from Queens Spur

Queens Spur, dawn.

The next morning we headed up Queens Spur to Mt Buggery.

Zoe climbing Queens Spur

Zoe modelling on a handy gum tree
From Mt Buggery we made our way across the Crosscut Saw to Mt Howitt, enjoying the stunning views across the Terrible Hollow and of the Devils Staircase.  [Ed. Who the hell came up with these place names?!]  We encountered a few other groups on the way.   It was blowing hard on Mt Howitt, where we stopped to get a few pics.

Zoe does a "Sound of Music" impression on Mt Howitt

Zoe and Tania on Mt Howitt

Me and Zoe on Mt Howitt

Me heading towards Howitt Spur
Photo opps taken, we headed off to the steep descent from Mt Howitt onto the top section of Howitt Spur.  It was quite slippery and we took turnabout with some other walkers on the track to slip over.   Once the steep section is past, the spur runs for 3km over a series of small knolls, with some sections quite overgrown.  It was a bit tedious really and the team blasted along to get it finished.

The last section of the spur is a steep descent to the Upper Howqua River.  We stopped to cool off, then headed down the river, past the junction from the day before, then back to the car.

It was a fun, but quite long and challenging couple of days.    The girls informed me that they might be willing to come out on a hike with me again, but NOT if I was going to involve bush bashing and endless walking.  Ah well, I guess it's not for everybody.


  • "Bushwalking in the Victorian Alps" by Glenn van der Knijff
  • Map: Vicmap 8223-N Selwyn

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