Updated: May 19, 2019
You would think that after racing a mountain marathon (aka Buffalo Stampede), I would let my legs recover before starting the next training block.
Well you are wrong! Instead, I embarked on a 4-day Easter adventure in the high country – covering ~110kms and summiting several mountains.
The twinkle in my eye
In November, I had the pleasure of pacing my good friends, Nicki and Mat, in their first 100 miler. It was the Alpine Challenge and due to unseasonal weather, which saw snow falling (WTF?!), the course was changed to 4 x 36km loops plus a cheeky 8km out/back.
So while they completed it (legends), they never got the real Alpine Challenge experience. That is until I had the brilliant idea of ditching Bright during Easter (where it gets overrun by visitors) and heading out on a hiking/running adventure along the Alpine Challenge course.
Prep (or, rather, lack thereof)
A week out, it dawned on me that:
1. We hadn’t actually caught up with Mat & Nicki to discuss our actual plans
2. We didn’t own a tent, sleeping mats or bags
Queue some manic online shopping for sleeping mats and bags available for express delivery. For those interested, we went with the Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Mat and Spark Sleeping Bag SPII. Both are light, pack up small and kept us toasty warm.
Thankfully a friend lent us a tent - MCR Hubba Hubba - which we have since purchased.
We had a quick catch up with Nicki and Mat to plan our route:
“So we will start at Harrietville and basically see how far we want to go each day”.
Nicki and I did a speed shop on the Tuesday night before departure. Cup of soups, pot noodles, packet pasta and chocolate. Of course chocolate. I mean, it was Easter.
And the best bit – it cost us a grand total of $56.
Hi ho, hi ho – it’s off the Feathertop we go
We kicked off with coffee at Harrietville before hitting the trail at 9am. First stop was Feathertop. This is one of my favourite hikes. The terrain is varied but beautiful. It doesn’t have annoying switchbacks, which leaves you feeling like you are going nowhere. And the summit is beautiful!
We then followed Diamantina Spur down to the Kiewa River. This is a hairy track. Particularly hairy when you have a 10kg bag on your back and it hasn’t rained in months, so the track is dusty and as slippery as a wet fish.
With our eye set on camp for the night, we powered our way up Westons Spur Track. Small break to eat some wild blackberries and we arrived at Westons Hut around 5pm. Taking shoes off was possibly the best feeling of the day.
Award winning Alfredo
Why is it that food always tastes better when camping? Although I do have to admit, being creatures of comfort, we did have a three-course meal each night.
Our first night consisted of an entrée of cup of soup; main of packet alfredo and dessert of family size block of Dairy Milk.
Our second night, we feasted on cup of soup; rice with tuna and roasted marshmallows. You get the drift.
Day two we followed Westons Spur Track up to Pole 333. Across the high plains, with wild brumbies galloping in the distance, we made good time following the Australian Alps Walking Track to Cope Saddle Hut. We then followed Pretty Valley Track down into Falls Creek, where we made a bee-line to the Frying Pan Inn for a drink.
After a refreshing cider and a quick visit to Foodworks to pick up a couple extra ciders for that evening, we were back on the trail heading to our final destination for the day – Edmondson Hut. We followed Heathy Spur Track onto the Big River Fire Trail. Motivated by the thought of a drink by the fire, we jogged the final few kms and arrived at camp by 5pm.
We did a speed decamp and were happily sitting by the fire, cider in hand, by 5:30pm.
Day three is when you start to feel the effects of carrying a backpack for two days. Whilst everyone’s legs felt great, our shoulders were suffering! However, we didn’t have any other option but to suck it up, so we pulled our packs back on and were on our way.
We followed Big River Fire Trail onto Marum Point Track – a fun single trail that takes you down to the Aquaduct. Time, and the kms, flew by as we implemented a “run two poles, walk two poles” strategy whilst playing the alphabet game. We had a quick pit stop at Cope Hut before following the Australian Alpine Walking track back to Pole 333 and then down to Dibbins Hut. The final few kms included a super fun descent.
We arrived at camp at 3pm and spent the afternoon relaxing by a small fire and eating pretty much everything we had left in our packs. It was the penultimate day after all, so there was no point carrying more than we needed to. Plus, we knew a big pub feed was at the finish line the next day!
The final count down
We set off at sparrows fart the next morning, wanting to get the big climb up to Hotham out the way. With wild dogs howling in the background (yikes), we arrived at Hotham by 8:30am. We traversed our way around and onto the Razorback track. It’s all downhill from here baby!
And what a downhill it is. I had never run Bon Accord and it is one painfully long descent. It was probably made worse by the fact it was very overgrown, with leaves littering the track. So we skated our way down, whilst simultaneously getting smacked in the face by tree branches.
We reached the creek at the bottom, which is a bit of a tease because while you are technically at the bottom, you are required to run another 5kms along an undulated track into Harrietville. Knowing we were running towards a chicken parmie, we literally legged it straight to the bar at the Snowline Hotel and ordered a small feast.
What a weekend
What a cracking weekend. This trip reminded me of the joy of simplicity. Spending days exploring the mountains with friends, eating $1 pot noodles and not showering for 4 days.
It also gave me a huge boost of confidence for NZ. My legs got stronger as the days went by and the only slight issue was some rubbing in my shoes.
Bring on the next block of training I say.