AAWT Day 10 Anton-Anderson Saddle to Thredbo Village

It seems surreal writing this from the comfort of a hotel bed when this has been one of the most extreme bushwalking days of my life! We woke up to no rain but howling winds and clouds moving so quickly through the pass I could never keep up with them. The never ending cloud bubble hugging the Main Range is what we walked through today, where do they keep coming from!?

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Somewhere on the Main Range, Photo Meg Wettenhall

 

We all had cabin fever after spending 14 hours in the tent and so we decided to walk over the top of the Main Range even though the Bible warned us not to. Our plan was to follow the faint pad/cairns we had followed the day before, if we lost the track we would pitch the tent and wait out the weather or retrace our steps. Dressed in most of our clothes we did a speedy pack-up and set out in a tight group to face the Main Range in appalling conditions.

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Crazy fools! Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Great views, Photo Phoebe Robertson

It was so cold my legs felt weak and we had to climb 500m in elevation over 4 mountains before he hit our first landmark, a lake materialised out of the cloud. Until this lake we had walked over 7km in winds that were knocking us over, over some of Australia’s highest peaks, but we could have been in Antarctica or on Neptune, we wouldn’t have known the cloud was so thick. When we crossed snow fields we would have to walk along the end of them till we found our track if we couldn’t easily find it on the other side. The path above the lake (our first proper track in 7km) clung to steep cliffs, and when the clouds cleared revealed vertical snow clad glacial slopes. It was amazing, but I also realised what perilous terrain we had been crossing disguised in fog.

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Cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Lake Albina, Main Range, Photo Meg Wettenhall

 

At the Muellers Saddle, after Albina Lake, we ran into another group of crazy hikers, our first that day. They gave us tips for the steep snow field crossings we had yet to pass. The public toilets just below Mt Kosciuszko summit, our decided lunch place out of the weather, was just in sight half hidden on the horizon. Between us and lunch were 3 large precarious snow fields. The first was simple enough to cross, Meg gave Harry and I a quick lesson about walking in snow and the correct way to position your feet for traction. This lesson was sufficient till I flipped out at the start of the second very steep snow crossing. Not feeling confident I decided to take the long detour under and around the drift, but while descending the steep wet slope running with snow melt I promptly fell over, hurting my knee and cutting up my elbow and lip. Meg came to my rescue yet again and chose an easier path for us up the snow and gently talked me through it. After yet another snow field route finding obstacle course we finally made it to solid ground/track and the public toilets!

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Or valiant snow captain Meggo! Photo Meg Wettenhall

We were so cold and tired after 12 tiring kms and 7hrs of solid walking,  and the public toilets so stinky that we pushed on for the comforts of Thredbo Village (hotel/shower/warm bed). This propelled us the the last 6kms along easy track to the chairlift. There were quite a few day hikers out for this last section and we felt they really didn’t understand the trials we had just been through. We could smell them too, so clean and fragrant (I’m sure they could smell our unique 10 day dirty perfume too). Harry and I screamed for the first minute of the chairlift ride as we were travelling so quickly compared to the last 10 days.

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Easy walking, Photo Meg Wettenhall

In town we went to the supermarket and brought a huge feast which we consumed so quickly on the lawns under the curious eyes of all the mountain bikers in town. We were in another world this morning and now I’m deciding which beer I want to drink at the pub.

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Luxury. Photo Harriet Robertson

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Hiking is tough (but so exciting!), Photo Harriet Robertson

AAWT Day 9 Valentines Hut to Anton Anderson Pass

We made it to the Main Range! It was glorious until exactly what we didn’t want to happen happened, a thunder and lightening storm rolled in with thick rain and cloud. The rain has stopped for now but visibility is about 10-20m and we are stuck in white out in our tent.

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Hello rain, Mt. Tate, Photo Meg Wettenhall

The cloud was clearing this morning at Valentines Hut promising a nice day. This promise was kept till about 4pm with high cloud in overcast sky. We powered through the first 10km to Whites River Hut, we stopped at Schlinks Pass as it was the first Optus reception we had in 9 days! Meg passed honours, yay! We chatted to family and gfs to update them of our living not lost status.

At Whites Hut the fire was still warm and inside was a cozy place to plan our Main Range attack, walking over very exposed peaks. We planned our route, land marks to look out for and what we would do if the weather turned. In a nutshell, stay together, consult the maps/think through our decisions, stick together and pitch the tent if visibility turns bad.

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Plotting in Whites Hut, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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Rolling on up to the Rolling Grounds, Whites Hut, Photo Meg Wettenhall

We walked up an old jeep track that soon petered out into the Rolling Ground, a featureless landscape with many false horizons and low hanging cloud. Another world of grass, sky and boulders, straight from a Miyazaki movie. We ate lunch on a ledge, sheltered from the wind and perfect for lounging. We could see mountains for miles and flocks of ravens diving into the wind.

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Rolling around on the Rolling Ground, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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This is how you lunch (when your to is covered in sweat), Rolling Grounds, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Siesta, Rolling Grounds, Photo Meg Wettenhall

After crossing many small rocky saddles we finally made it to Conset Stevens Pass, with its two valleys disappearing on either side feeding the mighty Geehi or Snowy Rivers. We started our climb of the spectacular and regal Mt. Tate, 200m above us. We passed huge snow drifts, mountainsides running with snowmelt, small scattered ponds full of mell camouflaged frogs. Our path became steep and upon reaching the top we saw that all was not well. The rest of the Main Range was under thick cloud and thunder was rumbling.

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Consulting the holy book, Chappy’s AAWT track notes, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Dorks on Mt Tate, Photo Harriet Robertson

We quickly descended past the Bluff and finally got wet as we were climbing Mt Anderson. Hail fell as we crossed a huge snow field on a steep slope, probably something in finer weather I would a second guessed. We kept walking down down to Anton-Anderson Pass and in a small break in the rain pitched the tent. The fog was rolling in quick.

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Tent Kitchen, Anton-Anderson Saddle, Photo Meg Wettenhall

We have now been in the tent since 5.30pm, reading allowed to each other and cooking in the vestibule. This is a small 3 person tent and we have quite sizeable hips and seem to be preforming an amazing feat of human/pack tetras. That we are still laughing is hopefully a testament to the great time we will have on the PCT next year. We are hard girls.

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Cutes and weary feet, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Cheers! Photo Meg Wettenhall

AAWT Day 8 MacKay’s Hut to Valentines Hut

Jeepers! 28kms, 900m of climbing takes the PCT girl-gang approximately 10hrs and 3 breakdowns. My first breakdown/tantrum took place early on after a steep down hill to a streaming crossing, where I was the only gang member unable to rock hop the stream. Putting my books on on the other side proved difficult as there were biting ants everywhere. I flipped out, jumping around and had to be helped by Harry and Meg. Amidst tears we got closer and closer to the towering Jugungal and finally made it to O’Keefs Hut. What a great hut! 1930s newspaper wallpaper takes you into a bit of a time warp, great Jugungal views, tables, chairs, a life of luxury! Pity we were only passing by.

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Meg and Mt Jugungal, Photo Harriet Robertson

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Kween o’dahut, O’Keef’s Hut, Photo Meg Wettenhall

Continuing our all day hug with Jugungal we contoured its base passing beautiful valleys and climbing quite high to catch a glimpse of the Main Range just before we met Round Mountain Road. Kosciuszko looked so big, bold and shiny with its huge patches of snow clinging to many slopes. Only a day away, we felt so small and far away.

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Getting closer, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Baben’ in the valley, Photo Harriet Robertson

It was hot and windless walking to Grey Mare Hut, sweat was pouring from us. The longest 7kms of my life. We finally reached the hut mid afternoon and ate lunch by a stream. The hut was a 100m climb from the valley floor and we were having none of that, I was already in a very fragile emotional state and had another tantrum which was more cathartic than the first and i seemed to pick up afterwards, but not a pretty site.

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Shrubbery symmetry, Photo Meg Wettenhall

After lunch we started along Valentines Track to our destination Valentines Hut. We crossed 5 streams most of which we had to take our shoes off for. Harry disturbed a large black snake after jumping a stream and we saw 3 more after that (a snake pit). After another climb we made it, slightly delirious, to the Geehi River. The river was a proper snow melt mountain river (my favourite kind) full of huge boulders and in snow melt would be a white water torrent. While crossing we met a northbound AAWT hiker, the first person we had seen in 2 days, who told us of rain and thunderstorms tonight. Slowly over the afternoon clouds had rolled in for the first time all trip and at lunch it rained for 5 minutes.

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Geehi River, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Crocs rock the river rocks, Photo Meg Wettenhall

We did our final climb and descent to Valentines Hut singing songs for our morale, only to be greeted by our final obstical. Valentines Creek was about 15m wide and the concentration used to cross it broke Harry who burst into tears which developed into a panic attack on the other side. We pushed our limits, today was hard, but as harry likes to say “we are hard girls!”. In juxtaposition, Valentines Hut is super cute, red all over and even has hearts painted above the windows.

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Valentines Hut, Photo Harriet Robertson

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We can read maps, Valentines Hut, Photo Harriet Robertson

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Thank god we made it, Photo Meg Wettenhall

AAWT Day 7 Tabletop Mountain to MacKays Hut

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On the great divide, near Tabletop Mountain, Photo Meg Wettenhall

Today marks one week of blue skies and the first day we felt we weren’t suffering. We got into camp with happy feet! From tabletop Mountain we continued along the top of the great dividing range, heading through the did over Happy Jacks Hut. The Corowongs were out in force, huge family groups singing us down the track. And we moved! Swiftly covering 12kms by 11ish (still no watch) and had our first break by Barney’s Creek, thanks Barney. Descending to the creek and the pains we could see Jugungal looming, our destination tomorrow, patches still lingering on the tops.

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Hi Jugungal you distant knob! Photo Phoebe Robertson

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Swim time, Barney’s Creek, Photo Harriet Robertson

Another solo dip for me, feeling rejuvenated we quickly walked over a small hot wooded ridge to lunch a Crooks Racecoruse, a low open saddle extending down of both sides, on which I imagined horse thieves of old thundering away. Another climb and a few high valleys later we arrived at MacKay’s Hut On the way we saw a thorny devil and I got quite excited. The hut has a great view of the high valley and continuing mountain tops but its quite windy. We ate falafals and hummus and tabouli mmm mmmm and did yoga in the sun (led by Meg). The sun is only just beginning to set and we are already thinking of bed. Thanks for the chairs Kosciuszko Hut Association (KHA), they really made my afternoon.

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Probs not as comfy as it looks, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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The end is in sight, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Just act natural, MacKay’s Hut, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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MacKay’s Hut camp and hi, Photo Phoebe Robertson

AAWT Day 6 Witzes Hut to Tabletop Mountain

Today was killer, we ended up walking 26ish kms as we walked right past our intended campsite at 9 Mile Creek. We just didn’t realise we walked so fast, well not till 2km past camp and so decided to keep walking walking. We collected water from a spring and ended up camping on the track, reasonably comfy though.

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Girl on a log, Kiandra Creek, Photo Phoebe Robertson

In the morning we crossed more plains after leaving Witzes Hut and passed up many good swimming opportunities till we finally made it to the Encumbere River. In site of the Snowy Mountains Highway I was the only swimmer in the beautiful clear water. I mooned a truck driver before putting my stinky clothes back on. We walked up the highway to Kiandra, a gold mining ghost town still in possession of a grand bluestone courthouse. Beautiful dunnies on site!

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How to be a bum, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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Too stinky for dinks, Snowy Mountains Highway, Photo Meg Wettenhall

Out of the barren Kiandra valley we walked, up and up until the mountains of this morning were below us. As we walk the wild flowers became lusher and the brumby numbers decreased. On the high plate we could see Mt. Jugungal regularly and even once caught site of the main range, our destination in 3 days time. We are feeling sore after todays epic walk, and are in bed well before sunset.

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Moving on up! Mt Selwyn, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Brumby TV EXCLUSIVE, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Alpine Paper Daises, Photo Meg Wettenhall

AAWT Day 5 Hainsworth Hut to Witzes Hut

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Burn, near Witzes Hut, Photo Meg Wettenhall

We were out and about nice and early this morning, our bodies slowly adjusting to a natural body clock, spotting brumbies in the rising mist in the valleys. Another day of walking through high mountain meadows and small wooded passes. After descending to Ghost Gully horse camp (empty), we left 3 shits in the toilet (strategy) and headed off for 7kms of cross country to the Murrumbidgee River.

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SO MUCH SUN, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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Community <3, Photo Phoebe Robertson

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Miller Hut cutes, Photo Phoebe Robertson

On advice of a northbound AAWT hiker we tried to find the Miller Hut Fire Trail to skip the off track scrambling. We found Miller Hut but after an hour of searching for the trail along misleading brumby tracks we cut across a pass to rejoin the route described in the Bible (John Chapman’s AAWT track notes). We did a little dance when we found the old power lines Chapman describes, as they are the only obvious marker in untracked hills. I was getting rather worried that our map and compass skills were not up to so much bush bashing, but i was wrong as we proceeded to hit all of the randomly placed arrows across a 3km undulating valley in the middle of no where. PCT girl gang rock!

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Off track and only slightly worried, location ???, Photo Meg Wettenhall

We forded the Murrumbidgee River and had an amazing swim, lounging like sirens. We forded one more deep river before more high plains led us to the picturesque Witzes Hut. A campfire, homemade dehydrated broccoli pasta, dunny with no door but an excellent view, and bed.

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Casual baben’ in the Murrumbigee River, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Vitamin I, self-medicating so our legs and feet will do our bidding, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Dusk at Witzes Hut, Photo Phoebe Robertson

AAWT Day 4 Seventeen Flat Creek to Hainsworth Hut

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Good morning! Photo Meg Wettenhall

Meg and I took a small side trip to the Blue Waterholes, we left Harry nursing a sore achilles in camp. We visited a huge cave 400m+ in length and met a caver just casually worming his way out. We saw streams that went underground and then rose again in springs, spurting out of cliff walls. We stood atop huge subterranean water systems, this is limestone country.

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Solomon’s Cave, Blue Waterholes

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Windows or eyes? Solomon’s Cave, Photo Meg Wettenhall

We nudey swam and got sprung by a father and son who kept fishing until just after we got dressed. The waterhole we chose was deep, clear, freezing and icy blue. In other pools tendrils of water weed grew like feint wisps of smoke from the depth before pooling on the surface, soaking up the sun. We walked to the edge of a huge gorge with 25m straight stone walls, but the river was too high to walk any further and too cold to swim. We met a group of rough tough 4WD men filming for a channel 9 TV show, they thought we were crazy, and we thought they were crazy as they spoke so passionately about 4WDs.

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Frosty nips and crystal clear drips, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Clarke Gorge, Blue Waterholes, Photo Phoebe Robertson

After meeting back up with Harry who had been snoozing and watching brumby TV, we set off across the hot hot plains and managed to get intwined with a group of 10 school boys and 2 very uninterested teachers. Unfortunately we followed them into our camp for the night, Hainsworth Hut, but camped behind a small hill and still took full use of the ‘facilities’ there. It has been hot hot hot for the last 3 days, we are yet to see a cloud in the sky (feels like). Happy hikers, tired feet and legs.

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Top quality facilities/free foot bath, Hainsworth Hut, Photo Meg Wettenhall

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Pack explosion at camp, Photo Phoebe Robertson