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On Walkabout In: The Snowfields of Northern Victoria

During a recent weekend I decided to make a drive up to the northern Victorian Alps to go snowboarding at the ski resort on Mt. Hotham. I have never been to this area of the Alps before as well as never going snowboarding in Australia either. Needless to say I was quite excited to go and check it out.

To reach the northern Victorian Alps I drove north up the Hume Highway from Melbourne before exiting at Wangaratta on the Great Alpine Road. The Great Alpine Road is one of Australia’s legendary drives through the Victorian high country and ending at the Pacific coastline of Victoria. Mt. Hotham lies at about the half way point of the drive in the very center of the Alps. However, there are a number of mountains that are passed along the way before reaching Mt. Hotham such as Mt. Buffalo:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

You can actually see Mt. Buffalo all the way from the Hume Highway but good views of the mountain can be seen once you reach the city of Myrtleford along the Great Alpine Road. Unfortunately this day the mountain’s top was covered in clouds, but it was still a beautiful looking mountain that I will definitely check out on a future trip.  After Mt. Buffalo, the Great Alpine Road continues through a beautiful valley following the Ovens River and eventually passing through the charming city of Bright. On each side of the valley is thickly forested mountains and occasional grazing land:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Just outside the city of Harrietville which is just east of Bright you begin to have great views of the snow capped Mt. Feathertop:

Picture From Harrietville, Victoria

Mt. Feathertop is Victoria’s second highest mountain at 1,922 meters (6,306 feet) and was given its name because of the snow that remains on the mountain during the spring time looks like feathers sprinkled on the mountain. Right now the mountain is thickly coated in snow from all the precipitation the Alps have received this year:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Here is a picture of Mt. Feathertop shortly before the Great Alpine Road begins it’s ascent up the Victorian Alps:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Before traveling up the road you have to have vehicle chains. There are number of shops along the road that rent out chains that I had to rent for $30 a day. It was a bit annoying because I had a four wheel drive vehicle and the forecast said it wasn’t going to snow, but if you drive up the mountain without chains it is a $250 fine so it is best to go and rent your chains.

Anyway, as I proceeded up the mountain evidence of past bush fires was quite obvious:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

The forest here in the northern Alps was not as scorched as badly as around Mt. Buller this year, but plenty of trees here were effected by the bush fires. Here is a picture of Mt. Feathertop through some of the these trees:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Mount Feathertop is definitely the most beautiful mountain I have seen in Australia so far basically just because it looks like a real mountain. Most of the mountains here are just large, round hills like Mount Hotham:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

The Mt. Hotham ski resort is located on the very top of the mountain and if you look closely you can see the Great Alpine Road that skirts the side of the mountain in the above picture. Now compare Mt. Hotham with this view of Mt. Feathertop:

Picture From Harrietville, Victoria

This spring I am definitely going to climb Mt. Feathertop when some of the snow melts. It is to dangerous to climb now because of the snow and ice along with the unpredictable weather in the high country during the winter. Hikers and cross country skiers have been killed in these mountains after getting lost in sudden blizzards that have hit the mountains.

I was ready for any potential blizzards as I was driving my Jeep up this mountain:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

As I drove up the mountain and reached a high ridge line above the tree line, great views of the surrounding high country began to open up including views of Mt. Buffalo:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

The clouds around had broken a bit from the summit of Mt. Buffalo thus I had a decent view of the mountain to the southwest. The view to south was of the typical high rolling hills of the Victorian Alps skirted by the Great Alpine Road:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Looking to the west I could see the valley I had just driven through to reach this point:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

To my north was the summit of Mt. Hotham. If you look closely you can actually see the ski lifts on the top of the mountain:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Here is a close up of the snow gum trees on the summit of Mt. Hotham:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Here is a picture of the ridge line running from Mt. Hotham to Mt. Feathertop that is known as the razorback:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Further up Mt. Hotham I had an even better view of the razorback running towards Mt. Feathertop:

Picture from Mt. Hotham, Australia

Hiking the razorback to Mt. Feathertop is actually one of the most popular hikes in all of Victoria thus when I climb Mt. Feathertop this spring this is probably the route I will go. Overall though, the views up here are spectacular and it is almost hard to believe you are still in Australia. This was just the beginning to a great weekend.

Next Posting: Mt. Hotham Ski Resort

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