Bogong High Plains

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Back Country Awareness Please read the following articles before considering going back country and research widely. Do not use information provided here as textbook accuracy as anyone can edit it. Double check anything found here and consult with experts before heading beyond the resort boundaries. People die in the back country every year, don't add your name to the list.

Overview

The Bogong High Plains offer some great touring and are well known for all types of skiing, from skating (on groomed trails around Falls Creek and Rocky Valley dam), day Nordic and overnight touring, and, increasingly serious downhill telemarking and boarding.

There are three basic 'units':

the plains themselves – mostly undulating and open country to the south of Falls/ Rocky Valley and Pretty Valley. This country has the most extensive open high country in the state, and tapers off towards the south into forests.

Mount Fainter and the Yit-ma-thangs sit off to the north west of the plains and provide remote feeling and higher skiing and fantastic views of Feathertop and Bogong.

Mount Nelse and Spion Kopje offer similar high country on the north east side of Falls, with some great skiing in gullies and off the eastern fall of the plains. Boarders are increasingly making the effort to get out onto Baker Spur and Spion Kopje. This area also links (via the deep trough of Big River or snakey ridgeline of the Grey Hills and Timms Spur) through to Mount Bogong itself.

Destination

There are so many areas to ski I can't give an overall rating but a lot of it is superb! See separate notes on specific mountains/ areas below.

  • RATING: Approach Steepness
  • PITCH:
  • EXPOSURE:
  • ELEVATIONS:
  • VERTICAL: biggest vertical drop is probably off Mt Fainter on the west side

I can't figure out how to embed images in this section so will just add some links below to give a sense of the lay of the land:

Mt Bogong from the edge of the High Plains near Spion Kopje http://wikiski.com/wiki/images/6/6c/Mt_bogong.gif

Feathertop from the edge of the High Plains. The ridge on the right gives a sense of whats on offer along the Fainters range http://wikiski.com/wiki/index.php/Image:Mt_feathertop.gif

Access

By far the easiest access is to ski out from Falls Creek alpine village. There is a regular bus service from Melbourne.

Other approaches (often better done as descents after starting from Falls) include:

- a ski off Mount Fainter North to Bogong Jack saddle and then through trashed alpine ash forests to eventually meet the Falls Creek road;

- a climb from Mount Bogong (Quartz Ridge is highly recommended, then either Timms Lookout or via the Grey Hills, which then joins the Spion Kopje ridge)

- a climb from Howmans Gap up onto Spion Kopje (can be difficult to get across the Rocky Valley creek in some conditions).

- You can access the eastern slopes of the Plains from the Big River valley around Shannonvale and the western side of the Plains from Mount Feathertop (down Diamantina Spur, then via the trail from the Kiewa River up past the old Westons hut, which is now burnt out).

- You can access the eastern slopes of the Plains from the Big River valley around Shannonvale.

- You can also ski in from Mount Loch (via the Hotham resort) then into Cobungra Gap and onto the Plains near Mount Jim.

Routes

the Plains itself

There is cruisey touring right across the Plains, largely through undulating open country. There is a good snow pole system across much of the plains, although little in the way of big ski runs, except around the fringes of the open high country. A good first trip is just to do a big loop out of Falls Creek around Rocky Valley dam, then south through Langford Gap and along the aqueduct trail, past Cope hut, then following the Alpine Walking Track route after Cope Saddle hut, then to Pretty Valley dam and Ruined Castle. Its an easy 2 - 3 day trip. Much of the middle section is a series of giant and shallow valleys and can be very exposed when the weather is coming in from the south west.

Cope hut is a nice spot to stay, with easy beginners slopes across from the hut. Mt Cope is a good day trip from here. Most other huts in this section of the plains tend to be a bit old and shabby, making camping a better option. Note that if doing cross country skiing (rather than following pole lines) there are issues of magnetic anomalies affected compasses in the area around Mount Jim.

The far south western corner of the plains, around Mount Jim, has a nice remote feeling, with some great views of Feathertop ridge, Mt Loch and Machinery Spur and the night lights of Hotham across the valley. You can continue on to Mount Hotham via Mount Loch from near here. This is a reasonably popular day trip from Falls Creek, although the car shuffle is at least 3 hours in length. There are pole lines pretty much the whole way. The descent from the Plains towards Cobungra Gap is magical, passing through unburnt snow gum forests then into Alpine Ash. In a good winter (eg 2008) you can ski the whole route, although it can be hard work dropping through the trees towards the gap. There is a lovely frost hollow type plain at the bottom, where Dibbins Hut is located, which is an old log cabin. From here it is a solid climb up onto Loch itself. There are some extra basic details on this area available at: http://wikiski.com/wiki/index.php/Mt_Loch

The southern plains

There is a slightly lower area of mostly forested country to the south of the Plains proper. This is seperated from the plains by the Bundarra river but can be accessed via the southern pole line past Mt Jim and then down Young Spur. In a decent winter you can ski through to Dinner Plain (the Plain, not the ski village) and then out to the Hotham – Omeo road. Another way in is via Mount Loch and Cobungra Gap and Basalt Temple (which makes for an exposed but wonderful campsite).

This area is quite remote and a lot of it was burnt but there are till fantastic patches of old snow gum forest and dozens of gorgeous snow plains. Many people use Youngs hut as a base. Note that there are no snow poles in this region so you need reasonable navigation skills to venture out here.

Mount Fainter and the Yit-ma-thangs (formerly the Niggerheads)

For those in need of steeper slopes, this area is great. Its a longer haul in: you head out above Falls Creek village and turn right towards and past Ruined Castle, past Mount McKay (lots of nuisance value from the over snow transport, best bet is to cut out over the ridgeline above Pretty Valley rather than following the road line to the Valley, you then get a great descent through forest to the huts in Pretty Valley), then through Pretty Valley and the far reservoir (make sure you use the crossing) and finally a gentle climb over a ridgeline and on to the Tawonga huts (these are not in great shape, but the 'kitchen' hut has been fixed up in recent years and there is one 'dorm' type hut that sleeps about 4 people. There is lots of sheltered spots for camping around the huts).

There is no pole line from Pretty Valley hut to Tawonga – so take due care in bad weather. In this case the best bet is to drop down to the shores of Pretty Valley pondage after leaving the hut and then following a slightly vague series of poles along to the causeway crossing of the pondage. Then head uphill on a bearing slightly south of due west. When you cross a high rise slightly more than 2 kilometres from the causeway, head directly over into the valley below, where you will be able to pick up the pole line that will lead you right (north) into Tawonga Hut Creek.

From here you climb onto the Yit-ma-thangs and then Fainter (like much of the Plains, this was badly hammered during the fires of 2003, so much of the snow gum woodland is in early stages of recovery). There is a marked 4WD trail, that leads north out of the valley where the huts are, otherwise in good conditions you can just veer left to the ridge that divides the High Plains from the Kiewa valley below and follow your nose up over the Yit-ma-thangs and then into the saddle and on to Fainter. This is the much better option in most conditions. There are some sheltered 'benches' on the east side up on the mountain where you can camp, with fantastic views back over Mt McKay and beyond and also good spots on Little Plain.

The western slopes of this range have some awesome gullies (there is a bit of easy rock climbing here in summer). Especially check out the two main ridgelines to the north of the summit cairn of the Yit-ma-thangs (GR 171171 on the VicMap 1:50,000 Bogong Alpine Area map) that jut out into the Kiewa Valley. The first one runs from the high point at GR 175167 and the second runs from the end of the Yit-ma-thang range at GR 164188. The aspect is great from this entire range as you are looking over the deep trough of the Kiewa to the inspiring south east face of Feathertop. For some serious open slopes, check out the southern face of Fainter South, it is quite like sections of Cairn Gully on Mount Bogong. In terms of easier skiing but still with some nice long descents, there are nice open slopes off the entire length of the range on the eastern side, running down into snowgum forest.

The north east slopes of Fainter are worth the long ski in. You can head out this way, following the ridge to Bogong Jack Saddle then down 4WD tracks into an intensely logged area, coming out on the Falls Creek road upriver from Bogong village.

Mount Nelse and Spion Kopje

This is similar to the Fainter area but closer to Falls so gets much more traffic, including large numbers of day trippers. There is a groomed circuit that goes along the Rocky Valley Dam and back via Heathy Spur (my understanding is that trail fees apply when using the trails but if you are just accessing them to gain the backcountry they do not apply: but you may want to check this at the Nordic centre at Windy Corner, at the top end of the resort).

There are more huts out on this side, making for easy base-camping and all manner of runs (with cornices often forming around Mt Nelse) and gorgeous long ridges stretching out to Timms lookout. Edmonson hut sits in a lovely basin, with unburnt snowgum around it and makes for a great base camp location. The slope above Edmonsons (go past the toilet and cross the stream) and into the gully to its north is great practise country for getting those telemark turns sorted. Ropers hut has also just been rebuilt after the fires of a few summers ago. The area around the hut makes for a great base camp as it is well and truely out of the wind. High level and exposed camps are possible on a number of high points along the Spion Kopje ridge and there is a very protected valley about two thirds of the way out where the old aquaduct cuts through. The impressive southern gullies of Mount Bogong tantalise from most higher spots on these ridges.

For big drops in classic gully and chute country, Bakers Spur is popular, increasingly a destination for boarders who don't mind a decent walk. The southern face of Spion Kopje is probably the premier skiing spot in this area. If you get out to Spion Kopje, Crows Nest is worth a visit as well, it has some good steepish drops on both its east and western sides although it doesn't hold snow like the southern face of Spion Kopje.

If heading out towards Mt Bogong either via Timms lookout or the Crows Nest and Grey hills, note that most of this country is below treeline, making the skiing sometimes more challenging on the descents, especially with heavy packs. Grey Hills have a remote feeling in spite of the fact you look down on the Falls Creek road and across to the lights of the village at night. The loss of altitude is less than if you go via Timms Lookout (and considerably less than the descent to Big River from Ropers) so can be a good option if there is decent snow as you may be able to ski most/ all of the way. And the climb up Quartz Ridge is impressive. See the Mount Bogong section for further info on this approach.

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GPS References

Considerations

This is quite tame country in terms of access issues and specific dangers. It is patrolled out along the Rocky Dam and Heathy Spur trails.

Scope the cornices on Nelse before jumping off (!) and it doesn't hurt to ski out on Bakers Spur to look at the gullies on the south side of Spion Kopje to get a sense of how the system works before heading out there (there are no major hidden cliffs or anything that i know of).

The Fainters are more serious in terms of backcountry destinations - it is a longer ski in (and no groomed trails on the way)and while phone coverage is OK up on the ridges, it can drop out as you descend either into the Kiewa or on the eastern side of the mountain. There is a real tangle of logging roads along the eastern flanks of the mountain - generally heading downhill will bring you out to eventually join the Mt Beauty - Falls Creek road, but there can also be false leads into coupes.

Note the magnetic anomolies that are marked on maps - this affects the area around Mt Jim.

Mobile Phone Coverage

Generally excellent, although it drops out in some gullies and once you're on the slopes below the eastern side of the plains.

Maps

The best map of the area is Rooftop Maps Bogong High Plains at a scale of 1:30,000. It covers the area between Ropers Hut and Mt Jim in excellent detail. However it was published in 2001, so it does not incorporate the loss of huts in the 2003 and 2006 fires or any of the new walking tracks near Falls Creek.

The out of print VicMap 1:50,000 Bogong Alpine Area map also does the job, it's a reasonable scale and covers the whole of the plains and surrounding country. However the last revision was in 1989 and a lot of things have changed in the past 20 years.

The new VicMap covering the area is Falls Creek, also at 1:50,000. Despite being published in 2007, the information on it dates from over a decade earlier and much of it is inaccurate. For example it shows the summit ridge of Mt Nelse as having tree cover! It is obvious that this map has not been field checked and it is probably wiser to use one of the older maps described above.File:Example.jpg