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.
The words 'remote' and 'Mount Loch' don't really go together. The Hotham ski resort long ago sprawled out onto the Loch Ridge and the area is increasingly popular with snow boarders keen to get out beyond the confines of the groomed country. However, access is excellent, and there are some fantastic runs and options for overnight camping and longer trips through to the Bogong High Plains.
- Backcountry Run Rating
- RATING: Approach Steepness
Access and Trip
By far the easiest access is via the Mount Hotham resort. There is a major new water collection system that now covers much of the old Mt Loch carpark, so parking can sometimes be a bit limited, especially on busy weekends.
If it is full, then the worst case scenario would involve parking in the day park at Hotham village and then skiing out, which doesn't take long. Walk back up to the tunnel just above the village in Hotham Central and start skiing below the road, skirting around the top of the valley and back to the start of the Mt Loch ridge (this is a home run from the Loch area so is of a gentle gradient).
There are regular bus services to Hotham during winter from Melbourne.
Once you're at the start of the Mount Loch ridge (at the enormous dam), just follow the ridge line, it is pretty obvious where to go, and there will be lots of alpine skier traffic. This section, all the way out to the Bogong High Plains is part of the Australian Alpine Walking track. Eventually you swing around to the right – you can head uphill here to access the summit or continue on along the pole line towards Derrick hut. There is a lot of downhill country on offer from here on, whether you continue on to the summit or out along the ridge towards Cobungra Gap.
Apart from some very nice touring to get out to the mountain, there are some great downhill runs. For gentle practise, try the areas around Loch summit, and the valley towards Derrick Hut, or northwards along Machinery Spur towards the Red Robin mine site.
The premier big runs are directly to the east of the summit ridge, into the big gullies. The eastern face of the mountain, stretching from Swindlers Spur past Middle Spur towards Dibbins divide has some impressive slopes and gullies. Ski initially to the summit of Mount Loch then veer north east towards the start of Middle Spur to scope out the best runs.
If you stay on the snow pole line after the summit you descend to Derrick hut (there is great camping down here as it is fairly protected, although the hut is intended for day and emergency use only). There are some great drops off Swindlers Spur, especially back in to Swindlers Valley, both off the south west and south east sides (this second part is a bit further out and gets less traffic). These runs are mostly down through trees. You can see the obvious runs in this area from the Mount Hotham road as you drive from Hotham village towards Dinner Plain.
Spargos hut is an older era hut from the early days of the development of alpine skiing on Hotham and makes for a nice day trip. The easiest way to get there is follow the pole line from Mount Loch car park well past the summit of the mountain and down to about pole 90. Just before you get to Derrick hut (pole 94) you cross an obvious shallow valley that flows north east. Turn right here as you cross the stream and just before you enter the trees, and head uphill and in a few hundred metres you will reach a high point with a saddle and higher forested ridge visible immediately to your south. Head in this direction, and over the high point (Golden Point) and below you you will then see a large open area and big patch of un burnt snow gum – you will find the hut down here. On the way back it can be nice to siddle along the west side of the ridge that runs back to pole 90 rather than climbing back over the top. There is now 'remote' area alpine skiing out this side of the valley so once you meet the masses of skiers heading in the opposite direction to you, swim upstream along their downhill trail till you rejoin the actual numbered snow pole line again.
One option is to ski out via the valley below and Swindlers Spur, then up through the resort via the home trails on the other side of the valley and up to Hotham Village (its a long climb). NOTE that you can't ski out from the south eastern slopes of Swindlers, only the closer side from Spargos hut and back towards Mt Loch, where the resort area is clearly below you, from about pole 90 or less, and from the ridgeline that continues directly south of pole 90. Make sure you can see where you are going, otherwise you may end up in thick scrub downstream of the ski resort area. Obviously if you have a lift pass you can catch the Blue Ribbon or Village lifts back up to Hotham village. Skiing of the south eastern sides of Swindlers Spur would be crazy as there are no walking tracks for a very long way – well down Swindlers Creek, and even then it would be a mammoth trip back out to either Dibbin hut or back along the aqueduct tracks and up onto the Hotham road.
If you are up for a longer trip, you can continue along Swindlers Spur, which drops below snow line to Cobungra Gap, and then up onto the Bogong High Plains and out via Falls Creek – a great trip which generally requires a camp on the way, although is definitely doable in a long day. Dibbins hut sits at about 1350 metres above sea level, so in a good winter you at least have snow all the way, although the final descent and initial climb back up towards Basalt Temple generally requires a walk. There is good camping with excellent views toward the High Plains on the high ridgeline roughly north of pole 145.
Like all backcountry areas, you need the appropriate gear and experience. Having said that, this is a very forgiving area: good access, good phone coverage, and snow poles all the way in and out as well as groomed trails for most of it.
Mobile Phone Coverage
Like much of the Alps, it is good when you're up high (there is a relay station on nearby Mt Hotham). It drops off in the gullies, especially over towards the Bogong High Plains.