A 36km day trip can hold so much. Snow, steps and mental grit. Pippa and her friends find out just how quickly the weather can change and just how powerful nature is on their day trip up Mt Feathertop


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Taungurung and the Gunaikurnai peoples who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Barp, barp, barp! Shut up, shut up, shut up!

I roll over, but the noise doesn’t stop; the obnoxious ‘barping’ drilling deeper and deeper into my brain. My arm snakes out of the doona and smacks at the alarm. It’s still so dark I can see the sparkle of stars outside, so surely it can’t be time to get up already. Then I remember – today’s the day. It’s 4am, and time to get going.

My bag is already packed, but I grab some toast and pour an instant coffee into my Keep Cup. It’s never too early for breakfast. Nose cold but fingers warm, I grip my cup tightly and wait at the end of the driveway. Sure enough, it’s not long before I spot the unmissable glow of car headlights. I jump in.

Suddenly, I’m awash with energy.

The sounds of Ball Park Music and nervous giggles fill the car, and we speed through the darkness. Alone on the road, we are ecstatic.

We’re headed to Mt Feathertop, to complete the infamous ‘hot triangle’. Up the Bungalow Spur, across the Razorback, and down the Bon Accord Spur before walking back along the road to meet the car. The three of us have been planning this 36km trek since we were 16 years old.



The sky is still dark as we arrive at the base of the mountain. Faces lit up by the car headlights, we dry-scoop pre-workout (a gift from my gym-junkie brother), laughing at the obnoxiousness of it all. Jittery from excitement (or the caffeine overload) we set out on the track, doing little jumps and hooting as pale pink cracks form in the sky’s dark façade.

We’re off!

Hiking during the early hours of the morning is really something else. The world comes alive before your eyes; smatterings of light and colour give way to the sounds of the bush – birds cheerfully calling good morning, lizards scuttling about. Your whole world transforms.


Early morning wildlife


Still full of beans and wanting to make the most of our early start, we speed up the mountain in record time. Yet about a kilometre from the top, we start to notice something slightly off – the ground is slushy. Snow.

The squishy white stuff builds up around our ankles, slowing us down as we contend with its slippery nature.

It continues to rise, first to our shins, then to our knees. Finally, we reach the hut, and the snow is peaking at thigh height. We’ve only walked a third of the way, but we’re exhausted. Without snowshoes or skis, the novelty of snow runs out very quickly.


Knee-high snow!

Nevertheless, we troop on

We then realise our second mistake (the first, of course, was not checking the weather forecast). We’ve run out of water. 

Being the entrepreneurial young people we are, we decide our best option is to attempt to melt snow in a drink bottle shoved in our jacket pockets. We know the age-old advice that it burns more energy using body heat to melt snow than you gain from drinking it, but sometimes these things are worth a try anyway.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

‘Ah well, we’re sweating anyway, might as well put that warmth to good use!’

However, the snow was never close enough to our bodies to actually melt. Instead, we just ended up carrying extra weight. Good exercise, right?

Read more: Alpine Back Country Winter Safety

How could this trip possibly get more challenging?

To make things even more exciting, the weather decided to come in. A whiteout. Exactly what we needed when the track had already disappeared under white powder.

Our phones became our saviours, and we clung to their questionable GPS systems with all our hope. Stopping and starting, reversing and traversing, we trudged along the ridgeline (or what we thought was the ridgeline).

Whenever we found ourselves beneath where we thought the trail was, we had to slog up steep, snowy inclines to get back on the ridge. It was a time-consuming and often disheartening process, especially when we would reach what we thought was the top, only to be met by a series of impassable rocks. Back down we’d go, and try another route up.

Despite the many ‘scenic’ detours, we eventually reached the end of the ridge, marked by a signpost pointing down Bon Accord Spur. For those unacquainted with Mt Feathertop, Bon Accord Spur is known for being so steep you need to scoot down the track on your bum (and I take my hat off to those brave enough to hike up it).

As we stumbled down the mountain, the fog dissipated and with it our panic. Our feet ached, our toes were wet, and our conversation had mostly run dry. Regular snack breaks helped to lighten the mood amidst the darkening sky.


True Grit!


Just as daylight’s arrival was welcomed, it was dearly missed when it made its way behind the mountain’s dark borders. We raced against the light. My mind grew misty and my legs separated from my body – they kept moving, quickly, but I was no longer the one controlling them.

Finally, our head torches reflected white – the car.  ‘Yewwwww!’

The crew at the end of their adventure

Our exhaustion evaporated.

‘I can’t believe we made it!’

‘Did you see how many steps we did?’

‘Oh man, I could go for a feed.’


Was it worth it?

It’s funny how our brains forget pain so readily. I can look back on this hike fondly and think of it as an exciting adventure. And it was an exciting (albeit challenging) adventure. However, we were also incredibly lucky.

Weather in the High Country can change suddenly and unexpectedly, and this is not something to be disregarded. Check the forecast, prepare for a range of conditions, fill out a trip intention form, and make sure to pack an emergency communication device – because you never know when the mountains will decide to humble you.