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Crag & Route Beta

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VIC Eastern Mt Feathertop (General) (General)  

Mt Feathertop - advice required.
9:22:00 AM
Hey guys,
Just wondering if anyone here has climbed mt feather top near hotham during winter. I'm interested in going but don't know where to start. Spent a bit of time skiing, and hiked a bit. But no snow camping experience.. Would this be a dumb endevour? Cheers

9:23:53 AM
There are no dumb endeavours, or bad weather for that matter.

Only innappropriate equipment.

9:45:40 AM
Yep, have ice climbed in the Western gullies and Eastern faces. Plenty of snow camping on a sheltered
ridge to the north west or do what I did and camp in the MUMC hut (take a tent incase its full). You can
walk up the North West spur to the hut, but it is a hard direct walk with a pack full of ice gear and snow
camping gear. However, I was a 65 kg weakling and managed it - but be warned your pack gets very
heavy if going with appropriate gear. If you have someone with ice experience with you and know what
you are doing with multi pitch climbing its a good intro to ice climbing.

11:44:23 AM
I've done it several times and heading up again in the coming week. The easiest way up
is via Bungalow Spur which starts in Harrietville. Its 11km long but is well defined,
sheltered with only the last bit in snow (allow 3-4 hours).
This gets you up to Fed hut, which is a good sheltered area to camp and from there you
can head up to the summit ridge. The hike up the ridge isn't too bad but can get icy.
One big consideration is to stay away from the cornice edge as it can get very built up
with the potential to collapse. I haven't climbed any of the gullies but they are steep, and
probably not really beginner territory.
Overall, its not a stupid endevour, in fact quite a good one to get some snow camping
and backcountry experience. ie: in bad weather its easy to bail off down bungalow spur
(only around 2 hours to get down. On a good day the walk up is fantastic and well worth
the effort!

11:57:24 AM
The Razorback is a good option is you want to spend more time in the snow and less time slugging up hill - typically the whole route is snow covered and the finish (ie, the base of the summit ridge) is at about the same altitude as the start (but it undulates a bit along the way).
On the summit ridge, I agree with Sabu - I'd stay away from the cornice and take care if it's icy, particularly if you don't have experience travelling on icy terrain.
If you are coming in along the Razorback, note that the ridge is exposed the whole way in and the weather can turn for the worse pretty quickly. It's not unheard of in winter to have effectively zero visibility along the ridge. A GPS or good navigational skills (and a compass and map) are essential (although it's not hard to navigate as it's essentially a north/south ridge).
Feathertop is a great trip in winter and a good introduction to snow camping, it just requires some decent warm and waterproof gear and an eye on the weather.
12:45:57 PM
Feathertop is normally navigatable without specialised equipment. You could summit feathertop in sneakers for much of the winter, though if you want your toes to stay warm decent boots are probably a good idea. All the the three main routes are good NW spur, Bungalow and Razorback. Though you'd probably want skis or snow shoes for the razorback.

It takes around 4-5hours to head up the NW spur to the MUMC hut, and another hour to the summit. One winter I went from Melbourne to the hut and back to Melbourne in a day, I made it but I wont be doing that again!

As has already been said the cornice can be dangerous and I believe has resulted in deaths in the past. Just stay away from the edge and you'll be fine.

MUMC go up feathertop yearly and their most important piece of equipment is the beer bong.

2:05:12 PM
Have done the gullies and would consider them beginner territory if you are a beginner to ice, as long as
you know how to belay ie multi pitch skills. the ones on the west are not that steep, once as I was
climbing up a snow boarder came flying down, which well and truly put my exploits in perspective. Had
great fun though. Ditto all the cornice warnings. They usually overhang the eastern face and you need to
do more than stay away form the edge. Look around for info on how to calculate where a cornice would
break off. Definitely at least one death on Feathertop from collapsing cornice.
5:39:56 PM
It's a great peak. As others have said various ways to get up. If it's your first time there Bungalow Spur is best. From Federation Hut onwards things do get quite steep so take extreme care especially if you plan to go up without crampons and an ice axe (would not recommend it unless you are going just to the hut).
If there has been a freeze overnight the whole summit ridge/summit area will be very slippery so suggest you hire some gear.

Here is some footage from someone that unfortunatley was involved in an accident there. Shows you the type of environment you are going in to.

9:28:57 PM
nw spur is the best way up short and steep so not a huge distance to pug steps but dont get lost and end up bashing up to the bungalow spur . Razor back would be crazy with snow shoes or skis . bungalow takes forever and is a long way in snow. heaps of good campsite along the flat ridge south of mumc hut in the snow gums .
10:32:43 PM
Thanks for putting up the youtube links... i thought it was quite funny the rescuer needed rescuing.... who goes out on to an ice/snow slope in rubber-soled boots... seriously.....not sure the rescuer had his thinking cap

Anway, I'm also keen to head up to Feathertop this winter. Going up the walking track from Harrietville to the summit, are snow shoes normally required in winter? I've got the ice covered (have plenty of ice climbing gear), just wondering if it is doable in nice warm boots? Also, if anyone is keen to head up there on a weekend this winter, let me know, I have transport and ice and snow gear (except for snow shoes).

11:00:52 AM
Whats wrong with rubber soled boots? Friends and I have summitted feathertop during winter numerous times in 'rubber soled boots'.

I was not kidding when I said earlier that Feathertop was navigatable without specialised equipment. By this I mean you generally don't need snow shoes, crampons or ice axes. Decent walking boots are fine even for the summit and are definately all that should be necessary for the walking tracks.

Of course all this is based on weather and ground conditions. I've been up there 3 years running without any issues. However this is an alpine environment, conditions can vary significantly so use you own judgement when you are up there.

12:42:21 PM
OK I'm going to bite on this one.

The original post was from someone wanting advice on ascending Mt Feathertop in winter. He also said he doesn't have much snow camping experience. I think carrying on about how you can get away with sneakers and no axe when conditions are mild and snow is thin is unwise.

Here's the low down. It's an exposed peak which gets good and bad weather, in some years there is loads of snow, in others its grass. When there is loads of snow and rain and freezing temperatues, you can get ice on the ridges going up. In these conditions a good pair of waterproof solid boots to kick steps and a single ice axe would be appropriate (plus the knowledge on how to use it). Snow shoes may help on the approach should the snow be soft, but you can always plug steps as most people do. Skiing is common but it is not suitable for beginners due to the steepness. The summit will often have a dangerous cornice that must be steered clear of.

Yes I've stood on the summit in August with grass under my feet. I've also stood on the summit in howling wind on hard ice, happy to have an axe to descend safely to the huts.

The fact that several people have died on this mountain, including an MUMC member, must surely make it obvious not to underestimate the mountain or attempt it with minimal equipment hoping for benign conditions.

12:46:21 PM
Out of interest how many people would recommend carry crampons up there?
I've always debated with myself every time i've gone. Heading up this weekend or next,
definitely gonna take an axe though im still not sure about crampons.

12:48:59 PM
On 6/07/2009 lacto wrote:
>nw spur is the best way up short and steep so not a huge distance to pug
>steps but dont get lost and end up bashing up to the bungalow spur . Razor
>back would be crazy with snow shoes or skis . bungalow takes forever and
>is a long way in snow. heaps of good campsite along the flat ridge south
>of mumc hut in the snow gums .

The razorback from the road/diamintina hut to fed hut/summit is an excellent ski when there is good snow cover and little wind. The main problem is that you probably want to overnight somewhere near fed hut, and if the weather has changed you may need to escape down bungalow spur, which could be a royal pain if you have only one car up at diamintina's.

1:30:10 PM
I cannot fault the approach of preparing for all conditions. However leaving Harrietville without crampons and ice axes will not endanger you.

Ice axes and crampons are not needed for the approach to either of Federation Hut or MUMC Hut. From the huts you can safely decide whether to continue with your summit or not. In my experience 90% of the time you will not require crampons or ice axes to safely do so. Sure sometimes conditions may require other equipment but you will be able to observe if this is necessary BEFORE the summit push.

The bigger issue of safety in my eyes are you typical bushwalking concerns. Ie; ensuring you have adequate food, clothing and shelter to cater for most eventualities. If you or a party member breaks/strains a foot a couple hours away from shelter are you equipped to hand the situation?

And of course whether conditions are perfect and your in sneakers or if it is poor weather. STAY AWAY FROM THE CORNICE!

I will be heading up there soonish. It looks like it will be quite busy up there this season. I will likely be taking up snow shoes because they are fun! :-) But depends on the snow depth. I wont be taking ice axes or crampons.
1:38:56 PM
Thanks for the info guys.. sorry hugh, not meaning to hijack the thread. I'm just looking to go up there soon also and thought I'd add onto this tread rather than start a new one. I think I'll take an axe and my crampons just in case they are needed. Would hate to get up there and no summit cause I leftmy axe and crampons at home. But by the sounds of it, the snowshoes can stay in the shop for now....

2:58:58 PM
"Out of interest how many people would recommend carry crampons up there? "

I do - I've been up a few times in winter and have always carried them (although haven't always used them). You don't need much ice on the summit ridge for the extra feeling of safety you get when wearing crampons to be worth the extra weight. Ditto the ice axe.

Re the weather - the Razorback can be a lonely place when you are caught half way along in bad weather/zero visibility. Always a good idea to be prepared for the worst (and to turn back, even on an "easy" hill like Feathertop).

3:24:07 PM
For the summit I reckon you should always take an ice axe (or ski pole if you've skied in). It's not for getting up the mountain its for arresting a fall down one of those steep gullies. Snow is kinda wet and slippery and one slip and you'll be hurtling down the sides with only snowgums to stop you. Get someone to show you how to self arrest properly and practice on a safe slope with soft mushy flat bottom.

I don't have sound on this computer but this video looks the deal. Enjoy.
3:31:28 PM
if you're not front-pointimng, try lightweight ski-mountaineering crampons and axes. Capm XLC-390's (extra light crampon 390gms) are great, and I have some mega-light alu tool as well (similar to a Camp 'corsa').

No good for pitches of water ice perhaps, but great for booting and sheet ice.

4:13:18 PM
On 7/07/2009 dizzy wrote:
>I do - I've been up a few times in winter and have always carried them
>(although haven't always used them). You don't need much ice on the summit
>ridge for the extra feeling of safety you get when wearing crampons to
>be worth the extra weight. Ditto the ice axe.
Thats been my logic for a while, although its kind of annoying when one has to hire such
things out! However, the video John posted is a good reminder thats its worth it to take the
extra effort in terms of gear/safety.

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