Date – Thursday April 13 to Monday April 17
Group: Stuart Ferres, Stuart Fawcett, Katherine Alsop, Ian Fieldhouse, Nikki Smith, Nadine Pannier, Simon Millie, Michael (Mick) Paszer
Weather – During the preceding week of the hike, reports of large snow falls were heard and it was thought that hiking in snow conditions would be the norm. However a warm front was approaching from the west indicating fine weather for the first 2 or 3 days.
Track Notes – See Appendix A
March 13 – Idea and Location decided.
March 27 – information sheet handed out.
April 3 – Interested people names taken and final route decided.
April 9 – Numbers finalised.
April 11 – Rung everyone to confirm that they had proper clothes, equipment, boots and who they were sharing food with plus transport arrangements.
Sequence of events
Finding a fourth tent (for Nikki and Nadine) proved to be harder than I thought, but after a quick call to Rob Evans, a Venturer tents was acquired.
Thursday April 13
Thursday evening finally arrived and it was decided to take only two cars instead of three as earlier planned. we piled into Stuart and lan’s cars and arrived after a long drive at Tawonga Scout Hall at 1 AM. The Hall had ample facilities for all of us and even carpet and mattresses to sleep on, but we were all so tired to notice these things before we were dead asleep. I highly recommend to stay at the hall if you wish to break up your trip to Falls Ck.
Friday April 14
After a delicious breakfast at the Mt Beauty bakery – a must if you are in the area, we drove up to Falls Ck to commence the hike. A last minute ‘Trip Intentions’ form was filled out and given to a local tradesman to hand into the Mt Beauty Police. With snow covered peaks surrounding Falls Ck and patches of snow around us we headed off. It was unexpectedly warm and the view got better as we climbed higher above Falls Ck. Katherine and Simon stopped at Ruined Castle to collect rock samples and the rest of us headed to Pretty Valley Pondage for lunch. The valley truly did live up to its name. After a good 30 minutes delay Simon and Katherine joined us, whereby it was decided to distribute the maps among the group, as it didn’t look good to nearly lose two members of the group within 90 minutes of starting the hike.
A long hill greeted us after lunch but once on the saddle we were rewarded with a spectacular view of a snow capped Mt Feathertop in the distance and of our campsite in the valley below. Tawonga Hut was a truly cattlemen retreat and the toilet was extremely aromatic. Dinner was started late and finished after dark and before we knew it a heavy dew had settled on the tents. Luckily neighbouring hikers had a warm open fire going and when all the layers we owned were being warm, we huddled around the fire. Some retired early (that is at 8 PM) while others rebelled on till midnight, sharing jokes and tales with fellow hikers.
Saturday April 15
Saturday welcomed us with a white layer of ice on the tents and it was cold. lt took a while to organise everyone and by 10 o’clock we were on the track. We followed the snow poles to the Mt Hotham turn-off, walking through many large snow patches along the way. Dumped our packs below Mt Jim and scrambled up to the summit. Had a great view of all the Bogong High Plains, especially since it was a warm, sunny day.
Lunch was consumed at the SEC Hut near Mt Cope and we relieved Nikki of three cans of Coke and I think we confused four Mountain Bike riders about where they really wanted to go.
We cruised up to the Rover Chalet near Cope Hut after lunch, after being given a grand tour we were invited to stay, which we happily accepted. After most of us had warm showers, dinner, Pictionary, 500, and reading were the favourite ways to past the time before hitting the sack.
Sunday April 16
Rain was all that could be seen out the window in the morning and it was not a day to be hiking. Stuart, Ian , Nikki and Katherine were happy to stay in the Chalet and wait for the weather to improve. However, Mick, Nadine, Simon and I decided to do some exploring. After pacldng some emergency gear and food into a rucksack and wearing all our wet weather gear, we headed out. Had a look at Wallaces Hut and climbed a nameless peak but had to bash our way through the scrub up the peak and back to the Chalet.
Returned very wet and after a shower, we found four people who we had met at Tawonga Hut on Friday night had also been invited to
stay at the Chalet. The weather was not improving and any attempt to hike to Edmondsons Hut would be pointless, so alternative plans of hiking out to Falls Ck tomorrow were drawn up.
The afternoon was passed with much talking, playing Taboo, Pictionary, table tennis, 500, and of course delving into the numerous books in the Chalet. Plus pouring over any map we could get our hands on. After dinner it started to snow and the temperature plummeted to around -5 degrees Celsius outside. I think we were all very glad to be inside the warmth of the Chalet.
Monday April 17
We woke to a white world and thermals, japaras, gaiters, gloves, beanie and sunglasses were a must. Our friends from Tawonga Hut – Chris, Katrina, Lucy and Audrey were planning to hike cross-country to there car at Pretty Valley Pondage but were persuaded that the conditions would not be favourable, so they joined us to walk straight to Falls Ck. Where we could drive them out to their car.
Hiking in snow was new to many of us and even though it was cold and there was a heavy mist, we all wore enough clothes and the combined group of 12 hiked the 10 km to Falls Ck in just over two hours. After a short break in the cafe at Falls Ck we descended on the Mt Beauty Bakery to replenish our reserves. The drive home was not easy as half of Melbourne seemed to be also returning from their Easter Break. We all returned home tired but happy to have finished the hike and still thinking about the four seasons we encountered over the four days of the hike.
Even though the hike was originally planned for four days and three night in tents and we only did three days of hiking and one night in tents … the objective of the Squire Hike was achieved. The issue of what is A proper Squire Hike was discussed during the weekend and it was decided that for a Squire Hike to be successful it has to for fill the criteria of a “night that is ‘self-sufficient and independent”‘ and can also be called ‘an overnight experience’. Since an evening was spent in tents this criteria was accomplished.
The hike also allowed for people with little or slot of hiking experience to participate, giving both new and old crew members the opportunity to get to know each other outside the Monday night format.
One point that sticks in my mind is that nearly every group that we came across while hiking, someone from our group knew someone in the other group and if not, we could strike up a conversation anyway. l would like to thank Stuart and Ian for driving, considering the long distances and state everyone was in at the start and end of the hike.
I also would like to thank everyone who came along and made the hike what it was.
Words by Stuart Ferres