Arts Students (Mt Feathertop - September 2008)

Q. What do you get when you have two Arts students with little dedication and little inclination for paid work during winter?
A. Mt Feathertop midweek madness

Mark had been in Canada for 7 months, and I’d been sitting around the whole time trying to think up exciting things to do instead of what I should have been doing (thesis) when a ripper of a trip came up on the cards. We’d been trying to tee-up something for a while, but neither of us seemed to be able to wag school or work at the same time. But this obviously couldn’t last (and I’d be worried if you were willing to keep reading about a trip that didn’t happen…even a ripper trip that didn’t happen), and a couple of calls later, we were both out of work (not permanently, just a few shifts between us) and in the car to Harrietville late Wednesday afternoon.

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We managed to take up my entire Corolla with gear and food and set off with many tales to tell and chocolate bullets to consume…no, wait, the chocolate bullets come later in the story, but I’m sure we had something tasty to eat. Harrietville arrived and we decided to set up at the base of Bungalow Spur, our planned descent route from Mt Feathertop. Mark assured me of the awesomeness of his tent – but after the long set up time, cramped space and lack of pegs (he’d only brought the snow pegs) I was not at all convinced. Although I did conclude that if I was caught in a storm in the Main Range, it would be a good tent to be in.

Thursday morning saw us up bright and early, well, not that early, but it was bright – another downside to the tent, the red material makes you angry in the morning when the sun shines through it! We’d packed our packs and donned our volleys, and decided we couldn’t be arsed making breakfast that morning, so we’d buy something in town instead. Speaking of the packs – they were great; we’d managed to pack that light it felt like a daypack, albeit a rather large daypack.

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After a rather tasty baguette (cue Flight of the Conchords), and playing with the border collie, we walked to the end of town, thumbs hitched in search of a ride up the mountain. “Last time I did it, it took me an hour to get someone willing,” said Mark, much to my dismay, particularly as it was mid-week and half the snow had melted already. But he made up for it by calling every car that passed us by all sorts of nasty things (more the drivers than the cars), including a middle-aged lady on a bicycle, “Stupid b#$^h had plenty of room!”

But lady luck was with us that day, and a tradie pulled over after only fifteen minutes and quickly opened his utility to get our skis, packs and boots inside. Turned out he knew Mark’s aunt and uncle, and was also a very fast driver – the two of us noticed that he was rarely out of fifth gear…going up a mountain. We must have arrived at Diamantina Hut by 10:30 – not bad considering we couldn’t even be bothered making muesli earlier that morning, and speaking of muesli, we even got some breakfast bars at the toll gate, score!

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Swapping volleys for ski boots, and smothering on some pink zinc - or is it pinc zink - we were off and skiing across the Razorback. The weather was fine and the snow was just softening, perfect spring skiing by and large, and Mark was carving up some nice turns on the fist decent descent (alliteration – see, Arts students do learn something) with me ploughing behind. I think Mark took the first spill of the day with a long bum drag that could have ended up in the trees, but with all fairness, I side-stepped down the majority of that slope, and within an hour recognised that vast superiority in his skiing ability. But not put off, I struggled through the day, picking up some tips as I went and really happy I was out there and not stuck in Camberwell for the day. And I soon got over the struggling part, and started to focus on getting better, as Mark was jumping of cornices and skiing some really cool looking stuff that I wanted to be doing some time soon (i.e. next season - damn snow melting for kayakers).

Through many annoying and burnt out sections of trees, and up, down and across some tricky terrain (that time was an accident, I swear) we made it to our destination for the night – Federation Hut. Time to take off our skis – the first time all day for Mark, and probably the 20th time for me, take some snaps and relax in the hut. We soon realised that we’d carried far too much for the trip – we could have left all our food and fuel behind, as there was ample in the Hut…no, not the emergency food that you shouldn’t touch, but a big bag set up to swap and share…and share we did, finishing off a packet of liquorice chocolate bullets! Dinner was hot, the sky was clear and the snow was white (well, it was a little brown immediately around the hut). I didn’t have to remind myself why I wasn’t studying.

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We decided that we couldn’t really be bothered ascending the mountain proper that afternoon, nor could we be bothered the next morning. For that matter. We both figured that we’d definitely be up there again some time, and that we still had 20 years of snow, so what would it matter if we didn’t go now?

Friday saw us walk the entire way down Bungalow Spur with skis strapped to our packs, acknowledging the wankiness of using ski poles when walking, and we were back at the car in under two hours. Eating lunch in the car on the way home (how good is home made quiche?) we were back in Melbourne by 4, giving me enough time to pack up again and head over to Footscrazy for another trip, this time mountain biking at Forrest with some other Arts students.

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So the Featherpop trip was hardly a Featherpop trip at all, but that hardly mattered when you can get out for a mid-week ski in spring, when you probably should have been working, and studying, and generally stressing about the daily grind. That mountain would have to be conquered another day…most probably a week day in Spring 2009.

Pete Ay

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