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Chris Bennetts-Cash

Climber. Software engineer. Audio geek.

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At 6pm on December 20, 2013 a ute pulled over at Dead Horse Gap, in the Southern part of Kosciuszko National Park and just South of Thredbo.

Three Canberrans got out of the ute and walked to the start of the bush. A few minutes later a sole person returned to the ute and drove back to Canberra.

This is the journal I kept as we walked the 250km back to Canberra along the Northern third of the Australian Alpine Walking Track.

Our packs are fatter than us as we prepare to set out

Day 0

Got to Dead Horse around 1800 so decided to get the big hill out of the way in dusk. 9.9km later stopped at Rawson’s Pass. May not have been allowed to camp within 200m of the pass but we were 200m from the toilet and that seemed good enough.

Fairly warm night, rain came up when we went to bed but wind had dried it by morning.

This is probably (possibly?) South Ram's Head from the Dead Horse Gap track
After walking up Dead Horse Gap in Winter 2012 I swore I'd never do it again. How did I end up here?
Once atop the Gap it was smooth sailing into Rawson's Pass
A nice (if potentially clandestine) camping spot at the foot of Mt. Kosciuszko

Day 1

Dead Horse to White’s River. Not Schlink as planned. Killer day. So much more mountainous than I’d anticipated. And so much of it untracked.

When we eventually arrived at White’s River Hut we discussed whether to bail on the trip. After talking through bailing, bailing at Kiandra and attempting to continue, we decided to continue. After all, what are PLB’s for … Right?

Fell asleep while Dani cooked dinner. Ate and slept again.

  • Rodent holes in my pack: 2
  • Heels with bilsters: 2
The stunning Main Range. It's amazing being up here
Lake Albina
More snow than I expected for Christmas
White's River Hut

Day 2

On to Grey Mare Hut, 16.8km.

  • Injuries: Right knee

Checked out Valentine’s Hut en route, gorgeous! Adorned with love hearts, very quaint.

Valentine's Hut

Beautiful scenery, good trail. Skipped Valentine’s Falls to avoid more arduous terrain after yesterday. Some sadist had put the hut 500m away from the trail up a damn big hill. And the toilet another 50m uphill.

Grey Mare Hut

Old gold mine is here with machinery and irrigation left behind, but I couldn’t find the mine entrance.

Day 3

On to Mackay’s Hut today.

Word on the street is it’s pronounced “Mackey’s”, and often spelled that way too - albeit incorrectly.

  • Injuries: None, but it turns out, with enough rain, canvas rucksacks aren’t actually waterproof.

A cool start to the day gave a lovely morning, then it started raining lightly. That was also quite nice at first. Morning tea at O’Keefe’s Hut - very beautiful, lined with 1936 newspaper and housing a sparrow nest and pair of sparrows.

Got drenched between O’Keefe’s and Mackay’s when a pleasant sprinkle (not wearing goretex) turned into heavy rain and eventually very heavy rain. And we got drenched.

Started a decent fire in the hut and got our things dry. Dining table dinner by the fire with rock salt and freshly ground pepper!

Drying wet clothes, gear and pack in a steaming hut

Concerned the rain will block further river crossings to the North. It clears before dinner. But it was very heavy…

Mackay's Hut

Day 4

Today’s destination is 4 Mile Hut.

  • Injuries: Chris gets gastro
  • Attacks by hordes of ants: 1

Gastro Stop is amazing stuff!! Otherwise a fairly uneventful day. Had planned to set camp at 9 Mile Creek but were attacked by ants. Not just a little bit attacked. Every time something goes on the ground its colour changes to mostly black attacked.

And some bloody ants bit the bloody part of my blister (which I’d kicked into a rock washing myself at the gold mine and made bleed). And that bloody hurt. So on we went after grabbing desperately-needed water to 4 Mile Hut. Very cute original-style gold miner’s hut.

Nothing but trail as far as the eye can see

Day 5


…And on to Witses Hut

Christmas dawns to the most amazing sunrise I've ever seen
  • Injuries: Dani gets gastro, and bonks a couple of km from the hut.

Uneventful walk in, Chris spends 90 minutes chopping firewood for the crazy-cold mornings while Dani snoozes. Very good looking hut, but made of timber slabs with gaps between them so neither fly-proof nor insulated. We manage to keep the fire going all night by not sleeping very much.

Old town hall at Kiandra along the way
Witses Hut

Day 6

Today, Hainsworth Hut

  • Injuries: None (?!?)

Top up water as soon as we find it (both water sources at Witses were either dry or too shallow to get drinking water).

Also a large herd of brumbies as we set out for the day. They may be pests but they're beautiful

Putting our shoes on after crossing the Tantangara River a 4WD approaches and we chat to some fly fishermen who are out for the day. They agree to send Craig a message for us since we’ve been unable to get phone reception. YAY!

Get distracted by random foot trails all through the untracked section and double back a bit. Dani gets pooped so I steal her food and water for the 5km before lunch.

Then I get pooped.

Lunch at Ghost Gully where several people are hanging around with lots of horsies. I say g’day to one guy as he walks nearby and get nothing in return. That’s a shame.

Still more endless trails

The last 3.5km to the hut is fairly easy and we arrive about 1410ish.

Hut has no saw or toilet but the river is a beautiful temperature so the first order of business is to wash our clothes and ourselves.

Hainsworth Hut

Rain sets in long and hard early evening and, with a less-than-waterproof fireplace, the battle between fire and water commences. A fairly sleepless night and further gastro for Dani sees the night close.

A misty morning adds atmosphere to the seclusion

Day 7

Oldfield’s Hut - My old friend.

  • Injuries: Does a slight graze and a bit of bleeding to my right Achilles from Dani chopping firewood onto me qualify?

A freezing morning sees us get away slightly later - 0710 - and power through to Bill Jones Hut for morning tea.

Bill Jones Hut

Beautiful scenery and the lovely smell of Eucalypt forest after rain but an otherwise uneventful day until the godawful slog up the start of Murray Gap trail.

When Mt. Bimberi appears in the distance we know we're getting close to the end

Arrived at Oldfield’s Hut 1310, found dubious water in a barely-running stream, chopped firewood (well, Dani did the vast majority of that while I supervised) and relaxed.

Oldfield's Hut

Very satisfying to be mere kilometres from the ACT border!

Mt. Bimberi from Oldfield's Hut

Apparently that’s all that I wrote. To ease the suspense: We got out alive, although quite tired after the big day from Oldfield’s Hut to the Orrorral Valley.