Black River to Mt Shillinglaw


A combination of thick regrowth, an indistinct track and steep slopes presents a navigational challenge when climbing from the Black River to Mt Shillinglaw (Vic). You can always count on your fellow bushwalkers to give assistance...this was scratched onto the burnt trunk of a tree...a welcome sight encountered climbing out of the Black River!


In March-April 2010 I led a group of walkers from the Canberra Bushwalking Club along the Australian Alps Walking Track. I was fortunate in having a fit and knowledgeable party of bushwalkers to accompany me (at various stages), comprising Mark Riley, Amanda Matley, Peter Jones, Madeleine Baldwin, Mike Baker, and Rene Davies.

For me it marked a milestone, as it was only 2 years previously that as a fairly green bushwalker. I did the same walk under the leadership of Rob Horsfield - a recognised expert on the track. It was an overwhelming experience, such that it was only after having undertaken a number of subsequent extended walks with Rob and engaging in regular bushbashing with John Evans and Max Smith that I felt up to the challenge of leading a walk on the AAWT.

Purpose of this material

The purpose of this material is to assist others preparing to walk the AAWT by:


The AAWT retains an aura about it, being said to require true navigation skills, long distance endurance, general bushcraft and just plain good luck. It is a well deserved reputation....when things go wrong with the weather, your party and the trail, the impact is compounded when you are on unfamiliar terrain. The material provided is to the best of my knowledge correct, but ultimately it's up to you to exercise caution and good judgement. You will note in the table below that the level of difficulty encountered on the AAWT varies between states. In general Victoria is far harder than NSW. Indeed many walkers find the extensive fire trails in NSW tedious to walk on and wonder why the track doesn't go up more ridge lines or scenic mountains such as Jagungal or Mt Bimberi. The elevation changes you will encounter mean you have to be prepared for extremes of temperature and rainfall/snow. To top it off, there are few facilities along the AAWT, few handy grocery stores, and very few fellow travellers. It is not unusual to experience an absence of fellow travellers for a week at a time on some sections of the track.

Summary of Track

The following table provides a summary for each day to assist with planning and also links to relevant documents. Each of the rows listed provide the following information (links to come):

Column 1 - the track segment for each day enables you to download a Garmin GPS file (gpx) - do a File, Save As from your web browser (this file can also be read by the Garmin MapSource application); a Google Earth file (kml) - shows the GoogleEarth track if you have that application loaded (to convert these files to other formats, download and install the freeware GPSBabel); and photos stored on Picasa containing a Garmin MapSource track segment and typical terrain and views.
Column 2 - the Grid reference for the Camp at the end of each day provides a Garmin generated map showing the location of the camp
Column 3 - the daily distance and scanned maps providing 1:25k topographic detail
Columns 4-7 - provide a summary of the difficulty of the day. A vertical profile, diagramming the Daily Ascent (column 6) and Daily Descent (column 7) is included in each day's photos
Column 8 - a summary of the difficulty of the terrain – the summary takes into consideration the surface, slope, vegetation, and whether there are obstacles such as fallen logs or worse “pick-up sticks”. See views of terrain in each day's photos
Column 9 - a summary of how good the views are. See typical views in each day's photos
Column 10 - terrain type identifies the type of surface – Fire trail (FT), track (worn path 30cm wide) or pad and provides notes on distinct challenges as well as a link to a discussion of further navigation issues
Column 11 -  the available facilities and water - indicating where the walk became more difficult due to a heavier pack. Note that where groceries are identified as nearby, they involve a walk off the AAWT to a nearby town
Column 12 - elevation, noting that temperature decreases by approximately 6.5 degrees C with an increase in elevation of 1000m.

Name of Track segment for each day
(gpx file) (kml file)
(Daily photos - track from Garmin MapSource, vertical profile, terrain and views)
Grid Reference of campsite
at the end of each day
Daily Distance (km)
Daily hours walking (includes breaks)
Average speed (including breaks)
Approx Daily Ascent (m)
(see vertical profile in daily photos)
Approx Daily Descent (m)
(see vertical profile in daily photos)
Summary of difficulty of terrain (where 5 = easy)
(see terrain in daily photos)
Views (1-5) where 5=great
(see views in daily photos)
Terrain Type
Navigational Challenges
Facilities at camp
Elevation of campsite (m)
Scanned PDF maps for each day
(link to Google docs to come)
Day 01 Walhalla-O'Sheas
gpx kml Day01 photos
55HDU45895 02356 13.4 5:06 3 360 335 4 2 Track Table, W, groceries at Walhalla 377   1
Day 02 O'Sheas - St Gwinear
gpx kml Day02 photos
55HDU39054 11682 20.1 8:28 2 1335 220 3 5 Track with long ascent Rock shelter, W 1490 Rock shelter 1,2
Day 03 St Gwinear - Stronachs
gpx kml Day03 photos
55HDU30944 21927 17.7 7:45 2 310 655 2 3 Track/pad/FT
Waist high overgrown heath after Mt St Phillack
W 1117   2,3
Day 04 Stronachs - Red Jacket
gpx kml Day04 photos
55HDU37977 32185 21.8 9:29 2 765 1410 2 2 Track/FT with long, steep descents & pick up sticks before Little Easton W 509   3,4,5
Day 05 Red Jacket - Black River
gpx kml Day05 photos
55HDU47016 45321 26.0 10:12 3 1250 1135 2 2 Track/FT with long, steep descents W 629 Travelled on Champion Spur Link Tk & took short cut over Mt Singleton. Note slight mis navigation prior to Mt Victor as lost each other on FT! 6,7,8,9
Day 06 Black R - Mt Skene (above Rumpff Saddle)
gpx kml Day06 photos
55HDU46343 56720 14.9 8:03 2 1240 565 1 4 FT/Track
bushbash near knoll SW of Shillinglaw
  1544 Water at Rumpff Saddle 9,10,11
Day 07 Mt Skene - Low Saddle
gpx kml Day07 photos
55HDU50596 68056 17.5 9:30 2 715 1110 2 3 FT/Track
bushbash NE of Mt Sunday with hard slog through dense regrowth
  922 11,12,13
Day 08 Low Saddle - E Barkly Rd
gpxkmlDay08 photos
55HDU55389 73380 12.4 9:08 1.3 815 440 3 5 Track/pad & long descent   1290 Went off track to find W 13,14
Day 09 E Barkly Rd - Chester Yd
gpx kml Day09 photos
55HDU64199 78772 15.3 10:09 1.5 855 645 2 5 Track/pad with steep descent. Note: easier going over the top of Sqaure Top than sidling it W 1491 15,16
Day 10 Chester Yd - Vallejo Gantner H
gpx kml Day10 photos
55HDU70722 85990 13.8 7:52 2 885 535 3 5 FT/easy bushbash up King Billy/ pad/track Hut, W, Toilet 1589 Side trip off the AAWT 16,17
Day 11 Vallejo Gantner H - Catherine Saddle
gpx kml Day11 photos
55HDU69827 92384 10.2 7:04 1.4 540 1070 3 5 Pad along ridge line, scramble W 1208 17,18,19, 20
Day 12 Catherine Saddle - Barry Saddle
gpx kml Day12 photos
55HDU79022 92949 12.3 10:53 1.1 935 1200 1 5 Pad, track up Mt Despair indistinct, pick up sticks at Viking Saddle,
confusing coming off Viking summit
Water Tank 960 Water tank full, but dark black. Tasted OK 18,19,20
Day 13 Barry Saddle - S Selwyn
gpx kml Day13 photos
55HDU90118 99001 16.2 7:34 2 1130 840 4 3 Pad /old FT - a day of up and down Water tank on way 1238 Water tank along the way still without a roof, but 1/2 full and clean 20,21
Day 14 S Selwyn - Murrays H  site
gpx kml Day14 photos
55HDV99669 00199 15.2 6:57 2 950 800 4 3 Old FT   1410 21,22
Day 15 Murrays H Site - Diamantina H
gpx kml Day15 photos
55HEV10953 07746 16.8 5:37 3 1215 905 4 2 Track/bitumen road Hut, groceries at Hotham 1735 Note only walked 10km..hitched a lift to hut 23,24
Day 16 Diamantina H - Cope H
gpx kml Day16 photos
55HEV26019 15452 23.3 9:35 2 640 670 4 3 Track Hut,W, Toilet 1684 Went off AAWT to visit Mine Bogong Alpine Area &24,25
Day 17 Cope H - Ropers H
gpx kml Day17 photos
55HEV29550 26129 17.2 4:43 4 360 310 5 3 FT Hut, W, Toilet 1712 Note: GPS batteries died midway, hence straight line on profile 25,26
Day 18 Ropers H - Cleve Cole H
gpx kml Day18 photos
55HEV29227 32151 11.4 7:47 1.4 780 790 4 3 Track Hut, W, Toilet 1734    
Day 19 Cleve Cole H - Mt Willis H
gpx kml Day19 photos
55HEV42288 25943 18.6 8:26 2 915 855 3 5 Track/FT Hut, Water tank, Toilet 1739 Note in Mt Wills log book: If the tank is empty there is a water supply 15 mins from the Hut. Walk down the track in direction of Mt Bogong fo 10 mins to saddle with concrete culvert under the track. (ie. At bottom of first steep descent, on the left is a boulder with cairn on it) Then , take a bearing of 260degrees (doesn't say TN or MN) and after 2 minutes you'll merge with a gully on your left. Follow gully down for another couple of minutes and you'll see yellow tape on a small dead tree. Nearby a piece of polypipe has good water.  
Day 20 Mt Wills H - Horsfield C
gpx kml Day20 photos
55HEV52822 23225 20.5 10:33 2 471 1176 1 2 Track/bushbash & pick up sticks coming off Mt Wills /FT long climb out of Gill Ck   1069 Camped on side of firetrail with "campsite" christened in honour of Rob 27,28
Day 21 Horsfield C - Mitta Mitta R
gpx kml Day21 photos
55HEV58888 24182 8.2 3:10 3 10 554 5 2 FT/Track W 502   28
Day 22 Mitta Mitta R - Beloka R
gpx kml Day22 photos
55HEV67273 28879 16.2 9:42 2 1041 270 2 3 Track/pad W 1173 Picked up W at Stony Ck to lessen amount had to carry up from the Mitta. Would make a good RV point 29
Day 23 Beloka R - Buenba Ck
gpx kml Day23 photos
55HEV79435 37502 19.6 9:40 2 521 833 3 3 Track/pad W 827   30,31
Day 24 Buenba Ck - Buckwong Ck
gpx kml Day24 photos
55HEV89717 32709 18.3 8:44 2 615 250 3 3 Track/FT W 1110   32
Day 25 Buckwong Ck - Limestone Ck
gpx kml Day25 photos
55HEV95664 23629 15.9 9:52 2 670 855 3 3 Track W 940   33a,33b
Day 26 Limestone Ck - Cowombat Flat
gpx kml Day26 photos
55HFV04651 27251 21.9 10:45 2 785 535 2 3 Track/FT W 1168   33b,34
Day 27 Cowombat Flat - Cascade FT
gpx kml Day27 photos
55HFV10750 41642 21.6 9:28 2 460 330 5 3 FT W 1293   34,35
Day 28 Cascade FT - Dead Horse Gap
gpx kml Day28 photos
55HFV13000 56811 20.7 7:46 3 675 350 5 3 FT W, groceries at Thredbo 1646   35,36
Day 29 DHG - N Mt Twynum
gpx kml Day29 photos
55HFV18250 72126 20.2 8:28 2 965 645 4 5 Track W 2108   37,38,39,40,41
Day 30 N Mt Twynum - Whites R H
gpx kml Day30 photos
55HFV24429 81902 14.5 7:16 2 320 480 2 5 Track/Pad/Rolling Grounds challenge Hut, W, Toilet 1714   41,42,43
Day 31 Whites R H - O'Keefe H
gpx kml Day31 photos
55HFA26191 01385 30.6 11:07 3 640 730 5 3 FT Hut, W, Toilet 1630   43,45,46,47,48,49,50
Day 32 O'Keefe H - Happy H
gpx kml Day32 photos
55HFA38727 13663 26.4 9:09 3 500 600 5 3 FT Hut, W 1513 Slightly off the AAWT 50,51,52,53,54
Day 33 Happy H - 4 Mile H
gpx kml Day33 photos
55HFA33364 22832 14.5 6:03 2 350 350 3 3 Pad/FT/Track Hut, W, Toilet 1473   54,55,56
Day 34 4 Mile H - Witses H
gpx kml Day34 photos
55HFA43054 35789 20.3 7:08 3 455 560 4 3 Track/FT Hut, W, Toilet 1393   56,57,58,59,60
Day 35 Witses H - Hainsorth H
gpxkmlDay35 photos
55HFA44929 51347 22.3 8:07 3 400 430 4 3 FT/track/pad near old telegraph poles Hut, W 1355   60,61,62,63,64
Day 36 Hainsworth H - Dunn's Flat
gpx kml Day36 photos
55HFA60866 50417 23.7 8:01 3 545 480 4 4 FT W 1418   64,65,66,67
Day 37 Dunn's Flat - Orroral R
gpx kml Day37 photos
55HFA76691 56405 22.4 8:55 2 480 910 3 4 FT/Track/Pad Confusing at Pond Ck Flats W 922   67,68,69
Day 38 Orroral R - Namadgi Info Centre
gpx kml Day38 photos
55HFA87234 66028 21.9 6:57 3 810 1120 4 5 FT/Track W, Toilet, Information 600   69,70,71

you can also download this table from here.
please report any failed links by email


Navigational Challenges

Day 06 Black R - Mt Skene: The area immediately before and after the knoll (SH1073) SW of Shillinglaw is covered with dense regrowth, which made it difficult to find the cairn marking the descent point. I ended up guessing the descent point and then climbed some logs to look for a dip in the vegetation below. Once we pushed through to that point I could feel the remnants of an old track with my feet and followed it down to the saddle. (See map 1)
Day 07 Mt Skene - Low Saddle CampNE of Mt Sunday the AAWT becomes choked with regrowth and the track on the western side of the hairpin turn is navigated with your feet by feeling it under you. At times members of the party only 2 meters away could not be seen due to the regrowth. (See Map 2)
Day 12 Catherine Saddle - Barry Saddle: Wasted 20 mins finding the "terrace" Siseman refers to at the summit of the Viking. Note the descent point is initially (for a very short period) to the northwest of the summit. (Siseman and 3 different maps each show a different descent!) Needs to be tagged at the very top. (See Map 3)
Day 20 Mt Willis H - Horsfield Camp: I had some difficulty coming off the southern end of Mt Wills after the trig, as it is unclear whether to go on the E/W side. The answer is E side, then had difficulty finding the old vehicle track & a BIG problem heading E as hit pick up sticks and brambles. The visible markers seem to differ to Siseman notes....eventually found the track at “TRK2”. This area need more tagging. (See Map 4))
Day 30 N Mt Twynum - Whites River Hut: Drizzle/rain/fog & zero vis ...the usual rolling grounds challenge. I turned east too soon prior to The Granite Peaks, but recorrected when the fog lifted for 10 seconds and I saw Horse Camp spur to my east. I’d suggest staying on higher ground as you travel from point 1035 to at least point 226 before turning to head for Track 10 and Track 11 which mark the track down to Whites River Hut. The irony is I had walked this section at least 3 times before ow and I still managed to get muddled....but at least I avoided the bog! See the attached GPS files or Excel spreadsheet for coordinates. (See Map 5)
Day 37 Dunn's Flat - Orroral R : This section of the track is very simple, but at Pond Creek Flats the track becomes indistinct suddenly and it is easy to wander off to the west and to loose the track. If you continue NE you’ll soon find the track again. The area needs a few tags. (See Map 6)

AAWT Map List

Other Supporting Material

You should read “Australian Alps Walking Track” Fourth Edition 2009 by John & Monica Chapman, John Siseman ISBN 978 1 920995 06 5

I have also provided:

  1. Complete GPS Tracks in gdb for Garmin and kmz for Google Earth
  2. The complete list of AAWT Waypoints in an excel spreadsheet
  3. Logistical information - Final Schedule and Transport Arrangements
  4. A gear and food checklist
  5. A first timer’s impression of the AAWT - a powerpoint presentation of my AAWT 2008 trip can be viewed at:


This page last updated 29Jul10