One of the most charismatic of our peaks, it is more a long ridge that strikes out from the hub of Mt Hotham, raising at the northern end of the Razorback into an impressive rounded peak before dropping below treeline as it snakes off to the north and the great flatness of inland Australia.
The east face comes with an atmospheric backdrop, the deep notch of the valley of the East Kiewa and the edge of the Bogong High Plains beyond. And to drop down the ridges or gullies of the east face is to find yourself in a maze of steep alpine country, with great ice climbing (or skiing for those who are up to it).
The name supposedly comes from the ‘feather’ type snow drifts that often remain on the eastern side of the mountain well into spring, but to me those gullies that hold the winter remnants are more alpine and rocky than ‘feathery’. On the west side is the valley town of Harrietville, an enclave of mountain lovers and workers, with an impressive share of hand built houses, a deep and cold ‘lake’ and the mountain literally at the edge of town. Like most of these mountains, it was badly burnt in recent fires and much of the Razorback and slopes have thick regrowth lower down and thickets of new snow gum and slowly greying branches up higher.
There is a new hut – Federation, which was rebuilt after the 2003 fires – and the older and atmospheric MUMC dome, quite an institution in its own right. Lots to do on the mountain, the hard slog up from the Kiewa valley, or more leisurely stroll along the Razorback, big telemark slopes face down to the MUMC hut or there is the steeper stuff off the eastern side to keep folks happy in winter, including a growing number of boarders. Almost any time of the year you will find people toiling up the Bungalow or North West Spurs, paying homage in their own way to one of our most loved peaks.
Which is an interesting point. Most people who stick more or less to their cars or the groomed ski runs of Hotham, see Feathertop as an impressive and distant backdrop as you climb the Great Alpine Road. But these people don’t actually go there. Amongst those who get out back, on foot, Feathertop is one of those treasured locations, like Bogong or Mt Howitt – because it is relatively remote (despite plans for an alpine resort at one point) and classic Victorian high country in nature. You feel in the centre of the alps, Buffalo a distant crumpled ridge sitting out to the north west, and a wonderful tangle of mountains in all directions, across as far as the snowy shoulder of Mt Buller and Howitt, and blocked on the east by the bulk of the High Plains. Shifting play of light on distant mountains and near by slopes. Its magical.