Altitude: 522m to 1834m. Gain: 3272m. Loss: 3229m . Gradient: 12 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Snow / ice (5/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6) Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
Altitude: 522m to 609m. Gain: 158m. Loss: 138m . Gradient: 3 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
From the info booth at skippers follow the road another 20m and turn right to the cemetery where the good 4WD road ends. An old 4WD track continues through Sawyers Creek, past the remains of the Skippers Hotel, and down into Skippers Creek. The creek must be crossed at least 3 times and is knee deep at this point and could easily become impassable after rain.
Once in the creek the most common route follows the riverbed upstream. Shortly before an old dam a rough track is marked on the east side of the creek by plastic road markers, bypassing the dam and returning you to the creek. Soon after the dam the old riverbed 4WD track reappears. It is possible to bypass the dam section by following the 4WD track as it climbs 200m around the dam, but it's hard to see when this would be useful as the hardest crossings are downstream of the track start.
Follow the riverbed / 4WD track upriver passing the large Butcher'sGully on your left and Sainsbury's Creek on your right. After 3km a signpost on the eastern bank beside a large willow tree marks the start of the Bullendale Track.
Altitude: 600m to 743m. Gain: 213m. Loss: 70m . Gradient: 6 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
From the signpost by the willow tree, an old pack-track climbs 80m of the face, crosses Roaring Meg Creek, and then sidles back to the main valley to the forks with Old Man Creek. This is a good track, used by mountain bikers at times. The creek crossing is small and should not be an issue except after heavy rain. The track then continues up river flats to Bullendale. Two huts exist at Bullendale - one on a terrace above the flats - not recognised by DOC, the second one 100m beyond the end of the flats, reached by a faint scrambling track on the south side of the river.
Altitude: 730m to 1636m. Gain: 932m. Loss: 806m . Gradient: 15 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Streams (2/6)
From Bullendale Hut, sidle the western valleyside to flats above the falls visible just upstream. A good walk up river flats follows. Ignore the markers climbing up the first sidecreek on the south side - these leads to Aurum Basin. The only viable route out of the head of Skippers is to follow the main creek - bluffs block all sidecreeks to the north. After 2.5km the flat valley ends at the base of a steep slip which the creek descends. Climb the slatey rock slip for 200m until you are above the bluffs and walkable slumping faces appear on your right. Climb these faces to the crest above. Once in the basin below Dandys saddle the scrambling is over, and a 300m climb up tall tussock and knee-high scrub remains to reach the saddle. Tiring going.
The north side of Dandys Saddle appears impassable - the creek gorges out badly. Several viable routes down from pt1650 look to be present. I crossed pt1650, and descended the first spur east of the hightpoint, providing a trampable route into the valley below. The spur bluffs out in places, but these can be avoided by sidling the tussock faces. The eastern fork of Ballarat Creek is a steep V and has tall tussock and speargrass in its base, so sidling the true left face to the main spur between the two creeks then following that to the confluence provided a good route down.
From here a simple, but prickly route followed, descending Ballarat creek all the way to Ballarat Hut. Speargrass and tall tussock were the only obstacles. Sidling the faces avoided some of this.
Eventually young willows appear in the riverbed. Soon after a creek joins from the true right. Ballarat Hut is here on a terrace on the true left valleyside and is not visible or marked from the creek.
Ballarat Creek is small as far as the hut, and would prove problematic only after heavy rain.
Altitude: 856m to 1834m. Gain: 980m. Loss: 708m . Gradient: 15 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Snow / ice (5/7) - Streams (2/6)
From Ballarat Hut a straight-forward, but prickly route leads up Ballarat Creek, hindered only by tall tussock and speargrass. Sidling the east face to the first forks may help.
Follow Ballarat Creek to the 2nd major forks on the west side, a broad, grassy flat-bottomed creek draining the Ballarat-Auram saddle. You can follow this sidecreek upstream for a few hundred meters - the going is easy of short grass, but ultimately need to get on the spur to its south (leading to pt1872) before the face bluffs out too much. The spur has tall tussock and knee high scrub on it, and is slower going, but goat and deer trails provide some help. Things improve as you climb.
Eventually you reach the grassy faces below pt1872, and can sidle north-west into the basin below the saddle - towards Mt Aurum. The saddle is simple - a walk on tussock and some rock. The southern side however, holds snow until well into summer, and is likely to be a descent on snow/ice. There was deep snow down to 1650m when I crossed in early December 2015.
The main creek starts to gully out,m and it is necessary to sidle right onto the gentler sloped below Mt Aurum to avoid dangerous loose country in the gut itself. Follow the spur between the two creeks all the way to the valley floor - easy going with animal trails to help. A 2km walk down the flat valley floor follows - slowed by tall tussock. Aurum basin hut comes into view eventually on a low spur on the true right of the creek.
Altitude: 718m to 1306m. Gain: 780m. Loss: 779m . Gradient: 22 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
From the grassy flats on the south bank of Dynamo Creek, opposite Dynamo Red Hut, climb to the obvious saddle on the ridgeline to the south. Some sections are very steep, and take care choosing your route up.
I followed the central spur of the gut south of the saddle and then bushbashed south to Butcher's Gully. This was very steep higher up and thick lower down. Looking back, the route shown on the map seemed preferable - sidle the bushedge west and get out of the gully onto the next spur west, which is gentle enough to follow down to the creek. I have not attempted this variant though.
Butchers Gully creek was ankle deep in normal flows when I visited. It looks passable in all but extreme flows. Heading round the head of the gully would avoid any crossings in this section of the route
Climb the spur leading due south to pt1321, and then swing round the head of Sawyers Creek over pt1215 to the saddle with pt1185. Sidling high on the western face avoided loose bit of ridgeline.
From the saddle between pt1215 and pt1185 descent the tussock gully till level with the top of beech forest, then sidle downstream keeping to the gentlest slopes. At the spur upriver of Crystal Hut a faint pack track can be found on the knob just above the bush, cutting downstream and zigzagging down to the hut tucked in the bush below.
Altitude: 585m to 797m. Gain: 20m. Loss: 229m . Gradient: 7 deg (Gentle)
An old pack track sidles the south face of Sawyers Creek, making an easy, flat walk between Crystal Hut and Skippers. The track hits the Skippers road 200m above the information kiosk, just past the cemetery turnoff.
Altitude: 799m to 1137m. Gain: 35m. Loss: 362m . Gradient: 9 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Streams (2/6) Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
From Aurum Basin Hut (Archie's Hut) a track poled with plastic road markers leads south and down the spur towards Dynamo Flat. Dropping off the spur the track descends to the creek, which it follows for 100m to the start of the water race shown on topomaps. After 300m or so it cuts east off the water race, descending a gentle spur to Dynamo Flat - visible below.
A 'bulge' of beech forest juts out into the flat. Follow the bushedge and at the centre of the 'bulge' you'll spot an old, worn pack-track is visible descending to the creek below. The track is getting overgrown and is not signposted, but crosses the creek and climbs to Dynamo Red Hut in the clearing on the opposite bank. A dry-footed hop across the creek is possible, but it can become impassable after rain. A 2-wire 'bridge' of fencing wire stapled to trees does not look to be a particularly safe alternative crossing for high water conditions.
Warning: this route segment has not been experienced by the author
Altitude: 598m to 708m. Gain: 154m. Loss: 44m . Gradient: 5 deg
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
Old pack track.
Altitude: 708m to 801m. Gain: 0m. Loss: 93m . Gradient: 6 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
From Dynamo Red Hut, cross back to the southern valleyside and pick up the Dynamo-Aurum Basin track as it crosses grassy flats heading downriver. The route is only occasionally poled, but well worn and clear on the ground.