A bushwalker who was the last person to see missing Water Minister Tim Holding before he went missing on a solo hike has told how he saw the minister's footprints veering off the path to Mount Feathertop.
A mobile phone signal has failed to shed any light on the whereabouts of Mr Holding.
The bushwalker, who did not want to be named, told The Age his group set off about 30 minutes after the minister left Federation Hut in freezing conditions about 7.30am yesterday. He said he saw the Minister's footprints veering off the path to Mount Feathertop.
He said Mr Holding was well-equipped but did not have snow shoes.
Victorian Premier John Brumby says he is concerned that 37-year-old minister's mobile phone is "inactive''.
Mr Holding sent a text message to his partner on Saturday at 6.30pm to say he had arrived at Federation Hut on the mountain and that he expected to arrive home at 4pm on Sunday. However, the alarm was raised at 9.30pm last night after he failed to return and resort management confirmed his car remained at the base of the mountain.
Visbility on Mount Feathertop is down to 40-50 metres this morning. Police have been unable to send a chopper into the area due to the lack of visibility.
Acting Superintendent Wayne Rotherham said two people had now told police they had seen Mr Holding on the track since Saturday.
He said police could not reach Mr Holding on his mobile phone, which could mean it was low on power or out of range.
Acting Superintendent Rotherham said Mr Holding was well-equipped but not carrying an emergency beacon.
"It’s very icy up there ... and we’ve got a large area to cover and you have to understand that we can only send expert searchers up there," Acting Superintendent Rotherham said.
"All the ones we’ve sent in are equipped to spend a couple of days in the snow."
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said searchers were working in low cloud and snow as deep as 1100 metres.
Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Michael Halfpenny said it was currently minus two degrees at Mount Hotham with a north-westerly wind of between 20 and 25 kilometres an hour.
"There are a few snow showers in the area and quite a lot of cloud with poor visibility," he said.
Mr Halfpenny said visibility would mean it would be difficult to see and visibility is reportedly under 50 metres.
He said the weather conditions were expected to remain bad throughout the day and the temperature would probably not rise above zero.
State Emergency Service state duty officer Jeff Cartwright said an extra 12 specially trained alpine SES searchers would help police look for Mr Holding today.
He said "white outs" were possible in low cloud and snow which made it difficult to tell where the ground ended and horizon began.
The bushwalker said Mr Holding appeared to be very fit.
"He was going to do a walk from Federation Hut to Feathertop on the Sunday morning and left at about 7.30am," the bushwalker said.
"He was well-equipped but didn’t have snow shoes. Visibility was very poor."
The alarm was raised at 9.30pm last night when resort management confirmed Mr Holding’s car remained at the base of the mountain.
Weather forecaster Peter Newnham said temperatures on the mountain plunged to minus seven on Saturday night and early yesterday.
He said snow showers and winds are expected to increase during the day.
A civilian bushwalking group is expected to arrive at the mountain around lunchtime to join in the search.
Mr Brumby said Mr Holding, who holds portfolios in water, tourism, and finance, was an experienced hiker.
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