I had to push through a lot of stuff to finally get out last weekend. I won’t go into details, but I felt the world was against me slightly, and it was great to walk into the valley terminal at Thredbo in time for first lift on Saturday morning, ready to go.
After trying to organize with various friends, I decided ya’ll were just holding me back and that it was time for a solo trip. I sent Jarrod a trip plan, and exchanged a few last minute messages on the ski.com.au forums hoping to maybe meet up with some others for day trips.
As it happened, Tim was there waiting at the bottom of the stairs. You should know him from one of the best trip reports of this winter, 17 km of bush bashing while carrying splitboards with no actual riding. I also got a text from Ben saying he was a little late, but unfortunately I didn’t read it until we were already halfway to Seaman’s Hut. We just missed him.
From the Kosciuszko Lookout, we came down the south branch of the Snowy River, climbed up to Seaman’s Hut, went down the other side, and climbed Muller’s Pass and then up to Mueller’s Peak for our first view to the wild west. On the way we passed a couple of groups camping out. I had a nice chat to one couple, in a group camped in the Snowy valley, but unfortunately I forgot their names.
We made our way down the other side towards the Townsend saddle and picked some rocks to set up a high camp.
Tim’s tent was up on a nice little rock platform covered in snow.
We had lunch. There was a little wind and cloud coming up over the range but the weather was good.
After that we climbed from the saddle up towards Townsend. At the little summit plateau area, I kept going up to the summit and did a short run from the top (I’ve never actually been out to Mount Townsend before) while Tim scoped out the Racecourse.
The Racecourse is a classic run, where Australia’s first downhill championships were held, with the course set by George Day. They used dog sleds to bring people out from Charlotte Pass. There’s heaps of fun moderate terrain options around two gullies – actually quite like NZ. We got it in perfect corn and it was a blast.
Then it was a climb back up past Lake Albina to the Townsend summit plateau, and a run down into Wilkinson’s Valley to finish the day.
The wind picked up a little overnight. I was warm and comfortable but didn’t sleep that well – probably from trying to sleep a lot earlier than my usual bedtime!
Tim was headed back to Jindabyne, so we said goodbye, and I lined up my first run of the day down the NE face of Mueller’s Peak down to the lake. I had been psyched on the idea of 45 degree chutes for breakfast, but the reality was a bit different. I wasn’t confident in the snow being soft enough first thing, despite the aspect, and was very conscious of being alone and skiing with a pack, so I took a shorter, more open and mellow slope on the north end that was more like 30-35 degrees (yes I did have an inclinometer). The snow was actually perfect in the end.
I climbed up to Albina Pass and up Mt Northcote. It was icy but the skins gripped. I pulled out my headphones actually and put on a playlist. Wind was a bit loud for it but it was nice.
When I first looked out over the site where Kunama Hut was, a black crow flew past. Spooky. Actually there were many black crows on the range. Memories of the Albina Hut’s glory days of the 50’s?
I traversed along the spine of the Main Range and climbed Mt Lee for good measure. Club Lake was looking fantastic and I dropped my pack and did a quick run into the cirque on a NE facing slope (the main chutes are south facing and looked icy).
It was proper steep just off the top, I had to jump, and keep moving to the side to dodge the sluff. I bootpacked out and it was on to the summit of Carruthers Peak for lunch.
I ran in to Steve and Dan on the summit. They were quite psyched and had been camped on Twynam for the weekend, and quickly skied off to go try something.
I took my time eating, wanting the west face to be as soft as possible, before clicking in and starting down towards Little Austria, another classic and historic Lake Albina run.
I took the center ridge, to the left of the main gully off of Carruthers. The gully had been scoured into a wicked looking wind feature. Skiing above it was exposed, airy and excellent. The snow was just soft enough and it was bloody great.
The upper ridges and gullies funnel into a ruler-straight, banked chute that plunges towards Lady Northcote Canyon. A unique piece of terrain. I remembered Alan Andrews advice to steer clear of it, if there are holes in the cover in spring. But the cover looked fine so in I went.
Lower down the creek was a little exposed in some beautiful cascades. Probably the last weekend in the season it’ll be skiable.
Down the bottom of the Canyon and you are a looong way from anywhere. Quite a wild feeling.
I started up. Rounding a corner, who should I run into but Ben and Tony. A bit of a Dr Livingstone moment. They had just done a great looking Alice Rawson run and were having lunch.
It turned out they had camped on the summit of Mueller’s peak like 200m away from us.
We climbed up the Canyon back to Lake Albina together, and said goodbye. I made the climb out and had a short run back to camp, just as cloud started coming it.
Rain was forecast, so I decided to break camp and make a few km’s back, so if I did have to retreat in the rain the next day, it wouldn’t be far. On with the heavy pack, and down into Wilkinson’s Valley I skied.
Tim recommended going down Wilkinson’s and around the southern shoulder of Mt Kosciuszko as the best way home. Now, Kosci may not be the most prominent peak, but it sure is a long ridgeline. I crested a rise which I thought for sure was the shoulder, but it turns out I was only halfway. About then I though Tim might just be a bloody sandbagger, this was in fact the long way around, and I should have gone back via Seaman’s Hut with Ben and Tony. Very pretty though, and also a great sense of remoteness.
I finally rounded the real southern shoulder, wobbled down to Cootapatamba Hut and collapsed. Although there was no wind, the cloud and mist was in and I was sweaty and cold.
Now I’m sure it’s very welcome if you’re lost in a blizzard, but the hut was tiny and kind of a dive, and there was a pleasant notice that NPWS had recently shot a sick feral horse trapped upstream, so please be sure to treat the water. I love the idea of huts, but in reality, it seems they are less “cosy Thredbo-style apartment in the backcountry” and more “old Narrabeen public tram shelter but with more rats”. I took one look and started setting up the tent.
Again I didn’t sleep that great. Much tossing and turning and I was pretty sore. But I was very happy to wake up to a crisp bluebird morning with no wind.
However the front was visible to the north-west, and was grey and rainy-looking. I pulled out the ski crampons, and crunched up the hill directly behind the hut, pausing to look back at the rapidly closing cloud (insert Jaws music here).
Once up on the Ramshead plateau next to North Ramshead, I could follow the creek line down and it was home free and downhill running all the way. I passed Warren and the K7 Adventures camp with their huge and impressive geodesic dome tent.
At Thredbo top station, it was back to the luxuries of flushing toilets and bacon & egg rolls. I loaded the pack on the chairlift, and was able to do the Supertrail non-stop and even carve it up a little on the Dynafits.
Finally, a trip where it all came together.