Wednesday, September 3, 2014

North Face of Watson's Crags

I approach the western faces of the Main Range with wonder and trepidation. It’s a massive effort just to get out there, to ski the western fall and get back to safety in a day is just about the hardest thing I do each year. Nonetheless, every year I get an itch for the steeps of the west. The skiing is epic, just super dangerous and serious hard work. Last weekend the stars lined up and I had an opportunity to hit the Main Range.

I met some buddies at Guthega who were in town for the annual Splitfest. They were hitting Tate but I was keen on getting out amongst the big mountains of the western faces. I have been battling a dodgy back all season and wasn't sure how it was going to hold up so the plan was to poke my way out to Twynam, if it felt good I could drop in otherwise just enjoy the view.

My goal, north face of Watson's Crags (thanks to Tim for the pic)

The ski out to Illawong was uneventful except for the fact I did it in 35min, a new record for me. I Ran into a large group of BC travelers at the bridge and quite a few others camping and touring around. Great to see so many people out and about.

Large group heading out for a few days

Possibly an old mate Doug C heading out to Watsons Crags?

The ice around Twynam was diabolical, I used my crampons and axe in anger for the first time and was thankful I had them. I skied out to Twynam and my back was feeling ok so skied all the way out to the northern face of Watsons Crags. A couple of skiers were eyeing off the crags but it looked very dodgy and icy.

First look at Twynam West Spur

Watson's Crags, hectic! perhaps the same to fellas from the other shot up on the ridge, Doug C maybe?

The Gash, still there and looking nasty

I decided to drop into Siren Song, some buddies had ridden it on Thursday and it looked good.

I was nervous dropping in but had an incredible ski down on great corn, a highlight of the season. I spent the rest of the day yo-yoing my way east towards Watsons Creek.


Evidence of a massive slide from earlier in the season

Lunch in Watson's Creek

These dudes were booting up the Triple A, an impressive effort!

I made great time on my return skin up Watson's Creek. One foot in front of the other with my weary legs. I stopped to have chat to some fellow BC travelers while enjoying the afternoon light.

Anderson Crags

Mt Townsend North Spur with Mt Bogong way off in the distance


Looking back to where I skied, farmers are burning off way out past the mountains

The ski back from Twynam was shocking. Ice the whole way to Illawong and then to Guthega, a terrible ski for my tired body.

I met up with Belly, SPG and a few other splitters at Island Bend for a great evening by the fire. Many thanks to SPG for hooking me up some thai food, much appreciated! Thanks also to the Splitfest crew for organising Friday night. Good to have a beer, catch up with familiar faces and win some tat.

Great to give my back a work out and get some turns on the western faces in the bag for 2014.

A post script and amazing story. When I got back to the car I was absolutely shattered. This lead to a semi Paleolithic hunt for chocolate and a gatorade that I had in the car with associated gear explosion. After camping out and visiting some friends in the area I was packing my car for the drive home and realised I didn’t have my GPS. I drove the hour back to Guthega, and there it was, exactly where I left it in the car park. Amazing really, 20 hours later and a full car park. So happy it was still there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Leather Barrel Creek

Well, after the massive disappointment that was the 2013 Australian ski season, I was looking forward with hope to the 2014 season. May came and went, as did June, with bugger all snow. Then Snowmageddon happened, a huge season starting dump. This was followed by Snowmageddon II another massive dump.

I had been lucky to score some great resort skiing corresponding to the falls, then finally, last week, the stars aligned for a backcountry trip. Gear was recovered from off season storage hidey holes, reconnections were made with grizzly ski buddies, feet were taped and hamstrings were stretched.

We arrived at Thredbo early, marveled at the beauty of the day and caught the lift up, saving our lazy selves the 400m climb up from dead horse gap. With our steely backcountry gaze we left the hecticness of the resort and made our way to The Ramshead and Leather Barrel Creek, our destination for the day. As always, the view to the south and west was spectacular.

Always love the view to the south and west

Transition time with the Twin Humps

Into the Leather Barrel

I watched Belly dropped in to The Couloir and carve some beautiful turns into the fresh snow.

Belly in the lower section of The Couloir

Rohan and I skied a different line to the south, into the Golden Gully, an incredible shaped gully with beautiful snow.

Me dropping down to the Golden Gully

The push and transition at Leather Barrel Creek was spectacular.

Beautiful down in Leather Barrel Creek

As usual, I was exceedingly slow in my transition as I mucked around with my camera(s) and gear. This gave Rohan a chance to climb up around 50m and sneak some turns in.

Rohan in some great snow in Leather Barrel Creek

Belly was a little further to the north owing to his first run. We all met up at the top of the Twin Humps. Despite the beautiful view, we quickly transitioned and dropped in as it was crazy windy.

View to the Ramshead Range from the Twin Humps

Looking down the Twin Humps

The first 50m from the Twin Humps were super sketchy due to windy, rimey, icey crap. We all managed some safety turns until the good snow started a little lower. Not just good snow, blower Australian pow, a rare treat.

Rohan finds the soft stuff

 He loves the DPS

My turn

We spent the next few hours working our way north along the big face. Skin, ski, eat, repeat. Exceptional conditions provided we didn't go to high into the icey wind affected stuff.

Belly found some nice open spaces

We could see lots of people out enjoying the conditions

Great skiing on the lower slopes

These guys took on the skin from hell

We took our time climbing out of Leather Barrel Creek up to The Ramshead. Rohan, being ridiculously fit, dropped into our first line one more time. Belly and I were shattered and pushed on to the peak.

On our way up The Spur

Some of our lines from our morning run, another group of three also hit it

Belly, I also had plenty of these moments

The last 50m of vertical were really sketchy. I had misplaced my crampons over summer so had to manage with just my skins. I found a sliver of snow and just got enough purchase to make it up, it was pretty scary. Crossing to the east, over the Ramshead Range, things settled down and Rohan and I took a break. Belly, gaining some sort of second (or third, or fourth) wind claimed The Ramshead.

View to the south

And to the south east

We had a pretty cruisy ski back to Thredbo. What was not cruisy was skiing our worn out legs down the late afternoon frozen, crowded, whatever km length Supertrail (5.9, 3.4 I don’t know but it’s the longest run in Australia). My legs were jelly, I spent pretty much the entire time in an ungainly survival sideslip.

Getting to the car and pulling off my boots I felt a joy I had not felt for many months. A sly content smile, a warn out body and a pair of battered feet in a cosy pair of ugg boots.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spring skiing with Holly

Well, quite the break from the blog. 2013 was always going to be difficult. While I did manage to get out a fair bit, there was much more of this.

Painting is a mugs game

Looks good when its done though

And this

The new skirting boards impressed the Mrs

And attending of these

D & C's wedding at Newcastle

my new brother in law

Happy at the wedding

Than this

Lady Northcote Canyon Kosciuszko National Park

Nonetheless, the odd adventure did take place. Lets go back to October and my last day out skiing in 2013 with Holly. The week before Peter and I had scored some great late season snow off the back of Thredbo and I was keen to hit it again. There were lots of people around enjoying the spring conditions both inbounds and out in the BC. Getting ready in the car park I ran into both Darren and Skifree, regulars in the Australian BC.

We bought our cheap passes and got the lift up to Eagles Nest. The Basin was immaculately groomed and we couldn't resist bombing a few laps.

We hit the Summit Trail and made our way out to the Ramshead Range.

Leaving Thredbo

The rock pyramid and a random nordic skier

She made it

Still heaps of snow off the south ridge of Kosciuszko in spring

The snow was actually pretty fun and Holly and I spend some time laying turns.

Holly has really improved over the past couple of years and is really enjoying her skiing. What she isn’t enjoying is her heavy touring rig; Salomon Quests and Marker Tour F12 bindings. She has had really difficulties with heal lift in the quests causing some nasty blisters. Probably time we coughed up for a light Dynafit rig for her.

Anyway, it was a lovely spring day out sharing the mountains.