Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Purchase: Maintaining Grip While Ski Touring

The storm last week got everyone pretty excited, myself included.

Perisher looked pretty good once the storm cleared and I went for a quick ski to check out the conditions. Boot packing a small side country hill it became apparent that it had rained at the tail end of the storm as there was a bullet proof layer of ice at the surface. It was horrible to ski on and the sun was having little effect.

Not withstanding the dodgy layer of ice, my ski buddy Rohan and I were keen to hit the main range and hopefully score some nice snow. We met early and drove up to Guthega, we were first in line in the car park. Rohan made the call to head out to the western faces of Mt Twynam.

Getting ready in the carpark, access to the zone behind the peak at the top left

We clicked in at Guthega and skied down to Farm Creek. The cover was bullet proof ice, not fun to ski on. We crossed farm creek and started the skin to Illawong Lodge. Horrible ice and skinning on a cross slope, not much fun. We reached the Snowy River swing bridge and began the climb up to Mt Twynam.

Crossing the Snowy River, Mt Twynam is the big round peak in the centre

On the other side of the Snowy, conditions didn’t improve. We struggled for grip on the steeper slopes. I had heaps of scary moments when my skis would give way. At one point I was switching to boot packing and lost a ski which slide down the slope I had just spent ages ascending.

Booting up ice, not fun

Compared to our struggle, Guthega looked decidedly tranquil

After nearly 3hrs of ice we reached the northern side of Twynam and got our first look at the terrain of the western faces.

The Australian backcountry; a breathtaking sight.

The ice was still hanging around. I wasn’t to keen to lose a ski or other kit down Watsons Creek never to be seen again. Luckily, the face we had picked to ski had copped some sun and softened up nicely. We dropped in and got some great turns down to the creek. Skinning up the creek was interesting as large chunks of ice were falling of the surrounding rocks and rolling down our path. A solid, football sized chunk hit me, it hurt.

Lunch at Watsons Creek

The skin back up

Our lines from the first run

I spent some time taking photos and videoing Rohan on his second run. He picked a line on the next ridge. It wasn’t pretty, I could here the ice crunching beneath his skis from my vantage point.

Rohan searching for a line

Oz terrain

I dropped in for another nice run down to the creek. The days are short at the moment, and, as we took longer than expected to reach the zone, we made the call to hit it back to the car.

Bootin the final steep pitch of Watsons Creek

We skinned back up the western face of Mt Twynam admiring our handy work.

Usually you score some nice turns skiing from Mt Twynam to the Snowy River. This day was different, the dreaded ice hadn’t budged and we spent 45min side slipping. Rohan had a couple nice falls leading to the phrase “edging skills or hospital bills”.

By this time it was getting dark, we crossed the snowy and started the final leg back to the car. Eventually head lamps were required.

In the darkness I missed the Farm Creek bridge and ended up rock hopping over the water. Snow I thought was stable was in fact hanging, and, once weighted, my right foot ended up in the creek. I pulled myself out and traversed along the opposite bank meeting up with Rohan at the bridge he had successfully navigated too. We made it back to the car in the complete darkness and released our feet from their prisons.

It was an interesting day, looking back at it, I am glad we went out. I guess the sense of accomplishment we get from overcoming the challenges that the mountains throw at us is why we get into touring in the first place.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Riding and Sliding

A dream of mine is to get barrelled in the surf and cop a face shot skiing pow on the same day. The pursuit of these two natural highs has dominated much of my life.

Living in the mountains, and only 2hrs from the coast, I have a unique opportunity to realise this dream. The main hindrance is the Australian snow conditions. We rarely score dry powder and rarer still is the snow deep enough to produce face shots. Getting barrelled isn’t as big a problem as there is some amazing surf in this part of Australia.

My mate Dane was in town last week, and having similar passions to me, we planned a day sliding in the Thredbo backcountry and a day surfing on the far south coast.

Tuesday 14/06/2011
Our day in the snow was interesting. Gale force winds, raining and pretty much zero visibility. We somehow made it to the Ramshead, Australia’s 4th highest peak. Getting back was a little more difficult. I had to pull the compass out numerous times.

We finally made it back to Thredbo and skied straight down (unopened) super trail. The untracked wet snow somewhat made up for the battle out in the backcountry.



10:25 - Australia highest lift, Karels, not yet open for the season

10:26 - Dane

10:35 - Not much to see

11:00 - Hiding from the wind and rain


11:26 - Dane taking on the peak

11:35 - Dane on the Ramshead

12:42 - After being lost in the whiteness for an hour we enjoy a nice run down unopened super trail



13:20 - Very wet back in the car park

We spent the afternoon drying off and planning our surf trip for the following day.

Wednesday 15/06/2011
We were up pre-dawn, stiff from the previous day touring. I swung past Serges CafĂ© and picked up my French buddy Damien who kindly hooked us up with coffee and croque masseur’s.

The weather got progressively better as was we dropped down from the rainy high country. Arriving at the coast we were greeted with sunny weather and nice waves. We jumped into the cold water for a long 2hr surf.

The surf and cold water brought up quite a hunger which was satisfied by the Tathra bakehouse. The wind had come up by this stage and we spent a frustrating few hours looking for waves. We finally settled on onshore Merimbula Bar. Not one of my better surfs, but as always, its nice to be in the water.

Getting out of our wetsuits and packing the car we watched a beautiful sunset over the mountains. Perhaps a reward for the massive effort we had put in over the previous two days.

8:07 - Wet dirt tracks

10:50 - Arriving at the coast, clean cold waves. 24hrs earlier we were approaching the Ramshead.


13:25 - Post surf chill

14:42 - Surf check with the locals


15:22 - Typical of the afternoon surf, messy and wild

15:39 - Coastal veg

17:29 - The sun sets on two days of adventure


The drive back to the mountains seemed to drag on. We made it back just in time to watch the biggest football match of the year drinking beers and eating delicious hot wings at the Jindabyne bowling club.

We didn’t quite ride and slide in the same day but we did both sports within a 24hr period. Not to bad for a first crack at combining my two biggest passions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Pow Turns of the Season

A massive storm has been brewing. Intense gusts of wind, which woke us, announced its arrival. Driving up to work at Perisher, large snow flakes were falling and quickly accumulating.

I managed to sneak out for a ski after lunch, around 20-30cm had fallen. I avoided the crowded open runs and hit some of the more secluded lines. In places the snow was knee deep.

Some of my turns, not the best terrain but it’s a start.

Stoked to score my first pow turns for the season.