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.

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