Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Sentinel, Kosciuszko National Park

Like many before me, I had always imagined the Australian Alps as largely benign, flat rolling hills. Indeed, I spent years travelling the northern hemisphere in search of steep terrain to ski. Back in 2008 I walked the Main Range Trail and got my first glimpse of the western faces. The trail takes you over the Snowy River then a gradual incline to the Blue Lake lookout. From here it is a short walk to northern side of Carruthers Peak. It is at this pass that you get your first look at the western faces of the Main Range. Incredibly steep and jagged peaks. Coming from the rolling meadows of alpine flowers and streams it is all a little hard to comprehend.

Who put that there? My first look at the western faces back in 2008

Sticking out like a sore thumb is a peak in the centre of the vista, The Sentinel. Although not one of Australians highest mountain it surely has to be one of the most spectacular.

The Sentinel

It was this first glimpse of the western faces that psyched me up to get into ski touring in Australia. I have skied some of the lines in the area but had yet to ski or climb The Sentinel.

Skinning out of Avalanche Gulley, Spring 2011. Sentinel Peak is mid field on the right

With +1 away for the weekend I had an opportunity to hike out to The Sentinel, one of the walks I have been eyeing off since we moved to the mountains. I was incredibly slow getting my gear together and got to the Charlottes Pass turning circle at 1:00pm. There were cars everywhere and I had to park a long way from the trail head. Guess a few extra hundred metres walking wouldn’t hurt. Once I hit the trail I got a look at the path ahead.

The Sentinel is over the back of the range, sort of mid right of shot

The walk out on the Main Range Track was pretty uneventful. I ran into heaps of walkers coming back from Blue Lake and I can happily say I scored a 90% hit rate on my trail g’days. Eventually I made it to the pass on the northern side of Carruthers and got a look at The Sentinel.

Thar she blows

At this point I said good bye to the day trippers and took off north from the trail. I found a great campsite next to Strzelecki Creek. I set up camp lightening my pack considerably and set off to climb The Sentinel.

Not a bad spot for a tent

The walk out to the peak was pretty exciting, rock scrambles, flowers, breathtaking views and one horribly exposed full on rock climb. The climbing bit in particular was pretty scary considering how far away form help I was and that there is no tracks or phone reception on this side of the range.

Eventually, I made the peak and took some time to enjoy the view.

Every year my sunglasses get more ridiculous

I would have taken more time on the peak but I was getting attacked by march flies. I don’t understand their point? There are no large mammals that inhabit these peaks for them to attack. It’s like they just hang out on the off chance that some intrepid hiker will just turn up in their area. The only animals they could attack, wombats and maybe a wallaby, are generally nocturnal, the flies only hang around in the day, WTF?

I began the hike back up to my tent. It was actually a bit of a slog. I safely managed the exposed rock climbing bit and after another hot hour of scrambling made it back to my little campsite.

My tent was way up there somewhere

I spent the afternoon mucking around with my camera taking photos of the flowers, gnarled alpine fauna and the little creek I was pitched in next too.

I even managed to hit one of the nasty march flies. Although I had crushed its abdomen it was still trying to eat me. Eventually it flew off (with no abdomen mind), perched on some grass and died.

These things could survive a WMD

I watched the sunset from a little peak just up form my tent. There was one moment where the sun punched though illuminating Carruthers, it was spectacular.

I had some dodgy ham sandwiches for dinner and a cup of tea. I spent the evening watching Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy on my ipod. A good movie that requires your full attention. I struggled a bit with the plot as the actors looked and sounded remarkably similar on my tiny ipod screen.

I got a good sleep and woke around 7am. One of the best things about hiking is having the opportunity to sleep in my down sleeping bag. It is so comfy and warm, I am considering bringing it into rotation at home.

Good morning

It was a beautiful clear morning. I had a quick bite to eat and started to pack up as the temperature was rising fast and I didn’t want to be hiking in the heat of the day.

Last looks at The Sentinel

Once back on the Main Range Trail I had an easy walk back to the Snowy River. I didn’t see any day trippers until the Snowy crossing. It was eerie walking along the usually busy trail early in the morning with no one around. I walked up the final 200m vertical to the car, affectionately known as heartbreak hill, got in the car drove to town and ate a massive, well deserved, bacon and egg roll with a coffee.


  1. Beautiful pictures, can I come next time?

  2. Awesome Pini. I look at the pictures and all your adventures with envy. Hope all is well.

  3. Pini, I love this entry. Good to hear you managed to give the daytrippers the slip! A interesting looking climb which thoroughly looks worth it! Nice pics as well :)

  4. do NOT use the sleeping bag at home. What are you, a Uni student?! I notice no one disagreed with you on the ridiculous sunnies, although the mirrored shades do provide a nice reflection of your arm on the self take photo. I like the fly picture, that is a good fly picture.

  5. Yea Macca, I might have to do a retro entry of our time in Mexico

    Thanks Greg, this post was Fiasco inspired!

    Carmen, ill refrain from using my down bag for now but if it gets cold again I might not be so strong.

  6. Thanks Hendrik, much appreciated, kippis!

  7. Nice pics Tom.

    The marchies do all the pollinating up there since there are no bees.

  8. Thanks TPhat. Nice to know the marchies serve a purpose although im still not sure what they are doing up in the alpine?