Thursday, September 20, 2012

Skiing Around Mt Tate

Well, another week and another solo backcountry ski mission. Despite enjoying the challenge of the conditions last week, and the amazing views, my BC ski itch had not really been scratched. I again got to Guthega early for an attempt at the western faces. As I was getting ready I was feeling a mix of emotions; excitement, laziness, dread and foreboding. For some reason I couldn’t get my mind at peace. I was focusing on the three hour slog out to Mt Twynam and the possibility that the steep slopes would again not be safely skiable, especially solo. Looking at Mt Tate from the carpark, I could also see some nasty dark clouds blowing over from the west.

Clouds roll in from the west out Mt Tate way

I considered alternate options; Mt Tate? A resort day? A ski up to Horse Camp Hut? A Sunday breakfast and the newspaper at home? A compromise was in order and I set off for Mt Tate. A much shorter hike with some good terrain.

Guthega trig and with Mt Tate in the background

I skied the crusty snow down to Guthega Dam, crossed over and started to make my way up the Guthega River. I crossed the creek at a very dodgy bridge. The wood had a fine layer of frost making it incredibly slippery and forcing me to clamber over on hands and knees.

A very slippery bridge

I continued up to a nice looking face a few hundred metres up from the bridge. The sun was poking through the burnt out snowgums making for some stunning silhouettes.



I couldn’t resist taking some turns down to Guthega River. The snow was still firm but with a nice layer of corn.

Getting ready to drop in

I came into some trouble climbing back up from the creek. I hadn’t planned my route very well and was struggling with the steepness and firm snow.

Deceptive terrain, harder than it looks to climb

I was struggling to get purchase on the ice and switched to boot packing. I stopped for moment to take some photos and heard the familiar sound of a snowboard screeching on ice. Turns out it was my buddy Dave, we had a bit of a chat and both continued on our way.

I finally cleared the steep, dodgy terrain and got above the tree line. From here it was an easy skin to the ridge line that ultimately leads to Mt Tate. At the ridge there were some nice views.

Lines off Twynam West Spur, plenty of snow left in them


Looking out to the western plains

Past the Guthega Trig to Jindabyne and beyond

Guthega, Double Trouble, Farm Creek and the back side of Mt Back Perisher and Mt Perisher

I had a great run back to the dodgy bridge over the Guthega River. The snow had softened up nicely.

Lower section of the run, the burnt trees remind me of the aspens in Japan

Old lift bits and pieces

After crossing the bridge, which was a lot easier without the frost, I had an easy and non-eventful ski back to the car. Stripping off at the car I could clearly make out my turns up on the ridge line.

leaving a mark


Another day of BC skiing and as always it was a learning experience. There is still heaps of snow around so hopefully a few more days in it yet.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Almost Skiing Twynam West Spur

I have been itching to get out to the western faces of the Snowy Mountains all winter. Apart from an early season mission in May, to date, work, weather and other commitments have conspired against me. I had a free day yesterday and had planned to get out amongst the big lines on offer.

Unfortunately none of the usual suspects could make it so it was to be a solo day. Waking early, I was pretty excited as the recent snowfalls had given way to a beautiful sunny spring day. I drove up to Guthega and got my shit together in the car park.

Starting at Guthega, Twynam and the peaks beyond are over the furthest visible ridge 8km away

I made good time out to Illawong. I can’t get over how much snow is around at the moment, I have never seen all the creeks covered. I took my skins off as the early ice made for a great fast skate out along the flats.

All filled in at Illawong Lodge

I crossed the Illawong swing bridge and continued out to Mt Twynam. Conditions were not great, it was so icey I was barely leaving a skin track. Despite the blazing sun, I was getting nervous that the western faces would be too dangerous to ski.

Looking good but its all ice

Horrible ice with brown dust

As I got higher, approaching Mt Twynam and still struggling on the ice, the wind increased severely. I skied around to the western face of Twynam and could barley stand up. It was relentless, no gusts, just constant gale force winds. I skied down to the Twynam west spur saddle, enjoying the incredible view of the western faces despite the ice and wind.

Looking north, Anderson Crags in foreground and Jagungal in the distance

I carefully booted up and along the spur concentrating on not dropping any gear or even worse falling over and sliding hundreds of metres. I used my pole to check the snow on the north western face hoping that it would have softened up in the sun. Sadly, it was still ice.

Short boot up to Tenison Woods Knoll

I had promised myself in the morning that if the snow looked dodgy I wouldn’t drop in. Considering the consequences of solo BC skiing I came to the realisation that I wouldn’t be skiing any of the gnarly terrain on offer on this day. Despite the howling wind, once the decision had been made I relaxed and spent some time taking photos of the breathtaking peaks.

Epic terrain

Pity about the ice

Some dark clouds in the valley far below and Mt Bogong 100km away poking its head out made for some extra drama.

Looking down the Avalanche Face

The Sentinel and Mt Bogong in the distance

 Townsend North Spur

Chutes off Carruthers

Pano, endless lines

Strzelecki Creek

As I was getting ready to start heading back to Guthega I ran into a group of 5. They had also checked out the snow and made the call to leave it alone. Knowing they had also judged the conditions to be dangerous made me feel better about my decision. I followed them back towards Twynam for a bit, their group consisted of people on AT gear, tele gear and a split boarder. Great to see so many people out enjoying the BC.

BC people

A bit of Main Range skating

I took my skins off for the long ski back to Illawong. Dropping down the eastern face of Twynam I was pleasantly surprised by the snow. I carved a few big turns, it felt good to get the skis moving again after the disappointment of the western faces.

Finally some turns, dodging ice and brown snow, eastern face of Twynam

Back at Illawong, away from the ice and the wind of the Main Range I sat and enjoyed some lunch in the sun. I had a pretty easy ski back to Guthega. The spring sun was in full affect at the lower elevations and I was burning up by the time I got back to the car.

Sun and ice

Despite not being able to ski any of the awesome terrain out on the western faces, I'm glad I had the opportunity to get out there. Hopefully the snow will hang around, the planets align again and I can get back out there soon.


19km and nearly 1,000m climbed