Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guthega River Powder Harvest

Recent snowfalls, and very cold weather made for nice dry snow last week. My ski buddy Rohan and I planned to head out from Guthega towards Mt Tate to take advantage of the decidedly un-Australian conditions.

We had a good early start and made our way over the Guthega Dam.

Over the wall

Guthega Pondage

Receding waters

Always reminds me of some soviet era secret launching pad

Conditions on the skin tracks were hard and kind of icy. However, as we gained altitude prospecting flicks with the pole off the side of the skin track indicated dry snow, very much a rarity down under. We made good time and I was pretty pumped to get some turns under the belt.

Looking back towards Guthega village and the ski resort

Pumped for a big day

We had planned to spend the day lapping the Tate East Ridge, it was looking pretty good form our location at the Guthega Trig across the valley.

Mt Tate East Ridge

Another entry for the “avalanches do happen in Australia” knowledge base

We dropped in and took some awesome turns down to the Guthega River. The snow quality did not disappoint. After tossing our skis over the river and then feebly crossing, we skinned up the other side of the valley towards Mt Tate.

Guthega River

Skinning up to Mt Tate

Our first run through the trees

The snow conditions deteriorated rapidly once we hit the snowline; manky wind affected crap. We made the call to spend the rest of the day at lower elevations within the trees. After clearing the wind scoured crap we had another awesome run hammering through the trees back to the river.

Some of the turns from our second run, wind affected snow can be seen in background

More of our turns

For the rest of the day it was an all out powder harvest. We did four more laps up to the Guthega Trig ridge line scoring beautiful dry snow on every run.

Top turns

Middle turns

Lower turns

Having one of of my numerous rest breaks
(Thank to Jindy Rip Curl for the hat!)

Rohan, stoked with his turns

Steep skin track

For our last run we dropped down the eastern side of the ridge and skied all the way back to the dam wall, a great way to finish the day.

A big day, 1,380m climbed and around 14km travelled

A quick edit of our fantastic winter day out.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mt Wheatley and remembering Mt Baker

Last year I spent an amazing day skiing at Mt Baker. A hardcore hill located in the Pacific North West of the US. The terrain was insane, pillow lines and some of the steepest tree runs I’ve encountered. The mountains surrounding the resort were breathtaking.

Mt Baker; Steepest, craziest tree lines I’ve ever seen and Mt Shuksan

After exploring the resort for a bit I noticed a few people heading out touring and snowshoeing and decided to check out some of the side country. I skinned up a well worn track to some nice terrain. I had found the very popular Bagely Lake and Table Mountain ski tour. While the terrain around Table Mountain was great, 400m vertical at 45-50deg, what I really appreciated about the tour was the access, and the scenery of the approach. The trail head is at the Mt Baker ski resort upper carpark and follows a creek and series of lakes to get to the steep slopes around the lake.

The start of the trail

Approaching Table Mountain, approx 1,700m

Some of the terrain accessible from the tour

Plenty of people (and four legged friends) out enjoying the mountains

You definitely can’t do this in Australia, snowshoe dog walk

Now I don’t know why, but for some reason the Rock Creek and Mt Wheatley ski tour from Perisher Valley always remind me of that day out touring in the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Maybe it is because you can put your skins on at the car and head off from Perisher Village or perhaps it is the low angle approach and the building excitement as the skiable terrain draws near.

Rock Creek trail head

Sometimes Perisher does a fair impression of some of the snowier resorts of the world

Snowy Village 8

That low angle approach that reminds me so much of the Table Mountain ski tour

Off through the village

Skin track stoke

Burnt snow gums

Mt Wheatley stands at close to 1,900m. However, owing to the geological age of our mountain ranges, like many of the hills of Australia it is more of a lump than what you would think of as a mountain. Nonetheless, the south-east face offers nearly a 100m of vertical at 35-40deg and the numerous boulders and sometimes steeper pitches make for some great skiing.

Getting ready to drop in

I spent some time lapping the face and enjoying the powder, incredibly dry by Australian standards. The low light, snow flurries and my crappy point and shoot camera made for some challenging photographic conditions.

Top turns

Lower section, still scrubby

Even lower section

Mt Wheatley powder

It was my first powder day of the season and I was pretty stoked.

First oz pow turns 2012, yew!

As the day drew to a close, I skied back to Mt Perisher and took a few rides on the chairlift. Surprisingly, for a Sunday in the middle of school holidays, there was still plenty of powder around in-bounds.

What wasn’t so cool was the hectic traffic back down the mountain to Jindabyne. A drive that normally takes me 20min took over an hour. There was all sorts of shenanigans going on; cars stopped in the middle of the road, cars off the road and some getting to know each other very closely.

Hectic traffic

Not sure how these guys ended up facing the wrong way off the side

Not to worry, it was a great way to spend an otherwise very lazy Sunday, skiing powder and reminiscing those big mountains on the other side of the world.