Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:08 am Posts: 128 Location: Melbourne, Australia
We were very lucky early season here in Australia. The first week of June was rock city, population here - then things got japanese virtually overnight with the arrival of 2 massive cold fronts.
There aren't very many things to like about snowboarding in Australia... , but when you do get a storm, unlike across the ditch in unzud (NZ), there's great tree runs. I tracked another storm front (errrr, listened to the weather on the news ) and headed up to Mt Hotham for about a week in late July. It was freakin fantastic and for the 1st 4 days I was there you just didn't even want to be in the backcountry, that's how good it was inbounds. The weather was also a little ugly for touring, not to mention the avalanche danger (more on this later).
Being a split boarding forum, I won't bore everyone with my inbounds adventures...
When the weekend arrived and the hordes from melbourne too (making getting out-of-bounds mandatory), it really fined up beautifully making perfect conditions for touring.
I put out an a call on a local backcountry forum and hooked up with 2 fellow snowboard tourers.
One of the great things I love about touring is hooking up with other random tourers (esp split boarders ). When you meet for the first time, you kinda feel like you know each other already.
We got a little stuffed by the wind. Prevailing winds here are north through west and the early season storms were no different, but after it cleared the first night a big southerly came though and buffed up everything alpine south and east facing.
Hotham has the closest thing we have in Australia to "pass" style touring. The road actually sneaks slightly into the alpine at around 1800m and there's some really short, steep and fun lines off the great alpine road.
We picked off a few nice lines that were as protected as they could be, things were a little wind hammered up high, but there was just beautiful powder below the treeline.
The weather was just glorious for touring and whilst the masses fought over a tracked out resort, the backcountry was blissfully uncrowded.
The previous storm cycle week had seen elevated avalanche danger, which unfortunately claimed the lives of 2 fellow backcountry snowboarders. In the previous photo if you look carefully you can see an avalanche crown just underneath the wind lip.
Sometimes Australia really turns it on, normally it's only a few days a year, so you gotta enjoy it while it lasts and so I enjoyed a beautiful sunset with a nice beer
Sunset on the Great Alpine Road
iphone panorama of Mt Hotham from the Razorback
Next day as we headed into steeper terrain, it was definitely prudent to do a little digging (which I'd already done plenty of anyway), before we dropped off the ridge line you can see behind me. Benign conditions and a little time had seen the new snow bond quite nicely to the layer below. It was warming up a little, but not enough for wet slides.
The other side of the ridge...
The terrain in the Victorian alps tends to be a little "terrain-trappy" where even a small slide is potentially life threatening, because most lines tend to funnel into a gully bottleneck and/or thick trees.
By the time we skinned out it was warming up and I was back to a t-shirt.
Touring off the Great Alpine Road with the Razorback snaking it's way on the 10km to Mt Feathertop
Looking back at our lines
This is the highest road (aptly named "Great Alpine Road") in Australia, the peak of Mt Hotham, on the right, has the mobile phone tower on it. There's some nice lines off this side.
After doing this line off the road, we skinned up to the peak of Mt Hotham
...and did some lines off the back (southern side).
This photo is taken from where you're looking at in the above photo on the Great Alpine Road.
In the midst of all this, it seemed the Aussie backcountry was finding a wider audience thanks to some re-grams of my photos from the King of Backcountry himself, Jeremy Jones. I felt as giggly as a 13 year old grommet when he started following me on twitter! Needless to say when I posted it I was lucky to get 100 "likes" and he got over 1600!!!
Up on the peak of Mt Hotham we had a bit of a rime party and I framed my favourite Aussie Peak, Mt Feathertop, some 10km away with a rime 'shark' eating dinner
Only in Australia could they figure out a way to charge money for split-boarding, and if you park your car on the roadside to get this line, it costs $45/day for "snow-clearing" and maintenance costs. Oh well... The snow in the southerly protected trees was still fantastic powder.
Snowboarding in snow gums has to rate as one of the most surreal experiences. Despite how it looks, they're not deciduous. These ones are dead from bush fires, I think from 2003, 2006 and maybe even last summer.
Of course, a couple of cold tins always hit the spot after a day of earning turns and here's Tim enjoying one looking at a Razorback sunset.
You're welcome Jeremy!
I punched out a little early on the last day as I had a 4 1/2 hour drive back to melbourne
A few weeks later I headed up to Mt Bogong, which at 1986m, is Victorias highest mountain.
This was the last major storm we had this season and whilst it didn't deliver the same amount of snow as the previous systems, it dumped down to *really* low (a few hundred metres) levels.
My buddies low range 4WD made easy work of the dirt road to the trailhead, although we almost needed to put chains on.
It's possible to do Bogong ("Boges" to her mates!) as a day trip, but to get the most out of it, it's worth overnighting. We carried the full kit in (tents, sleeping bags, jetboils etc) so my pack was pretty heavy. Even though there was ample snow for skinning down to the trailhead, the track (Eskdale Spur) really doesn't allow you to skin until a fair way up (fallen logs, steps etc), so we had to boot it
Booting up through the mountain ash reminded me of touring in japan, with powder snow and shirakaba (white birch).
We pitched our tents at Michell (pronounced like the girls name) Hut, which is emergency use only (for sleeping), but you can use it for eating, drying etc.
We pitched the tents and got to skinning straight away. Bogong had a bit of an infamous run in the news leading up to my trip. In addition to the 2 snowboarders who tragically died in an avalanche, one of my touring buddies (tour leader) had rescued some backcountry travellers who got lost in the alpine after dark, hunkered down and called emergency services. He reached them at 4 in the morning and one of them was barely conscious, but they got down OK.
On the peak of Mt Bogong, we had (another ) rime party. Apparently this rock cairn is around 14ft high, so it's been a good season thus far!
The peak of Boges is on a big horse shoe shaped plateau, so there's a lot of different aspects and lines. Here's the photo Jeremy Jones re-posted.
Being clear, that night was f&%^ing cold (well for Australia -10C) and my tent mate did not take my advice to sleep with his boot liners, so they were a little frozen the next morning
This is the slope where Daniel and Marty, the 2 snowboarders caught in an avalanche during the previous big storm cycle, died. It's quite the terrain trap. The average pitch is 35 degrees, under the convex feature just below the top it increases to 40 degrees. It gets snow blown in from the prevailing winds. RIP Daniel and Marty.
Our goal for the day was the south side of the peak and runs called "Death Cookie" (because of the cornice that often drops) and "Tombstone" (named for a prominent rock feature).
We found powder, albeit a little wind affected
Skinning out of Cairn Gully with a "slow-shoer"!
Bogong is just one of those places that's not that hard to get to and when you do, you can be really rewarded.
I had a few weeks back at work and then managed to sneak over to NZ to do some hut touring.
NZ has had a pretty ordinary year snow wise. I did one day at Treble Cone and yeah, very low tide...
The one thing that was in my favour was the weather, total bluebird the entire time and no wind at all.
One of the hut trips I did was to Black Peak in the Wanaka Area. We choppered in to Black Peak, which you can see off the back of the Treble Cone Peak. The high peak at the back of the photo is Mt Aspiring, which at 3,033m, is the highest peak in NZ not on the main divide (i.e. Mt Cook/Tasman area). Black Peak is the high peak to the left of Mt Aspiring (about 1/3rd of the way in from the back left of the photo).
Aspiring Guides (http://www.aspiringguides.com) have a hut up there and we overnighted here for a few nights. It's pretty well equipped with food stashes and gear (sleeping bags, bunks) and even has propane gas for cooking, so no fiddling with liquid fuel stoves . They chopper everything in/out so there's no need to carry all your rubbish out.
It was really into spring conditions, so I lost count of the number of times I used my split crampons, particularly early in the day. We also took ice axes and boot crampons.
On the sunny aspects it was an absolute corn fest, down to t-shirts for the skin out and still sweating. The old tracks you see here are from heli-skiers.
Overnight touring in NZ involves being vigilant for the naughty kea, the worlds only alpine parrot (no I'm not making that up). These cute troublemakers have strong beaks and are highly inquisitive (and destructive), so you can't leave any gear out drying unattended anywhere or leave hut windows open etc.
Back at the hut after touring we'd sit on the bench in the sun with tea and bikkies drying our gear making sure they didn't wreak any havoc.
You need a locker for poles, crampons, axes etc as there's not enough room in the hut
We enjoyed some great sunsets
Happy to leave the toilet door open for sunset viewing!!!
Apart from the corn fest, there was some nice riding on the southerly aspects on re-crystallised powder, but nothing very deep.
The above photo was in some of the shady chutes you see here lookers left.
Stability was generally very good, sunny faces were getting a solid re-freeze nightly. The only suspect was on SE aspects there were multiple faceted layers between 30 and 90cm down that warranted some further investigation. The cold nights were not helping the faceting in thinner areas of the snowpack e.g. rocks. To our best ability though we couldn't get anything but a hard result on compression tests, so it was full steam ahead!
You can see some of the layers I'm talking about here
We decided to tour out from the hut, a 7 hour blister-inducing traverse. I lost count at around 10 transitions. We did everything. A (very little riding),traversing bulletproof rain crust in boot crampons, down climbing in boot crampons / ice axes, boot packing and traversing. I think it was around 1800m descent and 1200m up.
Crampons used to freak me out, but now I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable in them! Having climbed some steeper icy stuff, I've worked out soft boots are really not ideal with crampons. There were some exposed places where I was a little concerned at the prospect of losing one... I'm not quite ready to go "full" hard boots yet, but I'm certainly thinking very hard about something like fitwells as an intermediate step.
That's the peak of Treble Cone in the top right.
It wouldn't be NZ if you didn't do some tussock skinning
The final skin out was an energy sapping 500m of vert at about 4pm. Looking back at black peak (top right, Mt Aspiring far right background)
I'm sure you're thinking how slow I am, that doesn't look like 7 hours of traversing!
I could barely lift the board up for this photo. We boarded back down to the base of a, by now, very empty treble cone and a waiting car and BEER
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:08 am Posts: 128 Location: Melbourne, Australia
peace frog wrote:
...continental snow pack...
It's usually not as bad as this, it's "continental" in that we usually have a fairly thin snowpack , however we (Aus, not NZ) just don't get nasty buried layers, depth hoar etc as it doesn't get cold enough. Most of our snow comes with big winds, so storm snow and wind loading are our main issues and usually settle down quickly.