Blue Lake Adventures

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Last week three mates and I headed out to Blue Lake in Kosciusko National Park for a five days of snowshoeing, igloo building, relaxation and for Dom and Stu some ice climbing.

The trip was dreamed up during our Davies Canyon trip in January and as we all now hail from very different parts of the country there was a huge volume of messages shared in the planning and lead up to departure. However Friday night arrived and after dinner and drinks with friends I went home, loaded the car and waited for Dom and Stu to arrive from Sydney.

Saturday morning we were up at five and on our way to the snow. We picked up Josh from the bus station just after six and had a very leisurely trip down to Guthega with stops in Cooma for fuel and second breakfast and then Jindabyne for all the gear everyone had forgotten.

We eventually made it to Guthega at about 11:30 and started walking at about 12. The walk in to Blue Lake is generally upwards once you’ve crossed the swinging bridge but firm snow with a slightly icey crust actually made for fairly quick travel and we had selected a campsite but just after 4. An hour or so of digging had the platforms dug and tents set up in time for an early night. With bad weather forecast for Monday we knew we’d need to secure the camp pretty well on Sunday to get ready.

Waking up Josh and Dom generally got ready before heading of  to do some ice climbing while Stu and I spent the day building snow walls to shelter the campsite and building what was planned to be an igloo but ended up as more of a coracle. It snowed gently on and off through the day (the snow was in frequent, the wind was not) but by 5pm we’d set up a substantial snow kitchen for the evening and were pretty much knackered.

On Monday morning the weather arrived. Rain and wet snow were omnipresent and the day was pretty much tent bound as we tried to stay warm and dry despite the elements. The wind was an advantage as it meant we could actually cook in our vestibules with great care, but at various points during the day when the snow got heavier we took turns in digging out the tent on a half hourly basis.

During the evening the winds dropped, and then the temperature plummeted so that we didn’t have to dig out the tent, but we did have stiff frozen jackets in the morning!

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The walk out was spectacular as the skies cleared and we ended up back in just thermals on the walk out.

All in all a spectacular and somewhat character building trip.

Bluebird snowshoe wonderment!

Glistening fields of snow, icey cornices hundreds of meters long near the peak of Australia’s tallest mountain, camping on snow with mountains and granite the only things in sight and walking across the snow river. This weekend was excellent in a way that I can only struggle to describe.

Early on Saturday I awoke to the dulcet tones of my alarm phone, quickly joined by the sound of my cousins dog wanting desperately to take its place in the bed I was about the vacate (that dog is a firm believer in energy efficiency). The early morning gremlins tried to convince me that after water bottle leaks, missing gear and generally shambolic packing methods the night before – going snowshoeing for the weekend wasn’t a good idea. Luckily common sense vacated the area and I picked up my gear and waited patiently for my lift to arrive. Nicole, Ellen and I were heading up into the backcountry near Mt Kosciusko to explore the snow fields before they melted and hiking started to resemble hard work.

Tumbling into the car I resumed my stupor until coffee made its way I to my blood stream somewhere near Thredbo. After much consultation on the various merits of thermals, ski pants, shorts and over pants our little gang was permitted upon the suspended skyward chariots that form the Kosciusko Express and found ourselves deposited at Thredbo Topstation with almost as much ceremony as the unveiling of my goggles.

From there we marched upwards. Not that Nicole (who loves going up hill) forced us to march for more than the 35 minutes. Why 35 minutes? Lunch! This walk was to become the sort of adventure I love where food takes priority  over walking.

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Anyway as we regained our body temperature after a long break we made our way through the pass and saw our first goal in the distance, the precipit-less Mt Kosciusko.  The peak itself is not deserving of the term, but it is put on a great display with a massive cornice and spectacular ice formations on the summit.

On the peak we were told that the trail we’d intended taking towards Seamans Hut was getting a bit sloppy as the late season snow started to melt. This advice turned out to be the best we could have received as we turned away from the snow poles and up onto the ridgeline where few other people had been recently. Away from the touristy tracks the snow was crisp and clear of tracks and before long we found ourselves a campsite on the ridge too good to pass up so we set up our tents, gawked at the astounding beauty of the location we were to call home for the night and before long found ourselves waist deep in the snow with shovels and saws in an impromptu igloo making lesson before retiring very early to bed.

The morning brought even more outdoor bliss as the clear blue skies continued and the chilly temperatures overnight had refrozen all the snow that had started to melt the night before. So, after a morning so luxurious we almost forgot we had to go anywhere, we traipsed down the off the ridge and across the snowy river (we assume. It wasn’t quite clear where it was) and up a hill. Well a big hill. Well up onto the Ramshead Range. Anyway we had lunch on a hill and then made our way back to Thredbo circuitously along the flattest but possible least direct route available.

Moonie and Bob’s big walk

Do you ever feel like you haven’t been doing anything exciting recently? Do you ever feel like you haven’t done any thing worth telling people about when they ask you what you’ve been up to? I often feel like that, which I why I write this blog and I very much hope you enjoy my ramblings. Today however I do have exciting adventures to write about!

Now for anyone who hasn’t caught on with previous posts I recently bought a Surly ECR, which is a “semi-fat bike” with three inch tyres adequate for riding on most soft loose surfaces like sketchy roads, sand and purportedly snow. Living in Alice Springs there wasn’t a chance I would be taking the bike to snow. Living in Sydney though it is possible for snow to occur only a matter of hours away so this weekend I went looking for it!

I meet up with Simon from the FB group Fat Bikes Down-Under at Corin Dam in the ACT to start what I had presumed would be a leisurely ride and frolic in the snow. What transpired was entirely different.

Meeting Simon at Corin Dam we compared bikes and wheels. His 5inch tyres were wider but much smaller overall then my 29+

Meeting Simon at Corin Dam we compared bikes and wheels. His 5inch tyres were wider but much smaller overall then my 29+

From the Dam wall the ride quickly became a walk, and the walk quickly became a trudge, as we began the long accent from near the bottom of the valley (as a dam wall logically suggests in hindsight) up to Stockyard Spur where we hoped there would be snow we could ride out bikes in. I’d loaded up my bike with a frame bag and bar roll full of food, water and a multitude of warm clothing which meant the bike probably weighed in at about 30 kilograms, or in a more accessible unit of measure – too much!

I think this explains the gradient of the walk (Hike-a-Bike)

I think this explains the gradient of the walk (Hike-a-Bike)

The two kilometres to reach the top of the spur took over two hours of solid pushing to climb the 5oom, and with snow and ice starting about 100m from the top the last part of the distance was slow and treacherous. The rewards at the top were worth it though. I was greeted to a scene of beautiful snow gums, shin deep snow (15-20cm mostly), and weather that alternated between bright sunshine and snow flurries which were just enough to fill the tread marks in our tyre tracks as we rode.

As far as riding goes I am not sure I would describe it as successful. On my 29er plus semi-fat bike I spent the vast majority of the time pushing up hill and on flats. There were a few sections of downward slope which were rideable, but only where walkers had compressed the snow enough for there to be a firm pack to place the tyres on. As you can imagine in a fairly remote and hard to get to place there hadn’t been much compaction, and I would honestly guess that in the four and a half hours my little adventure took from car to car I rode for no more than 15 minutes.

I do think in a compacted snow field, probably something that had been groomed by snow-cats or something, it would be both possible and enjoyable to ride my bike in the snow. However for un-groomed fluffy snow I think it is safe to say I won’t be planning any more adventures of this type too soon. Not never, because it was fun, but not for now.

Anyway the rest of the adventure was fairly well adventurous, trundling back down the hill carrying my bike down the multitudinous steps back to the car. I think these photos should give you an idea of how beautiful and peaceful it is in the Australian snow, and also just how difficult it was “riding” my bike up there.

For any doubters out there. Here is the evidence of riding in the snow as demonstrate by yours truly.

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