A winter crossing of The Great Dividing Range in Victoria, to see the Crosscut Saw under snow and Vallejo Gantner hut all white as it was designed to be. To stand on Mt Howitt and survey the winter landscape all around before making my way over to Stirling via Craig’s Hut, surely I can’t have been the only person to have dreams of this.
This has been on my bucket list for a while now and completing it has given me one of my most rewarding trips yet. I was lucky enough to be joined by fellow Bushwalk member 'Snowzone', she is like a Storm Goddess, I’ve never been on a sunny walk with her and a slow start to the snow season was never an issue. It was guaranteed to blizzard and a better travelling companion I’ve not yet met either. If you look at a topo map it’s not the most strenuous walk elevation wise but as we know in winter, it all depends on the snow and didn’t we cop it. The expedition had it all, big weather, adventure, some breath taking scenery and me, one of my most rewarding trips yet.
After a late start we’re a bit behind though on coming up to Lost Plain all that was forgotten as the excitement levels went right up, snow everywhere and we had to bang on the snow chains to go any further. There’s no snow ploughs round here which just adds to the excitement of it all and passing a 4wd towing a wake board gave us a laugh, country lads you got to love them. At the Gorge carpark we got as close to the locked gates as then quickly were gearing up & saying goodbye to our lift we snowshoed off up the hill.
I do have to say the car shuffle for this trip is huge and many thanks to member Arnold for helping us here taking a whole day out to assist us and getting dirty as all getup cause I forgot to say just how messy getting off snow chains backcountry can be.
Now the original plan was to go up Mt Reynard first then head on though with the late start and a less than ideal forecast, 95kph winds 12 inches of snow and ordinary visibility up high, we decided skip this and get up near the Alpine Fire Bombing Airport or anywhere sheltered really.
The going was pretty good in the conditions and with spirits pinging high, travelling backcountry doesn’t get better than this. Nice firmish snow under foot to start off with and a fast pace. It’s great seeing the roads and the country all white again. I was surprised at the amount of animal tracks about with dogs, deer, roo and something else that had me stumped were stamped into the snow.
Fair to say it might have been a tad breezy as we got up higher and neared the Airport though and about 500 meters out we crossed one open wind swept section that had you staggering around. Going through this I had dark spots moving around my eyes on the snow ahead of me and was starting to think I had bitten off more than I could chew with thoughts of me fainting or something going through my head. As I got closer the dark shapes turned out to be a whole swag of rabbits running around, struth they must be doing it tough up here as I know I was.
It’s always a relief when the sheltered spot you had in mind is actually sheltered, well compared to what we just came through anyway. Suddenly the visibility cleared so we dumped our packs and shot off to check out the airport buildings which were bearing the full brunt of the wind. All of which were secure and no chance of getting easy water/shelter either. After a quick rece the Storm Goddess (SG), who was in her element btw, and I shot back to stomp a tent site out and set it up. Now we were sharing a tent and all I will say is that we got better putting it up as a team as the week went on. Good thing that Hilleburgs are easy to put up in winds and handle a bit of snow cause we had bucket loads of both. Finally the Kaitum was getting a proper snow christening and boy was I happy about that.
The new day dawned and when I unzipped the door I was met with a snow wall half way up the tent despite digging a hole outside the vestibule. Seeing fresh snow everywhere will bring a smile to anyone it is ohhh so pretty. One of us got out and took some pics celebrating the fresh start to a new day, the other stayed zipped up in her sleeping bag. Not saying names or anything.
On setting out we found that whilst the fresh new snow might look pretty, it was that soft fluffy powdery crap that even in snowshoes you sink over a foot deep. Tried making my way without them a couple of times but sunk up to my waist so soon gave up that idea. Past the airport we tried a bit of off track vs Howitt Rd and it was pretty obvious that travelling on the rd was a far easier option, still deep though. Even though the snow was deep and hard yakka to get through, breaking trails is always fun making it look as if we were the first to come here, later after reading all the intensions books along the way we found out we were.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the amount of rosellas flying about, plenty of rabbits running around too. Got me buggered what they are up here eating as everything is either under snow or frozen. The rosellas really stand out being the only colour around and look gorgeous while the bunnies are really dark contrasting against the white.
You drop down a few hundred meters in height going to the Bryces Gorge area from the airport and it was only just before we got there that the snow lessened up and made travelling easier. After a short break on the way I noticed that a belt had slipped down over my hip flexor and when we started off again what was a niggle was now full blown ache and I hobbled after the Storm Goddess who turns out is a bit of a downhill skier. When the going is hard she’s as fast as a turtle and on a downward easy slope she’d give Black Caviar a run for its money. Catching up to her at Bryces Gorge carpark I motored off to Guys hut on skinny snow when we were honked at by deer really close by. Now the look on SG’s face was priceless and I think she stained the snow she got that big of a fright! I let her know it was just a deer and hobbled off really starting to wish these drugs would kick in and the worry of was this the trip over for me? With my partner screaming out about how pretty and big the deer were I was just wishing Guys Hut was here already. Just a short walkon and a rock hop over a creek Guys Hilton Hut was here.
Word of advice, if you’re sitting in this hut in a snow storm don’t take off your outer shell as you get a fair dusting of snow through the cracks when it blows.
Originally in my head the plan was to make it to *&%$#! Neck and Storm Goddesses was hoping to get to Guys hut. Now it turns out that she wants to go on and I’m buggered. Do you go on and potentially stuff the trip with injury or drug up & rest the remainder of the day giving up a few k's praying it will be better tomorrow and good enough to last the trip. Here’s where it’s good having someone of Snowzone’s calibre with you. At the start of the trip I was told, “I might burp, fart, snore wake you up going to the loo in the middle night and have smelly feet by the end. All of which I’m not apologising for! If one person isn’t comfortable with doing something then it’s off, it goes both ways! Deal?”:)) “Yep that’s a deal.” Told you she was golden. True to her word with no questions asked she supported staying. After a good hot late lunch and the drugs kicking in the day was getting better so we set up the hille, which went up in half the time. Walked into the hut later on finding a fire had been lit, also that Possums don't like fires in a chimney especially when they are camped in it which they quickly evacuated. A warm fire, hot dinner, the odd snow shower inside a hut and drugs will brighten anyones day I say.
Laying in bed I heard," certainly is a lot calmer camped here isn't it?" just as i dozed off.
Waking up to howling winds and checking guy ropes in wind driven snow I had to disagree with her comments. Why is it that it always seems twice as cold when you have to get out of you sleeping bag to do this?
Last edited by walkon
on Tue 25 Aug, 2015 2:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.