So it all looked good: finally the snow-drought had broken, a week of decent falls and an optimistic outlook. After canning a trip on the June long weekend (too much bushwalking) suddenly it seemed the snow gods were lining the ducks up. I had arranged with the unsuspecting Mark Schroeder to head down, and then found my prior travelling companions Tony Murphy and Karen Darby were also planning to be south.
I took Friday off, arranged to meet Tony and Karen at a vague map reference near Twynam Creek (south of Guthega, on the good side of the Snowy), and second thing Friday morning Mark and I were on the highway. We didn’t hit Guthega until 3pm, looking at dark at just after 5, so just the slightest of edges to the evening’s entertainment.
|Mark before we headed out. Is that blue sky? Last we'll see of it.|
|OK , one tiny shard of blue left.|
It was overcast and windy and just starting to snow as we made our way to Illawong Bridge, then traversed around towards Twynam Creek. Fortunately we spotted Tony waving like a madman on the other side of the creek valley, otherwise we would have plunged up towards the head of the stream. They had camped slightly dug into a moderate slope.
Here’s where mark and I made a clever call that proved not to be quite so mart. Faced with the choice of putting the trusty (24 year old) tent near Karen and Tony’s, relatively exposed to the gale, or digging deeper into the steep snowbank and snugging in, we chose the latter. Wrong, as it turned out.
A windy snowy dusk turned into a windy snowy night. Mark cooked, partly in the tent and partly me outside in a snow kitchen. Yummy tune/rice/tomato/garlic/peas/noodles, the so to bed.
Morning showed up the folly of our tent placement. The tent was half buried on the uphill side, while Karen and Tony’s tent was snow free. Before brekkie we had to dig the damn thing out, but the wind was still strong and the spindrift started to fill the gap almost immediately.
|That'd be the tent we bought in 1990...|
|You can see the snow height is above Marks waist. Nice jacket, Mark. 'We repeated this digging three times that day.|
Because the weather was foul we decided to ski around a bit and wait to see if it improved, in which case we’d strike out for the tops.
The snow was perfect: closest to powder I’ve ever found. Deep, even, the only problem the flat light which hid drop-offs. Mark said he hadn’t skied for ten year, but had omitted to tell us he was a triple Olympic gold medallist, had won the Iditarod on skis six times and could skiing before he could walk. The other three of us watched with stony faces as our “novice” snapped out graceful turn after turn.
Over lunch I did the unmentionable: mooted bailing. The weather was crap and would be tomorrow, visibility was variable to poor, and there was no reason to think life would be better tomorrow. Notwithstanding the ecstatic joy of being in that place and in those conditions, cooking and camping another night was beginning to look unappealing. A bit of judicious white-anting and we decided to up sticks.
Very unlike me.
|A happy pack|
Some afternoon skiing, a tent pack in the unrelenting wind and snow punctuated by the adventure of chasing an errant ski down the hill, and then the flog back through the bleak glorious exhilarating snowstorm to the forlorn bridge, the long traverse to Guthega and then an unwelcome coupe of k’s in the dark along the road to the cars. And the end of a truncated but terrific weekend.
|The Bridge of Doom|
Disappointing about the poor weather but still could not stop smiling.
|Thank God, the car. Mark, me, Karen, Tony.|
Then a seven hour drive home.