See this post for another trip across.
I don't often revisit trips of the past as they seem to lose all the detail over time which is important to me when writing about our adventures. Some trips however seem to linger for longer, so before age extracts any more detail from the grey matter, I'll etch the remainder into the blog stone.
For those who are familiar with the K2K, well...this will be an amusing post. For those that know nothing of the classic 80k route from Kiandra in the Northern end of Kosciusko National Park, to Thredbo (the commonly accepted finish point these days)...well it may also be an amusing post.
I'll start by saying that in August 2003 I completed the same route on snow shoes and snowboard solo in 5 days. It was an amazing trip that opened my mind to what was on offer in our own backyard. My dreams of polar crossings gained momentum from plodding around KNP in the early days and allowed a steady flow of knowledge and experience to build.
In 2009 Dana and I decided to retrace the same route, but take our time and ride some of the more remote peaks in the park. We had two weeks worth of food and equipment and no set agenda. At the time Dana had only two or three days skiing experience and hauled a fairly hefty load in some trying conditions.
With a gale force wind warning and prefrontal rain arriving on the day of our departure we left slightly nervous about the journey ahead......
Within 20 minutes of leaving the first drops of rain started to fall, and continued all day. It was miserable to say the least, but the gale force winds were only moderate in the northern end of the park which allowed us to keep moving until at 2.30pm when we made camp as the heavens opened.
It continued on and off during the night but the temps were too warm for snow.
As the the pitch flattened out, the snow stopped so we left the gear and spent the next half an hour searching for the hut amongst the stands of snowgums. I hadn't visited this particular hut before as I'd aimed for Brooks last time, so nothing was familiar. I finally spotted it and headed back to the gear which was only a few hundred meters away.......
What happened next was slightly humorous . We couldn't find the hut again. It was cold and I was still wearing a T shirt and had started to fade. Dana needed to stop NOW , and we had used the last of our drinkable water. It was past 8.00pm and we were simply fatigued from hauling and had hit the wall. After making a lame effort in the dinner department we fell asleep instantly.
We found the hut a mere 80 meters from the tent so we decided laze around in the sun and kick back for a while. It is such a beautiful spot and it was 2.00pm before we decided to do a few K's!
I was desperate for the wind to pick up, as I had an 8 metre snow kite that potentially could have lightened the load somewhat....Wouldn't that have been a sight! I could only imagine what people may have thought if they stumbled across that little setup, but under a fat high pressure system it was never going to happen.
I was horrified to see that the bottom had worn through both main runners and was full of mud, water and grass. I was concerned for several reasons, but the one that worried me the most was that the pulk was not mine. To this day it was the only regret of the trip and the owner was incredibly nice about the whole deal all things considered. (Sincere apologies again)
I had spent the month prior to the trip building a plug for my own carbon fiber pulk, but had simply run out of time as the process is time consuming. It requires building the plug, then a mold from the plug and finally the actual pulk from the mold. Stage one of three wasn't even close.
The fifth day arrived with clear skies and warm weather again so we decided to sleep in and aim for Mackeys hut which was only two and a half kilometers away. More of the same ensued and upon reaching Tibeaudo's creek it was back to unpacking and repacking the pulk. The next hill was testing.
Standing at the bottom looking for a route up through thick regrowth and a consistent steep, rocky pitch, had us thinking about multiple trips back and forth. In the end I figured once would be enough.....It was a difficult section but nearing the top, we finally hit our first patches of snow in days.
The day went well all things considered and the sight of Mackeys hut was a welcoming one, and I had to laugh when thinking back to the last time I visited the hut. I'd passed through on my second day and had a cuppa with another solo skier in 2003. I continued on to camp at Spencers peak while trying to outrun a front on that occasion.
It poured all morning and the decision was made to take the day off and wait out the prefontal rain. At 5ºc the chance of snow was zero and we wait for the wind to arrive which it does around 10.30am.
Finally at 4.30pm the snow arrives but not a great deal. The drop in temperature was more important as from here on in, saving what was left of the snowpack was critical.
The forecast was for a front due within hours so we tried to pick up the pace and find a place that was not too exposed. The wind was fairly strong as we setup, and although it wasn't the safest spot, the weather was reasonably tame in the end. It snows during the night but end up waking to less snow due to the warm temps.
Day 8 starts fine and sunny again and I'm now convinced that somewhere along the way, the focus went from riding remote peaks to simply making distance. The snow pack is wet and heavy and we post hole most of the day, falling through low heath and into unseen sink holes. Everything is in a serious state of melt, and it becomes a race against time to cross as many creeks as we can.
There were many snow bridges that on any other day we would have looked for better crossings, but we pushed our luck to the limit. We were dragging packs and the pulk over with a rope and treading as lightly as possible, one at a time only to hear the underside collapse into the creeks.
Dana considers skiing but every few hundred metres and we hit grass. Being higher up on the range is promising but I already knew that crossing the Valentine creek will be near on impossible before we can even see it. We make camp at Tarn Bluff and it begins to rain....then it pours for three hours.
I followed Dana towards an island of grass and without warning I broke through the snow into a sink hole. I sunk up to my armpits and watched as huge sheets of ice broke up as I tried to move forward still attached to the pulk which was now sinking. I fought my way forward driving off the bottom towards what I had hoped was the edge as Dana grabbed me by the pack and started hauling me out. I kept charging forward until the pulk was out and we lay back wide eyed and smiling.
We made the decision to keep moving as I was warm and the temps were moderate enough to start drying out. Once we hit the ridge, it's clear that crossing the Valentine will be a swim. We spent an hour looking for a place to cross but it was raging, and despite being able to see Mawson hut on the other side we make the call to head for Tin hut and stay safe. We travel on for a while then make camp as the temperature starts to plummet.
It's very icy as we head for Tin hut. During the morning we bump into another solo traveler heading for Schlink and he asks us for an updated weather report as he had been out for 5 days. I laughed as I told him I'd burnt my last 5 day report 5 days ago. The weather was deteriorating and we wished him a safe trip over the Kerries and continued on. Dana is keen for some hauling and does some time in the harness.
A short video.....
K2K from Darren on Vimeo.