Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kiandra to Kosciuszko splitboarding

Rough route description at the end of post.

Over the years I've come to expect greater satisfaction on completion of harder trips in the wild. Paying your dues is something I believe contributes to a better experience overall, and if things went perfectly on all trips would I learn anything new?

This years K2K was a surprise. The weather was simply superb, gear failures were nil, hardship was not discovered but the overall satisfaction rated as high as some of the more difficult journeys. I had plenty of time to familiarise myself with a new Jeremy Jones Solution 161 splitboard across the Main Range of Kosciuszko National Park during a week of touring. I had planned to use wind power if the weather conditions allowed but it remained calm and cold for the duration which meant my 4.5m and 11m snowkites remained on the pack.

The week prior to leaving I managed to come down with the flu so after trying to kill it off at the Berridale Inn the night before departure, I had a late start at 10am.

The first day started with enthusiasm which saw a steady reliable pace out towards Mt Tabletop where I met Damian and Sarah having lunch and chatting to another group. Not much was said about the state of Happy Jacks plain and wether there would be any snow for the trip across this year. I moved on and as the afternoon grew long, tiredness swept over me so an early day was called and I set up camp as Damian and Sarah powered past all smiles and heading for Brooks. It was the last I would see of them as they made quick time over the range.
The following day was spent in the beautiful valley of Happy Jacks Plain following leads along patchy snow past Brooks hut, over the log crossing and towards the higher ground at the Southern end. Brooks hut had burnt down on my visit through in 2003 and since been rebuilt so it was nice to drop by this year.
The plan each day had been to camp as high as possible so the morning sun would de-ice the tent before packing it away. The other benefit when higher on the range later in the week was to be above the valley cloud which could potentially make visibility less than ideal for the first couple of hours travel. The idea works well in high pressure weather and not so great when cold fronts are on the agenda.

Day three was another perfect sunny day which allowed for a new route along a valley that I hadn't visited before. It was such a privilege to pick and choose a route based on ease of travel without wind and weather concerns. I had time for photos and the odd short video along the way. I had some issues with skins gluping up on one short traverse which was simply sorted by kicking back in the sun for lunch.

It was on past Cesjacks hut which was as busy as ever and I was pleasantly surprised by a chap that not only asked if I was ok for water but had an interest in my splitboard. It was an unexpected and welcomed encounter that had me skinning on late into the afternoon with happy thoughts and outstanding views of Mt Jagungal.
Day four was a classic day of dreamy Australian high country touring which involved incredible sunrises, good quality snow conditions and riding perfect remote terrain. On other occasions I've had to pass by good terrain due to having to make distance or outrun bad weather, but this trip kept on giving so I allowed myself the pleasure of riding when I felt it necessary.
 It was on to the Brassy Range then over the Kerries and down into the Whites river corridor. It was here that I met a larger group towing sleds in great conditions to Whites river Hut. My plans were to continue camping every night so after a stunning day, I made Schlink pass and the usual phone calls before climbing an icy traverse late in the afternoon onto Dicky Cooper Bogong for the evening.

Surface conditions started to change a little on day five but I was determined to stay high while the weather was good. After crossing the Rolling Ground I had an icy descent to Consett Stephen Pass which had my tele-splitting in full swing. The climb onto Mt Tate was more of the same and without any form of crampons, I had to rely on the board and technique to make ground.
From the summit I had a great run down into Pounds Creek which was an absolute blast on the board and if I had any doubts about the capability of a splitboard then this run would alleviate any concerns. From bulletproof conditions through to spring like, performance was fitting as expected. This valley deserved soaking in so time was an unimportant factor while basking in the sun.
Another late afternoon icy traverse to camp on dark allowed for the usual sunrise melt. I watched a large group descend Twynam chute right on dark after hearing edges scraping. Brave and confident skiers and boarders waved as they shot past to a lower camp. I slept in the following morning as I knew ice would be an issue up high. I used the small kite over my sleeping bag during the night as ice build up in the tent was quite heavy so the morning sun was welcomed as a drying tool.

Day six was testing in terms of surface conditions due to wanting to stay high on the range. By the time I left camp at 10.30am and traversed Mt Twynam and onto the summit of Carruthers it was clear this was not worth the hassle so I strapped in and rode down the flanks and crossed over Club Lake creek before heading up towards Seamans hut. I could have finished at Thredbo on this day but had to wait another day before descending for a pickup and a week skiing in the resort. 
I spent a day relaxing around Etheridge before waking to snow in the early hours of the following morning. I felt a wave of happiness wash over as the visibility deteriorated for the short ride back down to civilisation. I found a quiet spot in the village and reflected over a beer before my pick up arrived and felt as though mother nature had apologised for the testing conditions of the last trip through. I'm now in her debt once again.....

A big thankyou to Jason and his crew from ESS Boardstore in North Parramatta. All the last minute gear and servicing was much appreciated as always. Cheers.

Route description.

First up a small disclaimer. The description I have given is not to be taken as the best navigable route for you. Understand that it is simply a route that I have taken and shouldn't be used as a trail guide on your own journey if you aren't confident of your navigation ability and general backcountry hardiness. :-)

I get asked occasionally about the specifics of the K2K route and the answer is never really that straight forward due to the nature of the weather and snow conditions. The first time I ventured from Kiandra to Guthega Power Station was around 2003 and all I had was some very basic info on the route from Klaus Hueneke's book. It basically described a few key ridges and huts along the way so after an incredible stroke of luck, it snowed hard the week prior to leaving on the first trip through and the Happy Jacks Plain was under two feet of snow. Three days of sunshine before a 24 hour blizzard bunkered down in Mawson Hut, then on for a pickup in 5 days. I was on snowshoes and carried my snowboard.

The next trip through was epic and instead of finishing at Thredbo we had to pull out at Guthega due to a poor run with rain, flooded creeks, blizzards and equipment failures. Trip report can be found HERE.

The trip described in this report goes a little like this.....

I like to leave from Mt Selwyn as I have left my car in the overnight car park to be picked up after the trip and coffee is nice if you don't need an early start. Otherwise you leave from the Snowy Mountains Highway at Kiandra on the Tabletop fire trail. The difference in overall distance is only about 2 K's. You will usually be following ski tracks out to Mt Tabletop as its popular with day trippers. About one and a half K's south of Four Mile Hut, I follow the ridgeline and don't drop down to Nine Mile Diggings, aiming for Mt Tabletop, where the route traverses the Northern side.

From here I have taken three different routes, two were in the dark. If you can follow the general route of the firetrail SE for around two half K's, until you are almost due North of Happys Hut, then swing back SW until you are on Arsenic Ridge, it will put you on target for Brooks Hut. You can alternatively drop down any of the gullies to reach Happys hut first. I've used three different gullies off the ridge and if you can see the Happy Jacks Plain and a reasonable route down, just go for it.

From Brooks Hut there is an old log crossing over Happy Jacks Creek dead south, otherwise if there is no snow, you may be able to see the track that crosses over the creek about half a K up stream of the log. From here, I usually jump on the Happy Jacks Road and follow it down to Macgregor's Creek or Tibeaudo's Creek on route to Mackey's Hut. On this trip I stayed a couple of K's East of Mackeys and when I was in line with Spencers Peak, swung SW until I reached Cesjacks Hut. I have in the past skirted the SE side of Spencers Peak proper before heading South along the ridge and around to Cesjacks but it can be a little scrubby in places.

From Cesjacks, you have to decide if you want to do Mt Jagungal and if so its about 6 K's West of the Hut. In the past my route from here has been along Doubtful Creek to McAlister saddle along the Eastern side of Tarn Bluff and down to the Big Bend on Valentine Creek before heading to Mawson Hut. From here it was along the Creek to Tin Hut, but this trip saw lovely clear weather and from Cesjacks, I headed along the edge of the range straight to Bulls Peaks then Mailbox Hill (which I happily hiked up and rode down again) then stayed high along the Brassy Mountains before crossing the Kerries Ridge and down To Schlink Hut.

If you need to pull out at this stage for whatever reason, its straight forward down to Guthega Power Station. From here I headed up to Schlink Pass (you should get phone reception from here) and then traverse the steep bit up towards Dicky Cooper Bogong. Its due South from here along the Rolling Ground then down to Consett Stephen Pass. Fom here it was up onto Mt Tate and I made the decision to ride down into Pounds Creek and the lovely flat bowl about one and a half K's from Illawaong bridge.

From here it was a traverse up to Little Twynam and then Mt Twynam before taking the age old route along the ridge to Mt Caruthers. This trip saw terrible icy conditions on this section so I rode down the flanks of Carruthers into Club lake creek before heading south to hit the Snowy river which I followed briefly until I intersected the Summit Road halfway between the second ford and Seamans hut. From here it's on to Kosciuszko Lookout and down into Thredbo for a nice cold beer.

There are so many variations on this trip but whatever you do stay safe and enjoy the trip through.


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