Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Kiandra to Guthega

What is it about pain that etches memories deeper into ones grey matter? There are moments in time so deeply engrained in my mind that I can recall every minute detail from sounds, smell and visual clarity so seemingly real that I'm instantly transported back.

The best moments in life are often associated with pain....or at least in my case. The body triggers a pain response to remind us not to do stupid things, but somehow I've taught myself that if it hurts....It's good. What's good about bleeding shins, battered and bruised feet, a body in massive calorie deficit starting to eat itself to produce enough energy to continue? The reward?

The reward is travelling through remote wilderness so beautiful that words simply cannot do justice when trying to repaint that picture for others. How lucky we are to have access to a world so breathtaking......What a pity we are fucking it up.

Scott and I have the general adventure gene and tend to travel parallel leading busy lives, however every so often we reconnect to seek out new places to explore. A rough plan to cross the Main Range in Kosciuszko National Park was hatched and despite having crossed 3 times before, Scott hadn't made the trip yet. A drop off was arranged at Kiandra in less than ideal conditions and we were away.

 A long afternoon meandering uphill in the rain eventually found us high enough to reach the snowline.....just. The whole area had been completely decimated by the fires and it was hard to fathom just how much the northern end of the park had changed. During the night rain turned to a measily amount of snow and the temperature drop was enough to see us on skis and skinning toward the Happy Jacks plain......A few rest stops along the way....

We were beginning to fatigue late in the day due to heavy loads and finally reached a reasonable spur to negotiate down to the infamous plain below. Two out of three descents I had done in the dark under head torch so it was nice to be able to see a route down on this trip. The skiing was marginal and fairly desperate on my part through very tight trees, and by the time we'd reached the flats I was done for the day.

We made camp on the last remaining snow and Scott did his thing with the camera while I retired early to rest and boil up for the next day.


Credit for the night shot goes to Scott. One of the things I love about remote areas.....the night sky.....

Happy Jacks Plain was a little void of snow which saw us walking along the valley as usual. It really is one of my favourite parts of the crossing despite the low elevation. It's beautiful.

A long day and tough climb up to Mackey's Hut on dark kept us in good spirits and we decided to stay a night and capitalise on a slightly earlier start the next day without having to pull icy tents down before leaving. It was also a chance to retrieve Anthony Sharwood's walking poles and shirt which have a great tale behind them. He has written a book about his journey along the Australian Alps Walking Track which I'm looking forward to reading once released. 



It was at the hut we realised that one brand of our fuel wasn't burning efficiently enough to boil snow. The mix despite clearly stating that it was blended for sub zero temps, wasn't cutting it. We were effectively down to my remaining cannisters for the rest of the trip....Not good. This put a little pressure on to make distance before running out.

It was nice drying out by the fire before heading back out the next day to navigate a route up and around Spencer's peak. I cant say I've enjoyed the scrub bash in the past and this trip was no exception. We tried a slightly modified route this time around and it proved no better. Lots of cursing and body bashing our way through and Scott took charge grinding a way forward.

By the time we passed by Cesjacks, visibilty was down and my feet were in agony. I needed to stop and recover so we setup camp in the rain and waited for the temps to drop. It tried hard to snow but it was wet and miserable. I took every pain killer and anti inflammatory i could and retaped my blistered and bruised feet and was concerned that we'd run out of fuel if I couldn't make distance each day. My toes were bruised from bashing into the front of the boots. To my surprise the next day, my feet were fine again and we powered on.

The day was going well and the terrain spread out before us like huge white blanket with perfect visibility all the way back to Mt Jagungal. Cruisy open valleys which had me wishing I had my snowkites again. Classic dreamy high country touring. 

Scott took his skins off and raced down the next valley while I cruised along soaking in the scenery. When I caught up, he said we may have a problem! He was missing one screw and another had threaded on the front of his binding. It was threatening to rip the whole plate off the ski which would be pretty terminal. For the next half an hour we glued, screwed and taped the binding back to some kind of useable state. We cannibalised screws from the back plate for the front and hoped for the best.


It was a nerve-racking day but as time wore on we forgot about the binding and made good time until camp in the Brassy Range. I discovered another faulty fuel cannister that evening which made our route to Thredbo extremely difficult. It was a pretty special evening and the sunset was magic, only topped by the sunrise.

The view from camp the next morning to our intended route didn't last long as the cloud rolled in. I took a bearing and headed off up towards the Kerries Ridge only pausing to watch a mob of wild brumbies racing across the valley. Visibility dropped and it started snowing as we climbed higher knowing that once we travelled beyond the lee side it would clear.

We made great time down toward Schlink as the weather cleared slightly and then rolled back in as we reached the pass. It was hard to make the call to descend down to Guthega but we had no choice due to fuel and potential binding failure. It started snowing heavily for the route down past Whites River for the final nights camp. It was time to head out and back to civilisation and although it was dissapointing not to be heading up and over the Rolling ground and down to Thredbo, it was not worth the risk.

The trip this year was another success on so many levels and once again, travelled through one of my favorite winter landscapes..........

I shall return again.........

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