Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mount Tate

After a fairly strong low swept across the mountains leaving a metre of new snow, a fat high pressure system parked over the range producing the best weekend of the season. I had planned to do some kiting on Saturday before the wind died off completely so after sleeping in the car at the overnight carpark in Guthega I got away reasonably early.

I had anticipated a rush of eager participants as the conditions were great, so after a quick run down to the dam I found the only tracks across were from the day before. The view was awesome, and it was good to see a decent amount of snow after a slow start to the season. A base of almost two metres by late August should see some nice spring skiing.

The plan was to meet up with some friends and camp somewhere around the "Rolling Grounds" to kite as much as the wind allowed so I headed up to the small bridge near the old rope tow and started the long uphill journey to Tate. The wind ranged from dead calm to 5 knots and only seemed to be consistent in the valley behind Tate east ridge. It was tempting to drop the pack and kite for a while but I also wanted to setup camp and ride Tate so after arriving on the summit at 10am, I strapped in and rode a traverse towards "Consett Stephen Pass".


After about 10 minutes into the uphill I was overtaken by a couple on skis who were headed in the same direction.

The usual rime formations after a storm. These were just off the back of Tate.

After arriving at Consett Pass I set up camp in a rush to download all my gear. The wind had picked up to around 4-5 knots so I pulled the kite out, got setup and strapped in......then the wind suddenly died. Fark.... I sat for another 15 minutes and waited......finally up it went.

 For the next half an hour I tried to power my way up onto the Rolling grounds but all I managed was half a K down Windy Creek before the wind dropped again. With the high pressure moving over the main range I figured it was all over for the kiting. 

It was back to camp and then off to have a run down Tate.  Got a call from some mates saying they would be late out to camp so I booted across and then up the face. Nearing the top I saw someone filming the drop in point. It was James (OZBC) and Mark (TBP ski.com) so I tried to line up some banter for the camera as Mark dropped in. I raced to strap in, in the hope of poaching James's line. He beat me to it though so I followed him down to the group below and had a chat.

As we were chatting I caught a glimpse of a kite on the ridge so I headed back to camp.           

 Windy creek was a great spot to camp.

The others finally arrived at camp with stories of three am starts, long traffic jams thanks to RBT's in Jindy and only a few hours sleep between them. Their accommodation for the night was a snowcave so the two hardnuts found a nearby slope and got stuck in with the shovels.

I had a serious case of sunburn due to leaving the suncream in the car so after melting snow and eating I crashed out. We all had around 12 hours sleep which was great.

The next morning we headed up to check out the Rolling ground from Tate west ridge which turned into a great meandering two K ski. From the end point we had a nice run down into the creek and headed back to camp to farewell Dave who was off to Jagungal area in the hope of catching the nor wester home again.

Pat and I headed back to Tate for one last run down the face and ended up in a bit of low vis near the top which cleared for the ride. The snow was in good condition and we had a blast.
After packing up camp we had a nice run down the ridge back to the dam and eventually the car.

Another satisfying weekend away.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Quest for the south magnetic pole.

We spent a few hours checking out an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbor on Sunday. It was quite incredible to see up close, the types of equipment used by the likes of Mawson, Shackleton, Hurley etc.

It gave me an incredible amount of respect for how hard these guys must have been physically and mentally to survive the way they did with the type of gear they used. It was at the time, the best on hand but also quite inferior to the products and relative comforts we have at our disposal today.

I walked away thinking modern attitudes towards exploration or adventure of any nature is vastly different these days. I've read plenty of books on the early explorers and the hardships they endured, but to stand next to the equipment and feel the fabrics that kept them alive was humbling to say the least.

Having a relatively small amount of experience in regards to blizzard conditions in our local hills, I can only imagine the fear some of the early teams had to conquer. I trust my gear will protect me in the somewhat tame environment we play in compared to the harsh Antarctic landscape Mawson and Co. had to endure.

This was the harness system used for hauling two sledges weighing up to 200kg's.

The tents, complete with numerous repairs was nothing short of scary. This one was used by Tim Jarvis on his retracing of Mawson's ill fated sledging journey.

Style was not even considered back in the day.

The sleeping bag was a three man job made from reindeer skin by the Sami people of northern Scandinavia.

The boots used were also made by the Scandinavian's from the toughest reindeer skin. Although insulated with thick sennegrass, finneskos were not waterproof and sledging parties risked frostbite constantly.

Skis were fairly simplistic, as were the bindings.

The old cooking stove was quite bulky.

My favorite piece was an improvised anemometer made by Percy Correll after he discovered the standard equipment could not withstand Cape Denison's katabatic winds. The "Puffometer" recorded gusts or puffs of almost 300 kilometres an hour.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Solar Stuff

Thought I'd put up a few pics of my dodgy old solar setup after a friend asked about charging gear.

I bought a cheap 12v solar panel from Jaycar, designed for boats and removed the outer hard cover leaving only the thin panel. It had battery clamps which were cut off and I reconnected a female car charge socket (also bought from Jaycar) which allows just about anything to be connected.

Most phones, ipods, camera battery chargers etc. have a coil section for added length but it's unnecessary. I have cut that section out on some of the longer ones and soldered them back together, then used heat shrink tube to keep it all neat and tidy.

It is a bulky kind of setup if your traveling light and there are plenty of better options sold for more serious applications but hey....I'm a hack and the cost was about $80 from memory. Having to carry multiple chargers can be a pain but if your out for a couple of weeks you will be hauling the mother load anyway.

As for charging times...I've never really timed it as I normally leave it out while melting snow or walking with it sitting on top of my pack.

Here's a few pics anyway, and a link for more serious operators.


....and another good site - http://explorersweb.com/polar/


Well the season got off to a late start after a huge dump in early August with over a meter falling in 48 hours. I had been out a few times before it hit, learning to use my kite and spending some time skiing with Dana out at Cootapatamba hut.

I decided to head down for a day trip in the hope the wind would pick up enough to use the kite again. I dropped in to see John at Paddy Pallin who did a great job repairing my ten year old Black Diamond poles, had Thai for dinner and slept in the car down at Thredbo diggings.

I headed up on the first lift after downing a sausage roll and battling the rather busy weekend crowds.
There wasn't a breath of wind so I was contemplating going back to Leatherbarrel creek for some riding but after watching a couple of others heading that way I thought I'd try out Etheridge ridge for something new. 

The whole way out I was watching the high cloud and looking to the horizon for any indication the wind might come up but it never came. 3 knots at best wasn't enough so I stashed the kite, took in the views and prepared for a few runs.

I took a fairly conservative line for the first run as I've spent too much time touring and not enough riding of late. The snow was great  and other than a few icy, wind affected sections I had a blast.
After 3 runs and no wind I headed back to Thredbo feeling quite content.