Sunday, 6 October 2019

The Hunt for White October 2019

This years HFWO was actually a bit brown, but there was still enough of the stuff.
Because the Alpine Way was was closed from Khancoban, Balti and I left very early on Thursday from Melbourne and drove up the Barry Way. I'd forgotten how hairy the descent down to the Snowy was, just how pretty the White Cypress forests around the Snowy, and how beautiful the High Plains around Ingebirah. We made it to Jindy in around 6 hours and had to stop at Wilderness Sports to try and get my Lynx's fixed after they'd fallen off the roof racks the previous week. However Bruce wasn't in, so we then headed up to Perisher for a tele sesh with some local legends and forum members. It was great to reacquaint myself with Perisher after having not skied there since I was Balti's age.
The next day was a nice en piste one at Thredbo. The warm wind was turning everything to mush, but we could still pretty much ski the entire mountain including a dozen poached lines down a closed High Noon which involved some Candide Thovex grass lines down low.
We had a few more runs the next morning so that we didn't really get moving until after lunch. Our objective was to summit and ski the highest ten mountains in Australia, which might have been a little ambitious for a 9 year old with a broken arm, but Balti is nothing if not enthusiastic.
whilst windy, it was a pleasant skin from the top of the Basin to Ramshead, and we had great views before dropping down the East face, and then climbing back towards north Ramshead, a nice line north down its drainage, and then up to Etheridge. In fading light, I found a reasonably protected spot from a wind that seemed to be building. Whilst I'd hoped for water and better protection, at least we could retreat to Thredbo from here if the weather got too bad. With the tent flapping around in an overnight gale, we pretty much had no sleep - and the forecast suggested much worse!
But with no actual rain on the horizon, we were off skiing by 7 the next morning. Our objective for the day was Twynam, the 3rd highest and northernmost of the top ten. It was further away than it looked, and with most ridges stripped of snow and the rivers flooded with crazy melt, we skied the Kosi drainage, then up and around the eastern flank of Mt Clark - then up Northcote where we dropped a lovely line north of the summit all the way down to the Club Lake drainage. At this point I realised that Twynam was till a solid 2km climb with a 50km/h headwind, and I started to get a bit anxious for Balti. On the climb up I gave him every opportunity to turn back, but he was adamant. We summited Twynam at 2ish, and skied the south face all the way down to the lake. Despote the crazy warm winds, the red snow had a glaze which was skiing really well. We had noodles down by the Lake, and then started back up to Carruthers, which was tortuous in the howling westerly. Whilst Baz had his heart set on dropping the 'Elevator', I was worried he'd be blown away - and also that we'd arrive back in the dark, if we arrived back at all, I just didn't know how much fuel it was possible to drain from a 9 year old's tank. The wind by this stage was infernal and dangerous, so after a quick photo on the summit, I decided to lash both our skis to my pack and take the elevated walking track back towards Kosi, and hopefully the tent which I was worried might have been blown to Victoria by now. Several times the wind blew me off the walkway, and Balti could lean into the wind at 45 degrees. Both of us ended up weeing on our faces.
At Meuller's Pass, we decided on summiting Kosi for the sunset on the proviso that we could spot the tent from half way up. Balti was obviously running low about halfway up, and I had to dress blisters. But despite the feral conditions the light was very pretty, and we made our 6th summit, the summit of Australia at around 7pm, before the final descent back to Rawson's Pass where we left the skis and trudged back up to the tent (which had kind of survived the wind assault) for more noodles.
Just when I thought the weather couldn't get any worse, it surprised me and did just that. Even though the mad westerly winds were doing my head in, I'd maintained that we could endure so long as we remained dry and warm. By morning we were neither, because despite no rain forecast or on the radar, we got totally drenched by a storm that was seemingly isolated to our tent alone. The noise of wind and rain on the tent kept us both awake all night, like lying under a train and trying to sleep. By 4 a.m. Balti was cold and I had to raid the rest of our clothes to rug him up. With the wet coming in sideways, our sleeping bags and mats were all sodden. As the sun rose, it then suddenly cleared as if nothing had happened, but with more rain and some snow forecast for late morning, Balti was understanding of my calling it curtains for our last foray out to the remaining 4 peaks in the Abbott Range making up the remaining top ten.
Instead we had a leisurely ski back towards Thredbo, stopping for coffee and noodles (with our sporks packed deep, Baz realised he could use the splint from his arm-cast as a utensil), and then under some granite tors where I built Balti a kicker for some jumps. He then insisted on leaving his heal unhitched for his first ever tele turns, declaring it "his detiny" to be a tele skier. Another conversion, so a worthwhile weekend after all.
We had an expensive beer and lunch at Eagle's Nest, and then a hilarious last slide down the closed Supertrail, which involved much grass skiing and mud - all of which was washed off in the chilly Murray on the drive home for the annual end of season plunge. The Abbotts can wait until next October...        

First, the movie edit:


And now for a few photes: (in no particular order!)

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