Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Mt Cobberas # 1

 After Melbourne's 4th (!!!!) lockdown, I needed to get away someplace as far from Melbourne as legally possible. With mandatory covid tests (!!!!) ruling out heading off from the Great Alpine Road, I was curious to see if the Cobberas Plateau, which is in the Main Range' and Vic Alps' rain-shadow from traditional winter westerly systems, had benefitted from the East Coast Low which had brought heavy snow for the opening weekend the week before. It's something I've always thought likely - but I also just love this range. These are serious mountains of pink granite outcrops within a wilderness zone, providing headwaters for the Murray, Buchan, Snowy and Tambo Rivers, and the most isolated alpine range on the Australian mainland.     

After throwing out invites to some of the usual suspects, I finally got a bite from my friend Perry, who couldn't really have understood what he was in for. The last time I saw Perry smiling over the next few days was at Dinner Plain on Monday night when he treated me to his awesome bouillabaisse, accompanied by a seriously good Chateauneuf-du-Pape. In return, I found some old wonky planks (and an EPIRB!) for him in the garage.

The next morning we sorted our packs and headed down into the Omeo Valley, which was completely iced over and very pretty. One of Victoria's most scenic drives, the Limestone Road, had signage suggesting that it was closed due to the recent storms which had caused chaos throughout Victoria, but these same signs might have escaped our attention. We managed to skirt the fallen trees and flooded watercourses, and arrived at the Cobberas trailhead in an hour and a half. 

After a brief ride myself to see how it fared uphill with a 20kg pack, boots and skis (great!), I handed the eMTB to Perry, and took back the reins of my Yeti for the 5km (very wet!) fire trail to The Playgrounds. The sun came out, and we got our first glimpses of Mt Cobberas with a healthy snowcap.  

Then a 5km sodden climb through heavy snow-affected shrubbery making for an ill-defined path, which was on occasion only righted by some terrific Strava topo mapping. There was enough snow when we topped the ridge at 1600m to boot up and start climbing on skis for the third leg of the mountain triathlon.

  Unfortunately the weather seemed to be turning, with high cloud and cirrus suggesting an encroaching bleak kind of badness. It was also the shortest day of the year, so I was anxious to find a place to pitch the tent before any further climbing. I found a nice glade at 1700m and quickly got the tent up. We ditched our packs before a hurried climb up to the summit. The southwest ridge has some amazing stands of ancient snow gums, which were still displaying their autumn colours of rusts and reds filtered by the weird veiled solstice light of the setting sun.

By this time, Perry had almost hit the wall. When he lost one of his kicker skins, I left him to sort it out and made a final push for the summit trig. Whilst the trig itself was covered in ice, the granite tor next to it was easy enough to climb, and the views were amazing. I gazed enviously into the Murray Valley and the State with more sensible Covid restrictions than Victoria. Whilst I'd left my SLR and tele lens down in the tent, the Main Range seemed almost at hand, and huge. The Pilot was well loaded, as were Davies Plains.

I got in a few first turns for the season on scratchy ice, before bumping into Perry and guiding us down through a battlefield of lumpy icy obstacles, back to camp. Perry crashed into his sleeping bag, and I got a fire blazing to dry out (and melt, oops!) some of our sodden gear. After a largish day (16km and 650m of up, mostly with full packs), a couple cups of Perry's fine red and some pasta went down a treat.

However I fear I might have lost yet another ski partner...

Whilst warm and comfy enough, a howling northerly kept us both from much sleep - and with 100mm of rain forecast, we were quick to up stumps and backtrack the next morning under a foreboding sky.

The road from The Cobberas to Gelantipy through snow gum forest in heavy rain was stunning.

Then the long haul back to Melbourne.

Not a bad start for June, here's hoping we can keep skiing through winter with this dumb virus, and a government not a whole lot smarter...

1 comment:

  1. Having a family full of fantastic Kids, with Michael the oldest, it follows that he is the most intrepid / foolhardy. But what a wonderful, wild place and aren't the snow gums beautiful. Great adventure, Bood. Well done.