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Mt Kosciuszko

Guided walks to Kosciuszko

The walk up Mt Kosciuszko is not challenging. It is a pleasant hike from the Charlottes Pass Road or a harder climb up from Thredbo village. Many people take the easy way out and catch the Kosciusko Express chairlift from Thredbo, which means you miss most of the elevation gain of the walk. From there it’s a wonderful stroll through alpine landscape to the summit. The very last bit of the walk passes through boulderfields. The views are incredible.

Thredbo is offering guided hikes every Saturday from 4/11/17 until 28/4/18. If you haven’t been out on the Main Range before, this is a good way to get familiar with the terrain.

Continue reading “Guided walks to Kosciuszko”

Lets talk about poo

The Main Range area of the Snowy Mountains is a small and much loved area with some of Australia’s finest alpine terrain. It is popular with overnight walkers, skiers and riders and while the Parks service prohibits camping within the catchments of the glacial lakes on the range, there are still lots of great spots to stay.

But the problem of human waste is becoming one that backcountry users need to deal with. In places like the Main Range, the time has come to extend the concept of ‘if you carry it in, you can carry it out’. As Andrew Stanger says in this article, “just as dog owners must now collect their pooches poops, it is time for people to do the same when venturing into the great outdoors. People need to bag their poops, take them out and dispose of them appropriately”.

Here’s how you can do it:

Continue reading “Lets talk about poo”

The Bundian Way

There has long been discussion about the trail that once linked the south eastern coast of NSW to the Snowy Mountains. It is called the Bundian Way. Prior to the invasion, Indigenous people moved between the coast, the Monaro Tablelands and the higher mountains. There are other similar stories from elsewhere in the mountains: for instance, the fact that early Gippsland settlers followed established trails from the Gippsland Plains to what is now Dinner Plain and Mt Hotham, and gold prospectors followed tracks up the Howqua Valley towards Mt Howitt.

Sadly, so much of this story has now been lost. In some good news, a book is due to be released shortly that looks at the Bundian Way.

Continue reading “The Bundian Way”

In praise of huts 2

Mountain Journal has previously covered the issue of huts in the high country. As we said then:

Huts in the mountains can be a vexed issue. Huts will tend to attract people and so tend to concentrate visitation within a larger area. As one example, most people who climb Mt Bogong tend to then turn towards Cleve Cole hut rather than head across to the Hooker Plateau. This tendency to influence visitation can be both good and bad.

They are part of the cultural history of the high country, and reflect major stages in the post colonisation era: cattle grazing, forestry, hydro, even fire watch towers and, more recently, huts built for recreational purposes. We also have a number of strange and random anomalies, ones that don’t really make sense: Craig’s hut near Mt Stirling as an example, which was built as a set for a film. There are, of course, those whose primary function is safety, such as Seaman’s hut near Mt Kosciusko, and huts that belong to clubs or even schools (Geelong Grammar on Mt Stirling)”.

With growing risk of wildfire, and many huts simply ageing and starting to fall apart, there is the chance that the overall number of huts will decline in coming years. Some are carefully looked after (the Kosciusko Huts Association lists the known caretakers of huts in the Snowy Mountains) but others are falling into disrepair.

I am more interested in indigenous history of the high country than huts, but I do appreciate the cultural value they hold for many people and the practical value of refuge huts.

Continue reading “In praise of huts 2”

Splitfest DownUnder 2015

The NSW Splitfest DownUnder will be held on weekend of the 21-23rd of August in the NSW main range.
Register here.

We will be holding the Friday night entertainment at the Banjo Paterson Inn Starting @ 6pm
1 Kosciuszko Road, Jindabyne, Snowy Mountains, New South Wales.

There will be all the usual trimmings, T-Shirts, give a ways, raffles and loads of fun. Some of the prize categories include worst DIY job, most inventive Splitboard design etc. etc.

An official list will be out soon so stay tuned!

You have the option to stay in Jindabyne, camp in the National Park or my favorite camp on the peaks.
There will be rental gear available to those who need it. Jump on board and meet some new touring partners, the more the merrier!

This is a free event, there are no guides so you must be able to make your own terrain decisions.

Winter may be over, but the beauty and wonder of the mountains rolls on…

Some photos from Andrew Stanger, taken in late October “out the back on the Main Range of Kosciuszko National Park as the first flowers were unfurling to clear, sunny skies.”

Enjoy.

Continue reading “Winter may be over, but the beauty and wonder of the mountains rolls on…”

Alan E J Andrews 1926 – 2014

mapAlan E J Andrews is known to many backcountry skiers and boarders as a pioneer of skiing the steep western faces of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains. He was the author of Skiing the Western Faces Kosciusko.

He passed away last month after a long and well lived life. The eulogy that follows was written by his friend Klaus Hueneke, another luminary of the High Country.

Nureyev on Skis
Or
The Emperor of Illawong

Eulogy for Alan E J Andrews, Mona Vale, 26/6/14

“I have known Alan in person since about 1984 and I’ve known about his writings and journeys across the high country since the 1960s. He had a big impact on my life and my book publishing business Tabletop Press.

Alan was a lover of:-

Australian History especially the early explorers,

the Australian Alps and skiing in all its forms,

the mountain huts especially Illawong and Albina,

old style poetry with rhyming verse,

the ballet and bacon sandwiches and

an old Holden Station Wagon.
He loved reading, drawing and using maps,
and the careful composing of numerous articles and books.

He enjoyed helping others with their own research and replied at length to any questions or correspondence sent. He did this in careful, often quite tiny, longhand or neatly printed with lots of curly bits. You can view it in some of his books. When his distinct handwriting was not on the last parcel of books I thought, ‘something must be seriously wrong’. It was.

His books and long sojourns at Albina or Illawong hut above the Snowy River were very important features of his life. When he was at Illawong it was like the Emperor was in residence. Not a domineering Emperor who demanded our attention but a quietly spoken, quietly smiling, self effacing Emperor, one who didn’t have to shout it from the roof tops.

I loved listening to him reciting Australian classics as well as his own poetry. This is an extract from The Fan-shaped Snowgum.

There it is, the fan-shaped snowgum,
Glinting in the morning frost;
Reminding us of courtly pleasures
From time forgotten – long since lost.
Lovely eyes ‘neath lowered lashes,
Flirting sweetly, ringlets tossed,
Fan on crinoline laid demurely,
Clamouring suitors imperiously bossed.

But look again, the trunk is twisted,
Leaning perilously askew.
Another instant it had fallen,
Yet still survives, to grow anew,
The branchlets fanning to the northward,
Others stretching southward too;
Now proudly standing tall, defiant,
A sentinel to welcome you.

In 1982 I wrote Huts of the High Country. Alan took note that there was a new kid on the block and on a later visit to Illawong we spoke about my new book Kiandra to Kosciusko. He offered to draw a number of maps and gave me permission to use his articles about early ski tours in different parts of the Snowy Mts.

When the book came out he said ‘but you only spent a couple of pages on the history of Mt Kosciusko itself’. Sorry Alan. It got him going and in 1990 he asked me to design and publish Kosciusko – the Mountain in History. It covered all the first European explorers who reached the high tops and filled a missing gap. As usual, the research was meticulous.

In 1993 he wanted me to do the same with Skiing the Western Faces but this time he said, ‘I want the book to breathe more’. ‘Breathe?’, I thought Can a book breathe? It showed how books to him were living entities with eyes, lungs, heart and soul. No wonder his and Muriels house is full of them.

He showed me a book which had lots of space around the text and between chapters. I got the message and Skiing the Western Faces became his most popular book. It inspired many others including his sons Neil and Ian as well as my step-son Chris, who brought me here today, to explore the dramatic western faces. I always know it has been a good snow year if orders come in during September and October.

By 1996 he was ready to go with Rainforest and Ravished Snow. Half of this book dealt with his bushwalks on the Comboyn and in the Upper Manning River area, one in which some of his relatives once lived and where Ian, his son, still owns a plot of bush. After skiing became too hard for him, Alan often went there to communicate with nature.

It became obvious that Alan had been sitting on a large body of drawings, maps, photos, writing ideas and unpublished work. I was very glad he chose me to bring them into the world. These were books with small print runs not commercially viable for big publishing houses but important nevertheless.

In 1998 I received the manuscript for Earliest Monaro and Burragorang, his last major work. It is jam-packed with historical detail, black and white photos, dozens of hand-drawn maps and many references. It has been well received by old Monaro families and local historians.

His books have been selling steadily for the last 20 years and will continue to do so for a long time. I often say ‘History doesn’t age, it just gets older’.

Before I came along Alan published a number of books with Blubber Head Press and smaller hand-made ones like Where the Wombat Goes and Surveyor Thomas Townsend, his work in Australia 1831-1854. Another was a compendium of all the articles and books he had published between 1950 and 1983. Yes, starting in 1950, 64 years ago, when he was a young 24. A note in one said, ‘This really is a table top book – written, made and printed at home’.

On one of our day trips he took me on to Twynam West Spur and showed me the gap in the cornices through which I could thread my long, thin skis and descend into Siren Song Creek. ‘Ski down there?’ I thought, and went off to sit at the end of the Crags to bask in the sun and contemplate the vista to the crouching lion Jagungal.

He, meanwhile, wasted no time and in a series of adroit, light as a feather, linked turns, leapt, carved and flew into the sirens arms. It was Rudolf Nureyev (a famous ballet dancer from the 1980s) delicately balanced on a couple of plastic planks in the steepest snow country we have.

About the same time I discovered he adored the Australian Ballet and the stunning, lithe, pink-clad ballerinas. He wrote poems about them too. The ballet must have rubbed off for it was ballet on skis that he displayed that memorable day.

Writing this about Alan, the word ‘fey’ kept bouncing around inside my head. The dictionary explained. It means, ‘as if enchanted, under a spell and aware of supernatural influences’. Yes, that was Alan all over and that’s what explains his love of skiing, his poetry, his wry sense of humour, some of his drawings and his ability to morph from a cheeky Shakespearean imp to a serious historian over the same cup of tea.

I will end on a poem he wrote after ascending Twynam North Spur. It could be his epitaph:

We leave our stately sentinel
And pass on through the Arc of Trees,
Then upwards still and cross the snowbridge,
There possibly to take our ease,
But not for long; it’s on to Twynam
To the throne to pay our dues
And find our fealty rewarded –
The granting of the kingdom’s keys.

You may be sure we will not waste them.
Full many a secret we’ll explore.
Full many a slope will feel our ski-tips:
Past craggy slate and granite tor,
Down gullies steep and awesome,
We’ll ski them all, you may be sure.

So when at last we hand the keys in,
As needs we must – so stands the Law –
There’ll be no need for compensation.
There’ll be no need to ask for more.

I will miss him, his annual hand-illustrated and written Christmas cards, his tightly composed letters often with poetry, his years of support and all that he stood for with all my heart for the rest of my days.

Alan, you were an inspiring scholar and an old fashioned gentleman”.

Klaus Hueneke (OA-AM)

NB: a number of Alan’s books are still available, check here for details.

In praise of huts

Tawonga Huts, Bogong High Plains, VIC
Tawonga Huts, Bogong High Plains, VIC

Huts in the mountains can be a vexed issue. Huts will tend to attract people and so tend to concentrate visitation within a larger area. As one example, most people who climb Mt Bogong tend to then turn towards Cleve Cole hut rather than head across to the Hooker Plateau. This tendency to influence visitation can be both good and bad.

They are part of the cultural history of the high country, and reflect major stages in the post colonisation era: cattle grazing, forestry, hydro, even fire watch towers and, more recently, huts built for recreational purposes. We also have a number of strange and random anomalies, ones that don’t really make sense: Craig’s hut near Mt Stirling as an example, which was built as a set for a film. There are, of course, those whose primary function is safety, such as Seaman’s hut near Mt Kosciusko, and huts that belong to clubs or even schools (Geelong Grammar on Mt Stirling).

I have always tended towards the position that we don’t need more huts in the high country. With incremental pressure as ski resorts increase their footprint and the risk of private developments within Victorian national parks and the precedent of private enterprise in a number of Tasmanian parks, I don’t think we need more infrastructure. There have been some hut removals that make ecological sense (such as Albina Lodge, above the western slopes of the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains). I certainly understand the need for huts in strategic spots for safety. And I do appreciate the history of these places, the incredible work of getting materials into hut sites in the early days and the bush skills of the builders. I love the work of Klaus Hueneke, who has chronicled the heritage of the huts.

the hut at Lake Nameless
the hut at Lake Nameless, Central TAS

With the rise in wildfire over the past decade, we have lost many of the iconic huts. There have been some excellent rebuild efforts, such as Michel’s at Mt Bogong. The Victorian High Country Huts Association was founded after the major bushfires of February 2003, to try and preserve remaining huts. Some huts are looked after by organisations and this can give people a strong connection to ‘their’ hut, and various groups exist to look out for huts in general (partial list below).

For me, it’s a rare thing to find a hut that is more appealing than a tent, but amongst my favourites are Seamen’s and the ‘Schlink Hilton’ in the Snowies, Vallejo Gantner at Macalister Springs, Cleve Cole on Bogong (of course), and the hut at Lake Nameless in Central Tasmania. I love the location of the ridiculously ugly house on Mt Wills.

For hut fans, we have recently been posting photos on Mountain Journal’s facebook page. Please feel free to join in and post your favourite pics.

the hut at Newgate Tarn, TAS
the hut at Newgate Tarn, TAS

I recently spotted the article below, highlighting the value of the ‘secret’ hut stash around many resorts, the little known hang out spot. I remember a rough hut that lasted several years on the northern slopes of The Bluff in Victoria which was popular with some backcountry skiers and boarders. I went to look for it one spring and it was gone (it had been tarp and pole heavy, more a glorified camp than a hut).

What I loved about this article is that it highlights that for all of us who use huts, there are personal and social memories that build up: of friendship, adventure, good dinners, long and late night conversations with strangers. I held my 30th birthday at Vallejo Gantner hut and have spent the last 4 new years at Bluff Spur hut on Mt Stirling with a big gang of friends. Part of the cultural – as opposed to technical – history is preserved in log books and, increasingly, on line. For instance, check the newsletters from the Mt Bogong Club, who have been looking after the Cleve Cole hut since 1965. In many countries there is the tradition of the hut warden, which can add to the sense of hut culture. I like the short film Winters of my Life, an appreciation of the decades-long service of Howard Weamer, who for the past 35 years has spent his winters as a hutkeeper in Yosemite’s backcountry.

Twilight Tarn, TAS
Twilight Tarn, TAS

Shacktivities

From Powder magazine.

Secret stashes, shacks included, are a part of skiing in the same way that early mornings and long drives are. If you are dedicated you will have yours, you’ll know the good ones, and the people to share them with inbounds and out. People who love the mountains cultivated them, probably long before you got there.

 Some contacts

Kosciusko huts association.

Victorian High Country Huts Association.

Adventure on the western faces

Mt Sentinel with Watson Crags in the background
Mt Sentinel with Watson Crags in the background

“The mountain environment in Australia is unique and unlike anywhere else in the world. The people you meet and the friendships you forge are meaningful and rewarding. The mountain environment can teach us a lot about ourselves as individuals and as a collective. In today’s world of  cellular phones, games and other distractions the mountains provide me with a sanctuary were silence is promoted and the human senses come alive”.

John Blankenstein and his family reside on the Far south Coast of NSW. John has been exploring the mountains since the age of 15 were he fell in love with the sport of snowboarding. Being based on the coast so close to the snowy mountains provides ample opportunity for adventure. Over the last five years john has begun exploring the back country and the mountain environment that is on offer in the Snowy Mountains, NSW. Each year the Snowy Mountains provide a range of winter and summer based objectives that require a full suite of mountain skills.

In his first installment for mountain journal, John describes a big day out on the western slopes of the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains.

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