And you thought Australia had no snow!
This past winter, one of the promises I made to myself was to check out the Australian backcountry. Specifically, the snowy mountains of New South Wales in the Kosciuszko National Park. I’ve had a season pass the last 4 years at Perisher. It was time for a new challenge, some light and shade to my weekend warrior escapes. Get away from the crowds and find some of that decent terrain I’ve been told about…
So most weekends, myself and a few friends camped out at the Snowy river, rising just before dawn to get amongst the main range terrain. Accessible from Guthega dam, the Illawong footbridge (a 2.5km traverse from Guthega), or Charlotte’s Pass; over the season I trialled the access from each of these areas, each offering 3 different options to cross the Snowy River… your first major obstacle!.
Australia is a funny place at the best of times and the mountains are no different. Like the rest of the country, the distances are HUGE. It takes a bloody long time to get anywhere and this includes getting to a rip-able backcountry terrain. Looking at a day roundtrip, we were covering anywhere from 12-15km in 7 or 8 hours, leaving a few hours of sunlight safety. Then we drove the 6 hours back to Sydney. It takes passion, commitment and a pinch of insanity to do that most weekends. Something me and my crazy/amazing friends have in droves!
I won’t go into detail on the individual objectives for each different backcountry mission. You can see where we went from the pictures below (or get a better idea of suggested routes on Oz backcountry or Main Range Backcountry). What I will say is that the road to Charlotte’s Pass is closed until the October long weekend which is a real shame as accessing the terrain from Charlotte’s was by far the most enjoyable (less of a mission to get to lines and I quite enjoyed the challenge of crossing the ice cold, thigh-high, raging Snowy River in bare feet!). You can get the over-snow from Perisher to Charlottes for like $60 before October, but I feel that paying for this access detracts away from the spirit of backcountry adventure. During winter, Guthega is my preferred route, crossing over the Dam below the Guthega car park and heading straight up the face (no messing around but also a good run home, back to the dam through the trees).
Going via the Illawong footbridge was challenging. The 2.5km traverse back to Guthega in the afternoon sun after the hard day riding, almost killed me! That’s a 5km round trip to add to your total distance, before you’ve even got to the bottom of the mountain. It would be great to stay the night before in the Illawong Lodge so you can get going from here at dawn, as access to Blue Lake and some other sick lines is easy from here. Each access point obviously opens up different riding options so depending on what you want to ride, pick the most suitable entry point. Just remember to leave yourself LOTS OF TIME. The distances you have to cover are huge, you should not under estimate them. Keep an eye on the weather (it changes so quickly out there), give yourself enough time and make sure you have packed a solid backcountry pack with enough food and water (the Australian sun will dehydrate you FAST!).
Related article: What I took with me in my backcountry pack on my first splitboarding trip
Related article: What pro snowmobiler Julie-Anne Chapman packs in her backcountry bag
Backcountry Exploration – AMAZING aerial footage captured over a spring weekend by some friends.
What a season! Thank you to everyone who came out to play safely in the mountains with me this winter. I’m very blessed to go on such epic adventures :-)
Related article: Living off the grid – One girl’s solo snowmobile adventure to Alaska