Exploring Australia's surprisingly good backcountry terrain

 

 

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!.

 

Backcountry Australia crossing the Snowy River

Crossing the Snowy River from Charlotte’s Pass Oct long weekend.. On the afternoon return, the river was raging well above my knees! Hectic.
Photo Damon Miller

 

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!

 

Camping at the snow Australia style

Roughing it or loving it – this is how I like to camp. Keeping it simple down at The Snowy River.

 

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).

 

Guthega Trees photo by Steve Wall

Guthega trees, a fun ride home but a steep climb up for your first leg from the dam.
Photo Steve Wall

 

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

 

kosciuszko national park

Looking towards the backside of Watsons Craggs and Twynham West Spur. The light was so beautiful.
Photo Alexa Hohenberg

 

Twynam West Spur NSW backcountry

Looking over to Twynam West Spur thinking, do we have enough time to get there and back before dark?
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Adventuring at the snow. Australia

Adventuring.
Photo Alexa Hohenberg

 

Surf snowboarding in Australia

Matt laying out some surf styles.
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Illawong footbridge kosciuszko national park

Crossing the snowy river at the Illawong footbridge.
Photo Matt Ward

 

Snowboarding and splitboarding with friends

A good crew for an adventure.
Photo Steve Wall

 

Related article:  What pro snowmobiler Julie-Anne Chapman packs in her backcountry bag

 

Outback Australia in the Subaru Outback

The Outback in the outback (kinda!)… This thing is pretty much my winter home :-)
Photo Steve Wall

 

Camping in the snow Australia

Tea and freshies… I’m a happy girl!
Photo Blake Lindley

 

Backcountry Snowboarding Australia

Blake imaging J-Bay blow-tails off every wind feature he sees!
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Watsons Craggs, main range backcountry

Looking over to Watson’s Craggs. That’s where the good, steep stuff is. Just a big ole mission to get there.
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Guthega backcountry splitboarding in Australia

One final slog to get back to the top of Guthega trees.
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Twynam West Spur

Matt ‘guide pointing’ over to Twynam West Spur in a T shirt I swear he hadn’t changed for weeks!
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Spring snowboarding in Australia

Earning my turns about 5 hours into the day.
Photo Steve Wall

 

Snowboarding makes me happy

Pure joy and mega smiles.
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Sunshine slash snowboarding australia

Matt Ward getting a sunshine slash for Craig’s camera.
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Splitboard transition from snowboard to skis

Another splitboard transition :-)
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Australian backcountry snowboarding

Clean lines.
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

Alexa Hohenberg backcountry snowboarding

Jumping with my pack… forgetting how heavy it is! I recommend not securing your poles to the outside of your pack. They stabbed me in the head when I landed! #Fail
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

 

Club Lake chutes NSW backcountry. kosciuszko national park

Riding one of the chutes on Club Lake on the October long weekend (it was 19 degrees!).
Photo Damon Miller

 

Camping after a big day snowboarding with a beer

Getting that fire going before the sun goes down and the temperature drops.
Photo Steve Wall

 

Camping after a big day snowboarding with a beer

One thing is for sure, at the end of the day you will be knackered & that beer will taste damn good!
Photo Craig Brokensha

 

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

 

2 Comments

  • Seriously so inspired by this back country stuff… don’t live in NSW but it seems it’s a must!
    How deep would you say the snow is or was this season?
    The photos look incredible!

    • Hey, The snow consistent this year. Not as many pow days as last year but the snow pack was decent all winter. I definitely rode of some shrubs in spring through! You gotta get out here Jax, it’s so beautiful. Thanks for your kind words. x

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