Posted by: EPIC | October 21, 2010

Winter Sentinel Part 2-Sublime snow and the snake

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28 – 29/08 Nick Bakker

“There’s going to be every man and his huskie travelling to Jindabyne this weekend”

Mika exclaimed to us with glee as I gazed around and spotted the snow capped peaks of the Tidbinbilla Range and thought he might just be right…. at a reasonable hour of 6.15am an intrepid bunch of ANUMC snowshoers made tracks down the Monaro towards the Snowies. We made pretty good time and travelled through Cooma and planned to meet the others in Jindabyne. Travelling in our car was Mika, Michelle, Tom and Nick. Harold was following carrying Leif and Seann. Bringing up the rear was Dave in the trusty 121 bubble with Jess and Malba on board.

All our good timing was soon to be to no avail as we encountered the ‘snake’ over the Jindabyne dam and realised we were going no where fast. This certainly proved to be the case as we took nearly 45 minutes to reach just the outskirts of Jindy. Taking a gamble on a side street detour we found ourselves in another crawl through the back streets at which point Michelle and Tom took leave from our almost stationary car to retrieve vitals such as coffee and croissants and extra snow shoes and poles. Realising the snarl was continuing to snarl Mika made dash for the dunny and left me behind the wheel. Not to be outdown and to hurry the others up out of the Sundance Bakery, I left the car (no, not alone, Mika had made it back by this point) and also scored a baked goodee and a toilet break. The saga was not yet over as three hooligans chased Mika down the highway to almost the Barry Way roundabout and clambered back on board to soon spot the cause of all the grief.

Tom blew a negative result and we at last broke 60km/h in over well, an hour, and made our way into KNP. The weather gods were smiling the sun was bright and the snow started at Sawpit Creek, we knew we were in for a superb two days. After a bit of mechanical inadequacies and snowchain blunders we made it into Guthega village and got our first sight of the mighty main range in all its winter glory. The long traffic queues in Jindabyne unfortunately had us highly sceptical of finding a decent parking space close and as the skiers we had met earlier in the carpark departed we continued to wait for our drivers to return from carparks (hopefully) not too far down the road. I moved ahead with a small party and Mika waited back for the others.
A 1.30pm start was not ideal on a day where we had to climb over Australia’s third highest mountain and as such we needed to keep moving and minimise stoppages from this point onward. The snow was firm packed and light on top which made for easy traversing and we made good time beside the Snowy. What had saved us was the infamous swing chain bridge over Blue Cow Creek (see Winter Sentinel in last years EPIC), was no more (needed). Replacing it in fact was a sturdy steel mesh bridge, what luxury! We consequently made good time up to Illawong Lodge and the Snowy River suspension bridge.

Crossing over the Snowy it was a simple plan to bag Mt Twynam then make tracks down to our campsite tucked around the side from the Sentinel. Simple plan, made simpler by perfect weather. Unlike last year where white out conditions meant we were navigating 3 abreast from the summit down to our camp, the skiers (guided by Richard Salmons) also helped pave our way down.

In the end we forged our own track and it looked promising that we would reach our destination before dark. In fact we were blessed by ever changing pink hues on the snow and when the Sentinel itself popped into view we knew this might just be the time we get there.

After dark it was miraculous how the temperature kept dropping and with every excitable exclamation from Mika of the latest temperature reading, my feet seemed to become even more frozen, although after -8 degrees that didn’t seem possible. Not being anti-social by any accounts, but the warmth of my bag just seemed to alluring in comparison to the ever lowering outdoor temp!

By Sunday morning and officially still winter (again see Epic article last year), the group had a bit of a lazy wakeup and easy breakfast and as we weren’t taking down tents, all we needed was a daypack, snowshoes and our ice axes#*! Soon we were carving out footsteps and hanging on for dear life as we hacked and chopped away through the ice to get to the Sentinel.

The final spur was less exhausting than I thought, and as we got glimpses of the summit cairn, we also were treated to glimpses of Mika’s bare backside as he jumped around with glee in finally reaching the elusive Sentinel in winter. Coupled with the recent display of bare flesh and the barmy 0 or 1 degree environment, Mika proved to be the catalyst for two sets of calendar shot models, including a group shot!

Back at camp, Michelle had been quietly awaiting our return. We finally reappeared out of the mist, made lunch then packed gear to start our steady slog back down the hill. On cue the sun broke through and so did the levels of sunburn, some more than others. Layered up and after a group shot with Watson’s Crags as a backdrop, we made it back over Twynam and down, down down to the Snowy River swing bridge. The nudity once again featured on the bridge crossing as those that just couldn’t help themselves, half undressed and bared all their almighty chests to conquer the Snowy and the Main Range! Passed once again by Richards skiing group, we broke into our own individual rhythm, some too much so… where’s Michelle!!?, and made tracks back to the village.

The road conditions had subsided over two glorious sunny days and we didn’t require snow chains as we headed down the mountain back to Cooma. The group congregated at the ‘Alpine’ where we all enjoyed a hearty bistro dinner and admired each others’ sunburn. Mika notably enjoyed his meal, literally engulfing his ‘Alpine grain fed Rump’ in a matter of minutes, then proceeded to polish off Jess’s half eaten lasagne. When he started eyeing off my desert I got a bit worried… what had this guy been lacking in his diet all weekend?

Slowly we wrapped things up, thanked each other for sharing a wonderful weekend of glorious snowshoeing. The weather and snow predictors were right as the following weekends just brought rain and more rain followed by sun and more sun. The cover would never had been the same and this truely had been THE WEEKEND of the season, if not the decade.

Photo captions – 9404 – Seann by the ‘bridges’; 9451 – Harold on the side of Twynam, 9471 – David/Seann top of Twynam on splendid snow, Kosciuszko in background; 9480 – Jagungal massif from Twynam; 9487 – group descending from Twynam; 9523 – ice axes out!, crossing spur to Sentinel; 9535 – Guthega village, that could have been us!

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