Friday, 1 July 2016

Trip Report - Bogong High Plains Southern Circuit Ski Tour July 2013 Day 2

Cosy and warm in my sleeping bag and tent overnight.  Temperatures fell to -2 degrees overnight.  Pre-dawn light roused me from a cosy sleeping bag.
Pretty Valley Camp

I breakfasted in the filthy hut, dodging the rodent droppings on the cook bench and using the shellite stove rather than light the pot belly. The sky was overcast and gloomy.
Pretty Valley Horse Yards
An early morning skater had beaten me to the groomed track.

Snowbound Pretty Valley Hut
Before leaving the hut I emptied the stove ashes and swept the floor so delaying my departure to after 9am.  I left heading south under leaden skies and feeling a bit apprehensive about the weather.  Last time I skied down this way I was turned back by blizzard.  Visibility then was down to the next snow pole and intermittent. The strong wind was piercingly cold then and I recall some difficulty having to take off a nearly-empty pack to get out much needed overmitts.

I followed a few tracks in a direct line south to intercept the snow poles.
South, towards the pole.
 It didn't take long to reach the snow pole line. 
View of Mt Cope through the saddle
View of Mt Cope. It's a bit easier to follow the lower snowmobile tracks sidling the bump rather than the poles
Passing through a small saddle I found myself at a higher level than the plain.  Crossing the plain over the lowest parts you could find yourself with water obstacles.  The map shows lots of converging streams.  I stuck to the snow pole line.  I was still getting used to the weight of the pack.

I followed the snow poles and came out too high from the saddle and had a steep run down the hill to the causeway. Snow conditions were good so this was not too hard.
A short sharp drop down with 20kg pack

Big cloudy sky. Open view to Mt Cope and Cope Saddle

An exposed treeless plain with meandering streams lay ahead with low cloud cover. A causeway showed a way across.  A sliver of blue sky gave small cheer. On a previous trip here it was a whiteout with 1 pole visibility.  I traversed around to the left in order to get down. No problems, the snow was in good condition.
There was an icy flow under the causeway

There was just a light breeze, low glare with cloud cover and good visibility. It felt pretty isolated.
Bleak skies, a breeze but good visibility
The snow poles follow a high route across the water laden plain.  I had a nice flat ski along the mainly straight pole line.  I took my time, not wanting to get too sweaty or start heel blisters. 

Cope Saddle Hut emerges in view

Cope Saddle Hut. This interesting zoom shot of the hut roof from the same position as the previous photo shows a lot of foreshortening.  The trail behind the hut is a long way behind and leads to yards.
I arrived at Cope Saddle Hut after an hour and rested out of the wind while I checked out the hut.  I had taped my heels yesterday and could now feel some hotspots developing. The socks were damp and causing the problem.

Cope Saddle Hut. Is that a lightning rod on the roof? Hmm.

The bleak hut is in an exposed location.  There is water nearby in the aqueduct but no firewood except for what is in the hut, placed there for emergency use. This emergency shelter could be a sheltered lunch spot or a place to revitalise and treat your blisters!
The faint snowpole line on the distance is where I've been. Looking back at Mt McKay through the saddle.

Aquaduct
I skied the aqueduct trail around to the yards about 12pm. You can get water from the aqueduct, but take care not to fall in.  I got access a 50 metres up stream from the photo where a pipe ends.  The map doesn’t show the track loops around hill. 

Turn off the track at its most Eastern point.  The huts are hidden a couple of hundred metres through the trees.  A few old snow-filled ski trails showed the way.
Head East off the track to Ryders Yards

Old cattle or horse loading ramp
From there I could just make out huts another 100m to the East. It was 1pm.

It was at this point I realised I left a 4L water bladder hanging up back at Pretty Valley.  It would be at least a 2 hour return journey.  I wasn't going back there now, even if I had time and took just a day pack.  The heel blisters would flare and cripple me in the rush, and I could find myself returning here in the dark without the bag. So I gave up the bladder as lost. Eventually it did turn up at the end of the season (another story) but the bladder had perished beyond repair.

Huts at Ryders Yards. There is no toilet here.
At this time of year with short days, cooking in a hut is much more pleasant, even if not heated.  Just having the windbreak, a table, a seat and a roof makes a big difference to the comfort level and the amount of fuel used.

First I explored all the huts.  The sleeping hut has a 2 panel glass door and the afternoon sun was passing through it!  Awesome.  Nice to sit on a chair here, like a sun room.

The main hut was clean with a table and chairs, a big fireplace and plenty of firewood. Just as well as any fallen wood was well covered in snow. I looked for a water source a few hundred metres downhill - it looked boggy and difficult to access.  I had a small lunch, set the fire and pitched my tent and was making a snow wall on one side of my tent when at about 2:30pm 5 snow shoers from Perth doing Bogong to Hotham.

I set off to fetch water 500m away from the aqueduct I passed earlier using a plastic bag to hold it.  I had to kick steps down the culvert to access the water as it came out of a concrete pipe. I brought 5 litres back but must have been away at least 30 minutes. 

Incredible ice crystal texture

There was a very cold light westerly breeze. I used the snow shovel to build a small wind wall near my tent but the snow was not sticking together much and acting like sand.  This took a long time and it was barely high enough above the fly edge.  Then it was time to boil water for soup and prepare the evening meal which took a lot more time than it does at home even though it was all prepared!

I didn't take enough photos of the camp as I seemed to have so many things to do and most of the time I was there it was dark.  

We all had dinner in the hut and sat around the fire to keep warm. Although the fire was hot the hut was poorly insulated with just iron cladding. So outside of the fire's radiation you felt cold.  Soon boots, socks and garments were steaming away. My day socks were damp and had contributed to my heel hotspots.  I tried my best to dry them.


I soaked up the final warmth from the glowing coals until I retired.  It was a very cold night with frost and I put on most of my clothing in the bag.

Tent pitched outside the main hut.

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