This weekend another trip up to Mt Bogong was on the cards. After the best snow season in over 10 years, over two meters of hard pack and some fresh new falls I figured it was time to make the most of it. 

I met up with some hikers from Melbourne Uni Mountaineering Club (MUMC) and we headed up the Staircase Spur. The weather forecast was for rain and snow on Saturday and fine and sunny skies on Sunday and the plan was to camp on the summit and enjoy the sunrise. Needless to say, things didn’t quite go as planned.

By the start of the Staircase Spur people were lagging a little so Tim (who I’d only just met that morning) and I decided to go ahead and then wait at or near the summit for the rest of the group.

An hour later and less than a kilometer from the top and a storm rolled in. Visibility dramatically reduced in seconds and, with some of the 2.5 meter snow poles completely buried it became hard to distinguish parts of the route. At one section the snow was so deep and powdery we had to drag ourselves onto a ridge using only our upper body.

The final 400 meter push seemed to go on forever, the wind picking up and driving into us with violence, at times making us crouch down just to stay in the same place. As soon as we got to the top we both stripped down as fast as we could and as quickly as we could manage threw on all of the clothes we had in our packs.

Too cold to stay where we were, and not wanting to head straight back down the way we’d come fearing the others might have completely turned back, (meaning we'd be risking having to come straight back up again if the weather cleared), we decided to head across the Bogong massif to Cleve Cole hut, a 4-5 km trek. The combination of blustering wind and snow ripping into our faces and trying to blow us off the ridge, low visibility and freezing temperature meant that even though it was downhill, it was probably the hardest hour of hiking I’ve ever done.

By the time we finally made it to the hut we were both shivering and chattering uncontrollably. The sight of a tiny old coonara with a burning (smoking) log in it and a couple of boarders huddled around in their down gear drinking whisky was a comfort to behold; we both breathed a sigh of relief, but tried not to make it too obvious just how relieved to be out of the storm we really were…

With music still belting out of the hut at 10pm, and snow and wind still howling and thrashing outside I decided I couldn't put if off any longer, it was time to head out and set up my tent. It proved to be far harder than I’d imagined... After about half an hour of shoveling snow and then trying to put it up without the tent flying off out of my hands into the sky I was spent… Finally by 11 I got into my sleeping bag and crashed out, only to be woken what felt like one minute later at sunrise by a screaming, gurgling stomach and a full bladder.

After a mad toilet dash I realised I was half glad to be woken up; the skies had cleared and the wind had vanished, and as I laid in the tent watching the first glows of the sun slowly rise over the snow-capped mountains I couldn’t help but be amazed by the beauty of such a sudden transformation. Eventually, little by little the sun edged its way above the white highlands and landed on my face, spreading a miraculous warmth all through me that turned the freeze of the night before into a distant memory.   

On the way back I found my now frozen water bottle (pictured) that I'd lost in the storm the night before. Ironically I only had it for another kilometre before I lost it again on a high speed sliding tumble on a steeper icy section of the Eskdale Spur. 

16 kilometers of mostly a downhill stumble, and a few deeper than expected river crossings / dashes later and I'm reunited with the others. Some of them are already tending to huge scary looking blisters and others, are to my surprise, acutely preoccupied with ripping their gear off and jumping, completely starkers, into the icy cold river in full sight of a young family eating lunch... (sorry guys, no pics were taken of the shenanigans ;)

Kim Evans
9/16/2012 03:29:21 pm

Sounds scary but rewarding hike, you guys sure are tough !

Kimberley Pappas
9/24/2012 01:20:12 pm

Fricken hell guys your crazy. Awesome pics. To be honest pretty fumny story I enjoyed reading it.

9/24/2012 11:33:00 pm

Wow!! This is something I was searching for many days. My thirst has been quenched now after reading your article.


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