If you just want to read about the gear I used scroll to the bottom of the page.
The best snow season in over 10 years..
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.
We planned to camp on the summit and watch the sunrise - things turned out VERY differently
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.
Climbing the Staircase Spur
By the start of the steep Staircase Spur section 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.
A storm arrives from nowhere blanketing us in deep snow
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.
HIking through the deep snow takes a toll and temperatures suddenly drop
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 the temperature dramtically fell to minus 8, so 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 late to turn back in the storm so we make a hasty decision...
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.
Mt Bogong tries to kill me - I've never been in a storm like this!
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…
Setting up the tent on the top of Mt Bogong in the snow (see photos below)
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.
The storm passes and a beautiful sunrise greets me (see photos below)
After a mad toilet dash (I had diarrhea) 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.
Heading down the Icy Winter bitten Eskdale Spur
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.
Naked girls at Mt Bogong in winter - seriously
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 naked, into the icy cold river in full sight of a young family eating lunch... (sorry guys, no pics were taken of the girls ;)
Gear I recommend you take during winter for your hike up Mt Bogong:
1. A good quality Mountaineering tent for these type of adventures- I recommend the latest version of the Black Diamond Hilight 2 tent. Or get the Higlight 3 if there are 2 of you.
I have used the original Black Diamond Hilight tent (the yellow version) on many Mountaineering trips (proababy about 20) and it has been awesone.
2. A sleepling bag with minimum 800 down fill. DO NOT get a sleeping bag and ignore the comfort rating. If you go by the extreme rating you will be extremely unfomfortable.
I have a a Mountain Hardwear Phantom sleeping bag rated to minus 18C (comfort).
3. Get a good water resistant super lightweight (why carry more weight than you have to, especially if you get caught in a Bogong storm!) backpack from the guys at Hyperlite Mountain Gear (my dad loves them so much he has 3!).
They make the best lightweight backpacks in the world - that's not an exaggeration.
4. Proper warm socks. Lots of people wear normal hiking socks in winter and then complain about cold feet. Don't do that, get some proper winter mountaineering socks.
See this article about the best mountaineering socks in 2020.
5. A down jacket with a minimum fill quality rating of 800 (lots of cheaper jackets use cheaper quality down like 600 down).
I have this lightweight down jacket, (it's on sale right now for a great price) I bought it AFTER this hike. I have now used it several times and WISH i had have had it on my freezing Mt Bogong hike.
9/16/2012 03:29:21 pm
Sounds scary but rewarding hike, you guys sure are tough !
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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Some thoughts and pictures from some of the hikes we've done.