If you’ve ever walked or climbed in Tasmania, you’re probably aware of the eastern face of Mt Geryon in the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. It has climbs of more than 350 metres in length and is a truly inspiring mountain environment. There are a series of couloirs that break the cliffs to the north of Geryon, along the spine of the Ducane Range.
Ben Armstrong recently skied the most impressive of these lines.
November 18-21 2019.
Possibly* the steepest couloir in Australia.
While New South Wales was burning, winter was making a brief resurgence in Tasmania. These falls, combined with the remnant snow surviving in gullies and shady aspects, meant that skiing was still a slim possibility on the state’s higher peaks.
I’d been ogling the striking couloirs of the Du Cane Range for a while, but had never summoned the motivation to check them out. With free time, (semi) good weather and an already excellent winter that required capping off, I had no excuse not to head up.
I took the midday ferry across Lake St Clair in a howling northerly, and walked to Pine Valley hut where I stayed the night, listening to the rain ruin my snow.
On day 2 I headed up to the Labyrinth (using my kooky “floating-wedge” ski carry method to deal with the low branches), and climbed Walled Mountain in annoyingly deep fresh snow. The impressive chasm that splits the mountain was on my list to ski, but exposed rocks, a dodgy cornice and soggy snow kept it on my list. The slog up to the Du Cane highpoint was slow and tiring, so I rewarded myself with a lazy afternoon perched on the edge of the huge Du Cane Range/Geryon escarpment.
I awoke on day 3 to a nasty breeze and snow that was still unpleasantly wet. I skied a short but very nice little chute and traversed to the bottom of the Main Event: a deep, classically proportioned couloir that is more vertical than horizontal. The snow was fairly gross on the climb up, and while it sluffed a lot it seemed relatively stable. The very top was (legit) 60+ degrees, so side-slipping was the go until it mellowed out to 55-ish degrees for a while. My turns were pretty ugly with 80mm skis on mashed-potato snow, but genuine fun was had all the way down (although in proper winter conditions I could have added another 200 vertical meters). I used the remainder of the day to stomp back down to Pine Valley hut, then walked back to the ferry on day 4.
A video of the trip is available here.
*Bold claim, I know. I’m sure there are plenty of lines on Feathertop and Watson’s Crags that are way more gnarly and exposed, however, in terms of a sustained, “natural” line, I reckon this one takes the cake (purely in terms of steepness). It may have been skied before, I don’t know. There are also several possible lines nearby that would be steeper again, but they look ultra-borderline, even in perfect conditions.
This was originally published in the Australian Backcountry facebook group.