If you follow social media related to backcountry skiing and riding in Australia, you are probably familiar with Mike Edmondson. His regular posts on touring in the Snowy Mountains are often beautiful and a nice reminder of what it looks like to be ‘Living the Dream’. Mike has a long connection to the mountains, a range of interests, and offers many services for people wanting to explore the Main Range.
In recent days there have been several reports of large avalanches occurring on the western slopes of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains, in places like Watsons Crag and the Sentinel Peak area. These highlight the risks of skiing and riding on these large and often steep slopes and act as a reminder that, yes, avalanches do occur in Australia.
They may also be pointing to something else. Is this part of the future of backcountry skiing and riding as climate change kicks in?
It’s wonderful to have all this fresh snow. With the national parks and resorts in Victoria closed, this is relevant for people from NSW and the ACT who are heading to the mountains this weekend.
If you are heading into the backcountry, be aware that there will be some tough weather and snow conditions.
Western Faces is a new film featuring a fantastic line-up about a trip to ski and explore the western faces of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains.
“Australian mountaineer Tim Macartney-snape, freeskier Anna Segal and Freeride World Tour rookie Michaela Davis-Meehan, are set to explore some of the steepest faces in their backyard. With New Zealand freeskiers Fraser McDougall and Hank Bilous along for the ride, they’re slogging deep into the backcountry to find freeride terrain that will have their Kiwi-counterparts do a double-take”.
The digital launch will happen on Thursday July 16.
With COVID-19 restrictions reducing the number of people able to ski and ride in resort, this will certainly be the ‘winter of the backcountry’.
This brings a range of management issues, as inexperienced and, potentially, under equipped, people head out into what can be serious terrain and sometimes crazy weather.
There is also another dimension to this: what to do with the waste that will be brought into the backcountry, including human waste (aka Poo).
The following information comes from the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service:
WED April 8: As part of the shutdown to help ‘flatten the curve’ and reduce the numbers of C-19 infections, a large number of areas in the High Country are being closed over Easter and beyond.
Government advice continues to be ‘If you can stay home, you must stay home’, meaning no travel for holidays, camping, etc.
In Eastern Victoria
• Alpine National Park
• Baw Baw National Park
• Howqua Hills Historic Area
• Mount Buffalo National Park
Are all closed from midnight on April 8 ‘until further notice’. Further details here.
NPWS has closed all campgrounds, camping, on-park accommodation venues and visitor centres in Kosciuszko National Park until further notice.
This includes ‘wild and backcountry camping’ in all national parks.
In line with government restrictions on non-essential travel, the following iconic attractions in Kosciuszko National Park are closed for Easter:
- The summit of Mount Kosciuszko
- Thredbo Valley track
- Kosciuszko Lookout
- Cootapatamba Lookout
All visitor facilities within the ACT Parks and Conservation Service managed estate have been closed until further notice in response to a temporary shut-down of non-essential services across the ACT.
To stop the spread of COVID-19, the following facilities are closed to maintain social distancing measures:
- Tidbinbilla Visitor Information Centre
- Namadgi Visitor Information Centre
- Woods Reserve
- All ACT public campgrounds
- All playgrounds managed by ACT Parks and Conservation Service
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve will also be closed, along with Namadgi National Park, which remains closed due to safety reasons following the Orroral Valley bushfire
All other parks and reserves across the ACT will remain open providing the community access to nature for recreation, health and wellbeing. Park visitors must observe social distancing whilst visiting parks and reserves. This means keeping 1.5 metres from others, avoiding large groups of people, avoiding peak usage periods and practicing good hygiene always.
In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community safe, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) has closed all national parks and reserves to public recreational use.
The closure of parks and reserves was in line with Tasmanian and Federal government measures to discourage the community from undertaking non-essential travel during this time. These closures include Wellington Park.
- National Parks
- State Reserves
- Nature Reserves
- Game Reserves
- Conservation Areas
- Nature Recreation Areas
- Regional Reserves
- Historic sites.
All activities including day or overnight walks, mountain biking, hunting, other recreational activities and camping are now closed to the public until further notice.
Mountain Sports Collective (MSC) is reporting a large avalanche on the Etheridge Ridge in the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains and other avalanche activity in the area, including Leatherbarrell Creek. A person was caught in the main slide and partially buried, but was uninjured. This highlights the need to be very mindful of conditions in the backcountry at present.
Since November 3, a group has been walking the 560 km from Sydney to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, to highlight the damage being caused by feral horses. The walk is nearing its end! Join the walkers on the final day – 9th December (or the 8th depending on weather forecast) – from Charlottes Pass or Thredbo to celebrate the end of the walk and add your voice to the call to reclaim Kosci from feral horses.
Antony von Chrismar describes a mission to the Main Range with long time friend Lach to ride big lines on the western face. “The stoke was high … a rare treat it was to slay such perfect stable powder on a complex Aussie mountain face.”
Lets Split is an interesting development in the Australian backcountry scene. They offer trips in NSW and Victoria for people to experience split boarding. They describe their trips as being different to guided tours: ‘rather they are an opportunity for like minded folk to come and experience Splitboarding, with people who are experienced on that terrain’.
Here is a report from their final trip for the 2018 season.
Lets Split is a recent development in the Australian backcountry scene. They have just started to offer trips in NSW and Victoria for people to experience split boarding. They describe their trips as being different to guided tours: ‘rather they are an opportunity for like minded folk to come and experience Splitboarding, with people who are experienced on that terrain’.
The following report on their recent trip in the Snowy Mountains comes from Amine Yasmine.
UPDATE. WED August 8, 2018
MSC have issued a ‘High Danger’ warning.
“The current conditions on the range are about as bad as we have seen in the four year span of running the program. Equal to the various ‘Blizzards of OZ’ in 17 and the various other events of triggered slides swept riders and buried them, and as of the time of writing there have been no incidents. We aren’t out of the woods yet, and that’s the real cut and thrust of this message. This event will linger for the next 48hrs+ so hold the charge, and urge the rest of your immediate pow chasing mates to heed the warning until the snow has settled.”
Additionally, Mt Stirling ski patrol has closed Stanley Bowl:
‘Traditionally Stanley Bowl is considered safe from avalanches. But the conditions we have observed which include a cornice with a large fracture through it are severe enough for us to feel the need to close it’.
Bill Barker from Mt Hotham patrol says:
There is ‘considerable avalanche danger in the back-country again today. There was several reports of skier triggered avalanches yesterday, and the weak layer that produced these still exists today but it is now buried deeper in the snowpack which will result in larger avalanches if it releases today.