Trip Report: Dead Horse Gap to Mt Kosciuszko, 13-14th October 2007

Party: Tom Murtagh, Dave “Fritz” Lee, Nicole St Vincent Welch, Andrew Bovis, Catherine Barnes, Jiri Svec

The alarm went off at 2:30am but I didn’t sleep, two coffees the day before made sure of that.To increase my chances of staying awake I had another one before we left. By 3am Andrew, Cat and Myself were in the car, skis and all heading south along King St. I was drugged up ready and to drive the first leg down to Michelago. Initially, the lack of sleep wasn’t an issue, Bogong moths constantly exploding on the windscreen kept me awake and entertained. However, near Canberra my vision started to get blurry. Combination of tiredness and the fact that I ran out of water for the windscreen wipers. At Michelago drivers were changed and I didn’t wake up until Rhythm Sports in Cooma. Even though the store was open the lady behind the counter couldn’t help and had no idea when or even IF someone that could help us would be coming. Bakery was the next natural stop. We conveyed the message to the other car and I chose the most obvious landmark to meet up. Minutes passed, no call, no car. Would you believe there is more than one Woolworths yet no 3 phone service in Cooma? Luckily, Bruce at Wilderness Sports in Jindabyne was happy to see us and after a couple of jokes and a $240 worth of equipment we were finally ready to head up the mountain.

Dead Horse Gap was covered in a blanket of new snow and apparently it even snowed down to Jindabyne the night before. Blue skies, fresh snow – pretty good for mid October. Too bad the fresh snow was rather annoying as we climbed up the initial 400m in our walking shoes. Tom probably had the most fun, wearing his new formal volleys. As we crossed Bogong creek the cover became more consistent and it was time to get our skis on. Climbing steadily past the Rams Head South, the group was encompassed by low cloud and the wind increased substantially. By the time we reached Rams Head visibility was reduced to less than 20 metres and it was time to seek some shelter from the wind. We dug a nice wind break on the downwind side of Rams Head. In the process, Fritz managed to fall through a small cavity into a snow cave and we realised we were more than 3 metres off the ground. Since there was nothing else to do, we enlarged the snow cave to the point that some of us even contemplated spending the night there. By 5pm we all had enough and it was time to set up the party tent and well party. Night was young, gluewein, port, kirsch and bailey were flowing so good time was had by all. We were all out by 9:30pm.

Next morning I managed to get up to catch an amazing sunrise as the sun came up over the Rams Head Range. Soon after, the clouds rolled back in and the wind picked up again. Not surprisingly, breakfast was served in bed. After breakfast, Nicole and then Andrew decided to find a suitable spot for a loo with a view. Nicole came back without an incident but Andrew unaware that people were approaching, was greeted by a party of snowshoers. Trying to be discreet and not to stand up, he was forced to squat for 10 minutes as the group slowly dragged themselves up the hill. When the clouds lifted slightly around mid morning the majestic hill of Mt. Kosciuszko could be seen in the distance. As difficult as it looked (one could drive a bus to the base at 2100m until the 1982), there was no way we could go back without conquering the towering peak. We followed the jagged Rams Head Range down to Cootapatamba Lake and then up to Mt. Kosciuszko via Rawson’s Pass. The views were impressive, untouched wilderness followed by the sight of port-a-loos at Australia’s highest alpine pass. By this stage the wind was gusting over 100km/h on the ridge and it was very difficult to walk let alone ski up to the peak. Visibility was once again reduced with beautiful intermittent views down to the Geehi plain and along to Charlotte pass. For something different on the way Cat, Fritz and Tom skied/tumbled off the steep Cootapatamba Ridge down to the Lake back while I waited at the top. Skiing was phenomenal; the snow was nice and soft. It was also saturated with melted water which flowed down through the snow pack until it reached an ice layer where it spread out and lubricated the above layer. Yes, that’s right, I was the idiot that went last and managed to cause a small avalanche in the process. No harm done, just a quick ride down about 10 metres skilfully captured on video by our camera man Fritz.

As the weather was getting worse it was time to go back to camp, pack up and head down below the clouds towards South Rams Head. Few more telemark turns on the way and we quickly descended down to Thredbo Valley. Walking down to the car was relatively easy as all the snow from the previous day had already melted. The cars were reached by 3:30pm. This was a wonderful trip and I would like to thank everyone that attended. Hopefully there will be more like this one next year.

Photos and videos will be shown at the next slide night.