Party:  Ken Nguyen, Luo Jinghui (Tina), Scott DeRegt, Christian Wilson (Leader)
Date: Sat- Sun, November 24-25 2012

Unfinished business… That’s why I led a second trip this year to Gungartan, a rocky peak in the Snowy Mountains.

During winter (July), I led a walk to the same region expecting to have a go at the summit of 2068m high Gungartan as part of a snow camp. Although the trip was great fun and covered in heaps of snow, the summit remain unreached.

So, to settle the score, our party set off on Friday night bound for a very late car camp at Island Bend in the Kosciuszko National Park.

A wonderful starry night greeted us, followed by a crystal clear sky which beckoned us to come climbing in the mountains. We took a shortcut from the carpark at Munyang Power Station straight up the pipeline, a real heart starter, only 20 minutes long but a great way to get out of breath!

Morning tea was had at Horse Camp Hut (site of the previous snow camp). It was almost so nice we were reluctant to move on, with wildflowers , green grass and birdsong, complete with a rushing stream to complete the idyllic setting.

We then took the aqueduct track which wound its way up the valley to Whites River Hut, the location of our campsite. After dumping packs we set off to attain the summit of Gungartan.

A very steep rocky ascent, with lovely views around, gave us the challenge we were looking for. It looked obvious that a winter climb would have been quite hard and would require at least double the amount of time to make the top from Schlink Pass.  It took some time rambling across open alpine meadow and rocky tors , but with such scenery it was a great place to walk. Some drifts of snow lay about, making it a good spot for some snow play. With rumbling tummies we reached the craggy summit for a late lunch at around 2pm.

The views were fantastic, from the plains of the Monaro region to the East, Jagungal and the rocky Kerries to the North, to the snow drifts of the southern Main Range of the Snowys. Truly a worthy climb.

Tina had not done either an overnight walk or attempted such a mountain before, so we were all impressed with her efforts for a first climbing trip!

Ken took the opportunity to use this climb as training for an upcoming Nepal Himalayan mountaineering trip, Scott wanted a mountain challenge, and with my ‘unfinished business’, we all had a good reason to be there! After some well earned photos from the storm battered trig marker the group enjoyed lunch sheltered from a rather chilly wind.

The descent, although appearing to be quicker, directly down to the road (there are no tracks on the mountains in this area),  proved to be a bit tricky, with scrub covered scree and small creeks. Ken mentioned that his last visit to this area also included lots of encounters with snakes, but on this trip we saw none at all. Only the remains here and there, of quite large blue yabbies (freshwater lobsters)!

Once we reached the Schlink Pass road , we went north to check out the “Schlink Hilton”, the hut so named because of its (comparative) luxury. It’s in a lovely spot beside a rushing mountain river.

Then back to Whites River Hut to setup camp and enjoy a night around a fire , with thanks to Ken for sharing a most enjoyable drop of whiskey J

On Sunday the day began with another perfect sky, so we set off up the ridge behind the hut to check out the Rolling Ground/Granite Peaks area, hoping to get a good view from the ridge. A steep ascent again led to wonderful alpine meadows with snow drifts , cascading streams and wild flowers. Simply gorgeous. A large snowdrift gave us a chance to so some glissading and general mucking around on snow then a dash to the top for more great views.

Tina showed us how mountain airwalking is done (see my photo link) and Ken demonstrated his self arrest technique on the snow slopes.

On the way back to the hut and our packs, we detoured to find a large waterfall we had seen from a distance. It got quite scrubby getting to it, but we got there in the end! A bit more scratching through the bush got us back to Whites at about noon for a long hot walk back to the Munyang Power Station around 3pm. The final sting in the tail was the steep descent down the pipeline, Tina did attempt a bum slide on the grass, but Ken had the right idea with two walking poles, as opposed to our single ones. Something to note as well, I am a big fan of trekking poles and on this trip they were invaluable tools. You can use them for depth testing, balance, as a hill climbing/descending aid, a “snake stick”, substitute for ice axe… I’m surprised more people in Australia don’t use them. If you are worried about damage caused by carbide tips you can put a rubber tip on the end.

This is such a lovely part of the Australian Alps with relatively few visitors. We only saw one couple on their way to Mawson Hut, and a guy whizz past on a mountain bike on this trip.

Tired but happy, we stumbled into Jindabyne for a late lunch, then a cruisy  (but long) drive back to Sydney.

Thanks to Ken, Tina and Scott for sharing a fabulous weekend in one of my favourite places. November is a really great time to get a true alpine experience in the Snowys, the environment at this time of year reminds me very much of walks I have done in the Swiss Alps. Minus the milking cows, gerstensuppe and chocolates…

Christian Wilson