Party: Mark, Christian (leader)
Date: 11-13/9/2015

Spring in The Snowy Mountains is perhaps the best time of year, in my opinion. Lots of snow, nice weather, and less crowds. Snow shoeing is a great way to see the area without needing to know much technique, so I ran a snow camp in the Ramshead Range, behind Thredbo, over the weekend of 12-13 September 2015. However, some people who had expressed interest, were not able to make it, and in the end I only had one person sign up, Mark. He hadn’t snow camped before so I was happy to share the knowledge of how it’s done. We camped on Friday night just outside of Cooma. Saturday saw a fine but foggy start but by the time we reached Dead Horse Gap the weather was fine. Snow shoes on and packs loaded, we set off up the steep hill towards the 2000m high South Ramshead.

The snow was firmer than expected and we made good progress, making camp in the snowgums at about 12.30 at 1800m. I decided not to camp much higher for the cold westerly winds that were blowing, and neither of us had 4 season tents. I have one, but saved weight on this trip with my little one man tent. I find that in spring that you can get away with a 3 season tent as long as you have a good forecast (which we did) plus enough clothing and sleeping bag to stay warm overnight. As it turned out the lowest temp was at 9pm of -0.5C and then actually warmed up overnight to 6C by 5am!

After setting up the tents, using my trusty snow shovel to level out the snow, we had some lunch and set off to climb the middle Ramshead at 2170m. Distances there are deceiving, and we found many little ridges along the way that tested us as the climb went higher. Finally a very steep little snowy couloir led us to the summit . To actually get to the very top, we swapped our snowshoes for crampons, as snow shoes become awkward in steep terrain. Plus it’s just fun to wear the “foot fangs”. Needless to say the views were amazing. It was a pleasant jaunt back to the tents where we had an early dinner, marveled at the stars, and got plenty of sleep!

Sunday morning saw a beautiful sunrise and warmer temperatures. We packed up and stashed our gear and just carried the bare essentials plus some climbing gear, up to the summit of South Ramshead (2050m). We deliberately took the hard way to make it more technical, and swapped our snowshoes for crampons again. Once on the top we setup some rope and practiced the use of a jumar (ascending device) and abseiling in ice and snow. None of it was very committing, but although I have been high altitude mountaineering a few times now, I usually have guides or Sherpas who set up everything. This was a chance to have a go and learn some lessons. Mark seemed to enjoy it, he is a ski tourer but has not done much actual mountaineering techniques. Although they are not the same as peaks found in New Zealand or the Himalayas, I find this part of the Snowies an ideal training ground for more ambitious climbs. There are a few tricky gullies and slopes that can give you good practice without being too freaked out by the yawning abysses (and other hazards) found on more “challenging” mountains.

It was soon time to descend, so we headed back to the gear stash, and then shuffled back to the car for a mid afternoon return. The sun was out, the sky was deep blue… little birds were singing….You could not have asked for nicer weather! Thanks to Mark for his good company on this trip. It was a pity that I didn’t have more SUBW members come along, as it was one of the best weekends I have had down there in a long time. Anyone who had been on my 2 other snow shoe trips would agree…both the other two ran in blizzards …but we had fun “regardless”

So… maybe I’ll see you on my next one !

Christian Wilson