by Nipper Leaf
The winter of 1990 saw the most intensive skiing by members of the club for many years. This article is a very biassed and often unreliable memoir.
The year for many of us started in July with a trip to the Wombat Creek/Snowy Plains area. The snow was fresh and wet and a strong wind blew most of the weekend. We had the Bhagwan, Mule, Noodle, Doodle, Boy, and His Nips. In all it was a typical early season weekend, with apparently complete snow cover occasionally opening up to swallow us. The ski-eating scrub monsters still not quite in hibernation. The Bhagwan’s holiness did not save him, indeed his pre-NZ-diet-integral-forward-mounted-load-balancing -attachment (big stomach) seemed to be attractive to the cholesterol liking monsters.
The snow was OK in many places, and we had some good opportunities to get our snow legs back from the enforced hiatus. The Mule did a great job, living up to his name, spending about 2 hours skiing back to our lunch site to get water for our dinner. Most kind. Any kudos he had with the Holy One was soon lost when he was blamed for knocking over the Bhagwan’s communion wine. Most sad. On Sunday many of us tried hard to break ski tips by jumping off small cornettos (see AB’s article on terminology if you get too stuck). However our skis survived. We had a good Acko end by arriving back at the cars just as it got really dark.
I can’t remember if it was the following weekend or not, but Boy and His Nips set off on a mercy dash to Jugungal from Munyang. We had had an urgent call from Dodgy and McGus, that they would need stores at the end of their 5 day trip. Well we were there but they were not. So, we scooted off to Mawson’s hut for lunch. We saw a couple of old acquaintances, Annie and Nickie. We cracked a couple of tinnies and had a longish lunch. It seems that Annie and Nickie, caught up to the other party at Whites River and told them of our liquid lunch. Dodgy swore, “The bastards, we should have gone to the Big J after all”. All was not lost however as we skied past the Bhagwan at the top of the long drop to Munyang, and hooned down to the bottom, with me almost sending Boy off the cliff as I dodged a stupid wombat that thought skis were soft and cuddly. There we found Noodle, Dodgy and McGus and Bhagwan not far behind. Fortunately we had some lifesaving amber fluid untapped to share. So started the SUBW habit of beer on ski trips, one that no doubt will continue into following seasons.
With McGus shortly leaving for Sale before going overseas we managed to fit in a weekend trip with him. Noodle, Doodle, Boy, and His Nips drove to Canberra and were joined by McGus there. Heading up towards Twynam from Guthega, we camped in the Pounds Creek area. The weather was good and the snow not too bad. Saturday afternoon saw us skiing up Twynam with good wind assistance. We put parkas on to act as sails. We zipped along the tops to near Carruthers where we suddenly had to stop as visibility fell to a few metres. Inching along we, sidled across the large cornetto that lives in this saddle and dropped into the non-lake branch of Blue Lake Creek. It was here that we found the one and only Wall Of Death. It’s a steep slope in a bowl that ends in a short jump opening out to a gentle creek. When covered in snow it make the perfect ski jump. His Nips was first down, sidling the really steep bit before plunging down to exit over the jump leaving a perfect set of tracks. McGus gave it a good crack, always managing to stay slightly steeper than His Nips. Noodle was like a gentleman as he gracefully swept around in a great arc, sidling across the steep section and so not risking life and limb. Doodle, a little nervous perhaps, did likewise, before slipping and plunging screaming to the bottom, about 20 feet below. Boy, like the true hero he is proceeded to jet straight off the top. Hit the steepest section in a tuck, whoosh over the jump and crash in a heap. A great effort, but a mere taste of things to come.
Sunday saw us carrying our packs to Mount Tate and the Rolling Grounds. We dumped our packs and headed off towards Dicky Cooper Bogong, ignoring the warnings of Doodle. Half an hour later, in thick white-out conditions we turned back and attempted to find our packs. This done we headed off in about the right direction, sort of following ski tracks. Suddenly there was a shout “Nipper, Dave !”. We turned to see a lone ski shooting past us on the uphill side. Off we set in chase as its trajectory curved downhill gathering pace. As His Nips chased it disappeared into the mist, and he was reduced to slowly following a very light impression of its path. About 50 m before the ground became very steep heading into the trees the ski had stopped. A really close shave. Taking the ski back and following his tracks, His Nips looked up to see Boy trying to ski one footed – not easy with a pack. Ski reattached we set off again – however our directions were askew, partly due to the disorientation of racing through fog and snow after a bloody individualist plank. We got a bit stuffed and had an extra 3k’s to ski and it was already late. As we dropped through the trees we fell below the cloud line and then only had to contend with darkness. Fortunately, the snow remained good, it did not freeze up and we were back at the cars about an hour after dark. It then took an hour to get one of the cars going. We were not impressed.
Bhagwan, Boy, Noodle, Doodle and His Nips were seen a bit later climbing the road towards Adams Hut after having spent the Friday night near Eucumbene Dam. A trip to Jugungal from the east was on order. Hughie had a bit of fun with us and we skirted the base of the big J in pretty grotty weather heading for O’Keefes Hut. The snow was falling quite heavily as we slept and when we left the next morning. It was quite a long stretch to get to Mackeys Hut for lunch. We had had a very nice creek crossing – up to our knees in cold, cold water then putting our boots on again standing on snow as the wind howled and the white stuff fell. The only other event was another latish finish due in part to Doodle’s ski binding parting company from the ski. Repairing skis in a howling wind is not nice ,so they say. By using supreme technique and a bit of Bhagwan strength she struggled through. This weekend had the worst weather of the season.
A five day trip with McGus, Floozie, Dodgy, Doodle, His Nips and Litre to the Kerries and Valentine River area was done in good weather initially then deteriorating as the week went on. Doodle, Floozie and Litre decided that swimming was OK and proceeded to make a small hole in the snow covering the Valentine River a large hole. Doodle did this by standing in the centre of the small hole which became the centre of the large hole. At the last moment, she decided that swimming in cold windy weather in the snow was not so good an idea. She piked by jumping to the side. From then on water collecting was a three person job. Two to stand on each side of the 3 m wide hole holding the ends of a thin rope to which a billy was attached in the centre. By swinging the rope these two were able to scoop up billies of water for the third person to pour into a container. The two scooping positions were considered the prime jobs. The other was for those that like frostbite. A day trip off the eastern side of the Kerries to Kidmans Hut made us realise that staying high in the rainy weather we were having was a good thing. The snow down low was a bit slushy and slow to be really nice. Skiing out on a Friday saw reasonable weather and a good run right down to Munyang Power Station. With the heavy snow cover of the season (the best since ’81 at least) the Munyang road was a beaut run – fast and steep but with controllable snow.
His Nips and Dodgy did a trip to the Kossy/Dead Horse Gap area, skiing over to Kossy, checking out the black riders (of the meow kind). Not too much this weekend. We bagged a few good peaks and had a hot sunny weekend like most of the others.
His Nips, Boy and Noddle did a similar trip a short time later, this time concentrating on the long clean CLG runs off the south slope of Kossy. There are some top runs in this region – definitely worth visiting and some excellent beginners slopes. Noodle, on the way back into Dead Horse Gap, trod heavily on his ski in crossing a hole in the snow. We all heard a CRACK. There was initially no further damage. Back at the car, closer inspection revealed serious cracking below the heel plate of his ski. Later that week when testing them for strength they cracked completely. They were a top set of skis, fast by virtue of a very short section of steps. It’s always a sad day to see a set of bears go.
Boy, His Nips, Dodgy, Bhagwan and Noodle did another Pounds Creek trip; Noodle trying his new banana skis. We headed over Twynam towards Wattos Crags. As we got close, the slope leading into the steep northern gully looked better and better, so we kept heading down and down. A fantastic run down excellent snow. 500 vertical metres of S’s. Three snakes, 1km long. What a run!
Climbing back up, we found the Bhagwan following the tracks of an echidna that had scaled one of the large cornettos that ring the northern side of the crags. We proceeded to cut up a nice slope off the Crags to the south-west all having a crack at skiing on bananas.
The following day saw us mucking around near the camp checking out the passing traffic. Dodgy saw a black cat with a “cute bum” – so off set Noodle and Boy up Twynam in chase. They returned half an hour later with the story that the “cute bum” was attached to a bloke, who it so happened was skiing with Damien, an oldie from way back. So off we all set up Twynam once more. Then off to the Crags in pursuit. Having said “G’day” to Damien a couple of us were foolish enough to attempt to follow some good skiers down one of the really steep slopes off the crags. Boy and myself were not too elegant, but Brad, we made it. We skied the Crags!
When we could no longer keep Boy under control it was off to the Wall Of Death once more. His Nips doing it not too well, but Boy doing with in fine style. The trip back to the tents went via Blue Lake as there were some excellent steep runs with no previous tracks. Each of us had our own way down. Boy and His Nips did high speed water skiing turns down the steep slope. Dodgy packed in the S’s as tight as J’s.T. as he swung round off the tops into the valley. Noddle, piking as usual, took an easy way down, insisting his S’s were pretty tight. Bhagwan seemed to start by following Noodle, then thinking it too flat, cut over to follow Dodgy’s tracks. We really cut that slope up. An excellent 15 minutes skiing.
Alderman, Boy, Bhagwan, Noodle and His Nips did a trip from Munyang Power Station up onto the Rolling Grounds and along to Kate’s West Thigh. We spent Saturday arvo skiing around on good quality snow. We skied Kate’s West Thigh down to the tree line then looped back onto the Rolling Grounds. Sunday morning saw us heading up Tate. Then four of set off along the Main Range to Twynam (Alderman was not as fit as he should have been). So Twynam is probably the most SUBW’ed peak this season.
On the way back, three of us, Noodle, Boy and His Nips, took our packs to Dicky Cooper. Bhagwan dropped his and did a side trip with us. Alderman, took his overweight frame home by the shortest path. We did this as His Nips had seen a good looking slope off Dicky Cooper into Schlink Pass. It was so good we did it several times before scooting down the road for another top to almost bottom run to the power station. Yet another excellent sunny weekend with good snow.
From here on the snow conditions became a little less than perfect (but Brad this is only by comparison with the great stuff we had been having). There were quite a few trips left in the year, one of which was for Doodle to be able to say she had been in the snow in both the northern and southern hemispheres in October. Others were His Nips having a late run to try to overtake Boy in the DOS stakes (final result Boy – 29 days, His Nips – 27). Boy, Doodle and His Nips got November with a trip to the Club Lake area. Doodle remarked on the way out that Mount Lee “looked almost pubic” due to the number of tightly packed S’s covering its slopes. There must have been over 30 people skiing in the area that weekend.
To finish the season and this waffle, Dodgy and His Nips, got summer. Yes Brad, we skied December. That made His Nips score 6 months on snow.
This year we are heading for the big 30 D.O.S. given the right conditions, so all you young’ns come skiing.