A Kosciuszko Backcountry Tradition
Written by Chris Russell.
A tradition needs time to establish itself. Every August for the last 13 years, I have headed into the Kosciuszko Alps for a backcountry trip. Our trips have varied, accounting for the ability and equipment of my mates and weather conditions. In some years, we have been on skis, some years on snowshoes. This year we had a mix of snowshoes, splitboards and skis. In some years, there has been little snow, yet in other years we've endured epic storms, battling against the elements.
This year, weather conditions and time constraints meant we abandoned our plans for the Jagungal Wilderness and made a last-minute decision to head out from Guthega Ski Resort.
Leaving Guthega, we headed towards our proposed campsite. The forecast weather was not good, with rain, snow, high winds, and poor visibility. Once camp was established we opted to explore the low valleys and stay off the top of the main range.
For a day trip, Nathan and I headed back down the hill to Guthega and followed the Illawong walking track. This 5km walk, a popular day hike in the warmer months, follows the Snowy River to Illawong lodge and the Illawong suspension bridge. Watch the Explore With Tom's video here.
Towing toboggans laden with gear is not an easy task. For ultimate comfort, we had chosen to take with us a hot tent complete with a stove and dry firewood. We were expecting to encounter all weather conditions and we planned to be comfortable.
The Helsport Varanger Dome is an amazing group shelter and provided a brilliant group atmosphere when camping for 3 nights. The central location for the stove radiates the heat to everyone sitting around. Remarkably the snow only melts slowly even with the fire generating heat. The inside temp was up to 15 degrees even though we were sitting on snow.
The forecast for the 4 days proved accurate and snow conditions varied from deep to wet to ice with a narrow band of powder in between. We stayed off the top of the main range to avoid most of the bad weather. However, on the last day with winds gusting to 60km/hr, significant wind chill and poor visibility, we broke camp and headed home.
A tradition needs time to establish itself. While every year in Kosciuszko National Park the conditions are different and the area of terrain to explore is huge, what brings me back each year is the shared experience with good mates. It is something that I will never grow tired of.