SNOWY MOUNTAINS, AUSTRALIA,

January 2017 and the plan was to camp on Club Creek, downstream from Club Lake, at the base of Carruthers Peak. From there we planned to do a number of day walks.   Megan, a bushwalking friend from Warragul,  Victoria, had come up the day before and had taken a cabin at Jindabyne overnight.   I joined her the following morning, having driven down from Canberra.

However, the weather forecast had worsened, with 86 kph winds at Charlotte Pass and torrential rain moving in later in the day and overnight.   Camping in small tents suddenly didn’t seem a good idea, so we decided to take the cabin for another night.

Having booked the cabin we drove up to Charlotte Pass where a virtual hurricane was blowing and the temperature was cold. We set off under heavy overcast down to the Snowy River  and Club Creek crossings and then angled our way across country to the place I had planned to camp on Club Creek where there is a large pool and waterfall.  From there we wandered up steep ridges of Carruthers Peak, exploring.   We ran out of time, given our late start, so didn’t get close enough for a glimpse of Club Lake.   Rain was threatening as we turned back.   We contoured around the slopes to come back to the Lakes Track which then took us down to the river crossings for the first of our 3 long steep  daily climbs back up to Charlotte Pass.   From the clear, cold air of the mountains and an air conditioned car, we stepped out of the car at Jindabyne into an inferno.

There was heavy rain in the mountains during the night and also at Jindabyne.

DAY 2 – WALK TO CLUB LAKE

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CLUB LAKE FROM SUMMIT OF  CARRUTHERS PEAK

Day 2 and the weather was still atrocious in the mountains, with the gale still raging and the possibility of more rain.   We abandoned our idea of setting up a base camp on Club Creek and instead booked into Kosciuszko Cabins and Camping at Sawpit Creek, just inside the KNP.  The last time I had been there was over 40 years ago when it was run by the NSW NPWS.  It is still a lovely place to stay.   There is plenty of space, green grass, trees and not too many people.   Up here one is high enough to be away from the awful heat and heavy air of Jindabyne.  It is a most peaceful and lovely place, with plenty of birds and kangaroos grazing, as well as possums.  Having decided on and booked our tent site we set off up the road for Charlotte Pass.

How I love mountains!   The air is sweet, clear and fresh, one climbs above the treeline into a different world.   A world of green grasses and herbfields, of rugged craggy outcrops and mountains, of clear mountain streams and trickling water.  A world where the heart sings and one is free.  And so we wound our way up, past Rawsons, Smiggin Holes and Perisher to Charlotte Pass, where the road ends.

Goodness knows what will happen to this sublime area which is already under threat from visitors, for the huge American ski resort operator, Vale, has bought Perisher and obtained permission to increase the number of beds by 800 as well as increasing visitor amenities and infrastructure.   All this commercial development within a fragile national park.   And what of the morality of allowing a developer to profit from being allowed to operate in and benefit from being in a tax-payer funded national park?  Our fragile earth is being killed by greed and collaboration between developers and government. I understand that the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, backing up their political masters, have stated that the area to be developed is very small as a proportion of the huge size of the National Park.  True, but that is a gross distortion of the facts.  Very few of the hordes of additional tourists, not only the occupiers of the additional 800 beds but also the hordes of day visitors,  will put on heavy packs and wander off into the trackless wilderness.   They will be confined by their own needs and fears and inexperience to a very small area, to the highest and most fragile part of the Kosciuszko NP : the area from Smiggin Holes to Mt Kosciuszko and Mt Townsend, bounded on one side by the Main Range and the other by the Thredbo River and Thredbo Ski Resort.

At Charlotte Pass we got out into the roar of the gale.   Wow!   It was still early and very cold, too.  Low clouds were covering the Main Range and sweeping across to where we stood creating a grim landscape except where an occasional beam of sunlight broke through.  We set off down the track once more, to the Snowy River and Club Creek crossings.  I have made these crossings many times and have always found it easy to hop along the large stepping stones.  This morning, however, most of the stepping stones were under water and we had no option but to take off our boots and socks and wade through a strong current with water above our knees.

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Charlotte Pass Resort from the track head at Charlotte Pass

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Mt Stillwell looms behind the resort, from the track head

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We take the Main Range Track for a while

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Beginning the descent to the crossing of the Snowy River and Club Creek.  The Snowy River can be clearly seen, while Club Creek can just be seen to the right.

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Looking across the Snowy River in the direction of Blue Lake, with Mt Twynam hidden in the cloud to the right of centre

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Looking in the direction of Club Lake and Mt Carruthers

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A glimpse of the Snowy River below the crossing

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Confluence of the Snowy R (left) and Club Creek (right) and the track crossing , now in flood.

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Club Creek Stepping Stones Awash

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Club Creek at the crossing, looking upstream

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Club Ck, at the crossing – photo by Megan

We walked up the track for a while before heading cross-country, bound for Club Lake.   We kept reasonably high, slowly gaining height, encountering little scrub, walking across moorlands often oozing water, over grasses, alpine herbfields and thousands of wildflowers.  Every now and again we came upon beautiful pools of clear water.

It was a magical day.   The wind, the cold, the clouds and mist created a wonderful, exciting wildness.

There was little talking: mostly a companionable silence, two people at home in the mountains and at home with each other.

We found a sheltered spot for morning tea where we lingered awhile. Out of the wind, with occasional splashes of sunshine, lying on the grass, it was quite warm and very pleasant.  It was so pleasant, in fact, that it was hard to leave and continue on.   Here we had beauty and peace, and wonderful views.  Why continue?

But continue we did.   And in moving on we found more wildness, more magic.

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Gaining height above Club Creek.  Mt Carruthers summit under cloud on extreme right.  Club Lake lies in a cwm at its foot.

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Looking back towards Charlotte Pass

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Looking back – the beauty of mist

From the confluence of the stream which tumbles down from Mt Northcote and Northcote Pass and Club Creek up Club Creek to the point where it starts to ascend its little canyon to Club Lake there are many moraines, both terminal and lateral. To avoid them we kept reasonably high on the flanks of Carruthers Peak as we made for that little canyon.

I love walking up this narrow canyon, richly green and starred with flowers, Club Creek crashing down beside me, despite its small size; one continuous line of small falls.

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Club Creek in the distance, rising from left to right, to Club Lake

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Ascending the canyon to Club Lake  – photo :  Megan

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In the canyon – photo :  Megan

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photo by Megan

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Almost there!  The cliffs on  Carruthers Peak falling down into Club Lake cwm

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Club Lake – photo by Megan

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Photo by Megan

Suddenly, we topped a rise, to see the steely waters of Club Lake.   Here we caught the full shriek of the gale,  clouds boiled over the crest of the Main Range, mist swirled over and down and around.  Every now and again we caught glimpses of the remaining snowfields , while across the water grim cliffs plunged vertically downwards through the swirling mist.  Ensconced in this wild, small, wind-shrieking, cloud-riven bowl was awe-inspiring.   What an incredible place to be.  The rest of the world was out of view.   We were alone here in this wild place. Raw and beautiful nature.   Far, far better to be here in these conditions than on some “perfect” cloudless, benign day.  This was savage and wild beauty, every now and again softened by quick gleams of white, brittle sunlight, illuminating the far slopes of green with sudden gentleness,  while dancing and glittering briefly on the dark, grey, sullen waves.   Apart from the wind and the lapping of the waves on the shore at our feet there was incredible silence.  Perhaps it was the sound of the waves more than anything else which amplified the silence, the remoteness, and the wildness of this place.

There is a region of heart’s desire 
free for the hand that wills;
land of the shadow and haunted spire,
land of the silvery glacier fire,
land of the cloud and the starry choir 
magical  land of the hills;
loud with the crying of winds and streams,
thronged with the fancies and fears of dreams.

(From Knight Errantry, by Geoffrey Winthrop Young)

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Photo by Megan

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Getting cold, we moved on. Before leaving , though, we noticed black specks of people walking along the crest of the Main Range, high above Club Lake, on the Lakes Walk or rather, the Main Range Track.

Rather than returning down the canyon, we kept high, on the level of the lake,   moving out onto one of Carruther’s descending ridges, wending our way amongst granite outcrops, finding a way around or across gullies,  now across a more benign landscape, slowly descending.

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Looking Back – Club Lake is hidden right of centre, behind the ridge in the middle ground
photo by Megan

In one deep cleft of a gulley we came across the remains of a large, white , synthetic hold-all used by rangers to move up to a tonne of rocks by helicopter to near Blue Lake.   This one had got away.   Megan retrieved the two pieces from the creek and weighted them with stones.  Later she would let the rangers know where they were.

Once again we found a delightful, sheltered and warm spot for lunch.  Now the clouds were lifting, and breaking up, although they were still massing along the crest of the Main Range.  Sunshine was breaking through and now there were also patches of the most beautiful, clear, blue sky.

 

We descended a ridge to Club Creek where there is a lovely, flat river terrace on the true right bank.   Megan risked life and limb to get across and had the pleasure of easy walking.   I looked for a better spot and was trapped into a much scrubbier walk.   Only below the waterfall and camp site was I able to rejoin her.   She now wanted to follow the river down.   This right hand side proved much scrubbier than the other side.  However, it was fun to explore.   When we neared the confluence with the Snowy River we found the still-standing chimney of the old foreman’s hut on Club Creek.

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The pool and campsite from above the waterfall

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The waterfall at my old camp site

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Club Creek from the old camp site

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The remains of the old foreman’s hut on Club Creek just upstream from its confluence with the Snowy River

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From the Chimney, looking down towards the river crossings and the track leading up to Charlotte Pass.  Photo by Megan

We were walking down the true right bank of Club Creek and as we neared the confluence we thought that we could perhaps cross the Snowy  before the traditional crossing, but found we had to beat a retreat,  and cross over to the left bank of Club Creek and cross at the usual places   before the dratted ascent to Charlotte Pass.

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Megan beating a retreat!

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Trigger Plants

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Snow gums at the track head, Charlotte Pass.

What a superb, magical, mountain day.

Back at the camp site we put up our tents, made mugs of tea, lazed in the sylvan beauty of this campground.   Then made our dinners.   As the sun was going down a possum emerged from a crack in the nearby large gum tree to raid us later in the night… I had some biscuits in a strong plastic container.  The possum woke me as it tried to break into the container.   When I tried to drive it off, he took the container with him and I then had to retrieve it.

Day 3

I was awake at cock-crow. The bird chorus was wonderful, otherwise not a sound.  ‘Roos were grazing next to our tents.   Slowly the greyness turned to light and a rosy colour tinged the lightening sky.  I love this hour before sunrise.   The world is holding its breath, at peace.  Very quietly, so as not to disturb Megan still asleep in her tent close by, I lit my stove and made a couple of mugs of tea and enjoyed a biscuit as I watched, from my sleeping bag, the sunrise and the golden light spreading down the trees.  It was about 7°c.

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At the camp site .  Photo by Megan

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Kangaroos in the morning sun –  photo : Megan

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Home of the possum.  Photo : Megan

Megan emerged from her tent looking as if her greatest delight was to be here, camping.   Showers, breakfast, more tea, pack our day packs for another walk.

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We returned to our tents from the showers to find this fellow had managed to get his snout into the rubbish bag!    Photo: Megan

DAY 3 – THE SENTINEL

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view from Carruthers Pk..  The Sentinel is the free-standing peak in the middle ground on the left, with the long ridge leading to it from the right.  Mt Twynam on the far right.  Just on the saddle before the Sentinel is a rock rib casting a large shadow.  It is there that we were beaten.

Once again we commenced from Charlotte Pass. It was a peerless morning, and we were up there early.  Not a breath of wind,  crystal clear air although cold, a deep blue sky and everything standing out in 3D.

The water had gone down quite a bit at the crossing, although some of the stepping stones were still under water, so once again it was boots and socks off. A lady on her own, I think she said her name was Pauline, was nervous about crossing on her own and asked if she could come across with us.  I think she said she was a member of the KHA,  quite a chatterbox.

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Club Creek ford – the water has gone down a lot.  Snowy River just behind.

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Club Creek in foreground, Snowy River in background. The slippery railway sleeper is clearly seen in front of the 2 figures, one of who had the bad fall.

A sleeper had been placed running down into the water.   I trod on it and went for a skate.  It was wet and dangerously slippery but a quick dance saved me.   As we were starting to cross a couple came down and he also stepped on the sleeper.   Poor man,   he had a very bad fall, and after about 10 minutes went back to Charlotte Pass.

Megan is a strong walker and fresh from the Larapinta Track, so all day I was hard at it to keep up with her.   And so we climbed up past the Blue Lake access track to the saddle between  Carruthers Pk.  and Mt.  Twynam.   Here, the Lakes Walk swings left along the crest and over  Carruthers, while to the right there is the foot pad to Twynam.

The view from this saddle is stunning, especially on a day like today.   Coming up to this saddle ones impression of the Snowy is that they are nothing but a wild moorland with a few hills.  However, from the edge of the saddle huge mountains come soaring out of the Geehi Valley and the western faces of the Snowy are immense , steep and complex.  From here, too, we got a daunting look at the ridge leading to the free standing peak of the Sentinel.   Wow.  We were going there.

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the view from the saddle between Mounts Carruthers and Twynam

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From the saddle.  Photo : Megan

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Photo : Meganimg_1547-800x600

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Following the Ridge down

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Photo : Megan

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Looking across to Mt Townsend,a real mountain, unlike the hill of Kosciuszko.
Photo : Megan

For a while we followed the Twynam foot pad before leaving it and finding our way to the faint Sentinel foot pad. My Gosh!   From a distance the ridge looks pretty impressive, but when you are on it,  it is not only airy in places but one never stops climbing and descending.

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Photo : Megan

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Come along, Barrie!  Photo : Megan

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Photo : Megan

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Strzelecki Creek.  Photo : Megan

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Strzelecki Creek.   Photo : Megan

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Almost at the saddle and the final climb

On the way down we met 3 youngish men returning and they warned about the scary rock face coming up.   Just before the saddle at the bottom of the final climb up the Sentinel,  the path petered out.  I noticed a crack in front of me with a small eucalypt growing across its mouth.   With difficulty I went down and found myself on a vertical cliff.   This was not right.  Back I came, only climbing back up  with great difficulty.  Now it was Megan’s turn.  She tried to turn the rocky outcrop by going down a slippery ,near vertical gulley to the left.   I called a halt.  There were only the two of us.  We never did find the way.  perhaps it went straight over the top of the rock outcrop.  Megan was disappointed.  So was I.   We were almost there.

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So close!   But this is where we turned back.  Megan is standing at the entrance to the crack that I tried. From where she is, there are vertical cliffs.

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Looking down from the last photo.  Photo : Megan

 

So, back we went up this arduous switchback of a ridge with the most wonderful mountain views. Off on our left there were the wonderful cliffs of Watson’s Crags and the incredibly steep Strzelecki  Creek, both falling down into the Geehi.   On our right,  Carruthers,  Lady Northcotes Canyon and Mt Townsend.

The next photos were all taken as we ascended the switchbacks to the Main Range

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Photo : Megan

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Strzelecki Creek in the background.   Photo : Megan

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Another “Up We Go”.  Photo : Megan

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Strzelecki Creek

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Watsons Crags

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Back on the Main Range we swung left for Mt Twynam.   Time was running out.  Megan set a cracking pace.  I was feeling the effects of the altitude.  About 15 minutes from the summit we reluctantly turned back, pausing  on the way back only to quickly take a look at Blue Lake on the way.

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A Glimpse of Blue Lake .  Photo : Megan

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Looking across to Kosciuszko (far left) Mt Lee, Mt Carruthers, and Mt Townsend

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this shows the rock ribs and the little crag which stopped us .  Photo : Megan

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Blue Lake, Mt Twynam on left and Little Twynam to the right

By now the water levels had gone down and we were able to cross on the stepping stones.   Then the slog up to Charlotte Pass.

A wonderful day with a great companion.

Then relaxation at the tents and finally sleep.

On the fourth day we packed up and did the Rennix Walk. I have done this walk before when it has been ablaze with many species of flowers, but on this day there were few and it was hot. It was a  lovely walk with Megan, but as a walk it is hardly worth doing.

We now returned to Jindabyne where Megan booked into a small cabin, so that she could leave for Gippsland at first light.   Some cake and iced coffee in Jindabyne and it was time to go our separate ways, me to Canberra.

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Rennix Walk

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Wahlenbergia sp.  Rennix Walk

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Rennix Walk

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lunch – Rennix Walk  – photo : Megan

A few days of what can only be described as wonderful mountain days with a great companion.

MOUNTAIN REVERIE

K Holmes

This is the rocky solitude I love;
The rock below me and the sky above;
A cool air moving; save its sigh no sound:
Glory of golden light and peace profound.
Too soon this hushed uplifted hour must end
And I to meet the world once more descend;
Yet something surely will remain my own
Of this benediction I have known.

THESE ARE MY RICHES
From “A climber in Wales” by Showell Styles

These are my riches, that none can take away from me,
stored as mountain grass is stored in the byre;
These shall shine of an evening when winter befalls me,
Sitting by the fire.

Mine are the torrents and the timeless hills,
The rock face, the heather and the rain,
The summits where the life-wind thrums and thrills,
And, answering, the glad heart sings again:
The good grey rock that loves a grasping hand,
The stress of body and the soul’s rebirth
On the tall peak where gods and men may stand
Breathless above the kingdoms of the earth:

The drowse of summer on the sunlit crags
Lulled in the blue and shimmering air of June,
When Time, the lazy mountain- traveller, lags
To dream with us an endless afternoon:
The ice-wind stealing downwards from the crest
To hush with frost the reedy river’s flow,
When all the mountain land on winter’s breast
Sleeps, in the deathly silence of the snow.

These are my riches, these and the bright remembering
Of ridge and buttress and sky-shouldering spire;
These I shall count, when I am old, of an evening,
Sitting by the fire.

img_1595-megan-at-jindabyne-copy-800x600  THANKS, MEGAN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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