Snowy Mountain High pt.2: Main Range Meander

Easter may be my favourite time of the year. The weather is warm, the days are long and you’ve got a four day weekend up your sleeve to get out an have a good, hearty adventure.

This year we decided to mix it up and head south to the Snowy Mountains (via the ACT) for some hiking, camping and climbing in the Main Range of the Kosciuszko National Park.

Here’s Part 2 of my long weekend rundown where we saunter off the beaten track and into the Snowy Mountain High Country. For Part 1 click here.

After a long night of driving down from the ACT we arrived at Kosciuszko Tourist Park well after midnight. Upon arrival we set up camp stealthily to avoid waking Sam, Bronwyn and Matt, friends of mine joining us on our hike who were nice enough to let us camp on their lot for the night.

The next morning we emerged slowly and after a quick catch-up over coffee we began loading up our backpacks.

The gang preparing for our Snowy Mountain adventure
We may have underestimated how much gear we needed to carry up the mountain

By mid-morning we were ready to go and jetted up Kosciuszko Rd, past Perisher and to the end of the road at Charlotte Pass.

Once our packs were out of the car and fully loaded their weight became ominously apparent. 3 days worth of food and camping supplies plus all the gear needed to go trad climbing in backcountry did not make for ultra lightweight hiking. Nonetheless we gritted our teeth, wrangled the packs onto our backs and were off down the well manicured track bound for Blue Lake.

Ready to go, still smiling despite the heavy packs
We had to improvise to fit all the climbing gear in our packs

The morning was spent meandering through the scrubby alpine wilderness along the bustling Main Range Walk filled with the requisite public holiday crowds. The track passed through the shallow Snowy River, then rose up and over the undulating landscape of the unique Australian high country. We were often often bounded by short grassland patched with glacially smoothed granite boulders that made for good shelter for us to enjoy lunch out of the incessant wind that blew unchecked over the high hills.

Taking a short lunch sheltered from the sun and wind in the high country

After another couple of hours hiking we arrived at Blue Lake, a glacially formed tarn flanked partly by steep, craggy granite cliffs and is the only alpine climbing location in Australia.

The sun was already getting low and the heat of the day was beginning to wane so we wasted no time parting from the main walkway and bounding through the scrub down to the crag for a quick afternoon climb.

Blue Lake

We noticed Sam, Bron and Matt had already arrived and had been climbing for most of the afternoon. Keen to join, Ben and I hastily set up and spied a slabby warm-up climb called Frigga (10) to the far left of the crag. After a quick assessment of the line I hopped on lead and started making my way up,  smearing my way across the blank granite slab, getting increasingly anxious as the lack of adequate protection became apparent. After making a slightly committing mantle over a steep section the slab tuned into an easy scramble and after finally being able to place a relatively sold cam I raced to the top, set up an anchor and belayed Ben up.

By then the sun was getting worryingly low and we decided to cut our afternoon climb short so we could trudge up the deceptively steep and uneven rim of the lake to the saddle of Mt Twynam where we intended to camp for the night.

Hiking up to the saddle of Mt Twynam from Blue Lake

By the time we reached the saddle, aching under our heavy packs, the sun was straddling the horizon. Sam, Bron and Matt had joined us by then and we decided to set up camp nestled between some large boulders to keep out of the wind. Dinner was then promptly made and served as we all nestled around the stove for warmth. We didn’t last too long after nightfall before succumbing to the cold and tiredness and retreating to our tents for the night.

A beautiful morning in the mountains
A chilly morning in the mountains
A morning brew to raise the spirits

Morning greeted us with a blaze of colour over the hills and after a hastily made breakfast we packed up a light day pack and headed out in search of The Sentinel, an impressive knife edged ridge that I had heard about just off the rolling hills of the Main Range that lay a couple of hours hike away from camp.

Off track on the main range

From camp we headed west for a couple of hours via to summit of Mt Twynam taking our time to soak in the view of the rolling hills cascading off to the horizon. We had left our heavy packs behind at camp this morning so unlike the previous afternoon’s trudge we could really enjoy the journey and our surroundings.

Taking in the view from the summit of Mt Twynam

By mid morning and a little bit of searching we arrived at track leading down the spine of the The Sentinel. The path led us down from the high plateau onto a narrow ridge, flanked by a precarious drop off on each side.

The track to The Sentinel

The track soon leveled out but our way was blocked by a tall band of rock that straddled the ridge making the obvious route along the spine impassable. The only option was to scramble down one side of the ridge a couple of meters and then traverse across a thin ledge over the rocky band and then back up to the safety of the top of the ridge. Though technically easy the traverse was exposed and a slip would mean a nasty fall down the side of the ridge. This proved a little too much for Zali and Kath so they decided to wait it out here and have themselves an early lunch while Ben and forged ahead.

Hiking along the ridge line of The Sentinel

After making the precarious traverse the summit of The Sentinel was another 10 minute hike that veered steeply uphill to a cairn at the peak of a prominent rocky outcrop.

The summit of The Sentinel

After catching our breath, enjoying the hard earned view and taking the obligatory summit selfie we scurried back down the ridge and met up with the others before hiking back up to the plateau of the Main Range. By now it was well into the afternoon and the temperature was falling fast and the wind was beginning to bite. So on that note we high-tailed it back to camp and cooked ourselves a very underwhelming bean burrito for dinner (forgot the spice mix).

As night fell and the cold really  began to set in we all huddled together in Ben’s tent and played endless rounds of Contact before slowly succumbing to tiredness and nodding off to sleep.

At daybreak, Ben and I woke and rose out of our tents in the bitter cold to make an early getaway before the girls to get back down to Blue Lake for one last climb before heading back to the car.

After a warm and filling bowl of porridge and a desperately needed coffee, we reluctantly packed up our tents and filled out packs back up to the brim  and shuffled ourselves back down the to the craggy shores of the Lake. Weary of the long drive ahead of us back to Sydney we hastily set up and spied the climb we had set our eyes on, Dihedral Corner (13).

It was an impressive corner crack with plenty of opportunities for solid protection and by all accounts a real low-grade classic in the area. I once again jumped on lead as Ben felt he lacked the trad experience to confidently place pro.

Ben eyeing off the beautiful Dihedral Corner (13)

I immediately appreciated the quality of the climb, full of beautiful stemming and layback moves, it was a joy to climb, and not to mention I think I placed one cam of every colour in the variety of crack systems slicing through the granite. Once at the top I was greeted with a solid anchor so I set up a belay and brought Ben up behind me.

By the time we were bot at the top and had packed up all our gear the girls were waiting for us at the edge of the lake, eager to get going. We got the hint that out time climbing at Blue Lake this time around was at an end so we wasted no time meeting back up with them and heading on our way. It want long before we re-joined the hustle and bustle of the Main Range Walk and with aching joints and tired bones from the non-stop activities of the past 3 days meandered our way back to the car just in time for lunch, none of us in any hurry to make the long journey back to the normality of city life.

Click here to read Part 1 of the adventure. 

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