Rope solo much?
There came a point in the last year or so when I realised I no longer felt excited about climbing. In fact, there were moments when I was downright avoidant of it. Instead, skiing had captured my focus and passion. I think that I initially diminished its impact, claiming that I was still a climber merely looking for a way to get easier access into the BC.
It took some days in the mountains by myself to see that the identity I clung to was getting in the way of the path I was already heading down. That's one of the advantages of soloing; there's no one else's expectations to deal with or self-judgement through the eyes of another. It's only you. And just like when you lug too much stuff up the mountain in those early days, it doesn't take long to realise that you've been dragging extraneous shite around in your skull too.
I arrived at a simple proposition - I want to be able to climb stuff and ski down it in equal measure.
And I want to do it solo.
In a sense, I think that this path will help me achieve the profound and balanced relationship with the mountains that I've always wanted. The up and down, both legitimising and reinforcing one another. It's apparently called ski mountaineering...and it just sounds fucking cool.
I started out in the resorts, learning to sort of get down the hill in a less than optimal setup.
Asolo climbing boots + Silvretta bindings = ski noob
The primary limitation of that early getup was the complete lack of useful stability afforded by mountaineering boots. Anything above a blue run was essentially survival skiing...and it wasn't exactly lightweight! After much reading of WildSnow blogs, Dynafit equipment was purchased and there was much rejoicing.
After getting plenty of downhill in at places like Buller, Hotham, the Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Ohau and Roundhill, it was time to hit up Victoria's BC options. I definitely needed to get plenty of descents in to improve, but there comes a point when resort skiing becomes stale.
I'd rather take the conditions offered up the mountain than a manufactured, groomed run. I'd prefer not to be skiing in a place surrounded by the blight of fast food joints and rich people accommodation. And I'd rather be away from the crowds, who seemingly have an over-representation of obnoxious cashed-up bogans.
Below I list my experiences in the Oz BC so far and corresponding ambitions for next year.
Buller will always be a destination for Melbourne skiers. It's just too close to ignore. I might get over to Sterling next year, but looking at the map left me looking for steeper terrain. Lift accessed side-country has undeniable virtues...being lifts. And it's steep as.
After going past the death-sign, I skied Chute One (a few times). It wasn't pretty, and I'm looking forward to getting back next year to hit up the other lines there. There's also that stuff on the north side off the summit shoulder...but that seemed to melt out pretty quick. Worth a day or two next year.
Over the top? Probably not for the guys who have to go and recover your body. Can be icy though!
This is a great area for a day or two. Simply park the car on the side of the road near Diamantina Hut, and the best steep terrain is the closest to the road. A good variety of conditions were had - trees, rocks, sun-affected corn and bumpy ice. A solid area, but in the future I'd probably just go to Feathertop.
The highest peak in Vic is definitely the goods for BC skiing. It's a long drive, and the walk in is solid. Eskdale is more scenic and quicker, but my 2WD isn't up for that road all the time, so the Staircase was frequented twice.
Hut map is good
There's some excellent terrain, particularly in south-west Cairn Gully. Hopefully I can get up on to some of the northern aspects next year.
Spring skiing at Bogong. Steeper and more fun than it looks
This place is numero uno on the list for next year. From the intimidating cornice to the wide variety of steep terrain, this is the place to be in my mind for challenging BC skiing in Victoria.
The walk up Bungalow is long and steady, and there's always quiet camping to be found away from the hut.
Camping on top of Little Feathertop
I skied a few of the gullies, including Hellfire and Avalanche - but I was also aware that I had barely sampled only a small glimpse of what this place has to offer. And I was quickly aware that I lacked the skills and balls to ski the truly steep stuff here (yet).
See you next year
- Walking in with trail runners is the way forward.
- I need to eat and drink pretty much all the time throughout the day. Boiled lollies, muesli bars and energy gels are all good.
- I can probably leave both the ice tools behind, but old habits die hard. I guess that's the climber in me...
As an avid gear whore, BC skiing has been a welcome (if expensive) rabbit hole to plunge down.
I spent this season on G3 ZenOxide C88 (170cm, 88mm underfoot), a Radical toe piece and a Kreuzspitze SCTT race heel. Can't complain too much for a beginner rig, but I'm definitely up for something a bit more powerful on descents. The C88s were super light on the up, but easily deflected on the way down, with the pair plus bindings weighing in at only 2.75kg. Might keep them around for long spring tours!
Super light and solid: G3 ZenOxide C88
In terms of boots, I think stiff suits me best. I've ended up in a pair of Vulcans after using Evos and TLT6s. They are a bit heavier, but I'm willing to lug them up for the increased rigidity they offer. I always remove the tongue on uphills, but otherwise they have been great thus far.
I'm definitely keen to stay on lightweight skis and bindings, so no CAST system or frame bindings for me. I'm looking to push the lighter tech bindings as hard as I can before having to go for heavy-hitters like the Dynafit Beast or Marker Kingpin. But that's a subject for another post.