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Home > Treks > Kosciuszko > Day 2 > 2.8
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THE ABORIGINAL stories here tell of three challenges thrown by the spirits who dance on the mountaintops – snow, fire and wind. These three elements have the potential to make an otherwise easy stroll through these mountains very challenging.

Struggling against the wind

Struggling against the wind

The wind outside Seaman’s Hut was so strong, that I had difficulty standing. It was going to be tough climbing uphill against the powerful wind.

We slowly paced our way up the road. No sooner had we rounded the bluff, the wind eased off significantly. It must be a real wind tunnel through there. To me this seemed to be a crazy place to build a hut, but it was the only reasonably flat surface.

We continued heading up the hill making good pace. The wind was still quite strong, but not strong enough to hinder our progress.

Road up to Rawson Pass

Road up to Rawson Pass

Looking ahead I could see the road sweeping around the ridge towards the pass. Beside the path grew lots of white flowers from silver leafed plants. Beyond the pass the rounded dome of Mount Kosciuszko stood rather dominant with its large face and no obvious peak. There were still quite a few people up there though, sheltering on this side of the summit as we had done around an hour ago.

The wind intensified as we approached Rawson Pass. We had made the climb in good time, in fact less time than it had taken us to walk down the road earlier.  At the pass the wind was blowing very strong, at around a hundred kilometres per hour.

Very windy above Lake Cootapatamba

Windy above Lake Cootapatamba

We didn’t linger at the pass for long. We started following the metal track with quite a few other people who were on their way down from the summit, including a couple of family groups with young children.

The wind intensified, now blowing well over a hundred kilometres per hour. It became difficult standing on the metal track. Thankfully I had my walking pole to help me keep my balance against the gusts of wind. A particularly strong gust hit just as I was crossing a small rise. Thankfully with the help of my walking pole I managed to maintain my balance. About fifty metres in front of me two children were blown right off the boardwalk into the grass. Thankfully their landing was soft. From then on their parents carried them. It was rather too dangerous for them up here.

Near headwaters of the Snowy River

Near head of the Snowy River

We continued battling the ferocious tail wind along the metal walkway to the Cootapatamba lookout. From the lookout the track quickly descended behind the ridge where the wind died off significantly. From there we started the moderate descent towards the headwaters of the Snowy River. Apart from the occasional step it was an easy grade descent. The wind was usually bearable except in a couple of places where we crossed an exposed area below a saddle and be blasted by the wind again.

We were travelling at a good pace with the fairly large group we had somehow inherited. They would have been a little late getting up the mountain, and were all heading back down together.

Rocky outcrop

Rocky outcrop

As the altitude decreased we began to encounter the interesting rock formations we had passed this morning. They appeared quite different to what they had done this morning. The overhead cloud had softened the landscape into ominous muddy colours. Now under full sun the rocks showed their wrinkles with harsh shadows and bright colours.

Upon reaching the gully at the head of the Snowy River, the streams were still running strong. I had expected they would have diminished a little with rain having cleared, but they didn’t show any significant change to what I had seen this morning.

North Ramshead from the saddle

North Ramshead from the saddle

Climbing the other side heading towards Ramshead Range, the pools of water in the heathland were still full and crystal clear. The wind began to intensify again as we gained altitude on the short rise towards the Kosciuszko Lookout.

Once over the low saddle we headed down the stairs of the boardwalk into Merritt Valley. The wind was blowing strong throughout the short descent. The rocky crags of Ramshead Range didn’t seem so ominous now.

Merritt Creek

Merritt Creek

It was not long before we reached the bridge over Merritt Creek. The creek was still running high with crystal clear water tumbling over the rocks up to the grassy bank on either side.

Once over the bridge we were back on the cobblestone path walking the final leg gradually uphill towards the chairlift. Ahead I noticed a weather station sitting amongst the barren heath. The wind vane was spinning very fast in the strong tail wind. Once past the weather station, the trail gradually descended to the chairlift.

Weather station at the top of the chairlift

Weather station above chairlift

I had recalled the chairlift ride being very scary this morning, but at least we were facing towards the slope this morning. Going back down the mountain we will be facing the valley – all 540 metres of it. We were at 1927 metres above sea level. Looking at the chairlift I figured it would be okay up till the first structure, then from there the descent will be steep. I will probably have to keep my eyes closed and hang on tight for most of the descent. Then there was the strong wind. I recalled the carriage swaying in the wind this morning. It was blowing a lot stronger now.

Top of the chairlift

Top of the chairlift

There were a lot of cyclists riding the chairlift up the mountain and then cycling down the ski slope. There were also quite a few walkers here who we had hiked with since Rawson Pass.

We walked up the short ramp to the chairlift. It was then I realised there was a bar you pull down to secure yourself. We stood in the designated spot to get collected by a chair. I pulled down the bar and suddenly felt very secure with a bar in front of me and another part lower down to step on.

Riding down the side of the mountain

Riding down the mountain

The chair extended out from the building towards the first tower. It was a little hairy with the strong wind blowing us from side to side a little.

Once past the first tower the chair descended steeply down the side of the mountain. The sun was still high and the clouds were all very distant by now, so the view along the Threadbo Valley was very clear in both directions. The town stood at the bottom of the valley over half a kilometre below.

A cyclist on a mobile phone passed us heading up. His bike was attached to the back of his chair. I wondered how many times he had gone down the mountain today. There were quite a few people on the lifts heading up, mostly cyclists, but there were a few walkers as well. Anyone walking up here this late in the day would be lucky to get to the Kosciuszko lookout and back before the chairlift closes.

Riding down the side of the mountain

Riding down the mountain

Going down the very steep section wasn’t as bad as I thought. Having the safety bar in front of me was a big help. A family with a baby passed on the other side, then the next chair had a rather bogan young couple wearing singlets, shorts and thongs – hardly the attire to wear up a cold mountain where the temperature was only around five degrees not to mention the wind chill from the 80+ kilometre per hour wind.

We began passing the montane forest. Large patches of dead trees were amongst the live ones. The slope gradually eased until we were eventually over the little spur before the final drop to the building at the lower end of the cables.

Approaching Threadbo

Approaching Threadbo

Upon entering the building and finding our feet on firm ground again, we left the chairlift building heading back across the bridge towards the main town. I was surprised at how warm it was down here. There was not a breath of wind in the perfectly still air and the temperature was at least twenty degrees. Taking wind chill into account it was 25 degrees warmer down here than it had been at the top. No wonder the bogan couple weren’t wearing much. I’d guess they wouldn’t stay at the top very long at all and will be very quickly heading back down here. Obviously they hadn’t taken any notice of the noticeboard at the bottom where it said the temperature was 3 degrees with 80km/h winds.

Threadbo River

Threadbo River

We walked across the bridge over the pristine Threadbo River. Under the bright cloudless blue sky the water was a clear ochre colour from the tannin of the vegetation it had leached.

The town stood quiet in the relative downtime of summer. Without the hiking and cycling it would be a ghost town here for most of the year. I imagined it would be very busy here during winter. We walked through the shopping area to a park with a small lake surrounded by the chalet resorts before driving back down the valley towards Jindabyne.

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Date:

 

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Latitude: Longitude: Altitude:

25 January 2015

 

Snowy Mountains

Australia

 

36°29'S
148°16'E

1400 - 2110m ASL

 

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