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snowkting above thredbo- what a buzz


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I Set out on Sunday 29th of August 2010

The plan was to stop at Lake George to mountain board on the way down to Thredbo, though the wind was a bit light, but noticed that the wind mills on the far side of the lake were turning so was optimistic.

In 15 years I have never seen any water in Lake George. After ½ hr walking out into the “dry” lake concluded that the lake was in fact filling up –that explained my wet feet, and that there was not a breath of air. Turned round and walked back muttering all the way about how both the wind could let me down in such a beautiful kite boarding spot and that the lake should be so unfair in filling up.

Thought that I would spend the night in the back of my car but opted to go to the YHA in Canberra- back of car would have been better.

Set off at 5am on Monday 30th, picked up alpine skis from Rhythm Ski hire in Cooma on the way –good value rentals but took a long time to find someone who knew what alpine skis were and how to attach skins to the bottom of skis.

Skinned from dead horse gap up N. ridge to Thredbo’s Eagles Nest- took 1.5hrs. Never used skins before but they worked a treat, had a brilliant day by myself. Absolutely no wind for kiting but didn’t matter. Only hit 3 trees on way back down same ridge [they were already dead from the fires anyway] remembered that even though it had been 10 years since I had skies I still couldn’t do it for shit.

Tuesday 31st woke up to overcast conditions, Richard who had set off walking up to Eagles Nest at 6am [it takes a hour to walk straight up with kite and snowboard] phoned me to let me know that the wind was blowing 20- 25 knots at the top, found it hard to believe from down in the village but went back and changed my 8.5m Flexi foil Blade for a 1.5m bullet! Decided to spend the $30 on the one way lift ticket telling myself that walking up the previous day was enough.

I couldn’t believe it when Paul and his friend Peter approached me outside the ticket office asking me if I was going kiting, I had never met him before and did not know he was in the area intending to do the same thing. He must have mistaken my look of bewilderment being surrounded by a sea of fashionable downhill skiers with the steely eyed look of a fellow snow kiter! Anyway his knowledge of the area wae invaluable. He recommended we walk over the bridge then NW. up the gentle slope over a slight saddle which then opens up to a beautiful open valley which has the charlotte pass walk marked with poles.

The valley is an absolutely fantastic spot with a width of between 50 and 400 meters that create a gentle bowl flanked by dramatic granite monoliths the wind was blowing a steady 20+ knots in a NW direction and a lot less gusty than the conditions we usually buggy/kiteboard in Lithgow.

Paul was first to put up his 2..5m rebel and was quick to show us how it was done [see his post in same forum]. I am nearly 6ft and 95kg but thought that I would be conservative and put up the 1.5m bullet as that is what my handles were already connected to. I felt a bit of a wuss doing this as this is my 8yr old sons kite and I normally can only just get moving in 30kt winds when using my mountain board on grass. As it worked out the bullet was all that I used all day as it was perfect for those conditions and probably got me going about 30km a hour, it was also good at pulling me up slopes of about 5 degrees, but with a kite of this size even small jumps were not really possible.

I was astounded at how easy it was for a complete novice to snow kiting such as myself to get going with skis first attempt with little difficulty. The most important thing seemed to be proficient at handling a kite. Meanwhile Richard was having real problems, while he is an expert border he had not done much kiting and was constantly getting smashed by his 2m Libre foil. He never managed to get going on his snow board. We had an amazing day finishing up at about 3:15 to build a snow cave. My award for the toughest dude on the entire mountain goes to Peter who came up in his gumboots and kept an eye on us idiots for about 4 hrs before having to go down before frost bite claimed his toes.

There were steep snow drifts everywhere off the shoulder of rams head and choosing a site was based on where we had had a short recreational stop – we christened the cave “the joint”. Snow was deep and well packed , coming out in basketball sized blocks. It took 1.5 hrs to build a rough cave by myself [Richard was snowboarding the steep slopes off the side of rams head]. 1 person could sleep easily in it, and 2 persons uncomfortably. Took photographic proof but dont seem to be able to upload them. I was sure that the cave was sound, with a well bonded snow roof with a thickness of between 1-2 metres, and would have happily slept in it for the night. I was pleased I didn’t though because we had a huge amount of rain come down that night and the following morning the whole thing had slumped. It was a great lesson in spring conditions in the Australian Alps and makes me think that a snow cave shared by kites is not really viable [not that anyone else seemed enthusiastic!].

On a high from the following day I went up to the same spot to try kiting with a snow board, this time the conditions were less than favourable. I was by myself, the wind was up to 35 knots, and the conditions were a white out. The lifties could not believe that I was going back country snowboarding but was not sure of how to get off the chairlift with a snowboard. At the top I passed a uni group who were walking out after several of their tents had “blown off them” during the night. It was so windy I did not feel confident putting the kite up. I then decided to work on my snow cave hoping conditions would improve only to find that it had slumped and was virtually non-existent. I then put on all my clothing [ thermal fleece jacket, down jacket, mountain jacket] and had lunch hoping that the conditions would improve, but after 45 minutes was feeling very cold and conditions continued to get worse. I conceded that the weather had beaten me walked out using a compass and GPS as I couldn’t even see my feet in the white out.

What I learnt from the trip was that snowkiting is a, bloody great, well kept secret that is pretty easy to do, accessing this area is really easy for anyone happy to walk the 2 or so kms after taking the chairs up to the top of eagles nest, but do not underestimate this area in poor conditions as they can be severe. I also see huge potential for snowkiting to beincorporated into ambitious ski touring trips along the main range of the snowies.

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Great story - thanks for taking the time to write it up :good: I'm really gonna have to try this. I used to do a little bit of cross country skiing but that was nearly 20 years ago. My skis have de-laminated!!! My last trip was an Autumn bushwalking trip above Falls Creek - around the Mt Nelse area I think. I reckon that would be ideal for a bit of snowkiting.

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Hi Mike. Nice run down on your backcountry exploits. It would have been great to explore the country towards Seamans Hut and Charlottes but I had a great session anyway in our little patch with my 2.5m kite. Would like to go up again this year, but the rain this weekend might have washed that good base we skied on last Tues....but you never know....if not this year then next! Good to meet you and Richard. I think I've convinced Peter to get some snowboots if he comes again....he looked a sight though hehehe!

Cheers

Paul

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  • 8 months later...

Checked my gear out last weekend to see if I needed to upgrade some stuff. ALDI Stores have some great snow gear on special this coming Thursday, so I might have to look at some gloves, pants etc. :good:

Hoping this year brings some good snow to the backcountry....can't wait to get up there again :D

Hope to see you up there Mike.....keep in touch.

cheers

Paul

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Hi Tim

Funny you should mention baby, because it was my 2 year old grand daughter Millie who gave me the bacteria. My infection has been around for 1.5 months and 5 courses of antibiotics and I'm still coughing when I exercise, so I think I now have some asthma to top it off!!!!

Mate, you have three weeks to go, before the bundle of joy :crybaby: ....you guys must be on the edge of your seat!!!.....exciting times and a lot of joy.

Good thing about being a grandparent, is that you can hand them back when you've had enough :help: ......but the reason I caught the bug was that we had both Austin (4yrs) and Millie for a weekend, and Millie was sneezing and coughing all over me for 48 hours, plus wiping her snotty nose, so I was bound to get it. :heat:

You might be a little distracted for a few months Tim, but it would be nice to see you in the backcountry at some time this year! :D

Take care and all the best for a safe and healthy delivery. Are you attending the birth? It's the best feeling in the world and a good way to bond with the new bub.

cheers

Paul

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Hey Paul

Sorry to hear you have been sick for so long. Take it easy and I hope you are completely over it soon.

Yes I will be attending and we have no idea what it will be other than the biggest surprise of our lives.

We are both ridiculously keen to go to thew snow this year so if there is any way it is possible we for sure will find a way. Probably fair to say it will be very late season. Bring on the massive snow base I say - we need this one to last into late September at least!

Tim

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, biting the bullet and going up to the backcountry behind Thredbo tomorrow (Sat) :D .....might be a little drizzly, but the wind E to SE might be OK as long as I have visability....last time we had a SE we scooted up to the top of Mt K....so who knows :dontknow: . If it is crap in the backcountry, I'll opt for a day of down hill skiing :) . Anyone going up let me know....in any case if things are looking good, expect a pic or two on this website during or after the session!! Paul

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Beautiful day in the backcountry :) ....great for hiking, but sadly hardly a breath for the poor sad sack kite waiting around for the promised

6-12knots winds. :( Weird thing was, the Weather stations were saying E to NE winds at 6-8 knots, but not where we were unfortunately.

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Met up with Peter from Sydney who was taking out his new 10m Ozone Access to try on the snow for the first time. I was also trying out my 7m Frenzy, but alas there was no frenzy activity today!!!

Might try next weekend.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So here's a write up of yesterday's events.

Perfect blue sky day with a light breeze blowing. Once we got all the hire gear sorted it was quickly onto the chair for the trip up top to get in a few runs and test out the legs. Conditions were definitely "spring" style with soft snow that turned to wet snow or no snow anywhere North facing. Realising it may be the only day with suitable weather to get the kite out I advised my 2 fellow skiers that I was off to the car to grab my gear and I'd catch them later.

After heading back up to Karels I headed off to a clear arrea to launch. A quick set up and the kite was in the air. Woohoo! I mucked around trying to drag 2 other skiers with me on the kite but clearly that was a complete joke. It was like trying to drag an anvil behind you. Great for a laugh and that's about it.

I ditched the hangers on and headed up into the ramshead bowl. After a bit of exploring with the 5m Frenzy it was clear the 8m Manta would be more the go for heading upwind towards Koz. I switched kites and explored the Ramshead basin as I worked my way North. Great rock formations to kite past and definitely worth it even if a longer trip can't be made.

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Having made it past North Ramshead it was easy to pick my next line to track towards Cootapamba Lookout. Staying high this presented sweeping views all around. After snacking on my Voilet Crumble and absorbing the view from the lookout I headed on to Etheridge Ridge. The Manta was super stable and provided masses of power, too much at one stage and the depower was required. Fantastic way to make it to the top of the hill.

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I headed down off Etheridge to where a few xcountry skiers were about to head up the last pitch to the summit of Kosciuszko from Rawsons Pass. With the wind direction NNW yesterday this put me right in the lee of Koz and of course that brought my kite powered travels to a halt. After taking a couple of pics I managed to relaunch the kite and headed back up Etheridge to follow my tracks back to Thredbo.

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It was an awesome day out. I hope before I head home on Friday monring that the weather and snow conditions provide the opportunity to head back up there. Hope you enjoy the pics.

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Hey Wazza. Good to see the winds were kind to you. Nice shots of the backcountry too.

Shame you couldn't get to the top of Mt Kossi. Last time we did that we had a SE I think behind us which got us to the top, and then I got overpowered and nearly ended up in Victoria!!

I went up last Sunday and although the winds were a bit light on in the morning, they picked up a tad early/mid arvo 8-16knots, so my 7m Frenzy worked OK and I had some good runs in between top of Thredbo heading towards Seamans Hut. I saw a couple of kiters towards Mt Kossi but they stayed up that way, so I don't know who they were.

Snow conditions were OK in most of the backcountry last weekend, but downhill sking was the pits....very soft and wet....not worth paying good money for a downhill ticket!!!

Depending on snow/weather conditions I might try to get to the snow the weekend of 17-18 Sept.

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