Each Christmas, right after boxing day there is usually a gathering of Coast and Mountain Walkers at Island Bend. This year the number was in excess of 30 and represented four parties of walkers. Each heading off to different locations - my party, lead by Alan Dixon, was aiming for Mt Jagungal, via Cup and Saucer Hill.
For those not in the know, Island Bend is a great car camping spot beside the Snowy River, downstream from Guthega. Usually a night is spent here before heading off early the next morning. A place of history as many of the workers who built the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme called this place home. There is still evidence of their occupation today.
On that particular morning we woke to a very light fall of snow, but with signs of a heavy fall on the peaks. This was confirmed when we drove up to Guthega to deposit some of our cars as we were returning via Guthega Dam, downstream.
At Guthega there was a full on snow storm blowing. Because some of the party were not equiped properly with four season gear - essential, many say, for a summer walk in the snowies - a retreat to Jindabyne was called for to purchase some gear. One Dunlop Volley wearer indignantly stating that boots were unneccessary in the snowies in summer?
Our original intention was to have a short three hour walk upstream and camp at Pounds Creek. Instead, with a day lost, we went up the ridge opposite Guthega towards Consett Stephens Pass then turning off to the Rolling Grounds for lunch. We started in sunshine and there was still plenty of snow about, shin deep in some parts. The views of the main range were great. As the day progressed the clouds and cold, strong wind came in from from the south west.
The walk up this ridge across Consett Stephens Pass, on to Mt Tate, down the ridge to Pounds creek and back to Guthega is a very rewarding and full day walk. The walk takes you up through the Snow Gums and above the tree line onto the main range. Fitness and a knowledge of navigation are requirements.
Campsite was on the ridge above the hut at Grid Reference (GR)239807. Among the trees on a slight slope, it is a sheltered spot. The only negative is that it is infested with Funnel Web Spiders. An early night was had by all as it was still cold, after the snow.
The following morning we dropped down onto the fire trail and headed up to the Schlink Hilton Hut, meeting a party from the Sydney Bushwalking Club. From here it got interesting. We turned east and headed up the creek, turned north at a tributary and up onto The Rolling Ground. It was slow going up to lunch as progress was through thigh high scrub up onto extensive swampy grassland. Navigation can be a bit tricky as there is few good reference points to take a bearing on and no track to follow. Basically, our direction was north. Be careful at GR255875 as the direction veers off to the right were a foot track can be found. If you were to keep going you come to a great view of Mt Jagungal and the hills around Valentine Creek.
By mid afternoon we had passed Mawsons Hut, crossed the Valentine Creek and climbed the steep slope up onto the plateau to the north of Cup and Saucer Hill. I was glad we had reached the campsite. A delightful spot amongst the Snow Gums.
For most bushwalkers this is a time to relax and socialise. For me it is a quick and early tea and then off with the camera gear to take advantage of the magic hours around sunset. Wilderness photography and bushwalking go we together as the best time to take photos is around sunrise and sunset, leaving the daylight time to walk and explore.
Wilderness photography can be stressfull. I find it takes some time to "tune in" to the surroundings and this involves a concious routine of looking and thinking mixed with a dose of intuition or listening to the subconscious. When the shots have been chosen it then because a case of waiting and letting the mind wander, whilst enjoying the visual pleasure before you.
By the time I returned to the campsite everyone was in bed, some asleep. As I was settling down in my tent someone let out a terrible scream, causing me to cry out in alarm. Noone answered and someone laughed. I found out in the morning a party member is known to have nightmares.
The next day one party went on a day walk to Mt Jagungal and another went downstream to Valentines Hut and the rest stayed at the campsite. I went off exploring the local area, scouting for other places to photograph.
The easy climb up the eastern side of Cup and Saucer Hill gives what I think is a better view than does Mt Jagungal. This would be a sacrilege to some and it is not as high and dramatic but there is more interesting landform to look at. It is also better to photograph from. From here I was able to see a party to the east coming north from the Brassies. This party turned in behind Mailbox Hill and headed to the tarn below Tarn Bluff. This was another Sydney Bushwalker party.
From the direction of Mt Jagugal, came another party, who camped to the west of us, they were one of the CMW parties ... this place is a popular camping destination.
Talk about lack of privacy, I was at the Tarn, above, having a bath and laze in the sun when behind me walks a girl from the SBW and heads off up the hill with a smile on her face! In the middle of the wilderness???
That night I got some outstanding images as the rest of the party enjoyed apple crumble pie, graciously provided by our leader. These evening gatherings can be very entertaining and the very Australian form of humour - character assassination - is a feature. It is said that a reason to go walking is to ensure that you are not talked about. There is never any malice intended as every bushwalker I have met is of a gentle nature.
With the exception of myself. The following day we headed off towards Brassy Peak then cut down into Valentine Creek for a delightful walk up to Tin Hut, below the Kerries.
Our leader was having doubts as to our direction of travel and I strongly pointed out what I believed to be the correct line of travel, which was eventually followed. I had committed a cardinal sin - tell the leader where to go without being asked for his opinion. This is not polite and it was pointed out to me by two people in the party. Such is life.
The Valentine Creek valley is a delightful treeless area. Eventually meeting a saddle, near which is Tin Hut. Lunch was eaten and a well appreciated rest amongst the trees. Were were technically on the Great Dividing Range at this point.
From here it was a scrub bash for about an hour to the open Finns River Swamp. The campsite was gained about 3pm with a nice stream leading into Finns River providing our water. That night was new years eve. CMW bushwalkers celebrate new years at 9pm when on walks. This night we did not even make that.
In the morning there was a short walk downstream before turning southwest for a scrub bash up onto Disappointment Ridge. It was surprisingly not too difficult. This was achieved by not staying too close to the creek. Whilst on the ascent we noticed a helicopter fly past in the direction of the Slinck Hilton. It turned out to be a bushwalker with a broken leg.
From the top of the ridge we turned and headed down the ridge to the communicaitons hut that is visible from the road a couple of hundred metres below. A brief pause for lunch as the weather was turning bad and cold. A great view is had of the Snowy River Valley, from Island Bend, up to past Guthega.
Our descent started off with some amusement. There is a well known track down from the hut, when we got to the beginning of the steep section there was a sign saying the track was closed. This seemed somewhat strange as it was the only way down without creating a new track by scrub bashing. Somehow I couldn't see us retracing our steps back up the ridge.
Our arrival at Guthega Power Station coincided with the arrival of the rain and hail.
Alan Dixon always has a good walk at Christmas. I guess that is way it is called "The Official Snowy Walk" by members of the CMW.
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