Winter traverse of the Australian Alps Walking Track

Discussion in 'Backcountry' started by John Robertson, May 4, 2017.

  1. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hey folks,

    I have a question...if you were going to traverse the Australian Alps Walking Track in Winter, what (combination?) would you take on your feet if you were looking for the greatest efficiency of movement across the snow and general terrain? (apart from hiking boots for walking below the snow line)?...snow shoes, back country skis, cross country skis, crampons, skishoes (ski / snowshoe hybrid such as Altai Hoks?), other?

    Weight is extremely important, given the 660km distance and the fact that everything when not in use, must be carried on your back.
     
  2. ecowain

    ecowain Dedicated Member

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    As always, it depends.

    When i did the trip in early winter, most of it was minimal snow, and just post holed the deep bits.

    Snowshoes will be more practical in tight treed terrain, but a pain on open terrain. Skis the opposite. If i did it again, I'd probably take skis to enjoy the occasional run off something along the way.
     
    #2 ecowain, May 4, 2017
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
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  3. chriscross

    chriscross Dedicated Member
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    In winter, I think it would be a minimum requirement to carry some snow shoes but I think it would be well worth carrying some skinny xc skis with a pattern base for climbing and some light weight boots to match.
     
  4. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hey Eco and CC...What about a ski/snowshoe hybrid?...like the Altai Hok 125? Had any experience with them?...Then I only need to carry 1 piece of equipment along with my pair of hiking boots (hiking boots would go into the Universal Bindings on the Hoks)...but will I regret not having taken snow shoes for the steeper climbs? Which snow shoes would stand up to the beating they would get on the AAWT?
     
  5. ecowain

    ecowain Dedicated Member

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    Sorry i don't know the Altais. I suspect they might be the worst of both worlds, not enough boot to ski properly, not enough edge to traverse icy sideslopes like a ski or snowshoe can, not enough bite to climb like a good snowshoe.

    It really depends what your intentions are, as well as your ski ability. If you are not a skier, easy, snowshoe all the way.

    A pair of msr denalis would prob work ok,and most guide companies along the way would likely carry some spare parts (thredbo/jindy, maybe bright/hotham).
     
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  6. sbm

    sbm Dedicated Member
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    I really liked the Yowie plastic snowshoes for Australian conditions. Small light plastic plate (we don't get really deep snow) solid crampon-y bits (we do get nasty ice). The MSR denali are also a solid choice.

    Unless you're a keen XC skier, I question whether skis will be more trouble and energy than they're worth, in likely challenging snow conditions (ice, breakable crust etc) or even a complete lack of snow (Sadly, also likely)

    I reckon my dream ski setup for northern KNP backcountry these days, as a skier, would be the new breed of racing AT skis. Short, skinny, very lightweight with minimal but sturdy Tech bindings with a flip heel. Kicker skins and ski crampons for traction.
     
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  7. skifree

    skifree Part of the Furniture
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    Most of the route is below the snow line. I'd suggest snow shoes (I know, wash my mouth out) rather than skis which will catch on very 2nd tree and shrub all of which will be wet.
     
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  8. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Part of the Furniture
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    Friends don't let friends snow shoe! :evil:
     
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  9. ecowain

    ecowain Dedicated Member

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    But... aren't you at InterShoe with skifree?
     
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  10. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Part of the Furniture
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    Got home yesterday, just coming out of the jet lag blur now. I've done something worse than snowshoe. Will post tomorrow.
     
  11. skifree

    skifree Part of the Furniture
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    :eek:
     
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  12. ecowain

    ecowain Dedicated Member

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    You bought a splitboard?..
     
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  13. DidSurfNowSki

    DidSurfNowSki Dedicated Member
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    Is the problem 'fixed' ? ;)
     
  14. tele-whippet

    tele-whippet beard stroker
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    ????????
    PS: Not recommended for AAWT
     
  15. tele-whippet

    tele-whippet beard stroker
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    The OP, as you'll be having food caches, why not have gear caches to make the most efficient fun of the terrain and conditions.
    Snowshoes ACT to Kiandra. Skis Kiandra to Thredbo. Thongs thereafter to Walhalla (or other appropriate clobber)
     
  16. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Thanks for the posts. Great idea Whippet...(except for the thongs!)...South to North is the plan...was thinking ski / snowshoe hybrids (like Altai Hoks) collect at Hotham, wear to Kiandra, then stash in the bush for post-expedition collection...maybe carry light snow shoes all the way, just for the steeper climbs.

    You're right Skifree...most of the route is below the snow line = hiking boots and then it would be handy to have something that takes the hiking boots (universal bindings on the Altai Hok 125s, and / or snow shoes).

    There isnt much experience with hybrids in Australia, have to buy them in from the US to try (no demo opportunity here)...only want one pair of boots to take on the journey to keep the weight down...not necessarily interested in turning the journey into a ski holiday...I just want to get from A to B in the most efficient way.

    You're right sbm...full on cross country skis might be a hassle. Maybe I should just go with the MSR Lightning Ascents and be done with it.
     
  17. Draizuh

    Draizuh Dedicated Member

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    If the snow isnt going to be all that deep (how often is it?) a Decent set of crampons and a nice piolet would be more light weight...
     
  18. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Dedicated Member
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    ...hopefully you will not encounter much ice over Main Range....frozen crud is good sometimes as your walking boots will not sink at all..Cross Cut Saw in Vicco could be tricky at times and over Mt Magdala also......I was going to say you can get by without crampons but for the small added weight there are places they would be very good under icy conditions...

    Mt Wills to Hotham is not an area I would worry about crampons.....Nelses can get a little slippery but are pretty gentle....following pole lines over there.
     
    #18 Ubiquitous Steve, May 4, 2017
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
  19. Moondog55

    Moondog55 Active Member

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    The way things are headed I'd put several changes of socks and good gaiters ahead of either option, skis are a PITA if you are not already a very proficient CC skier and when we do get deep snow you just wait until the next sunny day and cold nite and walk on the crust the next day. long skinny snowshoes are a good compromise. put neoprene boot liners at the top of the list too and wear synthetic liner socks and keep the woollen sox for sleeping in
     
  20. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Well-Known Member

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    Since I can't ski to save my life and I know the back country in winter quite well , I would say take some MSR Revo Explore snow shoes with the heel lift.The Cross Cut Saw in VIC. in winter would be crap for snow shoes. I would take proper crampons, an ice axe and a rope for that bit.
    There will be deep drifts here and there, rocky frozen sections and slippery bits. Ubi Steve correctly also identified the Mt. Magdala area for possible trouble.
    The top of Mt Howitt heading for the Gantner hut would be a snow shoes section.The Bogong High Plains overall from Roper's hut to the Basalt Temple would be easier on skis if you are a good skier and can manage a full pack on skis.However once you hit Dibbin's hut you are out of the snow line most of the time, unless there is a real cold snap with snow below 1200 M.
    Between Mt Buggery and Mt. Hotham skis would be a pain to carry plus the necessary boots. Between Mt. Clear and King Billy #1 I would take snow shoes.
    There will be some really icy sections where slipping over /falling in just boots would not be wise.
    Large parts of the KNP would be very ski friendly . ( but I am crap at skiing, having only had one XC lesson . I fell over a lot and was not a natural at it since sliding is the opposite to what snow shoes and crampons do.)
    You have got to admire someone who wants to cover even 2 weeks worth of the AAWT in full white season. That is hardcore!.
     
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  21. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Well-Known Member

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    The flotation tails make MSR snow shoes longer than regular snow shoes. I use the tails all season in the Back country for my snow trips.
     
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  22. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Dedicated Member
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    I am sure you will have a good time regardless of weather or gear limitations...suggest some well hidden food drops in big plastic barrels....mark your details on them to further deter anybody from pinching things that you are relying on too.Am sure it's a wonderful idea to be doing this......got much respect for the long distance travellers I some times talk too....:thumbs:
     
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  23. Xplora

    Xplora Active Member

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    Having done King Billy and over the crosscut in snow with snow shoes I can say there is no real problem. I did not find any need for crampons but snow shoes are a bit of a pain climbing down even small ledges as the heel drops and catches you out awkwardly if you are not careful. Having deeper cover there is actually beneficial. Alpina Alaska boots are designed around a hiking boot and are comfortable to walk in but the duck bill will still be a pain climbing without snow and you could damage it. They just fit into my snow shoes as well. Given the amount of weight you will be carrying, longer snow shoes or ones with extensions such as the MSR would be better. Even then I have been up to my knees in fresh snow with a full pack (those without snow shoes were up to their thighs). This creates another problem when the snow falls on the shoe and you have to lift the extra weight up as well. As MD said, wait until it freezes. Shorter touring skis will also struggle with the weight of a winter pack and a patterned ski will get you up most grades without skins most of the time. I agree a gear change would probably give you the best of both but if you had to chose one then snow shoe. We have looped some good shock cord through the compression straps on the packs to hold the snow shoes when not needed and you could dump them with a food drop as you may not need them for a couple of weeks in depending on when you start. Given the amount of abuse I have given my MSR's I would say a new pair would not need any repair but maybe carry a spare heel strap. Post holing all day and then day after day is no fun and the benefit of a snow shoe quickly outweighs the detriment of their weight when you have to carry them.
     
  24. mr

    mr Part of the Furniture
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    id be taking crampons (the ones you can use on waterproof hi-top runners / over ski boots) n pattern base skis, maybe with kicker skins

    but thats just me, i have snowshoes, and have used them enough to know i hate them

    maybe Tevas, not thongs?

     
  25. mr

    mr Part of the Furniture
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    sounds like a fun trip anyway, im also keen to do a winter traverse, im working on a 5-10 year plan to become a dirtbag
     
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  26. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Well-Known Member

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    You can knock snow shoes all you like but I am not going out into the snow in chappals, like that other geezer is in the photo ;-P .
     
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  27. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Part of the Furniture
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    It turns out I'm bi-sexual

    I quit my day job and I'll be teaching up at Perisher this season.
     
  28. skifree

    skifree Part of the Furniture
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    That looks like a snowshoe boot to me.
     
  29. ecowain

    ecowain Dedicated Member

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    Are you teaching the little tots? Do you take 18 month olds?

    And to the OP, sorry sorry sorry. Told you it would be it depends :)
     
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  30. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Part of the Furniture
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    Yeh Naa
     
  31. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Part of the Furniture
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    I can, especially for a request private. We can spend all but 10 min playing in the snow and eating lollies, the rest can be skiing :p
     
  32. tele-whippet

    tele-whippet beard stroker
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    Whoa! That boot has no bellows!! The knock to your head has obviously affected your thought processes!
     
  33. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Thanks for the tips Steve. I did the AAWT this past summer and I know the particular areas you are talking about. Yes, I remember Magdala well (bivvied on top in Nov) but imagine it could present a problem under certain conditions, also CCSaw, Viking, Mt Spec. Like your tip about crampons...will probably take a pair, just in case, minimal weight penalty.
     
  34. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Thanks Moon dog...can you recommend a brand of neoprene boot liners? Synthetic liner socks?...what are these? what function do they perform...warmth?..or waterproof?
     
  35. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hey MrT, Agree with crampons perhaps being necessary for CCSaw, depending on conditions. Do you think it is reasonable to expect the snow line (in an average year) to be around 1400 around the Bogong High Plains and Main Range / Thredbo areas?...trying to estimate how much walking / snow shoeing / potential skiing I might encounter. Yes, dont want to slip in hiking boots, so plan on taking light crampons. Thanks for the encouragement...this winter season I plan to spend testing gear, and doing several short sections of the track (3 - 4 days at a time) with snow shoes, so I can learn the lessons for the journey next year. Any recommendations on a winter tent? I'm going to trial a Macpac Minaret.
     
  36. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hey X, thanks for your post. Was thinking about MSR Lightning Ascent 25s...30s are probably overkill? Good idea re: using food dumps also for gear changes. Have also tried bungie cord and works well. Thanks for the tip re: spare heel strap...yep...cant afford to go without the spare parts as I didnt see any Paddy Pallin or Annaconda stores out there during my summer walk.
     
  37. Moondog55

    Moondog55 Active Member

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    Wet suit booties and any synthetic sock works well, I use Injinji plus a LW polyester ski sock, just take your normal walking shoes to a surf or dive shop and try on the combinations available
     
  38. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Dedicated Member
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    Oh it's very good you have walked most of this route in summer......it will make such a difference in winter as you have a mental picture of what's ahead and how far you can expect to travel....navigation will be a whole lot easier with the experience.....
     
  39. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Well-Known Member

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    I use a tent like this and I take snow pegs.
    http://www.bogong.com.au/wilderness-equipment-space-2-winter.html
    You will have to take regular tent pegs too.
    I can get all my gear inside the two man tent with me , large unit that I am .
    Some people have mastered the art of using small branches and or trekking poles with the ski basket on them as snow pegs.Others have used rocks instead of snow pegs up on the Main Range.
    For river crossings I wear wet suit fabric 'reef shoes'.
    You have to decide if you are taking microspikes and/ or real MSR snow shoes with the heel lift and the tail extensions.I often take BOTH.Have you contemplated taking a black diamond snow shovel? In a blizzard , esp. overnight , the next day you will need to dig your tent out. I usually dig it in about 50% below the snow level.What about an ice axe? You could just wing it using a whippet ski pole and hope you won't need a real ice axe. I sometimes take BOTH !.
    You can use your food dumps to leave dry , clean thermals and other clean garments.I have watched porters in the Indian Himalaya boil water and have a hot wash with soap using a bucket and a cup. That idea has potential .Hygiene does matter.
     
    #39 Mister Tee on snow shoes, May 6, 2017
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
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  40. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Well-Known Member

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    The snow line during July and August is at about 1400 M in Vic. and NSW. It retreats quite bit by Sept. By Oct. only areas above 1800 M . have any worth speaking of, but there are variations every season.It depends on how much it rains and washes the snow away and how much spring snow falls.I swear by my W.E. 4 seasons tent.It is heavy as far as tents go , but you can bank on it not letting you down in horrid conditions.
     
  41. satanas

    satanas Active Member

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    Going south, skis would be an annoying and useless pain from a bit past Thredbo until after Omeo (start of High Plains), and then again through most of Victoria. If you had good snow they might be handy for a couple of days south of Hotham, and maybe in Baw Baw if you were really lucky.

    I wouldn't want to lug them the whole way, and there were some seriously overgrown bits when I did it, plus some sketchy sections around The Viking, etc. If it was me, I'd take some sort of lightweight crampons just in case, and carry slowshoes where skiing wasn't practical - which is a lot of the route. I would definitely ski from Kiandra to Thredbo, Bogong High Plains, near Hotham, etc, and play the rest by ear. If determined to carry skis, make sure they're as short and light as practical(!) as there will be plenty of food and clothing to lug about.

    Of course if you're doing it continuously, with no chance to swap gear that changes things. You could always abandon the ski gear somewhere and collect it later...
     
  42. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Yes Steve. My experience of the track in Nov / Dec has fired my curiosity to see what the Australian Alps look like in Winter...I don't think many people would have seen the whole AAWT in winter and I am curious to experience it. It certainly wasn't easy in summer, but put snow on the ground and drop the temperature by 30 degrees and I imagine it is a whole different ball game...understatement!...but as with most things in life, preparation is the key.
     
  43. DidSurfNowSki

    DidSurfNowSki Dedicated Member
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    Winds can be > 160 km/hr as well.
     
  44. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    I looked at the WE tents and nearly bought one...great quality!...but settled for a cheaper Minaret, so will put it through its paces in the coming months. Yep, just bought MSR snow pegs and will take regular ones too...good tip Mr T, thanks. On my summer trip I just used ordinary light weight Dunlop runners for river crossings. They worked fine, dried quickly on the outside of my pack. Winter water temp will be freezing, tho. Will think about the neoprene reef shoes. Yep, I have a light weight shovel for digging a tent site. Tent site selection is probably going to be equally important as the dig. Am thinking I will try to get away without an ice axe to save weight. Lets see what this snow season brings. Great idea to use food dumps for fresh dry clothes...did this on my summer hike also and it was like Christmas opening up the bin and getting fresh clothes and food...and a quick beer stashed in there also! Thanks for your thoughts Mr T.
     
  45. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Yes, I am thinking that 1400 is about where it might be in the height of the season. Great tip re: boiling water for a wash...good for preventing chaffing in nasty places and avoiding skin infections from multiple days of baked on suncream! Will trial this idea in a few months time up on Bogong.
     
  46. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Thanks Satanas, Yep, will be doing it 'continuously' but with zero ground support (everything I need will have to be pre-placed in food drops (while the summer access roads are still open). I may plan to dump some equipment and collect post-expedition. I will have to take snow shoes and light crampons, but still not sure about the weight / benefit of skis. Maybe plan to take them (if at all) Hotham to Kiandra...there is that bit in between from Mt Wills to Cascade Hut where I imagine that in any average year I would just have to lug them on my back. It's definately a weight / benefit equation...just dont exactly know where that sits right now. Thanks for your tips.
     
  47. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hit the nail on the head DidSurf...the wind will be the dangerous factor in some exposed places (e.g up on the Main Range)...shear cold ambient air temp is manageable but the wind chill is the real worry. Note to self...keep a close eye on this, esp. in the relevant places. Thanks for the reminder.
     
  48. Kletterer

    Kletterer Addicted Member
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    Keep an eye on the weather threads here for best weather window .
     
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  49. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Well-Known Member

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    The Cross Cut Saw in gale force winds is nothing short of scary. I had to turn back in Dec. 2016 because of that reason. I was not going be blown off the edge of the dip before you get to Mt. Buggery and end up in the Terrible hollow and dead or injured. Some people will do anything to get on the news but that is not how I plan do it.
     
  50. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Well-Known Member

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    I stay away from the Main range when high winds and bad weather are being forecasted. It is just plain dangerous to try and get out and about in that kind of weather up there. Coming over the top of Mt. Howitt in such conditions would be more of the same. I was struggling to keep upright when I was up there in bad weather in Dec. 2016, and that was with trekking poles and a 93 kg body weight.I made sure I remained within a safe escape plan type distance from the Mac. Springs hut.
     
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