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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    Thanks for the heads up Mr T. I am no hero and will be playing it as safe as poss...if things do turn to crap, I will have a pre-determined escape plan for the exposed bits, which may include just bunkering down and waiting it out if poss.
     
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  2. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    I remember the CCSaw on my walk in December (how could you forget it) adn I remember thanking my lucky stars at the time, that I had a near perfect day. Yep, would hate to see that thing in anything less than perfect conditions.
     
  3. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Dedicated Member

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    I have yet to get from Mt . Howitt to Mt. Spec. in a day with a full pack. Each time extreme weather has defeated my aim. I shall return in November 2017 and try again.The Gantner hut at Mac. Springs is such a good place to sit out a storm.
     
  4. Xplora

    Xplora Active Member

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    On a trip that will take 6 weeks at best in winter it is impossible to predict weather or pick any sort of window beyond the next week. There are points where mobile phone reception will enable a check of the weather as you travel and I am sure that would be in John's plan. It may be you will have to sit it out somewhere which will mean extra food or at least ration food. Perhaps you could make contact with someone who has done it before in winter. I found this http://www.boardworld.com.au/forums/viewthread/5549 and I am sure there is more out there.
     
  5. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Dedicated Member

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    There is a video on YOU TUBE of two brothers who did the whole AAWT in winter. It was a real ordeal for them and they had prepared very well and they had done it before in green season.The short days in terms of daylight, inability to dry things out and general cold and exhaustion took their toll.
    I would suggest leaving extra stove fuel and a steel or metal pail for a bucket bath at your food drops.The idea of boiling water and having a hot wash with soap is increasingly attractive in this scheme.
     
    #55 Mister Tee on snow shoes, May 8, 2017
    Last edited: May 8, 2017
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  6. DJM

    DJM Dedicated Member
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    These boys nailed it. They do some cool stuff all over.
     
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  7. Kletterer

    Kletterer Addicted Member
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    What tent ,rucksack, stove ,sleeping bag have you chosen to take ?.
     
  8. Xplora

    Xplora Active Member

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    The Omeo Hwy is about half way. If you want a hot shower, good bed and a safe place to leave gear/food then try www.Glenwills.com
    It is a couple of kms from the track and offers great rates (not resort prices). Cheaper still if you use your sleeping bag. The owner is a good BC skier and is happy to support walkers and skiers. Also an opportunity to do some laundry and dry clothes.
     
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  9. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    I plan to take a similar kit to my summer AAWT walk back in Nov / Dec. Tent...Macpac Minaret (although I took my Bigsky Revolution 1P, for the summer AAWT hike), Pack...Macpac Canvass (oldy but a goody...one of the originals made in NZ, I've had it professionally repaired several times and it keeps on tickin'), stove...MSR Dragonfly using shellite fuel, sleeping bag...Mont Brindabella (had this in a bivvy bag on Bogong summit in the snow last year, wind prob around 50 - 60kmph overnight, and it kept me toasty). Additional gear recommendations welcome.
     
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  10. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Thanks for the tip Xplora. I have heard about this place from a couple of hikers I met on my AAWT walk back in Nov, but I didn't stay there. Will prob plan to have a rest day at Glenwills during my winter traverse...sounds like a great place to dry gear, put in a food drop, rest the body.
     
  11. satanas

    satanas Active Member

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    Apart from being dangerous in bad conditions, being up on the tops then is flat out miserable. Plus if you have to hole up somewhere you'll still be consuming food and fuel; a bit extra is essential.

    Re food drops: These aren't absolutely necessary. When I did the walk I carried food for the leg from Canberra to Thredbo (very heavy!), but should have hitched from Kiandra to Cooma for resupply - there was plenty of traffic. The next food stop after Thredbo/Jindabyne was Omeo, then Hotham, then Licola (not recommended as very poor selection and 3x city prices). The route can be done without food drops, and towns contain other useful things like laundry facilities, etc.

    Going north, I would think that between the end of Baw Baw and a bit south of Hotham would be too low and way too overgrown to justify carrying skis, and the same between Mt Wills and Cascade-ish. The rest is skiable, assuming enough snow of a suitable type, but only the High Plains and Thredbo to Kiandra are reasonably likely to have cover.

    Scrub bashing with skis would get old really fast, as would walking in (especially plastic) ski boots, or carrying two sets of boots. If someone held a gun to my head and told me I had to do the whole thing on one set of gear, I'd maybe take BC boots with an (undoable) plastic cuff, shortish, narrowish skis like say Fischer Traverse 78 in 169, some sort of crampons or substitute, and perhaps some sort of snowshoes. I know zilch about snowshoes though and wouldn't want to carry both them and skis - the weight and bulk would be annoying.

    The whole route could be done with (warm!) walking boots, snowshoes and light cramponish things, but I think having to walk the better ski terrain would be frustrating, if not necessarily much slower.

    If you could include - and/or ditch - a set of ski gear in each food drop that might help! Good luck.
     
  12. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Addicted Member
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    What Xplora says would be a good idea....as Glen Wills Not too far from AWT....Mt Wills Hut is probably last good warm Hut for awhile as you go Nth into the bush from Sunnyside on.........maybe with a bit of pretrip planning you could ring guys in Glen Wills from top of Mt Wills .....should have Telstra phone reception and arrange to get a pick up with vehicle.....I don't think they would mind a ten minute drive up hill to pick you up if you were to stay overnight down there....maybe worthwhile possibility.....

    Also I would try to finish a day sleeping in Mt Wills Hut rather than in between as it is such a good Hut for drying out gear and clothes etc with good bunks etc...it has a good middle of room pot belly that will fire up and give out heaps of heat once stoked up!!
     
    #62 Ubiquitous Steve, May 10, 2017
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
  13. Xplora

    Xplora Active Member

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    This can be done except John is planning a north/south trip and there is no phone reception on the track going that way. No matter anyway as it is about 2km downhill and you will get a lift back up the hill when you leave.

    I agree you would not want to resupply in Omeo or Hotham but there are buses running from Hotham to Bright. Falls Creek has a supermarket as well but it is a bit expensive and does not have a good range. It will not be hard to push your pack well over 20kg in winter and if you intend carrying 10 days food then 25kg could be expected. Start making cuts in non-essential gear and then test your weight with the skis or snowshoes to make sure they will work for you in various conditions. You may not have to carry as much water which will be a bonus but melting snow for water is not efficient.
     
  14. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Thanks for the tips Satanas...on my summer AAWT hike back in Nov / Dec I used very similar food drop sites to the ones that you mention...7 in all, plastic 20L screw top bins in the bush. I didn't have to hike to a town so I could save energy and time. For the proposed winter traverse, my early plan is to have more food drops (to carry less weight in between)...I'm thinking 11 drops should do it, so no more than around 4 days of food to carry as a max at any one time.

    Agree with not wanting to carry skis between the bits you mention above. Yes, don't want to carry both snow shoes and skis...the only question for me is do I bother with skis at all, Hotham to Mt wills, Cascade Hut (just south of Thredbo) to Kiandra? = benefit vs hassle of carrying in between (Mt Wills to Cascade...this bit took me 6 days in summer...yep, that could get 'very old' very quickly carrying skis)...skis might save me 2 days travel time at each of the two snow sections (vs snow shoes)...I am planning to take snow shoes from Mt BawBaw to Kiandra. Yes, warm walking boots, snow shoes and light crampons are a definite...but do I also take skis in the places where it will matter?...

    ...I have been researching Altai Hok skis (ski / snow shoe hybrid)...there doesn't seem to be anyone with much experience in Australia with them. They are light-ish (3kg with universal bindings that take hiking boots). Perhaps, if I did decide to take skis, these might be a good compromise? What are your thoughts?
     
  15. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hey Steve, Yep, I remember Mt Wills hut...sheltered from a storm and took a rest day there in Dec...got the pot belly pumpin'! Nice tip about the possible pick up vehicle...thanks, will definitely keep that in mind....but the purist in me would want to walk down to the accomodation and back...taking a vehicle would feel 'wrong' in the context of a walking expedition...need to think about this some more. But nice idea, thanks.
     
  16. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hey Xplora, actually planning a south to north trip. No heavy food carrying for me...plan is to have more food drops and carry less at any one time...despite the fact that it may take 4 days of driving to put all the food drops in. Yes...extra fuel to melt snow in each of the food drops. Weight testing with skis and snow shoes and other gear to be done early this winter...I want to learn the lessons early, see what works and what doesn't.
     
  17. tay

    tay Just Registered

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  18. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hey Tay, will definitely look into the microspikes...may be particularly useful for icy days on CCSaw, Magdala, Howitt, Spec and Viking. Will also check out the skins. thanks for the tips.
     
  19. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Dedicated Member

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    A song for you oh AAWT trekker.
    On steep icy technical terrain microspikes can be unsafe.Real crampons fitted correctly or proper MSR REVO EXPLORE Snow shoes would be safer. The reason is that Kahtoola microspikes ( I own a set myself) are not properly fitted /affixed to your boots , ( the harness/binding is just a rubber whatchmacallit o_O) , So that they do n't shift around your foot on steep icy terrain .Grivel 8 point crampons or the above mentioned snow shoes would be better.Grivel Crampons need a very stiff winter boot ,not just a waxed up hiking boot , to ensure a proper fit and that they don't ' pop out ' of their bindings etc. However since Kahtoola microspikes weigh very little , I often take both snow shoes and microspikes on my white season trips.
     
  20. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Addicted Member
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    My recent table placement trip to Big River Saddle.....chap I met rang wifey in Falls Ck to tell her where he was.........certainly has reception up there with telstra and from Mt Wills Hut I can use iPad really well.....
    [​IMG]
    John RobertsonNew 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
     
    #70 Ubiquitous Steve, May 10, 2017
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
  21. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Addicted Member
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    Sunnyside to Glen Wills is not too far by foot ....not sure how many kms....good bit down hill from Knocker Turnoff though.I respect your wish to be self sufficient though.....I am not sure if Track work was done between Mt.Wills and Sunnyside......there was talk of work Nth of Sunnyside but not sure if overgrown bit got done between Highway and Mt Wills along AWT....certainly some good work was done between Mt Wills thro Big River Saddle ,Long Spur Jeep Track and over Mt Mulhauser and out to Bossiea Hill..it will look a whole lot different under heavy snow with little saplings bent over the tracks though..
     
    #71 Ubiquitous Steve, May 10, 2017
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
  22. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Hey Mr T. Got the album as a birthday present from my mates some years back. Nice one. Yep, saw the Kahtoolas and thought they might slip a bit but they're better than nothing and I think the risk might be low since I'm not planning to wear them much, so the light weight is important. Will make a mental note to tread carefully with them. Thanks heaps for the tip.
     
  23. Xplora

    Xplora Active Member

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    The work on this section has been done, blackberry was the biggest problem. Two of the guys involved in the clearing are walking the AAWT currently and stayed a couple of nights at Glen Wills. Telstra phone reception is available from Mt. Wills. By June next year it is proposed a new mobile tower will be operational at Glen Valley which will provide better coverage for this section, unfortunately it is a Vodafail tower.
     
  24. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Back in Dec 2016...Mt Wills to Omeo Hwy was fine...some over grown blackberries that repeatedly catch the top of your pack. North of Omeo Hwy is fine...a little overgrown near the road, but track was easy to follow down to Gill Ck. Big River Saddle to Mt Wills was also fine (freakin' steep!, but fine). Long Spur (+Jeep Track) was also ok. Yes...it would be a different ball game with snow on the ground.
     
  25. POW_hungry

    POW_hungry Addicted Member
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    I like the look of the W.E. Space 2 Winter you speak of. I have a Mont Epoch but find it's far too heavy for Backcountry Expeds so looking for a lightweight alternative. How does the W.E. Space 2 Winter go in heavy snow and strong winds (i.e. blizzard conditions on the Main Range?). Any further info is appreciated.
     
  26. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Addicted Member
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    Yep Big River Saddle to Mt Wills Track is steep at the start.....I had a chance to chainsaw fallen crap about one month ago up there.....I tried to get any poles fallen longitudinally across track too as they are hazardous as you slip on them and go a buster....a little scrub was chain sawed too but it was mainly a pole/fallen Log operation...was beautiful sunny weather then but obviously a bit of a slither when wet or snowed over....snow can make navigation a little tricky so with all logs out of way it's a little easier to follow your nose so to speak stepping forward...
     
  27. Lord Back Country

    Lord Back Country Active Member

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    I enjoyed these videos of a 2013 winter walk on the AAWT....



    cheers
     
  28. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Dedicated Member

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    That tent , the W.E. Space winter 2 tent that I have is about 3.9 kgs in weight when packed up . It can withstand heavy winds and heavy snowfalls as well as torrential rain.I have not camped with it on the Main Range. I have snow camped with it in the treeline most other places in VIC. in white season and used it for many trips in Green Season. It has proven its worth.
     
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  29. POW_hungry

    POW_hungry Addicted Member
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    Thanks for the insight. I appreciate your opinion on it, it's invaluable.
    W.E. has the packed weight listed as 1.97kg? My Mont Epoch is around 3.5kgs, are you sure the W.E. Space Winter 2 is around 3.9kg?!
     
  30. Mister Tee on snow shoes

    Mister Tee on snow shoes Dedicated Member

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    I could be quite wrong about the weight of my tent but it is not an ultralight winter tent. W.E. do make such a thing but it seemed flimsy to me when I went to look at it in the shop ,so I chose the durable model.
     
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  31. satanas

    satanas Active Member

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    Re crampons/microspikes: I usually carry CAMP XLC390 alu crampons on Main Range/AT trips, and find they often save time and hassles versus climbing with skins. They also save mental effort, as traction is assured. If the surface us hard enough that they won't bite I don't want to be there, not really an issue except for ice climbing. Steel crampons are too heavy to carry for occasional use, IMO.

    I have a set of microspikes but haven't yet used them; they were bought after the last trip to Nepal. On the way back from Mera Peak base camp one slope had been through several melt/freeze cycles, and what had been soft snow going out was firm and slick coming back. A few hundred metres took a few very nerve-wracking hours without crampons; I had poles and they helped but not enough. Cramponish things may be redundant on the AAWT, or not, but are very useful when needed!

    I've no idea about the "skishoes," sorry, however I doubt skis would save much if any time. They would be quicker on flat open bits or on nice downhills, but with slowshoes one could presumably just keep on plodding, and in tight or steep quarters they ought to be faster. I like skiing, but one needs to weigh up potential enjoyment if things are nice versus guaranteed aggravation when carrying skis or in crappy snow conditions. Caveat emptor...
     
  32. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Yeah...all things considered, I'm thinking a good pair of snow shoes and some microspikes might be where it's at for my purposes...safety, certainty, weight, distance, carrying convenience across varying terrain, skiing ability (basic to intermediate at best) etc...I'm sure there will be moments on the Bogong High Plains and the Main Range to Kiandra, where I will be wishing for skis, but all in all, I'm thinking that the conservative approach will win the day. Thanks for your input Satanas.
     
  33. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    Yep...just bought a new pair of MSR Lightning Ascents...cost me an arm and a leg!...now where's that bloody snow!
     
  34. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Addicted Member
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    It's coming but not for another month......:ski:
     
  35. tay

    tay Just Registered

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    and it disappears very quickly again after arrival!! better take good care of those pricey snowshoes! they last a lifelong given how much snow we get :)
     
  36. John Robertson

    John Robertson New Member

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    I would genuinely like to thank all those who have made a contribution to this thread. I have learned a lot from you and done a lot of constructive thinking as a result of your comments, suggestions and inputs...and I haven't even met you. Thank you so much for lending your knowledge and experience.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the videos that other AAWTers have made and I hope to be able to produce something similar about my journey and post it here. I will continue to plan and prepare for my solo winter traverse of the AAWT and hope to video diary and photograph as much of it as poss. I am also going to purchase and carry an internet tracking device so that my family and interested others can follow my journey in real time across Australia's snow covered alps.

    This winter I will spend preparing myself, testing my gear and learning more. Next Winter (2018) I am planning to leave around the beginning of July. To do a true Winter traverse of the AAWT, you need to start at the start and finish at the finish in Winter...but I'm also thinking that I will start my journey from where every journey begins for me everyday of my life...from the front door of my house in Melbourne...so the first leg will be Melbourne to Walhalla...and that's before the fun even begins! Anyway, they are big plans, so lets just keep it between ourselves for the time being shall we? Meanwhile, I better get fit!
     
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  37. legend

    legend Dedicated Member

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    One thing I would recommend getting are Kahtoola Microspikes.
    They are less aggressive than full crampons, but are great for adding extra traction to walking on water-ice (or solid frozen surfaces). They fold up into a very small bundle, taking up very little room, and very easy to put over any boot you are wearing. We use them (and snowshoes) when walking the Overland Track in mid winter.
    http://kahtoola.com/product/microspikes/