Monday, 16 May 2016

Feathertop Stroll Sans Snow

A few weeks ago I headed up to Feathertop for some hiking. It was a trip with a few goals: some fitness work, a good break from civilisation and a bit of a reconnaissance of the faces I'll be skiing this winter.

Razorback back towards Hotham

The Australian Alps are beautiful - especially when you contrast it with the largely brown and flat nature of the rest of our country.

I started out from the Loch carpark near Hotham, and was pretty quickly sussing out the area around Mt Loch. Some of the slopes have potential, but probably more so for the sidecountry users working out of Hotham. There were other aspects on the trip over that also had solid steep terrain.

East aspects of Mt Loch - dropped away nicely out of shot

After a long and pleasant descent into a river-lined valley, I eventually arrived at the start of Diamantina spur. This thing tore my nuts off and tossed them over one of its steep and heavily vegetated shoulders.

 There are fewer people coming this way for a reason

It was hard work, and probably a bit steeper than the Staircase on Bogong in places. Once on the ridge proper it relents, and there were some stunning views to be had of Feathertop.

The big boy

I arrived at the saddle between the hut and Feathertop a bit before sundown. Given the amazing weather and lack of wind, I was tempted to camp on the summit, but reminded myself that every single time I have lugged a tent up to a high camp, I would have been better served with a lower camp and traveling lighter to the top. I settled in for a glorious evening alone on the saddle, away from some disgustingly loud children near the hut.

I awoke early the next morning and strolled around the summit at dawn. I checked out some of the slopes I have in mind for this winter, and was mildly shocked to realise that the skier's left side of Avalanche gully is made up of lots of cliffs - these were chutes I was beginning to eye off last year. Also, the number and position of cliffs lower down will need to inspected more. Other than Hakuba and NZ, Feathertop has the most extreme ski descents that I've laid eyes on.

South facing aspects of Avalanche Gully

This slot to just to the north-east of the summit looks enticing and scary in equal measure.

Hellfire gully looks just like what it is - an awesome spot for long, moderate-angle descents.

Looking north over Hellfire Gully

Other assorted images of interest:

Diamantina Spur from Feathertop

This line usually has a monstrous cornice over it in winter

The Razorback was a fun romp back to the car - a good track for walking, but would be annoying for skinning due to multiple transitions. The area around Twin Knobs has some good lines, but there is a lack of skiable terrain between there and the areas close to the road. Yet again, I think that it is a case of the jewel in the crown (Avalanche gully) overshadowing these worthwhile yet less exciting areas. Nevertheless, I hope to ski near Twin Knobs this winter.

Looking back at the knobs and Feathertop

A purdy photo
 Feathertop in the distance

Now we just wait for the the warmest autumn on record. I have a feeling that some of the lines might not ski quite so far down this year, and that whilst the season may not be a bad one (by all indications thus far), I reckon it will be short.

Team Weasel

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