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Written by our expert hiking ambassador Kate Donald.
With the arrival of the biggest snow storm this season, it’s time to get the winter gear out and head for the hills; literally. Before a footprint is left in the snow, it is important to evaluate the weather, the snow pack, and of course your hiking skill level. Walking in the snow not only requires immediate attention to any poor weather approaching, but also the stability of the snow pack when exploring past the ski resorts and into the backcountry. Emergency shelter, first aid, beacon, map and compass should be carried on any hike, and knowing how to use these should the conditions change without warning. Whether its snowshoeing, telemarking, or splitboarding you enjoy, here’s 6 of my favorite winter hikes in the Australian snowy mountains.
Starting at Perisher Ski Resort, and wandering past the village, you quickly feel miles away from reality as you stroll through the frosted snow gums. The trail gently climbs up the valley following the pole line, adding a bit of fun for kids to spot the next pole ahead. Glimpses of the iconic Main Range, and Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko, can be spotted to the west en route to the rocks. Arriving at the huge granite boulders, a short rock scramble will reward you with breath-taking views over Lake Crackenback Resort and the Thredbo River below. Even better, pack a stove and enjoy an early morning coffee in the snow and watch as the mountains change colour as the sun rises directly before you.
Possibly my favorite place to visit in the winter, the entire drive through Mount Buffalo National Park is worth the road trip out. Stop at Lake Catani, the Chalet and Gorge Lookout as you wind your way up the road to the beast’s ‘Hump’; the final ‘pièce de résistance’ lies at the winter’s road closure. Starting from the Cathedral picnic area, a short yet steep walk past the grand tors of the Cathedral will take you to the summit ‘Hump’. Enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding plateau and the ‘Horn’ of the Buffalo in the distance.
A short hike in summer, this walk doubles in distance in winter due to road closures at the start of the trail. Walking up the snow covered Bogong High Plains road from Falls Creek Ski Resort, to the frozen Rocky Valley Dam is a beautiful trip in itself for beginner hikers. The Ropers Lookout walk starts just over the dam wall, following one of the iconic Falls Creek aqueducts; take note, as sections of the stream can become covered by snow after heavy storms. A final steep climb ends with spectacular view looking back over the entire resort and down the valley.
The rusted tin roof, and slanted timber walls create a charming hut that will make you want to stay longer than just the day. A relic from the gold mining days, Four Mile Hut is hidden away in the lesser-known Jagungal Wilderness. Starting at Mount Selwyn Ski Resort, the cross-country ski trail is followed out over the open plateau. On a clear day, take in views of the monstrous Mount Jagungal and even spot the Main Range in the far off distance. Be sure not to miss the final turn off to Four Mile Hut, tucked away behind the trees, it can be difficult to locate in the valley if no footprints have been laid in the snow before.
A hike not to be attempted in poor weather, this is a shortened version of the famous Staircase Spur walking track up to Victoria’s highest peak. Climb up through the forest, until you reach Mitchell Hut, the perfect location to reassess the weather before leaving the shelter of the trees. A pole line can be followed as you ascend the final exposed face to the summit ridge. Notice the marked poles labeling different ski lines that can be ridden for fresh turns along the way. A giant rock cairn marks the summit of Mount Bogong, a photo opportunity not to be missed.
What better challenge than to hike to Australia’s Highest Peak in the middle of winter? Starting from either Charlottes Pass or Thredbo Ski Resort, both routes are not to be attempted in poor weather by even the strongest mountaineer. Whichever path you take, once at the top of Mount Kosciuszko you’ll wish you had an entire week to explore the surrounding rugged mountains. The rocky peak that is North Rams Head, the steep lines of Carruthers, and the tight chutes on Watsons Crags must all be saved for another day.
If you’re not feeling quiet confident to enter the backcountry unsupervised there are a variety of company’s that can guide you there. Snowy Mountains Backcountry in Kosciuszko National Park, is a locally owned business that offers ski-touring, split-boarding and snow-shoe tours, educating you about backcountry ethics, and safety along the way.