Snow camping & hiking 2021

Victoria specific bushwalking discussion.
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Victoria specific bushwalking discussion. Please avoid publishing details of access to sensitive areas with no tracks.

Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby lbogliolo » Mon 03 May, 2021 4:57 pm

So I've been planning to start hiking and camping in the snow since last year when my plans had to be postponed due to the lockdown...but the time is finally arriving!
I've got a fair bit of experience skiing but none in the backcountry, let alone camping on snow. While I've got my equipment sorted out since last year, I would like to clarify some logistics.

I thought the JB Plain campground would be a great place to start as I can park the car nearby and bring heavy/car camping stuff. Is that a good idea and are there other campsites you would suggest for a first-timer? Also, do you have to pay the Mt Hotham resort entrance fees in order to get to JB Plain campground?

I've also got my mind set on Pretty Valley for a snowshoeing and backpacking trip. Would I have to leave my car at Falls Creek in order to get to Pretty Valley campground or are there other options? Is it reasonably easy to snowshoe (in good weather) to the campground from Falls Creek? While I think I have a fair amount of experience backpacking and I have done multi-day hikes around Falls Creek and Feathertop this summer, it would be my first time snowshoeing.

Any tips or recommendations of tracks or campsites on snow (preferably free :) ) are much appreciated!
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby swills » Mon 03 May, 2021 5:13 pm

JB camping area is a good place to start, with toilets, a hut and usually groomed XC tracks to practice ski skills and enough off track snow to develop touring skills. It is outside the Hotham management area so no fees apply (2019). When you park your car keep it off the road as far as possible to avoid snow plough damage. I would not use car camping gear, a good snowfall and you may damage it. Use the gear that you will tour in, get to know it in a safe environment. Getting to Pretty Plain via Falls Ck, you can catch a bus from Mt Beauty or park your car at Falls Ck.
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby Lophophaps » Mon 03 May, 2021 8:34 pm

Swills is right - don't use car camping gear. The Hotham bus may go to Dinner Plain and stop at JB, and if so this can work.

I'm tending to favour Falls Creek because you can leave the car at Mount Beauty. However, there may be a walk from the bus terminal to Windy Corner. There may be a shuttle. Another option at Falls is Heathy Spur. Go across the dam wall and up the spur for a short distance, tending to the right, the slope that leads down to the road. There are some sheltered hollows that have reasonable protection from the wind. This is much closer than Pretty Valley but there are no facilities, so it's a much more remote experience. Going over Ruined castle you will be battling the masses, and if the weather falls apart it's very exposed. getting back from Heathy is much easier. In strong winds take one of the terraces at the dam wall.

Make sure that your tent is big enough for cooking without setting the tent on fire. Also, make sure that snow build up does not block the air; people have suffocated in the snow. It's really important to stamp the site down hard and finish with skis to smooth it. You could take a thin second sleeping mat. Finding out at 11 pm that your mat is inadequate is bad. Take enough fuel for melting snow and a small board for the stove. I use three-ply.
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 04 May, 2021 12:03 am

I took up snow shoe walking , winter mountaineering and snow camping in the back country and I learnt a lot over three winters . One thing I did learn is that snow shoes are tedious and far from energy efficient and XC skiing is way better!!. Think of it like comparing knowing how to cycle with just walking .
The Bogong High Plains are as LOPS has commented a worth while place to under take such activities and test out your winter equipment .
The winds up there above the tree line can be fierce so be prepared for extreme weather to appear out of the blue.
Walking on groomed Nordic ski trails in boots or even stomping down the middle of the XC ski trails in snow shoes is a big NO NO.
Mt. Stirling has an excellent network of huts for learner snow camping activities .If you are too cold just get inside the hut and warm up with the fire. The Mt. Stirling management keeps all the huts stocked with wood. They have a ski patrol too so you will be never too far from help should you need it.
I really enjoy snow camping at JB Hut . It is VERY popular on weekends in white season. Finding Parking can become tricky during ski season.It was free of charge when I was Nordic skiing and snow camping up there in 2019 . I tend to go in late August on a Sunday through to a Wed. From there you can XC ski towards Dinner Plain or up to Mt. Hotham at Wire Plain hut.
Mt. Buffalo when there is enough snow low down the mountain has good snow camping and XC skiing at Lake Catani hut. There is a pit loo and there are picnic tables . BYO firewood from your car. The walk in / ski in / sled haul in is about 15 min.s one way . There is a tap for water.
There is no fee for entering the Mt. Buffalo N.P.
Mt. Feathertop at Federation hut has become quite popular for snow camping in winter but many people go up there with NFI which on one occasion led to the SES rescuing a hypothermic man while we were on the mountain.
Snow shoes are not meant to carry the extra weight of a multi night winter gear pack. I cracked the frames of both of mine doing that and they are MSR EVO model snow shoes :-0. Putting skins on Back country skis seems to make more sense to me these days. You can walk up hills easily on snow with a pack using climbing skins attached to your back country XC skis.
Do not waste time snow shoe trekking too much. I wish I had learned to XC ski decades ago.
Get some XC ski lessons at Lake Mtn., Falls Creek , Mt. Stirling or Mt. Buffalo ski school .
Mt. St. Gwinear has free access to snow but no huts. IMHO You need to have your snow camping gear and habits sorted before trying the Baw Baw plateaux. XC skiing up there can be very good but the narrow tracks can be challenging for a skier.
Last edited by paidal_chalne_vala on Wed 05 May, 2021 9:34 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby Lophophaps » Tue 04 May, 2021 7:13 am

PCV has a good point about walking on made XC ski tracks. Wow, snow shoes broke, amazing. The snowshoes are most probably not fit for purpose, and if so this applies
Section 54 of Australian Consumer Law provides that goods must be of a certain quality, fit for the purpose, free from defects, safe and durable.
You can get a refund, replacement or fix. I'd go for the refund.

PCV has good advice about Federation and JB Plain. If using XC skis then lessons are essential. When I was instructing it was possible to have most people leave the day - just four hours - with enough skills to manage the basics and gentle safe terrain. It's very difficult at first; slippery skis, cannot control them ... not good. And yet with a little advice the skis can be managed. Falls Creek is good because there are a range of slopes, open, no trees, good runouts.

At St Gwinear if you go on the road to the big flat area maybe 40 minutes up it's easier. The descent from there may be a bit steep for some beginners. Above there is narrow, awkward and tricky in places. Stirling involves a significant climb to get to the huts, although there's camping lower. The fun part is getting back on skis.

I prefer patterns to skins, less hassle, albeit at the expense of slower going downhill.
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 04 May, 2021 9:42 am

I did get my snow shoes repaired for free, having returned them to the point of purchase.
Since I have taken up XC skiing with much interest the snow shoes just sit in the cellar while I go Nordic skiing. I like and do use pattern based skis ( all my skis are PB ) but adding climbing skins or kicker skins to the Patten base skis makes steeper longer and /or icy ascents a doddle. I keep Black Diamond kicker skins in my ski jacket pocket .They weigh very little.
When the descent is icy the skins help slow the descent even with snow plough turns in the mix.
If there is a big snow fall at Mt. Stirling then The Razorback hut is only about an hour away from the car park at TBJ and it is not too steep up or downhill to access for a
beginner on pattern based skis or kicker skins.
I have snow camped there and just skied around the easy trails in that vicinity all day .
The Howqua Gap hut is only about 8 kms from TBJ on the easy and flattish Circuit road.
I may do a sled haul out there and XC ski from there as day tours with a day pack this season ,
using Howqua Gap Hut as a snow camp base. A big low snow fall is necessary for such a trip.
Buying and bringing a collapsible black diamond brand snow shovel can make big difference for snow camping.
A proper winter four seasons tent will reduce the amount of spin drift snow accumulating inside your tent and the design should shed snow better and withstand a substantial snow load if there is a heavy snow fall. Having enough room for all of your gear inside the tent will be best. If it snows a lot then you may not locate your kit again if you leave it outside in the snow.
:-0
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby lbogliolo » Tue 04 May, 2021 1:07 pm

Thanks for all the feedback and recommendations. I'll start out with snowshoes first, mostly because it's so much cheaper for beginners. Will try to get some weekdays to go to JB plain and am also planning on doing the razorback again to Federation hut later in the season. I've also seen my fair share of ill-equipped people there and I prefer camping close to the MUMC hut as it's usually much quieter.
I can definitely see the point that XC skis would be much more efficient and will try to get some lessons at some point. As for equipment I'm happy with my set up, just need to find a lightweight snow shovel and will hire snowshoes before I decide to buy any.
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 04 May, 2021 2:26 pm

MSR snow shoes are the way to go. As a former snow shoe trekker I found all the other brands were rubbish.

You will need a tent like this
https://www.bogong.com.au/mont-eddie-2-tent.html
and snow pegs.

Camping at the Top of the Diamantina spur is best in many ways if you are heading out towards Mt. Feathertop.

Snow shoe trekking up Mt. Torbreck after a big snow fall is an adventure worth doing at least once.
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby Lophophaps » Tue 04 May, 2021 3:12 pm

Getting to MUMC from any direction in winter may be challenging. The traverse from the start of Tom Kneen Track is exposed to the north-west and quite steep with significant slither possibilities. It can also get icy, so an axe may be a useful addition. Traversing steep icy slopes in snow shoes is not much fun. PCV's Diamantina spot is nice, as is Twin Knobs in the hollow. Mid-week should be less crowded. One reason that Federation is so popular is because it's easy to retreat. Within a few minutes down the track you are in the trees.

I've never carried a snow shovel. Tent sites are flat to start with, crushed under the boots, then made flat with skis in three directions. If a hole is needed then I stomp the snow. Ask what is the worst that can happen if there's no shovel.
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 04 May, 2021 4:16 pm

I was once buried in a blizzard at Fed. hut and had to dig my tent out !.
Building a snow wall using a snow shovel can work well in keeping the wind off your tent. Digging outdoor seating and cooking spaces when there is no hut can be very useful too.

Knowing how to use an ice axe safely and self arrest as a reflex, cut steps etc. must be learned. If the OP were to go up the NW spur then reaching the MUMC hut in snow could be " easier" that way. There is nothing easy about the NW spur.
:-0
Returning to your car and finding it under snow can require a snow shovel.
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby lbogliolo » Tue 04 May, 2021 8:16 pm

Excellent points. I had a chat the other day with the guys at Bogong and will get the MSR Evo Trail as I'm not planning to do any summits or serious climbing to begin with.
Good point about getting to MUMC from the razorback - I remember thinking that would be a tricky one in winter. Good point about using an ice axe too. I've watched a number of videos on self arrest techniques but will need to join a group at some point and get some practice at a safe spot until I'm confident enough to go through steeper tracks.

I've never been to Mt. Torbreck but it's now definitely on my list of places to go this winter. A few questions on Mt Torbeck: is it accessible (in winter) with a 2WD? Can you camp/are there any places on the way to the summit you'd recommend for camping?
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby paidal_chalne_vala » Tue 04 May, 2021 11:53 pm

The drive up to Mt. Torbreck is best done by leaving the car on the main dirt road ( 2 WD is fine up to Conn's Gap road ) and walking up past the locked gate. Sometimes there is snow and debris on Conn Gap road and leaving your car at Snob's Creek road at the junction is better.

https://www.trailhiking.com.au/mount-torbreck-circuit/




There is a large flat spot with a picnic table that could work as a campsite. That area is not always in the snow line. The summit area could be better for snow camping . From there the track climbs up quite steeply. I used a self arrest XC ski pole ( A whippet pole ) to descend with :-0.
Visibility was poor that day so finding the big cairn covered in snow did not happen. It was bleeding cold up there too.
I did a trip report for Mt. Torbreck in winter somewhere .It would have been in 2015, 2016 or 2017, I think. I took photos using film :-) . It could be on this Bushwalking web site but it is more probably on the ski forum web site.

I found the trip report !

You can see what we did back in 2016. It was quite a day out :-).

https://www.ski.com.au/xf/threads/mt-to ... -16.75707/
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Re: Snow camping & hiking 2021

Postby lbogliolo » Thu 06 May, 2021 3:14 pm

PCV, thanks for that. I read your 2016 trip report and now I definitely want to go to Mt Torbreck! Perfect combination of not too far from Melb, relatively easy access, challenging, and no crowds.
I'm also into film photography - hopefully later in the season I can share some photos of my trips here too.
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