Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

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Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Mark_O » Sat 06 Jun, 2020 12:04 pm

Hi Folks,

Never sure how much interest there is in winter trips, particularly those involve skiing or snowshoeing but thought I would put the link up anyway as no doubt there will be a couple of people keen to see it under snow:

https://markoates.exposure.co/du-cane-traverse
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby eggs » Sat 06 Jun, 2020 1:02 pm

Thanks - a great read and photos
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby taswegian » Sat 06 Jun, 2020 7:30 pm

Mark that's an awesome read and viewing.
Thanks for posting.
The opening vista on that site is stunning.

I agree wholeheartedly your comments on the winter beauty of our great interior here in Tassie.

I take my hat off to you fellas and it's heartening to read the passion in your writings and photos.

Excellent stuff.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby north-north-west » Sat 06 Jun, 2020 8:39 pm

More than a couple of people, Mark. Brilliant images. What sort of photo gear do you use?
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Mark_O » Sat 06 Jun, 2020 10:23 pm

Thanks Eggs, Taswegian and North-North-West! Really appreciate your positive comments and interest. Yes Taswegian - I am certainly very passionate about Tassie and especially in winter. Perhaps particularly so because I don't take it for granted one bit due to having lived on the mainland for a lot of my life. As a result though I am always incredibly torn between telling people how amazing Tassie is and keeping it quiet so that it stays that way.

N-N-W, on this trip I was actually only using a small Sony RX-100 however these days most of my shots are with a Sony A7iii with a standard 35mm lens. Some of the shots were also from friends on the trip but apart from one larger Nikon most were small compact cameras. Probably the biggest change to my photography has come through using the zebra filter on the Sony which allows me to (most of the time) ensure that I don't over expose either the snow, rivers or sky in my shots. Afterwards I then edit them lightly to bring out the shadows and to reduce the highlights.

All the best, Mark
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby bluewombat » Mon 08 Jun, 2020 5:33 pm

Thanks for posting this Mark, great story, and thanks too for discussing the difficulty of trips like this, experience is critical. Unfortunately sometimes we mistake dumb luck for experience (ie I survived a risky situation so I must be experienced), your group was genuinely experienced. I am interested in knowing what type of skis you were on, you mention they were very short but not much else. Also were you using ski mountaineering bindings?
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Mark_O » Mon 08 Jun, 2020 6:05 pm

Hi BW,

Two of us were on 169cm Fischer Boundless/S-Bound Crown 98 XC/telemark skis with tele bindings and either Garmont/Scott Excursion or Scarpa T4 boots. In a very long article I did on the gear we used on the AAWT a couple of years ago I talk a lot about the different ski systems I have used and my thoughts on each of them. It is at:

https://markoates.exposure.co/aawt-winter-gear

Let me know if you have any questions after reading the ski section.

Cheers, Mark
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Jon MS » Tue 09 Jun, 2020 8:20 pm

Thanks Mark,
Your post brought back memories of skiing the Du Cane Range in past years.

Between 1981 and the early 2000s I did about 10 ski trips to the Du Canes (although only 4 of those trips had good snow and good weather) and I agree, in the snow the Du Cane Range is amazing.

Over this time period, I was also spending several weeks each winter skiing on the Mainland, mostly in the Main Range-Jagungal area, and whilst the snow and skiing may be better on the Mainland, in my opinion, Tasmania's combination of scenery and snow is (in Australia) unbeatable.

In good snow, the runs off the back of North Geryon into the top of Pine Valley are amazing, as is the run from Walled Mtn. In good snow, it is only 15 min from the top of Walled Mtn to Lake Elysia!

I remember one night at Lk Elysia in 1990 when there were 2 parties camped there (being Tasmania, we knew each other...) and the 10 of us agreed to meet at midnight on the middle of the lake for hot choc. We set up a ring of candles in the ice and it was a completely clear, still and moonless night with blazing stars overhead (but mega cold...).

The views from the top of Mt Massive are unbeatable. I had been told about the big depression on top but the first time I went there it was full of snow which must have been over 20 m deep. On later trips in summer I could see how big the depression is and it has what is probably the largest patch of snow-drift vegetation in the state. The views of the cliffs on the Geryons, Mersey valley, Mt Ossa etc are amazing.

For doing these trips, along with a friend, Alex, and we made our own ski bindings so we could use normal boots for both the walk in and skiing. These bindings also gave us safety release for the crashes that are part of remote area skiing, foot pivot and bend, and are much lighter than full-on XCD gear . I used 150 cm Trek Bushwackers which are light weight, fully waisted, stepped, single camber skies.

These days, I suspect that I am no longer fit and strong enough to ski the area and plan to use snow shoes.

Also need to scan my old slides...
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby bluewombat » Tue 09 Jun, 2020 8:50 pm

Mark_O wrote:Hi BW,

Two of us were on 169cm Fischer Boundless/S-Bound Crown 98 XC/telemark skis with tele bindings and either Garmont/Scott Excursion or Scarpa T4 boots. In a very long article I did on the gear we used on the AAWT a couple of years ago I talk a lot about the different ski systems I have used and my thoughts on each of them. It is at:

https://markoates.exposure.co/aawt-winter-gear

Let me know if you have any questions after reading the ski section.

Cheers, Mark


Thanks for the information and the link, nice to see a really thoughtful article about gear set ups for the AAWT trip , and the trip photos are great as well
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby north-north-west » Wed 10 Jun, 2020 8:18 am

The idea of Massif in the snow is scary. The rest of the traverse wouldn't be so bad, but the boulder zones up there . . . But, oh, the views would be incredible with all the peaks snowed over.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Jon MS » Wed 10 Jun, 2020 12:29 pm

Provided you are equipped and experienced, getting onto Mt Massif is more hard work than scary.

From Lake Selena we used to follow the snow covered ramps around the western side of the first hill then up onto the back of North Geryon. It is straight forward getting from the back of North Geryon into Big Gun Pass because the slope faces north and tends to not hold much snow. The big climb up onto Massif is frequently well covered in snow and with snow shoes or skies with skins is hard work but not too steep if you swing round to the western slopes.

I would not recommend following the ridge to Falling Mtn in the ice and snow. Instead, it is possible to drop down the northeast gully, staying on its northwestern side (the eastern side of the gully has huge boulders once you get into the trees), then follow the buttongrass leads near Kia Ora.

From what I have heard, never drop into the Narcussus Valley from Big Gun Pass due to it having heaps of fagus.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Nuts » Wed 10 Jun, 2020 6:07 pm

Thoughts of scale, and some could be giants without seeing much foreground. Pretty though, rugged and awesome. Thanks Mark_O.

Oh, that link could be a rabbit hole of gear lists, adventures and interesting videos. OE must pay well (haha). Impressive!
How did you rate the choice of those Voiles and length for the AAWT tour? A quiver of BC skis would be nice (& no business for my experience) but I've had their Hypervector saved in a basket for weeks.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Mark_O » Wed 10 Jun, 2020 8:31 pm

Great to hear of your many winter Du Cane trips Jon MS. I am definitely jealous, particularly as it certainly appears to me that our snow seasons are much reduced from those we experienced in the 80's (when I first started learning to ski) and obviously prior to then. If you do ever scan your slide images I'd love to see them. I never got to ski the Bushwhackers but have handled a pair and always thought the concept was great - in fact a number of my setups take inspiration from their shortness, width and large grip area. DIY bindings lighter than tele bindings sounds great as I am all about DIY gear and modifying gear.

Nuts - I have loved ski touring on the 164cm Voile Objectives and to be honest think that they were the perfect ski for me for the AAWT. I have never skied the Hypervectors but if I didn't have the combination of V6s and Objectives I would be going that way myself.

N-N-W, I think Massif with unconsolidated snow would be scary - especially with snowshoes and if solo. Although we had sections of ice we also had sections with soft spring conditions and it was amazing how many times the snowshoers in particular fell down large holes. There was high potential for a significant or debilitating injury. The skis on the other hand, with their greater surface area, reduced the amount of issues that we had with the hidden snow-covered holes between all the boulders.

Thanks BW - glad you enjoyed the gear discussions.

Cheers, Mark
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Jon MS » Wed 10 Jun, 2020 9:28 pm

The issue of changes in the amount of snow on Tasmanian mountains over the past few decades is complex.

A few years ago I was part of a group researching changes in snow cover over the past about 35 years. We found that while there had been decreases in the amount of snow at lower elevations, the amount of snow at higher elevations (above about 1350 m) had slightly increased, probably as a result of increased atmospheric moisture and atmospheric instability resulting from climatic warming.

What this means is less snow around places like Cradle Plateau, the northern end of the Overland Track and the Labyrinth (1100 to 1200 m), but more snow on places like the back of North Geryon, Mt Massif and Walled Mtn. It also explains why I have failed to get up Mt Ossa every time I have walked past over the past decade.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Mark_O » Wed 10 Jun, 2020 10:24 pm

That is super interesting about the increased snow levels at higher elevations Jon MS!

Any chance that the research group's report is available online? Would love to learn more.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Jon MS » Thu 11 Jun, 2020 7:59 am

If you have access to a university library, have a look at:
Parry J, Kirkpatrick JB and Marsden-Smedley JB 2016. Explaining the distribution, structure and species composition of snow-patch vegetation in Tasmania, Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 64: 484-91.

Kirkpatrick JB, Nunez M, Bridle KL, Parry J and Gibson N 2017. Causes and consequences of variation in snow incidence on the high mountains of Tasmania, 1983–2013. Australian Journal of Botany 65: 214-224.

If not, send me a PM and I can email them to you.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Nuts » Fri 12 Jun, 2020 11:06 am

That's interesting too. Not intuitive, but it's borne out in the number of groups that fail to summit Mt. Ossa these days. I had thought we were just more adventurous back in the day..

iirc GD had a great shot from a Big snow year up in the Ducanes, it was in the P&W library for a while.

Thanks Mark. I did watch your video log, with the odd comment here and there on gear. It's easier to watch mainland/elsewhere adventures and they are a bit off topic so.. Hey, great to see the effort with the poo tube, and not leaving one out there. We've been using (or offering) poo bags for a few years, with mixed success.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby seakar » Sat 13 Jun, 2020 10:24 pm

Great to follow your and your team's adventure Mark, thank you for sharing. The comparison between skies and snow shoeing is top end experience. And yes you may well be enabling... I am curious, how deep was the snow at Pelion Pass, to warrant not attempting Ossa?
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Jon MS » Sun 14 Jun, 2020 9:18 am

The problem is not the snow at Pelion Gap but the very steep shaded slope up from the saddle between Mt Doris and Mt Ossa.

The slope averages about 30 degrees, climbs about 250 m over 400 m, faces SSE and is shaded by the bluff to the north.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Mark_O » Sun 14 Jun, 2020 2:43 pm

Hi Seakar,

We didn't attempt Ossa on this trip as we didn't have time to get any further north than the Du Cane Range but on other trips I have been thwarted by solid ice conditions on the approach to Ossa. Exactly as Jon MS has said the normal access route to Ossa is shaded for much of the day. Although I have gotten up it in winter that has been when there has been a low amount of snow and it was soft enough to kick steps. On a trip last winter the snow line did not really start until the saddle between Doris and Ossa with no snow at all down at Pelion Gap. From this saddle was a really good snow cover in which we could plug steps until we hit the shade and then it changed to serious mountaineering conditions with rock solid ice below the bluffs. I had an iceaxe and instep crampons but called it quits as soon as I hit the ice. Even with full crampons and iceaxe(s) it can be a serious proposition with the potential for a very long and dangerous slide if you stuff up. The one thing I would be wary of on Ossa is going up early in the day with good snow conditions and spending too long up there and then coming back down later in the day with the chance that the snow has iced over. That would be a scary situation unless you were fully prepared for it.

Although I have done the Overland numerous times in winter (mostly with students) I have never experienced the thigh deep snow conditions at Pelion and Du Cane gaps that others have experienced. I am keen though to get such conditions (on a personal trip) but to be on skis as a dream of mine is to ski as much as possible of the Overland Track.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Jon MS » Sun 14 Jun, 2020 4:56 pm

Some friends tried to get up Ossa last winter. Even with crampons and an ice axe it was too dangerous. Also, if there has been heavy snow the way up is prone to avalanches.

The Overland track in good weather and good snow on skis or snow shoes is amazing.

I have never managed to ski the entire track but have gone close a couple of times and have had several trips where snow shoes were necessary most of the way. It's fairly frequent that you can get extensive snow north of Pine Forest Moor, through Pelion Gap and sometimes through DuCane Gap but the rest of the track does not hold the snow.

My partner's first experience of the Overland was 5 days of no cloud, no wind, very extensive snow that was a pleasure to walk on in snow shoes, no one else in any of the huts and over the entire trip, only running into 1 other person (who I knew and was skiing the other direction). It was, however, "a bit cold".

This winter is going to be interesting. I normally do the Overland twice each winter picking good weather periods. On a couple of the trips we went through as a family during school holidays and it has been very busy. We made the mistake of doing the track in the last September school holidays and the first night was wet with over 60 people in Waterfall valley. But, most of those people were mainlanders or internationals. I suspect that until Tas open's its boarders, that numbers will be fairly low.

The other issue with doing the Overland this winter is going to be transport. I normally put the word out and find a friend wanting to walk in the other direction and we swap cars. This winter you have to walk north to south and there is no bus on the Lyell Highway. I think McDermonts have restarted their L'ton to Cradle run 4 days a week so that end is ok. It just takes 2 days to get to Cradle by bus from Hobart.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby headwerkn » Sun 14 Jun, 2020 6:44 pm

Thanks for sharing Mark, that is truly inspiring stuff.

I must learn to ski one day... ;-)

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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby north-north-west » Mon 15 Jun, 2020 8:32 am

Jon

I'm looking at doing a winter Overland myself at some stage. Flexible timing, preferably south to north. It might be possible to arrange a car swap.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby seakar » Mon 15 Jun, 2020 8:49 am

Thanks Mark, and Jon, Re Ossa.
I am on a learning curve, re. the various snow conditions, it is good to know when to say no and head back the way you came... I found Doris under a foot of snow one year which made a great camp, in super calm/clear conditions. Then summited the next morning following six sets of foot prints which made for easy going. The advantage of this was, the days before were warm and the snow soft. So I figured by the morning it would be frozen again especially in the crux. Can see how it could be v dangerous. As for skiing, in the right conditions I guess this East face could lend itself to a day of fun.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby Nuts » Mon 15 Jun, 2020 12:47 pm

There's the option of sticking to the boulders on the north side of this approach but if it's that bad i'd consider it a last resort .. to get back down, rather than a way up. It's a good point made earlier for average OT walkers heading up when the ice is breaking or previous tracks are visible, always easier going up. The other hazard of course is the snow covered falls between these boulders and especially the gaps up towards the summit which are very deep.

(PS. I think it's still only by booking & north south through winter NNW (?))
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby north-north-west » Mon 15 Jun, 2020 2:24 pm

Nuts wrote:(PS. I think it's still only by booking & north south through winter NNW (?))

Since when? Surely with the moat still shut the numbers would below enough for it not too be any sort of issue
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby headwerkn » Mon 15 Jun, 2020 2:52 pm

north-north-west wrote:
Nuts wrote:(PS. I think it's still only by booking & north south through winter NNW (?))

Since when? Surely with the moat still shut the numbers would below enough for it not too be any sort of issue


Was announced a couple of weeks ago from memory. Basically they want to make sure they can manage the numbers of campers at each hut location, which admittedly would be tricky with groups heading in both directions.

https://parks.tas.gov.au/explore-our-pa ... land-track

From the link...

Bookings:
WINTER : 15 June 2020 to 30 September 2020 (inclusive) - Due to COVID-19 registrations are required to walk the Overland Track in winter 2020 – June through until the end of September 2020 -without charge, requiring only a valid Parks PassTo meet Department of Health's social distancing requirements numbers are capped at 16 walkers per day. All walkers will be required walk from north to south, sleep in tents and maintain appropriate distance from others. The huts on the Overland Track will be accessible for emergency use only. Walkers must have a quality tent (3-4 season rating with inner and outer layer).
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby north-north-west » Mon 15 Jun, 2020 5:10 pm

Well, sod that for a lark.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby TentPeg » Mon 15 Jun, 2020 8:36 pm

It would seem to me that Parks can only make that enforceable call in a state of emergency.
We all know it doesn't stand on its own. One slow group and one fast group equals 32 at the same camp!
We are talking winter and tents only - and they are worried about numbers on the track! Not good for any form of reality check.
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Re: Winter Traverse of the Du Cane Range - photo story

Postby north-north-west » Tue 16 Jun, 2020 8:18 am

Indeed. Someone does a sidetrip and the numbers change. People come in from Arm River and the numbers change. I don't use the tent platforms unless there''s no-one else around anyway. Plenty of other places to camp along the way.
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