I Set out on Sunday 29th of August 2010
The plan was to stop at Lake George to mountain board on the way down to Thredbo, though the wind was a bit light, but noticed that the wind mills on the far side of the lake were turning so was optimistic.
In 15 years I have never seen any water in Lake George. After ½ hr walking out into the “dry” lake concluded that the lake was in fact filling up –that explained my wet feet, and that there was not a breath of air. Turned round and walked back muttering all the way about how both the wind could let me down in such a beautiful kite boarding spot and that the lake should be so unfair in filling up.
Thought that I would spend the night in the back of my car but opted to go to the YHA in Canberra- back of car would have been better.
Set off at 5am on Monday 30th, picked up alpine skis from Rhythm Ski hire in Cooma on the way –good value rentals but took a long time to find someone who knew what alpine skis were and how to attach skins to the bottom of skis.
Skinned from dead horse gap up N. ridge to Thredbo’s Eagles Nest- took 1.5hrs. Never used skins before but they worked a treat, had a brilliant day by myself. Absolutely no wind for kiting but didn’t matter. Only hit 3 trees on way back down same ridge [they were already dead from the fires anyway] remembered that even though it had been 10 years since I had skies I still couldn’t do it for shit.
Tuesday 31st woke up to overcast conditions, Richard who had set off walking up to Eagles Nest at 6am [it takes a hour to walk straight up with kite and snowboard] phoned me to let me know that the wind was blowing 20- 25 knots at the top, found it hard to believe from down in the village but went back and changed my 8.5m Flexi foil Blade for a 1.5m bullet! Decided to spend the $30 on the one way lift ticket telling myself that walking up the previous day was enough.
I couldn’t believe it when Paul and his friend Peter approached me outside the ticket office asking me if I was going kiting, I had never met him before and did not know he was in the area intending to do the same thing. He must have mistaken my look of bewilderment being surrounded by a sea of fashionable downhill skiers with the steely eyed look of a fellow snow kiter! Anyway his knowledge of the area wae invaluable. He recommended we walk over the bridge then NW. up the gentle slope over a slight saddle which then opens up to a beautiful open valley which has the charlotte pass walk marked with poles.
The valley is an absolutely fantastic spot with a width of between 50 and 400 meters that create a gentle bowl flanked by dramatic granite monoliths the wind was blowing a steady 20+ knots in a NW direction and a lot less gusty than the conditions we usually buggy/kiteboard in Lithgow.
Paul was first to put up his 2..5m rebel and was quick to show us how it was done [see his post in same forum]. I am nearly 6ft and 95kg but thought that I would be conservative and put up the 1.5m bullet as that is what my handles were already connected to. I felt a bit of a wuss doing this as this is my 8yr old sons kite and I normally can only just get moving in 30kt winds when using my mountain board on grass. As it worked out the bullet was all that I used all day as it was perfect for those conditions and probably got me going about 30km a hour, it was also good at pulling me up slopes of about 5 degrees, but with a kite of this size even small jumps were not really possible.
I was astounded at how easy it was for a complete novice to snow kiting such as myself to get going with skis first attempt with little difficulty. The most important thing seemed to be proficient at handling a kite. Meanwhile Richard was having real problems, while he is an expert border he had not done much kiting and was constantly getting smashed by his 2m Libre foil. He never managed to get going on his snow board. We had an amazing day finishing up at about 3:15 to build a snow cave. My award for the toughest dude on the entire mountain goes to Peter who came up in his gumboots and kept an eye on us idiots for about 4 hrs before having to go down before frost bite claimed his toes.
There were steep snow drifts everywhere off the shoulder of rams head and choosing a site was based on where we had had a short recreational stop – we christened the cave “the joint”. Snow was deep and well packed , coming out in basketball sized blocks. It took 1.5 hrs to build a rough cave by myself [Richard was snowboarding the steep slopes off the side of rams head]. 1 person could sleep easily in it, and 2 persons uncomfortably. Took photographic proof but dont seem to be able to upload them. I was sure that the cave was sound, with a well bonded snow roof with a thickness of between 1-2 metres, and would have happily slept in it for the night. I was pleased I didn’t though because we had a huge amount of rain come down that night and the following morning the whole thing had slumped. It was a great lesson in spring conditions in the Australian Alps and makes me think that a snow cave shared by kites is not really viable [not that anyone else seemed enthusiastic!].
On a high from the following day I went up to the same spot to try kiting with a snow board, this time the conditions were less than favourable. I was by myself, the wind was up to 35 knots, and the conditions were a white out. The lifties could not believe that I was going back country snowboarding but was not sure of how to get off the chairlift with a snowboard. At the top I passed a uni group who were walking out after several of their tents had “blown off them” during the night. It was so windy I did not feel confident putting the kite up. I then decided to work on my snow cave hoping conditions would improve only to find that it had slumped and was virtually non-existent. I then put on all my clothing [ thermal fleece jacket, down jacket, mountain jacket] and had lunch hoping that the conditions would improve, but after 45 minutes was feeling very cold and conditions continued to get worse. I conceded that the weather had beaten me walked out using a compass and GPS as I couldn’t even see my feet in the white out.
What I learnt from the trip was that snowkiting is a, bloody great, well kept secret that is pretty easy to do, accessing this area is really easy for anyone happy to walk the 2 or so kms after taking the chairs up to the top of eagles nest, but do not underestimate this area in poor conditions as they can be severe. I also see huge potential for snowkiting to beincorporated into ambitious ski touring trips along the main range of the snowies.