We drove up on the Thursday night to camp at Sheepyard Flat on the Howqua River. Friday morning we continued over Eight Mile Gap and Refrigerator Gap to the gate on Sixteen Mile Road. From here it was a five minute walk to the snowline where we were able to don skis and ski to Bluff Hut for a mid-morning break.
The track up to Bluff hut is a steady climb, and as it had not snowed for a while, the snow had melted to the same shape as the heavily rutted four wheel drive track underneath it. From Bluff Hut it was relatively obvious that there had not been a lot of people in the area for a while. The distance to Lovicks Hut is around 5 km and did not take much time to cover. A steady climb up to the top of Mt Lovick, with a small detour to the very summit. Next a gentle at first, then steeper 2 km descent to Lovicks Hut for lunch. After lunch it’s all up hill to Picture Point. The last 200 metres of the climb was not particularly steep, but the track is under a heavy canopy of trees and on the south side of the ridge; the snow was therefore very icy. At certain points on this climb you can sneak onto the ridge line proper and gain good views of Mt Speculation and the Crosscut Saw. A little bit further along the track you come to the Alpine Walking track intersection, which was our overnight campsite. After setting up camp we decided to climb King Billy One and Two, from which we had 360° views of the surrounding area.
We had planned for the next day a climb up the west ridge of Mt Magdala, but when we awoke in the morning the conditions were not that favourable. Instead we opted for a trip down to Rock Point, just near Chesters yards. The track is easy to follow, running through a lightly forested alpine ridge and is a little more down than up. Lunch was on top of Rocky Point, the view from the top was not great, being surrounded by trees. Back towards camp there are a few places where the trees are more open and you can ski off the west side of the road in the deep clear bowls. Some are steep, others not so steep, so is a good place for everyone to have a play. Getting back to camp, we thought we could make the next day a little bit shorter and headed back to Lovicks Hut. Lovicks Hut is a dump, so we set up tent under the hut’s veranda.
Sunday morning we packed up and after a lazy start to the day, a steep climb took us out of the valley and up and over Mt Lovick, with views down the Jamieson Valley. After lunch at Bluff Hut, we left our packs and skied up to the summit of The Bluff. Heading back was another good run down to the hut with some tree/rock dodging at the end. It was now just a 20 minute ski/walk back to the car and fish’n’chips in Mansfield.
It is recommended to have a 4WD to get to the gate we started from. You can get as far as Refrigerator Gap in a 2WD car, but you need to carry chains. The road is not cleared of snow, so heed the weather. Use the Mt Stirling snow report for snow depth at Telephone Box Junction. This gives a good idea of the snowline.
Getting out beyond the carpark and into the white winter wonderland of Australia’s alpine regions can be a daunting task for those uninitiated into the skills and thrills of backcountry skiing. Does this sound like you? Well maybe its time to try snow shoeing! Strap a pair of these largely under-rated devices onto your feet and you can wander far afield or just saunter through the white dusted snow gums. An experienced hiker might like to try a pair for a week long winter trek, instead of touring on skies. Trundle off to Lake Mountain or Mt.St. Gwinear for easy weekend access and plenty of terrain close to Melbourne, whilst Mt. Bogong, Feathertop and the Bogong Highplains offer more of a challenge for those with experience.
For the steep terrain and deep or icy snow, as well as difficult traverses, the MSR range of snowshoes are a fantastic way to explore the best of what Australia’s high country has to offer . With a full length traction bar, these offer more grip in difficult terrain, and have the option of add-on tails for better “flotation” in deep soft snow.
You can hire snow shoes from The Wilderness Shop, enabling you to try this exciting activity without the expense.
As with all outdoor excursions, you must be careful to be adequately equipped, and the alpine regions are more unforgiving than most. If you are unsure about your experience, do NOT venture out off the marked tracks. The weather can change very rapidly, so have fun safely!
first time xc skiing
Winter 2007 gave us a decent dump of snow early on, so I decided it was time to give cross country skiing a crack. Until then I had been snow shoeing and snow camping, but had no ski experience at all. I grabbed a pair of our hire skis, boots, poles, and with a few technique tips from the experts at The Wilderness Shop, set off for a day of action at Lake Mountain!
Located 120km from Melbourne via Marysville, a weekend mountain pass (car park) will cost you $35 and then $12 for your trail pass.The easy graded Echo Flat trail is 6km long, and was where we made our start. Skiing via Helicopter Flat to complete a loop allowed us to gain some confidence and practice falling over, before returning to the visitors centre for lunch.
Fuelled up and ready for more, we set off along the Echo Flat trail once again but headed further up towards The Gap. I found the motion of XC skiing similar to roller skating. Once you get into the rythmn of it, you can build up some serious speed!
My friend that I had dragged along on snow shoes was soon eating my powder! We continued up to Lookout Rock, then finished what had been an awesome day in the sunshine along the Muster Trail, 2.5km long, over the bridge and linked back up to the end of Echo Flat and back to the car. I had a few stacks on my first attempt, which is to be expected, but no bruises or sore butt, just wet gloves and damp socks!
The right gear for XC skiing is important. I did see a few people getting around in jeans; not a good idea. To stay warm and dry you will need waterproof overpants and jacket,fleece jumper, thermals and gloves. All these are available at The Wilderness Shop, along with our hire ski equipment and snow shoes, not to mention great advice!
I still consider myself a beginner, and I am very keen for another crack this season. I may even consider the more challenging Panorama Trail. Lake Mountain offers 37km of groomed trails with varying degrees of difficulty.Cross country skiing is definitely heaps of fun, a real winter wonderland experience. So don’t hesitate, just get out there and enjoy the crisp cool air and beautiful snow gums!
ski waxing q&a
How often should I wax my skis? You should give your skis a wax at the start and end of each season. A quick paste wax top-up is great every few days on the snow, plus an additional hot wax would be advantageous after 12 to 14 skiing days.
Do I need to wax my waxless skis? Yes! Waxless in this case is a bit of a misnomer. The term waxless applies to pattern based touring skis and refers to the lack of need to use grip wax for uphill traction. The non pattern sections should still be glide waxed for optimal performance. Even the pattern should occasionally be given a going over with a paste glide wax to prevent snow balling up underfoot. This is because a solid wax melted into a pattern will just fill it up, negating any traction completely.
Can I use a paste wax on the entire ski? Yes you can, however the paste does not get absorbed into the ski base like a hot wax does. This means it won’t perform quite as well, and will wear off quicker.
What sort of glide wax should I be using? This is where it gets a little more complicated. Soft waxes are best for old, soft and wet snow, while a hard wax will be required for cold, fresh stuff. Considering our generally warmer/wetter conditions, your best bet would be a fluorinated universal wax for all conditions.
What does fluorine additive do in a wax? It has a very low coefficient of friction, and importantly it is highly electronegatively charged. This gives it hydrophobic properties reducing capillary attraction between water and the base. Result: more glide in wet conditions. It also repels dirt and oils in spring snow.
Can I wax my skis myself? Of course. All it takes is a little time and patience. We stock most of the tools you will need. If time and patience isn’t your gig we will do it for a small fee. Find out more about waxing: www.swixschool.no
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The Wilderness Shop has been servicing the needs of bushwalkers, hikers, rock climbers and cross-country skiers in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne for over 30 years. The Wilderness Shop has a wide range of hiking gear and climbing equipment including hiking boots, tents (one man and two man), climbing equipment, sleeping bags and LED headlamps. We also specialise in outdoor footwear: hiking shoes mens and womens, leather and Gore-Tex® hiking boots. We stock quality canvas hiking packs, bushwalking rucksacks, lightweight trekking packs and quality daypacks. The Wilderness Shop have the best sleeping mats, such as Exped DownMats and self-inflating mats, and hiking sleeping bags, as well as ultralight sleeping bags. Not to mention our range of walking maps for Victoria, Tasmania and NSW. The Wilderness Shop is Melbourne's best rock climbing store, stocking a wide range of rock climbing harnesses, shoes and other rock climbing gear.