Trip plan: Tate to Anton ANUMC (mountaineering club)
This overnight snowshoe trip focuses on exploring the high peaks of the Snowy Mountains between Mt Tate and Mt Anton. Weather permitting, it offers sweeping views, breath-taking in their immensity, across snow mantled mountains, deep valleys and the distant plains. Starting at Guthega Village the route crosses the Snowy River at Guthega Dam and ascends to Guthega Trig (1859m), a strenuous climb of about 280m over 1.6km through scattered stands of snow gums. Passing beyond the tree line onto the exposed wind-swept slopes of the high mountains, the climb becomes gentler heading north to the crest of the Great Dividing Range at Consett Stephen Pass (~1900m) and from there to the summit of Mt Tate (2068m), the highest elevation of the trip. A further 5km of walking along the crest of the range, passing over or around Mann Bluff (2005m) and Mt Anderson (1997m), will bring us to Mt Anton (2010m). From Mt Anton a 400m descent over 3km takes us to the Snowy River which we will cross at the Illawong swing bridge. After a relatively gentle 3km level walk parallel to the Snowy River we’ll be back at Guthega Village. Total distance about 20km with about 1000m vertical.
Trip Leader: Mika
Featured photo by Mika Kontiainen
Status update the night before:
It’s currently snowing in the mountains and will continue to do so through to late Saturday. It could be windy on Saturday afternoon, but Sunday looks likely to clear to a mostly fine day. The overnight temperature where we will be camping is likely to approach -10C. I’ll provide further weather updates as we get closer to departure.
The trip started with a 2-hour delay with students scrambling to get last minute alpine gear and snow tyres at Jindabyne village centre. Where we expected to have lunch out on the snow of Guthega trig, we ended up eating at the Guthega Village centre.
We set out on our snowshoe trip properly after lunch, 12:30 walking across the bridge and up towards Guthega trig on fresh snow from the night before.
As we got to the top of the ridge we are fortunate to briefly see the sweeping views before the visibility started to drop. This would be what our group leader Mika would call Type 1 fun.
This trip, we were grateful for trip leaders that communicated with us to explain what’s going on with the conditions. No matter much many times you check and read the weather in the alpines before the trip begins, mother nature is still going throw you a curve ball, the forecast was we were expecting the weather to settle in the afternoon as we set up camp.
Hiking past the tree line, on to exposed wind swept slopes where on a normal day you would get some wind what we experienced passing through was strong blinding gusts of wind blow snow into your exposed faces scratching as the wind starts to numb your cheeks. This would be what Mika calls Type 2 fun…
It was 3pm, the agreed time to start finding a camp spot. The problem was that we had limited visibility and were experiencing strong winds; the group started to show signs of stress. Huddling together as the trip leader and his second in charge attempt to find a sheltered area from the wind but it was no use the weather was making it hard and some of the members were starting to get very cold, numb fingers and toes (a risk of frost bite in these conditions).
Unfortunately, the tail end of the front was stronger and slower than expected.
The trip leader had to reassess the camping situation and advised that we need to hike back where there was no wind. That meant, hiking past the worse wind channels back to the tree lines of Guthega trig point. It was there we made the decision 5pm where it was worth setting up camp or just hike back to the cars.
It was a big decision where the group was divided in staying and leaving. The trip leader made the decision for us to go back to the cars. Have a beer, a warm dinner and accept that this trip would not be a camping weekend, it was a lesson learnt on what mother nature throws at us even when you try to prepare for every scenario.
On the drive home, we looked up the weather conditions and found out that about 3pm Saturday, with the winds NW at 69km/h, gusting at 82km/h and an apparent temperature of -19C.
Things you learn from a trip like this as both a trip leader and an aspiring trip leader. It is braver in knowing when to call off a trip that has lost its fun and has a high-risk safety issue. Not matter what you do to prepare yourself and others for a hike, weather can and will change. You need to make the decision because the group is relying on your trip leader for guidance, if they cannot decide someone needs to step up and make the decision for them.