Kosciuszko Main Range in Winter

Dawn light on The Kosciuszko Main Range
Dawn light on the Kosciuszko Main Range

Special Photographic Features or Notes

Seaman’s Hut
Seaman’s Hut is about a 2 hour ski from both Thredbo Top Station and Charlotte Pass Lookout. Cost and ease of access is best from Thredbo – Return ride lift ticket is $33 and you park your car in the village. To get to Charlotte Pass can be time consuming and expensive – Ski Tube return from Bullocks flat ($81) plus oversnow transport return from Perisher Valley ($85 – must be booked in advance).

The hut provides numerous opportunities for photography around sunrise and sunset as well as star trails on clear calm nights. The hut is an emergency shelter and can not be used to sleep in overnight – you must bring a tent and pitch it nearby.

Seaman's Hut with Etheridge Ridge behind, Kosciuszko Main Range.
Seaman’s Hut with Etheridge Ridge behind, Kosciuszko Main Range.

Blue Lake
From Charlotte Pass, Blue Lake is 2 hours away on skis to the north west. This glacial lake is stunning with overnight camping a must to be able to shoot in the best light. The Sentinel, another hour away to the west can provide another great opportunity with the Geehi Plains far below. To get to Charlotte Pass see access information below.

Blue Lake Campsite

Thredbo Backcountry
Great locations close to Thredbo include North Ramshead, (45 minute ski south west of Thredbo top station with great opportunity to shoot Mt Kosciuszko at sunrise) The top of the Dead Horse Gap run near Bogong Creek (less than 10 minute downhill ski from Karels T-Bar) and Leather Barrell Creek (1 hour from Karels T-Bar to The Ramshead and a superb 600 metre ski descent to the creek).

First light looking to Dead Horse Gap
First light looking to Dead Horse Gap

Snow Gum near Thredbo
Snow Gum near Thredbo

Thredbo Valley
Thredbo resort provides great opportunities within its ski area boundary among the snow gums and the Thredbo River and Merritt’s Creek at the base are great for long exposure shots with milky water movement. A short distance on the Alpine Way brings you to Dead Horse Gap which offers opportunities to capture snowy streams and sculptured snow drifts. A 2 hour ski or snowshoe south east from Dead Horse Gap brings you to Cascade Hut, a classic rustic mountain dwelling.

Merritt's Creek, Thredbo
Merritt’s Creek, Thredbo

Geehi Plains
Taking the Alpine Way south (if it is open) brings you round to the Geehi Plains where the Kosciuszko Main Range provides a European like scene with the snow capped peaks high above and Keeble and Geehi huts providing foreground interest.

Planning

Logistically difficult to get to in winter but with the right planning and equipment it can be a fantastic experience being out in the backcountry overnight with the possibility of shooting in beautiful pre-dawn light. It is important that you travel in a group of at least three and are either experienced in winter snow travel or be guided by someone who has the knowledge and expertise. Always check the weather forecast and if in doubt don’t go out. Within minutes conditions can change from a pleasant sunny cruise with no wind to a desperate epic in a white out. You can also base yourself in the resorts and head out for day trips – there are many pristine locations very close to the resort boundaries.

Kosciuszko Main Range from Charlotte Pass turning circle.
Kosciuszko Main Range from Charlotte Pass turning circle.

Special Equipment

To venture out back overnight you will need to be proficient on cross-country skis or snow shoes. You will also need to be self-sufficient and carry a pack with a tent, sleeping bag, food, stove and warm clothing and your party should have a Personal Locator Beacon for emergencies (These can be hired from the NPWS in Jindabyne). For navigation, a map and compass and a GPS are essential. Add heavy camera equipment and a tripod and you can feel a bit like a pack horse struggling under the load. The rewards you get from the effort are well worth it as you can be in amazing locations for stunning pre-dawn and post-sunset shots.

First Light near Charlotte Pass
First Light near Charlotte Pass

Best time to shoot

6 Months of Snow in Australia?
Spring provides more settled conditions and longer days with the snow pack being so deep (50 feet plus on the western faces) that snow stays around well into December and sometimes even January. That provides at least 6 months ( from late May/early June) to shoot snow scenes in Australia! Camping out is pleasant and the ski touring is sublime. Ski clothing in late Spring usually consists of shorts and a t-shirt.

Telemark Skiers in The Mt Northcote/Mt Clarke bowl
Telemark Skiers in The Mt Northcote/Mt Clarke bowl

Getting There

Kosciuszko National Park is 5 hours drive south of Sydney.

View Kosciuszko Main Range in a larger map

I hope to see fellow photographers on the Kosciuszko Main Range this winter.

Please contact me – mjbanks62@gmail.com if you need any further information or assistance.  Mike Banks

Update – Access, Special Equipment, Skills & Weather

Guthega also provides easy accessibility to the Main Range, especially for Mt Twynam and Watsons Crags. Those with less experience  interested in shooting should look to hire snowshoes and target the Dead Horse Gap area, close to Thredbo  for day and overnight trips.

As the NPWS Visitor Centre has limited opening times see Bruce Easton at Wilderness Sports (in winter open Friday night till late) in Nuggets Crossing, Jindabyne for Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) hire. You can also hire gear such as: Sleds, XC, Telemark and Alpine Touring equipment, Split Boards, Snowshoes, Tents, Sleeping Bags, Maps and various accessories.  Hire and bookings for guided tours and ski instruction can be made online and via email.

For all of the above and  the only Daily Updated  Backcountry Snow and Weather Report (in winter)  go to www.wildernesssports.com.au

Update – Camping Restrictions

Camping (at any time) is no longer permitted within the water catchment of any of the 5 glacial lakes, you can get a guide/map from the NPWS Visitors centre in Jindabyne showing the boundary line of exclusion. It’s still easy enough to camp outside the catchment and walk/plod or ski up to your location etc.

Update Winter 2014 & 2015 – Guiding Available

I am available for photographers interested in being guided to the best locations on day or multi-day trips. Mid-winter (early June to Mid August), Dead Horse Gap and the Ramshead areas are best as they are close to Thredbo should weather deteriorate. Snow-shoes or skis required. Late Winter/early Spring (mid August to Late September), Main Range is doable but only for those on Skis and with a perfect weather forecast. I have more than 25 years experience in the Kosciuszko backcountry in winter. I am qualified with a ski tour leadership certificate which includes wilderness first aid. No guiding fees, just cover my costs down there and provide one Sara Lee chocolate cake per person, per day.

The Author heavily laden at Seaman's Hut
The Author heavily laden at Seaman’s Hut

 

Author Bio

Mike Banks

Photographer, Telemark Skier and Tertiary Educator who loves being in the outdoors, particularly the mountains in Winter. Enjoys the versatility and possibilities of the digital medium but shoots mainly on a Linhof Technorama 617s III Panoramic Film Camera.


6 Comments

  1. Tim Wrate May 16, 2013

    Great article Mike, and very timely too. I’ll be heading up in a matter of weeks to do a snow craft course in order to learn about safety and camping in the snow. I’ll then be hopefully heading up for a number of weekends camping on the main range.

    Are there any specific locations in / around South Ram’s Head that you recommend for photography.

    I’ve also noted that the Sentinal / Watson’s Crags are best views from Alice Rawson Peak – have you ventured out this far?

    • Mike Banks May 17, 2013

      Hi Tim,

      Great to hear from you.

      I’ve seen some of your great 617 work on the web. I had an Art Panorama for a couple of years and bit the bullet last year and upgraded to a Linhof Technorama. Don’t get much of an opportunity to shoot but love the process and occasional stunning result.

      The area which I really love for photography and skiing is just outside the Thredbo resort boundary on the slopes of The Ramshead around the northern side of Bogong Creek. I’ve been there many times both snow camping and quick skis over from the resort and I rarely see people there. You don’t get the grand views but the stands of snow gums both dead and full of foliage, sculptured snow drifts and views down to Dead Horse Gap make it a good spot for photography. If the weather turns it is an easy ski back to the resort – perfect for mid-winter. From both South and North Ramshead you can get great sunset/sunrise shots of Kosi.

      I have pretty much been to most places on the Main Range over the last 25 years. The changeable weather is both a blessing and a curse for photography and ski touring. I’ve spent entire October Long weekends in a tent with zero visibility and others skiing with only shorts on and getting hideously sunburnt.

      Going out to the western faces in mid-winter is a real lottery. Your unlikely to get good weather for more than a day or two and even in fine weather the orographic clouds blow across the peaks while lower down is bathed in sunshine. I tried to get out to Blue Lake twice last winter. Once I made it and got a sunset and sunrise but got caught in a whiteout on the way out. The second time the clouds swallowed me up and I turned around and skied down to Foreman’s Chimney where I camped.

      Been out to Alice Rawson a few times in the Spring when the days are longer and the weather more settled but not mid-winter. Good views from there but my pick for Sentinel/Crags photography is from Carruthers West Spur, right down in Strezlecki or James Macarther Creeks and the Sentinel Ridge itself – beware though this is serious terrain. The time to get the mountains at their best before dust storms and the freeze/thaw cycle turns the snow reds and greys is probably mid to late August into early September as there will also be a good coverage of snow.

      Will you be on snowshoes or skis? Skis, either Telemark or Alpine touring are the best and most efficient form of transport (and it increases the fun factor) – you can travel long distances in short periods of time. You need to be technically proficient, a level which on today’s modern ski equipment is much easier to achieve. Snowshoeing is pretty much a plod taking much longer to get anywhere, particularly descending long slopes.

      When I go down to ski tour I go down with mates who are not interested in waiting around for the best light. Generally when I go down to shoot I go by myself (not recommended as I mentioned in the post) but I am always over cautious (particularly with weather), fully aware of my abilities/shortcomings and always carry the necessary safety equipment.

      Let me know when you are going down and perhaps we can link up for some camping and photography.

      Cheers

      Mike

      • Lee Duguid May 19, 2013

        Thanks Mike for taking the time to write the guide and for commenting.

        • Mike Banks May 20, 2013

          No Problems Lee. Probably bump into Tim in the middle of a blizzard somewhere this winter or might arrange to catch up down there at some point.

  2. wilko July 4, 2013

    Hi Mike,

    Great information contained within this guide.

    One thing that should be mentioned is that camping (any time) is no longer permitted within the water catchment of any of the 5 glacial lakes, you can get a guide/map from the NPWS Visitors centre in Jindabyne showing the boundary line of exclusion. It’s still easy enough to camp outside the catchment and walk/plod or ski up to your location etc.

    Other great areas would be the northern end of the Main Range, but south of The Rolling Ground, from Guthega ski village.

    I now it’s not on the Main Range, but heading North from Munyang Power station to explore Tin Hut, Mawson Hut and Jagungle are also great areas to visit. Access to these areas is very dependant on the season, as I have had to walk for a few km before being able to ski. I suppose the climb up disappointing spur is pretty tough too!

    Thanks

    Andrew

    • Mike Banks July 4, 2013

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the comments.

      I’ll add an update regarding camping in the water catchment of the glacial lakes – an important thing for people to know. The northern end of the Main Range is worthy but I think you get more bang for your buck around the Crags/Carruthers area. Mt Tate does offer good views over to the Crags however.

      The huts of Kosciusko would be another great guide to write – I would really like to get out to Whites River Hut in mid-winter. I was up at the northern end of the park with my kids on the long weekend trying to suss out Coolamine Homestead and Old Currango Homestead for winter shoots – 24kms on skis from the Snowy Mountains Highway out to Coolamine has pretty much put the kibosh on that!

      Cheers

      Mike

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