Wednesday, 25 June 2014


It's always amazing how a single storm can transform everything so swiftly. A couple weeks back we were riding mountain bikes wondering if winter would ever arrive. Then along comes 'Snowmageddon'; to be swiftly followed (if the weather boffins are correct) by 'Snowzilla'.
Whilst Darbs seldom works, I would ordinarily have been gassing away on Wednesday were my colleague in the country (thank you Sam)! So the perfect storm indeed. With the Harrietville approach to Hotham looking likely to struggle under such low heavy snow and high winds, we left Melbourne Tuesday arvo via Bairnsdale. There was snow on the road soon after Omeo, and it was still snowing heavily down to Cobungra. It was easy to understand how they'd struggled to keep the road open, however after locking the hubs the Delica made it up comfortably.
Dinner Plain was very pretty but very cold under a half metre of snow, and we had to do a bit of digging to get in to our place, and the garage for my gear. Soon we had a raging fire though, with red wine and spag bol whilst JP mounted his new Movement Bonds with Dynafit (on the couch in front of the fire - I didn't have the heart to make him take his tools out into the shed).
Whilst the weather was lifting a little in DP by morning, it was still fairly brutal up top. To the credit of Hotham Management (and our delight) they soon had the Village Chair turning. Our first run of the Oz season was through untracked goodness down the Playground. We had several more loops around Blue Ribbon and Wall of Death before, in a fit of enthusiasm, I tweaked my ankle.
After a rest, cafe, and some NSAIDS, Roadrunner was turning and so started wide loops of Heavenly Valley which with nobody on it was just about as good as it gets. Up high the snow was still dry and wind packed, whilst a little heavy lower down. But an exceptional base regardless.
After tracking out Heavenly we had a few short climbs in the mist up to Mary's Slide, which was all time bloody awesome.
With the weather coming in again though, we decided to call it quits - although I had one final run down Gallows after hiking up to the true summit in terrible weather. At one point I lost the snow-poles, and was only saved by unwittingly (I wanted a photo) following a very large alpine hare who lead me to the next pole. Whilst fairly certain of having stumbled on Gallows, it was a relief to see the Delica again down in Baldy Hollow.
An excellent opening account for season 2014!     

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Queen's Birthday Opening Weekend and Roy's 70th, DP

Some of my fonder earliest memories are of the mountains with dad. And whilst I like to think that I have the mountains in my blood, the truth is that mountains are more birthright than genetic. Like a pure and godless religion perhaps, the gift of mountains is handed down from one generation to the next.

Travelling with dad through the night en route to the Alps as a kid was always an adventure I never wanted to end. In a way I guess I never really grew up.

Mum and dad were teenagers when they first met, and were Hotham regulars and then diehards soon after their marriage. Dad can remember driving up the road back when it was mostly single lane ice, rock and mud in a VW beetle with chains. There were few locals back then and even fewer rules. Back then you could lease a block of land with a couple of mates and build a chalet; and then start a business, which in the Australian Alps is always a sensational way for making a small fortune from one much larger.

The mountains were a four-season destination for us back in those days of building Pegasus and then Jack Frost: countless hours spent running amongst the snow gums with my sisters and cousins, climbing, building cubbies, exploring old goldmine shafts, riding BMXs, or fishing for trout down on the Plains of Heaven. And, of course, skiing; whether Nordic or downhill, I could never get enough. 

Dad had his own adventures of course. Whether it was a hole in the petrol tank in the middle of nowhere, a trailer jackknifing and pulling him off the Great Alpine Way, a couple of falling mountain ash as wide as busses nearly squashing his car into tin foil, or the many crazy adventures with an old car and the kind of snow that we don't get anymore, the mountains should have claimed him many times over.

It is funny to reconcile dad turning seventy. Both mum and dad are still so healthy and young at heart that these days (as I begin to age too) I scarcely consider them horribly older than myself. They don't seem like old people. Even with a fused foot, dad still skis, still loves a stroll in the mountains, or throwing a line at the odd trout. And he still loves being in the mountains with his wife, kids and nine grandchildren. Mountain air obviously keeps you young, and fertile.

So seventy years and a long weekend seemed like a good excuse to get everyone together for a bit of a celebration. Although we had a few flakes of snow, there wasn't enough for any skiing. But lots of walks, some cubbies, picnics, mountain bikes; and a couple of excellent meals at two of Dinner Plain's finest restaurants. 

Looking back on those endless mounds of communal spag bol in Pegasus, it seams that wine and fine cuisine cooked by others is the only thing to have changed much. But also, I guess, that I am now a father myself and responsible for instilling the same sense of wonder and awesomeness in my kids and nephews that only the wilderness of mountains or the ocean can grant. 

If only I can be the hero that dad was and still is for me.