The weather on Tuesday night was awefull with a huge high pressure system bringing a fast moving cold front with dangerous winds and a predicted snow dump on the Barrington Tops……
It was a hard sell to my wife that all would be well and even after listening to the weather man on the news she was still reluctant that it would pass before the next day and she thought I was mad.
The weather man was correct and after the 24 hours of bad weather the high just sat right over us making the weather beautiful with blue skies and very little wind. Perfect timing for the trip. If I could have asked for better weather I don’t think that would be possible as I wanted to experience snow but I knew it would be a plus to do it in nice conditions. It’s also a rare thing this time of year to get a 4-5 day stint on the tops without rain and bad weather.
So we arrived at Munroe hut in Gloucester Tops National Park around 4pm on Wednesday 22nd June for our 4 day trip and settled in for the night, I was enthused on the drive in as we passed a bit of “white stuff” and there was even more close to the hut, This was the first time I have seen snow in Australia. Sadly for the others I as usual had the lightest pack, they just cannot get in there head how I have 12kgs and they end up carrying 22kgs, even though they split their tent between two packs.... they will never learn and some of the things they pulled out during the trip, well let’s just say I’m surprised they didn’t have 30kgs. Temps that night fell just below freezing but it was pretty nice in the hut with a good fire.
Thursday morning we walked across the “link trail” into Barrington Tops NP and there was on and off snow all the way along the track (only on the ground, not actually falling). Pretty light in spots but once we reached the Carey’s Peak area @ the 1500 meter mark there was more and more around. I’m guessing they had about 10cm’s of snow but it had nearly 2 days of sun before we arrived. Still I was happy and never before had hiked in snow. It was more like wet icy sludge but still, I’ll claim it as snow. We ended up camped along the edge of Edwards Swamp under Mt Barrington around 4pm, The plan was to get to Junction Pools but we were at least an hour away and were running out of light. The temps were dropping fast too with the light so we just pitched camp on the track near a small creek and boiled up for dinner. There wasn’t much action once the sun set and we had eaten so it was off to bed at the wee hour of 6pm while a very cold swamp mist came up.
Thursday night/Friday morning was the coldest temps we had the whole trip as the thermometer dropped to -7°C in the early hours of the morning (Recorded low on the digital thermometer). Everything froze, puddles, mud, water in drink bottles, even the edges of the 2 meter wide creek we were near froze. My tarp was totally ice covered inside and out, even the condensation from my breathing on the TQ edge was ice !!. Well I thought it was excellent but I did have a nice warm nights sleep in my 3 Season Burrow and Crowsnest 3/4 UQ. It was great to find out that the rating of 20°F on the quilts is conservative indeed. I think I could push these quilts much lower as I was warm all night. I only wore a 200g/sm weight merino base layer to bed with possum/merino bed socks, a silk balaclava and a blackrock beanie. Only thing I did try to stretch thin was the thickness of foot pad I used, To start with I tried a ¼” EVA pad but ended up using a larger piece double over to ½” when my feet were cold around 10pm. After that all was sweet.
Sadly I couldn’t say the enthusiasm was felt with my two ground camping compatriots as they were chattering fools that morning and hadn’t sleep well all night…. Even with all there clothes on (Including rain gear) But the sun was soon out thawing the ice off them and our gear so all was well.
I had a wonderful time in the cooler temps when in camp and had a proper chance to wear my new Mont-bell down parka and some goose down 2/3’d pants I had Ben @ goose feet make for me (Those things are toasty and make great down socks in the TQ !!).
Once the sun crested the tree line it didn’t take long for the temps to warm up to around 8°C before we trekked off towards Pole Blue.
We never did make it to Pole Blue as after a few hours walking we passed through Little Murray camp ground and just couldn’t pass the place up. Lovely sun and in an area that’s closed to car campers this time of year, we had the place to ourselves. Even had a little snow left lying around the place right next to the fire place and camp tables.
Friday night was the time for my surprise 400ml bottle of Robyn Drayton’s White Port to come out, well I was mister popular then...... Until the thermometer hit 0°C just before the sun set and we had emptied the bottle in double time. Even with a fire the others were cold. Me... I was fine but had more puffy clothing for this trip than the others. We also had a huge wild brumby stallion challenge us for about 15 minutes just before dark, apparently he wasn’t too impressed and we must have stolen his favourite camp spot. Lots of huffing and snorting (both from the horse and us back at him) and he eventually trotted off, tail up.
Temps that night/Saturday morning dropped to -4.5°C and the campsite on Saturday morning was a wonderful crunchy white. I just couldn’t coach the other pair out of their tent until the sun had made a decent appearance and melted a “green” patch of grass for them. Again they had both not enjoyed there night in the cold, I just think there old down sleeping bags are done in but you cannot convince some people. We eventually wandered back off towards Junctions Pools around 10am ! The walk back over Brumlow Top and the Barrington River was nice through Junction Pools, Then Aeroplane Hill and Black Swamp with a perfect sunny 10°C and no wind. Never did I think I’d get to experience a trip with snow and get to walk around in shorts and a thin merino tee shirt.
Saturday night our final destination was Selby Allen Hut at the top of the Corker Trail.
It’s wonderful to be able to camp in a nice hut but I must say Selby Allen is a dismal place (But at least it’s a good refuge in the rain and cold). The hut’s fine and has nice padded bunk style beds. It’s just in a very damp, dark gully that I swear never see’s sunlight. As a result of that it’s just always seems cold and even in the daylight you need to wear a headlamp to see around inside properly.
Saturday night was fine but I awoke around midnight with a splitting headache. Feeling around for my headlight I just couldn’t find it, I knew where I had left it and it just wasn’t there. After feeling around in the pitch black touching god knows what in that dark dank place I eventually managed to find my lighter in the pack but that was after I smashed my head on the bed frame above me. By this stage my head was throbbing and I was over all pretences of not waking the others. Sunday morning I awoke with a migraine and for about 2 hours was in no state to go anywhere, I even climbed back into bed for an hour after taking 1000’s of Ibuproen Plus’s and still wasn’t great but managed to get going on the trail.
They guys looked for my headlight for about 30 minutes while I stumbled about with my migraine and they came to the conclusion that some critter must have taken it as it was nowhere to be found in the hut. So if someone stays at Selby Allen hut there is a rat up there with a near new petzl e-lite.
After about 45 minutes on the trail of, one foot after the other, there ya go, now do it again, don’t look to far down the track, yep next foot now (well you get the idea) I was starting to feel a little better and by about lunchtime I was able to grin and laugh at the odd joke.
When we had cleared the corker after the 1100m elevation drop and hit Rocky Crossing I perked up a bit at the falls which were beautiful. The walk down the rest of the Williams Rivers is as usual, stunning. Huge eucalypt trees and figs and the best bit in the cooler weather.... No leeches !!! which is a first for me in this area as they are normally knee deep.
Our driver arrived 10 minutes after we arrived at the pick-up point ending what in my eyes was the perfect trip.