Well, I’m not dead.

Just exhausted, snowburned, sore and dehydrated.

We left Sydney on Tuesday at 8am, full of plans. We’d interrogated the Bureau of Meteorology for the latest updates, and were confident we’d grabbed a narrow window to do something cool: alpine landscape photography. We stopped in Cooma for an inflatable pillow for CN2 and a map of the track. Perfect. 22km loop track with 500m+ of ascent, mirror-surfaced glacial lakes and tarns, all to ourselves.

Well, not so much.

The carpark at Charlotte Pass was jammed. I parked in a “buses only’ zone and prepared my argument for court when I contested the (probable) $1M infringement notice. “Sign? What sign? There was a sign buried in the snow embankment? How was I supposed to see that?

Did I say snow?

As we approached Charlotte Pass, we began to see white on the roadside. A flash of distant peaks, pearlescent in the midday sun. The BOM hadn’t said anything about snow! In fact, I’d even consulted a resident offical snowbunnies’ guide, who declared the season dead after recent heavy rains.

So neither of us was prepared for knee-deep snow, but that’s what we got. Hiking boots in deep snow reduces you to a crawl. About ten snowboarders and half a dozen skiers swished past, each with the same expression: Why are you idiots walking in the snow?

STFU is what I growled, grinding my teeth and trudging on. We lost the path after crossing the Snowy River at the infamous stepping-stones. We had both navigated the steps, but soaked ourselves clambering up the opposite bank. Now we’re punching deep holes in the snow in soaking wet hiking boots.

Our overnight target, Carruthers Peak, became a joke. Even Blue Lake was out of reach. When my son began worrying he’d lose toes to frostbite, we stopped and found a flat patch of tussocky grass and made camp.

Not the view we’d wanted, but not bad either.

Morale improved as we set up tents and plumped sleeping bags. Unfortunately, because we hadn’t expected snow, there was really only one winter bag and one winter tent. I gave CN2 both, plus my beanie, plus my gloves, plus my puffer jacket. Not because I am a hard unit, but because he’s my son.

After a hearty meal and a generous tipple, he was first to hit the sack and slept soundly. It dropped to at least -8C that night, so cold I had to get up (in wet socks and frozen boots) to boil hot water to drink. I was awake the whole night. It was simultaneously miserable and magnificent.

We rose at 5am for dawn photos, snapped a few but too much hanging cloud obscured the view so we had a quick brew then went back the way we came. With the soft snow re-frozen overnight, we made very good time. What took 4 hours coming in took 1.5hrs going back.

The trip home from Charlotte Pass was a 6-hour blur.

Dead tired, I let CN2 drive for a bit and perked up on caffeinated drinks and a superb steak and kidney pie from the Kuma Bakery in Cooma. Recommend it. I didn’t get as many photos as I’d hoped this trip, and none of the scenery I’d hoped there for.

But the Main Range loop track will still be there next time.

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