Tasmania Du Cane Range Couloirs and Mt Ossa

Barmstro

Addicted
Ski Pass
Jul 7, 2013
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Two back-to-back trips hunting for the dregs of a very average winter.



Du Cane Range:
Pretty much the same itinerary as my previous Du Cane Range trip: Shaun and I headed across Lake St Clair on the early ferry and scooted up to the Pine Valley, Hut where we lounged for the rest of the day. The rain overnight was heavy and relentless, quickly smothering any lingering hopes for good snow. We pushed on up to the Labyrinth with skis in horizontal mode and walked across to Lake Elysia in fairly miserable weather. Walled Mountain was our intended camp for the night, but like last trip, the line through the central chasm didn't have quite enough depth to justify the sloppy stomp up, so we headed up to the Du Cane Range highpoint instead. A bit of wallowing past Pool of Memories, then good skinning to the top.

Sunday (supposedly the good weather day) brought cloud, sleet and freezing rain until about 2pm, by which time we we're itching to get on skis regardless of the snow condition. We hit the smaller northern line (henceforth known as Big Gun Couloir, for very uncreative reasons) in surprisingly okay snow, climber back up, then had a look at the ultra-steep "Sisyphus Couloir" (the name has something to do with the Sisyphean futility of Tasmanian backcountry skiing, plus there's a Greek theme in the area). The poor winter meant that it was actually quite a bit mellower than last year, where the snow had filled up the couloir an extra 4-5m, meaning the first 30m of the line was close to 60 degrees. Cover was still decent, but the skiing was hard with wet snow, heavy sloughing and an annoying concave shape.

The next day I did another lap of Big Gun Couloir, then we packed down camp and managed to ski a good portion of the route down off the range. After another night at Pine Valley hut we caught the 1:30 ferry at Narcissus, which to our horror, was empty (I'd paid the $300 booking fee up front in the hope that others would join and share the cost... ouch).

Mt Ossa:
With an invitation from @Outdoors to rendezvous on the summit of Ossa for some promising evening weather, we had a quick pit stop in Hobart, then got a horribly early start for the long drive up to the Arm River track. Our packs were light (relative to previous trips this winter) and we made speedy progress along the Arm River track, up Pelion Gap and around Mt Doris. We switched to ski boots and followed a nice bootpack up the steep section of the Ossa climb, got the skins on for a bit and caught @Outdoors and his companion just as they were approaching the summit.

Up top the snow was good, the weather was good and we knew instantly that it had been worth squeezing one last trip in. Our three tents formed a perfect equilateral triangle on the summit plateau, ready for some quality night shots. While the others wandered around with their cameras, I made a miniature kicker and worked through my very limited repertoire of old-school tricks in front of a stupidly scenic backdrop.

The clear night was a bit chilly with my lightweight quilt, but the snow crisped up nicely. We said goodbye to @Outdoors as he dropped down the west side (they were headed for the Mt Thetis saddle via a tricky looking traverse) and skied a short line down the Central Chute of the east face. The snow was okay and we could have skied another couple of hundred vertical meters if we'd wanted to, but the long walk out was still ahead of us. We climbed back up to the summit and picked our way down the ascent track, staying on skis until it got a bit stupid.

All in all, it's been a pretty crap winter. The few good dumps we've had just haven't lasted, and it was really shocking seeing how quickly the snowpack deteriorated in the week we were out.

Disclaimer about camping on Ossa: The summit plateau of Mt Ossa is popular destination which is home to some very fragile alpine vegetation. Camping on top should only be done with good snow cover, in perfect weather and ALL waste must to be carried out. While the climb is relatively simple when the snow is soft, a hard freeze overnight can turn the descent into true mountaineering, where a slip could easily result in a fatality.
 

telecrag

Old n' Crusty
Ski Pass
Oct 12, 2007
31,884
47,195
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Epic as usual! Love the technical skiing at the end of Ossa.
 
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