Trip Report Mt.Stirling. Razorback Hut snow camp and XC skiing .10th-12th .8.18

Mister Tee on XC Skis

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I just returned from a weekend of great snow at Mt. Stirling. I truly doubt the conditions for XC skiing could be improved upon this 2018 white season.
It just nuked down with fresh dry fluffy powdery snow on and off all day and night on Sat. and Sunday . It was still dumping down when I drove the Tee Mobile out of TBJ, having excavated it somewhat.
I drove up in clear sunshine on Friday 10/8/18.
I slogged it up the track from TBJ to the Razorback hut . The ski patroller loaned me some snow shoes because mine are being repaired.
I cannot ski with anything more than a light day pack on , so walking up to the planned snow camping spot with skis strapped to the pack was necessary , .
After an hour or two I reached the camp site. Just as I was putting up my snow tent another ski patroller appeared on a skidoo and took the snow shoes back and dropped off a couple of pieces of cut wood.
There was no firewood at the Razorback hut and the Ski Patrol said NO to restocking it since the public burned through a shipload in two weeks whereas King Saddle shelter doesn't have this problem because it has a cast iron wood burner not a useless Edmondson's hut type open fireplace.
No The Razorback Hut has two open fire places so the public must have been burning double the wood and still the hut is colder than a witch's tit.
I digress.
After getting set up I went for a ski down to the junction of the Circuit road, Rd. No.3 and The Razorback hut track. The nice easy curves that descend to the Circuit road along the Razorback hut track are good fun to ski on
There was no one around but with the afternoon winding on I decided to ski down there and explore a bit more the next day.
A group of snow shoers appeared at the hut . They were from a bushwalking club in Geelong. They lit the fire and burned more wood than I would have in one night.
They were pleasant enough and I entertained them with a song or two on my guitar.
They seemed to all sleep in the huts which are a bit manky and cold.
Fellow forum member Pegasus ski appeared near dusk and put up his tent near the Razorback bunk hut where someone had left a tent site ready and excavated for a weary traveller such as Pegasus ski. His feet were giving him trouble because he was using rental ski boots .
The next morning after a windy clear night it started snowing . Initially it was wet sleety snow but soon it changed to big dry flakes and kept nuking down on and off right up until I left the hill on 12/8/18.
I had to dig my tent out a number of times over the weekend.
After breakfast I went for a ski but without my small day pack my overnight pack disinvested of most of its contents was still too unwieldy and I crashed a few times whereas usually I would be fine.
The terrain had frozen overnight and only had a few cms. of fresh cover so it was also not perfect to ski on . After lunch that would change.
I went for a ski over to King Saddle and then along the Circuit road to Road No.3
There was a large log across the start of road no.3 and I wasn't interested in taking my skis off to ski out there , so I went back to the hut .
Since there was no wood I went on skis at least twice 1 km up the track to King Saddle shelter to stuff my shell jacket pockets with cut wood and ski back to the hut to stock pile enough for a small fire at dusk.Sitting in the hut at lunch time I became very cold and even considered skiing down to TBJ for a hot cuppa at the warm café!.
I skied down the Razorback hut track to the Circuit road on a carpet of fresh snow and it was amazing.I was warming up by skiing.
Two of the Estonian ski instructors appeared on skating skis at King Saddle while I was practising some downhill moves on the practice slope. They said TBJ was very busy and they had to get out . They went off to the Razorback hut .
After they left I went for one more slide before having another rest and warming up at King Saddle shelter. The fire there was very cozy.
However I became too cocky and went straight down the slope with parallel skis , sans turns or speed control , and tipped over forwards and crashed.
My right leg did a contortionist's trick and ran off in front of me while my left ankle , already gammy from a crash in June got a pain update.
I took the skis off and realized no bones were broken but the right hamstring muscle may have to be nursed back into order.
With more wood in my pockets and a sore leg and a reduced sense of confidence I still skied back to the hut and didn't crash despite being in a spot of pain.
I got into my tent and had a rest and changed into warmer and drier costumery for the evening ahead. The snow had buried the tent of Pegasus ski .In fact he had gone off for the day and left it there and now I could see it was straining under the weight of a lot of fresh snow. My tent was fine , but having a snow shovel was invaluable to excavate it two or three times in a day!!!.
Pegasus ski arrived back just after dusk .He had had another exhausting day. Two other XC skiers appeared at dusk and set up in the manky old hut with the disgustingly crusty and antediluvian mattresses and bunks.
Pegasus ski 's tent did collapse from all the snow that was falling and I helped him bring his things into the hut where he slept that night. The snow shovel came in handy again.
So the evening went by enjoyably in front of a modest fire until it was time to sleep. It was still snowing H A R D out there all night.
During the night I would wake briefly from my cozy slumber in my comfy womfy sleeping bag and kick the wall of the tent and hear another mini slab avalanche coming off my tent. Answering nature's call in the middle of the night required speed so that the hapless snow camper trying to micturate would not be turned into a snow man wearing neoprene reef shoes .
The next day with more neurofen tablets with my breakfast the environs showed a lot of snow had fallen overnight, A SHIPLOAD!!. The trees were festooned with powder snow and the groomed loop in front of the huts was all but lost .The water tank was frozen solid.
Pegasus ski went on his merry way and so I did but without snowshoes in fresh deep powder snow it was slow going schlepping back to TBJ. My tent fly was so frozen that I could not fold it up properly so having stuffed it into a dry bag I lashed it to my already large pack with an octopus strap.
The scenery from the Razorback hut over to King Saddle hut in a totally white winter wonderland was extraordinary.
The lower mountain had delivered the goods and then some.
With much relief I reached TBJ , dumped my ludicrously heavy pack , assembled a day pack , having found my car buried under deep snow and set off to ski from TBJ to the River Spur track junction on the Circuit road and back.
My leg was hurting , so what ? , just go skiing , that usually will fix every thing ! :p.
Once I skied past the intersection for the Bluff Spur track turn off the ski tracks vanished and I was skiing approximately 4 kms there and another 4 kms back on deep ungroomed powder snow with not a soul to be seen.
This was a true highlight of the trip.
It was still snowing and it was too cold to stop for long enough to eat lunch so I kept having a handful of trail mix washed down with water from my camel back bladder.
Yes that section of the Circuit road is basically flat and in that kind of snow which was so fresh it was sticking to my skis . I was diagonal striding nearly the whole way.
Nevertheless I have never seen the Circuit road looking so good for XC skiing. It eclipsed my snow shoe trip out that way in August 2017.Some of those plastic road markers with the red reflective tops were all but completely buried. Tree ferns were buried, the actual road and culverts on either side were all buried so staying in the middle was the best way to proceed.
I didn't have the legs to ski out to Howqua Gap and back, so that is in my 2019 in tray for XC skiing but the couple of hours I spent out there were as good as the lower mountain gets. Serenity , solitude, beauty, and a shipload of deep ungroomed fresh powdery snow.
On the return leg the groomers and other skiers had exposed the icy base closer to TBJ and that last downhill bit was very different to ski on, I was kind of fatigued but skidding down it in a wide snow plough trying to get the metal ski edges into the surface.
Plonking down on a sofa to eat in front of the fire indoors at TBJ was so very welcome. After eating my B.Y.O lunch like a man who had not eaten for days and consuming a hot cuppa and a cookie at the Café I felt revived but I was still hobbling. I stopped in at the Ski patrol office to tell them I was back and there was some timber down on the Circuit road near the River Spur track junction.
Then getting the snow off the car took a while.
Chains were being fitted to 2 WD at chain bay no. 2 but The Tee Mobile/RAV 4 ( with AWD and chunky All Terrain Tyres) was fine going down that snowy road in low gear. The road had not been worked on by the grader.
The snow cover continued a long way down the hill. It was quite a scene.
So it was a trip to Mt. Stirling with pleasure, pain and a lot of snow. I doubt you will see that much snow at the Razorback hut again this season. My guess is that right now you could ski tour the entire Circuit road( a Long way ) as well as Road No.3 all the way to Carter's road.
These are just my thoughts and not words of advice or expertise of any kind.
However keep in mind if you happen to take a tumble as I did, these areas are remote and are not patrolled so being experienced , competent and self sufficient are all important.
Being able to ski 1 km back to my campsite in discomfort and have some pain killers is clearly different to setting off a PLB if you cannot ski 20 km out in the event of a mishap.
Moreover in such snowy weather becoming too cold when you stop moving happens quite quickly out there.
Get up to Mt. Stirling ASAP. The snow up there is amazing. I skied from my car onwards. When does that happen?
:)
I will post some photos very soon.
 
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Mister Tee on XC Skis

Not your average unconventional eccentric.
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Jul 29, 2015
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Melbourne, Lockdown-i-stan .
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Day one. Sunny and clear.The Circuit road heading for King Saddle.
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Mister Tee on XC Skis

Not your average unconventional eccentric.
Ski Pass
Jul 29, 2015
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Melbourne, Lockdown-i-stan .
soundcloud.com
Inside ye olde hut. It was character building using such a cold hut as a base. No wonder it remains less popular than Hut 36 a.k.a King Spur Hut and the Bluff Spur Hut. It is however surrounded by Mr. Tee friendly ski terrain and NO Kamikaze ski runs as the "The Race Loop"...….Well except for one which is the Black diamond Run "Alby's drop".
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pegasusSki

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he he. I am still hiring as I have not got the funds for skis and bindings. However, orthotics have not completely fixed my boot fitting issues for Excursions. Still, I got to the top of Mt Stirling in blazing sunshine, only for the clouds to come in, to clear on my way down. I then met up with the illustrious Mr T (as documented). Spent the next day on AT gear using Kingpins. I got back to the hut late on the second day, in the dark, as I had to range around TBJ to bid for an Ebay auction for my daughter...[the things us Dads do!].
 

Mister Tee on XC Skis

Not your average unconventional eccentric.
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Jul 29, 2015
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Melbourne, Lockdown-i-stan .
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12.8.18.More Sunday solo skiing Circuit road photos.
The Alpine Touring ski guns and daredevils head for the summit and ski the bowls but ski any distance away from Telephone Box Junction even on a prime weekend along the lower mtn. and this can be all yours.
The Engraved Post says "TBJ 4 km".
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Mister Tee on XC Skis

Not your average unconventional eccentric.
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Jul 29, 2015
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Melbourne, Lockdown-i-stan .
soundcloud.com
I can recommend swimming over 2 kms outdoors in a heated pool followed by 15 minutes in a steam room to help heal a nasty leg muscle strain or three from being Sir Crash-a- Lot on XC skis.
The Circuit road. 12.8.18 was easy to XC ski on but all that constant diagonal striding and gliding non stop for nearly 8 kms left me worn out but happily contented for the drive home.
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Look in the middle distance on the left. You can see another buried road marker thingy with just the red reflector dot visible above the increasing snow line.
 
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Mister Tee on XC Skis

Not your average unconventional eccentric.
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Back Down at Carter's Road day visitor area I changed my attire, removed the snow from my car roof and got ready to do battle with the infamous Mt. Buller ski crowd driving home in a convoy of overtaking and impatient road etiquette. Fortunately I always veer off from Yea and take the Flowerdale Road to Whittlesea which is quick and seldom busy.
Circuit Road 12.8.18
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If you look carefully you can see my outward bound ski tracks and my return journey ski tracks side by side.
 

chriscross

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Good report, Mr T - rather a lot of information. Hey, Pegasus, were you up around the summit of Stirling on Thursday afternoon? Weerab and I spoke with a bloke up the top who had hired skis with Kingpin bindings. After a brief chat he took off into the clouds and we didn't sight him again. As for the committed Kiwi splitboarder who had slept in the carpark, hiked to the top, made 2 runs in Stanley bowl and was heading down as we ate lunch in Bluff Spur hut, what can you say? Hard core!
 

Mister Tee on XC Skis

Not your average unconventional eccentric.
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Jul 29, 2015
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Melbourne, Lockdown-i-stan .
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My Right leg hamstring muscle is still cactus. I will rest for a couple of days and ask the G.P. on Wednesday about why it also hurts in my knee. I think the hamstring muscle is like a rubber band that attaches to the knee joint. Being reasonably fit I think/hope I will be able to ski on it next weekend.
 

Skiain

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great detail Mr T, and an understandably satisfying trip for you. Enticing photos. A few years ago, under full cover I did the ski out to Craig's Hut for a few dusk photos and a return to TBJ as darkness set it. It was a long day. A goal for 2019 is to be ready for the conditions you have experienced, and do the entire Circuit road in a day (47+km).

Good luck with the hamstring strain. Combining cold temps, fatigue, resting muscle length, quad-hamstring tone balance, load/stretch factors and if an adequate warmup was performed, all contribute to susceptibility to injury. Issues are complex because the muscles comprising the "hamstrings" cross two joints (hip and knee). Good idea to get medical advice!
 

pegasusSki

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Good report, Mr T - rather a lot of information. Hey, Pegasus, were you up around the summit of Stirling on Thursday afternoon? Weerab and I spoke with a bloke up the top who had hired skis with Kingpin bindings. After a brief chat he took off into the clouds and we didn't sight him again. As for the committed Kiwi splitboarder who had slept in the carpark, hiked to the top, made 2 runs in Stanley bowl and was heading down as we ate lunch in Bluff Spur hut, what can you say? Hard core!

Hi Crisscross, wasn't me, as Friday was my day, but the Kingpins on hire at TBJ are brand new this year.
 

Mister Tee on XC Skis

Not your average unconventional eccentric.
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Jul 29, 2015
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Melbourne, Lockdown-i-stan .
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Regarding ski touring the entire Circuit road: I think towing a sled could work. The overall gradient is gentle and the surface is reasonably wide and undulating. After the Howqua Gap or the Road No.3 intersection you could just snow camp on the road after covering xxxx kms in a day, since no snow mobiles/ snow grooming is done thence forth.
It could be a good place to try it out , at least as far as The Howqua Gap Hut. If it wasn't floating the proverbial boat and it was becoming an ordeal one could just camp at the Howqua Gap hut and ski tour a bit from there without any encumbrances.
 
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Skiain

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Regarding ski touring the entire Circuit road: I think towing a sled could work.

Good idea for a tour, then being able to access areas from the road at different points along the way. However, my wish is to complete the circuit in a day, so it would be skates and light pack with essentials and basic emergency gear only.
 
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