Updated: Aug 23
A fictitious story about how things can go wrong in the backcountry.
Read on for a few tips here & there.
Backcountry riding has become very popular in recent years with huge advances in equipment design & functionality & the appeal of a wilderness experience beyond the lifted boundaries. Whilst resort riders have strong skiing & boarding skills the backcountry requires a much more vast & varied suite of skills!
Read on to see how our Punksters fare in the storm.
On the exposed climb up Mt Twynam the group that started out very dusty but cherry & excited down low in the protection of the trees began to space out beyond ear shot on the long haul ascent into the alpine. Due to different fitness levels, skins failing on the wind scoured surface, slow going because of the reduced glide from the high traction skins, heavy set up’s & loss of vision in the patchy cloud the disjointed team eventually all arrived well behind schedule at Twynam Saddle 30 minutes apart. Struggling to see or hear each other because of the white out conditions & strong winds at 2050 metres, a short lived clear spell had allowed the crew to reunite, orient themselves on Johnny’s map (the only one in the group) & ascertain the direction of Blue Lake only a short distance below.
Tired from a longer climb than any he’d previously experienced, Johnny said he was heading back because of the difficult going & suggested they all enjoy the long descent back to The Snowy River but Sid lobbied hard for the group to stay together and continue their proposed intentions. He reasoned that the post frontal conditions should see a calming trend & that Blue Lake was not even a kilometre away all downhill. Unbeknownst to the new friends there was another cold front closely following the first. Not convinced, a tired & hung over Johnny decided to return leaving the saddle on his own! Nancy feeling pressured by Sid headed off with him to Blue Lake & after almost flailing off the massive cornice descended on challenging steep hard pack to the lake. Making confident turns Nancy stopped half way down & chaperoned Sid to the bottom, surprised to see him struggle, fall & slide for 20metres coming to a stop just before a 10 metre rock band. Too steep to skin out they tried to boot pack with skis on shoulders as they were unable to lash skis to their resort style packs but they were unable to ascend as they couldn’t find traction on the steep firm conditions. They decided to skin via the gentler slopes to the skier’s right of the glacial cirque. Enveloped in a whiteout & driving snow they soon came to a stop barely able to see their ski tips. Even if they had Johnny’s map & compass the poor visibility would have rendered the nav gear useless because of their inexperience & unfamiliarity with the terrain.
By now the wind had picked up to gale force & Johnny’s retreat option seemed rather favourable! Making their way by brail they moved toward the base of the cliffs & took shelter in a wind scour. There was no letting up in the conditions & the distraught novices were becoming aware of the likelihood that their limited experience & bad decisions may see them getting to know each other a lot better.
Unable to get phone reception the duo formulated a plan & using the group’s only shovel punched through the hard layer & fashioned a small snow hole. Climbing through the small opening they changed into down jackets under their shells and sitting on their packs covered themselves with space blankets from their 1st aid kits. Nancy was already shivering out of control & Sid who became sweaty & warm whilst digging the shelter was now seriously hypothermic. Again from online information the two placed adhesive hand warmers on their thermals in each groin & under each armpit. By now snow was blowing into their sanctuary so Sid blocked the entrance with some cut blocks leaving a small gap for ventilation. Realising that Johnny had the PLB they were unable to raise the alarm however they were certain he would & help wouldn’t be far away?
Standby for Part 3 to see how the Exposed & Embarrassed bc enthusiasts get on?