The “other” way up Mount Buller

Wow its been a busy couple months! Luckily I’ve been too busy adventuring to blog, which means I can now commit to blogging about all the adventures over the last few months!

We’ll start with the most recent for now though. After spending 9 days sweating in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, dreaming about the winter season taking off at home, all I wanted to do was take an ice axe to the snow! So like most impulsive weekends, a plan was hatched, pitched at a few friends, and no one could make it…. typical. Luckily though, I postponed the trip to a Sunday-Monday, instead of the weekend, and Sharon pulled through!

Sharon is a pilot with Virgin Australia, and thanks to her chaotic roster, is sometimes free to jump on these impromptu sorties overlapping the standard working week.

Buller West Ridge June 2017-7444

THE PLAN:

Leave Sunday, taking off mid-late morning, pick Sharon up, drive out towards Mount Buller, turn right before the resort gates and head up a heavily corrugated dirt road, over a few “whoopee doo’s” and park at the trail head. A quick efficient gear check, and blast up the trail to a campsite about an hour in, hopefully making it by sun down. Camp the night there, and the following morning leave early for the summit, climb and explore in the snow, then descend the same route back to the car, bunk out and be home for dinner! Phew…. *breathe*

REALITY:

Starting off a plan with such tight time frames with a ‘no rush’ attitude can be dangerous, by the time I got organised and packed, we didn’t leave Sharon’s place until after 1pm! The drive up went to plan, the gear check and repack was anything but quick and efficient (a special well done to Sharon for squeezing her kit into a 50L pack, and the strong decision to leave behind one of her 2 deodorants), and the ‘blast’ up the trail was more of a meander stopping to chat every few steps! Strangely enough though we still made the camp site just on sunset, in perfect timing to see the south face of Mount Buller painted bright red then fade to the brown and grey of the late evening.

The temperature quickly plummeted so we threw a warm layer on and went about setting up camp, still, with not a hurry in the world!Buller West Ridge June 2017-7447

Dinner consisted of a fun sized milky way, a 2 person serve Outdoor Gourmet freeze dried meal (each), a freeze dried apple crumble and each course was washed down with a delicious port from the Barossa Valley. All by the light of a crackling campfire. Perfect.

The ‘no rush’ attitude definitely carried over to the next day, oat bars for breakie, washed down with a cup of tea, another slow repack leaving most of the gear stashed in the tent we decided to leave set up, all to be collected on the way back down.Sunrise on the West Ridge Track

Sharon predicted we’d be at the summit in 3 hours, I said 2. Later we discussed perspectives in the mountains and how everywhere in the world mountains always seem further away than you think, as you keep walking towards them, it’s like the keep getting further away. But here in Australia, Sharon thinks it the opposite, as though the mountains are closer than they really appear! At least she was right about one thing, we were on the top in 2 hours 15 minutes!

The West Ridge trail of Mount Buller is fantastic. Once you get up above the snow gums, the views are far and wide, the ridge is incredibly sharp in some places, and the trail is adventurous with a few sections of steep scrambling.

While we were incredibly disappointed in the lack of snow, as we were well prepared with ice axes and rope, we at least strapped into crampons for the last few hundred meters of the trail as the remaining snow on the south face sees no sun at all in winter and was incredibly hard and icy. If only the whole mountain was covered in it!

Buller West Ridge June 2017

Mount Buller Summit Cairn

11:15am on the summit. “If we turn back now, we’ll be home for dinner”. But that was less fun than traversing all the way over and down through the Mount Buller resort to the ‘Tirol Cafe’ for some fish and chips! We embraced the bizarre looks from the skiers sliding off the chair lifts as we walked past with out packs and crampons on, then basked in the sunshine with a great feed and a beer.

“Now THIS is mountaineering!”

Danger: Extremely Steep!

The return journey was a bit rough after a big feed, but we pushed through, passed the snow, removed crampons, and hiked back down to the camp. Once again racing against the sun, the mood for the first time seemed to adopt a sense of haste as we repacked, pulling down the tent with Sharon still half inside.

The way back down

Why is it that the last hour of a hike back to the car always seems to be the longest and most draining part?

Packs in the back, change into warm dry clothes, comfy shoes, and in the car! We were eventually rugged up with all the warm layers of the sub zero night before, because the heater in my truck doesn’t work…. I should get that fixed! We finally made it home long after dinner…

SUMMARY:

I learnt this trip that to squeeze in an action packed weekend covering big distances, it’s still possible to relax, take you time and have a load of fun along the way. As long as you’re comfortable with late nights and cold camps!

This was also my first duo outing with Sharon, and while it can be hard to find fellow adventurers that not only fit your pace, mood, risk profile, but can also hold a good conversation, I had a lot of fun and hereby official approve Sharon as a fellow Weekend Warrior! 😉

Total time away: 34 hours
Time spent driving: 6 hours return
Distance hiked: 13.4km - 
Ascent/Descent: 840m up - 840m down
Nights out: 1
Load Carried: 20kgs to camp, 12kgs to summit.

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