Monday, June 06, 2011

Cradle Summit at Night

I couldn't resist yesterday's snow forecast and despite it falling late in the weekend I was determined...

At 3pm I left the Dove Lake Car Park.  There was no snow on the ground yet and rain was falling very heavily.  Visibility was reasonable with the mountain outline peering through through wind blown sheets of floaty of precipitation indicating the freezing level was not far above me and descending fast.  Sure enough as soon as I turned onto the Marions Lookout Track the rain turned to heavy snow.

By the time I reached the Plateau snow was settling and a good thick cover greeted me at Kitchen Hut when I arrived at 4pm.  Encouraged by my good pace I continued onto the summit track, enjoying the snow drifts becoming deeper as I climbed.  The wind howled across my path.  At one stage a currowong hopped along the track ahead of me for quite some distance.  It must have been enjoying a repreive from the gale.

At 5:30pm I reached the summit cairn and quickly used the last traces of daylight to retrieve my torches ready for the descent.  Soon after leaving it became apparent there would be no trace of my upward journey with snow settling very heavily now.

I made a couple of navigational blunders boldly heading down the wrong gully just below the spot where the track broaches the skyline and again soon after that point.  Each time it was a race to follow my tracks back to the last post before the footrpints vanished.  In daylight the posts are obvious but by torchlight, they are a narrow and non-reflective target easily hidden behind boulders.  An additional challenge as I hunted for each post was the barrage of icy bullets being driven by the howling gale straight up the side of the mountain and into the small face slit in my jacket.  Ouch!

Back at Kitchen Hut the snow was back to a predictable horizontal rather than upward flight path and was now easily deflected by my hood.  Ploughing through fresh snow over the plateau and all the way down to Dove Lake was a sheer delight.  Knee deep drifts disintegrated before me with the slightest kick as the powder was so fine and light.  At the car it was funny to discover my jacket, mittens and backpack had all frozen solid.  The jacket held its shape when I stood it on the ground!  I've checked the Mt Read log for last night.  When I was on the mountain wind gusts were 70kph and apparent temperature -14.3.  Cool!
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