What do you get when you throw together a kayak, a volleyball and blue food colouring, a packliner sack race, two firn-gliders and nineteen people in a tent?
The Main Range Extravaganza!
Quickly dubbed the most extravagant extravaganza yet, the 2015 Australian National University Mountaineering Club Main Range Extravaganza was run by our super-keen (and infamously ageless*) Skiing Officer, Richard.
Since there were a good twenty people, we arranged the four groups independently according to ability. (Although to further decrease our impact on the delicate alpine landscape, we carried either a group poo tube or an individual poo pot, for purposes that should be readily apparent from the unambiguous nomenclature.) Ours were the “Fully Sick Skiiers,” a mix of people on Alpine Touring (AT) and Telemark gear. Thankfully we lived up to our name, ascending the highest mountain in Australia (Kosciuszko, at 2228m) between catching the chairlift up from Thredbo and arriving into Clarke’s Shoulder campsite below Northcote not too long after the beginner skiers. We did chat to the Fat Bikers who were descending Kosciuszko on their thick wheeled mountain bikes, but they informed us that it wasn’t the best snow for the activity.
Of course, we felt less Fully Sick when the other groups arrived. One person was pulling along a fantastic snowboard-based sled made by the very hard core person with dwarfism in the club, who herself had snow shoed to us in good time. Then the next group arrived, fulfilling the expectations of everyone who had read their trip description on the club calendar:
A small group will attempt to carry a kayak up Dead Horse Gap to the Main Range Extravaganza for no particular reason, just because it’s ridiculous.
Ridiculous indeed, but impressive nevertheless! One person had shouldered the white water kayak on a kayak harness while the others distributed his gear in their packs along with their own necessities (including a traveller of local Canberra beer from Bentspoke Brewery, which was pulled out immediately).
We spent the rest of the afternoon digging out a snowtropolis,and by nightfall had two tents with inset snowy benches dug into them. The Hilleberg tent was indeed so well constructed that we had a tunnel entrance, glowing ice bar and enough bench space to break the club record and fit 19 inside.
The next day most of us ascended Mount Townsend (the one that looks so much more like a mountain than Kosciuszko that everyone originally assumed it must have been mistakenly named to be the highest in Australia, although recent reevaluation has suggested that explorer Strzelecki probably did get it right) and descended to Lake Albina via the Racecourse. This valley was easily the best back country skiing of my life, and I even practiced some telemark turns after lunch.
Back at camp the festivities really began. Nick tried to snow kite in the low wind (unsuccessfully, even his largest foil not proving enough pulling power), while our German Gear Store Officer played around with the mad contraptions that are firn-gliders, and our camera-less photographer set up a volleyball court using skis and blue food colouring. Even so, the highlight of the afternoon was definitely the snow-kayaking, particularly when we realised that with enough speed down the snowy creek bed we could rise up the wall of snow on the turns…
The next morning the eccentric activities continued, with the blue food colouring making a more dramatic show in the snow than an exploded Smurf, our fearless leader proudly shaving with a badger bristle brush, and a packliner sack race proving to be the most dangerous sport of the weekend (followed closely by the attempts to get to the snow-buried river while wearing ski boots). Then it was back via Seaman’s Hut, with the generous lifties helpfully loading our packs onto the chairs so that we could ski the last stretch unemcumbered.
The most extravagant of extravaganzas had memories, photos and blisters to match, and had proved to be one of the highlights of the year. Mark’s compilation of footage below includes the best snow kayaking segments, volleyball antics and the sack race amongst other highlights!
*Indeed, Richard has moved seamlessly between the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club and our own ANUMC without apparently ageing a day. Some say that he has travelled the world since the dawn of time, encouraging outdoor sports everywhere…
Post Script: We finally saw an emu in the high country, not far past Thredbo!