Snow walking basics

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Snow walking basics

Postby russell2pi » Sun 06 Jan, 2013 2:27 pm

Hello all - what a pleasure to find this forum. I've been bushwalking for over 25 years but it did not occur to me that such a thing as a bushwalking forum would exist. I have found heaps of great information browsing the forum archives but would still appreciate some specific advice.

I would like to do some walking in Victorian Alps with snow cover. I would be doing this solo and on a very tight budget for gear (I can hear the mental buzzers going off already). I would also like to go overnight but inexperience, safety and budget might be the limiting factors there.

Where should I start? When's a good time to go, and where, and what to take? Are there some articles or books you can point me to? (I'm not a very social person and probably wouldn't be much of an asset to any club!)

All my bushwalking guide books always just take the easy way out and advise you to only go in summer time but I would really like to see the bush in winter beyond the resorts. I have no shortage of experience walking alone, trackless navigation etc but no relevant experience in snow conditions.

Thanks for advance for any pointers (other than "stay home until December!")
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby MartyGwynne » Sun 06 Jan, 2013 4:26 pm

I was hoping to find you were asking about using snow shoes.
I have found walking in the snow a little difficult so am wanting to know a bit about snow shoes.
For snow walking I would ensure my tent is a good one recommended by others if you search through the posts about tents you will find the ones recommended.
Sleeping mats are also a busy topic for snow camping as per sleeping bags etc.
Stoves are also a busy topic as a metho fuel stove does not work so well till it heats up (maybe up to an hr to boil water) gas freezes so that leaves petrol fuelled types (OK go ahead and correct me as I am not an expert on snow camping nor petrol fuelled stoves)
Then comes navigation followed by correct clothing and food.
A good time to go is just after it has snowed and the weather is looking clear for a few days.
One of the guys in my club actually has a little pot bellied wood heater in his tent to keep him warm and cook off.
Good luck and as with other walking efforts start out with small steps then build up some experience.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby andrewbish » Sun 06 Jan, 2013 4:44 pm

Hi Russell

As Marty says, there's heaps of useful threads on this forum regarding winter hiking topics. I did my first 'serious' snow hiking over the past two winters in Victoria. Some of the things I had to think about:
- extra layers - thermal base layer & fleece jacket for walking in, down jacket for the evenings & mornings
- warm headwear eg. balaclave, beanie, buff
- gloves
- snow cooking techniques
- warmer bag/quilt, warmer mat (or extra mat)
- tent factors eg. ability to handle snow, snow pegs, snow walls to block wind
- how to travel across snow & ice eg. snow shoes, skis, crampons/microspikes
- ski poles rather than walking poles

Good luck with it.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby v0iTek » Sun 06 Jan, 2013 6:44 pm

Hi Russell, I walked the overland track solo in August and it was also my first time doing a multi day hike.
What kind of gear do you have already for this hike? Since Im guessing you aren't going to purchase more.

I did hire snow shoes for piece of mind, you could get away without them but wont make much ground obviously if it gets deep.
I had some walking poles with snow baskets which work awesome, i've since used the poles in the snow without them and obviously found a massive difference.
My friend has cut a piece of foam for a "groundsheet" for his 4 season tent for snow camping, he found it insulates better and also creates a barrier so the snow beneath the tent doesn't melt into ice as well.
With the fuel issue if u have a gas canister stove that you can turn the fuel canister upside down to burn the liquid could be helpful.
hope this helps!
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Lizzy » Sun 06 Jan, 2013 7:48 pm

I'd recommend finding a relatively short hike with a hut to camp by- that's what I did on my first snow camping trips. It gives a bit of a safety backup if the tent fails for some reason. I also a bought a pair of yowie snowshoes- very easy to use with no practice or instruction. Reading the ski forums in their backcountry reports can give some good ideas too. I also take a PLB just in case- like for bushwalking.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby russell2pi » Sun 06 Jan, 2013 10:35 pm

v0iTek wrote:Hi Russell, I walked the overland track solo in August and it was also my first time doing a multi day hike.
What kind of gear do you have already for this hike? Since Im guessing you aren't going to purchase more.


I think that may be the sticking point. I have a basic cheapo one-person tent from Ray's Outdoors which I'm guessing is not suitable. Thermarest, sleeping bag and stove are probably OK but I suppose snow tents cost big bucks. Then again I'm finding tidbits here and there on this forum about bivy bags, tarps, tipis, megamids... the mind boggles. I will keep gleaning nuggets from the forums but I guess I'd hoped there might be a "Aussie snow camping for dummies" article or book someone could magically point to... ! (Or even "Snow daywalking for dummies")
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Moondog55 » Sun 06 Jan, 2013 10:43 pm

Search right though the forum, I did a "Snow 101 for Beginners" for some-one else who asked the same question. Winter camping is relatively easy in good weather, it's the bad weather you need to plan and prepare for
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Moondog55 » Mon 07 Jan, 2013 9:18 am

One of the main things about snow walking is the unpredictability of the snow cover, if you are not skiing or using snowshoes you may find yourself 'post-holing' and only doing about a half kilometer and hour.
Unpredictable weather means a tent able to endure a severe wind and the possibility of being tent bound for two or three days.
I use a Chouinard Megamid when i walk solo as a tipi is the strongest form of tent in the wind, read Roger Caffin on the subject

http://www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/FAQ_U ... .htm#Intro

Other than that and making sure you have the right clothing and sleeping gear the ability to navigate is needed as often visibility is restricted, sometimes to a metre or three.
In winter your mat is more important than any thing else in the sleeping department and I am a firm believer in taking more than one mat.
Make sure you clothing will layer properly, you need to be able to wear everything at once if need be but you also need to dress down when active to avoid sweating, the old saying is "Walk cold - Sleep warm"
I am also a believer in wearing 2 sets of long underwear, at least on my torso, and I have switched from Fleece and pile to modern insulated jackets very recently but my main defence against the cold and wind is an old polyester microfiber tracksuit heavily treated with Nikwax.
I highly recommend a windshirt ( and possibly windpants too ) no matter what and mine is still on the drawing board waiting to be sewn up. The combination of silk weight underwear tracksuit pants and medium weight wind pants was all I needed last season except when sleeping

So I wear silk weight top, Patagonia R4 1/4 zip underwear top, insulated vest and the tracky top, if it gets really cold or when I stop I don my belay parka and if needed my belay pants I also sleep in my insulated clothing if I need to and my sleeping bag is big enough to allow me to do so without compromising the loft of my bag.
These days I carry but seldom wear my goretex and at some stage I really should buy some lighter weight waterproofs

I always use my bivvy sac to protect my SB so using a single skin tent isn't a worry and I sometimes carry a third extra large El-Cheapo mat to protect the bottom of my bivvy sac and add a little extra insulation

Boots and supergaiters, balaclavas, hats, gloves and mittens are all part of my winter kit. plural because i carry dry spares always
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby russell2pi » Mon 07 Jan, 2013 3:31 pm

Moondog55 wrote:Search right though the forum, I did a "Snow 101 for Beginners" for some-one else who asked the same question. Winter camping is relatively easy in good weather, it's the bad weather you need to plan and prepare for


I've just spent half the day going through your post history ... I didn't find the thread you're referring to but did find mountains of other useful info. (I think I had 50 tabs open at one point!) Plus your second post, above -- very helpful, thank-you.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Moondog55 » Mon 07 Jan, 2013 5:54 pm

May have been somewhere else then
PM sent
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby DarrenM » Mon 07 Jan, 2013 8:56 pm

Just a few quick things that I'd place the most emphasis on.....I like Lizzy's idea of staying close to a hut and preferably not straying to far on your first few trips.
The most important factor is weather. Do your first trips in high pressure weather with a clear forecast. Good clear weather can also bring icy conditions so whatever you do, take snowshoes and poles.

Tents or shelters generally need to be bombproof and well pitched in poor weather but when your know window is fine you can get away with much less....(experience helps in this case)

PLB, GPS etc along with your current nav experience should suffice in that department.

I've used an MSR pocket rocket and similar on the main range for the last 15 years or so and they do the job.....and depending on your sleeping setup you can get away with a neoair and the like. It's very subjective so I guess that's where the fun starts.
Take a camera!!!! And have fun.

My 2 bob.

Oh...and check here for more reading on the subject. http://forums.ski.com.au/forums/ubbthre ... d=8&page=1
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby jford » Tue 08 Jan, 2013 6:47 am

Spend a night camping on snow at Lake Mountain or Mt Stirling. That way, you can always bail back to the car if it all goes pear shaped, and carry a bit more than you really need. My first night on snow was at Lake Mountain with scouts. Great experience for the basics.

Snow shoes are great. You can hire them from Bogong (shop) in Lt Bourke St to try them out before buying.

As someone else said above, you need to be prepared for the worst. I went up Bogong (mountain) on Queens birthday weekend last year and we had mostly glorious weather. At one point things would have been hairy if the weather had turned a bit. It's those moments you need to be prepared for. Read the forum for more stories of when things go bad.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby johnh » Tue 08 Jan, 2013 9:25 am

G'day russell,
All the previous posts make sense, especially the suggestion to first go somewhere where an easy retreat can be made if things go pear-shaped. A place I used for this purpose was from Falls Creek out around Heathy Spur and Rocky Nobbs on Bogong HP . . great scenery! So as suggested, take your camera. The only other thing I would add is to buy some good snow pegs, practice putting you tent up without it being blown from your grasp. ( not so easy with a full-on blizzard and cold fingers!). A snow shovel is a must for various uses, such as erecting a snow wall around the skirt of your tent to stop the spin-drift getting in. Oh, and don't forget goggles!
Enjoy.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby russell2pi » Wed 09 Jan, 2013 6:51 am

Thanks everyone. I can't wait.

Would anyone care to hazard an opinion on that tent? It does seem pretty well constructed to me. Single skin. I put it up in heavy wind and left it up for a few days, no problems - it barely flexes and all seams look strong. It does sag a bit in the middle though and under the "eaves" at the foot and the head it has mesh ventilation. Is there some way it could be cheaply fixed up for snow use e.g. blocking the vents (condensation hell??) or putting a pyramid tent over it?

Failing that I might start with snowshoe day walks. (From what I have seen you can buy them from the US for nearly as cheaply as you can hire them here, doh...)
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Moondog55 » Wed 09 Jan, 2013 7:23 am

I will
It's not a tent it's a glorified bivvy, you really need something better for bad weather, as you may need to spend all day ( or even 2 or 3 ) in it.
But as already mentioned if you pick a good window then it would do; just.
A lot of times you can pick a sheltered site to protect from the wind but do not camp beneath overhanging snowgums, in a wind, a thaw or in a heavy snowfall they have the habit of breaking and/or dumping large amounts of snow onto the tent
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Moondog55 » Thu 10 Jan, 2013 10:05 am

Have you read the Hilleberg site?? Lots of good information in there too

http://www.hilleberg.com/home/tent_info ... winter.php
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Onestepmore » Mon 14 Jan, 2013 7:20 pm

Snowcamping 101 - would be a great topic.
Anyone keen?
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby quicky » Mon 14 Jan, 2013 8:16 pm

Onestepmore wrote:Snowcamping 101 - would be a great topic.
Anyone keen?

Sure! I'm keen!

As a side note...referring to what Lizzy and others have mentioned...
A really good spot for first time snow camping is up near The Bluff here in Victoria. You enter via Sheepyard Flats...keep going for a little further, until you reach a point where there is a road closure during winter months.
From there, you are walking below the snow line (just) via a road, which soon turns into a snow covered road that takes you to Bluff Hut. Bluff Hut is in the snow, and only a short walk from the road closure.
You can camp near the hut, where retreat is possible if it goes pear shape, or simply retreat to your car if you so please. Otherwise, there is ample opportunity to hike to other camp sites slightly further out, with magnificent views over to Mt Buller. You can also try your hand at walking to Mt Eadley Stoney summit for short day hikes using snow shoes.

One other thing that this is good for, is that you will quickly learn just how much better snow camping is in tents, igloos or hunzees rather than huts! :)
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Onestepmore » Mon 14 Jan, 2013 8:56 pm

Well we're getting the gear together. Nallo 3GT should be OK, we have winter bags, Thermarest prolites, neoXlites and I have a downmat7 (I'm a wuss), stoves and packs all good, clothes OK except we need some insulated pants layers
Planning on Snowies camping and walking the main peaks at Easter, and Warrumbungles in June (not that it snows there), and we're not too far for weekend trips in winter.
The suggestions are great Quicky, but we're from just south of Sydney, not Vic
Working up to it!
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby DarrenM » Tue 15 Jan, 2013 5:13 am

A couple of options in NSW....

Guthega power station up along the Whites river corridor is a fairly protected option with a few hut options. The first hut (Horsecamp) being not too far up the switchbacks if you don't mind the uphill hike to reach it. The hut itself is best left for emergency use but a good start. You could continue up to Whites river hut depending on your energy levels.

In better weather leaving from Guthega resort, head over farm creek, (nice bridge replaces the dodgy flying fox now) and up to Illawong hut area. It's a private lodge but emergency use underneath. The traverse on snowshoes is a bit manky through the trees but gives a great view of Mt Twynam etc.

Doing a few day trips from the top of Thredbo out to Kosciusko is highly recommended in good weather too.
Last edited by DarrenM on Tue 15 Jan, 2013 10:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby russell2pi » Tue 15 Jan, 2013 7:57 am

quicky wrote:A really good spot for first time snow camping is up near The Bluff here in Victoria. You enter via Sheepyard Flats...keep going for a little further, until you reach a point where there is a road closure during winter months.
From there, you are walking below the snow line (just) via a road, which soon turns into a snow covered road that takes you to Bluff Hut. Bluff Hut is in the snow, and only a short walk from the road closure.


Sounds great - I have just been trying to do a bit of research on it and found this:

http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets ... /Map11.pdf

I think the closure in question is number 45 on that? And it looks like for 2012 it was at the bottom of the slopes, not at the top as you've experienced before?
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby quicky » Tue 15 Jan, 2013 9:14 am

russell2pi wrote:
quicky wrote:A really good spot for first time snow camping is up near The Bluff here in Victoria. You enter via Sheepyard Flats...keep going for a little further, until you reach a point where there is a road closure during winter months.
From there, you are walking below the snow line (just) via a road, which soon turns into a snow covered road that takes you to Bluff Hut. Bluff Hut is in the snow, and only a short walk from the road closure.


Sounds great - I have just been trying to do a bit of research on it and found this:

http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets ... /Map11.pdf

I think the closure in question is number 45 on that? And it looks like for 2012 it was at the bottom of the slopes, not at the top as you've experienced before?

Hey Russell
Not too sure about that road closure map sorry...I'd have to look into that one myself. The gated road closure that we parked at is at the base of the escarpment. We were there in Sept 2012. There were no other road closures before that gate. The car park prior to that is near Refrigerator Gap, which is near The Bluff trailhead. Even still, the hike up along the road (after the closure) is a gradual incline, very easy and doable to the top. When I say short walk, I mean a few kilometres (or thereabouts) of hiking required from the car. The hut area is very well sheltered and easily navigated if you need to get down to the car.

If you refer to the attached photo, you can see how the road passes Refrigerator Gap. The road travels to the left, where you can see how it winds up to Bluff Hut in the left of the shot. The road closes at the point of ascent to the hut. Also, the hut is considerably lower in altitude than the Eadley Stoney and Bluff summits (which makes for a nice day hike once you're there).

Anyways, hope this helps with your planning. Happy to send you what I've got, along with some pics of the hut area if you wish?
Jase & Dave's Bluff-Eadley Stoney-Bluff Hut circuit.jpg
Bluff to Eadley Stoney
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby north-north-west » Wed 16 Jan, 2013 5:43 pm

You left out the bit about turning left down Bluff Link Road at Eight Mile Gap.
And it pays to be careful on Bluff Link Road, too. You can get some nasty drifts there in times of heavy snowfall, and it freezes easily as it's shaded from the sun most of the day.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby quicky » Wed 16 Jan, 2013 8:36 pm

north-north-west wrote:You left out the bit about turning left down Bluff Link Road at Eight Mile Gap.
And it pays to be careful on Bluff Link Road, too. You can get some nasty drifts there in times of heavy snowfall, and it freezes easily as it's shaded from the sun most of the day.

I forgot about that bit! Cheers. Yeah...it wasn't a comprehensive set of directions...just a general gist with an offer for more if interested.
I vividly recall those freezes you speak of too...the drive in kept us on our toes that's for sure. :shock:
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby russell2pi » Thu 17 Jan, 2013 9:39 pm

thanks very much for that quicky - very helpful. Sounds great and judging by the Google Earth view it is spectacular country. The Mrs will be pleased to see the NextG coverage map too haha.

Hm you have me nervous about the drive now though. I have a 4wd and a bit of experience using it on some edge-of-the-seat tracks but no so much in snow.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby quicky » Fri 18 Jan, 2013 5:56 am

russell2pi wrote:thanks very much for that quicky - very helpful. Sounds great and judging by the Google Earth view it is spectacular country. The Mrs will be pleased to see the NextG coverage map too haha.

Hm you have me nervous about the drive now though. I have a 4wd and a bit of experience using it on some edge-of-the-seat tracks but no so much in snow.

While it kept us on our toes it is still very doable with caution. We were in a Forester, and it handled it well. Plus, we're far from snow driving experts.
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby telemarktim » Wed 30 Jun, 2021 10:39 pm

russell2pi wrote:thanks very much for that quicky - very helpful. Sounds great and judging by the Google Earth view it is spectacular country. The Mrs will be pleased to see the NextG coverage map too haha.

Hm you have me nervous about the drive now though. I have a 4wd and a bit of experience using it on some edge-of-the-seat tracks but no so much in snow.


Hi Russel 2pi, I was browsing old posts and found your questions. Did you go on your snow walk? How did it go and are you now hooked on snow trekking?

If you or anyone else is looking at trying snow trekking, overnight or otherwise it is a special joy, but a special challenge if conditions turn harsh. I suggest that it would be a good idea to 'practice at a relatively safe and patrolled backcountry snow area such as Mt St Gwinear. It is not on the grand scale of the Bluff, but it is beautiful and will give you great pleasure as you test yourself and your gear. Road access is ploughed and patrolled and OK with compulsory chain carrying and fitting when directed. Navigation is easy with lots of fun ski slopes, trails, and lots of nice snow gum protected camping spots that are not too far for a hasty retreat to the car park if things go pear-shaped. I am a skier so the return trip can be disappointingly over in a very short time as it is a down hill-run most of the way from the intersection of the track from the car park with the AWT (beside the rock shelter).

I also would suggest that you try-out with the company of others with some experience from a club, such as the one that MartyGwynne mentioned. This would make the experience safer, more fun and great for learning snow skills.

On the equipment side, extra gear over and above walking gear is wise and I endorse Moondog55's comment that as well as an insulated inflatable (down) sleeping mat, one of those cheap blue foam mats is bulky but great for separating you from the snow while sleeping and making something nice to sit on while cooking, eating and changing clothes and footwear.

Here is a photo of some friends/club members enjoying an evening around a tent stove while sitting on those blue mat things around a snow pit that was dug inside my tent.
Image


My comment will be too late for you, but they might help some others to take those first steps (or strides and smooth curved turns) through our beautiful winter wonderland. But be prepared. Alpine winter can kick you hard, as it just does not care about you.

By the way, I am the mad dude that MartyGwynne mentioned who runs a 400g wood burning tent stove in the middle of my pyramid snow tent. Tim
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Re: Snow walking basics

Postby Moondog55 » Sat 03 Jul, 2021 8:56 am

russell2pi wrote:
Moondog55 wrote:Search right though the forum, I did a "Snow 101 for Beginners" for some-one else who asked the same question. Winter camping is relatively easy in good weather, it's the bad weather you need to plan and prepare for


I've just spent half the day going through your post history ... I didn't find the thread you're referring to but did find mountains of other useful info. (I think I had 50 tabs open at one point!) Plus your second post, above -- very helpful, thank-you.



Might be a little late for Russel but here is the link to that quoted post

viewtopic.php?f=15&t=16056&p=293154&hilit=snow+camping+101#p293154
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