Snow Angels and Swags in the Snowy Mountains

The Short:
When: 20-22nd August 2017
Locations: Snowy Mountains Highway, Kosciuszko National Park, Great Dividing Range, Cabramurra and Adaminaby.

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Campsites: Yarrangobilly Village Campground. This is a busy little spot on the main road but there are plenty of places to camp and is beautiful alongside the Yarrangobilly River. During snow season is isn’t going to be under snow. However some may fall here if it snowing, we had a small sprinkling in the morning.
Bullocks Hill campground In the snow this place is stunning. 4wd is required/recommended to get into this spot, there may be some sloshy parts of the track, or if you are like us trying to find where the track should be.


Weather: Clear, cold & sunny with deep snow
Points of Interest: Kosciusko National Park; an entry fee is required during the winter months but it is definitely worth it for the views, drives and a place to build snowmen and snow angels.

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Cabramurra; Australia’s highest town and in Kosciuszko National Park, lookout & information centre about the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme.
Old Adaminaby and Lake Eucumbene; another destination about the Hydro-Electric Scheme. An old town that was moved and parts left under the lake.
Podcast: Aussie Waves Podcast- 14- The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electricity Scheme. This podcast has great history, interesting facts and is a great addition to a drive to Cabramurra.

The Long:
It was the middle of winter and my husband and I marked a date on the calendar. That was the weekend for our first snow camp. It was only a few hours from our home in Canberra to the snow in Kosciuszko National Park and something we definitely wanted to experience. What is more magical than the idea of spending a weekend in the snow, with a white winter wonderland all around, crisp fresh air and hot drinks with stunning views of a white countryside? Well, that was the thought in our mind anyway. Little did we know that the weekend we chose would be the coldest one yet and with little knowledge about the area we weren’t sure what campsites we may even find accessible . So we packed and packed; layers of clothing, blankets, wet weather gear and a bottle of nice port to keep warm. We left home after work on Friday, finally hitting the road by around 6:30. We had an idea of where we were heading with some campsites to attempt and we drove. In the future I wouldn’t recommend your first experience of going into the snow being at night time when there is a fair bit of snow fall occurring but we felt brave and adventurous and so we did. We travelled south, off the main busy highway (Monaro Highway, Canberra to Cooma) through Tharwa, down Boboyan road through Namadgi National Park all the way to Adaminaby and then up the Snowy Mountains Highway. Just a little way out of Adaminaby we hit the snow line, snow was falling and we were suddenly surrounded by snow on the ground and road. We aimed for Rocky Plain Campground, we figured that it was far enough and the campground was only a few hundred metres off the road side so should be easy to access. How wrong we were! This campground was shut off with a gate so there was no access at all. We had another look at WikiCamps to search around for other campgrounds, coming up with only 2 more within the snow that would be potentially accessible. We headed into Kosciuszko National Park towards Three Mile Dam. We had briefly visited here in the summer and knew that it was an exposed campground with little shelter from the wind in many parts but gave it a try anyway. Again this campground was shut, with limited visibility due to darkness and snow fall we were quickly becoming disheartened. We decided to go down a track we found that went to the otherside of the dam and was open.

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The snow was deep, going halfway up our tires down the track but it opened up into a nice campground. Sadly it was so windy here we couldn’t comprehend being warm enough overnight or enjoying ourselves at all. We drove the 4wd down just a little bit further into the cover of trees, and it was perfect and sheltered, the snow was deep though and so we got out to decide where to camp. As soon as we had gotten back into the car and tried to reverse the car out to re position we figured out that we were stuck. The ute had bellied out with the snow. We were stuck.

So out came the wet weather gear; waterproof pants and rain jacket, the shovel, and maxtrax. For the next 45 minutes or so under snowfall, we shoveled out all the snow from underneath the car, and behind the back wheels. After a few failed attempts of reversing, with the assistance of the maxtrax we were able to finally get out! Once moving Steve continued reversing all the way back up to flat ground resulting with myself being left behind in the dark snow! I quickly grabbed the shovel and ran after the fading headlights because that man of mine was not stopping in case we got bogged again. After this we decided not to camp in the snow, with limited knowledge of how much snow was going to fall overnight and not knowing if we would end up stuck down the track in the windy campsite in the morning or not. So after a bit more looking on Wikicamps it was decided to drive the distance and go to Yarrangobilly Village campground. It was around 11pm by the time we finally arrived and it was quite busy with several other people camping. Though there is plenty of space in this campground so we easily found a mostly flat spot to camp on. It was pretty wet and slushy here due to the rain that had been falling, so we didn’t stay up but went straight to sleep.

The following day we woke up after a bit of a sleep in and there was a small amount of snow on the ground with some puddles half frozen. We talked about the positives and negatives of packing up camp and trying to find a new campsite in the snow or not. After being disheartened from the previous night and not being able to find any other campsites on Wikicamps, we decided to leave our set up and go exploring, making our way up to Cabramurra. 20170820_175551.jpg

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Cabramurra is in Kosciusko National Park and it costs to get into here in the winter months. It is definitely worth the money for the views that you get to go and experience. However if you are tight on money and costs there is a great spot just before the entrance to the national park along Link Road that you can stop at to make snow men, have snow fights and even toboggan down a large hill. In NSW 4WD is not required to use snow chains but 2WD vehicles are (at the time of writing this blog 2018, please check yourself to confirm that this is correct if you are intending to go). It is important that you drive to conditions because these roads can be dangerous, we saw a minor car accident on the way to the park in the morning and several cars on the side of the road stuck during our trip. There are a few specified places to pull over and put your wheel chains on if you need. We spent a good deal of the morning in Cabramurra, checking out the lookout, reading information about the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme (we also listened to an interesting podcast about this, see above for details in ‘the short’) and making a snow angel. We had a nice hot mi goreng lunch on the picnic benches outside the Cabramurra General Store and Information Centre. On the way back we drove a small way down the track into Lobbs Hole. We had done this track in the summer and so were somewhat familiar with what the conditions under the snow were like. We were the first people the disturb the snow, but not the first animals.20170820_175731.jpg

There were some large paw prints which we still have no idea what animal may have made them. It was a pretty spectacular winter wonderland here. We also found a nice spot which would have made good camping, which made us excited. It wasn’t too late in the day so we calculated driving time and worked out that we could probably come back and camp in the snow and set up in the daylight. However on our way back along the Snowy Mountains Highway we saw the sign for Bullocks Hill Campground, which is on top of the Great Dividing Range. It was our third time past it and we were surprised we hadn’t seen it earlier, so we turned around. As we weren’t sure where the track to the campground was, it was all undisturbed snow, the husband went for a walk. After a few minutes he was running back with a good report. We took a quick drive down to see it some more and it was settled that we would camp here for the night. There were some large paw prints which we still have no idea what animal may have made them. It was a pretty spectacular winter wonderland here. We also found a nice spot which would have made good camping, which made us excited. It wasn’t too late in the day so we calculated driving time and worked out that we could20170819_153136.jpg

probably come back and camp in the snow and set up in the daylight. However on our way back along the Snowy Mountains Highway we saw the sign for Bullocks Hill Campground, which is on top of the Great Dividing Range. It was our third time past it and we were surprised we hadn’t seen it earlier, so we turned around. As we weren’t sure where the track to the campground was, it was all undisturbed snow, the husband went for a walk. After a few minutes he was running back with a good report. We took a quick drive down to see it some more and it was settled that we would camp here for the night. We quickly returned to our previous campsite at Yarrangobilly Village, packed up and headed back to the top of the Great dividing Range! We picked a sheltered spot with good views and started a fire to ensure we would have coals for the lamb roast.20170819_164021.jpg

I spent a few minutes patting down the area for the swag. In freezing temperatures it is all about layering to stay warm. Since we only had a swag we put down a tarp, then foam mats (so versatile), then the swag. Under the swag mattress we put a woolen blanket. Then on top we had 2 quilts and another couple of thin blankets. Overnight we were toasty warm sleeping in thermals and a beanie. However it was cold because in the morning there was frost on the top canvas inside the swag and our water bottle in the swag with us was half frozen!

The evening was spent making and eating a delicious lamb roast and vegetables and a baked banana with chocolate and marshmallows for dessert.

We enjoyed the sunset view which we had a great lookout for a with a short walk, read a book and watched rabbits bound around in the snow. By 6pm our water tap from the tank on the car had frozen and so we had to melt some snow for drinking water, we didn’t plan that very well! It was early to bed to get toasty warm and not just rotate by the fire.
We enjoyed the sunset view which we had a great lookout for a with a short walk, read a book and watched rabbits bound around in the snow. By 6pm our water tap from the tank on the car had frozen and so we had to melt some snow for drinking water, we didn’t plan that very well! It was early to bed to get toasty warm and not just rotate by the fire. The alarm went off just before sunrise and we jumped up to relight the fire and watch the sunrise over the snow. We stuffed down hot tea and coffee and bacon and egg rolls. However all of this wasn’t enough to get us warm in the morning and so we decided to pack up and hit the road. I think the magpies agreed with us as they came down to visit, walking across the snow and every few steps having to put a leg up into their feathers to warm it up again. Driving back we saw frozen creeks and rivers and a group of brumbies finding some grass to eat in the snow. We drove out of the snow and made a small detour to Old Adaminaby. We didn’t stay here too long but was worth the drive to see the man made lake that is part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme and what remains of the old town that is now often flooded by the lake. This is well below the snow line but the water in the tap outside of the public toilets here was still frozen solid by mid morning even though it was sunny.20170820_110724.jpg
We spent the afternoon travelling back slowly, finding a nice sunny spot near an old bush hut along Boboyan Road, eating roast sandwiches and reading books. It was a relaxing a rejuvenating weekend. For us one night in the snow was enough to have the experience and enjoy it, it is certainly a must do! You don’t need to have a lot of fancy gear to be able to go camping in the snow but you do need to be prepared in terms of taking plenty of warmth and items to layer. It is the snow and below freezing weather so plan ahead and if in doubt pack it. I hope that this has helped you feel a bit more confident and comfortable in going and camping in the snow yourself if you haven’t experienced it before. It was as great and as magical as I dreamed it would be.
So go! See Australia and be merry!

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