CHILL FEATURE: PLAYING CATCH UP
Craig recently set off for an adventure into Cass Valley. Read up on his memorable days: Riding his bike and hiking, skis and gear strapped to his pack, on the hunt for some fresh snow and the warmth of a hut.
Words and images by Craig Murray
It had been a busy morning on a Geology field trip with some interesting discussions, but it was time to focus on making it to the snow. I had packed the car the night before for a quick getaway. On arriving back to the flat I threw on my thermals and was on the way south.
The drive seemed to drag on as I thought about the snow and sun the family and friends would be already experiencing up at the destination.
Pulling into Fairlie and I struck up a conversation with a family that had just had an epic day at Mt Dobson, just up the road. Jumping back in the car with no time to spare and a steaming hot pie that I forgot to blow on, (big mistake) the Corolla was purring down the road towards Burkes Pass.
The last half hour of the drive revealed some surprises for the little Toyota. Gravel roads, cow-pats, puddles, fords, mud and big ditches, you name it, she overcame them without a look back. After just over 3 hours in the car, I couldn’t have been happier to saddle up on the bike around 5 pm and get moving through the fresh outside air.
The grueling ride on 4WD tracks had no shortage of deep, freezing river crossings.
The skis, boots, and poles on my pack did a good job of catching the headwind that was funneling down the valley significantly faster than Hank Bilous could funnel anything.
Despite the pain in the saddle from wearing a big pack over riverbed terrain, I was enjoying the ride, smiling as the amazing isolated feeling started to take hold.
The further from the car and rest of reality, the more stoked I became and more appreciative of how fast escapes into a completely different environment without any other souls could be. (With exceptions for the odd merino sheep.)
Two hours later I had muddy thermals, frozen feet, a sore gooch and a hungry stomach. As the sun shone its last rays and disappeared behind the jagged peaks to the west, the temperature plummeted.
Stashing the bike gear and forcing myself to eat some cold left-over slop, I slipped into my hiking boots, and made a B-line up the side of the valley. Knowing that moving fast would save considerable time in the quickly disappearing glow, I pushed my legs hard, which also would help bring some warm blood back to my feet before transitioning into cold, stiff ski boots.
Dashing across a stream in the fading light I keep the raising the pace up to the snow line. Just as the last light faded, I found a good spot to set up the skis. It had gone well and the best part was still to come - the final leg of ski touring in the moonlight.
When finishing putting my on my skins, I saw a little light approaching from the distance. Clipping into my new Atomic pin bindings, I saw it was dad who had kindly skied down to accompany me on the tour up to the hut.
‘Charlie is busy gutting a couple of Tahr he just shot on that peak’ he said, as he pulled out a bunch of back steaks to stash in the snow for the way out.
An hour and a half later we arrived to an incredible story from Charlie, as a bowl of Tahr stew and delicious beer were placed in each hand. Shortly followed by climbing into bed, grinning at this incredible alternate world I had entered in half a day.
I was glad to be in good company and have a couple of my books for the next two days, which was a combination of snow and wind.
We had a couple of hours skiing fresh snow each day. However, unfortunately the dream lines we saw through brief sucker holes were off limits. Still, the trip was another amazing experience in the mountains, because I knew if I wasn't there, I would have missed 100% of the moments.
Often it’s the journey and how you remove yourself from reality, that makes the venture so special and memorable.