The story of this trip was first published in the September 2 edition of the Australian Town and Country Journal in 1899. (It appears to have been written by a house journalist, probably based on an interview with Kerry because the details of the route are fairly vague). Most of the quotes in this story are sourced from this article.
Backcountry legend Elyne Mitchell, in her Discoverers of the Snowy Mountains, also provided some valuable coverage of this unique event, based on a remarkable correspondence had in 1943 with one of the expeditioners, the then 79 year old Edgar Holden, and through her access to an article he had written in the October 2 1899 edition of the Dalgety Review (mailed to her by Holden).
In addition to Edgar Holden, a great skier and friend of Kerry, the Jagungal summiteers featured some of the best-known stockmen and skiing identities of the Snowy in those days.
Of particular note were Harry Bolton, stockman, skier and guide from Snowy Plain, and Stewart McAllister, manager of the Grey Mare mine, guide for the expedition and recognised as the best skier in the district. (Holden was no slouch on skis either, apparently having developed what was, in effect, a Telemark turn, when others still grappled with a single pole between their legs, if you will excuse the expression!)
They set out on horseback from Jindabyne on August 4, travelling north along the Eucumbene River and spent their first night “at a solitary miner’s hut” at Snowy Plain, about 30 kilometres from Jindabyne, via the Kalkite Gap and crossing the Gungarlin River (The hut was the home of John Bolton, Harry’s father.
Bad weather was developing.
“Owing to the preceding rains, it was found that the mountain passes and ‘sidlings’ had become treacherous, even to the sure-footed Monaro horses; but save a few nasty falls and the excitement of attending the fording of swollen mountain torrents of doubtful depth, the day’s journey was accomplished … drenched to the skin from the alternative mountain mists and sleet storms….”
Left: Full page picture story of the trip using Kerry’s photos that appeared in the September 2 1899 edition of the Australian Town and Country Journal that accompanied the article that reported on the trip
They intended to journey the next day up onto the ”Bogong Mountains” and to stay at the Grey Mare mining camp (staying in the old Grey Mare hut, approximately 2 kilometres south of the current hut), which had been arranged prior to the trip. The unidentified author of the Town and Country article is vague about specific routes but it seems likely that they headed for the Brassy Mountains, because this was the general route often taken by McAllister, who used to ski from the mine down to Jindabyne once a week to collect the mail (as reported to Elyne Mitchell by Edgar Holden).
Originally, they planned to remain on horseback until they reached the foot of these ranges but heavy snow set in and they donned their “Norwegian snow shoes”.
On this second day, as they approached the “Brassy Gap” (between the Big Brassy and Brassy peaks) “a veritable inferno presented itself.” They were confronted by 80 kph winds and swirling snowdrifts, which forced them back to the Snowy Plain hut. A few of the members abandoned the expedition and headed home.
“Next morning, diminished in numbers, but firmer in purpose, the party made a second and successful attempt, encountering on route their enemy the blizzard from a different quarter. Soon after midday the temperature fell to 10 deg. Fahrenheit, the intense cold freezing beards and moustaches solid, with masses of ice and Alpena stocks becoming glued to inmittened (sic) fingers in the most uncomfortable fashion.”
Then conditions worsened.
“All these were minor discomforts, however, and faded into significance when, late in the day, the party became enveloped in a dense fog and temporarily lost the run both of each other and of their direction.”
The group stuck together by continually calling out to each other (“vociferous hailings”) and when one of the group showed signs of hypothermia (“snow-sleep”), this “necessitated his experiencing a somewhat rough handling ere he was set going again.” Tough love!
They travelled west, most likely between Cup and Saucer Hill and Mailbox Hill, and then approximately 5 kilometres (as the crow flies) across to Grey Mare hut.
Almost miraculously, given the whiteout and blizzard conditions, and little or no navigation equipment, their guide led them to the hut (“a mere dotlet in the virgin snowfield”) where they were snowed in for the next two nights.
During their “incarceration” the author claimed the temperature dropped as low as 1 deg. Fahrenheit and they kept the fire going having found a brush fence to burn.
To supplement their rations, there was “abundantly generous tucker, including fresh meat, which had been killed in April and hung frozen in the storehouse, animal heat was sustained – animal spirits too.”
The sun came out on the third day and, 10 kilometres away to the north, the object of their journey made its appearance.
“The landscape began to unfold itself and Big Bogong … shaped gauntly out of the mist.”
Holden informed Elyne Mitchell that six or seven feet of snow had fallen during the storm, with some of the snow gums at higher levels almost buried. Holden told her that Stewart McAllister assured them this was not unusual and perhaps confirming this ‘ …high up in the branches of a tree in a sheltered spot, was discovered the skeleton of a horse …’.
The group then travelled up through snow gums (“glades of half-buried Alpine eucalypti”) and approached the mountain from the east.
“Emerging from the timber limit, it was found that one enormous spur leading to the summit had been softened in contour by the tremendous snowfall and that snow-shoeing upon it was actually practicable to within a hundred yards of the cairn itself.”
First they had to cross a still-exposed stream and achieved this by throwing their skis across and then jumping the gap.
It took them about 90 minutes to cover the last kilometre to the peak and the following description gives a marvellous view of what one sees from the top of that lonely mountain.
Photo taken by Charles Kerry on top of Jagungal looking towards the main range
“As far as the eye could reach were snow-capped mountains and abysmal gorges – Kosciusko, 30 miles distant, the Victorian Bogong, 60 miles distant, and the principal peaks of both colonies appeared as within a stone’s throw. Fully 100 miles of the Murray Valley lay at the foot of the mountain, and the whole landscape, in blue and white, was flecked by vaporous cloud-masses thrown here and there at random.”
The team descended the mountain (a little over 2km from the cairn to the river) in quick fashion but one of their number did it very fast.
“The tremendous speed which it was known would be attained decided most of the party to ride their break- sticks hobby horse fashion, but Mr. W.S. McAllister, being requested to give the party a hair-raising exhibition of his skill as a ski-boler, cast aside all encumbrances, and covered the distance in 75 seconds.”
The Town and Country article reported, without further immediate detail, that they began the return journey the next day.
“The party beat all their previous records by accomplishing the return journey to Jindabyne, 17 miles on snow shoes and 18 miles on horseback, in one continuous stretch, swimming their horses across the Eucumbene River in full flood at midnight, arriving at their destination safely, but nearly unrecognisable from snow-tan and exposure.”
Rather than travelling “in one continuous stretch”, Holden told Elyne Mitchell that they spent the night at Jack Bolton’s hut on Snowy Plain, “being roused early on a dark morning because the rivers were rising.” They most likely would have travelled east/southeast from Jagungal, down off the ranges (Mitchell suggests toward Rocky Plains Creek) before travelling south to the Bolton Hut.
The next day they forded the Gungarlin River, rode down through the Kalkite Gap and crossed the rapidly rising Eucumbene River. By any measure, it was a fast and challenging return journey.
They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
It should be noted that, two years previously, the main actors in this story also accomplished the first recorded winter ascent of Kosciuszko. And that is another story worth telling.
Author: Paul Pearce
In the 19th century, Mt Kosciuszko was approached only by the hardy few, mainly via Crackenback Valley and up the Merritt’s ridge from Friday Flat, or by taking the longer but ‘easier’ route along the West Point track. There were no roads.
Today, the road up to the Perisher and Charlotte snowfields partly follows this historic route.
In December 1897 Charles Kerry, a leading photographer*, wrote an article published in the Sydney Mail describing his journey up to Kosciuszko along the West Point track. With his photographer’s eye, he recorded a unique view of this area when it was still largely untouched wilderness.
Kerry helped organise this now famous expedition that established a manned weather station on top of Kosciuszko, led by the redoubtable Clement Wragge (often referred to by his contemporaries as Inclement Wragge, due to his stormy moods).
The West Point track is named after its starting point, which was the area below today’s Waste Point, signalled by that prominent concrete tower one sees early on the road up to Perisher. The party’s guide was the famous cattleman, James Spencer, whose family had settled this West Point area in the early 1860s.
What follows is a description of what Kerry saw on this summer journey into our alpine wilderness.
While there appears to be no evidence to prove it, and Kerry is vague about their route at this point, they most likely travelled around a kilometre up along the flat eastern bank of the Thredbo River from the bridge and over to an already settled grazing area (the remains of a 19th century farm house with an impressive stone chimney and stone foundations are located here in an open field).
It is feasible that they then turned in a northerly direction and traversed up onto the northern tip of the Ramshead Range and around in a broad circle (above the current road) to their first rest stop at Sawpit.
It seems more likely, however, that they followed the general direction of Sawpit Creek, which drains through a gap in the range into the Thredbo River, and travelled high on the southerly ridge along this gap, known as the Pallaibo or Sawpit Gorge (there is a walking track down along the creek called the Pallaibo Track which runs six kilometres from the river up to Sawpit).
While it is likely that many of the cattlemen in those days would have negotiated the landscape on horseback directly up to the Sawpit Creek rest area from the West Point flats (down near today’s Creel Bay) the Kerry/Wragge party left directly from Jindabyne and the country on the other side of the Thredbo River near today’s road would have been too steep and narrow for passage by a wagon.
The Pallaibo Gorge route is perhaps confirmed by the reference to a rest stop: “We halted for a snack at Sawpit Gully – 4000ft. elevation….” If they had tried to travel via today’s route to the Sawpit Creek rest stop, they would have needed more than a “snack.” Furthermore, Sawpit Gully is east facing and would only be approached if travelling from the east.
From its rest stop, the group would have climbed up to the top on the southern side of the gully (the gradient is relatively gentle approximately 150 metres from the end of the gully) and most likely followed the path of the current road into Wilson Valley. They then skirted east from Rennix Gap into lightly wooded grasslands before again turning south.
Here they encountered heavy mist and rain but pushed on, “but at the 6000ft. level, while still distant 12 miles from the summit, matters became so serious that a halt was called, and in the midst of a drenching downpour of rain and a thick fog we hastily formed a camp in a clump of alpine gums.”
The party moved up again early the next morning “ … and in a very short time we were on the track and in full view of the grand panorama of peaks, ravines and snowfields of the uplands.”
From Kerry’s mention of a well-known geographical feature, Pretty Point, we know that they travelled parallel but a couple of kilometres east of the Kosciuszko road and just a few kilometres from Smiggin Holes. Here they encountered a troubling sight.
“Passing a sheltered nook lying under a granite peak, known as Pretty Point, we had a sad and striking illustration of the vicissitudes of the mountain climate. Piled together in groups… were the remains of several hundred sheep, caught in a fearful snow storm (the previous January) and frozen to death in one night.”
They began to head closer to the western flank of the Ramshead Range proper, first along the undulating hills and plains of the Prussian Plain and Prussian Flat, which lie to the east of Perisher Valley, and then, according to Kerry, they travelled between Mt Wheatley and Porcupine Rocks (Mt Wheatley sits opposite the lifts on Perisher’s front valley).
It’s fascinating to note the word ‘Prussian’ in this area, which is also the name of a local creek, relates not to the German region but to a bullock. Their guide’s father, James Spencer Sr., named the area after one of his much-loved bullocks. Pipers Creek, another local stream, was also named after one of Spencer’s bullocks! (Referenced in an article in the Canberra Times, 8 November 1987).
The party now moved beyond 1800 metres and the last of the trees, and its members had an urgent task to complete.
“A little beyond the 6000ft. level the Alpine gum limit is reached. Beyond this nothing larger than stunted heather grows, so in the last forest clump we secured poles and pegs for our tents, as the nature of the expedition necessitated a camp on the actual summit.” Talk about last minute preparations!
After riding through Charlotte Pass the party crossed the upper reaches of the Snowy and apparently headed along the side of the Rams Head range towards the Etheridge Gap. (Early hand-drawn maps show an alternative path skirting around the eastern side of Mt Stillwell, which sits above the Charlotte ski area, and the wagon which, was a few days behind, may well have taken this alternate route.)
“We crossed the held of the Snowy beside a drift which formed part of its winter covering and still hides a part of the river, which flows under a series of beautiful arches of snow and ripples peacefully down a grassy valley. Crossing the opposite slope of this through daffodils and Alpine buttercups, we mounted the Rams Head Range, and stood within half a mile of Kosciusko.”
On this first day, according to Kerry, the temperature rose to 80 degrees F. at 3 pm and fell that night to 15 degrees below.
“On one of our coldest nights … one Queensland representative was able to count up 29 separate garments on his person, among these being 11 shirts, sweaters, and under garments, three pairs socks, and three full suits of clothes. That he looked corpulent goes without saying….”
They survived up on the summit for several days before the dray arrived with the bulk of the equipment, including the main “Arctic tent”, and their sleeping bags (the dray had been delayed by a capsize on one of the approach slopes).
They were very proud of the tent, made of “hurricane canvas” and their sleeping bags, which “are made of long woollen sheep skins carefully cleaned and tanned and sewn into bags about 7ft. 6 in. long. The wool is turned inwards, the outside covered in canvas.”
(The tent lasted two months before a storm threatened to blow it off the mountain and so they cut down the centre pole, flattening the tent and weighting it down over their equipment. The party then crawled along the Etheridge Range and descended to the Thredbo River. The following year a permanent hut was built to replace the tent.)
Kerry and those not directly involved in the weather recording stayed quite some time on the mountain travelling around the various peaks and lakes in the vicinity and he waxed lyrical about much that he saw,
“The gorgeousness of sunrise and sunset as seen from Kosciusko was a scene never to be forgotten. On a bright, clear evening our panoramic view of 100 miles over the Monaro plains and 70 to 80 down the Murray valley gave place to a pillowy sea of clouds, which the setting sun touched with a deep purple. These sunk until Kosciusko and a few sister peaks were the only islands in this vast sea. Sunrise was, if possible, even more beautiful still.”
This description from 120 years ago will resonate with those of you who have toured in this region.
The saga of the Wragge weather station can be read in an earlier article on the Alpine Access Australia website, but Charles Kerry’s description of the trip from Jindabyne to Kosciuszko to establish the station stands as one of the first recorded in any detail.
He was instrumental in persuading the NSW Government to establish ski and snow holidays in NSW, including the construction of a road from Jindabyne to the Kosciuszko summit in 1905. Apart from all if this, he was famous for his pioneering photographic images, including those of the Snowy Mountains.
Author: PAUL PEARCE
After a very busy, windy, snowy June, July & August, September has presented some opportunities to get out to the far reaches of the Main Range. Three days out, we identify Monday as a Twynam day. The day dawns with moderate NW winds up high, so the perfect wind-less day it will not be! All we can do is head out there and hope the sun does its job.
Up from Illawong it’s a landscape of white rolling hills punctuated by tree and rock ridgelines, and far in the distance are the higher peaks which are round on the eastern side and drop off precipitously to the west. The legendary western faces. A solitary figure kilometres away makes their way up the Twynam ridgeline. A group of two can be seen taking a break in the lee of a small wave-like feature. We push on into the relentless nor’wester, the imposing face of Twynam looming ever closer. The snowpack is a patchwork of ice and snowdrifts – all of it softening by the minute. The last leg, across the saddle with Blue Lake below us to the south, opens up a view to Kozi, Townsend, Northcote, Lee, Carruthers, the magnificent southern end of the Main Range.
The top of Twynam is a wide plateau. It feels ancient. A trig somewhat wind-battered is perched there, surrounded by a thin icy layer of snow. We walk over to survey the western side. It’s breathtaking. Wherever you look are steep, enticing lines – untracked. Wide faces, bowls, chutes, cliffs. All dropping into remote wilderness.
It’s early afternoon, and we see a lone adventurer taking the route out along the ridge of the Watsons Crags. Wondering if they really intend to drop in to one of those lines at this hour of the day…
The thing about the western faces is that those lines are soooo alluring, you soooo want to drop down there. The equivalent of summit fever. And yet you have to recognise how remote these places are, and take a moment to assess the time it’s going to take to get back out, whether your physical fitness will cope with a tough climb, maybe bootpacking with crampons, and then the long haul back to the trailhead. When things go wrong out here, they go badly wrong.
For us, it’s a day to search for softening eastern aspects, and to leave the west side for another day. Beating into the wind for hours has worn us down, and hitting the eastern side of Twynam is a relief. And brings sweet rewards. A few more climbs and lines underneath those lee-side wind lips and bowls around Mt Anton, then a big old schuss in the corn to the Illawong bridge. And already planning a mission back out there next time there’s a perfect wind-less day… - Pieta Herring
My favourite way to spend a Winter Sunday:
7 am – Head out of Jindabyne in time to avoid the August weekend traffic snarl.
8 am – Skins on and a peaceful amble up the road to Eyre, watching as the Perisher resort slowly comes to life
9 am – First lift up Eyre and some excellent runs down the untouched groomers.
10 am – Coffee & BLT at the Eyre cafe
10.30 – Time to run away from the crowds and head to the empty untracked playgrounds of the Perisher sidecountry.
Time stands still – A few hours of solitude in the silent sparkling backcountry, not a breath of wind, and a myriad of untracked slopes to choose from. Several powdery descents and meditative climbs later, along with a healthy dose of adrenaline and endorphins, it’s a half hour trek back to civilisation.
1.30 - Sunday lunch hour – seems like the crowds have started heading home, so who could resist a couple of fun runs around Mt P.
What an awesome Sunday, these are the days I dream about as winter approaches each year. - Pieta Herring
Most people reading this who venture into the backcountry will expose themselves to risk at some point whether here in Australia or overseas.
Obviously technical knowledge is paramount to staying safe. The more we know about the snowpack, weather, terrain and avalanche formation and release the better. But what about when human factors cloud our judgment? Avalanche awareness and training have historically been focused on the premise that by teaching people about technical factors like the snowpack and avalanche terrain, they would make the right decisions, but the stats were showing that this alone was not keeping people out of trouble. The ‘human factor’ was affecting people’s ability to make good decisions. One study by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center found that nearly 90% of accidents were primarily caused by human factors not avalanche factors such as terrain or snowpack. Always challenge what you think you know and ask yourself, “How might I be wrong? Can I tolerate the evaluated risk level today?” Investigations into avalanche accidents has found that the victim either didn’t notice the danger or overestimated their ability to deal with it.
Planning and decision making – which involve the human factors - are at least as important as technical knowledge. Experienced BC tourers and professionals counter the influence of human factors by being systematic in their approach to evaluating risk. Training, check lists, procedures, practice, all contribute to a system aimed at aiding the decision-making process essential to staying safe. Equal to getting educated on the technical aspects of mountain safety, we have to become more aware of our own foibles and recognize our ability to make mistakes, then factor this into our decision-making.
Mental shortcuts or ‘heuristics” that we use to get us through the day-to-day complexities of life can adversely impact our decision-making in the backcountry. We tend to take more risks when we use some of these shortcuts like:
FAMILIARITY: We feel more comfortable with the familiar and can be complacent and take more risks as a result. “I’ve been here before.”
ACCEPTANCE: Peer group pressure. Seeking acceptance by others. Not speaking up when maybe we should. No one wants to kill the party!
COMMITMENT: Summit fever. Committed to a goal. “I have hiked all day and I am damn well going to ski it.” Sometimes you have to be able to say, today is not the day!
EXPERT HALO: Following an expert who really isn’t one. “He knows what he is doing, doesn’t he?” As the saying goes “a little bit of knowledge can be very dangerous”!
SCARCITY: Powder panic. Competition for fresh tracks. Competition and danger go hand in hand.
SOCIAL PROOF: The herding instinct. Blindly following someone else’s tracks. Most people will agree they are bolder in a group than alone. People also believe their action is correct because other people are doing it.
To learn more about “Human Factors” and everything to do with avalanches, do youself a favour and get a copy of Bruce Tremper’s “ Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain”. Absolutely a must-read for those who like to go beyond the resort boundaries.
Two more extremely important resources. One is an online award-winning article from the New York Times “The Avalanche At Tunnel Creek”, and “Rescue at Cherry Bowl” is another online story that must be told. Google them.
And for those that love a statistic.
1: 47% of avalanche deaths occur when conditions are reported as “Considerable”.
2: 74% of all human triggered slides occur on slopes between 34 and 45 degrees.
3: Terminal velocity of an avalanche reaches over 150km/h.
4: Wind can deposit snow 10 times faster than snowfall from a storm.
5: Over 150 avalanche related deaths globally each year. Average annual deaths in the US 27. There were 75 deaths in Europe in Dec/Jan 2016.
6: In Utah it is estimated that three out of four avalanche victims did not consult the avalanche advisory before heading out and two out of three were not wearing beacons.
7: Most people trigger the avalanche they are caught in.
Note: In Australia we now have an avalanche advisory website in the form of “Mountain Sports Collective” http://mountainsportscollective.org/
Have a look and support this volunteer service. KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!
- Dave Herring
She did it on heavy wooden skis and simple Kandahar cable bindings. Even today, these vast slopes of the western faces of the Main Range are skied by the very few but throughout her long life, Elyne came to know this remote alpine area with the familiarity of her own back yard.
Once bitten by the bug, backcountry skiing and exploration became her lifelong passion.
Elyne was the daughter of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Chauvel, the leader of the Australian Army Light Horse in the First World War. She married an upper Murray valley local and leading skier, Tom Mitchell, in 1935 and lived on the family property at Towong Hill for the remainder of her very interesting life.
She was the author of 22 books on subjects ranging across skiing, history, ecology and fiction, including her quite famous Silver Brumby series of children’s books.
Her introduction to skiing began in 1935 when she and Tom rode up to Mt Buller on horseback and she was left by him and his mates to get into her skis for the first time on her own, with no lesson on what to do next!
She was a fast learner. The next winter they rode from their property up the Hannel Spur and toured across to Charlottes Pass. The next year she represented Australia in the Inter-Dominion race with New Zealand. The year after, she won the Canadian Women’s National Downhill. This woman could ski and she was tough – during her years of skiing she broke her leg twice and suffered numerous other injuries pursuing her passion.
The few years before the outbreak of World War II seem to have been her happiest, when she and Tom constantly toured and skied over Main Range terrain from Townsend in the south up to Grey Mare mountain and Mt Jagungal in the north and across to Mt Pinnibar due west of the Tom Groggin station, which is on the Murray River.
There were no roads up onto the range then, just cattlemen’s trails, many, doubtless following earlier age-old indigenous tracks. Her most common entry points to the Main Range were by the aforementioned Hannel Spur, or up along the ridges of the Grey Mare range (near today’s Geehi Dam) and also via Wolsey Gap which was closer to their home.
Tom went to war and had the great misfortune to be an officer in the AIF’s 8th Division that surrendered to the Japanese in Singapore in 1941. He spent the remainder of the war in Changi prison.
The war years were very tough ones for Elyne. As well as fearing for her husband, she had to run the cattle property. These were the lonely years when she began her long career as an author but also a time when she continued her love affair with the nearby mountains. This was when she first ventured down the Western Fall.
“A long schuss in light powder snow over a firm base, and then two quick turns brought us to the drop into the narrow gully. I swung down into it and found myself almost in a funnel, somewhat icy, in which I could only swing banked turns on one side and then the other. It narrowed swiftly and then suddenly rushed me out on to a steep, sticky snow slope. Below were some rocks with only a narrow opening to let me through on to a practically invisible slope beyond.”
This was Elyne’s first venture onto the western faces and she was describing her descent down Strezlecki Creek off the saddle between Twynam West Ridge and the Sentinel.
She climbed out and proceeded to ski down the gully between Carruthers West Ridge and the Sentinel, after some lunch, of course!
“The top of our gully… was icy, and I made my first turn with great caution. Below, far below, was what looked like a hanging valley. Then I … swung down and down, still further wondering to find myself skiing on the wall-like side of the Main Range with the strangely bottomless feeling that these great gullies give.”
This was a drop of 1000 vertical feet or 300-plus metres, with an exhausting climb out on heavy skis and rudimentary skins – the second big climb on the same day. Tough.
Two weeks later she skied the northern face of Twynam West Ridge mentioned above.
After the war and Tom’s return, their adventures continued but in the years to come one gets the impression she never quite recaptured the full delight of skiing with her partner. In 1958, Tom suffered a serious leg injury on the property and never skied again. Elyne skied well into old age and enjoyed teaching each of her four children how to ski and enjoy the mountains around them.
These two were also responsible for naming a couple of the iconic places on the Main Range. In 1934, Tom Mitchell and his mate George Day did the first known descent of Mt Townsend and on their way out of Lady Northcote Canyon on the opposite side towards Mt Lee they named the face they climbed ‘Little Austria’ for its Arlberg-like appearance.
Elyne named “the sharp, narrow peak that guards the gully below the Twynam/Carruthers saddle Sentinel Peak.” These days it’s just called the Sentinel. In fact another famous ski tourer, Bert Schlink, called it the Razorback but her name stuck.
The Mitchells not only dared to ski many of the forbidding runs of the Western Faces but also undertook some hair-raising adventures in summer. In 1948 they and two others drove two army jeeps from their home at Towong Hill 120 kilometres to the Chalet at Charlottes Pass. There were no roads, just steep terrain, heavy bush, numerous river-crossings and bogs.
Elyne Mitchell died in March 2002 at the age of 88, having established a legacy of unbowed optimism and courage. Once you know her story, it is hard not to ponder her exploits whenever one tours the Main Range.
These days, the word ‘legend’ is too easily used to describe some often soon-forgotten feat or person of note. Legend is most fitting when applied to Elyne Mitchell. She embodies the term both in her exploits on the snow and in the way she lived her life. - Paul Pearce