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Lee Side Turns: Spring Touring from Charlotte Pass. By Nick Hall

November 04, 2021

David and Ben climbing on Alpine Tourings Skis towards Caruthers Peak

Able to travel into Regional NSW once more, David, Ben and I headed to Charlotte Pass for a day in the hills last weekend. Spurred on by a Winter's worth of snow cam watching, Warren Miller ski edits, and staring at my skis in the gear cupboard, I was only too excited for some backcountry turns.

Despite my roaring enthusiasm, a group decision was made to embrace the longer Spring days and make time for a bakery detour on our way up to the car park, ensuring we were well fuelled for the day. Full of pastry and caffeine, we crossed the Snowy River North of Charlotte Pass with a group of 20 or so in a tour group behind us. Starting our skin up at around 9:30, we made fast progress uphill with the snow only just starting to soften under our skis.

Ascending from the Snowy River towards the Main Range

As we made our way up onto the South Eastern ridge under Carruthers Peak, the terrain flattened and we saw 15 skiers and splitboarders lined up above the chutes, waiting for someone to test whether the snow had softened sufficiently to be skiable. Wanting to avoid a fast, day wrecking slide into Club Lake, we decided to avoid the shaded chutes and instead look for a sunnier aspect.

David volunteered to take point and as he traversed high above Club Lake, Ben and I allowed plenty of time before following to ensure we had a good view (and the opportunity to snap a photo), should he have slid down the still firm Southern face of Carruthers.

David traversing high above Club Lake

Having safely negotiated the traverse, we transitioned, packing away our skins and engaging Ski Mode on our boots. The slope South of Carruthers had received just enough sunlight to be forgiving yet firm, and my first turns in four months felt surprisingly solid. Though there had been snowfall a week or so before our trip, the new snow was running slow and we found more enjoyable turns were to be had on the older brown snow.

David on a downhill run between Carruthers Peak and Mt Lee

Stopping for lunch, we sat on a patch of grass and soaked up the spring Sun, before refitting our skins and heading up to the summit of Mt Lee. With the snow still fairly firm despite the Morning's sun, we managed to maintain a quick pace up to the summit. With some cornicing still present on the lee slope of Mt Lee, I picked my line carefully before setting up just above our lunch spot to wait for David and Ben to ski down.

Ben on the downhill run off Mt Lee

Stopped above our lunch spot from earlier, we could see a few parties starting back towards the Snowy River following the drainage out of Club Lake. Deciding instead to maintain our elevation, we traversed South East in an effort to increase our time on skis. Walking, however, is almost inevitable for a Spring Ski Touring trip.

Walking back towards the Snowy River

While this Winter was full of interruptions for most, the skiing ended just as well as it started and I'm grateful for my early, and late season turns. Though there is some unfavourable weather kicking around, there will be turns left in the backcountry for a while yet.

Nick Hall
Mont Staff Member

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