Why should skiers get all the fun of the snow? Surely there’s a way for everyone to enjoy the rare beauty of a crisp, white playground – even if you’re s-no-w expert. We reckon snowshoeing is the answer, and the hike from Guthega to Schlink Hut and back is just the trip to get you started.
- Wintery wonderland of Australia’s alpine region
- Building a snow cave (or just borrowing someone else’s!)
- Warming up by the fire in a historic hut after a day of crisp air and exercise
There is something about the blue, green and grey of eucalypt against the startling white of fresh snow that’s just magical. Perhaps it’s that it’s so unusual – I must have seen 10,000 views of sweeping bush against rock and dirt for every one view outlined in crisp white. But even if I could enjoy it far more often, I think it would still have a certain indefinable something, a quietude, a beauty all of its own.
If You Can Walk, You Can Snowshoe
I’ve always thought that it would be fun to learn to ski (or maybe snowboard?) but it seems like an awful lot of faff and expense to squeeze into a long weekend away, just to fall on my face. I’m sadly not particularly coordinated – I can stack it without the help of slippery sticks attached to my feet – so I anticipate that one weekend a year is probably not going to see wild improvement. And so one winter follows another without me getting around to seeing all that Australian alpine gorgeousness.
But last year my hiking group organised a snowshoeing trip. ‘How long does it take to learn?’ I asked. ‘If you can walk, you can snowshoe.’ Ah! This sounds like the sport for me.
They had a four-day walk planned so I tagged along, with baby and husband in tow.
A Family Affair
We left from Guthega Power Station and walked up to Horse Camp Hut. Wow. I couldn’t help but grin wildly the whole time – somewhat to the chagrin of my husband who was trying to ski with bindings that kept falling off, plus a wobbly baby in his pack. It was so incredibly wild and beautiful. When they are silhouetted in white you really appreciate the magnificence of the shape, the bends and curves of the trees.
There is a small creek crossing about halfway to the hut. We paused there to enjoy the view – vivid blue sky and curve of hills like a richly frosted cake – and who should be making their way across the snow towards us but Ms Echidna! (Or Mr, I didn’t ask). Just trundling her way through the snow, a little bristly bodied trail behind her.
We camped that night outside Horse Camp Hut, with its delightfully auspicious red door. It’s worth the walk up just for the pleasure of being welcomed by the little historic hut in the snow.
Dinner was warm and convivial but we got word that the forecast had changed for the following day – a blizzard was predicted for the late afternoon. Not exactly suitable for first-timers carting a one-year-old.
So after a cosy night in our tent, we waved our friends goodbye and headed back to Guthega. I was determined to come again next winter.
Back At It Again
And so we did! This year we were more fortunate with the weather. No perfect blue skies but also no blizzard – a fair trade off! Thank you weather gods. Predictably, the baby, now a toddler, was rather heavier so we planned a leisurely trip – about 23 km return over three nights.
Day One – Guthega To Horse Camp Hut
The idea was to leave from Guthega after lunch, spend the first night at Horse Camp Hut, head up to Schlink Hut the next day (with a comfortable lunch stop off at White’s River Hut) and then back for another night at Horse Camp, before an easy morning walk down the hill back to Guthega on the fourth day.
It’s a pretty comfortable itinerary, with plenty of time to play in the snow. The uphill is fairly gentle, although when I swapped my 19kg ‘most of the stuff’ pack for the 23kg of ‘toddler and rest of the stuff’ pack I decided that the hill was, in fact, an enormous and very steep mountain – the truth might be somewhere in between.
Day Two – Horse Camp Hut To Schlink Hut Via White’s River Hut
At White’s River, some enterprising visitors had built an impressive snow cave. We had a lot of fun crawling in and out and marvelling at the ice-blue colours. There was also a little slope off to the right which was perfect for makeshift tobogganing.
Camping outside the huts was such a bonus and terribly civilised. No sitting in -3 degrees plus wind-chill, trying to cook dinner then immediately scurrying into your sleeping bag. Nope, instead we lazed in front of a big warm fire, watched the pinks and purples of sunset from the window, ate dinner at an actual table, yarned with fellow travellers and altogether had a delightfully cosy time – very hygge.
At Schlink Hut, otherwise known as ‘The Hilton’ (it’s massive and well kitted out for a mountain hut) we were too lazy to set up the tent and instead slept inside. I don’t know how many times I have to do this before I learn my lesson. Huts are inevitably home to little furry friends who want to run over you in the night. They are also usually full of people who snore horribly, although at Schlink instead it was a toddler who woke up three times – I mean honestly, who brings an annoying toddler? Sorry hut-people!
The main path from Horse Camp up to Schlink is on the fire trail (although it’s more of a road). You can imagine that in summer it would be a pretty uninviting walk, but covered in snow it’s certainly more attractive. As a beginner snow-adventurer, it’s quite reassuring to be on a track that’s six-foot wide and pretty impossible to miss in fine weather.
Day Three – Schlink Hut to Horse Camp Hut via the Aquaduct
On the walk back down to Horse Camp we took the alternative ‘Aquaduct’ route (there is a sign at the turn off after White’s River). It’s a much prettier path – for most of the walk you’re up a lot higher and have better views of the hills – and because it’s a foot track it’s a bit narrower so you feel more a part of the landscape.
On our last night we had Horse Camp to ourselves. In the after-dinner dark, we bundled the drowsy toddler up in a sleeping bag to cross the crisp snow to the tent. The sickle moon hadn’t risen yet but the stars were so bright that we could see each other clearly. We looked up and marvelled at the entire Milky Way arching across the blue-black. A shooting star! The brightest, longest one I’ve ever seen – a golden fireball whizzing and whirring across the sky.
The three huts we visited are all nestled next to creeks. The water is incredibly clear and it’s a total pleasure to just hang out quietly and listen to the gurgling through the snow.
I swear one year I’ll learn to ski, but until then I’m pretty happy with where snow-shoeing can get me.
- 3.5 days of meals plus snacks (an extra ‘safety’ meal is recommended)
- Winter camping gear (four season tent recommended)
- Warm and wet weather clothing
- Hiking shoes or snow boots
- Shoeshoes and ski poles
- Topographic map, compass and a competent navigator
- Torch or headlamp
- First aid kit (including emergency blanket)
- Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
How To Get There
Drive to Guthega Power Station (inside Kosciusko National Park). Park fees apply.
Intermediate – This adventure (even the one night option) is best suited to fit walkers with recent overnight hiking experience. Be aware that changeable weather, blizzards or white-outs, can make for dangerous conditions and unexpected delays.
23km | 3.5 days