AAC 3-01 Will Ashton Kosci Hotel 

 

AAC 3-02 Kiandra 1928This installment of ski heritage photos takes you back to the 1920's when skiers were planning the first crossing of the Snowy Mountains on skis. Although skiers had penetrated the Snowy Mountains "Back Country" from both Kiandra and the Kosciusko Hotel, no skiers had done the 75 mile (120 km) journey linking the two ski resorts on skis. But the Australian Ski Yearbook for 1928 contains accounts, not only of the first ski trip between Kiandra and Kosciusko, but also of a 50 mile (80 km) ski trip "Across the Bogongs" in Victoria, which we plan to cover in a future installment.

 

AAC 3-03 Tin Hut 1987Dr Herbert Schlink, Vice-President of the Ski Club of Australia, was one of Australia's leading skiers in the 1920's. He had set record after record for the 34 mile (55 km) round-trip from the Hotel Kosciusko to the Kosciuszko Summit. In 1921 he went to Kiandra unsuccessfully seeking a local skier to join his planned Kiandra to Kosciuszko ski trip. His advance planning recognized that, although there were a few huts at the Kiandra end of the planned journey that could provide shelter and be stocked with food supplies, there was a 38 mile (61 km) interval between Farm Ridge Hut and Betts Camp with no shelter huts of any description. The New South Wales Government decided to support Schlink's planned trip by building two small tin huts along the planned route – one is still known as Tin Hut (Photo 3) and the other was known as Pounds Creek Hut or Tin Hut 1, but was rehabilitated and extended by the Ski Tourers Association (now the AAC) in 1956. Photo 4 shows Pounds Creek Hut in its original condition, whilst later in this installment we will describe its deterioration in the 1940's and refurbishment in the 1950's.

AAC 3-04 Pounds Hut SYB28These two huts were completed in time for the 1926 ski season. Preliminary trips were made to assess the various approaches to Tin Hut under winter conditions. Following a preliminary examination of the possible Snowy River crossings between Perisher and Spencers Creeks, the direct route between the Hotel Kosciusko and Tin Hut was reconnoitred on 3 August 1926 on ponies as far as Reid's Hut and then on skis to Tin Hut. The scarcity of snow for several miles on either side of the Snowy River crossing at Island Bend made this only a short line of retreat from the Main Range in case of emergency, but not a part of the route for the ski trip between the Hotel Kosciusko and Kiandra.

 

 

AAC 3-05 YB 1928 Betts CampOn 7 August 1926, Dr Schlink and five companions set out from the Hotel Kosciusko (Photo 1) to attempt the over-snow trip to Kiandra, overnighting at Betts Camp on the Mt Kosciuszko Summit Road (Photo 5). The next day dawned fine and they headed down Spencers Creek to the Snowy River, which was open, with only one extremely thin ice bridge a short distance upstream, which was cautiously crossed (had Illawong's bridge over the Snowy existed then, it would have saved much valuable time). They then climbed up Pounds Creek on their skis and skirted around Mt Tate to Consett Stephen Pass.
AAC 3-06 Crammed into Tin HutThey avoided the bad ice on the summit of the Main Range, but got into some rugged country below the tree line, whilst heading for White's Valley and Tin Hut.From the head of Whites River they had to climb over one of the spurs running north from Gungartan because Tin Hut was in a saddle on the northeastern side of that peak. Before they could catch a glimpse of Tin Hut they were enveloped in fog, but picked their way down slowly and only just managed to stop when the ski tips of the leading skier were found to be balancing on the edge of a huge cornice. The fog lifted momentarily to reveal the Tin Hut right in front of them on the other side of the valley. A few more minutes of skiing, then they crammed into the small hut (Photo 6) as night fell.

Inside Tin Hut Photo6 [Ski Year Book, 1928]
AAC 3-07 Party outside Tin HutThey lit a fire as a blizzard closed in. The hut quickly filled with smoke and remained that way for the three nights and days that the blizzard raged outside. Then the weather improved sufficiently for them to take a group photo outside the hut during a short break in the weather (Photo 7). They then used the emergency direct route to get back to the Hotel Kosciusko, since the bad weather showed no signs of clearing up. Dr Schlink resolved to defer the trip until the following year and to attempt it from the Kiandra end. The map shows how the availability of huts allowed the trip to be done in three days.