AAC 3-08 Kiandra 1898

 

Kiandra – the Starting Point for Schlink's Second Attempt

AAC 3-Map Kiandra to Kosci When the 1927 expedition team of Herbert Schlink, Bill Gordon, John Laidly and Eric Fisher traveled to Kiandra on 27 July 1927 from the Hotel Kosciusko, they had to ski the last 8 miles into Kiandra, due to the depth of snow that was blocking the Kiandra Road, now known as the Snowy Mountains Highway. Following the mining in the 1860's of the rich alluvial gold deposits that adjoined the town, Kiandra continued for another 80 years as a gold mining centre, servicing several small mines up to twenty miles from the town. There were 270 men employed on the local goldfields in 1900 but this had declined to 22 miners by the early 1920's.

AAC 3-09 Young Skiers 1895It is thought that the first skis were used at Kiandra during the 1860 winter although the first newspaper reference to skiing was in the Monaro Mercury of 29 July 1861. Kiandra remained a skiing township with a school, church, hotel, post office and court house, until the town gradually closed down, beginning with the school closing in 1924 and ending with the closure of the Kiandra Chalet during the late 1970's. Skiing on the locally made wooden skis was a feature of Kiandra as it was very difficult to traverse the thick snow cover without them (Photo 8). Children went to school on skis (Photo 9).
AAC 3-10 Kiandra Hotelier 1928They were met in Kiandra by Mr Jeffries, the proprietor of the Alpine Hotel (shown on his Kiandra "Snow Shoes" in Photo 10) and by the fifth expedition member, Bill Hughes, a Kiandra miner, who had skied over much of the terrain to be covered on the first day of the trip. The following brief account is based on Herbert Schlink's description of the successful expedition that was published in the 1928 Ski Year Book.

AAC 3-11 Nine mile hut Schlink CrossingThey left Kiandra the next morning, in brilliant sunshine and with frost crystals covering the hard-frozen snow. An immediate climb up Township Hill brought them to the Main Divide and they then followed the track to the Nine Mile Hut (Photo 11) with occasional views of Mt. Jagungal, located mid-way between Kiandra and Mt. Kosciuszko. They lunched at Temperance Creek, 12 miles from Kiandra and ascended the steep, snowless north side of Bolton's Hill before skiing down its south side and wading across the waist-deep, turbulent Happy Jack River (Photo 12). Much of the terrain was timbered, usually with enough space between the trees to provide pleasant "wood runs" (Photo 13).

AAC 3-12 Happy Jacks River XingAAC 3-13 South of Kiandra

 

AAC 3-14 Schlink at Farm RidgeThey were very tired when they arrived at Farm Ridge Hut (Photo 14) at 7pm and it took them until 11pm to prepare and cook their meal. They had covered 25 miles "in rugged and difficult country, with plenty of wood running, steep slopes and some breakable crust".
AAC 3-15 Med res Mt. Jagungal from NorthA hasty breakfast and an early start found them traveling on the Jagungal foothills. Schlink commented "it is impossible to imagine a better ski-ing ground than these hills afford . I predict a great future for the snowfields of Farm Ridge and the watershed of the Tumut River, especially that part that takes origin on the northern aspect of Jagungal spur. It is hard to do justice to the magnificence and grandeur of Mount Jagungal, a most characteristic Australian peak, with its crouching–lion form sparkling and blazing with its diamond studded mantle of snow". Mt. Jagungal can be seen (from the north) on the skyline in Photo 15, with the head of the imagined, crouching-lion almost in the centre, the body and back legs on the left and the front legs stretched out on the right-hand side.

AAC 3-16 Fog over M  RangeThey traversed around the eastern end of "Jagungal spur" (which runs east from Mt. Jagungal) and around the headwaters of the Geehi River, before reaching the crest of the Main Range near the Bulls Peaks; crossing en route, the old Kalkite Road (marked by snow poles) that headed west to the Grey Mares Mines. Passing cup and saucer hill, they followed the valley of the Valentine River upstream to its source and then on to the Tin Hut at about 1pm. There they had lunch and a break, having covered 15 miles in about five hours. They lightened their packs by leaving their "sleeping bags and all extra weight in the form of food, etc., and made the final dash for Pounds' Hut, from which we can get home in any weather. Slowly and with frequent stops, for our muscles are feeling the strain, we climbed to the top of Gungartan (6,776 feet)" and ran down to the saddle at the head of White's River. About 25 years later, the Snowy Mountains Authority named this saddle "Schlink Pass" in recognition of Dr Herbert Schlink's role as a skiing pioneer.

The expedition continued along the Main Range on the crest of the Granite Peaks. "Then all of a sudden the old god of the mountain makes us understand that he is not to be conquered so easily, and envelopes us in a blanket of fog which robs us of all sense of distance and hides from us such well known landmarks as the Perisher, Mount Tate and Gills Knobs." Photo No. 16, taken from Tate East Ridge, shows a typical late-afternoon fog (with a clear sky above) rolling over the Main Range at Pounds Creek.

AAC 3-17 Schlink at Pipers Gap"We must feel our way along to the Consett Stephen Pass, that landmark which will lead us to the Guthega River, the Snowy and home." The last part of the run down the Guthega River was done in the dark but their progress was helped by the Snowy River being frozen over, "no stripping and paddling in the frozen, turbulent stream" and they followed it upstream to the hut. "Five tired men drop into Pounds Hut (35 miles in 12.5 hours), eat like wolves, throw themselves on the spring mattresses and sleep until 11 o'clock next morning. Next day 15 miles home, with luncheon at Bett's Camp seems child's play." A group photo (Photo No. 17) was taken after lunch as they neared the Hotel Kosciusko and journey's end.