South Rams Head
Its been a few years since I have gotten down for a snow camp session, last year was an absolute write-off. So when my sister (Lorena Blacklock) said she wanted to go this year and it could double as a birthday present how could I refuse 🙂
I have been wanting to get back to this area on the slopes of South Rams head, and given its a fairly mild snow shoe hike up it ended up being perfect. The weather forecast was looking ok, also conveniently timed around the new moon so plenty of black night for astro if the opportunity presented itself and of course a location close to some stunning snow gums and the peak of South Rams head. Everytime i go to the NPWS office at Jindy, the lady asks me the same question, have you seen the weather forecast ? its like a trick question to vet those unsuspecting back country folk 😉 The wind forecast was not much chop, on the friday the place had been issued with a severe wind warning – thats no fun, but it was calming down with 25-40km/h winds, still could well be enough to make things miserable if one got stuck in that with -7C.
We made it up to the treeline and it was pretty gusty, and not consistent direction gusts either, like the ones that swing around 180degrees to mess with your head as you try and find a nice camp spot 🙂 We did find a pretty nice spot that seemed fairly sheltered and with a nice view (that is pretty important:) ) It was snowing a bit and a bit windy still and the spot was on a fairly decent slope – enough that when I put my camera down and it went for slide half way down the hill 🙂 it still works so no new camera for me 🙁
Fixed that problem with some snow works and built a nice wall and some steps, but sadly was about 4ft short in the length which meant it was a bit cramped with two Mont tents, nonetheless still relatively flat and well out of the wind from the forecast NW and SW directions.
Conditions for our two nights actually ended up being pretty amazing, both nights ended up being so still and quiet that we could hear the river down in the valley. It was even so still that in the early hours of the morning the fox (i assume) that came to visit could be heard on the fresh snow. Unbeknown to us we had set up camp only a few trees away from his burrow 🙂 sorry dude.
Whilst the first night and morning was cloudy, the sky was continuously changing with low level cloud moving across and enveloping the peaks and often the camp spot, this gave the opportunity for some clear scene shots but also nicely whiteout’ed conditions. We were able to get to the top of South Rams head and it was timed nicely such that the clouds cleared as we got to the summit – nailed it 🙂
The second night presented a short period of time with zero clouds where the stars came out to shine, nailed it again 🙂 – what i love about watching the stars in places like this is that when you look to the south or south west there is zero light pollution and and you can see the stars on the horizon as clearly as those directly above. It only lasted for 30 minutes or so before clouds came back, but it was a very cool. It probably happened a few times thru the night but I was too busy with a date with a toasty sleeping bag and hot water bottle.
A good dump of snow on the first night brought all the trees alive with a frosting and left our tents sagging. It was a good opportunity to see how the newer Mont Dragonfly compared to the older Firefly 2. While I am here… I think there are 3 key things that jump out at me when comparing my newer Dragonly fly tent to say the older Mont Firefly or my older MSR Hubba, 1) the flatness of the Dragonfly tent is not so good for snow, it really pools the snow, it gives great head room inside, but does so at the expense of having a pretty flat section on top. 2) Plastic clips, its only a matter of time before i stick my giant hoofs on one of the plastic corner clips and break them, whilst easy to replace, this happening in the field makes for a PITA fix – i think just including the conventional metal eyelets as a backup would have gone a long way. 3) The zip tags and tent flap retainers are not glove friendly, actually they are really fiddly, even just couple of well placed velcro strips would go a long way to holding open the tent flap.
While I am here gear reviewing 🙂 as a interesting bit of real world data for my MSR Wind burner stove – i recorded the number of full boils I could get out of a small 110g gas canister, this stands at about 6 or 7 boils with say 5 of those at full snow and the remaining half snow and half water. A good trick to get some more love out of a dying cannister is to put a bit of hot water over the cannister, they freeze/stay in liquid form when sitting in snow being used – that got me thinking back to 1st year thermodynamics, not fun.
I do have a bunch of pictures from the couple of days so these are a selection from one of the days.
Thanks Lorena Blacklock for putting up with my snow and photo taking addiction 🙂