<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> OzBC.net - NSW Backcountry - Curruthers Peak

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Carruthers Peak

Carruthers Peak South - Club Lake

The steep and rocky south facing slopes of Carruthers Peak fall approximately 200 vertical metres into Club Lake, one of the highest alpine lakes in Australia. Their aspect, altitude and position along the Main Range make them perfect for catching and holding snow. The slopes are one of the first and last areas of Australia to hold skiable snow, and they remain skiable into November in most years.

There are a number of recognised runs from the peak down into Club Lake (shown below). It’s always good to ski one of the easier lines first off. This allows you to view the snow conditions and coverage on the more demanding routes and will help you to avoid getting stuck above a rock and a lower place. Better still, you can check out the conditions if you approach from the southern side of the peak. In a good snow year you’re probably right to give it a go straight up. However, a year like 2006 made conditions on the south facing slopes pretty extreme, and there’s no way I would have committed to any of the lines without prior inspection.

Wind blown snow from the westerlies results in the formation of a steep entry (or even cornices) to the skiers right of the peak. The slopes to the skiers left present a gentler entry to the run. From the peak the skier can see the first half of the run but a band of rocky outcrops conceals the more challenging lower half. At the rocky outcrops the skier typically has the choice of three routes (additional routes become skiable in an above average year).

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Late Spring at Club Lake showing the main routes down the south face of Carruthers Peak. This photo was taken on the last weekend of October in 2004 (an above average year for snow).

Route 1 - The easiest route down is to the skiers right, which has a similar grade to the other slopes but is relatively wide and free of obstructions.

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Skier taking a line close to Route 1 into Club Lake (on the south face of Carruthers Peak)

Route 2 – This route is through the more obvious and friendly looking gap in the rocks to the skiers right. The run has a fairly consistent and steep (around 35 degrees) gradient but is a little cross grade in places. Stick close to the left side of the rocks if you like your skis to stay on the snow.

Route 2a – Same as route 2 but drop the small cliff skiers right about half way down. The tip is to make sure someone’s watching – preferably a female you are trying to woo. But make sure you stick the landing or she may be hauling your sorry arse back to Charlotte Pass.

Route 3 – This line is also known as ‘The Elevator’ because it’s steep (around 35 degrees) and is straight down the fall line. Probably the best line for those that appreciate fall line. The narrow entry into this rock lined chute is probably the most obvious route to the skier descending from the peak.

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Looking back up 'The Elevator' from the lower half of the run.

Route 4 – This route is only skiable in above average snow years. It’s very similar to Route 3 except for a bit of a bulge at the mid section, which results in a very steep drop about two thirds of the way down.

Route 5 - The easiest descent into Club Lake starts approximately 300 metres east of Carruthers Peak. This route is relatively wide and has a gentler more consistent gradient than those from the peak itself.

Once you reach the lake the best of it is over but if you are heading back to Charlotte Pass you can get still milk a bit more vertical yet. There is a nice slope toward the base of Mt Lee that is worth a few more cruisy turns.

If you ski cross slope to the east of Club Lake there are some nice short but steep gullies that drop down into Club Lake Creek which are also good for a few more turns if you’re heading off.

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The south and south east facing slopes of Carruthers Peak viewed from the Ramshead Range. There is still more vertical on offer below Club Lake. The south east facing slopes of Carruthers Peak (right of photo) offer long runs for the intermediates.

I found the easiest way to repeat ski the lines into Club Lake was to boot pack up the slopes to the west of the lake. However, skiers should assess the route for obvious danger and/or obstacles before ascending.

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A rather sketchy looking south face of Carruthers Peak in late 2006 ( a very poor snow year) viewed from Etheridge. Note the skiers on the ridge in the left foreground for scale. The cover is often similar to this after the first decent snowfall of the season.

Carruthers Peak North

If you thought the south side of Carruthers Peak was good wait until you see the north side. The rocky north face of Carruthers Peak is split by a series of drainage gullies, which each provide around 400 vertical metres of fall line rock chute skiing. The gullies all drain into James Macarthur Creek which runs perpendicular to the north face of Carruthers Peak and continues to descend westward towards Lady Northcotes Canyon. In a good snow year the James Macarthur Creek gully is skiable.

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Late afternoon view of the north face of Carruthers Peak from Tenison Woods Knoll.

All obvious lines are a consistent 30-35 degree pitch and all offer similar vertical skiing metres. The lines further to the west start lower down but pick up a bit more vertical lower down.

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View of the north face of Carruthers Peak from The Sentinel Ridge. There are several prominent gullies that feed off either side of the peak. The ridge in the foreground and the gullies either side of it are the best options for exiting the runs.

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Dropping in on one of the chutes located to the west of the peak.

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The area to the east of the main chutes provides wide open slopes with more room for error.

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Looking back up the chute that peels off just west of the summit of Carruthers Peak.

Unfortunately there’s no easy way out from the bottom. The most forgiving exit from the north face runs is to climb out along the spur that is located between Carruthers Peak and the Sentinel or via the gullies either side.

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Andrew skins up the James Macarthur Creek Ridgeline.

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Justin has to boot pack up the James Macarthur Creek Ridgeline.

Unfortunately this great terrain faces north and the Aussie sun doesn’t discriminate. As such, the north side of Carruthers is best skied in winter, preferably with a decent base in a good snow season and not to long after a dump. However, in a good or above average year skiable lines can remain on the north face well into October, especially in the western most gully marked on the picture below.

Carruthers Peak West

Little Austria

The most obvious runs to the west of Carruthers Peak feed into an area known as "Little Austria". The most obvious line is a bowl like drainage gully that the skier intercepts as they head west (or south west of Carruthers Peak). A second bowl like gully exists immediately west of the first. Both gullies feed into a canyon like rocky gully which continues to descend toward Lady Northcote’s Canyon. The upper part of the run is the steepest and is around 30-35 degrees. The run mellows a little but remains fairly steep all the way into Lady Northcote’s Canyon.

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Skier dropping in to the main line down Little Austria. The Murray Valley is in the background and Khancoban is located top right of the photo.

Skiers should be aware that the lower part of the run is bolder lined creek bed in summer (and can also be in winter). It shouldn’t be attempted unless there’s a solid cover and evidence of stable snow bridges.

Little Austria catches plenty of drifting snow and is in shade for a significant portion of winter which means it has good snow holding ability and is quite often skiable into late October.

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Skier lower down the main run of Little Austria. From here the only way to continue lower down is to follow the Creek line. Note - this photo was taken in mid July 2006. Snow depth at this stage of the season was negligible but there was still plenty of skiable snow in the Little Austria gullies.

For those who like gentler slopes it is also possible to ski into Little Austria from the top of Mt Lee. This run achieves a similar vertical fall over a greater distance. If Little Austria is tracked out or you're looking for an alternative there is a shorter but just as inviting a run available from Mt Lee. If you keep to the skiers left of Little Austria (Mt Lee version) you pick up another gully that feeds into Lady Northcote Canyon. This gully is shown on the far right hand side of the photo below.

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Looking east to Little Austria area from Alice Rawson Peak. The marking show the runs discussed above. Lady Northcote Canyon is located down below (out of shot).

The easiest way to exit the run is by following Lady Northcote Canyon up to Lake Albina. However it is possible to skin up Little Austria and most of the faces in this area if you want to return to Carruthers Peak.

Carruthers West Face

To get to the west face of Carruthers peak you have to ski along a wind blown ridge top for around 1km. You have to pass inviting looking lines into Little Austria and a handful of possibilities on the north face on the way. For this reason this slope is often overlooked. Whilst it starts at a lower altitude the west face plummets deep into Lady Northcote Canyon and in a good snow year also offers around 400 vertical metres of skiing.

Just about any line is possible down the west face but there are three prominent depressions that are probably the most open and hazard free lines. If there is complete cover more vertical is on offer to the skiers right of the face.

Before the 2003 fires the slopes were flanked with snow gums and offered some nice tree skiing but only bare branches and low regrowth are present now.

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Skier admiring the lines on the Carruthers West Face from Alice Rawson.

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Early winter photo down Lady Northcote Canyon illustrating the huge amounts of vertical on offer down the Carruthers West Face (middle ground). The gully on the photographers side of the Carruthers West Face is the lower parts of Little Austria.

The easiest way to exit the run is by following Lady Northcote Canyon up to Lake Albina. However it is possible to skin up Little Austria and most of the faces in this area if you want to return to Carruthers Peak.

Similar runs are also available on the north west facing slopes of Carruthers West Spur but the apsect of these slopes usually results in poor snow accumulation and early snow loss so they are usually not as feasible as the western facing slopes.

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The northern most slopes of Carruthers West Face viewed from Sentinel Ridge. These lines only hold decent amounts of skiable snow in the winter months of good seasons. A good corn option is everything else is frozen.

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The northern most slopes of Carruthers West Face (middle ground) viewed from Watson's Crags. The north westerly aspect and relatively sheltered lower slopes see thicker vegetation down low. The west spur of the Sentinel is in the foreground.

Carruthers Peak East

The slopes heading off the east spur of Carruthers Peak don't compare to the skiing offered in all other directions. The slopes heading north east into Soil Con Creek are relatively gentle and short but under spring-like conditions they do offer good corn early in the day as they face north and north east. The eastern slopes are long and flat and are probably best left for the return journey to Charlotte Pass. The south east facing slopes offer nice long consistent slopes for intermediates that drop around 300 vertical metres over a couple of kilometres into Club Lake Creek.

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The relatively gentle eastern slopes of Carruthers Peak from Mt Stiwell. A nice cruisy run at the end of the day when returning to Charlotte Pass.

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View of the (north) east facing slopes of Carruthers from Guthrie Ridge. The slopes that drain into Soil Con Creek (right side of photo) are relatively gentle but corn up early on most sunny days.