Twynam West Spur - Tenison Woods KnollSo many of the bumps and knolls on the Main Range have been named but for some reason the one between Mt Twynam and Watson’s Crags missed out. This is surprising. If I had the option of being anywhere on the Main Range ready to ski it would be here. From here you can ski steep slopes with over 400 vertical metres in nearly every direction, and you have a choice of just about every aspect which means you can pick your slope to suit the conditions. The knoll remains nameless on the map, even on the latest topographic maps, but Andrews names it "Tension Woods Knoll".
From the top of the knoll the most obvious lines are down the north face. Below the Knoll itself the north face is a large bowl that forms the upper catchment of Watson’s Creek, which runs down the Gully between Mt Twynam and Tenison Woods Knoll. All the northern slopes within approximately 500m of Tenison Woods Knoll all feed into Watson’s Creek. A large cornice forms on the north facing side of this ridge and there are typically only a few safe entry points to the bowl. The ridgeline to the east of Tenison Woods Knoll is typically rounded with easy access to the north facing slopes. The knoll itself and the area immediately west of it (for approx 100m) also provide safe entry to the north facing slopes. From here you have to travel about 500m north west along the ridge to avoid the cornice. If you are hard core you can huck the cornice. But be warned that large chuncks can and do break off the cornice. You can usually see debris at the bottom of the bowl and some pieces are bigger than large cars!
The most common and easiest way to ski Watson’s Creek is to follow it the whole way down starting in the saddle between Mt Twynam and Tenison Woods Knoll. The creek is relatively straight for the first 1km or so. Below this point there are a few kinks that you have to negotiate around. The creek is typically covered to at least as far down as the first kink (approx. 1800m asl) dependant on snow depth. You can either ski the creek line itself or peel off across the slopes either side and take on short bursts of steeper grade.
From other access points the slopes are steeper up high but flatten out considerably at the bottom of the bowl before they feed into Watson’s Creek proper.
Once the Creek opens up you have to traverse across the valley walls to find more vertical. One option is to traverse out along the sub-ridge. The east facing slopes of this ridge typically hold snow much lower down than the other slopes in this area and that’s probably the way to extract the most vertical out of this valley. However, if clocking vertical is your thing you may be better off repeat skiing the top half of the valley.
Once you get approximately 500m west of the knoll the northern faces drain into the upper parts of Siren Song Creek. Similar to the Watson’s Creek, the area is a large fan shaped bowl and all slopes end up in the Siren Song Creek. The slopes have aspects ranging from east to north west and all have similar grades. When there’s good cover you can continue skiing the creek line further down the valley, however, after the upper slopes converge the grade flattens somewhat. Those seeking steeps are better off repeat skiing the upper parts of the slope. The easiest way to exit this run is to skin or boot pack back up the gully ending up at the saddle between Watson’s Crags and Twynam West Spur.
The other obvious runs from Tensison Woods Knoll are to the south and west. Alan Andrews names 4 runs in this area, Strzelecki Creek, The Avalanche Face, Ant Ridge and Walters Gully.
Strzelecki Creek starts in the saddle between Mt Twynam and Tenison Woods Knoll and is the visible gully a few hundred metres south of Tenison Woods Knoll.
If you ski south off Tenison Woods Knoll you end up in Strzelecki Creek. Don’t be fooled by the relatively gentle upper slopes around Strzelecki Creek. After humble beginnings the creek winds to a breathtaking view of the Sentinel then plunges westwards into some of the best terrain in Australia.
From memory Alan Andrews describes skiing the creek line itself. On the few occasions I have had a close look at the creek it has been full of rime covered rocks and looked downright dangerous. This leads me to believe that the creek only fills in completely in a really good season. The slopes immediately north of the creek line are more feasible, being relatively hazard free with more modest cover. However, the grade is quite intimidating at around 35 degrees. This slope faces west so the usual caveats apply. I have never skied this slope but have checked it out from a distance it looks skiable.
The Avalanche Face
Heading a little further west of Strzelecki Creek is "The Avalanche Face", so named after a near death avalanche experience by Alan Andrews and a couple of his sons. You'll have to read his book to find out more about that one.
The Avalanche Face is located to the south west of Tenison Woods Knoll. The slope drops away and isn’t clearly visible but if you stay on the east side of the prominent ridge in the distance and ski towards the Sentinel you’ll end up in the right place. All slopes drain to the same gully. The main gully itself snakes around a little and you may do better peeling off either side for bursts of more consistent fall line. The upper part of the run is usually wind affected and the best snow is often found in the lowest point of the gully. The face on the skiers left side of the gully catches some sun and is probably the best chance of getting corn in fine weather. The slopes of the Avalanche Face drain into Strzelecki Creek. In a good year the cover may be good enough to continue down the gully but beware of the waterfall further down!
For more extreme steeps you can stay high on the skiers right of the Avalanche Face (along the top of Ant Ridge). This line is flatter up high but drops very steeply into Strzelecki Creek about a third of the way down. Not for the faint hearted.
The Avalanche Face has a predominantly southerly aspect so it collects and holds snow well. However, this means that it only corns up later in the season. If conditions are firm underfoot you may get better value elsewhere.
To exit the run skin/boot pack back up the gully over your tracks or boot pack up Ant Ridge.
Alan Andrews refers to the ridge that marks the western boundary of the Avalanche Face as Ant Ridge. I’m not sure of the area Andrews recommends for skiing. From a distance there doesn’t appear to be much to the ridge itself. It does have a couple of swales and hollows that would hold soft snow after an event but the ridge itself appears exposed and much less appealing than the slopes of The Avalanche Face. It is possible to ski along the top of the ridge and then drop off skiers left into the bottom section of the avalanche face.
On closer inspection there is plenty of good terrain off the western side of the ridge. To see this terrain you need to view it from The Sentinel or on the northern end of Alice Rawson ridgeline. The terrain I’m talking about is located between Ant Ridge and Walters Gully. The terrain is very similar to that offered in the lower part of Walters Gully. There are a couple of depressions on this face that make the best lines to ski.
Exit the run by skinning/booting up the avalanche face or booting back up to Ant Ridge. The lower parts of Strzelecki Creek are pretty rugged. Definitely an area for the experienced.
Walter’s Gully / The Awesome Spur
This area is one of my favourites on the Main Range. It features prominently in views of the range from the west and south west but from above its just about invisible and unless you go looking it can easily be missed, especially since the Crags look so inviting further along the ridgeline. The reason this area is hard to see is that it is very steep and drops off the relatively flat slopes on top of the Twynam West Spur. Its invisibility and the lure of the Crags were the reasons I took a few years to explore this area. With poor snow cover or late in the season the options in this area may be limited. If the cover is good the options are limitless.
The most obvious feature in this area is named Walter’s Gully by Alan Andrews. Most of the skiable lines to the west of Ant Ridge feed into the gully. A steep and rugged rocky outcrop on the west facing slopes above Walter’s Gully dictates how this area can be skied. There are three main ways to go about it.
The most forgiving run follows the entire length of the gully itself. To get here you need to traverse approximately 500m to the west – north west of Tenison Woods Knoll along the relatively flat ridge top. When you get to this point Watson’s Crags come into view to the northwest. From here ski the fall line to the west making sure you keep to the skiers right of the rocky outcrops that are present in the area. If you’ve taken the right line you’ll feed into a large bowl like gully (Walter’s Gully). The gully turns to the south west about half way down and bound by a spur and large cornice to the west (The Awesome Spur). Lower down the gully turns toward the west and the fall line continues until the cover runs out. The gully itself is probably your best bet for finding soft stuff after a fresh snow fall and holds snow well into spring.
The second option, and in my opinion the best option, is to ski into the gully from skiers left of the large rock outcrop. This puts you onto steep continuous west facing fall line for the whole run. From Tenison Woods Knoll traverse to the west heading towards the top of Ant Ridge. From here the slope drops away in front of you. Ski the top part of the run cautiously as the rocky outcrop is hard to identify from above and keep to the skiers left of it. The top half of this line is very exposed so its probably not the best option on a day when you’re chasing fresh snow. However, on a corn day its likely to be very forgiving in the mid to later part of the day.
The third option is similar to the one described above but takes on the chute(s) through the rock outcrop above the gully. Pretty deep cover and some skiing ability are required for these chutes to be feasible. If you are going to attempt one of these lines it’s probably best check them out from below (Walter’s Gully) first and make sure you’re on your game.
The easiest way to exit this area is to skin or boot pack back up Walter’s Gully.
The other options in this area come off the spur that Alan Andrews refers to as The Awesome Spur. These are probably some of the most hidden lines on the Main Range, and also the gnarliest. To get out on the spur you ski the top section of the Walter’s Gully run but veer to the skiers right rather than following the gully.
Once you reach the spur the easiest and safest lines follow the spur then drop off onto the south facing slope that feeds into the lower part of Walter’s Gully. Again, the top section (along the spur itself) of this run is exposed and is only likely to be enjoyable in spring snow conditions.
If you want to get into the really serious terrain you can drop off the spur onto the west facing slopes. There is one obvious and relatively hazard free line on this side, which follows a well defined gully – however, its hard to identify from above. It is the line i've marked furthest to the left of the opening photo in this section (four photos up). The rest is really wild stuff and features large rocks, trees, shrubs etc.. I’ve never skied anything over here but I have peered down from the top of the spur and was scared off. Being lower down and west facing these slopes have quite a bit of high vegetation which means they are only feasible when there is a good cover on the range.
The best option for exiting this area is probably to boot pack back up the spur. Skinning up Walter’s gully may also be an option.