|Pretty Valley Camp|
I breakfasted in the filthy hut, dodging the rodent droppings on the cook bench and using the shellite stove rather than light the pot belly. The sky was overcast and gloomy.
|Pretty Valley Horse Yards|
|Snowbound Pretty Valley Hut|
I followed a few tracks in a direct line south to intercept the snow poles.
|South, towards the pole.|
|View of Mt Cope through the saddle|
|View of Mt Cope. It's a bit easier to follow the lower snowmobile tracks sidling the bump rather than the poles|
I followed the snow poles and came out too high from the saddle and had a steep run down the hill to the causeway. Snow conditions were good so this was not too hard.
|A short sharp drop down with 20kg pack|
|Big cloudy sky. Open view to Mt Cope and Cope Saddle|
An exposed treeless plain with meandering streams lay ahead with low cloud cover. A causeway showed a way across. A sliver of blue sky gave small cheer. On a previous trip here it was a whiteout with 1 pole visibility. I traversed around to the left in order to get down. No problems, the snow was in good condition.
|There was an icy flow under the causeway|
There was just a light breeze, low glare with cloud cover and good visibility. It felt pretty isolated.
|Bleak skies, a breeze but good visibility|
|Cope Saddle Hut emerges in view|
|Cope Saddle Hut. This interesting zoom shot of the hut roof from the same position as the previous photo shows a lot of foreshortening. The trail behind the hut is a long way behind and leads to yards.|
|Cope Saddle Hut. Is that a lightning rod on the roof? Hmm.|
The bleak hut is in an exposed location. There is water nearby in the aqueduct but no firewood except for what is in the hut, placed there for emergency use. This emergency shelter could be a sheltered lunch spot or a place to revitalise and treat your blisters!
|The faint snowpole line on the distance is where I've been. Looking back at Mt McKay through the saddle.|
Turn off the track at its most Eastern point. The huts are hidden a couple of hundred metres through the trees. A few old snow-filled ski trails showed the way.
|Head East off the track to Ryders Yards|
|Old cattle or horse loading ramp|
It was at this point I realised I left a 4L water bladder hanging up back at Pretty Valley. It would be at least a 2 hour return journey. I wasn't going back there now, even if I had time and took just a day pack. The heel blisters would flare and cripple me in the rush, and I could find myself returning here in the dark without the bag. So I gave up the bladder as lost. Eventually it did turn up at the end of the season (another story) but the bladder had perished beyond repair.
|Huts at Ryders Yards. There is no toilet here.|
First I explored all the huts. The sleeping hut has a 2 panel glass door and the afternoon sun was passing through it! Awesome. Nice to sit on a chair here, like a sun room.
The main hut was clean with a table and chairs, a big fireplace and plenty of firewood. Just as well as any fallen wood was well covered in snow. I looked for a water source a few hundred metres downhill - it looked boggy and difficult to access. I had a small lunch, set the fire and pitched my tent and was making a snow wall on one side of my tent when at about 2:30pm 5 snow shoers from Perth doing Bogong to Hotham.
I set off to fetch water 500m away from the aqueduct I passed earlier using a plastic bag to hold it. I had to kick steps down the culvert to access the water as it came out of a concrete pipe. I brought 5 litres back but must have been away at least 30 minutes.
|Incredible ice crystal texture|
There was a very cold light westerly breeze. I used the snow shovel to build a small wind wall near my tent but the snow was not sticking together much and acting like sand. This took a long time and it was barely high enough above the fly edge. Then it was time to boil water for soup and prepare the evening meal which took a lot more time than it does at home even though it was all prepared!
I didn't take enough photos of the camp as I seemed to have so many things to do and most of the time I was there it was dark.
We all had dinner in the hut and sat around the fire to keep warm. Although the fire was hot the hut was poorly insulated with just iron cladding. So outside of the fire's radiation you felt cold. Soon boots, socks and garments were steaming away. My day socks were damp and had contributed to my heel hotspots. I tried my best to dry them.
I soaked up the final warmth from the glowing coals until I retired. It was a very cold night with frost and I put on most of my clothing in the bag.
|Tent pitched outside the main hut.|
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