Woke about 7am to find the snow shoers moving in to the warm hut for breakfast. They were doing long days and had a lot of wet gear. It didn't take me long to get dressed and packed. When you let the air mattress down you get committed to moving, especially on snow.
It was about 40 minutes back to Cope Saddle Hut where I paused to treat a heel blister giving me some grief.
Arrived at Cope Hut. Nobody in residence. Deep snow at back. Could not locate camping platforms somewhere up the hill. Rain tank tap was frozen. Replenished water from the head of the gully below and cooked some noodles for lunch.
While I ate I dried out tent fly, inner and sleeping bag. A dry breeze and a weak sun took about 20 minutes to do the job.
I sat in the sun window for a while mulling over whether to sleep in the hut, pitch the tent outside on a platform (which were covered under snow) or to head on.
The sleet forecast for the next day was still on my mind. Time was moving on fast and the day was drawing to a close quickly. Not knowing my own luck at stumbling on an empty snowbound Cope, I packed my dried gear and left. The first part of the trail was a pleasant ski.
I knew time was against me and that icing-up was imminent. The skiing went well for the first two thirds until the descent in to Wallace.
After the lookout, a shallow descent began. I negotiated a narrow water crossing pretty well, having done a cautious small descent, but now another bigger descent presented itself. This section could easily have ended a lot worse.
I was following some ski trails that led straight down the slope, but there was no way I could manage this with a 20kg pack at this time of the evening. The sun had fallen below the nearby hills and gloom was spreading. I was having difficulty making progress: the snow was deep clag and steep. Even side-stepping down was arduous. I was sinking in about 20 to 30cm with each movement in heavy clag. I had 3 falls that required undoing the pack in order to stand up and continue. Energy sapping stuff. The sun was about to set and the gloaming would only last 20 minutes.
The hut turn off appeared about 400m further on.
With a nice little final ski-in I arrived at Wallace Hut on firm base snow after the sun had set. The russeting sky was moving into a blushing sunset. Fantastic colour tones.
Feeling like I had just experienced a deliverance, I wasted no time preparing the tent site and pitching. Snow shovel set to work making a bed base. It got dark not long after so I had no chance to explore.
Headtorch on. Get food bag, tea bag, water, stove, mug and put down jacket on. The interior of the hut is windproofed and feels warm. Fireplace is meshed up and unusable, so not much cheer. There is limited seating. One small bench or sit on floor and lean against wall. Uneven snowgum slabs mixed with dirt and ice lined the floor. Walls are lined up to the roof plate blocking out all wind.
I melted snow sourced for water and had dinner in what is now a restored but bleak hut and with a more respectful antechinus for company.
Cope Hut was looking a lot more cheerful, however I consoled myself that I was closer to my destination for what had been forecast as a miserable final day. At least I have had a winter snow camp at Wallace Hut, something of an over-rated mecca to ski tourers.
The weather was also holding which was a blessing, even if the nearby groomed road was a handrail back home.
Trip nearly over, I quickly drifted off content with the events of the day expecting to wake up to changed weather, wind, gloom and stinging sleet.
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