Thursday, 15 May 2014

White on White

And after that brief interlude, back to the adventure ...

When we left Bright it was overcast. It had rained the night before heavily, but even so it didn't look like we would get much rain and the threat of the winds over the mountain the next day made us grateful to get ahead of the worst of it.

It was about 10am when we left, our destination that day was to be Lakes Entrance.

Here's the map

View Larger Map

As we were leaving Bright I remember saying to Terry, "I hope that the mountain I can see ahead of us with it's head in the clouds isn't Mt Hotham." That's the mountain we were to cross over.

We turned up onto the road that leads to Mt Hotham and we started to get into the tight corners straight away. And it wasn't long before we got a little bit of rain too.

 It stopped though, and I was happily navigating my way the first real mountain twisties that I had ever encountered. It wasn't as bad as I thought, we were going up hill and I don't mind tight bends up hill. I feel like I have more control than when they are down hill.

Then the rain started again, and we could see now that this was indeed the mountain that had it's head firmly buried in the clouds. Visibility was becoming worse.

 A couple of other things were noticed, first the trees had become slowly scarcer and spindlier until they were nothing but blackened, stunted branches hugging the side of the mountain. The view would have been stunning from here if only we could have seen more than a few feet ahead.

Then Terry said .. "That's not rain .. that's sleet!" my visor had to go up not long after that because of the fogging up, and I realised that it wasn't just on the inside that I was misting up, the sleet was sticking to the outside of it too, I only opened it a crack to see through but that sleet still managed to get my cheeks and eyes and it hurt!

The other thing we'd noticed was the bright yellow and red stripped poles along the side of the road, and the sign that said "stay to the right of the snow poles" At first I didn't really understand that, once the visibility got bad I was glad of them, and now I understand what it must be like trying to get up this road once the snow has covered the road completely. Great idea.

We were crawling along at only about 20 or 30km/h by now, and I was wishing so hard for somewhere to pull over that it was almost like a dream when I came up a rise to see a hulking shadow to my left, that must be a building!

That's it, the side of the road was wide enough, I couldn't care less, for once, that we were parking the bikes on loose pebbles that were going to slide all over the place under my wheels and the stand. We stopped!! We jumped off the bikes and ran for the shelter of the locked tight building beside us. We took shelter where we found it and were grateful!

We were both freezing.

But strangely happy

and I for one was excited too ... this was snow!!!

Once the sleet stopped and the soft little flakes of snow started falling, the visibility got a bit better. We could see the sign on the building across the road, and it said 'refuge'. We headed straight over and were immensely happy to find an open door into warmth. And toilets with hand blowers to warm our frozen fingers.

At this stage we had no idea what we were going to do now, it was just nice to find somewhere out of the elements. As we were poking around another couple walked into the building. They were there for some kind of meeting or something but kindly offered to escort us up the road a bit to the two ski lodges that were open. Yay, we quickly dragged on our cold wet gear and jumped on the bikes. I was in front and could just see the tail lights of the 4WD in front of us, they went slowly, and it was only about 5 km's up the road before they turned into the driveway for the first lodgings. We thanked them for the millionth time, I cant express how grateful we were for their kindness.

And that was the last photo taken by the GoPro as we pulled into the parking area. Yep it was really snowing now.

By the time we got inside we'd decided that we could give Lakes Entrance a miss and just stay the night in a ski lodge for something different. All we wanted was somewhere warm to snuggle for the next 10 hours, and a hot shower!!

Roxy did look pretty dressed all in white, but by the time we'd booked in to the room and come back for our luggage it had started to rain as well. The snow was melting almost as soon as it hit the ground. it continued to snow for a couple of hours then it turned super cold with the rain. We didn't mind cause we had luxurious warmth all around us for the rest of the day.

It was a split level affair with the living part upstairs and the bedroom downstairs.

And great views .. when you could see them.

A break in the clouds that lasted maybe 10 minutes.

We didn't care, we had our warmers.

Now do you remember the whole reason this adventure started at the beginning of the day. We'd decided to beat the weather right .. well no one had said anything about snow! And now the weather bureau was telling us that yep those winds were still going to hit Mt Hotham the next day with a vengeance. We'd wait and see what it was like in the morning, so we slept like babes in the woods, or is that perched on the mountain tops. And woke early the next morning to ...

.. winds that were threatening to tear the whole place down. According to BOM the gusts were up to 80km/h, that was fast enough to make me think about being blown over the sides of roads and down the cliffs lining this mountain. We stayed put for another day. It was relaxing :)


  1. You ride report has been very entertaining. I have been over Hotham many times its 1800 meters high. I have pictures of my bike parked in the snow in the exact spot you stopped outside the lodge.
    Also the coldest i've ever been riding a bike has been riding over hotham during a rain storm. I nearly stopped coming down the otherside towards harrietville. I was so cold i couldn't feel my fingers and could no longer move my body on/off the seat.

    I've also had some really great rides over it in the dry sunny conditions. The mountain can be a harsh mistress.

    1. Thanks Steve,

      I'd been pre warned about the temperatures on the mountain, that's why we left it a bit later in the morning to leave. but no one ever said anything about snow! The Harrietville side was definately the worst side for bends, cant imagine going down there with frozen fingers, I would have had to stop! Bet you were glad to see Harrietville :)

      I hope one day to go over there when the weather is good, would love to catch that view!

  2. Brenda:

    I was on the edge of my seat and getting cold just reading your words. I was wondering how you were going to make it over the Mountain. We also have sort of snow poles but ours are farther to the sides of the road and then cantilevered so the sign hangs sort of, in mid air closer to the road. That way the snow plows can clear the road without hitting the "metal" poles. In Newfoundland the parking meters are placed farther from the curb and closer to the buildings as they get a lot of snow and too many parking meters are hit down from the slow clearing machines.

    I must say that you were brave to be riding in the snow. Good decision to stay put for a day or so

    A weekend photographer or Riding the Wet Coast

    1. Hehe, I'm glad you enjoyed the ride Bob :)

      I dont imagine they ever have snow plows up on the mountain, I could be wrong but it would be pretty hard to get something like that rounds some of those bends!

      It wasn't thick snow thank heavens .. staying put was just the ticket for me tho!

  3. Yikes. So glad you two came through unscathed. That couldn't have been a fun ride at the time, but rather exhilarating knowing you did it!!

    1. Ya know it wasn't fun at the time Brandy, but by the time I got my helmet off yep I was excited! First time I've seen snow and I kinda wanted more so I could play in it .. but not til I was somewhere warm :)

      All part of the experience, and now I know what to expect if it happens again.

  4. Kudos to you riding under these weather conditions. I would be scared shitless on two wheels. And a double kudos to you for stopping when it was no longer safe to ride. Looks like you stayed in a lovely place. I bet the hot shower was priceless.

    1. I really wasn't scared Sonja, I dont think I actually had the time to be scared, I was too busy just getting round the next corner.

      The place was beautiful, they had only just finished building those rooms very recently, actually there was still some building work going on. The hot shower lasted about an hour I think :)

  5. Brenda, I've really enjoyed reading this ride report. Like Chillertek, I've been up there in some atrocious weather conditions like you encountered, and also when it was so hot and the flies were so bad we couldn't eat our lunch outside.

    We were going to stay in Bright for a few days in the first week of May, however, Mrs Tarsnakes work got in the way and we postponed it!
    Cheers Jules.

    1. Hi Jules, thanks for dropping by.

      Don't know when we'll get the chance to try for better weather over the mountain. You are lucky to live close to such lovely places.

      Shame you didnt make it to Bright, the autumn colours would have been beautiful by then