Easter in the Snowy Mountains – Day 1

6 Jun

It’s an early morning start as we hit the road to Cooma. I’ve dedicated half the Easter long weekend to study, and the first half to play. We’ve planned an ambitious two day round trip and I’ve got us to a strict schedule.

It’s cold in Cooma, as we enjoy (?) our obligatory stop at its McDonald’s for breakfast. Just past Cooma, there’s a choice between staying on the road and heading to Jindabyne, or turning right onto the Snowy Mountains Highway. We turn right.

This is a gorgeous stretch of road; we climb higher and higher, the air gets thinner, the sky shows off different shades of blue, and white stripes on the road turn yellow. I haven’t explored this area since 2011, and it’s like it’s been calling to me for two years. I can’t wait to get back to see more of it and compare.

Our first stop is past Adaminaby. Providence Portal is a short drive pulling left off the highway, and is where the Eumbene River and water from Tantangara Dam flows into Lake Eucumbene. Unsurprisingly, it’s a great spot for fishing. In one of the trips in summer of 2011, the water roared through, but today it’s a trickle.

Providence Portal February 2011

Providence Portal 2011

Roaring through! 2011

Very full in 2010

Lake Eucumbene 2013 (the portal wasn't doing anything interesting enough worth taking a photo of)

Lake Eucumbene 2013 (the portal wasn’t doing anything interesting enough worth taking a photo of)

It’s only a short stop; we’re soon back in the car and on the highway… to stop again. Sawyers Hill Rest House is easily spotted on the left. The Rest House was badly damaged in the 2003 fires, and has been beautifully rebuilt.

Sawyers Hill Rest House, past Adaminaby and Providence Portal

Sawyers Hill Rest House, past Adaminaby and Providence Portal (2013)

And in 2011 – summer doesn’t necessarily mean better weather!

The trees around this area on the way past Lake Eucumbene and through to Kiandra are largely bare.

2013-03-29 09

2013-03-29 09.42

The sky’s a brilliant blue. We drive through without stopping at Kiandra. I know it’s worth exploring – the abandoned gold mining town always feels eerie even to drive past – but our schedule is tight.

We’re off to the Yarrangobilly Caves, near the northern end of the Kosciuszko National Park. It’s again on the left side of the road once you’re heading north, nestled between the Snowy Mountains Highway and the Talbingo Reservoir. It’s a fairly steep, rough-ish drive down, down, down to where the caves are – about 5kms – but still doable in a 2WD. We stop first at a Visitor Centre. Cars must display a pass before heading onto the cave systems. There are a range of tours available, but we opt for the South Glory Cave – a self-guided tour ($15pp).

It’s a short drive down to the large cave car park, and then we walk down a trail to where the arch reveals itself.

It is VERY big (2011)

Boyfriend heading towards the arch 2013

Boyfriend heading towards the arch 2013

Tiny Boyfriend!

Tiny Boyfriend!

The South Glory has concrete pathways, with freezing-to-the-touch handrails. We stop just inside for a little to allow our eyes to adjust to the darkness, and sensor lights flicker on as we approach each interesting formation. Despite the concrete, it’s still naturally very wet and slippery.

I believe this formation was named 'Judge's Wig' in the 1990s. These days, they don't give names to formations - allowing them to 'speak for themselves'.

I believe this formation was named ‘Judge’s Wig’ in the 1990s. These days, they don’t give names to formations – allowing them to ‘speak for themselves’.

I *believe* these formations are described as straws - somewhat obviously

I *believe* these formations are described as straws – somewhat obviously

There’s a lot to see, but it’s very cold. After about half an hour, we’re done. It’s a steep, slippery staircase up out into the light.


Yarrangobilly Caves is also known for having a thermal pool which stays at the same temperature year round. Funnily enough, 23C sounds warm, but isn’t that warm! Still, impressive enough. I haven’t seen it before, and am surprised to see it’s been built into a proper pool area. It’s a very, very steep 1.5km return walk.


Thermal pool at Yarrangobilly Caves

Thermal pool at Yarrangobilly Caves

Gorgeous colour - the bottom of the pool is naturally dirt/mud

Gorgeous colour – the bottom of the pool is naturally dirt/mud

We huff and puff back up the steep walk to the car, and before long we’re – you guessed it! – back on the Snowy Mountains Highway. This time, we’re heading back down to Kiandra. There, we take the Link Road. Quickly, the bare lands turn into curtains of fat and skinny gums which let the midday light splinter through. It’s really quite something – but of course can’t be captured.

I tried to capture it, but it doesn't do it justice.

I tried to capture it, but it doesn’t do it justice.

We’re on the road to Cabramurra – Australia’s highest town (1475m above sea level – imagine a small town atop our own Mt Tennent, and you’re starting to get there). But first, we stop at Wallaces Creek lookout. It’s a bumpy drive off to the right of the Link Road, and its bumpiness makes it feel very, very long and painful. I’m not sure I’d do it again in a 2WD.

Towards the lookout

Wallaces Creek Lookout

Wallaces Creek Lookout

Represent! At Wallaces Creek Lookout

Represent! At Wallaces Creek Lookout

Some pretty through the bars

Some pretty through the bars

Wallaces Creek Lookout is pretty, but nothing special. If you have the time or the inclination, it’s a ‘Why not?’ At the same time, it’s also difficult to answer, ‘Why?’

We’re close to Cabramurra now. We’re worried that there isn’t going to be any place to have lunch, but there’s a large, mostly empty hall across from the town’s pub. It’s probably the cheapest menu I’ve seen in Australia, I’m given a quick taste of something I’ve never heard of (which I – won over – then order), and we get complimentary hot cross buns. Um, what’s not to like?

Yum (still not quite sure what it is)

Yum (still not quite sure what it is)



and more yum

and more yum

From Cabramurra Lookout 2011 (the roofs are slanted so the snow slides off!)

With full tummies, we take the Snowridge Road (closed between June and Oct/Nov) down, down, down through the Tumut Pondage (huge), and down into Jagungal Wilderness area.

2011 view down to Tumut Pond Dam

Tumut Pond Dam (2011)

No small feat! (2011 pic)

We’re now on Tooma Road, and just before Round Mountain Trail Head is Bradley/s Hut. It’s simply FULL of character.

Bradley/s Hut

Bradley/s Hut

You don't say?

You don’t say?

1959? Really?

1959? Really?


Our plan is the relatively short walk from the Round Mountain Trail Head to Round Mountain Hut. As you’re all too aware, we’re in a bit of a rush, so I don’t check our excellent trip notes from Wild Walks. I know the walk’s hard, but short – a couple of kilometres – and expect the faded sign welcoming us to the Jagungal Wilderness to have a few details of the different tracks. It doesn’t.

I’m not proud that our arrogance gets in the way; in fact, I’m horribly embarrassed. However, what happens next serves as strong warning for any walker – experienced or not – so it’s important I share it.

Even though we’re not entirely sure of the walk, its brevity, a clear trail and an expectation that signs will appear on the track means we don’t go back to the car.


It’s a steep walk in. The Trail Head also is the beginning of the track to Mt Jagungal, which we can see in the distance. About 1.5km in, the trail splits, with Farm Ridge Trail to the left. We ignore it. I figure that Round Mountain Hut must just be around the next corner. I can see Round Mountain looming in the distance.

Farm Ridge Trail

Farm Ridge Trail

We keep walking. The hut doesn’t materialise. We walk around the other side of Round Mountain, thinking the hut must be on the other side. It’s not. We keep a steady pace, and the only real obstacle is water – and my stubbornness.


We make a commitment to turn around at four kilometres. Once we reach that, I suggest we walk another kilometre, just in case. Five hard, kilometres in, I’m annoyed and confused. How could we have missed the hut? Have we missed it in plain daylight? Is it worth walking just a little further? We do have some time on our side – it’s still early afternoon. Maybe another few hundred metres?

Might as well take some photos of Mt Jagungal

Might as well take some photos of Mt Jagungal

Boyfriend is amused at how flustered I am, and eventually I come to my senses and we agree to turn around. We’ve still got a long drive to our intended campground, and in my heart of hearts I know it’s not further down the trail. We walk back. I figure maybe, just maybe, it’s down Farm Ridge Trail, but what if it’s not? We agree it makes more sense to just head back to the car.

Back we go

Back we go

It’s two hours and 11 kilometres for some great views of Mt Jagungal, but we don’t see what we came for – largely due to my stupidity. As embarrassing as it is, it’s a great reminder that a lot of wonderful, well used trails aren’t signed very well. It’s always worth having trip notes with you – and checking them before you set off. It’s so, so easy to think, Just one more kilometre, or Just around the corner, just a little further.

Just around the next corner, surely

Just over that hill, surely

Or to spot landmarks, like Round Mountain, which convince you that you must be close. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Back in the car, I check in the notes and – yep – Round Mountain Hut isn’t on the Round Mountain trail. It’s on Farm Ridge Trail. It should have taken us 3.8 kilometres return – around 45 minutes. !!!

Round Mountain on the way back

Round Mountain on the way back

TL;DR: We don’t see Round Mountain Hut. This area is intoxicating in its own way; strict preparation is key. 1000 calories burnt. Here’s the Garmin Heart Rate Monitor details so you can see exactly where we went wrong.

We plan to camp near Leatherbarrel Creek, a beautiful little piece of this world close to the NSW/Victorian border off Alpine Way. We’ve got a long way to go. Back on Tooma Road, we head through some more stunning country, with dappled light again making an appearance. Large rocks rise up the sides of the road and there are tight corners on the way to Khancoban.

2013-03-29 16.5

2013-03-29 16

We make it to Khancoban just past 5pm. Khancoban is also the spot to buy a Kosciuszko National Park permit if you haven’t already (see the fees here). We fuel up; Alpine Way is notorious for its ability to sap fuel because its tight corners require plenty of braking, and its dips and heights require power. We pass the enormous Murray 1 Power Station as we edge into the twisting drive.

Murray 1 Power Station

Murray 1 Power Station

2011 pic is better!

Twilight comes quickly, and we decide if we’re going to be able to make use of the remaining light, we have to make camp a little before Leatherbarrel Creek. Geehi Flats is busy with other Easter campers (no camping fee applies), but we find a lovely little spot beside the river. With a bright fire and a dinner of Mi Goreng, we go to bed for some well deserved rest, ready for a second day which promises to be just as big.


12 Responses to “Easter in the Snowy Mountains – Day 1”

  1. Gary Lum June 7, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    The photographs are beautiful Tara especially the burger thing with bacon hanging out all over 🙂
    It looks like a lovely trip.

    • inthetaratory June 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      Thanks Gaz! I knew I had to get a photo of that burger in for you! 🙂

      • Gary Lum June 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

        Thank you 😃😃😃

  2. Amanda Caldwell June 7, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Hey Tara, great post, which brought tears to my eyes remembering when we were probably about your age and doing all these great trips. Life has definitely got in the way. Keep it up!

    • inthetaratory June 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

      I’m so pleased to hear that you enjoyed it and that it brought back some wonderful memories. More to come – hoping to do some more trips like this soon!

  3. Andrew June 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    It’s actually the Eucumbene River that flows into the dam at Providence, plus the tunnel from Tantangara comes in there too. Love the piccies – I used to cross country ski from Kiandra/Selwyn up to Jagungal, wonderful country!


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