There is nothing quite like a backcountry snow adventure. The big mountains, fresh air, snow beneath your feet and sense of freedom, it is definitely a magical experience. Snow addict Robbie and #PaddyStaffer, recently headed out on a 3 day backcountry adventure in NSW’s Snowy Mountains with some keen friends, Michael and Lachie. If you are looking for your next backcountry adventure this one is for you!

Evening 0.5

After I pulled into my friend Lachie’s place, we began shifting all our stuff into the back of the car which produced a mini-explosion of gear. Here’s a lesson kids, pack your bags before the trip where possible! Of course, if you’re heading down straight after work as we were, then it’s understandably a different story.

It’s no small drive down to Kosciuszko National Park from Sydney but boy is it worth it. After a pit stop in Cooma to hire some AT (Alpine Touring) ski equipment, we pushed on, arriving in Jindabyne around midnight where we pitched our tents.

Day 1

As Dead Horse Gap is only permitting day parking, Guthega is the primary choice for multi-day ski tourers this season.

Side note: Always slow right down at the turnoff for Guthega Road. I’ve heard too many times about cars which took it too fast and ended up down the embankment!

The snow base was well above Guthega (1600m) so for the first three kilometres of our trip, we were winding alongside the Snowy River in our ski boots – there was simply not enough snow coverage to bother with skins on our skis. The beauty of AT ski boots, however, is that they have a walk mode which makes them much more flexible when doubling as hiking boots.

Backcountry skier heading out to MT Twynam

A little over an hour later, we reached the iconic Illawong Suspension Bridge and used it to cross the Snowy River.

Illawong Suspension Bridge, Snowy Mountains NSW

At last, we were able to don our skis and start our journey towards Mt Twynam. It was a beautiful day with a few small parties out and about. We stopped in one of the last “eyebrows” for lunch where I whipped out my Nemo Switchback for a quick recline.

Laying back for a break in the snow on a Nemo Switchback mat on a backcountry trip

It was early afternoon as we entered the alpine and our plan had been to set up camp at Strzelecki Creek alongside one of my favourite peaks – The Sentinel. However, as the wind picked up and cloud moved it, we decided in the face of dropping temperatures that Twynam Creek, on the leeward side, would make for a sensible (and more sheltered) alternative.

Setting up a snow campsite is often a wet experience so out came the waterproof gloves and shell jacket. After about an hour we had flattened the snow, pitched our tents, and created some spindrift barriers.

Backcountry camp set up near Mt Twynam in the Snowy Mountains NSW

After that, all that was left was to don our insulation layers and set up our stoves for dinner. When you’re snow camping with no hut nearby, you’re often cooking and eating between 5-6 pm. Often as early as 4:00 pm if you’re famished. It is essential to keep your energy levels up and build up your internal reserves to maximise your ability to stay warm overnight. At the minimum I opt for a double serve backcountry meal and half a block of chocolate – but then again, I’m a growing lad! Only needing boiling water, my Jetboil Minimo was more than up to the challenge, being pressure regulated to handle sub-zero temps better.

Jetboil minimo in alpine conditions in the Snowy Mountains

Soon it was time for bed so after a few healthy sips of some heart-warming whisky, we bad each other goodnight and tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags.

Day 2

I wake up early in the backcountry so I usually roll out of bed (as it were) to watch the sunrise; this one did not disappoint.

Sunrise over the Snowy Mountains

Once the others were up, we scoffed down some breakfast and discussed plans for the day. Lachie was happy to ski in the bowl and take the snowshoes for a spin while Michael and I were keen to check out conditions along the Range. We summited Twynam, not for the view (that would come later), but so we could maximise our view out west to see if any fronts were closing in. Snow was forecasted so we didn’t want to be caught out.

Next up was the first line of the season! Michael and I took a plunge down into the bowl east of Twynam.

Rocky and snowy conditions in the Australian Alps

The snow was a little crusty up top but softened just enough to make the run surprisingly smooth. After carving up between the granite, we pulled to a halt, turned around, and powered straight back up the hill! (Such is the way of the backcountry, also known as #earnyourturns).

Back up on top, we coasted along on our skis, tele style. Along the way we stopped for some obligatory shots of The Sentinel before punishing our calves on the climb up to Mt Carruthers. It was crusty and the wind was up so although a run down one of Club Lake’s chutes tickled my curiosity, it would likely have been a very scratchy run down. Instead Michael and I decided to scope out a few lines to possibly return to later in the season.

The rocky and large mountains of Australia's Alpine Regions

Once one has explored the backcountry, they most quickly realise that the view from Mt Kosciuszko is mediocre compared to the raw and jagged edges in the western faces (photo above). They are intimidating yet seductive, rough but beautiful.

Alas, we couldn’t stay forever and by now we had clocked the anticipated front approaching. We had plenty of time to return to camp but visibility was quickly dropping and soon we lost sight of Twynam completely. However, as we were already on top of the ridgeline, it was easy to navigate up to Twynam.

At the summit, we finally re-grouped with Lachie.

Top of Mount Twynam in NSW

After a group pic, we made our way back to camp for an early dinner. Our timing was perfect, for as we were firing up our stoves, the flakes began to fall – straight down too, for there was no wind at all. It was one of those perfect backcountry moments and all three of us cherished it.

Snowy conditions in Australia's Backcountry Alps

We stayed out for a bit, admiring the snowscape before wrapping ourselves up in our toasty sleeping bags.


Day 3

Snow covered tent in Australia's Alpine region

After a night of clearing snow by poking the roof of my tent from inside, we awoke to a fresh 5cm (with more to fall throughout the day). I was itching to get in a run (or two) but the visibility was woeful. We went out for a wander in Twynam bowl but we had to return to the tents rather quickly.

By 12:00 pm we were packed and ready to go. Navigating back down the slopes was devilishly difficult and we ended up overshooting our intended creek and ending up at another. The map and compass were close to useless given the lack of visibility so using a combination of my smartphone GPS and Michael’s Suunto watch we confirmed the direction we needed to make to correct our mistake. Did I mention it was puking down snow the whole time?

Backcountry skiers in the NSW Snowy Mountains

Our efforts paid off and it was a relief when we found the treeline again and visibility began to increase. It was slow going and there were a few falls from overbalancing but nothing too serious! Making fresh tracks never fails to put a smile on my face! Crossing the Illawong bridge back, we slung our skis back onto our packs, grimacing from the extra weight, and began the hike out.

Back country skiers in the Australian Alpine

Overall, it was an awesome trip full of adventure and I would recommend it to any backcountry lover. There are so many lines for carving and mountains to climb so if you have more time and the conditions allow it you can definitely turn this into a longer trip. Remember to always be over prepared and heading out into the backcountry requires a lot of experience.


Don’t forget to tag us in your snowy adventures! We always love to see what our customers are up to!

#ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin

About The Author

Robbie Baudish

Robbie is one of Paddy Pallin’s young powderhounds. Since he was first exposed to the Kosciuszko backcountry in 2017, he has been chasing that perfect line but also taken a liking to trotting around in snow shoes. When the snow has melted he can often be found trekking through the same gullies and over the same peaks that he scales in winter.

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