There are a number of reasons why I was not looking forward to the outbound trek. My cycling and exercise routine had fallen by the wayside during our recent sojourn in North America. I had not shouldered a backpack in years or been on cross-country skis in a decade. My gear consisted of rented boots and borrowed skis, downhill skis that had been modified for back country touring.

I regarded my companions as mountain men. They had all done this before. The group had come together over the years through work connections. I was the only one who was not working or going to school. We were a demographic oddity, covering a considerable age–span sixties, fifties, forties, thirties, and fifteen.

We were heading into the great white unknown in gale-force winds. All I knew was that it was roughly 8 kilometers (5 miles) distant and that the climb was not significant. What Alan neglected to tell me was that the 8 kms were “as the crow flies.” That afternoon a crow would have had a hard time going anywhere.

The Great Dividing Range was the first major, physical obstacle that the early English settlers had to surmount to open up the interior. The name describes a complex of mountain ranges, plateaus, upland areas and escarpments with an ancient geological history. stretching 3500 kms (2200 miles) from Queensland down to Victoria. It is called the East Australian Cordillera. I read somewhere that the first domesticated creatures to find their way through were a herd of cows that wandered away from Sydney.

Our first major obstacle was the “damn” dam, a long concrete barrier called Rocky Valley Storage. Its location and shape generate fierce winds. It was on the other side of the dam, at the junction of two different routes to our destination. that I put my foot wrong.

We had re-assembled on the far side of the dam.  Alan suggested that I lead off on the more protected route, not realizing that I couldn’t see where I was going.  I had equipped myself with old, downhill ski goggles, glacier glasses, and prescription glasses that were self-tinting.  Absolutely nothing worked. I was, in effect, snow blind. So, I followed my instincts and floundered into the creek.

The Alpine area of Victoria has been explored and exploited over the years by a number of diverse users, from gold prospectors to cattle men, loggers to engineers in search of “white gold,” hydroelectric power. The cattlemen built the huts and pioneered many of the routes used by bushwalkers today. Grazing rights were still in existence until 2005. Hydroelectric power created the possibility of downhill skiing. The first chair-lift in Oz was built here in 1957. The village now has accommodation for 4500, restaurants and bars.

As I awkwardly extricated myself from the creek, it dawned on me that one of those rooms in Falls Creek might have my name on it. We had not come far. I could bow out with a good excuse, head back down the trail to the village, have a good meal, spend four nights in comfort instead of the cold snow.

But my socks were not soaked. When would I get another chance to do this? I made up my mind to carry on. It was only a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, after all, for as long as it took to get there. The rest of my companions went ahead of me and I followed. Sometimes I had to stop and recover my energy, but no one was moving at light speed.

When we bent into the wind and I felt the blasts of sharp snow stinging my face, the only consolation was that were were closing in on Edmonsons Hut, our destination.There was a large stand of snowgums, the hardy eucalypts that shed snow by bending their branches almost to the ground. There was shelter. We were home.

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