When you think of a journey in Australia, your mind begins to fill with visions of surf trips along the coast. Driving over dunes in search of the perfect wave whilst the sun beats down overhead, scorching the sand. You certainly don’t think of a journey on snow and even less so of one into the untouched and relatively unexplored Main Range of the Australian high country. But, that’s just what we did, we took the road less traveled. We tread new ground, searched until the point of absolute exhaustion and nearly came away second best to mother nature. However, in the process, we scored an ultimate adventure experienced by few and came away with an epic story to tell.
We set out with one goal in mind, to shred some epic lines in the remote backcountry wilderness of Kosciuszko National Park. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the resorts, we planned to find some untouched, perfect powder on the roof of Australia. To access this terrain is a challenge in itself. There are no lifts and no snowmobiles to make it easy. Every peak, zone, and line are accessed by foot. When the trip was but a mere bright idea, it was clear that there were only two riders who would be perfect for this journey. Australian local Jye Kearney and Slovenian superstar Marko Grilc. Jye has been making waves in the snowboard scene since his early teens and is most definitely one of the best all-round riders in the country. While Marko is a stalwart on the world snowboarding stage and one of the heaviest hitters on the Burton international lineup. Both riders had never been out into the Australian backcountry before. Sure, both had ridden around the world in some of the coolest and most remote locations on offer. Locations that your average-joe-sixpack can only dream of. But, their experience of this amazing off-piste world was limited to resort ‘side-country’.
The best way to access the area in which we were heading is from the top of the lifts at Thredbo resort. So we started our journey from the top of Antons T-bar. We strapped on our snowshoes and with eager eyes and excitement fuelled stamina, we set off into the vastness of the Kosciuszko plateau. Our target zone was Etheridge Ridge, a rocky outcrop rising above the famous Seamans Hut on one side and flanked by Mt Kosciuszko on the other. We walked for nearly 2 hours, with only a few stops in between before we reached the base of Etheridge. As we looked up at the myriad of potential lines to shred Marko said in a surprised tone “man….this is seriously legit”. That sentiment was shared by the crew, this was seriously legit, and that feeling made the final ascent up the face feel like a walk in the park as we thought about the turns we were about to get.
At the summit, we caught our breath, ate some lunch and prepared for the descent. Jye, after some food, took up place on top of a large pile of snow and ice covered boulders, gazed out upon the mountains and just took it all in. “This is incredible man….I can’t believe this is just on our doorstep, I never knew,” Jye said in awe of the breathtaking beauty of the snow-capped peaks. The clouds were gathering on the distant peak of Mt Townsend, however, we thought nothing of it as the sky to the east as crystal clear and the wind relatively light.
With the views thoroughly taken in and social media content well and truly captured. It was time to descend. Marko dropped first with a technical line through some rocks and over a sizeable cliff. He jammed a heel side turn to wash some speed and then made a laid back toe side carve to finish of his first Australian backcountry descent. Jye soon followed taking a route that lead to an open bowl just begging to be ridden. Jye did this virgin patch of snow the ultimate justice, carving a perfect ‘S’ down the mountain before uncontrollably yelling at the top of his lungs in excitement for the run he just experienced.
At the bottom, high fives were shared and moments of stoke relived, but this joyous time was fleeting. Marko noticed the clouds rolling in from the west. A once towering Kosciuszko was now ominously blanketed in a thick white cloud that was visibly making its way toward us. We had to get back to Thredbo, back to Antons’ and back to safety.
It’s a scary thought. That in an instant you can have complete awareness of your surroundings and your place in the environment. Then, in the blink of an eye, you can be lost, without bearing or direction in the complete unknown. It was a whiteout. In what seemed like seconds we went from being able to see the horizon, to barely being able to see each other. Luckily, experience and level-headed thinking prevailed. We had taken a compass bearing at the top of the peak and knew the direction in which we should travel, were we to lose visual reference and need to make it back to Thredbo. We set our bearing and began the long trudge back toward a destination we could not see. We walked for what seemed like hours through the white, with barely an ice covered boulder for reference, we blindly followed our compass, hoping we had it right so that everything wasn’t about to go horribly wrong. After an hour exhaustion began to set in. A state of semi-delirium was present in the crew, nothing too serious, if anything just a bit of fun to help us get through the final part of the journey home. Marko in desperation began calling out for Anton “Antooooon…where are you?” he yelled as we all laughed. He was talking about Antons T-bar from where we had left. Find Anton, find our way home. For the next half an hour we all joked about finding Anton. We cursed Anton for not being close, we pleaded with Anton to be just past the next boulder.
Finally, with the sun setting behind us we made it back to Thredbo. We found Anton, just as we had left him, perched at the top of the mountain, spinning his T-bars around an ice covered bull wheel. We strapped in and made our way down the mountain. We were exhausted, but we were fulfilled. We had done it, completed our journey and in the process had one hell of a time.
We drove down to Jindabyne, with the weather rolling in over the mountains at our back. Once we had time to sit down we were filled with a sudden second wind of energy. “Let’s have a fire and watch the sunset from East Jindy,” said Jye over the sound of Despacito (Marko’s favourite song) playing on the stereo of Marko’s BMW. So that is we did, we called some friends and headed down to a secret ‘locals only’ beach on the foreshore of Lake Jindabyne, lit a fire, had a few frosty cold beers and watched the sun set over the storm covered mountains. Reminiscing about what was a perfect journey and one that none of us will soon forget.
Check out this latest boards, bindings, and apparel from Burton HERE.
Film & Words: Lucas Wilkinson
Photos: Aedan O’Donnell
Producer: Jam Hassan
Huge thanks to Jye Kearney, Marko Grilc, Paul Colby and the Burton family, and Lucas, Aedan and our friends at Thredbo Resort!
Want more? Check out our Corona Journey to the New Zealand Backcountry with the Burton team, HERE.
Check out all Corona Journeys HERE.