18-23 October: Snowy River – Byadbo Wilderness Expedition. The trip starts with paddling through sections of steep, rocky gorge country. Throughout the journey this opens up into open, scenic valleys, which emphasise the extent and remoteness of the Byadbo wilderness. The river includes a variety of paddling, from contemplative pools mixed in with grade 1 to 3 rapids. Day one will involve paddle skills training which will be built throughout the trip and will endure through a lifetime. The trip offers ample, comfortable and sheltered camping, with plenty of opportunities for exploring or just sitting by the river at the end of each day. This trip involves one long portage (on day 2) to negotiate (and view) the rarely seen but renown Snowy Falls. This trip involves completing 70km of wilderness paddling.
Distance: 65km | Descent: 380m-300m=80m | Time: 6 days | Grading: Hard for me (as an old codger and amateur paddler)!
More photographs are available, where you can start a large sized slideshow. Not many action shots – it’s a bit hard operating a camera whilst trying to avoid rocks and a swim.
video thanks to Mike Bremers
Waypoint and Track Files
Download the gpx file for this trip (if your browser does not automatically download the file, it will open the gpx file in a new window and you can then save it). To use in Google Earth, do File, Open… and select Gps or All files as the File Type.
Many details have been omitted and await your pleasure when you experience this adventure.
This trip was indeed an expedition and an adventure, with many different aspects. It cannot really be told – it needs to be experienced.
A remote trip down the Snowy River through the unforgiving Byadbo Wilderness of Kosciuszko National Park. Once on the river (also unforgiving) you are committed and there is no way out until kayaks are finally put out on the last day.
I can tell a little of the paddling experience only. Our head river guide, Richard ‘Swainy’ Swain, is of aboriginal descent and is steeped in the culture of this walkabout country. He has a huge love for it and knowledge of it. I am a Christian and the concept of stewardship resonated deeply for me with Richard’s care and concern for the area. At each short excursion on land we walked through artifacts and scar trees thousands and thousands of years old – the whole river corridor is an aboriginal site. This is the aspect that can only be experienced – I’d highly recommend doing this trip in place of/before the church buildings and castles of Europe.
Even though I’ll be 70 in a couple of weeks, I was very much the junior member of our party of 8 + 2 guides. I haven’t paddled as many strokes in my couple of years of very limited kayaking as I did in these 6 days and all my companions were very experienced campers and travellers. Plus, I don’t like water. All I could handle of the camp gear was the bread bag and my usual position in line through the rapids was last, except for the nearby tail river guide!
This trip extended me physically and mentally, but will remain one of the best trips in my relatively short outdoor life.
We drove to Dalgety, arriving around 7.10am. A bacon and egg roll and coffee at the Iona cafe as we met. Round the back in the car park, we sorted out gear – a large, heavy duty black dry bag with 2 lighter weight dry bags inside for personal gear; a large, heavy duty red dry bag or camp gear (sleeping mat, tent, chair!, 2 tarps); a smaller, mid-weight dry bag for personal items accessible in the kayak – camera, GPSr, mobile, sunscreen for me.
2 vehicles + trailers took the 8 paddlers, 2 river guides and 2 return drivers via Delegate (a visit to the Bundian Gallery) to the drop in. Tyre pressure down and passangers walking for some of the rough fire trail 400vm descent over 3km to the bank of the Snowy River.
Lunch, kayaks inflated and loaded. Safety briefing. Paddling instruction session – paddle or arm(s) vertical = go, paddle or arms horizontal = stop; finger circulating and point = eddy out = regroup in quiet water; if washed against a boulder, lean INTO the rock to prevent swamping. I was glad I remembered that last one, as I needed to put it into practise an hour later!
Finally, on the water. We practised our ferry gliding – using the current to cross the river at nearly right angles. Paddled around 3-4km to the first night’s camp site.
The daily routine was relaxed (until we got amongst the rapids, for me!). Up around 7.30am, breakfast round the camp fire, pack up and load the boats, paddle, morning tea, paddle, lunch, paddle, perhaps a short walk, paddle to arrive at the next camp site around 3.30pm. Unload and set up camp, relax, nibbles, tea and chat around the fire, bed around 10pm for me. The food was excellent – fruit, energy bars, nibbles for morning tea, usually wraps or lunch, biscuits and brie, dips and carrot and celery sticks for pre-dinners, beautiful camp fire cooked meals for tea. I’m a simple eater, so the evening meal which appealed most to me was bangers and mash, sweet potato, peas, other vegetables and a fabulous onion gravy, sopped up with garlic bread.
A very large environmental flow had been quickly released from Lake Jindabyne the day before and the river rose substantially around 8pm the previous night. So our second day did not follow that usual routine. The Snowy Falls and its close portage were not accessible.
We paddled a short distance into the reeds of Byadbo Creek until water ran out, had morning tea, then began what our guides described as the longest portage they had ever had to do in this area. We then carried the lot around 600m – a couple of trips of personal gear, a couple of trip of camp gear, 2 trips for each of us carry the kayaks between 2 of us. My poor old bony shoulder was rubbed raw. A makeshift camp.
But then a walk over to view the seldom seen magnificent Snowy Falls! Awesome! Our guides pointed out the usual short portage route, and a chute on the side of the falls that the experts can paddle. They spent some time looking (and later walking) downstream to find a launch site for the next day.
The day began with a 4-person per boat carry of our fully loaded craft another couple of hundred metres down to the edge of the river. We worked in 2 teams – one carrying to the edge of the descent and the other team taking over to carry down. From here we were seal-launched into the white water and made it quickly across to a sandy beach on the other bank. Our guides then launched from further up and really showed us how it is done!
A thunderstorm arrived and dropped 20-odd mm on us as we attempted to shelter against a cliff face. Not much shelter when the rain is driving towards you and waterfalls are cascading down your back.
At last back on the water in spray jackets, was it here that we ran ‘Pensioners’ Passage’/Superannuants’ Straight’? That put the wind up me, but not me in the water.
A succession of pools and rapids took us a total of around 10km for this day.
This day was a bit over 12km and involved an on-shore experience that you, good reader, need to experience. The moon and stars, viewed from down on the river side and framed by the surrounding ridges, were a sight to behold.
A walk around our night 4 camp site, both yesterday evening and this morning, revealed a number of treasures. A ‘possum tree’ (scar tree with decayed centre ideal for possums, which could then be smoked out); a magnificent old tree with canoe scar on one side and coolamon on the other; and numerous other scar trees.
All I should say is that I have ridden the ‘Wild Woman’, a rapid around the next corner from our camp. Miraculously, I didn’t have a swim.
video thanks to Mike Bremers
Around 15km of paddling today.
A short walk in the morning to another site.
We had booked on the usual 5 day paddle and added an extra day for a walk, but with the long portage we needed to paddle each day. Someone else must have thought we were only on 5 days too and we got a bonus lovely lunch driven in to us near the Paupong Creek confluence. Nothing like watermelon in the shade on a hot day (plus other scrummy eats).
The usual pools and rapids in the afternoon, although each stretch is different.
A variety of birds and animals and reptiles seen on the trip. Wedge-tailed eagles, sea eagles, emus, deer, pigs, feral horses (most dead and lying in the edge of the river), water dragons and snakes.
After setting up camp, we enjoyed another walk. Scar trees, artifacts, a grotto in Reedy Creek, yam gardens. A visit to a old tree high above the river, carved to mark the 1942 flood level.
Around 20km of paddling. The enclosing ridges were beginning to draw back and there were more pools than rapids. But, just to keep me on my metal there was one more, ‘Wet Cheeks’ rapid. Fortunately I only got the bottom two wet.
We arrived at the put out point, Halfway Flat picnic area on the Barry Way, around 3pm. Carry the gear up, boats deflated. A scrummy lunch.
Pull out – the end at Halfway Flat Picnic Area
A 2 hour drive out up the Barry Way, with a stop at the Wallace Craigie Lookout. Back to civilisation at Dalgety.
Huge thanks to Mike B for suggesting this trip and inviting me on it; to Alpine River Adventures and Richard and Chris for taking a punt on an old and inexperienced codger; and to my fellow paddlers for great company and fun. For me, the trip of a life time.
10 paddlers – Richard ‘Swainy’ Swain (leader and river guide), Chris (river guide and camp fire chef extraordinaire), Mike B, Peter, Ron and Vicki, Dick and Pam, Gary, me.