Winter in South-East Queensland is awesome! High friction on the cracks at Frog Buttress, beautiful cool and clear days and you don’t have to get up as early to get photos of sunrise. It’s pretty much all good.
This years season has definitely been a memorable one. All I have to do is walk outside and look at my poor Subaru to be reminded of a few of the adventures. Yet to be cleaned, it is still encrusted in a fine layer of mud and dust caused by snow melt on the slippery back-roads of Ben Lomond (NSW).
For me, Winter 2015 started on 6 June. As discussed in my previous article, I headed for Girraween on a farewell long-weekend for my brother. With frosts being forecast I left early with the hope of getting some photos on the Scenic Rim as the sun rose. They weren’t as thick as I’d hoped, but there were still a few crystals about.
The trip to Girraween was an absolute success with stunning sunsets to accompany some gorgeous days for climbing and exploring. Just in case you weren’t sick of photos from “that day” at Turtle Rock, here’s another:
The Ancient Ruins area was another new discovery for us. Late June saw another farewell for Tom, this time at Frog Buttress. This was a sad, but awesome day with Tom onsighting The Guns of Navarone (23). This awesome climb had been on his list for a fair while, and being set among some beautiful orange rock, it made for some great photos.
It was around this point where things started to get a bit weird; particularly in the weather department. Mid July saw two “Antarctic Vortex” events reaching the state in quick succession, resulting in freezing and unstable weather. With the first came a forecast of potential snow; so of course I made a beeline back to Girraween.
A small explanation to any international readers is probably needed at this point. As you may or may not be aware, there isn’t a lot of snow in Australia. The snowy mountains in New South Wales gets its fair share, and so does Tasmania, but seeing it anywhere else is a rare event. The last decent snowfall in Queensland in particular was 30 years ago. Hence my excitement at the possibility.
Once at the park I wanted to give myself the best shot of catching the white stuff falling, so I headed to Mt Norman, and set up camp for the night. Being the highest point in the area I figured this would the best location. Sure enough, at about 3:30AM, I was woken by my tent virtually sitting on my face due to the snow load (and my poor set up). In the morning there was still some on the ground so I ran around trying to get some photos before it melted away.
During the rest of the weekend I covered over 1000KM’s chasing snow, getting as far south as Ben Lomond. The most I ended up seeing was on the summit of Mt Mackenzie near Tenterfield. Being such a rare event there were hundreds of people there and the traffic was chaos, but it was great to be somewhere everyone was so excited and happy about being in the outdoors.
A similar event was forecast for the following weekend, however it wasn’t until the Thursday night just beforehand that it became obvious that it was going to be the more significant of the two as far as Queensland was concerned. I was up late working on some photos and keeping an eye on the reports coming in from Stanthorpe when images of heavy snow falls in the centre of town started flowing in. If not for a meeting at work in the morning I probably would have left then and there. Nevertheless, I managed to get out of work early and was back on the Cunningham Highway by early afternoon.
Driving around the ring road at Stanthorpe I was disappointed that the only remains seemed to be the snowmen. Nearly every front yard had one built; reminders of what must have been a magical morning. I persisted though, and counted on the slightly higher elevation at Girraween to provide a snowy safe haven.
Sure enough, as soon as I turned off the highway I was greeted with scenes of children having snow fights and patchy but very worthwhile coverage still on the ground. The Castle Rock campsite was a sight to behold.
With less than an hour before sunset I threw my pack on and raced out along the Castle Rock walking track, hoping to reach a good viewpoint for sunset. The scene along the track was all I could have hoped for. With the wattles starting to flower, it was a beautiful combination of typically Girraween colours, set against a blanket of white.
In the end I had to settle for this break between trees for sunset.
After bunking down for the night, I was back in Brisbane less than 24 hours after leaving. A short, but very worthwhile trip.
With a move to Tasmania on the cards for early next year, I’ve marked this years adventures off as training for the cold weather. I’m now looking ahead and planning to make the most of my last spring and summer here in sunny Queensland. As usual I’ve got a large tick list of adventures with not enough time to get through it. Prioritising is going to be tricky.
What are your plans for the coming warmer months?