And now for a dash of something horsey. Last year Paul, from Rolling Ground, mentioned an epic mtb adventure that takes riders deep into the southern section of Kosciuszko, but is rather difficult to complete in a day unless you've got the reserves for a 170 km sitting (complete loop from Jindabyne), or unless you can organise a car shuffle. The off-road section of the loop starts just below Dead Horse Gap, following the Cascade Trail, over a ridge, then drops to a plateau called the Tin Mine area, mostly at elevation 1200-1300 m, which was originally frequented by graziers in the 1800s. 45 km from the Cascade trail head, and after passing several huts en route, the trail plunges down a ridge, from 1200 m to 300 m in 6 km, joining the Pinch River just before it joins the Snowy River
Having had her fill of excitement the day prior, Gillian kindly offered to pick us up mid afternoon at the Pinch River exit. We drove to Thredbo, coffee'd at the Bakery, then Anita, GK and I rolled out with the clock at approx 10 am. The ease of climbing asphalt from Thredbo (1400 m) was soon replaced by the rumble of tread searching for traction up the stepped water bars which punctuate the little used vehicular track of the Cascade Trail. The first, and fortunately only, snake of the day slithered off the track about a km from the high point of Bob's Ridge (1800 m) from which great views were afforded into the Victorian high country to the south west.
From here the track descends immediately, mirroring that of the ascent; gravelly runs punctuated by water bars trying to kick you off. A couple of walkers warned us of snakes ahead. We dropped down to the Tin Mine plateau, and soon came across Cascade Hut for a brief stop. This is as far as GK and I got the previous year. We pushed on.
The vehicular track increasingly became double track, with water bars competing with mounds of horse dung as primary obstacles. Either horses pass extraordinary amounts of manure in a sitting, or defecation is a communal ritual, as some of the piles were over a foot high. Obstacles in their own right. We passed through ghostly forests of 100 ft silver matchsticks; the remnant trunks from the massive fire that obliterated the area back in 2003. The new growth is only meters high, and will likely take generations to get back to its former splendour.
Eventually more enclosed forest is gained and the trail flattens out a bit. Smooth runs punctuated by water bars and dung mounds which afford aerial fun. The Tin Mine huts are located about half way in. Time for a picnic lunch on some well manicured lawns. It takes us about 10 min to realise that 70 m to the east 4 brumbies are lazily grazing.
The next 10 km are some of the most enjoyable of the day. Lovely flowing double track through alpine wilderness. Coming round a corner we encounter another mob of brumbies. One of them holds ground in the middle of the track before leading off the others as we rumble through. A little later the shrill squeal of piglets fill our ears as they run for cover. Very cute. We spot the sow (distinctly less cute), and hope the boar is not too close.
It had all been a bit too easy. With track running out we finally get some pinch climbs we can't clean, and the thought of how we might descend close to 10 km of the stuff starts to become a little daunting. We cross the Ingeegoodbee River for the last time, then gain altitude along the 9 mile pinch road, until we nervously sidle round a final hilltop. The uncomfortable feeling of approaching the edge of the world was building. And finally here it was. Wow. I've seen some impressive things climbing, but this view rates right up there.
We gingerly head down the first ramp of a few hundred meters, which is all we can see, rear wheel sketching here and there, before it kicks 90 degrees to the left. The next ramp is steeper and longer, punctuated, ironically, by not enough water bars. This really was man from snowy river stuff. I wasn't sure if I could pilot such a long loose sector. After 10 m I surfed to the side and managed to drop anchor, advising Anita to try to walk it. This wasn't walkable in the normal sense. But one could manage controlled glissading steps if you used one hand to lock the rear wheel and kept the other other hand on the saddle for support.
GK showed us what pussies we were by performing an impressive controlled slide down the entire length of the run. It was frightening to watch as he fish tailed from one line to another. Once committed, stopping becomes impossible until the grade slackens. Round the next corner things actually flattened out for a bit. Be careful what you'd wished for. I decided I'd encourage Anita to ride all the segments I was reasonably sure wouldn't involve the front wheel locking up. The aim at this stage was simply to gain the bottom, no matter how long it took. Anita and I probably walked half a dozen segments. GK rode the entire thing. It wasn't till the bottom he revealed that the two-wheeled outlaw had got away from him on one of the final sectors, losing him a little bark. We whooped with delight once the bottom had finally been attained, with the Pinch River gurgling on our left hand side. It was hot, we were parched, and hoped that we'd see Gillian soon.
We didn't have to wait long. The Subaru soon appeared, complete with Gillian and some ice cold Stella longnecks. Truly magic stuff, and a great way to cap a wild day out the back of nowhere.
The following day we moved from Jindy to Perisher to catch up with family, where I read some history of the Tin Mine area. Apparently the 9 miles pinch was just as epic back in the 1800s. Stockmen used to herd cattle and wagons up this same diabolical ridge to enable summer grazing on the plateau. If I hadn’t read it I wouldn’t have believed that anything, constructed of flesh or hoof or steel, could grind up such a road. Words can't quite convey the terror or the thrill. You have to see it for yourselves.