Kosciusko – August 1935: Snowed in

Wep's Chrysler 75 Roadster at Rennox Gap

TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE.

Members of the Millions Club party to Kosciusko had a terrifying experience on Saturday morning when they had to abandon their cars and walk through a blinding snowstorm to the hotel. Their cars laden with luggage are now practically buried by the roadside with snow piled up on either side. One of them is covered with a foot or more of snow.

A blizzard is raging around the hotel and the manager (Mr. Speet) stated last night that the conditions are worse than any he had experienced during the past 17 years. A large party of holiday makers who were to have returned to Sydney yesterday are still in the hotel and it is now unlikely that they will reach Sydney before to-morrow.

On the way to Hotel Kosciusko
The convoy from Cooma trapped at Rennox Gap

The Millions Club party left Cooma in the morning for Kosciusko and when the service cars reached Rennox Gap the foremost car broke down. The driver had been warned against attempting the ascent. The snow plough from the hotel, which was immediately behind the car also broke down after attempting to clear the road. Heavy snow was falling at the time and a bitterly cold wind was blowing through the gap.

Some of the cars behind were held up and could neither proceed nor turn back. The passengers, who numbered 115, were told that they were only about a mile and a half from the hotel and about 85 of them set out for the shelter. The other 30 turned back and were driven down to the Creel.

Many of the holiday-makers were dressed in clothing utterly unsuitable for the prevailing conditions and they staggered blindly against the driving snow that was whipped into their faces by the wind. Women with silk stockings and light leather shoes suffered intensely and staggered through snow that covered the road to a depth of two and three feet.

Experienced skiers went ahead and warned the hotel management of the accident. A horse sledge, laden with shoes, skis, rugs and food, was rapidly despatched to the scene and scores of holiday-makers at the hotel left to render assistance.

Many members of the party made for a workman’s hut, where a fire was lit and where they waited for assistance. The others trudged through the clinging snow, keeping together in small parties, bending down to escape the win’s fury and the blinding snow that clung to their faces and covered their shoulders with particles that rapidly turned to ice.

Several women were badly affected by the conditions, and the sledge picked up the most exhausted and carried them on to the hotel.

It was late in the afternoon before the last of the visiting party reached their destination. One woman, who was lightly clad, was badly affected but she quickly responded to treatment. Another, a boy, was frostbitten slightly, and throughout the arduous journey other members rubbed his hands to restore circulation.

Owing to the rigorous conditions it was impossible for people who had been staying at the hotel, and who were to have returned yesterday, to attempt the journey to Cooma, and it is unlikely that any one will be per- mitted to leave to-day.

KOSCIUSKO VISITORS

The Hotel Kosciusko is crowded to capacity as a result of the blizzards which have been sweeping the district since last Thursday. The picture theatre has been turned into a dormitory, and all the lounges and the manager’s private office, are being used as bedrooms.

The luggage of the majority of the Millions Club party members is still on the service cars, and will probably not be rescued until to-day. In the meantime they are being assisted by other residents at the hotel.

All efforts to dig the seven stranded cars from the drift that now encompasses them have failed. Throughout Saturday night three men worked assiduously digging out the snow plough. They cleared it ultimately, but the machine broke down again and as a result of the intense cold, they were forced to abandon their attempt.

The manager of the hotel, Mr Speet, stated last night that never before at Kosciusko had he experienced such conditions. The wind raged about the hotel throughout the week- end at a velocity approaching 70 miles an hour. The road was covered in places with five feet of snow, and until the snow plough was working again the hotel would be cut off from Cooma. The Chalet was entirely covered. At the present time there is a total number of 289 people accommodated at the hotel, Betts Camp and the Chalet.

Yesterday afternoon, Arthur Hill, a member of the Millions Club party, broke one of his legs when his skis crossed while he was coming down the Grand Slam.

 

Jess at the snow covered Kosciusko Chalet
Snow covers the Kosciusko Chalet

REFERENCE

1935 ‘TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 5 August, p. 9, viewed 19 August, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17180149

Caravanning with Wep – Friday, 11th June 1937, near Jindabyne

11th June

Time passing most uneventfully i.e.superficially. Ah, but I forget. Tuesday acted the good (or not so good) housewife to my poor missus as she lay stricken upon her sick bed waiting for a blessed minor event. Did all the housework with almost feminine skill and busied myself greatly with this and that.

Wednesday the blessed event came off. Jess rose and is looking up.

Porridge now is the order of the day. Rolled oats, sticky like clay, appearance seems to guarantee constipation of the direst severity. I don’t know whether to really lay the blame there or elsewhere, but something’s happened and I was doing so well too! Damn near had filled the Snowy Valley. Went up to Kos. At 12:00 on the strength of dirty weather during Mon & Tues and was b—- well duped. Nearest slushy water snow at Daner’s. Drove car up and mucked about half heartedly. Anyway Dawnie enjoyed it. Returned to Hotel and took it out in front of fire. Afternoon tea in the lap of luxury. Local gossip supplied by Charlie Krist.  Returning were amazed by the extraordinarily vivid cloud colourings during sunset. Such slashing oranges! The Alps afford us an unique collection of skies, both in quality and quantity. Such linear patterns as one’s imagination would scarcely credit. Bold sweeping curves circling the whole of the heavens. Staight lined shafts slicing off great areas of massed colour. Sinuous rhythms, green vaulting heavens, driving lead mists only feet above, vapours from out the valley, snow capped peaks lost in straggling lines. Forms vortexing towards the earth, their heavy lines tracing the wind currents set in motion by the enormous masses of the hills, an eerie suggestion of upside down solid reality. And all ever changing rapidly, assuming new forms in the very moment the eye peers from shape to shape.

Friday occupied in practically finishing painting of leafless forest. The tortured rhythm of tree form having driven me unconsciously into semblance of Van Gogh technique: can’t see how else I could have done it. I don’t suppose it matters much.

Had yarn to Johnny Weston about the poverty of the soil up here, and was informed his old lady had snavelled the sketch I did of him kicking the calf & is having it framed. Quite a decent scout, not like his grouchy brother pub keeper “Straw”.

Big hop on tonight at the Hall. All the girls getting round today in Kirby grips & setting pins. Whoops!

Caravanning with Wep – Wednesday, 26th May 1937; Settling in at Jindabyne & scouting locations to paint.

 26th May.

Been here a week now. Liking it much better. Fine painting here. Could stay months. Have become acclimatised to the colour so to speak. Personally prefer the washed out hues to those multitudinous greens of Kurrajong. Went wrong over a painting of the River. Guess it’s not nearly what I wanted. Am getting along better with a sketch of a drab road, drab fence and drab rocks – and the persistent intense blue of the sky. Hope it turns out alright.

Paid a visit to Hotel Kosciusko & passed time of day with the Speets. Had afternoon tea of all things! Not a bit of blarsted snow within miles – which is a nice kettle of fish! Can even get to the Chalet per car! How horrible! But, by Heavens, I’ll get some skiing before we go – or else!

Brought firewood back with us. Dawnie got two pieces bless her little heart.

Pretty cold here the first few days but summered up beautifully over the week end when the Cooma crowd paid us a visit. Sunk quite a few empties with gun fire.

Unsuccessfully attempted to wade the river but saw a TROUT.

Knocked the b….. lamp on the floor and smashed it.  Smashed 2 mugs, all the glasses and 1 cup and 2 saucers and 1 plate.  So got rid of that damned Crown piece I was keeping for luck. Haven’t had any since we got it.

What a town!  Can’t get this, can’t get that! Half the time the butcher’s shut. You can’t get eggs, or vegetables. Live on dried peas, potatoes, pumpkin, and Swedes. Fruit 1½d a piece, tomatoes 10d lb! Beans happened once at 9d lb.

Get raffle tickets though for a fat sheep & supper cloth. But then what the heck’s the good of a fat sheep to me? As for getting milk! May as well ask for Manna! However found out at Koscy that could get milk over the road from where we are staying. At Johnny Weston’s. Simple. Just trudge a mile or so up hills, through a creek, etc. But get about ½ gallon for 6d. And drink the bloody lot!

Am getting quite blubbery. Have never seen a place with so many bones and gizzards splodged about. Huge belly bags full of grass, dismembered cattle feet, decapitated heads skin tripped and closed-eyed. Cow bones, sheep bones, skulls, hooves, horns, & bowels. And buckets of blood for the geese & things.  All garnished with the rusted up sided skeletons of two cars. A veritable Golgotha. Motherly cows attending two weeks calves. Poor Johnny, to keep his beef cows milk up to scratch bought 5 jerseys & all are lousy teated. Too this & too that. No can milk much.

Cold enough to freeze the —— off a brass monkey this morning. Be better off sleeping in a Frigidaire. And the make shift double bed would collapse – of course! And we shiver and shake at 4am fixing it. UGH!

Have morning tea with 1 lump of sugar and 2 lumps of milk. Everything in the caravan frozen. Ice in the billy & solid milk in the jug. The roof and windows inside hoary with frost. Nose, near frozen off. Kept the bald spot warm though, by cripes. Outside all was white as though snow covered. The edges & pools alongside the river iced over. Briars icy –stubbed. Dawnie frozen, shivers. Much action, excitement eating, drinking & yodelling from me.

But I’m dressing up to go to bed tonight. No more half-sleep from 2:30am onwards. Me for warmth even if I have to put the over coat, long underpants & skiing socks on.

Days are too short for work here. By the time I thaw out its 11 o’clock. Get in 2 hours & it’s lunch. Supplied with food until 2:30. Thence till sundown – 5 o’clock. & the wind gives us the works. Marrow-freezing. BR-R-R!

Went back to Weston’s today. Struck the best gloom spot yet. A dull raw day. An aged wood fence surrounds a tired grey sheep shed whose stone foundations drip tiredly away from buttered joists. Great gaps show desolate as a front toothless mouth. Close packed, winter wind tortured trees, long since bereft of life twist their melancholy limbs into shapes now sinuous, now harshly jagged, speaking both of living pain and aching death. Throughout the grey and blackened twig lacery crows craa harshly and incessantly and wing blackly against the liquid tear eyed sun.

Uplifting limbs protest their doom and the scavengers flap dismally through the dropping bones. Harsh and discordant they sing a requiem CRAA – CRAA – CRAA.

But beauty yet transcends their death and frames for us a pattern of their once proud vitality and rhythm. Their bones, patterned individually upon their life reveals them us and leaves a fading concretisation of a will to live.

A fine spot and the day to meet it, cold, blue, pregnant with negation & death.

Found a standing trunk 6’ high from out of which an incipient adolescent human form spring. I returned with axe & chisel and with endeavour to help it escape the bonds of surplus wood. This place of frozen souls. Reincarnations. Every tree a mirror of some human soul. No dead place this but a spot full of hope – full of supplication for release. Ground tied awaiting the artist to seek their inner being, their essential themselves, and free them of their own redundancies. The life that’s in those bones! I have found a temple.