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 – Tuesday, 1st June 1937; Jindabyne and the excitement of first snow fall.

Campsite covered in snow

1st June

Patience rewarded. A biting wind all yesterday. Later, drizzle the noise of which ceased about 8 o’clock and a quiet murmurous warmth pervades the air. Jess goes out into the night for something or other, yells excitedly “Snow”. Instant excitement replaces sleepy boredom of work-doing. The “W. Weekly” strip pushed brusquely aside while I goggle & stare at the fat and sloshy falling snow. Great wet flakes defy expectations by falling noiselessly instead of splodging plunklyly. We run out with the lantern dancing in the whiteness. The alive quietness broken only by the sharp hiss of melting flake against the lamp. A curious velvety warmth replaces the chillness of the day. The heavens cloak the naked earth. We hasten to sleep so as to wake wide eyed upon an accomplished fact. 5 o’clock comes but the snow has been replaced by rain washing off the clinging whiteness. By 6:30 2 inches of snow still covers the land & has within the hours changed all colour. The country is hardly recognisable. Trees and fences are etched sharply against the paper white. Bewildered cattle and sheep nose in the damp seeking the grass that is hidden now from view. Three weeks calves, damp hided and amazed, bawl lustily for their parent’s comfort.

Dawn surveys the morning scene

We try to ski round the confined & grade less vicinity of the caravan. Hopeless endeavour. Dawnie stands in the caravan desolate & shivering. It is beyond her cognisance. We inveigle her out. She scampers & slips and bites the points of our skis. My low feeling disperses and we decide on Kosciusko. An early feed of soup and away. Chains are needed along the road & much to my rising annoyance are too big and flap madly against the mud guards. After two attempts I more or less remedy the trouble and re-enter the car with half the road on my arms and face.

Did a spot of skiing up near the Koscy on a down trodden practice ground. Elsewhere unreliable snow crusted over dangerous softness. Afternoon tea & home to sausages and eggs. The sky surprisingly variegated against the paling whiteness of the snow, blue then salmon then orange, reverting again to blue. Livid clouds smear the horizon. Cold! Return to snow less caravan. Feels like a hearty frost tonight.

George Longmuir came out over the week end & a good time was had by all. Took him up to snow less Kosciusko. Boiled twice on the way. Ate hearty on mixed grill. Billy of milk floated leisurely downstream during our absence.

(Margin note: Carl & Red dressed in everything but the hotel eiderdown.)