Snow in Western Australia

My snowchase of August 16, 1992

Bluff Knoll viewed from the car park with bits of snow visible
Bluff Knoll from the car park, some snow visible

I was on holiday, and timed a stay at the Stirling Ranges to coincide with what the media described as a strong cold front with deep cold southerlies behind it. Prior to the front passing I climbed Mt Trio and enjoyed a good hailstorm.

On the 16th I rose at first light but was disappointed to see solid cloud around the caravan park. The wind had dropped, and it didn't feel cold enough for snow up higher. Then, through a tiny break in the cloud, I briefly glimpsed a spot of white on Mt Trio - maybe it had snowed!

Rime and snow on Bluff Knoll
Rime and snow on Bluff Knoll

I quickly drove towards Bluff Knoll for a closer look at something higher, and encountered snowflakes falling (but not settling) in the carpark. The temperature after the snow stopped was about 4 degrees, but may have been temporarily less in the snowshower. When the cloud lifted there where flecks of white visible towards the top of the mountain; not very much, but enough to make me put on my skiing clothes and set off up the track in high spirits.

Before long I was sweaty from the exertion and removed most of my top layers. The track passes a small area of scree just over half way up, and it was there that I encountered the first traces of snow on the ground, and out came the camera. Soon after that I reached the saddle on the top ridge and was hit by a ferocious cold wind, with falling snow, so the clothes I had removed were quickly put back on.

Snow on Bluff Knoll summit, facing east
Snow on Bluff Knoll summit, facing east

As I ascended the snowcover became progressively deeper, reaching 3 to 5 cm on the summit, and was accompanied by ever thickening deposits of rime on almost every branch and twig. Backlit by sun through the thinning cloud, this made a beautiful sight. Because of my early start I had the privilege of making the first footprints in the unbroken blanket, which to me was equivalent to the skier's delight at making the first tracks in fresh powder.

When I reached the summit it was still shrouded in cloud, with a temperature of zero and a strong wind. I was grateful for every fibre of clothing I wore! Before long the cloud started breaking up to reveal some stunning panoramas of a type I had never expected to see in Western Australia.

Bluff Knoll's south-east back side
Bluff Knoll's south-east back side

At first the snow was light, fluffy and dry, but after about half an hour of sunny periods the temperature had risen to nearly 2 degrees and the snow had become wet-looking and decreased in volume. Further snow showers occurred but it never regained its pristine, almost powdery, look. Other people then arrived, and soon there were footprints all over the summit. It had lost its wilderness feel, but it was still spectacular to be there.

Eventually I felt cold and commenced the downward journey. An extra layer of clothing and some food would have been wise - I filed that thought for future reference. Lingering snow showers followed me down the mountain, although it wasn't settling much below where the track descends from the saddle on the top ridge.

 

NEXT PAGE >  August 28, 2004 (My first success at forecasting WA snow)