Mountain weather can turn instantly

AGAINST brilliant blue skies loom the imposing snow-capped peaks of Mount Bogong — Victoria’s highest and, some would argue, most challenging mountain.

On a bright winter’s day like yesterday the stunning scene is inviting, luring hikers and extreme sportsfolk to its untouched trails, the sunshine perhaps whispering a false sense of security.

But that can change in an instant; the clouds roll in, the snow starts to fall and even the best outdoorsmen can find themselves caught out.

Brian Hergt, who owns Kiewa Valley Ski Centre in Mount Beauty, recalls one year when it snowed just days before Christmas.

“You can go up there in shorts in the summer and all of a sudden the weather just turns,” he said.

He has walked the mountain before, but never in winter — a sentiment echoed by many locals yesterday.

Some The Border Mail spoke to described the wilderness and the steep inclines, and how even in summer it was possible to lose your group if you didn’t stay close.

“It’s a dangerous mountain,” said Simon Paton, who has operated Bogong Ski Centre for almost 40 years.

“In extreme weather it’s bleak and harsh ... it’s dangerous country.”

But even still, the appeal remains: the challenge of tough terrain and the thrill of virgin snow.

“It’s the nature of the sport,” deputy commander of the Bright SES Graham Gales said.

Mr Gales said it was “unusual” to have had three large-scale searches on the mountain in a week.