A man familiar with unimaginably wild expeditions in even wilder parts of the world is set to ski the length of Australia’s alpine region this winter.
Over about 50 days in mid-winer, 59-year-old Huw Kingston will cover uncountable kilometres in unknown conditions from Mt Baw Baw in Victoria hopefully winding up in the heart of the ACT.
But not to worry – not only has he made the journey before, he says he doesn’t feel any older than he did at 34 when he left Flinders Station in Melbourne with his eyes set on reaching the Sydney Opera House overland by foot, ski, kayak and bike.
He didn’t see a soul for two weeks from Mt Baw Baw to Mt Hotham. But something happened on the outskirts of Sydney.
“Fifty-two days after leaving Melbourne through the winter of 1997, this lark was too good to stop,” he explained.
“I thought ‘why not link each of the Australian state capitals by following the most interesting and challenging human-powered routes?’.”
And that’s what he did. In 2004 he kayaked into Hobart having completed the City2City challenge, signalling the end of seven journeys over seven years, 25,000 km and “543 days of the best mountains, rivers, deserts and coast”.
Huw, who splits his time between the NSW Southern Highlands and the Snowy Mountains, is an adventurer, speaker, entrepreneur, former cafe owner, event director, environmentalist, writer, ski guide, mountain bike guide, tour leader, parliamentary candidate and grandfather.
He blames his uncle Dan for taking him rambling on the fells and dales of Yorkshire as a teenager.
“I certainly thank him for offloading his old tent, stove and, most importantly, his orange plastic cup,” Huw said.
“This, The Mug, has been my constant outdoor companion for nearly 45 years now.”
Being “a very average climber, kayaker, trekker and student” didn’t stop him from rambling around the world after graduating from uni, usually with skis.
After first visiting India in 1984 and vowing never to return Huw embarked on a 15-year love affair with the Himalayas, particularly travelling through these huge mountains in winter, completing the longest ski traverses then undertaken in that part of the world.
He has gotten lost and arrested in Uganda on an expedition to the Ruwenzori, the fabled “Mountains of the Moon”. He has journeyed in Mongolia, India, East Timor, Botswana and beyond.
But his grandest adventure to date was a year-long, human-powered circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea.
Beginning from and returning to Gallipoli, the journey commemorated the Anzac Centenary as Huw sea kayaked, walked, cycled and rowed a boat 13,000 km through 17 countries.
The year 2018 saw a return to the big mountains on skis with an exploration of the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan in Central Asia, believed to be the first winter traverse of this range.
But he still says he’s an average adventurer; by his own admission, not highly skilled and driven by a love of skiing.
“Skiing has reduced me to tears of joy more often than any other adventure activities I enjoy,” he said.
“I’ve cried them on summits and at the base of glorious mountains runs across the world, but I have cried them most often here in Australia.”
The 2022 trek will deviate slightly from his 1997 quest to taste what Huw calls “the skiers’ dozen. A long way from a rock oyster or a bottlawine, the adventurer will savour a ski at each of mainland Australia’s snow resorts.
This is his Alpine Odyssey; the primary focus – apart from surviving – is raising $50,000 for Our Yarning, a Save the Children project to produce books of Indigenous stories written by Indigenous Australian authors for First Nations children.
Huw says without a doubt the success of this fundraising is as important to him as the success of his expedition – but there are other reasons for the journey.
“This is a journey, too, about passion,” he said.
“For sure it’s the challenge of pushing my ageing body through it again a quarter of a century on, but also to celebrate the Australian snow country that has been so good to and for me for so long.
“I want to celebrate not only the backcountry but the resorts and communities that live for the white stuff but also to consider the threats to our fragile alpine landscape from climate change, from feral animals, from us.”
Starting at Mt Baw Baw in July, Huw will travel north to Lake Mountain, Mt Sunday, Mt Buller, Mt Stirling and Hotham before heading to Dinner Plain, Falls Creek and Mt Buffalo in Victoria, then crossing into NSW and onto Thredbo, Charlotte Pass, Perisher and Selwyn resorts.
If the snow is still good, he’ll go on to Canberra. Who knows where after that?
About Regional will catch up with Huw again as he prepares and then sets off – so stay tuned for more updates.