By Alastair McDowell

Castle Hill village, just past midnight. A full moon and a clear sky radiated above us, lighting up the basin. We had planned to sleep a few hours before setting off on our planned climb, but when greeted with conditions such as these… one  must pounce. We quickly packed our gear and left at 1am setting off towards the ranges…

We navigated across the undulating plains following the Hogs Back track towards a spur coming down from Mt Cheeseman. The Craigieburn Ranges are reasonably mellow such that you can simply pick a spur that looks good and climb happily to the top.

A recent snow dump presented us with fluffy shin deep powder snow from above the 1500m contour, but our craving for the white stuff allowed us to put aside the exhausting nature of plugging steps for hours on end. In pelaton formation, we shared the load, and reached the summit ridge of Mt Cheeseman in the wee early hours of 4am. Still hours away from the glint of sunrise, but our views were expansive in all directions. The power of the full moon illuminated all the peaks for miles in all directions. 

Now on the summit of the range after a hearty 1400m climb, the ridge traverse began. One particular section of the ridge proved gnarly and put some of the newer mountaineers in our group on edge, negotiating an exposed narrow rock ridge covered in powder. We persisted and overcame the difficulties, and were rewarded with easy snowy ridgeline to the next peak on the ridge, Mt Izard. 

By now the horizon fired up and we watched in awe as our moonlit landscape transformed into the vividness of day. Meanwhile behind us, the full moon lowered into a purple haze, not keen to leave in a hurry. We continued traversing the ridge taking in the incredible colour vibes of dawn with two beaming celestial spheres on our either side… Just enough visual stimulation to wear off the effects of sleeplessness after the long night.

On Mt Cloudsley, our final peak of the morning, we found we weren’t the only ones enjoying the fresh snow. Ski and snowboard tracks carved sweeping turns down the aptly named Long Spur descending straight into Castle Hill village. We discarded our crampons and enjoyed a long glissade back down to the village in the hot sun. The day was still young. 

All photos credit: Daniel Redmond

This article originally appeared on Alastair’s Blog on 23 June 2014 and is reproduced here with permission.