Rockies

21 07 2008

I’ve been from Edmonton, to the edge of the Rockies through the Icefields Parkway, Jasper, Banff and now in Calgary. The mountains are, of course, great. Sorry Prairie dwellers, but mountains beat your habitat for me. I climbed up one hill (Mt Temple), in my sneakers, over the snow and ice and in a snow storm. Was quite an experience, and reminded me why I like the mountains. And was probably a little daft.

I’m supposed to be looking for a job and not blogging, so more details later. Although the weather here is supurb right now – I don’t know if I can justify sitting in an office at this time of year.





Torres del Paine

5 03 2008

choc-fondue.jpgWe have just had lunch. A little more civilised than a sandwich. Chocolate Fondue. Maybe a bit rich. Actually, hideously rich: I have a headache and don’t think I can eat tonight. But I’ll try. The joys of being in a city 🙂

pampa.jpgBut back to the trip: Southern Patagonia. In general it’s flat, windy, and pretty dull around here. (And it never seems to rain. Or is that Southern California?) For those that might disagree, on the bus you miss the greatest area of Patagonia, by blasting through it. But trust me, the majority is pretty dull. Unless you happen to like flat, featureless expanses of land – like the people I’m travelling with seem to do. If you do like that, come to Australia. You can also see sheep there.

But (and this is a big but) there are some parts that are simply stunning. Unfortunately, this is also where the buses tend to stop and hordes of tourists (yes, like me) jump out and tramp around. The Carretera Austral, Fitz Roy, Perito Moreno, and further south Torres del Paine. There are other parts I’m sure, but the cyclist trail hits these highlights. A few times we’ve come out of the Andes, and onto the pampa because that’s the way the road goes (and there are not so many options when it comes to roads around here). I suspect there is not too much coming up further south, but Tierra del Fuego is supposed to be interesting. In a flat kind of way.

siesta.jpgFrom El Calafate the group – still Michiel (Holland), Stefan and Sabine (Germany) and I (stupid Australian who only speaks English) – rode west and south for a couple of days. The first day was a little windy, we were scooting along at up to 50km/h on the flat (ok, when we were racing). Fully loaded. That’s much more like it. I think on a road bike, unloaded, with fresh legs, you could keep up that speed all day. Seriously windy, and from the correct direction (behind). We felt sorry for the two French, Mitch and Virginie who were battling into the same wind to visit the glacier. We managed to make a few more kilometers than we’d planned, despite the road turning more or less into the wind at the end of the day and the lunch stop (pictured). So we made it back into Chile in only two days, despite fearing it could take longer – many cyclists skip this section of road because it is just too windy (especially going north) and there is nothing to buy along the way. Even getting water is difficult.

We spent the night in a ditch by the side of the road just outside Cerro Castillo (Chile). It was a pleasant ditch, deep enough that our tents didn’t get ripped to pieces by the wind. This is also the first and last townvillage in Chile before the Torres del Paine National Park. Most hikers stop in Puerto Natales, buy food and then get a bus to the park. We didn’t want to have to go there and then back, so we made do with the provisions we could buy. Which wasn’t much, but we’re getting used to pasta and red sauce every night. It keeps us alive. Just.

Based on the distance we’d made the last few days I thought getting to the park the next day would be no drama at all. Until we got out of the tent and were almost knocked down by the wind. Luckily, we didn’t need to ride directly into the wind (often) so we could manage an almost respectable 50km in 4 hours of riding before we were exhausted (a lot of that distance came in the last hour!). There may have been a few occasions when it was simply too windy to ride. It is a little disconcerting to feel a strong gust of wind, suddenly be in the ditch on the other side of the road and then covered in dust as a bus passes by. Most of the traffic was very understanding as we weaved our way down the dirt road, and gave us plenty of room. We stopped at Laguna Amarga – right before the entrance to the national park. We voted the water undrinkable – even after filtering there was a milky precipitate when we boiled it. God knows what chemical is in there. We got a pretty good view of the Torres from there, except with cloud. But we thought it was pretty good.

The next day we cycled even slower than the day before through the park. The cause this time was not the wind, but the mountains and the view. We took quite a few photos. We thought that we’d probably seen all we needed of the park until we arrived at the only car camp ground. While considering going a bit further, out of nowhere two Swiss cyclists that Sabine and Stefan had met on and off since Bolivia (but never ridden with) got out of a car. So, of course, we had to stay. Petra and Reto had just finished walking “the circuit”, a lap around the Torres del Paine and adjoining mountains. As cyclists they knew what we’d already seen and offered the advice that going to visit the glacier Grey and cycling the way we had just come was probably all we needed to do. So we adjusted our plans accordingly. The plans changed again though.

condor.jpgMany condor photos later, and a sunset and sunrise (I’m over sunrise photos) we said a final goodbye to “The Swiss” as they’ve been described to me. They’ve run out of money and are going home via the Galapagos Islands (possibly the most expensive thing a cycle tourist can do in South America – go figure). Now we have My Swiss (Jörg and Rahel), My Other Swiss (Brandley-Fisch) and The Swiss (Petra and Reto). And a few other The Swiss that require further explanation when brought up in conversation.

Everything is outrageously expensive in the national park (for Chile), but we had no choice – things are definitely set up for bus tourists arriving from Peurto Natales. We also hadn’t seen a Chilean bank since part way down the Carretera Austral, so supplies of Chilean Pesos were running low. We stretched the remaining lot pretty thin and just made it. Changing US$ cash was possible, but at an even more crazy price. So we stocked up on food and piles of biscuits, basically what we could get our hands on and afford. They ran out of bread. A minor disaster.

We left our bikes at the park administration, loaded all we would need for a few days, and were about to leave when a youngish park employee stopped us. It turned out he was a tourism student doing his practical experience before finishing his degree. Antonio took a look at Michiel and I stuffing all our gear into my two day packs, and ran off to get us a rucksack we could borrow. What luck! A good rucksack! It was bigger, and hence heavier (after we put more of the group gear in there), but Michiel decided that he far preferred the harness and would take the heavier pack from the second day onward. What more luck! Perfect for me! “You want to carry the heavy pack? Be my guest.”

So we hiked out of the administration area, on the long walk in (to avoid an expensive ferry shortcut). Stefan with a crazily heavy pack (cans on a hike – what was he thinking?) with no waist strap and Sabine with a similar style pack, just less crazily heavy. Michiel and I with basically a day pack each, I think I only had a bit more than 12kg for most of the trip. Pretty good.

Torres Walk inThe walk in was in almost perfect weather. We seem to be getting more than our fair share of good weather down here. Of course, I’m not complaining. Good views of the (relatively small, but dramatic) mountain range of the Torres del Paine. Apparently it is not a part of the main Andean range. Different muscles being used. We’re reasonably fit by now, so it wasn’t a big drama, and we didn’t go very far each day. The campground surprised me. I didn’t realise I would be sharing the trail with quite so many gringos. But there you are. Possibly the most popular park in the region, so of course there will be plenty of people there. I should have expected this. What I wasn’t expecting was the hotel and store at each of the big campsites. This is hiking? Come on. But it makes it easier. We even had a hot shower twice in the week. Luxury.

Softies hiding from rain… in Patagonia!We had some rain on day two, so we sheltered in the camp kitchen like softies until it had passed. And then headed up the first valley to see this Glaciar Grey. There are two main walks in the park. One is the circuit (7-9 days), the other is the ‘W trek’ (about 5 days) that visits the three main valleys, and all the highlights. We started to just visit the glacier, but decided to do an extended W after three days. The weather was pretty good, and we were enjoying the hike.

glacier-grey.jpgWe camped in a free campsite (the downside of serviced campsites is, of course, the cost). One of the few in the park – we found and used two more, later. The camp was right above the glacier. This one was far less active on the leading edge than the others had been, but we had a completely different perspective. We were about 100m above the glacier and could see all the way back to where it began. It’s strange really. I’m still a bit surprised that we spent two nights there. But it is a pretty special place, and we walked up to a lookout (the biggest pass on the circuit walk). Wrapped in cloud and blown about, we came back and watched as the sun came out from out lookout near the camp (Campamento Los Guardas if you’re interested). Yep, I like glaciers.

stevo.jpg <- “The Strange Australian Animal” glacier watching. Keep your eyes peeled folks, it might race away any century now.

The sun was shining, Sabine wasn’t whole hearted in her wishes to go back to the bikes, we’d met Marinka (Dutch) on the track who was going on… We couldn’t stop now! We had some food left (ok just pasta, some oats and chocolate biscuits), stocked up at the main store on the track, and headed on to Valle Frances. tdp-sunrise.jpgAnother glacier, hanging, with frequent avalanches to a secondary glacier below. The first few startle you a bit – it’s a big noise! On the way up we met Mitch and Virginie again. They had arrived and were hiking the same way as us, but had got slightly in front because of our obsession with the big glacier. We camped at the top of the valley (another free campsite, Campamento Británico – partially because the cash reserves were now extremely tight and partially because we thought we’d get another good sunrise from there). The sunrise was rubbish, all cloudy, but worth the risk, and the campsite was almost empty because of the extra effort required to reach here – a bonus for us. So we went back to sleep after sunrise, and didn’t manage to leave until 3 in the arvo. I’m not sure where that day went, but I wasn’t tired for a change. The rest of the day back down the valley, and one more around to the camp below the Torres. An early start to view sunrise on the main attraction of the park. We had pretty good luck (again), with nice colours on the rock for sunrise, and a completely clear sky just after (a bit annoying though – we saw the sunrise from a distance the next day, and it was cloudless, oh well). The towers are quite impressive, and well worth a walk to go and see them. However, I rather liked Fitz Roy in Argentina, for several reasons. Ahh, what am I saying, they’re all different, and all spectacular.

tpd-steve.jpgThe towers came out to play, just after sunrise! Cheeky buggers!

.who’s that?We walked out of the park, slightly smelly (ok, so we stank, but that’s not abnormal :)). Caught a bus back to our bikes. I think this may be the first bus or car since Santiago. A few weeks months at least. Jumped on, and rode less than a kilometer before realising we were actually pretty tired, camped behind the ranger station.

One more day on the bike to reach Puerto Natales and the dreamed of food and bed. There were few complaints at the time, but apparently I was riding too fast. Yeah? Well, I was tired and hungry and over cycling for a few days. So I may have jumped in front of the group and just headed for town.
Sabine: “Would you have stopped for lunch if we hadn’t?”
The Strange Australian Animal: “Nope”
Can you believe the names I’m being called?

And now we are here, only 700km to Ushuaia. Well fed, rested, and apparently not leaving until Friday. Why so long? Because Stefan and Sabine want to rest. So why don’t I leave them and go on alone? Don’t ask stupid questions. They came up with the idea for a chocolate fondue. Why would I leave people like that? And secretly I don’t mind stalling a bit longer. When I get to the end of the road I have to turn around and come up with a new target.

Now. The chocolate has worn off. Where do they keep the seafood and chicas around here…





Santa Cruz Trek

23 07 2007

The three of us just came back from 4 days walking two two valleys north of Huaraz. The route was the very popular Santa Cruz circuit, but no less amazing for being popular. the constant traffic was a bit much, but there is a reason why it is the most popular routre around. Short, picturesque, high (up to 4750m). And cold. Damn cold at night. Some photos to follow (when I get that sorted).





Huaraz again. Lots of walking.

17 07 2007

I managed to spend my last day in Trujillo wandering around the Trujillo markets trying to buy a pot set for my camp cooker. It wasn’t as easy as it first appeared. After searching many, many shops (in the market that can best be described as schizophrenic due to the massive mix of products available – I saw a cabinet being spray painted in the middle of the meat section) and a trip to the blacksmith (sort of) I got there. I don’t know if it works yet though – hope to try it out i the next few days. Oh, and after visiting almost every bank, it appears no-one will change English Pounds. It turns out that bringing those was a great idea…

So the teachers finally got off the roads (that was who was protesting) and the buses could start again. So I met Ol and Jess in the entrance hall of a hostel that neither of us were going to stay in. Good timing.

We’ve since spent a good deal of time at or above 3700m. The highest we got to was 5035m, so that’smy second highest assent so far. There are plenty of mountains around here above 6000, so perhaps I can set a new PB. Unfortunately the internet connection here is a little slow, otherwise I’ve got plenty of pictures that could be uploaded – three days of walking, two glacial lakes, and a peak will get a few pictures.

Today we’re off to a “forest of rock in sand”, just up the valley here near Huaraz. There is a lot of climbing – we’ve got supplies for 3 days, we’ll see if I continue to be keen to climb that long. Ol and Jess are climbing really well at the moment and are dead keen to get out there. I’ve always got my book 🙂





Back in Huaraz

5 07 2007

Man, this keyboard sucks. I´ll find a good one one day.

I wet walking the other day around Huaraz. Pretty normal behaviour for me. Then I decided to go a bit higher try to acclimatise. And went walking some more. Damn! Those moutains are big – if only I was a moutaineer. I keep making excuses, such as I left my boots home (already regret that!). Stu ad Kev know the real reason…

It took me a few days to get used the altitude – it really is high here. But I´ve seen a few glacial valleys (alarmingly vacant of glaciers). I´ll see more when Ol and Jess rock up (in a week or so). We may have to reconsider the Lodge as a base, but we´ll discuss that when I see them.

So that I don´t exhaust all of the possibilities around Huaraz, I´m jumping on an overnight bus in an hour down to the coast. Just to see what is there (a get my breath back). Travel is pretty cheap – a 8 hour bus ride is 30 soles (less than US$10). So I can probably afford to go there and back for a week 🙂 . The worst bit is we arrive at 4am. Hopefully I can sleep in the bus station until the sun rises.





Mt Barney

3 06 2007

Walk today, up Mt Barney, 1360m. Surprising that there is a hill that big so close to the city.

10hrs walking. Slowed down a lot by my walking companions.

Got to sleep in the Hammock on Saturday. Very comfy, but I got a bit cold. After getting in the sleeping bag it was ok again.





Trangia vs MSR Whisperlite

12 05 2007

Ok, I know this is nerdy, but I did test these guys just to see which one really is better.

I’ve had a Trangia 25 (the bigger size) for ages and ages and it’s been great for all of that time. I went and bought an MSR whisperlite shaker-jet, basically because I’ve always wanted one. I didn’t really need it. But since I’ve got it, I thought I’d find out which is better.

I weighed them both:

Trangia
Wind shield: 400g
burner: 120g
grips: 55g
funky strainer/chopping board: 100g
pots (1.75L): 160g
(1.5L): 145g
lid/frying pan: 220g
All together: 1.06kg

Whisperlite
burner: 280g
fuel pump: 65g
spares/stuff sack: 40g
and I need to get some pots (or use the trangia pots)

The whisperlite is clearly lighter, mainly because the windshield is a piece of aluminium foil, rather than the solid storm shield of the trangia.

To boil three lots of 1L of water, the trangia used 75g of ethanol, the whisperlite used 35g of unleaded petrol.

The first litre took the trangia 9.5 mins, the second and third 7.5 mins each (the burner was already warm on the second and third goes).  the MSR took about 2 mins to prime and get warm, and then boiled the first liter in another 5 minutes. the second and third liters took 4.75 and 5 mins to come to a rolling boil.

The whisperlite is clearly faster, uses less fuel, fuel is easier to obtain and  is lighter. The trangia is far more stable, has a better wind shield, is dead easy to use, is cheaper, has no moving parts, doesn’t use explosive fuel and is plenty hot enough (the burn on my finger attests to that 🙂 ). Plus I prefer the smell of methanol – I had a headache for the rest of the day after playing with unleaded. But which one is better? That depends on whether the fuel pump ever springs a leak… But I’ll be taking the new toy away with me.





Softy

15 04 2007

After returning from Tassie, I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts. The week on the trail was a good break (apart from the obvious), and:
I had a cold (I hate sniffing all the time, but there’s no other option on the trail), bad enough that the ‘glandular’ glands came back (not again!!!);
I cut my hands up pretty bad on the trail – swinging off branches I expect;
I got a bad cut at both corners of my mouth; and
I hurt my knees.

Now that we’ve been home for a week:
The stress knowing that we could have died is reducing to background levels;
The cold is lingering. (just go away, damn it!);
The hands, mouth and miscellaneous damage is healing nicely (sometimes I ‘m amazed at the regenerative powers these bodies have);
My left knee appears to be buggered.

Since I’ve had a cold, and work has been somewhat busy, I haven’t been super active (well, not active at all). Today I got fed up with feeling sorry for myself and moping around and decided to go for a walk. Ok, so it was reasonably fast and over an hour, but my body shouldn’t have a problem with that!

Well… now I can’t walk. Stupid knee. It seems to be inflamed or something. Just wait ’til I take it running tomorrow (if I can walk on it) 🙂

I have spent most of the day reading others blogs about traveling. Hooked on a blog from a girl from somewhere in US, currently traveling in NZ. Interesting how others like to travel. That’ll be me in about 2 months. Yay!





Federation Peak – Easter 2007

11 04 2007

Or: Feders to Farmhouse with 13 Tic-Tacs

The cut-scene of the bright blue ruck sack tumbling in slow motion down the ridge toward the edge of the cliff is seared into our minds. As the pack approached the edge of the cliff it began to slow. Someone yelled “STOP” in a vain attempt to command the pack.

Tink
Tink
Thump

Wait…

(Echoing from the depths…) Tink

The metal cup on the outside of the pack hit the cliff several times on the 400m decent to the lake below.

The party stood in shock for a few moments. Three of our group had been hiking together extensively before, but we’d not had to deal with a situation quite like this. Three days from the road, on a steep ridge in cloud on wet rock, and we’d just lost a quarter of our gear.

The three up front, initially thinking about negotiating one of the less treacherous parts of the southern traverse with our packs turned to look back at Graham, who was now standing in all he owned – and would own for the next few days. This was limited to normal walking apparel, a bum bag with some scroggin (the 13 tic tacs) and (thankfully) a Goretex raincoat. The vote to pack haul the current obstacle was as instant as it was unanimous. All of the party could very easily visualise the same situation in slightly different circumstances; had someone lost their footing in the same place, the chances are very high that they would have been dragged down the hill still attached to that pack. The outcome of that is painfully obvious.

The trip up until this point had been a reasonably standard traverse of the Eastern Aurthurs Range with a possible summit attempt of Federation Peak. Due to the normal work commitments (and a slightly unexpected, although welcome, pregnancy with Kevin’s wife), the first week of April was the only available time to complete the hike. A few weeks before the hike we heard about the huge bushfires in the South West national park. There were a few nervous weeks requesting updates from the park Rangers on the fire situation, and a backup plan created, but in the end the tracks and campsites were all reopened on the Tuesday before our departure. As it turned out, we were the first hiking group in the area following the fires, although there was evidence that the rangers had been there to begin the cleanup at some point after the fire had been through.

On arriving in Hobart Graham found his boots had been accidentally thrown away by a (well meaning) parent. Not the ideal start, but a trip to the camping store soon fixed that.

The first day of the trek involved picking up Kev and Stu from the airport (Steve had been sent ahead early to organise food and fuel, and Graham was staying with family in Tasmania prior to the hike). Pre-organising food and equipment was handy as it meant we could go straight from the airport to the start of the hike (useful for those with limited leave passes from work). Later the same day we hiked from slightly outside Tahune along the Huon Track. The same track we had walked a few years earlier at the end of a traverse of the Western Arthur Range. This is not the most popular approach the Eastern Arthurs Range; we had chosen this route to make a loop walk (in and out via Tahune) and to link it with the Western Arthurs walk we had completed several years before.

Following along the Huon track, from Tahune to Cracroft Crossing took the remainder of the first day, and the second day of the trek. The highlight of this section was on the morning of the second day, when Stuart came trudging back from getting water, dripping wet. He’d managed to fall into the Huon River when a rock he was pulling up on broke away. He did a good job of it too – boots, fleece jumper, everything he was wearing went in and was, of course, dripping wet. Somehow he even managed to cling on to the water bottle through it all. Luckily the weather was kind, and we managed to dry all of the clothes (except for the jumper) by the end of the day.

Along the Huon track we also came across the signs of bushfire. Although the fire had swept through the area some weeks before, there was still a heavy smell of ash and smoke along much of the second and third days walking (across The Razorback and the plains on the way to Luckmans Lead). The button grass plains had been blackened. The plants ability to recover from fire was already evident; the black charred background was already interspersed with green shoots from the button grass. The bracken also made an amazingly fast recovery, several shoots were over a foot high, with 3 or more fronds. The plant life was clearly damaged by the fire, but it appears the flora recovery is already well on the way.

The longer lasting problem may be the fires effect on the peat soil. More than once while walking the smell the smoke intensified. A short exploration off of the track and we found the peat actively smouldering in places. At times we could also see thin plumes of smoke in the distance from areas that were obviously still smouldering. Around the base of burnt trees the peat is just gone, as if a large animal has eaten the soil. In water courses the massive erosion is evident as the ash is washed away. Another effect of the fire was to destroy all of the duckboard across the plains (on our walk only the area around McKay’s Track has been effected, but the south west area would have lost much of its duckboard.) This means the track has been reduced to a double line of nails across the button grass plains in places – the nails being the only part of the duckboard not to burn.

Once we began climbing in to the Eastern Arthurs range the effects of the fire fell away, and we were back to climbing over tree roots on the steep ascent from Luckmans Lead to Stuarts Saddle. As we rose, we left behind the great weather we had been enjoying and ascended in to the clouds. The target for the day was Goon Moor; the platform campsite (with water tank) at Stuart Saddle and the brief but spectacular view of Federation Peak we were granted as the clouds cleared beguiled us and we decided to camp early on the Saddle. The climb from the plains is steep and hard work, but no harder than our memories of sections of the Western Arthurs, and the track is in good condition – we had little trouble following it.

Day four began and ended in the cloud. The weather maps we had seen on our departure resulted in several still days, which in the south west resulted in thick pea soup on the peaks and high cloud with reasonably still conditions over the plains (although we couldn’t see this, we assumed it must be the case). This weather turned the days walk from an enjoyable saunter in the mountains into a slog. The wind we did have was icy and blew from the west (seemingly via Antarctica). There were the occasional difficult sections on the route, but in general it was a pleasant track, unfortunately dominated by the weather (as is so often the case in the south west). By the time we realised we were at Thwaites Plateau, we had crossed it, and were faced with the prospect of backtracking to the campsite, or descending to Hanging Lake. Neither option was appealing, but the short decent to Hanging Lake was well worth it, as the (platform) campsite was sheltered and had abundant water. We were less than a kilometre from our target (Federation Peak summit) and in a position that no-doubt afforded stunning views, but the clouds prevented us from enjoying the situation.

Day 5 broke as cloudy as the preceding day. To maximise our chances of reaching the summit, we delayed out departure in the feeble hope that a few hours of sunlight might allow the clouds to burn off. We began the Southern Traverse soon after rejoining the main track. Like most groups (it appears) we followed the odd false trail as we picked our way carefully around the trail. The first major challenge on the track was where Graham chose to carelessly roll his pack into the void. This affected the group in more ways than the obvious loss of equipment. Two of the group are confident rock climbers, a third has some technical ability but is not confident unroped at heights and the fourth has had very limited rock exposure, but is confident on his feet at heights. Initially the pack incident caused all to become very hesitant on the rock, although three of the group recovered within an hour or so (two mainly due to their high experience on rock, and one because climbing without a pack at the speed of those that have a pack is relatively easy). The incident really effected Steve, who was overly cautious for most of the day (until well down Moss Ridge), which significantly slowed down the group. The worst part of the traverse was the climb only a few hundred meters before the final decent to Bechervaise Plateau. A very steep climb up a gully with great exposure and great difficulty pack hauling (it was easier to do the climb with the pack on than try to pack haul). After the events of the day, and the state of the groups (well, Steve’s) confidence this obstacle was very slowly negotiated. The gully was almost completed when a 20cm wide chunk of shale was dislodged hitting Stu as he was climbing the short vertical end of the gully. Luckily no major damage was caused (although again, there was potential for serious drama).

Upon reaching the Bechervaise Plateau, a quick, late, lunch was taken, and we decided (quickly) that camping a night in the mountains without a sleeping bag each would be unwise and we decided to get as far down the mountain as possible. As it turns out, Moss Ridge is a significant obstacle going down as well as up, and this took the best part of four hours to complete. Some of the climbing involves literally trusting your full weight (body plus pack) onto thin (1 inch diameter) tree stems, and several occasions of using very scant hand holds (for example, roots of around 1cm in diameter, or handfuls of mud). The sections that were not vertical involved climbing over, under, around and along tree roots and tree trunks in very dense forest. Although the pace is unbelievably slow, it is not reasonable to go much faster than about one kilometre per hour. The track really is that difficult to follow (although not overly dangerous). The bulk of the party arrived at the first crossing of Cracroft River, and the first possible tent site, right on dark (Graham had gone ahead early as he had no torch, and walking long this track in the dark without a torch would have been especially difficult).

Since we had decided to cut the hike short (and minimise the discomfort by leaving the area as quickly as possible), the remaining supplies were more that enough to be shared amongst four. Luckily, we still had enough equipment to make a relatively normal camp – the pack that was lost contained all the equipment for one person, with no shared gear. This means we only had to make up one sleeping bag (by combining all of the raincoats and thermals available). We were extremely fortunate with this – any other pack and we could have lost a tent (or parts of), the bulk of the food or the cooking equipment. An event like this really demonstrates the fragility of our experiences in the wilderness. A tent and sleeping bag gone will suddenly turn a week hike from a pleasant way to get away from work (and our normal lives) into a survival situation.

Day 6 started after a night of occasionally heavy rain. We were again fortunate that the weather cleared for us to strike camp (in record time since we had Graham who had zero gear of his own to pack away). Today we realised we had a long day ahead of us, to get out of the SW NP. Our
original plans had been laid aside, opting for a rapid retreat. The day was a long slog through countless bogs over button grass plains and through sections of forest, although none as dense as the trip down Moss Ridge. Apart from the normal struggle of walking with saturated feet (new boots and gaiters can only keep you dry through so many hip deep descents into the mud) the walk was mostly uneventful. At the trail head, we decided to eat a quick meal and continue on for a few hours in the dark on the road to Tahune. A call on the satellite phone to arrange an early pickup tomorrow, and we were off again. Two of the group are rogainers and adventure racers, so walking at night should have been no problem, but with wet, sore feet the first shower of rain scared us off the road into the tent (after only an hour or so of walking in the dark). A short while after making camp a single car drove past. Since it was Thursday night before the Easter weekend, we were expecting at least one group to arrive at the Farmhouse Creek parking area. It was a few days later that we heard of a fellow hiker who had fallen and perished on the same slopes we had recently traversed. Given the ease that our pack toppled off of the mountain, it is easy to see how a person could go the same way, and our route didn’t include a trip to the summit of Federation Peak (reportedly the far hardest part of the trip). Despite this, all who enter the area know (or should know) the dangers and must accept these dangers. In the present climate of litigation and liability, I really hope public access to this area is maintained always, so people can make their own choices about their skills and the suitability of a trek in the region.

The final day walking out of the forestry areas (before the pre arranged midday rendezvous at Tahune) was a little dull. Walking on forestry tracks will always be dull after walking in the mountains. Also, given the graphic destruction wreaked on the forest in this area by the foresters is pleasing to know that vast areas of the South West has World Heritage status and will never be logged. On arriving in Tahune I reflected on an article1 I had read just prior to leaving Hobart, where a runner described his 22 hour journey to the summit and return. Our group had spent that much time travelling one way (not including stops)!

An eventful little trip. One that I doubt any of us will repeat lightly. If I ever make an attempt on the summit, it will be roped. After our experiences, and the extremely unfortunate fatality so closely following our trip, I don’t mind admitting to being fairly nervous about the mountains now (directly after the trip). But that wont be able to keep any of us away from the mountains for long.

1. Warwick Daniels “Federation Peak in a day”, The Tasmanian Tramp No21 – January 1974. Journal of the Hobart Walking Club.