Blue Lake Adventures

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Last week three mates and I headed out to Blue Lake in Kosciusko National Park for a five days of snowshoeing, igloo building, relaxation and for Dom and Stu some ice climbing.

The trip was dreamed up during our Davies Canyon trip in January and as we all now hail from very different parts of the country there was a huge volume of messages shared in the planning and lead up to departure. However Friday night arrived and after dinner and drinks with friends I went home, loaded the car and waited for Dom and Stu to arrive from Sydney.

Saturday morning we were up at five and on our way to the snow. We picked up Josh from the bus station just after six and had a very leisurely trip down to Guthega with stops in Cooma for fuel and second breakfast and then Jindabyne for all the gear everyone had forgotten.

We eventually made it to Guthega at about 11:30 and started walking at about 12. The walk in to Blue Lake is generally upwards once you’ve crossed the swinging bridge but firm snow with a slightly icey crust actually made for fairly quick travel and we had selected a campsite but just after 4. An hour or so of digging had the platforms dug and tents set up in time for an early night. With bad weather forecast for Monday we knew we’d need to secure the camp pretty well on Sunday to get ready.

Waking up Josh and Dom generally got ready before heading of  to do some ice climbing while Stu and I spent the day building snow walls to shelter the campsite and building what was planned to be an igloo but ended up as more of a coracle. It snowed gently on and off through the day (the snow was in frequent, the wind was not) but by 5pm we’d set up a substantial snow kitchen for the evening and were pretty much knackered.

On Monday morning the weather arrived. Rain and wet snow were omnipresent and the day was pretty much tent bound as we tried to stay warm and dry despite the elements. The wind was an advantage as it meant we could actually cook in our vestibules with great care, but at various points during the day when the snow got heavier we took turns in digging out the tent on a half hourly basis.

During the evening the winds dropped, and then the temperature plummeted so that we didn’t have to dig out the tent, but we did have stiff frozen jackets in the morning!

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The walk out was spectacular as the skies cleared and we ended up back in just thermals on the walk out.

All in all a spectacular and somewhat character building trip.

Camping in a 20hr weather window

The past few weeks have had some pretty unenjoyable weather, plenty of which was a strong incentive to stay warm on the couch but some friends and I had booked a camping trip and the forecast showed a window of reasonable weather in between maximums of 8 degrees with rain.
So, despite some reservations we went. And it was brilliant.

Sure the gale force wind was around until sunset Saturday and picked up again at lunchtime in Sunday but the bit in between was clear skies, sunshine and a lovely fire.

We’d managed to track down a camp oven so we packed a slab of beef for roasting plus so veggies and port. It turned out to be an excellent decision. 

In the morning we cooked bacon, eggs, toast and pancakes then went for a stroll down the Shoalhaven River and found a large amount of ice and sunshine.

Budawangs Hike:Monolith Valley and The Castle

Last weekend was the long weekend in NSW and the ACT so a group mates from high school and I decided we would head out on adventure. Despite my many years of sporadic hiking and adventures I had never made it out there before so this was set to be a great weekend.

The week prior to out adventures an east coast low had absolutely smashed the area, which was evident from flood debris lodged six metres up in trees here and there.

Anyway a rushed packing session on Friday afternoon saw me arriving at Long Gully Campground at around 11pm and I crashed in a heap to be woken at 1am by the arrival of Mike, Dom and Tim who took great care to wake me up. Thanks guys….

The hike was based on a walk described in Tyrone Thomas’ book 70n Walks in Southern NSW and A.C.T. which does an excellent job of setting out the route and points to watch out for in navigating so I won’t bother going into details. The one point I would make is that for people like me who like to sleep in, take breaks and enjoy the scenery the described two days in a full day to short.

So key points of the hike:

  • The views are more spectacular than you can possibly imagine…
  • There are hills, climbs and there is no flat ground.
  • The navigation is surprisingly tricky, there are formed tracks in places, a lot of cairns in others, but there are a some sections  (particularly off Mt Owen returning to Monolith Valley) which require very careful attention to the track description.
  • Some of the climbs are exposed (particularly on The Castle)

Rogaine Flag Collection

On Saturday I headed back out to the site of my recent rogaine to collect some of the flags still hanging out after the event. I was tasked with collecting 11 of the high scoring controls on the eastern edge of the course, which meant there were going to be hills as I skirted the edge of the escarpment.

After a late start (again) I set out across the grass plains, up the hills, down the gullies and generally where ever the map said I should go. Prior to the event I had preprogrammed the co-ordinates of each of the controls into my Garmin watch which meant that I could spend a lot of the day not counting steps and just using a compass for direction, and the watch for proximity which was very very handy.

Anyway it was a big day, but was rewarded with an awesome sunset and sunrise in my comfy little campsite. In fact the sunrise views from my hammock were simply spectacular.

ACT Rogaining Champs – A leisurely stroll

So this weekend I joined two new friends from the ANU Mountaineering Club (ANUMC) for the 8 hour category of the ACT Rogaining Association’s annual championships. For a little bit of background, I have moved to Canberra since my last post a few months ago and am now in the process of setting up life in a new city so everything has been a little slow on the adventure front.

But back to the main story. Following a few facebook messages I met my new team mates at 6:45am on Saturday morning after a late night feeling very very disorganised. Mel and Izzy rocked up and off we set, with confidence someone had the directions and we’d make it there with plenty of time. As it turns out we weren’t doing the best job of paying attention and I missed two or three turn-offs trying to get out of Canberra. However we got there, and immediately Mel starting picking out other ANUMC people to introduce and chat to while we checked out the maps.

The team wasn’t planning on taking it to hard, in fact Izzy was on her first  rogaine and off track bushwalk so we spent the first few hours of the adventure explaining carefully how to navigate, what we we’re looking at and getting very very confused about whether we should be looking for a gully or a spur.

The event provided a perfect route for a leisurely 8hr stroll and navigation lesson. Despite a few scratchy sections of scrub, some very wet feet in the many creek crossings and swamp sections, and some breaks in lovely sunny glades we made good time and worked really well as a team.

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The start crowd. All of these people are planning and wandering around the bush for 8-24hrs. Impressive hey?

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Izzy’s first ever control! Well done team!

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The sunset was pretty amazing. I am keen to go and check out Deua National Park again sometime soon!

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Undergrowth! The choice between thick undergrowth or swamp made for slow growing sometimes

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Lights on. Eyes protected.

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20metres from the Hash House. Not a nice final moment, but Izzy smiled the whole way!

 

Weather for Canyoners

WARNING: THIS IS A LONG POST AND IT IS QUITE POSSIBLY BORING!

 Disclaimer: Make your own decisions when you’re deciding whether to head out on a trip. There are so many more factors than just these to consider!

Sydney has been wet recently. I mean really wet. I mean crazy thunderstorms dumping 30-90mm of rain in an hour wet. With all of this weather the facebook group OzCanyons has been buzzing with discussions about whether it is safe to canyon and what canyons are best. While I can’t help with that info – as a few people like Tom mentioned it really is a decision for the group to make based on experience – I thought I would share a few thoughts on weather resources to help make decisions about whether or not to head out. Like all meteorological discussions remember that ‘the forecast is always correct, just a day or month out’ so take everything with a grain of salt and remember there is no substitute for knowledge or experience.

In summary my process for making a decisions would be the dot points below – the rest of the post will explain some of the resources I use in consideration.

  • Check the forecast –if it is crazy I’ll call it.
  • Check the radar – because I like the image and it is useful (but only at the last minute I guess)
  • Check recent weather data – work out what has been happening recently in the area I am going to – if there has been a lot of rain or storms recently I’ll make a call.
  • Check individual rain gauge data – because the popular weather stations aren’t always close by.
  • Check the forecast maps and forecasts again with the background knowledge of what conditions are likely to be at the moment.
  • If I still haven’t made a decision – check with an expert (like the OzCanyons Crew)

Continue reading

Davies Canyon

Davies Canyon is located deep in the Kanangra Boyd National Park a few hours west of Sydney. Hard to access, hard to do, and exceedingly hard to walk out of it isn’t a canyon to be undertaken lightly. It is easily the hardest canyon any of us had ever done.

Setting out at 7am Dom, Josh and I walked out along the Thurat Tops Plateau and followed the ridge out to the turn off described in the OzUltimate guide. Walking along the ridges was fairly easy but as soon as we started our descent into Sally Camp Creek the steep shale slope made going hard, and the chance of falling and damaging an ankle feel ever present. As it had rain a lot in the past week we knew the water levels were going to be fairly high, but hearing the river from a few hundred meters above the valley floor gave us some reason to be concerned.

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As it turned out the water level was only an inch or two above the normal water line (based on moss and Creek algae guesses) and we decided to head on down through the canyon. The canyon is hard, I might have mentioned that already but was we passed through we encountered the most exposed canyon abseil I’ve ever done suspended from a narrow arete to the side of a massive waterfall and another shorter abseil were the anchor sling was set inside a small torrent of water!

Abseil 1. Photo by Dom

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2015 – variable with a hint of nuts

What a year… I mean really… What a year!

There hasn’t been anything that has happened this year that I really expected, or planned to happen when I was thinking about what 2015 was going to hold in store. It has been a year of epic changes in life and circumstances. They’ve been almost entirely self instigated, and generally speaking I didn’t really consider the consequences of the decisions and actions I have made in advance which may in hindsight have been a mistake but that is what happens sometimes I guess.

Looking briefly ahead it seems as though 2016 may have to be a more responsible and considered year, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be lots of adventures and good times so I think I will be able to manage this. I certainly hope I will be able to.

So onto the potted summary of 2015…

To make it easier I have added a favourite photo (not the best but my favourite) from each month, and have linked each photo to a blog post I didn’t dislike.

January to March

I pretended to have a normal life, with a job, a house, a girlfriend and very occasionally a social life.

I went for some rides, a few short walks, snorkeled and did quite a few canyons. Oh and I went to Fiji!

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January – a very wet walk on Middle Head

Canyoning can be so much hard work, especially waiting around while people try to repair their lilos.

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March – Fiji and cyclones

 April to May

I stopped pretending to have a normal life, planned to go on an adventure and spent a fair bit of time in Western Australia. Continue reading

Covering Ground

Well it has been a busy week or two. Since I last posted I have covered about 2000km of south eastern Australia, visited some amazing friends (at least 12 different catch ups I think) and seen some of the most iconic places of the area. As I have been so busy and tired photos haven’t been a priority but here are a few anyway.

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Wilsons Prom Circuit

On Saturday morning I woke up bright and early excited about what my week had in store. Starting with a long drive from Alexandra I was heading south to Wilsons Promontory and the southern most point of mainland Australia.

My early start unsurprisingly started late with four or five coffees as Terry kept refilling my glass, and then rain, wind a fog made for an interesting drive down to my starting point at Tidal River. What google said would take 3.5hrs ended up taking 5.5hrs due to meal breaks, stops to admire the mist filled Blue Gum forests, and slow Saturday drivers.
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Arrive at the information centre at 2:30pm I was a little concerned about whether I’d have time to do the walk I wanted that day, but 15 minutes chatting to the ranger set me up with an achievable route for a 5 day walk, confirmation of expected walk times and off I set. Continue reading