Bimberi Gap, Blue Waterhole and Bushbashing

Participants: Rose, Alex, Tory, Lym, Anna and myself

Based on: Cave Creek and Deadhorse Gap – John Evans

On the October long weekend Six of us decided to head out on an adventure in the Bimberi Wilderness, a section of stunning rugged wilderness that straddles the NSW and ACT borders. Starting out the weather forecast had seemed a little dire, with sub-zero temps and rain/snow forecast for the first day – but it was supposed to clear and my did it do that.

The walk started easily enough with snow on the drive in, and then a few kilometres of fire trail to get started. We checked out an old hut and had lunch in the sun (with warm jackets on though).

After lunch though we went up. Up and Up. We basically tracked a bearing due north, pushing through the scrub that has grown back after the massive Canberra bushfires 15 years ago, trying to pick the easiest route where we could. Our goal – Bimberi Saddle on the ACT NSW border. Mt Bimberi is the ACTs highest peak, and if we’d had time we would have climbed it. But the scrub was thick – we averaged about a 1.5km/hr that afternoon as we climbed until 5pm-ish.

The views from the top were worth it, and as we found a camp up on the top of an unnamed peak we forgot the climbing and just thought about the views and how cold it was!

 

Day Two – Bushbashing Galore!

The second day was set to be a tough day from the start, but geez we pushed through a lot of scrub. I like to think I am pretty comfy offtrack, but this was one of those walks when I was glad to have a second good navigator to share the load with, and was happy to see our fire trail after five hours and 8km of scrub. Honestly, as much as I loved it, I think the group was close to breaking point a few times and I would recommend people be aware of this going into the walk! There were some personal highlights including seeing a couple of Gang Gang cockatoos, some stunning views, and some excellent laughing as people attempted to climb over and under things!

Anyway – point is it took us most of the day to bushbash and hike our way through Cave Creek which was our campsite for the evening.

We got an excellent spot next to the creek where we spent the arvo swimming, meeting the locals and enjoying some whisky around the fire!

 

Day Three – Cave Creek and home

The final day started with a massive climb, but “luckily” wild brumbies and people had carved a very clean and easy track up the hill the whole way. After a day and a half of bush bashing it felt both a luxury and like cheating.

Once at the top we got our first views of Cave Creek, found a tonne of fossils which Lym (our resident geologist) explained and identified for us, and were soon at the gorge.

Heading up the creek was spectacular as always, and gave us the opportunity for another swim or two.

 

The last section of the walk from Blue Waterhole onwards took in the wide open snow plains and showed just how large the brumby population is.

Illawong Hut Weekend

In August friends of mine from Omafiets (see the Jagungal Ride) invited me to join them on a weekend snow-shoe trip out to Illawong Hut, a private hut that one of their friends is a member of. While it is not my usual style of snow trip, a weekend in a heated hut with food, books and games was not something to say no to!

It is only a short walk out to the hut itself, and the weather was pretty bas so we spent a lot of the time doing small little activities nearby including tobogganing, ice cave building and a small walk.

Here are some happy snaps!

 

And some happy videos

Major Mitchell Plateau – The Grampians

Over the June long weekend I went for a leisurely stroll through the Grampians in Victoria with a school mate Josh and his brother. Neither Josh or I had hiked there before, so in the end we picked the hike with the toughest description that formed a loop – and man we picked well!

The Major Mitchell Plateau walk climbs from the bottom of a valley up a long but gentle track that follow the side of a ridge line right up on to the Plateau. We picked the weather window perfectly, with rain for a few days before hand the area was lush and the creeks were all running. Plus we started the walk in dense cloud and fog  (which would come and go the whole weekend) so that until we were well up the side of the plateau we genuinely didn’t know what we were getting into.

The views when the clouds did seperate were spectacular!

On that first night the campsite was absolutely packed, to the point where a group of older club bushwalkers went around and hassled everyone to make sure that everyone had permits! Being jammed in did have the advantage that we met our neighbours and had some great chats – we got along particularly well with a group of outdoor ED people from Melbourne. They were telling us all about how they had a car at the end of the second day and were going to drive into town to get indian and beers for dinner. We of course put in an order, half jokingly.

The second day of our walk has a heap of hills, often quite steep so I am glad we had dry weather otherwise I imagine parts of the track could have been treacherous. However the track is in the process of being massively upgraded for the future Grampians Peaks Trail which I can’t wait to do once it all connects up. One section consisted of beautifully made stairs on the way up, and then sketchy(ish) narrow footpads on the way down,  so it will be really interesting to see what the final track is like.

We were treated to a lot more views on the second day as well which was a treat.

When we arrived at camp we were in for a treat. Our friends from the previous night had beers and snacks for us! They even brought us home some indian! Thank you so much crew!

 

 

Rumble in the Jagungal #2

Over the Easter weekend I joined my friends Chris (from canyoning adventures) and Ollie (from my ride across Wales) on a bikepacking adventure through the Jagungal Wilderness. The ride was organised through Omafiets bikeshop which they happen to run, and is one of their 2018 Shop Rides which is an awesome initiative. As it was the second year the ride has been run it was called the Rumble in the Jagungal #2.

The ride they’d planned out was to me big and intimidating – although nothing like the Hunt1000 or the Monaro Cloudride – it still aimed to tick off 124km with over 3000Vm in four days. Given the number of injuries I have sustained over the past year or two I honestly wasn’t sure how I would go, but with a lot of physio and my new pilates classes plus a little bit of training I set of with the bunch on Friday morning ready for an adventure.

Day one started with a long slog up from Dension campground on a good fireroad – at 15km to the top it was a nice way to warm up the muscles before heading onto the double track out to Mackay’s Hut where we camped the night. Until we got to camp I hadn’t really realised the number of people who were joining the ride (39) or the diversity of fitness, experience and gear of those people. It was amazing to watch the faces of everyone as they arrived to a chorus of “Yewww’s” from those who were already there!

Day two was probably the toughest -the steep ascents and descents meant a whole lot of hike-a-bike when the hills were just too steep and too loose to ride up, and then some brake testing descents. But once we’d made the Mt Jagungal turn off the ride along the ridge line was beautiful and not something I’ll forget – just riding along chatting to other riders and enjoying being on a bike. At Round Mountain Hut we were treated to an absolutely stunning sunset!

Day three proved to be my un-doing. A short section of road, followed by an epic descent and then we were on the climb out of Happy Jack’s pondage. This hill wasn’t so much steep as relentless and the fatigue was enough to bring back the knee pain I’d avoided the past few days. After hanging out with Ollie and a few others for lunch I decided I would bail back to the car and head home.

A massive thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome on the ride, and to Chris and Ollie for organising!

Cotter Micro-Adventure

On Friday night I rode out to the Cotter for a night in my bivvy bag, and then rode back through to Canberra the long way. It was an excellent little micro-adventure and well worth the crazy rush trying pack up on Thursday night.

Can’t think of anything else to say really, so enjoy a photo or ten.

Sri Chinmoy Jindabyne Multisport – reports from Many!

Six friends and I recently took part in the Jindabyne Multisport Race which is run by the ever amazing Sri Chinmoy. As usual this was a pretty awesome event.

As I only did two of the twelve legs I asked everyone in the team to add their thoughts, lets just say they got carried away! I’ll have to work on my own reports eventually (potted summary kayaks are slower in surf skis, but can make it through storms without capsizing) but for now enjoy Alex and Joyce’s reports.

Alex

I got up at 5am super excited to get my 1.5km swim out of the way. Paddy and Rose accompanied me to the start line with 40 or so other competitors. I was worried about how cold it would be but the main thing was the darkness. The sun was only just coming up and it was overcast and … I had tinted goggles. I couldn’t see the buoys I was supposed to swim to, so great start! We started with the Sri Chinmoy minute silence before the race and off we swam! I panicked a bit but just tried to stay out of the crowd so I wouldn’t get swum over. After calming myself down and getting into my stroke, I eventually realised how warm the water was and from there all was well. I still couldn’t see the buoys but I just followed the swimmers ahead of me (there were plenty of them) and it was fine. The course was a loop, swimming clockwise around 2 buoys before heading back into the start line. Once they got our team number down, I quickly went to high five Paddy and push his kayak into the lake and he was on his way!!!

I now had the whole day ahead of my before I would have to run the final leg. Rose and I went to where Paddy was to finish his paddle and got her ready for her run leg. Paddy arrived and Rose was on her way! As I took the kayak back to the car with Paddy he mentioned “That was hard, really hard … don’t tell Rose”. And I didn’t… until the end of the day 😛

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Lucy organised amazing accomodation that allowed us to watch the 2.5km swimmers and paddlers in the lake. All the swimmers looked the same (sorry Hazo) but we got to cheer Rose on as she paddled on the way out! She was going hard! There was an awkward soloist behind her who was asking for directions. Just follow the others?

After a solid nap and some lunch and more waiting, I eventually got the call! With my lift held up due to poor Joyce waiting for her ferry, Rose drove me to the start of my run. We waited again for Paddy and was given serious warning about the slippery muddy bank, which I needed to be careful of when tagging my fellow paddler. Paddy came in, we high fived and I was off! This was an easy, flat 5km run, mostly along a footpath to the end. A soloist had just come in minutes before Paddy and I was slowly catching up to him. Maybe 10 minutes in I overtook him and had an awkward exchange where I congratulated him on being totally amazing for doing the race solo. He replied that I shouldn’t take it personally but he doesn’t like being beaten by girls. I told him that it should give him extra motivation and went ahead. Eventually he caught back up to me and we kept each other going for a bit … it was friendly again. I went too hard too soon and at about the 3km mark I let him go. I think he finished maybe 100m ahead of me … no hard feelings (mostly). I couldn’t believe I made it in under 25 min (I still can’t, I swear the course must have been shorter). I love the food at the end of the Sri Chinmoy races. It’s not that great (vegan burgers with stale bread) but it’s just so much fun that who really cares. It’s a free feed. Thank you to all my wonderful team mates for an awesome weekend!! I would highly recommend the event to other adventure inclined folk!IMG-20170305-WA0002

Joyce

Jindy Leg 9

It all started with a burning bite from a phantom ant, which also got James later. This was while we were waiting for Lucy to come in from her run.

Then Lucy came in, the awkward high-five while trying to pass my jacket to her. Then off I went, and had to stop barely 10 meters later … to put on my gloves. What a great start to the 42km of hills.IMG-20170305-WA0003

To sum it up the rest of the ride in a few phrases; spectacular scenery, beautiful creek crossings (other than the part where I had soggy shoes), lots of hills but fun downhills, and was a bit of a mental game. I’m just glad I’d taken the time to write down were the main hills were.

For much more detail, continue reading.

The first 8 km of uphill on tarmac was good, I was pushing myself a bit uphill, but kept counting down the km to the top of the hill, the highest point in the course. In slow motion, I passed two people on the first hill along Kosciuszko Road. Then came the tarmac downhill ride – Wee!! flew down the hill, and hit 73 km an hour! Then a right-hand turn onto Island Bend and a bit more downhill- this time winding towards to bottom of the valley – the scenery was stunning. I knew the hill would end at when the road crossed over Snow River, so mentally I was preparing myself for another big hill. The river was quite dry, but the large boulders at the bed was so beautiful – would be great for a photo if I wasn’t in a race. That was the halfway mark and 53 mins into my ride; I could not believe that I was going that fast, but I guess a large portion of the first part was on tarmac. The hill after that was steep and out came the granny gears. I was still trying to push my speed going uphill, trying to go for smooth pedal strokes and that’s when I passed another person. “Just keep pedalling” I told myself, and eventually I came up to a point where there was an awesome volunteer handing out water and electrolyte. After a quick drink of nice plain water (the electrolyte in my hydration pack was a bit too sweet, and just sucking all the moisture out of my mouth) it was time to tackle the next hill. I had to get off my bike for part of this one, the water stop made me realise how tired by legs were. Then back onto my bike, and more pedalling. The next challenge was to make it to 25ish km and it’ll be downhill with a small kicker until the plateau. Then a creek crossing – the creek looked beautiful and the water was nice and cool. Although I was not a great fan of soggy shoes, I was stoked at getting to cross a creek – it’s not everyday that you get to do that. Before the kicker, I could see the top of the hill (or what I thought it was), the fire road was quite clearly winding its way around, and the scenery was no worse than before. Once again, I kept thinking … “keep paddling and the scenery up there would be even better!”. On the way up, I passed another participant walking up the hill, then road with them for a couple of minutes, before trying to hammer it down the fire road hill. A sharp right turn where another great volunteer was, and then onto the plateau. The next part was a lot slower than I expected. The fire road led onto tracks from flatten grass; that just seemed to suck out all the energy from my legs. The scenery on the other hand was stunning, riding through the grass planes, with some hills on either side. More stunning scenery, a few more creek crossings, and passed another rider, all the while thinking that there was just one more hill. Over the hill and down some speedy fire trails with a few close calls (riding into the water flow-off, and nearly wiping out on a steep downhill rutted road when I got caught on the wrong side; the warning signed early set up by the organisers probably saved me as I eased off on the speed when I saw it). Then back out into the clearing with undulating hills that I was not expecting. The last 5km felt much longer, primarily because I could see the lake, and did not expect the grassy undulating hills. Then the beach came into sight! My thoughts at that point were “Pedal hard and try not to stack when you hit the sand!”  The transition to James was timed perfectly. Just as I entered the beach, he arrived on the ferry and off into the water he went.  In the meantime, I waited …and waited … and waited (with my emergency blanket when the rain came) for the ferry to go back. Other than the cold on the beach, the people were great, had a good conversation with some of the other participants.

Last but not least, a great shout out to all the volunteers and the organiser!

 

Mt Aspiring Hut Walk

After my walk along the Greenstone-Caples Track I met up with my friend Tol from SmilingLeaf for some more adventures. We headed up to Wanaka and then after some messing around for food (again) set out towards Mt Aspiring Hut. Now this was only a short walk of a few hours each way, with huts and such so we took it easy, carried some wine and dips and crackers etc. Really it was quite splendid and absolutely spectacular!

After the walk we headed back to Queenstown and hung out a bit more, with some ducks fo company.

Greenstone-Caples Track

The Greenstone-Caples was pretty much a last minute decision, and boy was it brilliant.

Prelude

I’d just arrived back in Queenstown after the Mt Alfred day walk which had left me with a taste for NZ hills and adventures. I had initially been considering spending a few days around Queenstown visiting wineries and such with my friends, but at around 5pm I got a message from my friend Tol saying she’d just down this walk and it was brilliant. I just had to do it. So actions stations it was. Somehow in 3hrs I managed to book a bus from Queenstown to Glenorchy,  another out to the trial head, shop for a four day walk and shower and wash all my clothes. To make everything easier I had the luxury of packing my bag and loading all my gear and then crashing in my friends tent for the night which was very convenient.

Day 1 – Greenstone Rd to Mid-Caples

By 7am I was up and at the bus pickup point in Queenstown ready for the ride out to Glenorchy. 8am-ish I was in Glenorchy sitting in the cafe ordering bacon and eggs and coffees while reading the guidebook entries for the hike I was about to head out on. Luckily the Greenstone-Caples doesn’t require booking and the huts are big enough that I had no issues getting a bed, although talking to the guides it can be an issue sometimes. Anyway at 10am the bus picked me up and dropped me at the trail head at noon.

The first days walk is splendidly cruisy, 4 hrs of gentle incline up through a wide river valley gives you a good taste of what is install, without giving away any of the spectacular scenery. I chose to start from Greenstone Rd because it was a lot easier to get to from Queenstown, and then all the advice I got was to go to Mid-Caples hut first as it meant you could enjoy the saddle on the second day.

Mid Caples Hut is pretty spectacular with great views up the valley but watch out for the sandflies – they are bigger and faster than anywhere else in NZ and give you no chance to put your shoes even before they start eating you.

Day 2 – Mid Caples Hut to McKellar Hut

This is the main day of walking, and the only one that provides any real challenge on the trip. It starts by walking up the valley before climbing up a spectacularly well made track of gentle gradient to McKellar Saddle (945m) before an incredibly steep decent down to Lake McKellar. The track passes through beech forest and open grazing land meaning you get a really nice mix of views and closed forest so there is always something interesting, while the gradient up to the saddle from this size means that you can just wind slowly up the hill.

Up on the saddle the weather closed in a little (only a tiny bit actually) and went from shorts and shirt through the low lands to full rain gear conditions up the top – mostly it was to stay warm, but also because there was mist blowing in somewhat horizontally. I imagine it wouldn’t be that fun in actual bad weather. I’d also strongly recommend considering lunch before you leave the tree line because there were a lot of people who walked to the top without taking many breaks only to be surprised by how little they wanted to stop for lunch up in the rain and wind. I have to give a lot of credit though to the pair who were huddled behind a tiny bush with their tent fly over their legs to eat lunch – that showed some determination to eat! I made it over the saddle and part way down the track before finding a nice rock to eat lunch on which seems like a bit of a luxury.

After you descent rapidly to the valley floor again you’re into the Greenstone Valley and the rest of the days walk is a deceptively long but rather flat stroll down to the hut.

That night at the hut I met a group of awesome people from England and the Netherlands. They had all come from different locations around the world to hike in NZ and as with all good hikers they were happy to make new friends. We spent the evening hanging out and teaching each other card games. I by some fluke new the best game (Diabolical) so we played a few rounds while chatting and getting to know each other. Have I mentioned ever that NZ huts are awesome?

Day 3: McKellar Hut to Greenstone Hut

Day 3 was described a relatively flat day but the undulations as the track passed around rockfalls and over the ends of ridges that pushed into the Greenstone Valley. It generally just passed along the river flats in between and made for a simply spectacular day. As an additional advantage there were far fewer sandflies.

An hour or two into the day I joined a couple from the group I’d been playing cards with the night before. As we walked along we talked and walked and I heard all about their previous adventures mapping rivers in the Amazon and camping on ice sheets in Norway.

At some point after lunch I strolled off ahead and ended up a fair way ahead, but as luck would have it I spent a little while exploring and detouring and found a lovely spot for an afternoon cuppa just as they were arriving. So, with a stash off coffee and stove in hand we  found a great spot, stripped off and swam out to an island in the stream were we splashed around in the rather fresh water, and then stood in the sun enjoying the amazingly sandfly free location.

The afternoon continued relatively uneventfully with a small interlude of watching horses cross a river.

Eventually I arrived at Greenstone Hut to enjoy the company of my new friends again.

Day 4: McKellar Hut to Greenstone Road End

I had a really early start to head out to the road end as I had arranged for a shuttle bus back to Queenstown at 12pm. I was also really keen to do the detour out to Lake Rere. The day was a fairly solid walk with no breaks which was a shame. Next time I will make sure I have more time!

 

 

Mt Alfred – An Awesome Day Walk

Disclaimer: I probably shouldn’t have done this walk – it is closed above the tree line but in a moment of weakness I followed the crowds (which were significant) and finished the walk. Check with the landowners before completing this walk!

The walk up to the summit of Mt Alfred is somewhat arduous but well and truly worth it. The walk begins with a long and steep climb up from a very small car park up through beech forest. For several kilometres you walk upwards on a slightly eroded and warn track that when I was there a lot of fallen trees. It takes a fair chunk of time to get up there because it is a continuous incline without any level ground.

Anyway, you eventually break through to the tree line and after a slightly scrambly section you are up on the ridge and the views are simply stunning. I had a perfectly clear skies with views in all directions – basically it was amazing.

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The Queen Charlotte Track – NZ

The Queen Charlotte Track (or QCT for short) is a 4 to 5 day walk at the northern end of the the South Island of New Zealand. It is stupendously well built and managed track that is a cool collaboration between landowners and public bodies. The track is mainly well built, wide fire trail that makes for very easy walking that is not challenging except for the grade of some of the hills.

The walk is largely along the ridge lines that divide Queen Charlotte Sound and Kenepuru Sound. In good weather is it ludicrously beautifully, in bad weather the winds and rain on the ridges can be intense. On my trip I was lucky to have a wide range of weather including persistent rain for a few days, beautiful warm sunshine, and sunsets worth staying up until 10pm to see.

I am not going to write much about this trip because to be honest the walk isn’t one worth writing all that much about. There are views, hills, bays and sounds etc. There are fancy bars and resorts, campsites and the odd bench. Basically it is a super long walk along  headland – but that is not to say that it isn’t worth it. It is great. So, instead of reading have a look at some photos.