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.

Corang Peak – Burrumbeet – Corang Lagoon

Update: Corang Lagoon is now closed to the public as it is on private land.

Canberrans are lucky enough to have two long weekends in a row over the end of September start of October. For the Family and Communities Day weekend Alex, Rose and I decided to head out into the Budawangs for a Bushwalk. Originally we’d planned on heading into the eastern side of the Budawangs but luckily laziness intervened when I decided I couldn’t be bothered leaving on Friday night, or even particularly early on Saturday. As a result we headed to Wog Wog camping area early on Saturday morning (via the Braidwood bakery) packed for a 3 day walk.

The walk we’d chosen was described in a few blog posts but didn’t seem to be in anything  more formal. Heading out Wog Wog we aimed to climb Corang Peak, check out Corang Arch, camp at Burumbeet and then find a way through to Corang Lagoon which was described as having  a vague and difficult to follow foot pad before heading back to the car.

From the car park the track crossed a small stream (where Rose got her new shoes wet for the first time) and started the leisurely stroll along ridge lines. Our path took us around the south of Goodsell Basin, along the edge of Korra Hill and then to Corang Peak. We initially missed the turn that would have lead straight over the Peak, instead walking past to the junction and then heading back up without packs.

 

Following a little bit of a photo session at the top we headed off towards Corang Arch and then the Conglomerate Slope. Somehow we managed to miss the Arch itself, I guess that will have to be an adventure for next time, but had a great time wandering down the fun and fascinating rock formation to the bottom of the hill. Alex did a great job with a tricky decent which she never particularly enjoys.

At the bottom of the hill we found a large group of some what elderly bushwalkers set up at the Canowrie Brook campsites. Luckily we were headed to Burrumbeet Brook with its camp caves and drop toilets. The girls hadn’t quite believed me when I said we were going to be sleeping in a rock overhang without tents – luckily once we’d picked a spot they were more than just a little excited.

 

The next morning after a lovely nights sleep, a few minor wildlife sightings and such we wandered back to Canowrie Brook and then we’re pleasantly surprised to find a well formed footpad heading in the direction we wanted to go. This footpad, marked by cairns and pink spray paint, lead all the way to the Rock Ribs and then on to Corang Lagoon.

The Rock Ribs were spectacular, though the walk back out was similar to a canyon exit really.

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The Rock Ribs!

Corang Lagoon was astonishingly beautiful, and luckily it was our campsite for the night. A brief storm and showers didn’t stop Alex and I going for a swim, but did almost drown the tent .

 

Our final day should have been a fairly leisurely stroll out along a well formed track, but about half way I decided to walk up a hill and we ended up somewhat off track which was an excellent idea as we came across a whole series of extremely large pagodas to explore with some absolutely stunning views!

Once back at the car we headed to the Braidwood Bakery again for a snack before finishing the drive home.

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.

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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Gear Thoughts – UK and Iceland Touring

I have been avoiding writing this post for a few months because everyone writes one, and I have been super happy with my gear (a few part failures excepted) that it seemed like a redundant activity,however as I leave summer (ish) touring behind it seems like a good time to do this. Beware it will be edited!

Tent: Exped Venus 2 Extreme
I bought this tent for the trip on yhe basis it could be free standing if need be, was four season but still fairly light. So far everything has been great. I broke a tent pole in the first week of touring through laziness by not making sure the new poles were fully home, and both poles are now notably bent thanks to an early autumn storm in the Icelandic Highlands that was ripping almost everyone other tent to shreds (think 6ft star pickets being ripped out of the ground while they attempted to hold down a marque). The ability to take down the inside of the tent while the shell is still standing has been a godsend and has meant i have had a dry tent inner to sleep in every night.

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Sleeping Mat: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Extra Large.
In summary, I have been sleeping on a plush king single matress for the whole trip. It is comfortable, lighter than my old thermarest was and so so big! An exped schnozzle bag makes it super easy to inflate and hugging the bag is a nice comfort each night in a weird way. It is funny the little routines you get into.

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Sleeping Bag: Mont Brindabella
This bag is super warm, I’ve only zipped it up fully twice. Once because it was genuinely cold,and the second time because all my clothes were damp and I wanted to wear them dry.

Handle Bar Bags: I have a conventional Ortlieb handbar bag hanging off the front of the bike which is great as always, but on this trip I have also been using an Oveja Negra top tube bag and a Bike Bag Dude chaff bag. The tt bag holds my battery cache, and the chaff bag holds a water bottle, snacks or Niew Vine depending on the day. It has really made a difference, particularly on the days with strong wind where reach down into the frame triangle is a little hairy.
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Bike etc is all super normal otherwise. A Surly Bike, Ortleib panniers, Optimus stove etc etc.

Generic Thought: Mould
This trip has been wet, constantly raining or heavy dews or any number of other things and I have noticed a few items going a bit mouldy. My sleeping bag developed a small mould patch near the feet which is the bot of the bag that often has damp dirty feet plus is also stuffed into the sleeping bag first and rest up against the end of the tent so I am not at all surprised.
More surprising is that my rain coast is going mouldy whilst I wear it. It has been on and off every day of the trip, bit has been washed a few times so there you go. A little spotty but all good!

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Scotland Cycle Touring Wrap Up

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Well well well. What have we here? A pub courtyard full of frumpy english tourists. Frowning while looking out at the vertiginous ridge lines of the Lakes District. Guess I am not in Scotland anymore.

After 5 weeks of cycling and 2 weeks of faffing around my touring in Scotland is pretty much complete. Yesterday I caught the train into Glasgow from Oban, put my bike in for service, drank excellent coffee,  ate vegan chocolate banana cake (while maple icing) and piss-bolted out of the city which was clearly larger and busier than I was mentally prepared for. Having teed up with John from Lake District Stand Up paddle boards to head out for an overnight camp to see what SUP-touring would be like I made Keswick my destination, but more on that later (perhaps).

I figure after my not so grand tour of Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebridies and Skye I should give you some form of collection of thoughts on what my impression of Scotland has been.

Shite coffee. Seriously bring your own coffee making implements. I thought remote parts of Australia were bad on the coffee front, but I genuinely had a guy ask me if he’d made my coffee well after serving a mug of instand coffee.
Instant coffee has some benefits. It often comes with a price tag in the islands of scotland, and that gives you a right to sit in a warm dry place after cycling into wet head winds for 2hrs.
Scotland is an excellent place to visit if you are a a lactard like myself. A surprisingly large range of cakes and biscuits are dairy free, including a few fancy shortbreads.
The people are amazingly welcoming, helpful and friendly. They are always ready for a chat and often have the best info on where to go and what to see. They are mostly infuriatingly considerate drivers too.
Otters are a myth. You will not see one, so don’t get your hopes up.

Happy adventures everyone!

Authors Note:

The cycling in Scotland is undeniably excellent, with an amazing array of resources available for cycling including:
● Comprehensive cycling notes
● Cycling accessible public transport
● Free showers on most ferries.
● Legal right to go anywhere and camp anywhere within the extent of the right to roam.
● Towns so close together you could ride with out carry foods, camping gear and probably even water.

In summary. Go ride people!

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Skye and Uists – a cyclists delight

Well what a week it has been. Again. Last Thursday I arrived Wednesday Uig (on Skye) after a few days of rain left me more in the mood to make miles than stop for breaks. Waiting for the ferry i met a swathe of other cycle tourists all wanting to talk about my bike or how far they had pedalled each day ( they all seemed to be smashing the kms). Of the 8 or so cyclists a young couple from Cambridge kept chatting and turned out to both work for the British Antarctic Survey so we had a great chat about their adventures, their extremely outdoors lifes and various other things. In the morning while I dawdled not really feeling like riding they made me tea and chatted some more basically convincing to start riding for the day. Thanks guys!

As it turned out the day was to be the last nice day for a while and luckily I managed to fit in some castles a nice walk up a rather large hill, thr most expensive coffee ever, an amazing curry for dinner (seriously cycle tourists the MacKenzies Store in Staffin is worth the stop, they even made me a dairy free curry to order while I sat and read my book!), and to top it off a beautiful campsite looling up at the Dolerite Columns and dinosaur foot prints of Staffins coast!

The next day it rained. I mean it rained. Like wet through, more than my rain coat could handle, no more then 200m visibility, missed the beauty of Skye type rain. To top it off the wind meant I needed to pesal hard in my lowest gear to get down hills! After a massive lunch of soup and filled potatoes trying to warm up I made the called it was going to a hostel night! A few hours later I arrived at Raasay house wet, cold and disheveled.

Skipping forward through some very wet and smelly cross country exploring (seriously deer fences are not easy to climb over) i finally made my way off Raasay on Sunday afternoon to discover not only were the hills on Skye big, they are craggy precipitous monstrous things that are far more intimidating than i had ever imagined. Despite this the roads on Skye are amazing for cycling maintaining comfortable gradients and good passing lanes throughout. After a day anf a half riding I made it back to Uig just in time to catch the ferry back over to Lockmaddy and it Uists where I have been for the past few days.

Go to the Uists!

Seriously the riding is spectacular, the mechair almost unbelievably scenic and beautiful, the beaches are wide sandy and spectacular, and you’ll love it.

To summarise how amazing -I rode 25km on Tuesday because I kept getting distracted and turning down side roads and then losing track of time! The one thing I wouldn’t recommend is swimming, because believe it is freezing! Painfully so!

I’m now chilling in the Dunbar hostel on Barra enjoying the good company and facilities after two weeks without using a washing machine. Soon I’ll  head back over to the mainland and chill out for a while before my next adventure begins.

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Shetland so far – pretty awesome

So I arrived in Shetland last Friday morning with the aim of being as far north as possible for the summer solstice, and I can pretty well say that I have achieved that goal.
Shetland is basically an archipelago of long skinny islands stretching about 100 miles north to south. Arriving in Lerwick I made a beeline north following bits of cycle route 1 and the lesser A roads to get to the northern Island of Unst in a reasonable amount if time.
As it happens there are a lot of hills in the Shetland group as the twisted and convoluted geology is the result of oceanic continental collision. While nothing is particularly tall there have certainly been a few hills that made me question whether hills and headwinds are a bad combination (they are) and whether perhaps luggage and light weight touring has merits (untried but unlikely). As such I rode about 80km north from Lerwick to camp in a lovely valley not far short of Mid Yell on the island of Yell and managed to find the one flatish piece of not soggy ground I had seen all afternoon. Anyone free camping here. Bring a ground sheet!

Anyway from there it was up to Unst where I found a campsite at the lovely hostel right at the bottom of the island and set about having some “rest days”. As usual rest days just mean you aren’t carry all your panniers so I rode the 20 odd kilometres up to Hermaness Nature Reserve on the day of the solstice which officially gave me my “as far north as possible” claim, although pesky skuas stopped me heading any further north. Check out the “Where am I” tab at the top of the page to see exactly how far north I got.

I am now headed back southwards towards Mousa Broch in the south of the Shetland Mainland. For anyone visiting the islands be prepared to find amazing history everywhere you go. In one day I came across three viking long houses, a bronze age broch, a norse farmstead, innumerable old bods. On top of that I have seen seals, puffins, skuas, shetland ponies en masse and I am pretty certain I saw an otter from a great distance. It is a pretty awesome place to visit!

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The sign associated with this water course was "protecting Shetland's trees". I couldn't work out why.

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Ferries are cool, and convenient

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Not a bsd campsite after a long day on the bike.

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I can see why the vikings put their long houses here

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Dramatic cliffs, sheep and puffins.

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So many sea birds!

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The sail loft bod. A great piece of history where I am sleeping for a few days until I feel like riding. Edmund Hillaries jumper was made here.

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Free mussels from an great bloke in Voe with whom I chatted for a few hours. I did eat some of most of them

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Not sure I'll ever look as surly as a viking!

Edinburgh and back again

So I have spent the past few days riding a loop south and east of Edinburgh enjoying the massive amounts of sunshine that have been laid on presently. In fact is has been so consistently sunny that I am sun burnt!

My riding has followed cycle routes 76 and national cycle route 1 (NCR1) down the east coast and then across to Innerleith and back up to Edinburgh. Starting out flat with some nice pinchish climbs and lots of golf courses and varied track surfaces (at one point the trail was a two inch wind single track through paddocks for a few kilometres) has been great to get used to the handling of my very heavily loaded bike.
The hills have been something of a shock to the system, but I have already noticed myself getting fitter and now I am just tossing up whether to change the rims of my bike to try to reduce some of the massive rolling resistance I have with 2.3″ tyres on 50mm rims giving me well over an inch of contact width.

Anyway enjoy some happy snaps while I plan the next stage of my trip!

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