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!
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.
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!
January – a very wet walk on Middle Head
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
Sometimes you whimp out of adventures, sometimes you take risks you shouldn’t, but sometimes you make the right call and get that combination of factors that makes for an amazing day out. Yesterday was one such day as five friends and I headed down into the Wollangambe for the second of the two main lilo sections (Wollangambe 2), having down Wollangambe 1 late last year.
Friday had seen heavy rain through parts of the Blue Mountains and although not dramatic the river level was probably about 4cm higher than normal. 4cm doesn’t sound like much, but it was enough to speed up the flow of the river and submerge just a few extra rocks so that many of the rapids could be (somewhat) comfortably run without getting off our lilos. So after a rather late start we reached the Wollangambe, suited up and started making out way down the canyon with plenty of excitement.
Three of our party had never cannoned before and had bought some less than durable lilos for the trip so as we floated, scrambled, jumped and swam our way down the canyon, not only was the the usual excitement of falling off, trying to stay warm and wondering if that ominous rumbling from the sky was coming your way, but we kept tabs as lilos became 5 and then 4. Kudos to the guys for sharing lilos and then swimming the last section of with their rather disposable lilos!
Anyway we reached the canyon just as the rain and thunder became more than just a slight concern and made our way up, and up, and up towards the cars!
Thanks everyone for joining me!
Navigating rapids and scrambling over the rocks
Getting started. Wetsuited up and getting used to staying on the lilos. Sam needed a bit of practice.
Canyoning can be so much hard work, especially waiting around while people try to repair their lilos.
In this section I decide not to follow my pack through the rapid, it was a little tight and I probably would;t have been able to stay on the lilo!
Thinking time, Picking a route through the rocks isn’t always that straight forward. Sometimes you also just have to admire the surrounds.
James and Kat
Playing at Serendipity Junction
An easy section.
On Sunday I had the pleasure of joining Tom and a troop of six other SBW members on a pleasant and most enjoyable 11hr canyoning trip through Geronimo and Horseshoe Canyons in the Blue Mountains.
It was a rough start to get to the canyon on time after a last minute discovery that the gate to Euroka Campground doesn’t open until after 7:30am. Arriving at the canyon meeting point 20 minutes late prompted a very brisk walk down to meet the rest of the group at the Pagoda before Wollangambe 1 entrance. After joining the group we all continued down to the Wollangambe River and back up the other side towards the canyon entrance. Tom’s expert navigation meant that could just enjoy the walk and lament the lack of coffee that morning.
Anyway we were soon in the creek and preparing for our adventure by donning our wetsuits and harnesses. Given the warm weather, and my intentions to experiment with canyoning I had chosen to wear my exciting multicoloured thermals and a thin weskit top instead of the heavy weight wetsuits I normally wear. At the start of the day this was a a great idea as the canyon was relatively dry and the sun was out, but as the day cooled down the clouds came out I started to fill the chill and by the end of the day in Horseshoe Canyon I was well and truly cold. Anyone who notice how grumpy I was I apologise!
Anyway here is a selection of photos. I had actually taken my nice new helmet cam through the canyon but the outcome and photos were rather disappointing so here is the limited selection that seemed to work. For more photos see Tom’s Post on OzUltimate
I’m not usual one for fundraising, or asking people to support charities or any such thing. I like to make donations that I can myself, and I don’t really like to harp on about causes but I am about to contradict that ethos by informing you I have signed up for Movember.
During November I will be cultivating the embarrassingly sparse patch of hair that assembles itself ludicrously slowly between the latitudes of my nostrils and my upper lip. Apparently by doing so I am encouraging people to thing about some very important men’s health and well-being issues, which is important. I can’t help but think of the last time I decided to shave my beard and leave a moustache, a period of time when women with children crossed the road and people made comments like “who is that barefoot hippy with a seedy seedy mo” so if you can donate that would make my appearance feel less anti-social.
Anyway I shall stop rambling at this point and say that there are a number of awesome cause out there to support. If you want to support my Movember campaign (entitled “Mos in Movember Only!”) click here.
Otherwise I would encourage you to consider these other worthy causes that unfortunately seem eminently relevant to friends and family at the moment.
The Cancer Council
The Royal Flying Doctor Association
Glistening fields of snow, icey cornices hundreds of meters long near the peak of Australia’s tallest mountain, camping on snow with mountains and granite the only things in sight and walking across the snow river. This weekend was excellent in a way that I can only struggle to describe.
Early on Saturday I awoke to the dulcet tones of my alarm phone, quickly joined by the sound of my cousins dog wanting desperately to take its place in the bed I was about the vacate (that dog is a firm believer in energy efficiency). The early morning gremlins tried to convince me that after water bottle leaks, missing gear and generally shambolic packing methods the night before – going snowshoeing for the weekend wasn’t a good idea. Luckily common sense vacated the area and I picked up my gear and waited patiently for my lift to arrive. Nicole, Ellen and I were heading up into the backcountry near Mt Kosciusko to explore the snow fields before they melted and hiking started to resemble hard work.
Tumbling into the car I resumed my stupor until coffee made its way I to my blood stream somewhere near Thredbo. After much consultation on the various merits of thermals, ski pants, shorts and over pants our little gang was permitted upon the suspended skyward chariots that form the Kosciusko Express and found ourselves deposited at Thredbo Topstation with almost as much ceremony as the unveiling of my goggles.
From there we marched upwards. Not that Nicole (who loves going up hill) forced us to march for more than the 35 minutes. Why 35 minutes? Lunch! This walk was to become the sort of adventure I love where food takes priority over walking.
Anyway as we regained our body temperature after a long break we made our way through the pass and saw our first goal in the distance, the precipit-less Mt Kosciusko. The peak itself is not deserving of the term, but it is put on a great display with a massive cornice and spectacular ice formations on the summit.
On the peak we were told that the trail we’d intended taking towards Seamans Hut was getting a bit sloppy as the late season snow started to melt. This advice turned out to be the best we could have received as we turned away from the snow poles and up onto the ridgeline where few other people had been recently. Away from the touristy tracks the snow was crisp and clear of tracks and before long we found ourselves a campsite on the ridge too good to pass up so we set up our tents, gawked at the astounding beauty of the location we were to call home for the night and before long found ourselves waist deep in the snow with shovels and saws in an impromptu igloo making lesson before retiring very early to bed.
The morning brought even more outdoor bliss as the clear blue skies continued and the chilly temperatures overnight had refrozen all the snow that had started to melt the night before. So, after a morning so luxurious we almost forgot we had to go anywhere, we traipsed down the off the ridge and across the snowy river (we assume. It wasn’t quite clear where it was) and up a hill. Well a big hill. Well up onto the Ramshead Range. Anyway we had lunch on a hill and then made our way back to Thredbo circuitously along the flattest but possible least direct route available.
The clouds are darkening, falling towards the ground. The sky, earlier so bright and promising, is fading towards twilight many hours ahead of its celestial scheduled. Panic sets in about finding a dry, warm place to spend the night out in bush, away from everything except for the dulcet tones of the Pacific Highway.
The thoughts of how to stay dry and warm starting creeping into my head early on Saturday afternoon as the first showers of what the BOM promised would be a night when the heavens would fall down upon the earth. These thoughts plagued my mind as we ambled happily towards Pindar Cave on Saturday afternoon. Pindar Cave is a very large overhang just 6km walk from Wondabyne Train Station, and even with the weather forecast as bad as it was the night was set to be a whole lot of fun as some good mates and I strolled through the bush laden with copious quantities of food.
Now before we go to far, I’d like you to think about the last meal you cooked while hiking. I am going to hazard there was probably only one course, and that the best selling point was that it was nutritious. Got that in mind? Well here is our menu for four for this weekends walk.
Saturday Lunch:- Rare roast beef and humous sandwiches on soy and linseed bread.
Nibbles:- Salami, spinach dip and humous with an option of three breads/crackers
Dinner:- Freshly handmade meatballs in a tomato sauce with a chorizo, capsicum and green bean cous-cous
Dessert:- A selection of chocolates, tea, biscuits and a most excellent bottle of port that taste like maple syrup
Breakfast, course 1:- Museli with cinnamon oat milk and banana
Breakfast, course 2: thick cut bacon on fresh bread
Breakfast, course 3:- home made waffles with rhubarb compote
You get the idea, we ate well.
Now back to talking about weather. As we arrived to camp the slight mist that had been gracing us with its presence intensified into a persistent drizzle. Dropping packs we scampered into the bush collecting what kindling and firewood we could collect without depriving the surround bush of habitat or any of the ample fire-load that has built up over the past few years.
As we pulled in the last branches the skies opened in earnest, with rain failing as if it meant business. Watching around us the track we had walking in on became a flowing stream, and the slow drips along the overhang edge became streams, then torrents of water cascading down in front of us and closing in our little overhang as a true cave.
After a very pleasant night of eating and pretending it wasn’t raining in our comfortable living room, we woke up to find the skies clearing and walking out in bright blue sunshine!
All up I think we have to thank the weather gods for looking after us so well this week, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rain really emphasised the value of camp caves and why they have formed such an important part of hiking culture around the Sydney basin.
The blog has been a little quiet for the past few months, but it is Christmas time and I thought it time to join the cheeriness. So have two photos! One in my christmas present to myself for the next few years, the other is a strange likeness of me that I just happened to find on the internet!
Over the weekend some friends and I went camping at Redbank Gorge and climbed Mt Sonder. It was an awesome weekend with lots of swimming, but 35 degrees on the last day of winter is a bit rude really. Anyway, I survived, I didn’t reach the top of Sonder because I couldn’t handle the heat, but I had a great weekend.
Enjoy my happy snaps!
Walking down Redbank Gorge
The sandy floor of redbank gorge is testament to the massive floods. Only River Red Gums survive, and not always.
Mt Sonder at Sunset
Mt Sonder, the goal of our little adventure.
A legless lizard (I think)
The West MacDonnell Ranges Spectacular as always, and we had rain!
Frame Bags and Cool Gear
Today I won some cool gear from Kath & Kedan at Bike Bag Dude. Although I haven’t met them yet (hopefully I’ll get the pleasure on my next east coast adventure) they are doing some great stuff with bike-packing gear, and doing their bit to support functional, useful and cool cycling bags.
For those of you who don’t want to add racks or panniers to your bike, it might be worth considering a frame bag to carry those groceries.