Mt Twynam Micro-adventure

Over the Easter weekend Rose and I went on a few little micro-adventures. The biggest micro-adventure was from Charlottes Pass up to Mt Twynam and back, while we also ducked out to my favourite rock in the Brindabellas.

Google made a movie of it for me. Thanks Google!

 

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!

 

 

Wilsons Promontory – Another Amazing Walk – Part 1

Almost exactly a year after my last adventures at Wilsons Prom I was back down in this amazing national park for another wander. For this adventure I had a mates bucks party at Tidal River (the park’s main campground) and then a week until the wedding back in Melbourne, so rather than driving back up to Sydney I decided to make the most of the opportunity and see how I found a longer walk by myself.

As this adventure started with a two night bucks party (we won’t talk specifics) lets just say I wanted to have an easy start to the trip. Catching the bus from Tidal River up to Telegraph Saddle I started a slow meander down to Sealers Cove. Almost immediately I met a group of walkers who were all members of Friends of the Prom, a local conservation group who mixed bush regeneration and other conservation activities with their love of the outdoors. Happily they let me wander along the amazingly well constructed walking track with them, stopping very regularly to talk about what every plant and rock was. This was both fascinating and welcome given my state of exhaustion.

Eventually I found a little bit of a walking rhythm and left them behind on the descent down to Sealers Cove. The stead rain over the past week had made the track we and boggy, but heading down hill was fine – the Scout group I met coming the other way had different views.

Eventually I made it down to the beach and the campsite. For anyone who is considering going there – take aerogard! After a quick dinner I was in bed well before dark and enjoying a solid 14hrs sleep.

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Monday saw me reluctantly stirring from my slumber to discover a swarm of mosquitos between the inner and fly of my tent. Seriously there were hundreds of the things!

Eventually I got going and made my way to Refuge Cover which has to be one of the best campsites anywhere. It is a sheltered and well protected, with some much interesting stuff just lying around. According to the informative sign there is even a whale skeleton 50m of shore that is visible while snorkelling. Next time I am definitely taking a snorkel and a wet suit because when I got sufficiently tempted to strip off and splash in the water it was way way too cold to swim out 50m!

The next day consisted mostly of sitting around, reading books, and chatting to the interesting people around. It was particularly cool to meet a guy from Launceston who had sailed up in an open topped 16ft skiff by him self and was just camping out until the winds were in the right direction to head home, and a Canadian couple who were gradually working and sailing their way around the Australian coastline.

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Continued in Part Two of this Adventure….

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.

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)

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

Continue reading

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

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