Canberra - Thredbo Nov 2006 - 250 km solo
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2006
Tharwa to Thredbo - 250 km solo, October 2006
Tharwa to Thredbo, October 2006
(pics can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/micheldignand/)
250 kilometres in eight days of solo walking.
Plan- to walk from Tharwa on the outskirts of Canberra to Thredbo, around 250 km.
Have bought new CDMA phone, will maybe buy a new lightweight camera too.
Glad this keyboard is working... it makes such a difference to walking if I can write as well aswalk!
The plan was this - bus to Canberra, get a lift from my son Chris to the Tharwa Visitors Centre. This is what I did.
Kiandra, October 16th Drove to Kiandra to hide a food cache of three large coffee tins containing metho, batteries, maps and food for seven days. It was a dull windy day, and I hoped the weather would improve.
The start - October 17th
Wendy dropped me at the Bus Station at 6.45 am. The ride was interesting, smooth and fast. We changed in Yass,and went on to Canberra, getting to the Jolimont Centre at 10.30.
I rang Sam, but couldn’t get him. Conscious of the short life of the phone battery. Wandered into Civic with the idea of getting a radio, which I did, at DickSmith, a neat little Sony. I later discovered that the ear-pieces would drive me mad, but of course that came much later.
Got a call from Chris, then, who said I should get back to the Jolimont, because he was waiting there with my lift, his apprentice. Short of fuel, and hoping to find some, they drove me out to Tharwa, which was further than I had thought it would be. On arrival they dropped me off and drove away. Short and sweet, exactly what I wanted. Sam rang during the ride, and I had to tell him sorry, I was already on my way.
It was hot and windy. Neets had warned me about the size of mount Tennent, and it did take me 2.5 hours to climb. But it wasn't any more than the start of many walks. The path was very well marked, with bridges over creeks and even benches every now and again. Views over Canberra, of course, spectacular.
At the top I took the old Alpine track, went a kilometre and realised that it was the wrong way, a new track having been formed. Turned back having added two kilometres to the distance.
The new track is terrific, heading down into one of those wonderful valleys of grassland... must have been an ex-farm. Kangaroos everywhere.
Becoming tired at that point, and it was getting on for 4 pm. I must have been careless, and missed some sort of turn off somewhere, because before long I was on an un-sealed road heading down steeply. I should have known I was on the wrong track, because the map said I should have been climbing by then. But as I was already quite a long way down, I didn't fancy a big climb back up, so foolishly continued.
I tuned in to find Radio National, but on AM, not FM. So listened to not-too-clever Late Night Live, then the news etc, while I wandered on along the wrong track.
At the bottom of the track I could see a road heading high up into the hills surrounding, and I realised that, most probably, I had a hard row to hoe: how true!
Climbed out of the first part of the valley and found myself on a tarred road: Apollo Road, the road toHoneysuckle Creek Tracking Station, abandoned now, where I had been told that there was water and a good campsite.
I waited at the roadside for a ute coming up out of the valley behind me as he opened the gates I had climbed over. Yes, he told me , this was the Apollo Road, and Huneysuckle was at the end of the road, but it was... oh, maybe twelve kilometres!
I was tempted to ask for a lift, but restrained myself. I doubted the twelve ks, because that would have been impossible. But six ks was likely, and that's how it turned out. The proper track would have taken less than half of that, but there it was, I was there and Honeysuckle creek was 6 ks away.
So I plodded up the hill, very tired, very uncomfortable because of my inability to get enough water into me (this seems a problem when I'm working hard). I knew that if the worst came to the worst I had around three litres of water with me, and I could camp on the roadside.
Most of the roadside was narrow, sloping and uncomfortable, but it would have been alright.
It was hard work, and six o'clock by then, and getting dark. The road was mostly steeply uphill, and I didn't seem to have a map that covered my position, but the gps told me I was about 3 ks off the eastern edge of the map, so I plodded on. Hard work.
I was also worried that I was exhausting myself so that tomorrow would be hellish!
Just as it was getting really dark, a vehicle came past me. I waved it down, and it slowed, but then suddenly pushed on. Bugger, I had only wanted to know where I was. However, in the last light I got a fix that told me I was just two ks from Honeysuckle. Head down and trudged on.
Ten minutes later came to the Walking track I should have been on, and shortly after a huge sign for Honeysuckle Campsite.
When I arrived there was a 4x4 with three people, lighting a fire in the rather good dining area (covered, comfortable, table and benches! GasBarbecues!)
Wandered over and said g’day, but they literally ignored me! I think they were the people who slowed down and then went on.
So pitched camp in the dark, made tea then dinner,but couldn't eat more than a few mouthsful. Put the rest down the toilet, and went to bed.
Slept well, showers during the night, woke at 5.30 and got up feeling pretty good. 4x4 people had gone (must have gone the night before). I was more or less ready to go by 6.30 am, but a huge storm came over, so I sat tight and wrote this.
The weather forecast was for showers and thunderstorms. Bugger!
It started to clear, and I was thinking of moving on when it started raining again, so I decided to sit tight until it cleared again. Wasn't expecting rain after such a long dry period, but the Brindabellas are probably different.
It rained on-off, on-off for some time, and at nine o'clock I decided to get going anyway. Pack-cover on,anorak, hunched shoulders, and started off. Lo and behold, ten minutes later the black thunderous clouds disappeared, the sky cleared to a wonderful blue, and I had to stop to take off the pack-cover, mostly because it closes the gap between pack and body, a ventilation thing.
Needless to say the track started off uphill, and for an hour I plodded, pausing every 50 paces. I've found that if I do that I get on up the hill very well, without getting tired. I've been doing that consciously ever since, and it seems to work.
At the top of the hill I got telephone reception and phoned Sam, Wendy and Chris, and Eric as an afterthought.
From there the road went down, down, down, all the way to the bottom of the Orrorral valley, site of the ex-space telescope. That was number two, because Honeysuckle creek had been one too.
Beautiful valley again, grassy plains between fairly high ridges, again thousands of kangaroos. Stopped atnoon, but carried on for an hour before lunch.
Ahead of me was a long steep climb to Cotters gap,no longer on a fire-trail, but on a footpath. I determined to keep a very close eye on the navigation, checking very carefully at least every hour, comparing GPS with the map. This worked very well. When I get to Oldfields I'll do that check again, comparing GPS to map, to make sure I full understand the off-set with old maps, which all of mine are.
Reached Cotters Gap with gratifyingly little trouble, and headed down once again to the Cotter Valley. I wasn't sure where to camp, because the AAWT guide says you can't camp at Cotters hut, nor within 100 metres of the river. With yet again another wide open plain before me, this wouldn't have been a problem, as there were good camping spots everywhere.
However, went to Cotters Hut, couldn’t find the bridge, but the river was very shallow anyway and I just waded it - new boots are good for that.
The hut was locked and unfriendly. Not even a porch.I had been hoping for that at least.
Anyway I pitched camp at the hut, no-one to object, and got to bed at around 7.30, just after dark.
Slept quite well, I thought, but very tired and lethargic in the morning. Took a real effort to have breakfast, pack up and go.
No particular pains anywhere, just feeling like going back to bed with a cup of coffee, some toast and a good book.
Yesterday I had been plagued by a pinching between the waist-band of my rucksack and my belt... I had tried to separate the two by slinging my belt lower and hitching the rucksack higher. It dawned on me eventually that the answer, which I had obviously done subconsciously on previous trips, was to place the rucksack waist-band ON TOP of my belt - absolute bliss, though I think I will have slight scars or bruises there.
Anyway, next aiming point Murray's Gap, yes, you guessed it, at the top of a four-hundred metre hill over about four kilometres. In fact, though the map looked as though it was showing a hellishly steep 400m, it wasn't too bad at all, though it took me four hours to get from Cotters Hut to Murrays Gap. I wasn't feeling too bad, and was contemplating getting to Oldfields hut for lunch and maybe heading on towards Hainsworths ( this would have been impossible, being another twenty ks further on, but I hadn't looked at the map at that point).
So, four ks from Murrays Gap to Oldfields, all downhill.
It should have been easy, but by the time I reached the bottom of the hill and crossed the stream (beautiful one-and-a-half pound trout lying mid-stream), I was buggered, feeling sick and tired, and I knew I wouldn't be able to go any further than Oldfields.
I dragged myself to the hut, ate my lunch with lots ofwater on the verandah, and then laid my mattress on the bed-frame (hope I don't puncture it) and laydown in my clothes.
I don't think I slept, but after a couple of hours I was cold, and dragged out my sleeping bag. Then I was too hot, though of course I could open it.
So now it is 6.30 pm. I'm still feeling a bit feverish. I've lit the fire to conserve metho, and had dinner and coffee. I should have washed clothes or something, but frankly I was too ill.
Have no idea what is the matter, except for the probability of simple exhaustion.
So now I have to think about my plan. One possiblity is to save a bit of time, maybe two days, by going to Long Plain and hitching a lift to Kiandra, and going on from there at a reduced pace, so that I still make it to Thredbo by the Saturday at the latest.
Then I might take a couple of days off work anyway,to recover and to help Wendy get the house back into order.
I've done the GPS thing and checked the map, and made several notes regarding the relevant positions of GPS and map, and decided that I will take the Port Phillipfire trail to Long Plain and try to hitch a lift from Rules point to Kiandra.
It's a shame from the achievment point of view, but it was always a big ask, trying to fit the walk into a limited number days, due mostly to the Mirror Sailing Association weekend falling a week later than I would have liked.
However, just the fact that I am doing this planning and actually thinking about things is a good sign...I guess I'm feeling slightly better.
I was using more metho than I should have, so the night here with a fire and billy is good.
If I get up early (5.30 sees dawn well and truly broken) I'll light the fire, boil lots of water and have a good wash myself, change clothes and then wash the dirty ones (I guess I'll leave the wool shirt unwashed). Then hopefully away to Hainsworth Hut by 8,8.30.
I think it's about 18 ks, so shouldn't be too much. Also, no really big hills, just two medium ones, from memory.
Actually, I'm feeling much better now, listening to music on the Sony, some sort of folksy classical stuffon an ABC station, I think, but I don't know which station it is.
Friday morning, day 4. Up at six am feeling much better. Lit fire, made breakfast, boiled billy can of water for washing clothes, and did this about ten minutes later. Then boiled another billy and had awarm, all-over wash, naked at 6 am with frost all around. Funny, no frost at 5 am, but moderate frost by 6 am.
At the moment I'm writing this while drying clothesin front of the fire. I expect I'll get under way by7.15, and head for Hainsworth. If it's easy I might go on to Long Plain...
That would mean early start for Kiandra, which can'tbe bad.
BUT I don't want to feel like yesterday again. Of course, I'll be fitter by miles, so it might be okay.We'll see. The other point about getting to Kiandra is that I can phone from there. Maybe before that.
Forecast is for some rain or showers today, and there is a lot of cloud at the moment, so the earlier I start the better.
Forecast for weekend is fine but cold.
Well, I started from Oldfields at 7.45, and now I'm at Long Plain Hut, 25 ks onwards.
At the top of the hill above Oldfields I got a signal, and called home - no reply. Left a message. Wondered if it was Wendy's mental health day, and if so she might be in the gym, or in the shower. Called 15 minutes later, and again an hour after that.
But I couldn't get a reply. Should have rung Rivpsych, or Sam, and got a message through during the day.
Not being able to talk to her all day has been unsettling. I got a brief signal at about three, and a message came through, but it was from Eric.
Of course, worrying about it is a waste of time, but I find that I can't help it.
Anyway, walked all day in a growing wind, furious from the north and then from the west, at least 30 kph, but maybe more. I would have said force 6-7 on the oldscale.
It was cold, too, though I walked all day in just my wool thermal, which seems to be living up to the promises of the manufacturer. Just as well, at the price.
Near the water thingo near Pockets's hut saw a dog, trotting towards me happily until about 50 metres away. Could have been a dingo, but looked more like an Alsatian to me. Anyway, he belted off the moment he saw me.
Up towards Pockets I looked at the land, and wondered if it wouldn't have been much more sensible to avoid going all the way around Howell's Peak and the Gurrangorambla range. So after careful consultation of maps I turned off and started cross-country. It looked as though it would save me two kilometres and two hills.
It started very well, the whole area being criss-crossed with wild-horse tracks, some at least as good as the average well-used footpath. There were so many that direction was no real problem, and in fact I sauntered along quite smugly. The wind was increasing, blowing my hat inside-out.
In fact it was great, striding out over open heathland on good paths, and heading in the general direction I wanted to go. Getting back onto the right path was going to be a slight problem, but I knew pretty well where it went.
So all well and slightly cocky about it till I came to a slightly bigger stream than most, Sally Tree creek, with a lot of boggy land beyond it. Tussocks etc. However, it didn't look too bad. I crossed the stream and put my foot on what looked like the opposite bank: my left leg went in to the knee, promptly followed by the right.
I wallowed about for a while, trying to get out of it but only getting in deeper. I turned and sloshed back across the river again.
I found another crossing place, and this time managed to balance on the tops of tussocks. It looked like about 400 metres of this, and it was going to be exhausting. It was.
I was also keeping my eye open for snakes, particularly Tiger snakes, as they love that boggy ground full of frogs!
After ten minutes I realised that a little way from me was what looked like a path, and sure enough, when I reached it, it turned out to be yet another horse track. Of course they know the best places to get across.
So it wasn't far then to safe ground, and eventually I re-gained the proper walking track. Had it been worth it? I expect so in terms of time; and if I had followed the horses I might have saved myself a very sticky, effortful time getting out of it. And if I had decided to take that short-cut 1 km earlier, I would have save a lot more time and distance.
Got to Hainsworth hut at around 1.30, with 18 kms behind me. Had a quick lunch and decided it was much too early to stop for the day, so at 2 pm I headed off for Long Plain. Wind was amazing, building all afternoon. Not too much fun battling against it. As I approached the Port Phillip fire trail, I realized that in those conditions it would have been a bit foolhardy to carry on into the trackless area towards Witzes Hut, where there was very little shelter if the weather did indeed get worse as forecast. My decision to make for Long Plain Hut was a sensible one. 25 ks for the day.
The plan is to hitch a lift in the morning as far as Kiandra, then continue as original plan with possibility of getting out at Geehi Dam (two days early) or Guthega dam (1 day early).
The problem with walking long distances alone is that there is just nothing to do at night. It's a quarter to six. I'll have dinner in a minute, dragging it out and listening to the radio, then early to bed once again.
Saturday October 21st.
I'm always astounded at my mood-swings. Last night I was looking for any excuse to give up the walk and go home, even though I had had a great day's walking. After the day before that, when I was ill at Oldfields, Friday was terrific.
But Long Plain hut is sooo depressing - empty, dark, no character.
I went to bed at six thirty in the evening, more because I had nothing else to do than for any other reason; I expected a long night of lying half-awake, cold and miserable. Not being able to contact Wendy when I could so easily speak to others made me miserable.
I had some wierd dreams - one so horrible that I made a real effort not to go back into the same dream. And then one where I'm the first to come upon a frightening scene - a car has run over a dog. The driver has stopped, undecided what to do, the dog is howling. I run up just as the driver is going to drive on, and say 'Stop!' in a commanding voice. He does. I get down and crawl under the car and find one of those little black & tan dogs with big eyes, short legs, appealing faces, slightly snub noses (I don't know what they are called, but not too dissimilar to King Charles Spaniels). It has a name tag on which is engraved 'Chow'. It seems unhurt, or at least, no limbs broken. I test it gently and it seems okay. There lots of people looking on, so I say, 'Will someone phone a Vet?'.
A few seconds later I get an answer: 'We can't get a signal'.
End of dream.
Now, get this: at lunch time today I finally got in touch with Wendy, who tells me Ziggy has got out on to the road, and of course she has no road sense at all. How's that for coincidence?
Anyway, when I wake up it is five-thirty (well, maybe the first time I wake was around five, because I remember thinking that it was already becoming light.
The night, for once, has flown by. Usually my nights are long and boring, with many wakings and trying to get back to sleep. It was great to wake up like that.
The worries of the night before were gone, a quick calculation reassured me that if I could get to Four Mile Hut by the end of the day, I could easily get toThredbo on time.
It was, however, a miserable dawn. Long Plain was covered in low cloud, and a bitter wind was howling, this time from the East. How can we have bitter winds from the East?
I made strong coffee to overcome the dreadful taste of my mug/jug (never will I use one of those again, especially as I've always measured perfectly well with an ordinary plastic mug), got my sleeping bag and wrapped it around me, and then remembered the radio - I got it out and had missed the first five minutes of 'Round the Horne'. This cheered me up more than anything could have, and I laughed my way through 20 minutes, enjoyed my coffee and was warmly wrapped in my sleeping bag.
The down jacket is good, and I love it; but when you're not working it's not warm enough for real cold. I guess it must have been hovering just above zero. No frost, because of the wind.
So I packed up slowly and aimed to be away no earlier than eight (I wanted to get a lift, if possible, to Kiandra, and I reasoned that there would be little traffic going that before nine am. I was right.).
I nearly went without my daily strip-wash because ofthe cold, but in the end, realising that I could get more fuel at Kiandra (my food-drop), I boiled a billy and had the luxury of warm water. Found I needed to wash off the last of the bog, too, though I had got the worst off in the tiny, muddy stream the night before.
I left Long Plain Hut at 7.50, and headed into a really cold easterly (I suppose that means an anti-cyclone in the Tasman sea). I had on everything except my jacket and my thermal leggings, including my gloves, which I dropped from my pocket as I was leaving the hut, but noticed a hundred metres down the track, thank heavens.
I was happily listening to the radio on FM, very clear, but you have to hold the radio in your hand, and keep turning it to get best reception. After avery short time it becomes almost automatic.
Plenty of traffic going to Tumut, I noticed, but none going to Kiandra. The wind was so fierce and so cold it nearly had me tripping over. However, when it's cold you don't sweat, so you use less water and you stop ponging so much.
By nine thirty, half way to the top of Bullocks hill, the third car I thumbed stopped. I had written 'Kiandra' in big letters on the back of one of my maps, and held the thing up to passing traffic, and it seemed to have done the trick - not a long lift if I turned out to be dreadful!
My benefactors were a pair of mechanics from Tumut, Bernie and 'Me'. Me was half drunk already, though I guess he was still drunk from the night before, and still slurping from a can of VB. His eyes were bloodred and his speech was slurred and reaction times slow. Fortunately it was Bernie who was driving, an older man. They were, predictably, going fishing for the weekend, had the tinny on the back, and going trolling in Tooma dam. Hope they survive, but you know what they say about liquor and water!
They dropped me off ten minutes and fifteen kilometres later. I was so pleased, but of course I could still have made it to Four Mile Hut even without a lift. It made for an easy day in iffy weather. I still walked14 ks or thereabouts.
The phonebox at Kiandra was blessed relief from the wind, and I called home from there. No reply. Left message.
Rang Nigel to confirm Friday pickup at Thredbo (will re-confirm from Schlink on about Wednesday).
Rang Sam at Bruce... his message box was full. Rang his mobile, woke him up.
Told him I was well, and asked him to get Wendy to send a brief message, because I was worried at no response. He sounded drowsy but fine.
So on to the food cache half way up Dunn's Hill. No problems. The wind had dropped, or I was in the lee of something, so I was very comfortable there. I wrenched open a beer, wondering if I could manage to carry the remaining five? (I did).
I had forgotten the chocolate (which had been one of my big things when planning the cache) and it was great surprise.
I filled right up with metho (metholated spirits), though I bet I'll finish with half a bottle. I've never been caught without fuel, but I'd hate to be.
I left the old maps (and notes) and took up the new ones, transferred seven day's food and soups, packed everything away, hid the cache (I hope to be able to pick it up on the way back with Nigel... I hope he'll agree, or it'll mean anther car trip sometime) .
And went on my merry way, only seven ks to do.
Opposite Mount Selwyn I phoned home again, and this time was answered by Wendy, at last. Boy, does she ever sound resentful! But she’s been having a torrid time, especially with the Zigs going missing which must have been horrendous. So I'm sorry, but she'll cope, and we must sort a few things out when I getback.
Got here at around 12.30, I think. Place was even better, including a beaut bench made by a professional 'bush-carpenter', Beasley's Bush Workshop.
The log-pile was most impressive and extensive, and I warmed myself up by bringing down more good wood than I will burn, though I haven't actually sawn it up.
With the stove lit the old place does warm up, even with this freezing wind blasting through the place.
I'm half expecting John Siseman and his two companions to arrive this evening. They left the day before me from Tharwa, doing a complete re-write of his AAWT book, north to south.
I might have overtaken them by missing Witzes, but who knows? There were no tracks in front of me yesterday, where there had been the day before.
I'd like to meet the guy and talk about his next edition (particularly GPS aids), but on the other hand I've been alone 5 days, and last night notwithstanding, I'm happy with my own company for the moment. Added to that there is a thin mattress here and a warm fire, and if no-one arrives I'll sleep in the hut. I guess if no-one arrives in the next hour they are unlikely to.
Now follows a lecture about the 'Ultimate 500' the stove here, which I will send to KHA.
The Stove at Four Mile Hut.
The 'Ultimate 500' installed at Four Mile Hut is a wonderful design, offering terrific warmth from a handful of timber.
On cold nights, as the log book attests, many grateful walkers, skiers and riders huddle around it.
Yet they are still cold, as innumerable stories in the log book show.
Why is this?
Even the slightest knowledge of physics provides the answer: pot belly fires, as is this one, work most effectively in the middle of the space they are intended to heat.
To make matters worse, the one at Four Mile is placed in an open fireplace. So what's happening to theheat? It's going straight up the chimney, together with more cold air sucked in through the door and through the innumerable cracks.
But to move the stove to the middle of this tiny hut would ruin the place. So what is to be done?
The solution is so simple I'm surprised no-one has come up with it before, or if they have, that no action has been taken: a reflective, air-tight seal must be placed around the back of the stove, preferably some distance back from it.
Alternatively, move the stove forward one metre and seal the opening behind it... not such an attractive solution, given the dimensions of the hut.
A wonderful example of the perfect installation of these stoves is to be found at Derschkos Hut: slap bang in the middle of the hut, with no external chimney to suck away the heat.
But why do this? Why take any action at all. The existing set-up has been there for many years, and it has achieved its major aim, that of protecting the hut from accidental fire.
Three main reasons:
1. to warm the hut far more effectively.
2. to prevent people from having the stove goingfull-bore for the duration of their stay, which shortens the life of any cast-iron stove (I'm assuming it is cast iron, but I'm no engineer).
3. to lessen the amount of fuel burned to achieve a much better outcome.
End of rant re the stove.
Going back to the surprise of the chocolate, I don't eat it much these days, but I found it sort of greasy. Wish I had put in a few Milo bars instead.
Have cut lots of wood for the hut, but ended up with a few cuts on my hands in the process.
Just listened to the end of the Jazz show (funny to think we'll probably hear Sam on it in a couple of years!) and the News. Not that there is much sense on the news, and I had been hoping for a weather report, which didn't eventuate.
The wind has died down, save for a few breaths here and there. The sky is almost completely clear. Easy to recognise why people love this hut so much. Some terrific drawings of it, one in the log book and another on a 'welcome to 4 Mile' note on the wall.
I've taken some photos of the place (again), and I might try something sometime.
The benefit of this cold is that there are no flies!
7.20, just about dark, so maybe no other takers for the night.
Sunday 6.15 am
What a night! So cold the waterbags froze hanging above my bed. Had to unfreeze them before I could make tea this morning.
Was wearing everything last night except spare socks and jacket. Had to get up around ten pm to put on jacket. Which in turn meant no comfy pillow, but the rolled-up tent did the job okay. Slept quite well on double mattress.
Second matress was 1" piece of plastic open-cell foam, but made a hell of a difference. Will take it with me today, as it is likely I'll sleep in a hut tonight - Mackeys, I hope. 25 ks again, but relatively easy walking.
Lots of wind at times during the night, but a beautiful clear-sky dawn. I'd guess from the thickness of the frost, which was forming already at 10 pm lastnight, to have been at least -5 °C, maybe lower.
Got up at dawn, 5 am. Made fire, made coffee,listened to 'I'm sorry, I haven't a Clue' from BBC...funniest thing I've heard for years. Must try to record it or podcast it, along with 'Round the Horne'.
Hoping to be away by 7.15. Hope the wind has gone!
Really enjoyed my stay in 4 Mile Hut.
Day six. A fabulous day. Didn't get away until 8.15, as it turned out, because things always take longer to organise, and because just as I was leaving I realised that I didn't know where my gloves were. So I searched for them and found them, of course, in the bottom of my clothes bag at the bottom of my rucksack.
The sky was crystal clear dark blue all day. A gentle cool wind kept me cool, and I strode out happily, listening to the radio for much of the day. Rang Wendy from the ridge over Dr Phillips, and though she was moaning about how hard things are, she was fine, as is Sam.
Had lunch at Dr. Phillips, at around 1.15, and wandered on happily. Passed our campsite on McKeckies creek or whatever it is called, and from there on, heading for Mackeys, I began to get very tired, and by the time I got here I felt exhausted.
As I opened the door, though, the sun streaming through the window, and the warmth from the sun on the metal walls, made the hut seem like a magic, welcoming place.
However, I had a quick beer and waves of tiredness swept over me. I was so tired I could hardly get my dinner. I did that slowly, then crawled into bed. Wearing everything, even gloves. I don't think it was anywhere near as cold, but I expect I'll do that for the rest of the week.
I'm in an amazing situation: I have too much time! Apart from asking Nigel to pick me up as early as possible on Friday, I really don't want to change the overall plan. But how do I spend the time between now and then?
So today 18 ks to Grey Mare Hut. Tuesday to Valentine then Mawson.
Wednesday, Mawson to Schlink Hilton. That leaves me with two days to have a crack at the Main Range, as long as the weather is good.
I won't go over the top unless the weather is like this - clear and stable. What are the chances of that? We'll see.
Going to use the new loo now - last time here it was burned and lying in a rusted heap... I note from the log that it was re-built the following month.
A late start today. I hope to be away by 9 am.
The new loo is interesting: It is the first one I have seen that limits the access of air, with an almost sealed door (rubber flap to concrete floor). I'm wondering why, but it seems that a wind-proof loo might be an improvement over the usual, airey loos.
I’ve measured my pace today. I take 110 paces/min once fit. Almost metronomic in its regularity. I measured it several times on different country, up and down, and I always put my heel down for the 111th time as the hand sweeps by the minute. Amazing. The length of my pace, of course, varies with the angle of the path, but on the flat it is 2x140 on my stick, but now I’m back home I can’t remember how I did it… I’ll have to measure again.
Monday evening (day six). A wonderful day. Sky once again deep blue and clear all day. Virtually no wind. I really hope this will last out till Thursday, so that I can tackle the Main Range.
Saw a huge hare belt across the track at the third creek before Doubtful creek. I hadn't really recognised how big they can be. And fast? Well, yes, but not much quicker than a rabbit.
Doubtful creek has to be one of the most beautiful in this area. I stopped there for a while, but not too long. In fact, most of the day I have spent wondering about the actions of the two body chemicals that I know of, adrenaline and endorphine.
I started to think about how I can start a bit low, but very soon my spirits rise. Very soon after that, I have a hard time not speeding up, and then, for the rest of the day, I just keep pounding on.
So what comes first? I believe that adrenaline is essential to power and speed, and I'm wondering if endorphines trigger greater supply of adrenaline? Something to look at in the future.
On the flanks of Jagungal I got a signal, and a message from Chris. I phoned him very briefly, but then noticed that I was down to one bar on my battery symbol, and I don't know what that means.
So I'm going to hang on to the battery until I reach Schlink pass, when I shall phone Nigel to confirm (bottom of the lift at Thredbo, between noon and 2PM (but could be late)), and then Wendy if I have battery left.
So on I went along that lovely plain. Of course, the track around Jagungal goes up and down pretty heavily, and always seems to be longer than last time, and the climb up the edge of Strawberry Hill is much steeper and longer than I remember it.
I rolled on along the ridge and finally got a view of Grey Mare. On the way, I took a bearing on the pointy mountain on the horizon, and I believe it to be Mount Tate.
I had become concerned about sharing the hut tonight, but fortunately it is now dark and once more I'm alone.
It would be great to meet someone and have a chat, but at the same time I'm used to being on my own now, and I am enjoying my evenings in huts, with fires and the radio.
Great reception here, all channnels. Also, heard a tune today on 2WG of all programs, (actually Star FM) which was a very strong anti-war pop song. I don't know who sings it, but it talks about her boyfriend who is now a Killing Machine, but will probably be dead by Christmas. 'If God is on our side, then God is a clown!'.
Must google it. (Did Google it, but found nothing).
Of course nearly all the rest of the tunes Ilistened to were about how sexy I am, or my boyfriend is. One about breaking heart.
Is Grey Mare one of the most beautiful sites in the mountains? I don't know, but it must be close. I believe Mawson's is supposed to be great too, and I look forward to seeing it tomorrow.
The trouble with Grey Mare Hut is that one gets drawn to the door all the time, to look at the view. Okay, not much is going on, not like at the sea; but nevertheless I keep being drawn to the door. Just as well it wasn't so cold tonight, because I kept the door open until well after dark, just looking out. A pity they don't have a window in the door.
The hut was clean as they have all been, but to my great disappointment there was no billy can. Well, there was a collection of lids, and a billy with holes in the bottom. However, I did very well with just my stove this morning at Mackeys...
Must break in here and tell you that I had my most complete and careful strip wash ever this morning. Completely naked on the grass outside the hut (the steel walls of the hut warm up very quickly in the morning sun, which streams in under the verandah and makes the cosiest morning tea spot!)
One can of moderately hot water, one flannel. Rub soap with flannel until water soapy. Half-wring flannel, wash hair and face, including the ears very carefully. Dunk flannel, half wring. Armpits, neck and upper body.
Dunk flannel, half wring. Feet and legs. Then naughty bits, good and proper. Then more water and do naughty bits again. More info than you need?
It was delicious. Warmed another pan of water and rinsed all over, in the same order.
Stayed naked in the sun (no wind) while I packed, and left about 9.15.
Back to Grey Mare, though I'm growing tired now @ 7.30 pm.
I have sawn down a fire-killed tree from some distance away with a not-too sharp saw, and chopped it up. I lit a small fire, and of course, this hut is reasonably insulated so despite being an open fire, it warms up nicely. Not cooking (used stove) but just for the pleasure.
Had dinner (Alfredo: It was delicious, and I'll have to get more of that. I've never recognised before how nice it can be. Always gone for the cheesy versions which on this trip have made me feel a bit queazy. Mind you, everything I ate in the first few days made me feel like that.)
And someone left a real mug in the 'I don't need this, I'm leaving it for others' box, so I swapped it for the stupid measuring thingo I had brought. Yippee!
Checked that bearing I took earlier, and it does seem to be Mount Tate, though without a protractor and proper bearing compass I can't actually be sure about it.
So now I'm going to read and write in the hut log-book, maybe check on the route for tomorrow, and then go to bed. How about a Milo first? Mmmmm.
Dreams last night:
I had a small trawler in Plymouth. Sam was with me. We got under way, and I found that the engine throttle was right in the front of the boat, completely unreachable by the helmsman. For some reason, I didn't get Sam to handle the throttle, but Instead I hauled the wholeboat out of the water by its bow, so that the curve of the hull could produce a turn, thus turn away from danger.
Woke briefly and then was on a bigger trawler, something like my father’s trawler, Sabella, and we'regoing well out of the harbour. I turn to talk to Sam, look back and see we are about to hit something, so put the helm down full over... and she gracefully capsized!
Shades of Mirror sailing!
Slept brilliantly, warm and comfortable. Went outside twice during the night (drinking lots during the night leads to much night weeing) and the night was relatively warm. No frost or mist, really rather warm for this altitude.
So day 7!
A bit of light cloud in the East, but not much to talk about. Last time I was here there was a huge bank of black cloud hanging over the higher country over Valentine's, and Andrew and I walked into heavy rain.
So to Mawson's this morning. Of course, it's so close that maybe a better plan would be to visit there, then go to Schlink Hilton, tackle the Main Range on Wednesday/Thursday, and sleep at Dead Horse Gap on Thursday night. This would allow me to get up on top before weather breaks.
I'll think about it.
Sitting outside the hut in the morning sun, and a hare, again a big one (or maybe that's the standard size?), hops out about five metres from me, and,without seeing me, hops off slowly down the hill.
It's 6.30. Guess I'll pack up, bathe again, and get going. Grey Mare/Valentine/Mawson/Valentine/Schlink - around 15 ks, so a fairly easy day.
Have found no loo here at Grey Mare. Muct check this.
Yesterday was thinking about 'Letter from Wagga Wagga' or similar...
Found the loo, straight up the hill from the back of the hut. Remember it now.
Also found that I had left my phone on since yesterday lunchtime, and it is still alive but down to one bar. Hope there is enough to confirm with Nigel.
Tuesday evening... how my spirits go up and down!
Only 15 ks today, from Grey Mare through Valentines to Mawsons then on to Schlink. But five of those turned into seven very hard ks, cross-country with virtually no tracks over swampy, rocky land covered with burned scrub stuff, similar to heather. I scratched my leg fairly deeply and bled a bit, to the delight of a million flies who completely covered the scratch in seconds. How do they know? It was a fairly fly-ridden day, with the temperature a bit higher. Not too much radio reception today, either, which might have lowered my spirits.
I had imagined Mawsons similar to Wheelers, for some reason. But from the outside it was more like Hainsworths, a big slab of a place, ugly and unimaginative. However, when you go inside things are different - a well-designed entrance lobby/timber and tool store, and two doors leading in: the main room is great, cosy, homely, lined with caneite, has a small library (poetry, Klause Heinneman, Lawson etc).
The other room is a dump, empty and bare.
A team calling themselves 'The Secret Squirrels' have been looking after the place for years, and obviously consider it 'thiers'. Quite right, I suppose.
Ate lunch and left, looking for a more direct route (when I read the instructions properly, it was clear that I shouldn't have gone all around the valley, but in an almost straight line up and over the hills. It's always difficult to read route instructions in reverse.)
The person who named Cup and Saucer mountain must have had a very good imagination, because I can’t see it.
So I got back on the Valentine fire trail very tired indeed, and my right foot was hurting like billy-oh... the Achilles tendon, I think, which felt as though a bar of steel was pressing against it. This had something to do with going cross-country, because after a while on the normal track the pain eased. I was pretty lame for a while.
So here I am alone again at Schlink Hilton. The mattresses are still here, and I'm taking the cleanest one. Considering the situation here, I'm amazed they stay so clean.
The stove works brilliantly, more effective, I believe, in extracting heat from a small amount of timber than the one at 4 Mile.
I'm so tired and so down (not desperately, but down anyway) that I'm going to bed with a book once the billy has boiled, and I might take a day off tomorrow, maybe just moving down to Whites River, though of course this hut is far more comfortable. We'll see.
Woke to a miserable day. Day eight, Wednesday 25 .
At the moment it is pissing down, though all the radio stations are saying 'no rain'. So I've decided, for the moment, anyway, to have a day off. I've had breakfast, and now I'm waiting for the rain to stop to go and get more water and do some washing. Boiling water on the stove here is slower than directly on a fire, but I do have all day, after all.
My left knee is hurting like hell. Not an acute pain, but an ache. When I'm lying down I have to keep moving it around. I have some extra voltaren, and I might take one to see what happens... no, I'm already taking three a day, so I won't do that, just give it time to rest.
Acording to the book I've done 204 kilometres. Add my mistake-extras and I suppose it's about 220 in all.
Of course, you get all sorts of sillinesses on a trip like this: for instance, although there is a gap in the rain for the minute, I can't go and get water because I have coffee in my cup, waiting for the water to boil, and I need the cup to fill the water bag!
This bad weather is supposed to clear by early afternoon.
I should have been a weather man. It is all I predicted it might be - wind and horizontal rain.
So I made my coffee and had a lie-down, had a short doze, I expect. I heated water and washed my shorts, the filth streaming out of them. The first wash left the water like mud. Hot water and soap do make a difference. I didn't expect my little hotel-sized soap to last long, but I've used it everyday on myself and washed clothes with it regularly (shirts, socks and knickers), and it's still looks about the same size.
On previous trips I have simply rinsed stuff, including myself, in cold water. This has been a mistake. I have had no difficulty doing it the warm-water-and-soap way, and that's what I'll do in future.
So I'm feeling much better now. Just wish I could get Radio National!
I'm going to drink tea, read and wash things all day.
Must put a comb in my washbag... do it NOW.
Did get radio National perfectly after all: just hang the radio on the wire over the stove and sit at the end of the table, with my back in the wood-pile! Pity I didn't work that out this morning at 5 am!
My ears don't like the earpieces, particularly the right ear. They work well, but I need something outside the ear, rather than inside.
It's just started to rain again. It was obviously a good decision to have a lay-day.
5.15 pm Wednesday.
So I've had a great day, really. Went up to Schlink pass after lunch (well, nearly 3 o'clock really), and got through immediately to Nigel who will, good fellow, meet me around 2.pm Friday at the Main Ski lift.
Then rang home to leave a message, which I did, then tried to read a message from Wendy which said, in part, that Sam is worse, and there is somethinga bout a clinic. So I hope all goes okay. But before I could read the rest the screen darkened with a message that the battery is too low, and it is darkening to save power... so I switched off in the hope I could make at least one more call.
However, by the time I'm back I'll be able to use pay-phones, I assume. The main thing is the message to Nigel has got through.
The wind is still strong, but the sky is clearing. I'm wondering if it will die away, the wind, that is, at sunset? That seems to be the pattern here.
A big disappointment is that the main range is still closed, the same areas as two years ago. I'm really very cross. Mind you, technically I'd be within my rights if I did go over the top, because the sign said 'summer 05/06', whereas we are now 06/07. But, if I did and it was supposed to be closed, I'd feel guilty,and there might, in any case, be no track markers, and of course I don't have the book with me to tell me where the right track is.
1. ignore sign and go over the top.
2. do the same route as last year, if the weatherlooks fine and settled.
3. go Munyang/Smiggin/Charlottes/Kosciusko, camping at Charlottes somewhere.
Road-rangers came by this morning for surprise visit, two guys checking out the road. What a job!
Now I wished I had asked them to let me speak to Summit Ranger Tim Greville on thier radio, to ask about the summit route.
However, I didn't and now it is too late.
Dinner and bed, though I have dozed a bit during the day, reading an almost silly novel by some ex-british MP about the usefulness of genetic engineering in 2010.
Thursday 26th - day nine.
Well, the big day - over the top. I've sort of decided that unless there are signs specifically prohibiting the Main Range this year, that's the way I'll go. It looks easier, and I might not ever get a second chance.
The weather is brilliant, there was yet another calm night last night after sunset, not a cloud in the sky so far, and though I guess it'll get windy later, it's a great morning.
I have to admit I have slight butterflies about it, as though I was doing something dangerous or something, but I think that's simply because I'm alone and because I’m not really equipped for the Main Range if the weather turns really bad.
So a quick preparation this morning and off.
Friday - day 10.
I'm sitting in the YHA Lodge in Thredbo, enjoying the last of my Milo, some coffee and breakfast.
What a hell of a day yesterday - Fantastic!
First, the weather could not have been better. Fine, not a cloud etc. Coolish, but not cold, though the frost on the steps of Schlink Hilton had not melted as I set off.
Got to Whites in no time at all, no signs about not going over the top, so signed the log and off I went. So easy to get on the top. The track petered out a few times, and there were no real indications of the best route. Anyway, up I went.
Pausing for breath as I reached the top, and looking back, it was obvious that going up at Schlink pass would have been even easier.
The top was a lovely walk over short grass, easy going. The breeze started at about 9.30, from the NW, and of course it kept it up all day with increasing force. It was slightly colder than I would have liked it, but it kept me cool. Navigation was bit of a problem for once, and it took a while for me to work out why: from the rolling grounds you walk along a shallow valley, not too boggy (that was one thing, it wasn't too boggy - there was water there but no depth of sodden soil), and then turn right at Consett Stephen Pass. But if you look quickly at the map it looks as though that is a pass through a gap in a chain of hills. I couldn't work out for a while why everything looked wrong, and it wasn't until I actually crossed through the pass, quite clear because of the Guthega river valley down below, that I realised I had been reading it in reverse, looking for a pass through a chain of hills rather than a bridge between two valleys.
Once I had sorted that out in my mind, the rest was easy. There was no distinct path, and identifying the peaks with my map was difficult, though of course the GPS made it easy to know where I actually was. So Mounts Anderson and Anton were hard to work out. Must look at a bigger scale map.
I had lunch in a quiet hollow at the base of mount Anderson, where I could take a good look at the face of Mt Twynam. From the north it looks huge, though in fact it wasn't that difficult to deal with.
I could see a distinct path up most of the distance, though of course it is often easier to see these paths from a distance than it is to find them when you're right up close to them.
I picked up the Soilcon road, for that is what the path turned out to be, at the base of Mount Anton, and it was a great help in getting over the massive bulk of Mount Twynam, though I lost it at that crucial point somewhere over that huge, quarry-like hollow to the NE of the mountain. My decision to go straight up the mountainside from there was vindicated when I regained the road 3/4 way to the top.
By then I had decided to get all the way to Thredbo that day, though I was unsure as to whether I would be able to actually get down the mountain-side before dark.
I did my usual thing then of not stopping at all except for a breather now and again on the steep bits, and I really stepped it out. I noticed that up or down, it made little difference to pace until I reached a certain critical angle of climb. Fit? I think so.
I was having a bit of trouble from my Achilles tendon, if it is indeed that, and found it quite painful from time to time. It didn't hurt going downhill, nor most of the time on the flat... no, I'm not sure when it did hurt; but it's hurting today, walking around. I wonder if it is a problem with my boot? Oh no, not another search for a boot!
Anyway, I was stepping it out, not thirsty and having to remind myself to sip now and again. The building of the stone path around Carruther's Peak seems to have progressed hardly at all, only about 500 metres or so since I was there 18 months ago.
I did take a short-cut at the point on Mt Caruthers when the roadway veers off to the west for half a k before swinging back on itself, feeling a little guilty at the plants I could be destroying in doing so, but aware that for fifty years or so walkers had been randomly crossing this route walking on everything, without doing too much damage. It was only when the walk became very popular that it began to cause a problem.
I saw one walker at a distance as I climbed Carruthers, and shouted - he waved, but he was obviously on the Circuit from Charlottes Pass, rather than being a traveller. Then, coming out of the Albina Lake bit I met two others, a bloke and his very attractive partner, heading towards me. We stopped and chatted for a short while, mostly about lightweight walking, and how far I was going etc. They, too, were just doing the Charlottes Pass circuit. They toldme about the last lift time (4pm, dammit) and that there is a very good YHA in Thredbo, so I determined to do that, and got even more of a hoof on.
There were several big snowdrifts over the path, and they were difficult to walk over, like soft sand. Anyway, I was cracking on and loving the sensation of moving so fast over a landscape so devoid of people...it was unlikely that I would meet anyone else at that time of the afternoon.
By five pm I had reached the base of Kosciusko, and went straight on to the raised foot path, almost flying along it. It is the easiest walking surface ever, springy and smooth, so that one raises one's feet only centimetres.
From an environmental point of view it seems brilliant, leaving, once built, almost no effect on the land beneath. Wendy and I first walked on it in1980, and the majority of it looks as though it has been there that long. I'm almost convinced that it should cross the whole Main Range, but perhaps that would be overkill. It should, however, replace the ludicrous granite-slab paving that is being laid at the moment... Why isn't it?
At Kosciusko there was another of last year's signs prohibiting use of the northern section... I must get in touch with NP&W about this - either remove the old signs or update them, and make that universal, unless there still areas to be guarded.
And so to Eagles Nest, unfortunately closed, and down the long, boring descent into the Thredbo valley. Saw a wombat forraging and being bothered by two crows, close enough for a photo (which was blurred).
The steep continuous slope began to hurt my heels, particularly the left one, and if the slope had been much longer I might have ended up with a blister. Fortunately this didn't occur, but I was a bit dubious as I got to the bottom. Went straight to the pub and had a beer, got directions to the YHA, where I met Kingston, a young (20, I suppose) fellow who was just so kind - very cheap room, all to myself, en suite, and also some left-over shampoo which happened to be in the office. A few minutes later he came in and offered some of that stuff Sam uses to cover up the smells, because I had asked about the supermarket (closed).
Showered, de-smelled and brushed my hair (with my toothbrush - it works) and went to the pub for an appalling but big chicken burger chips and salad, which I mistakenly took with two more beers, instead of wine.
Waiting now for Nigel at around 10 am at the lift.
9 am. Waiting on the terrace. Thredbo isn't a very well-organised place - I suppose the profit system means that there is little co-operation, though obviously they could save (or make more profit) with a bit more organisation.
For instance, even though there is a daily school bus arriving at 8.30, (from Jindabyne) there are no newspapers on it. Now, it could be that the bus goes all over the place, or that the papers don't arrive at Jindabyne until after it leaves, or something of the sort. But I'd have thought it would have paid to get the papers here earlier, and cooperatively.
In so many ways this could be an improved tourist centre in the summer, but our system means that we don't all work together.
Anyway, what do I need to do to my gear to improve it?
I need to get a slightly bigger rucksack. The only trouble is that my Vento 30 is the most comfortable bag I've seen. The main feature seems to be the mesh/spring frame, which keeps me cool. I'd love tohave the same bag slightly bigger (40 L?) with improved side-pockets to accommodate a water-bag. Putting my water in the side pocket has been a big improvement, but of course the shape etc hasn't been so good. And, ditto, the zips are all failing.
The straps were a good idea, though all of them were sewn in slightly the wrong places. The quality of thebuckles, however, is another matter altogether. They all need to be replaced by Tatonka quality buckles.
SO: 40 L, long 3litre pockets on each side with top zips, same frame, lighter material, big front (back) pocket to replace current Bum-bag. Preferably, two big pockets. Say one for cooking things, one for bits and pieces.
Better towel? Better facecloth? Collect packets of hotel soap (or find where to buy small tablets)
Sachets of smelly stuff to deodorize.
Smaller lunches - half the size?
Better mug clip FIXED to strap.
Glasses case fixed to right shoulder strap.
Better designed shorts/longs.
Wool shirt with collar and maybe short sleeves (well, you can always roll sleeves up, so maybe long-sleeves).
Do something about right boot - prevent big toe touching (thought I had managed that!)
Investigate Achilles Tendon.
Slighty thicker ground mat.
Slightly better sleeping bag - more money better bag?
Sell all other gear... an embarrassment.
Don't forget compass next time.
Better map case and method of attachment.
Perhaps better rain gear?
But if all these so-called improvements put up the overall weight, there is no point. Better to be a little uncomfortable than to carry too much.
Solar charger and longer-life batteries.
or: a telephone recharge system via dry cell batteries. This must be possible.
(it is… I have since bought a device that gives 2 hours from an AA battery, and found others that give 6 hours from a throw-away battery pack for $9)