Microadventure #5: The Hawkesbury

We cheated and left our desks before 5pm (4:20!) – we had a train and connecting ferry to make. The ferry dropped us off at our request stop as the last of the daylight beautifully set the scene for the start of our trip.

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The start was a little odd. It felt a bit like we were walking through people’s front yards and then we were literally on a path between and sometimes underneath houses. Then, with “town” behind us we continued along the coastline. It was pretty dark but we ran without our lights on since it was an access road.

We spotted a set of stairs leading up. We didn’t think it was the track we were after so continued on. Perhaps we’d regret this decision?

After ‘the bend’ we couldn’t find our track, but with a check of the map we found the narrow track and a pink ribbon. It would have been easy to spot in daylight…

Up past some sandstone caves and then the adventure really started as we slogged it up the hill, second guessing paths and moving a lot of large spiders to the side so we could pass. Every now and then there was a ribbon to confirm other humans had been this way too. I was having fun!

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We hit the crest of a spur and found a fire pit but it wasn’t clear where to go next. This was not at all what I’d been expecting the junction to look like. Thankfully the moon was bright and the direction we wanted to go, so we turned moon-wards and attempted to find a sensible path. B took over clearing the spiders.

This time we popped out on the ridgeline and had fantastic views from our rocky perch of the river below and plenty of stars were out by now. Happy Friday :D

But we’d overshot our turn (the view was worth it) and, with some technological help, found the next footpad to follow. These tracks were really not as well formed as we’d been anticipating but it was certainly adding to the adventure. Def no running happening though … clocking up 2km in 40mins!

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There were now two routes to choose from and we took the lower route. Invariably ending up on the high route at some point and then back on the lower route once again. The bush is certainly a different adventure in the pitch black. We passed TV antennas and had absolutely stunning views down to the water. On queue a train took the rail bridge and it looked like a xmas train as the lights reflected perfectly in the water. What luck.

We chatted about an interview we both listened to of an upcoming book release: Woman in the Wilderness. It’s about a Dutch lady and her kiwi husband living a primitive life in the NZ wilderness. It was timely to discuss such a book as we were having our own wild bush experience.

At last we made it to the creek junction and set up camp on a sandy bank not too far away. Tent up and fire going it was finally time to tuck into dinner – we were starving! We had a really, really lovely evening around the fire and eventually had to stop ourselves from building it up again and head to bed. I didn’t bother setting an alarm, even though I had somewhere else to be the next day – sunrise is at 6am these days.

Hehe of course we slept through sunrise, ooops! It was a Saturday though. Determined to check out our surroundings we headed down the creek for lovely cascades, waterfalls and river views. It was one chilly but refreshing morning dip too. Magic.

 

A quick pack up back at camp and we set off for the train station at the early hour of 11:30am. I was hosting afternoon tea at my place at 3pm, oh dear! More footpad searching, but at least we had daylight on our side. About a kilometre or so of this and we were on open fire trail. Time to start running!

B made a detour out to a top for more good views while I carried on towards the train station and he’d catch me up. All I had to do was take the first right he said. I did just this, and could see in the distance the road in perfect line with the fire trail I was currently on. I had well over an hour to go 6km, easy!

Queue finding the end of the fire trail, standing on top of a decent sized waterfall and having no idea how to get down to the road I could see in the distance … hah! I searched all the footpads around, I clearly wasn’t the first person to try this. Eventually I found one that looked like it’d go and went back to try and leave a message for B. He was already trying out some of the footpads so a quick shout out and we were back together and now on another wild adventure.

 

The rock formations were cool. At some point the track became more defined and then vanished all together again. We were now fighting bushes and the spotting of some bright orange led us into a ship building yard and to the road. We now had 3.5km and 16 minutes to make the train … NO CHANCE.

But it did leave time to buy chips, drinks and ice cream before the following train, which got me back to my apartment at 2:59pm. Thankfully the first guests didn’t arrive until 3:07pm….

I love these micro-adventures !

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Micro-adventure #4: Blue Mountains

I’d not even been back in the country a week and I was already itching to get away on another micro-adventure.

We decided to head out west since the days were already starting to get shorter again – meaning this was probably our only chance to do this trip this summer. Alighting at the station to drizzle and a dark sky we looked at each other and questioned our sanity. Oh well, here we go.

We’d packed a tent but I’d also brought food to prepare a 3 course meal on the fire and I was now worried about getting it started!

The trail was slippery with all the leaves on it, but still beautiful with trees and some little cliffs about. B found some dry leaves under an overhang and stuffed them in his bag for additional kindling.

It only took me about 45 mins to reach camp and already I could see B had started collecting a reasonable amount of firewood. I chuckled inside and wondered if this could be a new measure of estimating pace difference.

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Our swim spot – the weather cleared for this moment :)

The drizzle had mostly abated. It took a little but finally the fire took and I threw the first two courses on. We then headed to the water for a lovely dip before rescuing and eating the prosciutto wrapped stuffed mushies and opening the first beer.

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Next up was baked trout and veggies with another beer.

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B whipped out travel scrabble and whooped my butt while I burnt the choc chip cookies – the fire was waaay too hot.

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All up a lovely evening and I was glad to turn in when we did. The rain started again.

In our attempt to minimise gear and weight we squeezed into B’s 1-1.5 person tent and I’d borrowed an extra wide exped mat to share. It worked reasonably well but I’m not convinced about sharing a mat ;)

Damn alarms!

I dragged my butt out before sunrise having guesstimated how long I needed to make our intended train. Beauty is that I only had to put my kit on and start running – B sorted out packing up the tent, the fire, etc – I could get used to this! At a later point than I expected he overtook me – he would now sort out a cup of tea for the train :)

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I was beginning to worry I wouldn’t make the train, but thankfully i recognised the final set of bush stairs. What I didn’t expect was to run through a massive spider’s web. How did B manage to leave that for me?

I made it to the platform with 2 mins to spare and couldn’t find him anywhere. Luckily he showed up as the train pulled in. I was confused about the lack of tea until he confessed he’d taken a wrong turn. That explained the spider’s web. Lucky he has fast legs.

Sadly there were signal delays and our train took 30mins longer than intended, however we were still in high spirits. Another sensational micro-adventure :D

Faulconbridge to Springwood

Alighting at Faulconbridge Station I had no idea what the trails were going to be like today, having hatched this plan the day before.

We set off down a lovely, graded forest path (Victory Track) alongside Sassafras Creek. The trail was littered in leaves, the trees were grand and the odd overhang added to the wonderment.

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First stop was to take in the Clarinda Falls. Not deep enough for a swim, but worth a stop nonetheless.

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Then we passed some twitchers, who were probably annoyed that we scared off the birds …

We crossed the Sassafras Gully track and then the Wiggins track before coming to a beaut large pool, where we enjoyed our first swim of the day.

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There was a noticeable decline in the maintenance/quality of the track as we headed down to Perch Ponds and even more so as we ran towards Martin’s lookout. It was still mostly runnable and pretty fun.

Another campsite and large pool

We crossed the creek and climbed up to Bunyan lookout and went on further to Lost World Lookout for more breathtaking views.

Back down to the water again for a MUCH needed cool off before heading up the Magdala Creek to Springwood Station.

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Lovely trails indeed!

Microadventure #2 – Pindar Cave

I left my desk at 16:40 to make the train headed north. This was slightly earlier than the “traditional” 5pm departure time, but we hoped to reach the cave in time for sunset.

We were the only ones to alight at Wondabyne Station – the only train station wholly within a NP in NSW(?). We each stashed a banana and bottle of water for the morning before setting off up the hill. Sadly B wouldn’t have a bar of my attempts to walk the flat parts, but I tried anyway ;) Next were two sections of fire trail before the single trail commenced. This was good, although still a fair bit of uphill. One day I’ll be fitter! Sometimes we had to run a little hunched over, which I found to be good fun. There were a couple of spots with great views and the clouds lit up prettily as we approached the cave.

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A miscommunication meant I was standing on top of the cave watching the sunset as B was down at the waterfall! We then collected firewood and got dinner part two on the fire. B produced some rather tasty couscous, which was more than enough to fill both of us. He still cooked up the sweet potato too – and ate them with practically no help from me!!

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To boot, he produced two different cans of beer. Good luxury packing there. He lost some brownie points when I caught him checking his beers in though!! It’s so hard to get away from reception these days …

I reheated the waffles I’d made over breakfast that morning and served these with blueberries and cream.

Totally satiated, we sat mesmerised by the fire chatting away again. Eventually B found motivation for the both of us to go up and check out the stars from the top of the cave. ***Just magical***

Finding somewhere flat in the cave proved tough and clearly should have been scouted out before dark, but after take two we had it sorted. This was B’s first time sleeping in a cave. Although I’ve done so a number of times before, I still love the experience. Looking out to the trees with the silhouette of the cave roof is particularly special at Pindar Cave :) One needs to take care with the resident bush rat, who did visit during the night though.

I was awake to watch the sky light up pre-dawn, which was lovely. Then I was packed up and off to make the train. B caught me up in no time at all and then continued out in front to “clear the spider webs for me”. No complaints here.

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We hit the station as the train before our intended train rolled through, collected our stashed food and water (a crow had attacked my banana and damaged B’s water flask) and jumped in the misty river. Ah, this is the life.

There was a mum and two boys who came out of the nearby house to catch the same train. They mentioned the bull sharks in the river we’d just swum in :p

Definitely a successful micro adventure!! :D

Glenbrook NP – The Swimming Hole Way

I met B at the NP gates at 08:45 (well more like 9am, since he was late. I should add he was also the one who’d camped mere kilometres away). Today we had four swims on the menu with a forecast for 30+ deg and a possible afternoon thunderstorm.

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First we headed down to and along Glenbrook Gorge. The path down to the water is well defined but not so much so along the gorge.

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We went for a glorious swim in a deep section and then were surprised to find a mini trampoline. Neither of us was game to try the jump though.

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Next was a fun climb up to Mount Portal; timed perfectly to see the blue mountains train traverse the gorge.

Now it was actually time to start “proper running”. There was a gentle, upward slope to the fire trail that my legs weren’t too happy about – they preferred bushwalking today!

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We enjoyed a good lookout break at Tunnel View Lookout sans trains before a very fun single track run around Portal Waterhole (swim #2 B?) on the waterhole trail. B then found us some off trail to run through … …

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At the intersection with the road we topped up our water bottles and drank our fill (B had organised a water drop – nice) before continuing to the Oaks Trail and down a track that intersects with the Loop track to Red Hands Cave. A great single track but unfortunately I did my ankle in on this stretch. There was a super friendly duo we had a chat with at the cave before pushing on.

I was starting to feel very hot and was really looking forward to swim #2. This certainly was a delight to find. Nice, refreshing water temperature and a beaut waterfall to sit under and have the water pummel one’s shoulders. And now to try my home made Kale Toffee Bars.

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Back up the steep hill and around to Kanuka Brook for swim #3. Sadly B lost his sunnies in the scrub (turns out it was a lot less runnable than I thought!). The swim in the confluence was rather refreshing and different to the first two swims of the day.

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We now headed East back towards our bikes and along Glenbrook Creek. There were some baby sand dunes on the bend in the creek so I got B to do some sand hill reps to burn some of his speed :)

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Soon we were at Blue Pool for swim #4 and the final of the day. We swam a bit up the creek and then returned to our belongings. B showed off his boutique towel one more time before encouraging me to run up the stairs (!) to join the road and return to the national park gates.

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28km, 4 swims, 7.5 hours, totally knackered.

Smashed some ciders, pizza and kumara wedges before heading back to Sydney town. Bloody ripper of a day.

Mid week microadventure – Heathcote NP

At 4:55pm on a Thursday afternoon, I was bolting to make the train heading south. B had dreamed up a mid-week micro adventure and it certainly was a beauty on the menu. The adventurousness was upped by B’s desire to run and not walk the trails !?! So here I was, madly dashing my way through commuters that were wandering through the central tunnel, carrying my 30L ‘city’ backpack kitted out for my first overnight fastpacking adventure (and wishing yet again I’d allowed more time to make my train. But this did mean I had confirmation I could run with my kit). I’d purposefully left the tent at home – no way was I running with that! (Disclaimer: The forecast was for no rain.)

After a quick (or not so quick thanks to a commuter holding up the only bathroom open on the platform) top up of water bottles, toilet stop and shoe adjustment we were off down the streets of Waterfall and then on the Bullawarring Track. I seem to never tire of seeing bush trails, and the minute we were on this one I could feel the stress of the office dissipate.

The Bullawarring Track is a typical trail of the area. Single trail, sections of rock and others of sand or stairs, and just plain old fun. We popped out at the Kingfisher pool and breathed in the sight of it. Lovely.

On we ran. It was a little weird with a lot more kit than usual on my back, such that I noticed it on the technical descents with my centre of gravity shifted, but we still seemed to be making good progress. Past the pool the track was a little overgrown so we had to walk quite a bit to dodge the flora.

Not long before the turnoff to the Goanna Track B discovered this was a 7.5 and not a 6.5km run to camp. I’d changed up the route a little and he clearly hadn’t paid full attention. A few friendly jokes followed. The burning question was would we make our swim with any daylight left? (I was more concerned about finding the final trail and campsite :P)

Eventually we hit the track junction but we didn’t stay on our branch for long, turning off to take a short cut across to another unmarked trail that would bring us to a little known campsite next to a swimming hole. I had expected it to be a lot less scrubby than it actually was (oh well) but this was a micro adventure after all, and it certainly added to the outing.

At the end we hit a major track, stayed on it for a mere few 100 metres and then we were off on a wild track chase. The sun had already set and we were well into twilight. I had a bit of difficulty finding the footpad (oops sorry about the sand-filled shoes from making you cross an unnecessary gully B!) but eventually we hit it. It looked like a highway in comparison to where we’d started minutes beforehand. Thankfully, there was a lot less scrub on this trail than I’d anticipated.

We slogged up the knoll and then down the other side to cross the river and set up camp just outside the RNP (and maybe just perhaps a little on military land…) With the last of the light we went for a glorious and long swim. Just magic.

It didn’t take much to get the fire going and B produced some beer to toast the occasion. Plus a tasty dinner of risoni, which I’d never tried before. The military were flying around in helicopters and we heard the odd bang – we hoped our ‘neighbours’ (The Holsworthy Field Firing Range!) would quieten down soon. (And not encounter us!)

Post dinner we had a few marshmallows while our Chocolate Cake a l’Orange baked away in the fire and the tea water boiled. Bliss !

I think it was about 10:30pm when we finished dessert – so much for an early night… I should have been an adult and forced myself to go to bed, but I wasn’t soooo sleepy and the fire was hypnotising. What followed was a few hours chatting away until the last fire embers went out. Then we both unwillingly turned in … but not before walking down to the pool once more to take in the views. Such a perfect evening.

B had carried a tent but, given the few hours left until dawn, he decided to lay out under the stars too to avoid faffing in the morning. A mosquito tried to annoy me, but I was in too good a mood and eventually sleep claimed me.

Dawn broke and sometime afterwards I, rather reluctantly, crawled out of my sleeping bag. Shame I didn’t have a day off – but then that was the beauty of the mid-week micro adventure … knowing that we’d made the most of the evening and that soon we’d have an entire weekend to enjoy.

One more quick look at our swimming hole, with a subtle mist along the surface, and we were on our way again. We had 6.4km and 1h18mins to make our train back to the rat race and our desks. We made light (but heart rate raising) work to get back out onto the major trails and we were both relieved to avoid the sandy climb through the gully from the evening before.

We were now traveling along the Pipeline Firetrail passing the Lake Eckersley turnoff to the campground (pffft who’d camp there?) then the Battery Causeway and subsequently arrived at Mirang Pool. With 40mins still on the clock we dropped down to the pool and had a revitalising swim! Can you believe today is a work day !?!?! :D

Back out again we finished off the Pipeline Road and turned happily onto the Friendly Track single trail. Just 1.6km to go. B took off to procure tea for the train ride and I ticked off the stairs. I was so content and so relaxed. It was momentarily confusing around the scout grounds and then I was on the final street leg up to the train station.

There was a miscommunication (I didn’t think B was serious about the tea and he hadn’t seen me pass him nor had I seen him standing in the café having just dodged being taken out by a car) and we almost missed the train! But we made it and I was suuuuper grateful for the cup of tea as my body temperature plummeted.

We devoured Greek Marathon Bars and a banana and were soon surprised to find the train pulling into Central already. We went our separate ways to arrive at our respective desks before 9am – we’d certainly made the most of our 16 non-office hours! The throng of people couldn’t put a dent in my smile.

Great trails, tasty food, amazing scenery and perfect company. Wonder when and where the next micro-adventure will be :)

24 hr rogaine, Kanangra-Boyd NP, NSW

At 13:50 on Friday I was rushing to make the coach from Sydney to the event. Life was somewhat out of control so I’d only had 3 hours sleep last night, my appetite had vanished (uh-oh) and my to-do list was asking me how I could justify heading off already. Oh well – everything’s now next week’s problem! Apart from the lack of sleep and appetite … that was def an issue to address … the comp was noon Sat to noon Sun and I’d promised Alex I wouldn’t sleep!


The organised transport hadn’t been so popular, so we were 9 people on a 50-seater coach with some hours to go to get to Kanangra. The traffic out of Sydney was slow. So too was the traffic through the Blue Mountains until the turn off to Jenolan Caves/Oberon. We ate at the RSL in Oberon and finally arrived just past the Kanangra-Boyd campground. The evening sky around sunset was stunning to see from the bus.

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Off we wandered towards the hash house (HH). I hadn’t dug my head torch out and saw the road had some water on it, so I tried to walk around it and got 2 wet feet in return. Argh now I wasn’t even going to start the comp with dry feet !?! Oh well!

We found a nice, isolated camping spot up near the trees. The owls were calling all around. I popped over to the communal fire to say hello to everyone then went back to the tent and passed out. Bliss.

At some point during the night I woke up in a ball with my head in the bottom corner of the tent. Turns out I’d pitched my tent on a bit of a slope AND I was sleeping with my head at the lower end. Anyone would think that I’d never pitched a tent before – clearly I’d been tired. My legs and feet were freezing to boot so I sorted out my sleeping mat and position, took off some top layers, arranged them around my legs and went straight back to sleep.

I woke up at dawn but couldn’t convince myself to peak outside. To start with I’d thought someone was playing a computer game near my head – the whip sounds of the birds sounding like laser guns. The sun was on my tent not long after 6:30 so I opened the tent up and bathed in it’s warmth and took in the beaut surrounds.

There’d been a proper frost overnight and Alex was glad he’d opted to camp among the trees (he doesn’t use a shelter unless it’s dire). I sat happily and watched the steam forming low on the ground as the frost burnt off. Watched the ground spider webs glisten. Watched the droplets run off my tent. Slowly there was movement all around and I convinced myself it was time to get up and make breakfast. The maps would be released soon!


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We received the maps at 08:30, which gave us about 3 hours to plan our route, prepare our maps and be ready. Alex introduced me to some new ways to route plan – cork board, pins and string required!

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Somehow time seemed to evaporate. We both ended up suggesting very different routes.  So, with not enough time left to prepare the maps properly, we agreed to each add up our route (45km as the crow flies apiece) and whomever had the better point score would have their route followed. The result was a dead heat!! What are the chances of that??

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Having been forewarned, I found a length of carpet at home and brought that along as my impromptu cork board.

In the end we went with my route, in part because it was flatter and more adaptable but mostly because Alex was so gracious. With 20 minutes until the compulsory briefing we were still highlighting our intended route! So we had to stop and desperately contact the maps and rush over to the starting area with only about 3/4 of the route sorted. I was still faffing around filling bottles etc when the start siren went off. Ooops!

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And we were off! Strategic move number one (would it pay off?) was to leave everything around the HH for the end, time permitting. So we headed out to Kanangra Walls Rd and then north. Our plan was to do an anti-clockwise loop, with the focus on hitting the northern most controls. I looked at my map properly for the first time since contacting it in a hurry … My apologies to the bugs I captured in the process!

A perfect execution to #53 after carefully checking our position on the road before departing. High five.

We contoured around to the next control #92, and again no issues. We commented on how open the gully was. The route we’d mapped out for our adventure had tried to keep us out of gullies as much as possible, since these typically can be full of scrub. If the gullies remained open, we discussed where we’d change up our plan. Hitting #71 was easy since we just needed to head north. High five.

On the way to #58 we joked about using a code word to indicate if we’d seen a flag. This resulted in us chatting about Simon’s upcoming wedding. (What was our code word I wonder?) We had small bets about when we’d see another team.

It was a really good execution of 61-98-76-88-47, with bonus snake viewing after #98. I think Alex saw baby wombats with their mum somewhere along this leg too.

All up, Alex and I were working really well with one another (our first rogaine together). We were both navigating and talking about our navigation as we went. I was having fun and it looked like he was too. This was also the closest I had ever been in contact with my map – my friend having lent me a spectra compass for the event and finally I was *getting* how to use it. Blue and 3 dots is a thing!

The wheels fell off a little when we went for #82, as we ended up in the next gully over and then over once more; but thankfully we picked up on this and were able to salvage the situation without losing too much time. The terrain was still remarkably open, yay. (I think my legs still have scars from the Lake Macq event!!)

We found ourselves at the very northern part of the course and it was only just getting towards 5 PM. We were gunning it, woohoo. We also hadn’t seen anyone since before turning off to grab our first control hours before. Why were we bothering to use our code word ?! This was great and it felt simply like a bush walk and not like a competition. Further, I was enjoying the proper navigational challenge of the event – the course setters had done an amazing job so far. I’ve found other rogaines to be navigationally boring since you often see a team walking away from a flag as you’re approaching it … but today, today was a true challenge and we seemed to be up to it. Let’s hope that would continue in the dark …

Hah, and then came the next hiccup after #91. We executed nicely down to 91 with Alex very carefully ensuring that we came down exactly the right gully, having expertly picked up a subtle wiggle in the contour line. High five. We discussed how to approach #102. Straight back up where we just came down and then down the main spur and then branch off. Agreed. Walk. For some reason, maybe I let my food levels dwindle too much, I started contouring my way across to the side gully instead of straight up. Alex called over, and I must have sounded convincing because he followed me! We were now staring down a big down up (well … not *that* big) but we made a call to contour around. We now thought we were on the next spur in the flat area where we needed to head off on the SW spur break. We started out and found ourselves being pulled SE. Hmmm! Now thinking we must have been further down than we intended we made the call to ascend the spur back up to the top (Argh – why had I gotten us into this mess) before a perfect execution from the top to #102. I injected more food on the way. Did I mention the yummies I’d made beforehand?


I was now out of water, which we’d already calculated would happen around this point. I wasn’t too worried as we were confident that the creek we passed on the way to #51 would be flowing, and Alex still had a spare litre of water in his bag. When we arrived at the creek we decided to have a quick break because the area was absolutely gorgeous. Why have we never bushwalked here before?!?

Straight to #51 with no issues and then we happily climbed up onto the spur to see the sunset. What a day we’d been having :)

We decided we were well ahead of schedule so had been talking a lot about which other controls to pick up on our way back south. Under the light of twilight we picked up the gem of #57 and then walked the creek around to a ridiculously steep hill, after passing a dead cow, and started ascending.

We planned to use the appearance of the cliffs as our attack point to contour off and approach #97. Did I mention that the hill was steep? By this stage I was saying in my head twilight – dark – head torch – pizza – twilight – dark – head torch – pizza. I think I wanted to eat a slice of pizza! When I suggested a pizza stop when we grabbed out our head torches Alex tried to convince me to wait until the water drop … no way was I going another step without devouring some pizza! But I did share :)

We ended up grabbing #97 the long way, in hindsight this should have been approached from below not above, but we got there in the end. Ok, first night flag bagged! Now to see how the rest of the night progressed. We decided that our original route selection to #69 would probably involve some unmarked cliffs, so adjusted to night-nav mode and used the saddle as an attack point to the junction of the creek and fire trail. We arrived on a bearing within 10m of this junction. What a great start to the night.

I regaled stories to Alex of the only other time I’d rogained through the night (July this year) – I think it’d taken me 4 hours to bag my first flag !!!!!

We almost ended up walking along the wrong fork after the creek split (how’d we do that?), and we started doubting our navigation when #69 wasn’t appearing before our eyes; before we realised we were still thinking with day legs and not night legs (i.e. we’re only moving half as fast, so all climbs will take twice as long, etc). High five.

It was an easy amble over to the water drop where we registered our next intention, topped up water, ate more pizza and stuffed ourselves on the lollies and fruit there. Bananas that weren’t bruised …. yippee! It was 9pm and two teams arrived while we were sitting there. The first people we’d seen since 12:15pm.

Off to #93 we saw another team around the corner. We have no idea where they popped out from, nor where they were going because they didn’t seem to be headed for the water drop or #93, even though they were on the fire trail heading that way …

We went down the wrong gully (and parallel), but that was easily solved by contouring over the spur and as we ascended back up again (this was an out and back) we realised that the gully we descended was the least scrubby of the two, so it had been a useful mistake.

Now it was time to hit #85, at a creek junction. No issues there apart from the fact the navlight wasn’t working. My plan had been to head to the knoll on our SW, however the climb up did not look enticing one bit (!) so we headed to the knoll on our N instead and approached 103 a different way. I did the compass work and Alex stayed on top of pacings. This combo seemed to be our best way to stay on track in the dark.

Another hiccup on the way to #75 followed; because we had the grand idea to head up the spur most, but not all the way, then contour over and wander down the western spur to the knoll that would be our final attach point. Trying to contour over stuff in the dark, what were we thinking !?! We have since worked out that we went over the spur and down the wrong gully … alas. Again, we fixed the issue without losing too too much time. Gee was I happy when we got to #75.

The trek to #78 felt like it took forever (I wonder if Alex feels the same?). I reckon this is the point where I was starting to get pretty tired (~1:30 AM). I assisted with the nav getting down to the creek, but the next part was totally all Alex. I was simply tottering behind wondering which delicacy in my pocket would give me an energy boost. Hindsight is one of those laughable virtues. If we’d known how slow going the creek here would be, we would have climbed up from #78 and come down almost on top of the flag. Instead we continued down to the creek, which involved lots of water hopping (I got wet feet again) and scrub dancing. Alas, Alex found it and we had a lovely sit down at said rocky knoll. Inject suuuuuugar.

We crossed to the other side and hauled ourselves up the first section before we could walk once more. It was a long climb up the spur and we made sure we were at the top where the spur split before heading down to #101 (no mistakes this time!) I reckon this was my favourite night time control. It was perched up on a knoll, you could hear the water flowing (uh oh, do we have to cross that?) and we could see a group coming down what we next planned to go up. It was 3:44AM. Now, how do we get off this thing safely ?!?!

We met the other group just as we were about to start ascending up another stuuuupidly steep hill (can I call it a mountain yet Alex?). This was a memorable moment: three blokes, all in matching shirts, each regaling news of the same event … but none of their stories corroborating. Sleep deprivation mayhap?

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Our route – the whole 67.5km or so we covered over 24 hours

 

This was one hell of a steep ascent. I put my map and compass away so I could have full use of all fours. Then we were on the main spur and for the first time I noticed that I was really lagging behind Alex. My eyes were heavy. Lots of polite stops from Alex, and I was trying really hard to watch the compass. I didn’t feel like eating any of the food in my pouch … or any food at all really. At some point Alex stopped and commented that my pace had really dropped off. He opened his pack and then passed me a massive ziplock bag full of lollies and told me to start eating. Now, I’m not a big fan of having silly amounts of sugar on events like this as you need to manage the sugar crash. I usually combine a bit of sugar with more endurance foods. It was stupid o’clock in the morning and my stomach was not interested in endurance foods. I picked out all the choc coated soft licorice and gobbled away. Up the hill I went.

We aimed off and intersected the side creek that would lead us to #95. Hiiiigh five. And hello mojo back in my legs :) Stuff endurance bar in mouth.

It was now 5am and there was just one more control between us and the next water stop, which Alex had promised me we’d reach before sunrise. Up some more contour lines we went. This was most likely the best ascent of the evening; because at some point the moon was right in front of us as we covered the final vertical metres to the ridge. Absolutely stunning. We popped down, grabbed #59 and then rushed (even ran a bit!) to make the water stop before the sun rose. A promise is a promise after all. It’s now 6:09AM.

The exciting thing about this rogaine was the boxes of fruit and lollies at the water stops. I was soooo excited to peer inside and see fantales. And soooo disappointed to discover the packet was full of empty wrappers :(

Ok team T-I-double-guh-ERs, time to up the anty again because we could see. We hit #43 no issues. #86 however … goodness knows what went on there – we’d overshot the gully completely. Took a bit, but we righted ourselves once more.

We were now out of pre-race highlight so we chatted about our nav approach before heading off for each flag, and also which ones to go for. We’d discussed earlier about doing an out and back to #70, but with so much precious time now burnt we headed for #84 without issue.

This next bit of nav I can only describe as beautiful. #84 to #104 over Emperor Spur and bang on the flag, nicely understanding the subtleties of gullies and spurs. #48 followed easily enough and then we decided to cut mostly north to hit the fire trail since the scrub had settled in. I was a bubble of energy again – it’s amazing what a good dollop of sunshine can do.

#89, #79. Gosh we reckon we must be doing a bit of all right. Certainly not going to come last in our category :) We saw a team before turning off to #89. Time to hit #80. We knew it wouldn’t be easy following a bearing that long but we tried anyway. I think we traversed a little too far before heading down the (but not our) gully and I was now starting to worry about how far we still were from the finish line. We had only 2 hours to go (Gosh, how were we 22 hours down already?) We were expecting to see a side creek coming in, but the gully we saw wasn’t very definied. Could we really be where we thought we were? Turns out we were but we didn’t know it just yet. We looked around but it wasn’t as open as other areas of the course. I was now thinking we should abandoned ship, but Alex kept his cool and suggested we give ourselves 10 minutes. We needed only 2. HIGH FIVE.

We aimed for the firetrail, hit it, double checked our position on the road, then took off on a bearing to number #41. Suddenly there seemed to be teams everywhere! Now it felt more like a traditional rogaine. We tagged in and then had some *fun* trying to get around the bloody swamp with dry feet (I failed again). You’d think after 23 hours the other participants would have made a nice path for us … it was part of my route tactic!

One hour to go and suddenly I was really, really tired. I took a bearing to hit #33 but failed at following it properly. Thankfully Alex picked up on this and I got him to take over. We should have ducked down and grabbed #49 since it was so close, but who knew if that’d be a good idea? We hit #33, then #32. They were really quick so we threw in #30 for good measure before heading “home”. My feet by this stage were complete agony and I wondered how many blisters I’d accumulated. Alex’s feet were just as sore.

Unsure exactly how long the last stretch would take us, we jogged a little, which our feet really didn’t like. Then, with indescribable bliss, we saw the finishing line and tagged off. What a ripper of an adventure !! We wondered how we’d done but were too sore to care that much about anything except taking our shoes off. With relief I found no blisters … I had pressure sores everywhere though. Really should sort out new shoes, huh.

Having showered (with baby wipes), changed and swapped into sandles I hit the food tent to see what my stomach felt like. Hmmm nothing. So I made a wrap anyway and after taking a bite I discovered I was excited about celery .. so opened my wrap back up and poured as much celery in as would fit. Go figure !?! Love a good, wacky post adventure craving.

The award ceremony started and we were gobsmacked by the score of the winning team. Well done ladies! We were then further surprised to discover that we’d secured the NSW Mixed (gender) Championship. Hah!

Thanks Alex for partnering up with me – it was a ripper of an adventure with you. Also a huge thanks to the course setters (you did a sterling job) and all the volunteers involved in hanging flags, collecting flags, driving gear down, setting up, feeding us, etc, etc, etc.

Goooooooooooooood niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Rams Head Snowshoe Trip

Reunited with my outdoors buddy the Graceful Cyclist, after too many months apart, we headed to the Snowys. My plan for months had been to do an overnight snowshoe trip. However, the forecast for the past week hadn’t been inspiring and I’d had a lot less sleep than ideal. So my plan downsized to a day trip and P took over organising it and sorting out gear (legend!) All i had to do was bring sensible attire and be ready for a 6:30am pick up ….

We stopped in Cooma for a tasty breakky and an hour later parked the car at the Cascades. Surprisingly for late Sept, we were able to snow shoe from ~200m from the road (at ~1600m elevation).

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We headed up along the Dead Horse Gap Track impressed with the quality of snow, the vistas of gumtrees and made bets on how long until our first stop to satiate The Munchies. (Last snow shoe trip we barely made it 1km!)

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Wallaby tracks

Over the first rise we started being able to see the peaks. Occasionally we played with iced over puddles and ponds and often we stopped to admire our surroundings.

We found a seat and P broke out his shovel and excavated while I fished out the thermos and morning tea.

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Both the forecasts and clouds suggested the good weather wouldn’t see us through the day, but it did.

We didn’t quite make it to our (well ‘my’ :p) intended lunch destination before P’s stomach called a halt.

I left him to cut a table and chairs while I climbed up the knoll above us for a looksie. I was rewarded with beautiful ice formations on the surrounding boulders. The ridge kept beckoning and so I kept climbing and climbing, it was a true wonderland. Eventually I turned back, concerned at how long I’d been gone – I’d said I’d be 5 minutes … …

I returned in time for a tasty lunch and carrot chips (what else can one call frozen slices of carrot?) It was my turn to play with the saw and build a seat that collapsed as soon as I sat on it.

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Post lunch we climbed our selected peak (NE of Rams Head) and laid down on one of the rocks after devouring half a block of chocolate together.

This was just magic. It was so quiet, the sky was blue with puffy clouds whipping past and the old icicle would fall and give off a cascade tune. Bliss!

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Eventually we convinced ourselves it was time to head back to the car. We had fun choosing a path and having the odd small race.

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And the ice formations …. they were something else! I was in my element and so content. The stress of the past few weeks far from my mind!

With elation we made it all the way to the road with our snow shoes still on (who wants to carry those?) Now *THAT* was an awesome day snowshoe trip :D

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Donkey Mountain

After a nice long sleep in the tent, we set off for Donkey mountain. This has been on my wish list for at least a year! It was a chilly morning of I think 1 degree when we set out.

We hit the saddle quickly and then A led me around to all the top features: through the various canyon’s, rooms, ramps, on top of pagodas, etc.

It was a super walk with lots of fun squeezes – particularly the Jenny Craig!

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And walking through then looking down on the Green Room.

We found a great spot for lunch a little sheltered from the wind and then descended back to the cars and headed back to Sydney.

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Couldn’t have asked for better company or a better day out :)

Traverse of the Gods

Today we set out to tackle the “Traverse of the Gods”, which got quite a write up about its exposure in The Bushwalker’s spring edition. This is a traverse along the middle ledge of the face of Mount Banks. A friend, who’d done it before, joined me. I took his advice and did the walk in the reverse direction to the magazine write up, so that we could attempt a traverse over Mount Banks at the end of the day, if there was time permitting. I had been particularly vigilant of who I allowed to sign up to my trip, as I needed everyone to have a good head for exposure.

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We pulled up at Mount Banks Picnic Area and the door of the car almost blew off as we opened it. There were 65km/h winds whipping through! Well this was certainly going to make the day more interesting. A and I had arrived 1.5 hours early so we set out to walk the section to the start of the middle ledge to see how much of an issue the wind would be. We set off up the track along the ridge towards Mount Banks. As we came out of the trees it became a full body battle to stay on the track and not tumble off to the side. I was seriously hoping it would calm down once we got off the saddle, even though we’d still be fully open to the wind. Thankfully it did. That was a perfect lesson in aerodynamics. We scuttled around on the ledge towards our goal with some fun parts (e.g. going through a natural hole in the rock). There were some places where it was perfectly calm and other places where we were pounded by the wind. The wind was pushing us towards the cliff, which was ok by me. We made it to our destination with a bit of a wild look – this was fun! On the way back to the cars we took a route up and over, battled the elements once more and then waited for my participants to arrive.


The wind was howling so much at the cars that I had to move us closer to the picnic area to do the “pre-walk talk”. No one wanted to bail – phew. It was interesting watching the others reactions as we tackled the start of the walk and they were all relieved to hit the first sheltered part off the saddle. Now the fun could begin. We descended the gully onto the middle ledge and I enjoyed the bits of route finding along the way. The views were spectacular across the Grose Valley. Now to find these exposed parts so we could tackle them. There were sections of bare cliffs, rain forest, scrub (well lots of those), a trig plate, a log book, the descent through the “Devils Throat”. We managed to find a spot with reasonable views and a little sun for morning tea with a semi-howling wind. I was enjoying this. On we went. I was starting to be confused/concerned as to why we hadn’t come across the crux of the walk yet, we must we walking a lot slower than I thought…

Then we were facing in such a direction that the wind was pushing us along the ledge, it was time to really start concentrating. I was watching the group like a hawk to ensure everyone was ok. I was certainly reassured that A was at the back making sure everyone was managing just fine. Then, all of a sudden, I recognised that we were at the point north of Frank Hurley Head where the fire trail comes right across to the cliff. Huh? How could we be here? Where were the exposed parts ?!?! I had a quick chat with A and it turned out that I’d passed them without batting an eyelid! What was the magazine talking about !?!?! We pushed on underneath Frank Hurley Head and ascended to the top of the cliffs from the south of the head.


Now to see if we could find a safe passage up and over Mount Banks to avoid a long and boring (although wind free) walk along the fire trail. While trying to take a photo of the view I had to sit down, the wind was so strong. I really wasn’t sure if we’d get up Mount Banks, I was having trouble keeping my footing. Thankfully we did. There were a lot of great viewpoints but none inviting for lunch because of the wind (and chill) factor. So, after we reached the summit, we descended to the picnic area nearby for lunch before descending back to the cars once more. There was no dallying around. We all got in our respective cars after a quick goodbye and headed off.