Bluebird snowshoe wonderment!

Glistening fields of snow, icey cornices hundreds of meters long near the peak of Australia’s tallest mountain, camping on snow with mountains and granite the only things in sight and walking across the snow river. This weekend was excellent in a way that I can only struggle to describe.

Early on Saturday I awoke to the dulcet tones of my alarm phone, quickly joined by the sound of my cousins dog wanting desperately to take its place in the bed I was about the vacate (that dog is a firm believer in energy efficiency). The early morning gremlins tried to convince me that after water bottle leaks, missing gear and generally shambolic packing methods the night before – going snowshoeing for the weekend wasn’t a good idea. Luckily common sense vacated the area and I picked up my gear and waited patiently for my lift to arrive. Nicole, Ellen and I were heading up into the backcountry near Mt Kosciusko to explore the snow fields before they melted and hiking started to resemble hard work.

Tumbling into the car I resumed my stupor until coffee made its way I to my blood stream somewhere near Thredbo. After much consultation on the various merits of thermals, ski pants, shorts and over pants our little gang was permitted upon the suspended skyward chariots that form the Kosciusko Express and found ourselves deposited at Thredbo Topstation with almost as much ceremony as the unveiling of my goggles.

From there we marched upwards. Not that Nicole (who loves going up hill) forced us to march for more than the 35 minutes. Why 35 minutes? Lunch! This walk was to become the sort of adventure I love where food takes priority  over walking.

image

Anyway as we regained our body temperature after a long break we made our way through the pass and saw our first goal in the distance, the precipit-less Mt Kosciusko.  The peak itself is not deserving of the term, but it is put on a great display with a massive cornice and spectacular ice formations on the summit.

On the peak we were told that the trail we’d intended taking towards Seamans Hut was getting a bit sloppy as the late season snow started to melt. This advice turned out to be the best we could have received as we turned away from the snow poles and up onto the ridgeline where few other people had been recently. Away from the touristy tracks the snow was crisp and clear of tracks and before long we found ourselves a campsite on the ridge too good to pass up so we set up our tents, gawked at the astounding beauty of the location we were to call home for the night and before long found ourselves waist deep in the snow with shovels and saws in an impromptu igloo making lesson before retiring very early to bed.

The morning brought even more outdoor bliss as the clear blue skies continued and the chilly temperatures overnight had refrozen all the snow that had started to melt the night before. So, after a morning so luxurious we almost forgot we had to go anywhere, we traipsed down the off the ridge and across the snowy river (we assume. It wasn’t quite clear where it was) and up a hill. Well a big hill. Well up onto the Ramshead Range. Anyway we had lunch on a hill and then made our way back to Thredbo circuitously along the flattest but possible least direct route available.

Posted in New South Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

T.O.W.S sufferers unite!

I have an admission to make. I sufferer from a disease. Okay it isn’t life threatening^, and probably isn’t going to cause any loss of livelihood unless someone at works notices that I am a victim of this horrific disease. I have contracted T.O.W.S.

Since I have been diagnosed I have come to wondering how long I have suffered this condition. Living in central Australia was I think quite good for me, and may have remedied many of the symptoms for a few years but with hindsight I can recognise many of the symptoms in my behaviour during my previous life in Sydney. Speaking of which, the symptoms. Oh the symptoms can be horrible. It can make working life a daily challenge as the T.O.W.S. influences the very way I view the world. I can’t really explain what it is like, but I will list some of the symptoms I experience and perhaps you’ll recognise my disease. I hear it is most common amongst outdoorsy people so you never know, you might be suffering from T.O.W.S and not even have recognised it.

The symptoms:

  • Loss of concentration and day-dreaming
  • Intermittent bouts of intense concentration, often manifesting in unconscious staring at objects more than five metres away*
  • Irritability**
  • Inability to look professional, especially pertaining to the failure to remove days worth of stubble or deeply ingrained grease stains.
  • Complete and utter failure to hear anything that might be construed to be an alarm by a reasonable person and inability to tell the time correctly – strangely this symptom is most evident on Monday morning and Friday afternoons, though not exclusively.

I don’t know if this sounds familiar to you, but I seem to live this every week. I am a suffered of T.O.W.S. – Tempting Office Window Syndrome.

^ only occasionally in the ways I find to reduce the symptoms…

* With the exception of maps, from which it can be almost impossible to distract oneself.

** Often directed at those people on social media detailing their excellent adventures when mine and less fantastical. (Yes that can mean you the reader, and I hope that my adventures are occasionally worthy of causing such irritability.)

Posted in Rants | 2 Comments

Camp Cave Bliss – Pindar Cave

The clouds are darkening, falling towards the ground. The sky, earlier so bright and promising, is fading towards twilight many hours ahead of its celestial scheduled. Panic sets in about finding a dry, warm place to spend the night out in bush, away from everything except for the dulcet tones of the Pacific Highway.

The thoughts of how to stay dry and warm starting creeping into my head early on Saturday afternoon as the first showers of what the BOM promised would be a night when the heavens would fall down upon the earth. These thoughts plagued my mind as we ambled happily towards Pindar Cave on Saturday afternoon. Pindar Cave is a very large overhang just 6km walk from Wondabyne Train Station, and even with the weather forecast as bad as it was the night was set to be a whole lot of fun as some good mates and I strolled through the bush laden with copious quantities of food.

Now before we go to far, I’d like you to think about the last meal you cooked while hiking. I am going to hazard there was probably only one course, and that the best selling point was that it was nutritious. Got that in mind? Well here is our menu for four for this weekends walk.

Saturday Lunch:- Rare roast beef and humous sandwiches on soy and linseed bread.
Nibbles:- Salami, spinach dip and humous with an option of three breads/crackers
Dinner:- Freshly handmade meatballs in a tomato sauce with a chorizo, capsicum and green bean cous-cous
Dessert:- A selection of chocolates, tea, biscuits and a most excellent bottle of port that taste like maple syrup
Breakfast, course 1:- Museli with cinnamon oat milk and banana
Breakfast, course 2: thick cut bacon on fresh bread
Breakfast, course 3:-  home made waffles with rhubarb compote

You get the idea, we ate well.

Now back to talking about weather. As we arrived to camp the slight mist that had been gracing us with its presence intensified into a persistent drizzle. Dropping packs we scampered into the bush collecting what kindling and firewood we could collect without depriving the surround bush of habitat or any of the ample fire-load that has built up over the past few years.

As we pulled in the last branches  the skies opened in earnest, with rain failing as if it meant business. Watching around us the track we had walking in on became a flowing stream, and the slow drips along the overhang edge became streams, then torrents of water cascading down in front of us and closing in our little overhang as a true cave.

After a very pleasant night of eating and pretending it wasn’t raining in our comfortable living room, we woke up to find the skies clearing and walking out in bright blue sunshine!

All up I think we have to thank the weather gods for looking after us so well this week, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rain really emphasised the value of camp caves and why they have formed such an important part of hiking culture around the Sydney basin.

 

 

Posted in Life and Daily Interest, Northern Territory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasmania – Port Arthur, Cape Huay and sinking boats

Last week my partner and I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely verdant Tasmania. Now all of you fellow Aussie out there are probably thinking why on oath would go to Tassie in the middle of bloody winter*. I could tell you that it is because of our love all things winter, or that we wanted to experience what cold actually is, or even that we really wanted to see the Cadbury factory, but in truth we went because we were luck enough to win flights from the Tassie Government “Cheeky Seats Giveaway“. This awesome campaign, with an equally awesome logo, gave us return flights to the Hobart on the proviso that we spent our tourist dollars in the relatively cash poor economy**.

Well what could we do by comply. I won’t bore you with the details of the trip except to say that you should ALL go to MONA and watch the video of two men puttering around a Loch in Scotland in a wood fired steam boat, using the boat itself as fuel!

*******  Not Details of the Trip – Start *******

Actually I will give you some details because otherwise the photos below won’t make much sense.

After spending our first day in Tassie relaxing, the second day was spent at MONA looking at some really amazing art, much of which I don’t even pretend to understand. I was impressed by the amount of interested (ready nerdy engineering) art that was there including the afore-mentioned boat, a great video of a remote control helicopter in a box, and an amazing whole of room projection showing lots of data about the galaxy as exported from somewhere that is home to smart people.  I don’t know if I can explain it in any useful way, it is quite amazing to walk around a room that strongly resembles the matrix.

Following my enlightenment at MONA we went out to Port Arthur to get some history and nature into our trip as well. Port Arthur itself is home to some amazing elements of Australian history, from early whaling and convict settlements right through the modern times with bush fires and the massacre. What really made the visit though was doing the ghost tour after dark. The passion and story-telling of the guide made it a night to remember, I don’t think I have ever jumped as much when a door slammed on queue!

From here it was off to Cape Huay and the tallest sea cliffs in the world. Growing up in Sydney, and having spent a fair bit of time on the various head lands and cliffs that bless the east coast generally I thought I was pretty well on top of how tall cliffs along the ocean could be. These sea cliffs are something else entirely!

Formed from dolomite the cliffs are sheer, angular and incredibly tall making for dramatic scenery unlike anything I’d ever seen before. To see the best of the best, and in the hope of seeing the famous Totem Pole we made our way to Fortescue Bay in the Tasman National Park and went for a stroll for a few hours our to Cape Huay. The well-formed track  took about 2.5 hours of walking to reach the cape and passed through some beautiful eucalypt forest as well as Tasmanian coastal heath zones.

Once we were the we were greeted with spectacular views, massive cliffs, tea and rainbows.

*******  Not Details of the Trip – End *******

Hope you enjoyed the photos, and not being given details of the trip!

 

* The British among your are probably thinking 8 degrees, is positively balmy still!

** The Tassie economy possibly being weak because they export delicious products like cheese, salmon, apples and seaweed instead of coal.

Posted in Australia, Life and Daily Interest, Tasmania | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moonie and Bob’s big walk

Do you ever feel like you haven’t been doing anything exciting recently? Do you ever feel like you haven’t done any thing worth telling people about when they ask you what you’ve been up to? I often feel like that, which I why I write this blog and I very much hope you enjoy my ramblings. Today however I do have exciting adventures to write about!

Now for anyone who hasn’t caught on with previous posts I recently bought a Surly ECR, which is a “semi-fat bike” with three inch tyres adequate for riding on most soft loose surfaces like sketchy roads, sand and purportedly snow. Living in Alice Springs there wasn’t a chance I would be taking the bike to snow. Living in Sydney though it is possible for snow to occur only a matter of hours away so this weekend I went looking for it!

I meet up with Simon from the FB group Fat Bikes Down-Under at Corin Dam in the ACT to start what I had presumed would be a leisurely ride and frolic in the snow. What transpired was entirely different.

Meeting Simon at Corin Dam we compared bikes and wheels. His 5inch tyres were wider but much smaller overall then my 29+

Meeting Simon at Corin Dam we compared bikes and wheels. His 5inch tyres were wider but much smaller overall then my 29+

From the Dam wall the ride quickly became a walk, and the walk quickly became a trudge, as we began the long accent from near the bottom of the valley (as a dam wall logically suggests in hindsight) up to Stockyard Spur where we hoped there would be snow we could ride out bikes in. I’d loaded up my bike with a frame bag and bar roll full of food, water and a multitude of warm clothing which meant the bike probably weighed in at about 30 kilograms, or in a more accessible unit of measure – too much!

I think this explains the gradient of the walk (Hike-a-Bike)

I think this explains the gradient of the walk (Hike-a-Bike)

The two kilometres to reach the top of the spur took over two hours of solid pushing to climb the 5oom, and with snow and ice starting about 100m from the top the last part of the distance was slow and treacherous. The rewards at the top were worth it though. I was greeted to a scene of beautiful snow gums, shin deep snow (15-20cm mostly), and weather that alternated between bright sunshine and snow flurries which were just enough to fill the tread marks in our tyre tracks as we rode.

As far as riding goes I am not sure I would describe it as successful. On my 29er plus semi-fat bike I spent the vast majority of the time pushing up hill and on flats. There were a few sections of downward slope which were rideable, but only where walkers had compressed the snow enough for there to be a firm pack to place the tyres on. As you can imagine in a fairly remote and hard to get to place there hadn’t been much compaction, and I would honestly guess that in the four and a half hours my little adventure took from car to car I rode for no more than 15 minutes.

I do think in a compacted snow field, probably something that had been groomed by snow-cats or something, it would be both possible and enjoyable to ride my bike in the snow. However for un-groomed fluffy snow I think it is safe to say I won’t be planning any more adventures of this type too soon. Not never, because it was fun, but not for now.

Anyway the rest of the adventure was fairly well adventurous, trundling back down the hill carrying my bike down the multitudinous steps back to the car. I think these photos should give you an idea of how beautiful and peaceful it is in the Australian snow, and also just how difficult it was “riding” my bike up there.

For any doubters out there. Here is the evidence of riding in the snow as demonstrate by yours truly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Australia, Life and Daily Interest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flashback – Great Ocean Walk 2007

Tonight I have been tidying my room. This means going through boxes of old documents I know long need and receipts from adventures long ago. Finding a folder of bank statements made me thing of some of the more fun things I did in 2007, one of which was the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria. This post will mostly be a few happy snaps, and is totally out of date, but the walk was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone.

****

Back in 2007 I was part of the UNSW Outdoors Club and enjoyed the company of their members of several trips including a rogaining (click this link if you mistakenly think it is a hair treatment), caving and bushwalking. One of the most enjoyable trips was to join a mate Ian, his brother and two utterly novice hikers on a 6 day bush walk along the Great Ocean Walking track. This 100km covers the section of coastline not occupied by the Great Ocean Road, known for being the most scenic coastal drive in Victoria as well as being a whole lot of fun in a gutless corolla.

Starting from Apollo Bay, and ending at the Apostle Bay visitors centre the walk is almost entirely isolated and away from the road, traffic and other people. It is well equipped with shelters and water tanks and the scenery is mind bogglingly good, especially with the luck we had.

I won’t go into the details of the walk because they are probably covered in a better more up to date manner by Parks Vic, however some of the highlights of the trip included:

  • The anchors of long wrecked ships washed up on rock platforms
  • Long isolated beaches
  • Campsites with cooking shelters on wet evenings, and the sort of conversations that can only happen after 5 days straight with the same people
  • being absolute shown how hiking should be done by a pair of 70+ Canadian women who were walking substantially faster, and more efficiently than us kids.
  • Dunnies with views. Seriously good views.
  • The whole walk!

To summarise the trip even further here are a few happy snaps!

Posted in Australia, Victoria | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Practicing for Cold Rides!

Now that I live in Sydney cold weather is even more of a novelty than it was in Alice Springs. Today is a full month into winter and I am walking around town in shorts and tee-shirt because it is so warm. Now that I own an ECR I am on a mission though. These bikes were made for snow and slush and mud and all things fun.
I recently found mud of a satisfying depth and consistency while riding around Sparrow Hill and Canberra. That leaves snow.

With that in mind, I am went up to the Blue Mountains today for a practice ride with my fully loaded Surly.

The gear packed on the bike included:

  • Snow gloves (which I wore some of the time to see how easy it was to shift gears)
  • down vest
  • rain gear
  • extra thermals etc
  • 3.5 litres of water
  • stove and gas canister
  • tools
  • GPS
  • Food!
  • lots of Bike Bag Dude bags
  • k-lite dynamo lights

All in all I am pretty impressed by the amount of stuff I could fit on the bike without even trying to be efficient. I can see that with a bike seat bag or a bag on the back rack I could easily head out for a night or two without adding to much extra bulk or impacting the handling.

So…. The ride!

I had been reading the forecast all day yesterday and this morning and new that the weather had a strong potential to be miserable, which was exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately when I got to Faulconbridge in the lower Blue Mountains there was nary a cloud in sight, and the sun was bleating down.

So I loaded up and off I went along the lovely fire trail I had found described on the NSW Mtb forum last night. It was almost as flat as described, and gave me a good chance to play with the loaded bike. Just like my Long Haul Trucker the bike feels more stable and fun once it has a bit of load on it, and I couldn’t resist riding over every sand patch on the trail just to see if I could make the thing wobble. I couldn’t!

As I reached the point of the ridge, and the nice little lookout situated there, the wind dropped, the sun came out and everything was just spiffy for a spot of lunch and some chill time. Riding back to the car the wind picked up and the clouds came out. Looks like  picked my window perfectly if I hadn’t have been looking for the bad weather!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Posted in Australia, New South Wales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment