Lotsafreshair is all about sharing tips, tricks and adventures in the great outdoors. Encouraging one another to get out into the freshair, maybe try something they haven't done before. The blog provides bushwalking and hiking tips from an unexpected outdoors chick, Caro Ryan.
* Warning: Cringe-worthy photos of broken bones below – don’t scroll if squeamish!
Slip, drop, SNAP! That’s how our fourth day in the stunning Victorian High Country changed its course from one of a simple final descent to the trailhead, to something quite other.
After hearing one of my fellow walkers call my name, I looked up to see only Margot’s backpack lying on the ground, her crumpled body on the other side, I knew something must be really wrong.
She’s one tough bushwalking cookie is our Margot – an experienced, fit and no nonsense kinda gal. So for her to remain on the ground and not even utter a sound, or even cry out, wasn’t a good sign. Her level of toughness, and our utter respect for her, would shine through over the coming hours.
We’d left the MUMC Hut (1600m) (where we’d spent our third and final night for the trip) only 20 minutes earlier and were coming down the North-West Spur of Mt Feathertop. It was early in the day, we were fresh, feeling strong after three days walking and we were carrying much lighter packs, having devoured a mountain of food to equal Feathertop itself.
Mt Feathertop from MUMC Hut
The track leaves this geodesic dome of wonder and immediately begins a descent of 1140m over 7 kms, to emerge near the Trout Farm in Harrietville. Often overgrown, it hugs the ridge line leading through towering eucalypt forest and regrowth from the 2013 Bushfires. Often steep in parts, it is one of the more difficult and less popular routes to access the popular Mt Feathertop, Razorback Ridge and Federation Hut areas.
We had just breached the tree line and were entering a magnificent Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) forest, in a flat area of respite from the constant slope. After light rain the night before, the ground was covered in damp bark, shed in a continuous lifecycle from the giants that towered above us.
This slippery bark, would be Margot’s un-doing.
So simple. So quick. So unexpected.
So much a reminder of how important appropriate first aid training is for bushwalkers and hikers like us.
Margot and MM enjoy happy hour (with uninvited guest) on steps of MUMC Hut.
I’ve been doing remote first aid courses for years, always in the hope that I never have to use any of it. But when one of our own goes down, landing awkwardly and snaps their wrist (radius), pushing the broken pieces up into the smaller carpal bones of the hand, I’m so thankful for those endless recertification sessions, every 3 years (12 months for CPR). Practice, practice, practice.
Doing a good quality remote area (or Wilderness) first aid course is ensuring that you pack one of the most essential things into your backpack. It’s packing the knowledge of what to do in a first aid emergency.
And although I’ve whinged in the past, whenever my recertification (recert) comes up, going through the motions of practicing different scenarios, out in the bush, is the only thing that makes the process smoother, easier and automatic.
Nup, that doesn’t look right. [Taking photos before applying a splint can help the experts down the track.]
Umm, nope – that’s just not right either.
Doing (and re-doing) remote area first aid courses helps you:
Stay calm, take control and have well ordered, wise and automatic responses.
Support the victim, keeping them calm, reduce stress, help them feel taken care of.
Reduce further injury, setup an injury experience with the best chance of fast recovery.
Ability to see the bigger picture and delegate roles to other members of the party.
Share the calm with the rest of the group.
Create a clear plan and execute it.
Don’t operate above your pay grade
In Margot’s case, here’s the process that we went through, to get her to medical help.
In our group of 4, the others knew that I was the most experienced first aider, which made delegation and roles after an emergency happened common knowledge. There’s no question or time wasted with, ‘Who knows first aid? What do we do?
Calm with bucket loads of assurance, it’s a team effort.
When they called me over and I saw Margot on the ground, I walked calmly and slowly over to her. (Have you ever seen an ambo/paramedic run?). These few seconds gave me the chance to take control of my own reactions to a potentially stressful situation, think clearly and remind myself of my training and slowly unbuckle my own pack to put down.
As Frances told me that it was her wrist, I was slowly lowering my pack and talking to Margot, reassuring her and supporting her wrist as the others helped to remove her waist strap and backpack.
Putting the backpack on it’s side behind her gave her support to sit up and lean back on something, the whole time giving what one of my first aid instructors called, ‘bucket loads of reassurance.’ Speaking calmly with a patient and not ‘over them’ to the people around them is important. They are at the centre of the situation, so include them in discussions and decision making where possible.
Ask questions, how did you do this, what did you land on and checking for other injuries, ie. had she hit her head? Impaled herself on a stick going down? Been bitten by an unseen snake earlier that caused her to become unstable and fall? Try to gauge the level of pain they’re in by using a 1-10 scale, this will help in formulating evacuation plans.
The makings of an improvised splint
Supporting the injury (and patient) and not causing any further damage meant moving into execution of treatment.
With two other people in the party, Fabulous Frances (FF) and Marvelous Murray (MM), I was able to delegate roles. Making a cup of tea is not only giving sympathy, but helps the patient rehydrate and is a point of comfort in our culture. It also helps people contribute to tasks and not have lots of people hovering around the patient. So whilst FF boiled the billy, I asked MM to find a suitable piece of solid bark to use as a splint. He found an excellent 1cm thick, u-shaped piece, slightly longer than her forearm, that acted as a solid cradle for her arm to sit in. Nice work team. All the while, I was talking with Margot and getting her to support her arm in the place of most comfort (or was that least pain?).
With the splint located, I then used my own piece of foamie mat to pad the bark and Margot’s own piece to protect the sharp end near her elbow. One of Margot’s rolled up triangular bandages provided support under her hand, whilst securing all in place with one of her compression bandages.
Meanwhile, the team were busy with reallocating the items from Margot’s pack into our 3 backpacks, whilst I helped her with taking some Panadol (and an hour later) Ibuprofen.
I felt calm throughout. The only time I felt uneasy was when Margot thought that due to the obvious deformity in her hand, she had dislocated it and asked me to relocate it. Although I’ve received training in relocating a dislocated shoulder in a wilderness environment, I knew nothing about wrists, other than there’s a LOT of bones and things that can go wrong in there. The fact is I’m not a medical professional, I don’t have training in that type of thing, so for me to operate outside of what I’ve been taught would have been ‘above my paygrade’. When it comes to issues of ‘Good Samaritan laws’, it’s generally accepted that if you act within the training that you have received, you minimise your exposure to issues of liability.
When it came to working out an evacuation plan for Margot, ie. trying to work out if we needed to call for backup either medically or for transport (helicopter) it came down to weighing up a few factors.
1) The nature of the injury
2) The level of pain
3) Current weather conditions
4) Distance and difficulty to the track head and our car
5) Margot’s overall fitness, ability and general state
6) Communication options
One method of ‘double-packing’
It can be a tricky balance, working out if a patient is ambulatory or not. Whether to push the button of the PLB or not.
In Margot’s case, where her pain levels were 7-8 yet in good spirits and physically capable otherwise, where the ridge line and mountain above us were covered in low cloud and we were in a densely forested area with multiple canopies, I felt that the best option would be to try to walk her out slowly, re-evaluating if any of these points changed.
And so she did. With a walking pole in her able hand and the rest of us taking her pack and sharing the contents, she headed down 6kms and 900 vertical metres of overgrown, damp track.
With MM up the front, clearing the path as best he could and helping her over fallen trees, whilst FF and I brought up the rear, she wowed us with her tenacity.
She favoured a ‘just keep going’ approach over too many rest stops – she had set her mind to get to the car.
We kept up the constant check-ins with her regarding pain levels and when 4 hrs had passed, offered more Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, along with that priceless prescription of ‘bucketloads of reassurance.’
The ability of humans to ‘hold it together’, when faced with trauma or stressful situations, especially when you can see a definitive light at the end of the tunnel, is remarkable.
Margot was a trooper and did more than hold it together over what must have been a very painful and difficult descent. She continued to hold it together at the Bright Medical Centre, where the Duty Nurse took one look at the photos I’d taken before applying the splint and sling and told her she wasn’t going to touch it, sending her directly to Wangaratta Hospital as it was obviously broken.
The irony of safety signs
And again, at Wangaratta Hospital, where the medical staff praised the splint and sling and finally removed it to X-ray and confirm what we’d suspected. And again, where she went through two reset attempts (only one with local anaesthetic), before being plastered (the drugs were good) and FF drove her to Sydney.
Now, eight weeks later, post surgery with metal plates and screws, she is deep in physiotherapy and reports that her penmanship with her right hand is improving.
Here’s some thoughts, written with that right hand…
What were your first thoughts after realising that you’d hurt yourself?
It was so quick I don’t remember my left arm hitting the ground at all. But it hurt and when I looked over to it I thought, “Oh no, that is going to need medical attention.” I was lucky to be walking with not only good friends, but people who cope camly and practically in any situation. Everyone was wonderful in helping me down the rest of the spur. I felt bad they had to carry my stuff as I am not good at packing light.
Has the experience made you want to practice your own first aid more? Do another course?
I will definitely be doing another course when I have recovered. It made such a difference having people calmly knowing what to do. I want to be one of those people.
The doctors and nurses at the hospital were very impressed with my improvised splint and remote first aid care. The nurse at the first hospital didn’t even want to unwrap my arm as she thought we had done a better job.
Nah, definitely not right!
What’s your advice to bushwalkers around first aid?
I think first aid is an important skill to have. When things go wrong we are often in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception and in my case many hours from professional medical help. Even setting off a PLB there could be an hour or 3 before help arrives. In a life threatening situation having some, or all, of your fellow walkers with up to date training could be your only chance of surviving.
What’s your advice to someone giving first aid to an injured person?
Keep calm. Even if you are freaking out on the inside, it makes such a difference if the person giving aid is calm.
What’s the difference between a standard Senior First Aid course and one that is specific for Wilderness or Remote Area First Aid?
It can get pretty confusing with all the different types of courses available and different training companies using words to describe the types of training they offer. Generally speaking, the progression of skills and expertise can be categorised by:
Senior First Aid (ie. Call 000 and the experts can be here soon to take over)
Remote Area First Aid (ie. You may not have phone coverage and the experts can’t get there for 30 mins or more)
Wilderness First Aid (ie. You probably won’t have phone coverage and the experts can’t get there for several hours or more)
Expedition / First Responder (ie. You’re in a leadership position in charge of other people, for multiple days, in remote/wilderness or expedition conditions, where the experts may be several hours to several days help away).
8 weeks on and she’s back on the track with a scar and a great story
I love podcasts. It’s like the radio genie heard about my love for the ABC Conversations (and it’s forebear, Margaret Throsby) and decided to open the doors to millions of such great conversations, from all around the world on topics I care about. Now, I can find on demand radio shows, ie. great podcasts, whenever and wherever I want… such as my new poddie love, Sparta Chicks Radio.
During last year, I kept seeing Instagram posts pop up from @SpartaChicks and her founder and host @SpartaJen (Jen Brown). I finally got to meet her six months ago and she’s awesome!
I admit that I struggled with the name ‘Sparta’ at first, as it conjured up images of hard-core Spartan races, flash-backs from 90’s Gladiators and now the Ninja vs Spartan TV shows. However, a fast bit of Wiki-loving has shown me that there is such great depth in the name and history of Sparta, that it makes complete sense for Jen to adopt the name when creating her community.
Turns out, that women in ancient Sparta (think Greece 400 BC) not only experienced better rights and equality to men than in other ancient civilisations, but as part of the citizenship of Sparta, everyone had to undergo military (physical) training. They were pretty impressive when it came to wars, but the other aspect of the Sparta Chicks name that I love, is the nod to the arena. Not the one with lions and hand-to-hand battle, but the arena of life.
And really, this is what Sparta Chicks is all about. Finding bravery for the arena of life, for chasing your dreams and dealing with fears. My biggest surprise in listening to these podcasts, is realising how much I actually have in common with the impressive people that she interviews. Don’t think that these amazing athletes and adventure people are all professionals bound for Olympics or World Championships, these are everyday people, (or as Jen says in her intro… ‘everyday women and a few good men’) who are learning to overcome the mental challenges and the negatives stories that we tell ourselves, to move towards their dreams.
Needless to say, I was so delighted when I got to sit down in my backyard (with the cockatoos which you can hear in the background) and spend about an hour with Jen for episode #49. It felt like we were old friends and that we rambled on for hours and hours. Thankfully, she’s a very generous, humble and intuitive interviewer, keeping me on track as we talked about my issues with weight, getting started into this whole bushwalking/hiking shenanigan and dealing with my own negative self-talk.
Are you hammock hiking curious? I had the absolute pleasure of hanging out on ABC Radio recently, speaking with the lovely Sarah Macdonald and her producer, Mandy Roberts.
We’ve all got friends like Sarah… someone who has happy memories of camping and bushwalking years ago, but it’s been a long time between drinks. She works with producer Mandy, who just happens to be a mad-keen bushwalker and camper like me, except…
… she’s one of the (relatively new) breed of hikers, in that she’s a hammocker. Never completely satisfied with sleeping on the ground, she has raised herself up to enjoy the heights of sleeping in a hammock.
If you’ve been hammock curious for a while, take a listen to our interview where we talk about the different types of bushwalkers and hiking styles available, as well as get an introduction to the wonderful world of the hammock.
It’s common to think about doing body stretches when exercising for things like running, swimming or cycling, but many of us fail to realise that when we go bushwalking or hiking, we are athletes too and should treat our bodies as such. So what are the best stretches for hiking, bushwalking or trekking?
I’m not a physio or an expert, so I asked a mate who is not only a health professional, but a member of my bushwalking club! He knows the ouches and strains that we put our bodies through when bushwalking. Here’s the stretches he recommends for hikers to help our bodies be the best they can be… and remember, you should always consult the appropriate professionals on any matter that is related to your safety, fitness, health and well being before proceeding with any action.
Don’t forget that stretching soon after a hike is much better than before, as you’re warmed up and there’s less chance of injury.
Click on each of the links to be taken to various YouTube clips for detailed instructions (and alternatives) for each stretch and I’ve also put together this handy PDF cheatsheet that you can download!
Best Stretches for Hikers
Adductor (Groin) Stretch – Our groin/adductor region can suffer from long days on the track. Being able to open up this area and release tightness here can be a great relief.
It’s summer, you’re on holidays and you’ve finally got the time to go out on your bucket list bushwalking adventure.
We may even feel it’s our right to reward ourselves at this time of year by throwing on our backpack, stepping away from urban life and embracing an adventure that we’ve possibly spent months planning for and working towards.
Athletes Battling Extreme Heat
Unless you’ve been hiding under a media rock for the last two weeks, you would have heard about the issues that the players (and organisers) are having in Melbourne at the Australian Open.
“Gael Monfils is one of the most athletic and fit players in men’s tennis, but in the closing moments of his second-round match against Novak Djokovic, the Frenchman was staggering around between points at Rod Laver Arena like a punch-drunk boxer. ‘I got super dizzy,’ said Monfils, who told the chair official to forget the new rule that requires players to serve within 25 seconds between points. ‘I think I had a small heat stroke for 40 minutes.’ [Jerry Bembry, ESPN]
And it’s not only the tennis, Cricket has also been in the (rather hot) spotlight during the recent Ashes Test. Temps over 50C were recorded at the SCG and we saw powerful images of sportspeople on their knees, under full sun, trying to refresh themselves.
When Cricket Australia were questioned by the ABC, they responded, saying: “A common sense approach is taken on the day with the match officials. We obviously have various components affordable at the top level (misting fans, ice jackets, drinks, et cetera)… and the umpires added in extra drink breaks and teams then used their own solutions as well.”
That’s all well and good for elite athletes, where expert medical help or an ice bath are only a run across the pitch away. However, for those of us who love exerting ourselves in wild and natural places, where access to enough drinking water is often a challenge and medical help is often hours (or days) away, the levels of risk and their implications to life are massive.
It’ll never happen to me
As Australians, I think we are secretly proud of our dangerous creatures and environment that can kill you. With a laugh and a touch of bravado – almost a badge of honour – it’s part of our charm, right? Along with our infamous, ‘Aussie larrikin spirit’, there’s a strong belief in, ‘it’ll never happen to me’. Sadly, when it comes to people dying from heat related illness, it does happen all too often… and it doesn’t have to.
I’ll never forget being involved in the search for David Iredale, an awesome 17 year old student on a 3 day hike with mates in my backyard, Mt Solitary in the Blue Mountains. I thoroughly recommend reading the report from the Coroner’s Inquest, as it has many lessons to teach all of us and those who we take on adventures. I share his story with kids on Duke of Edinburgh hikes that I lead, as we sit by the logbook that David signed on the Eastern tip of the mountain.
It’s potentially a better choice, but is it still a good idea?
When is it too hot for hiking?
When making any decision about hiking, whether it be, “Can I trust my navigation skills?” or “Am I carrying enough food?” or even, “Do I trust that this rock overhang will hold my weight whilst I get my Insta-selfie?”, it’s all to do with risk assessments. Those often split second Q&A’s that go through in our mind (well, hopefully they do) that help us answer the following questions:
What is the risk involved?
How likely is it to happen?
What are the consequences of that risk?
After you’ve asked those questions, then it’s about working out ways to minimise the risk or lower the likelihood of something bad happening, so that you are comfortable with the amount of risk that remains.
If you lead walks for organisations like Scouts or Duke of Ed, you’ll be used to these questions and probably have to prepare a document before you head out to help you check you’ve covered everything.
Bushwalkers are athletes
But what we as bushwalkers and hikers (insert your preferred term here) often fail to see, is that we are athletes too. We expect big things of our bodies, especially if we only ask it occasionally, such as during a summer holiday.
It can come as a surprise to some that the peak season for bushwalking in Australia is actually winter and the cooler months, especially for epic multi-day trips. It’s the time of year when having good quality gear, it’s possible to add another layer, another log to the campfire and snuggle down inside a good quality sleeping bag to keep warm.
If you’re trying to cool down in summer, there’s only so much you can do, especially if you’re not near a water source and once your body starts to overheat, you become open to the risks of heat related illness and hyperthermia. It’s not just about dehydration and being a bit thirsty. You actually start to cook your organs.
It’s not a pretty thought, but a poignant one.
Day trips along creeks with shade. A better choice for summer.
Factors affecting hiking in the heat
Here’s some questions to ask yourself when trying to figure out if it’s too hot to go bushwalking:
What are National Parks or the Land Managers saying about the conditions?
Are there exit points or places I can pull out of the walk if it all gets too much or in case of bushfire?
Am I going to enjoy the experience of walking in these conditions?
When planning that great day out, we’ll have an Instagram worthy picture in our minds of what we hope to feel like when we get to the top of that mountain. Sun on our face, contented smile of achievement on our lips and that quiet moment of ‘ah’, as we gaze out to the horizon.
Unfortunately, the reality of heading out on an extreme day, is that you’re more likely to be completely exhausted, feeling crap, possibly have a headache and nausea, be sweating like a Bikram class gone bad and be wishing you were at home in front of Netflix, with a coldie, simply planning your next adventure for a cooler day.
It’s just not worth it. Why work so hard for such a crap experience?
What is Wet Bulb Index?
We’re all familiar tapping our fave weather app for information on the min and max temps forecast and possibly glancing at the humidity, but there’s another really interesting measure of how our bodies respond whilst exercising in heat and it’s called the Wet Bulb Index.
The Aussie BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) also have a measure called the Thermal Comfort Observations. These compare a number of different measures and can provide you information to help make a better informed decision.
So, what’s the limit then? What’s the cutoff?
If you came looking for a figure or a bench-mark, I’m sorry, you won’t find that here. Rather than give you a Nanny-State number, I’ve given you some tools, resources and ideas to help you make the right decision for you. Sure, I have a number that I’m generally happy with, that is based upon my tolerance for risk, but I’m not you. You need to make good, wise and practical decisions based on your circumstances.
And as with any level of risk, if in doubt… don’t. It’s just not worth it.
Q: What about you? What other questions or things do you consider before making a decision about bushwalking or hiking in hot weather?
Resources for Hiking in the Heat
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve actually lost a couple of phones to damage during adventures over the years. Mostly, it’s about water getting into the phone from rain, when the old ziplock bag trick failed and then I also blame the Colo River once. OK, maybe that was me… but when we rely on our phones for emergency communications in wild places (or for navigation tools), it’s essential that we protect our smartphones from damage. After a couple of failures, I now reckon that the best smartphone case for protecting your phone in the bush, is a LifeProof.
I blame the Colo River… OK, maybe I had something to do with it!
They make a bunch of different models and don’t worry Samsungers… there’s stuff for you too.
Here’s what I like about it:
Tough – the manufacturers say they’ll survive a drop from 2m
Waterproof – they also say that they’re submersible to 2m for up to 1 hour (in fact, I know some people who have taken their phone snorkelling!)
Sealed – all shut up from dust, ice, snow, dirt
Thumbprint – Yep… fingerprint technology still works through it
Colour – If you have ever left something behind in the bush, having a bright colour helps prevent this.
Charger Cables (both Apple and generic) fit in the access door
Apple cable fits!
Generic charger cable fits too!
In terms of negatives, the only one I’ve encountered is really just to do with the size. As nice and slimline as my iPhone is, the fact is if I want to protect it with a LifeProof, it adds bulk and ‘robustness’ to the design. Just as well I’m not interested in sexy, slimline, pretty design and more excited by strength, toughness and all round protection for my phone!
Yes! Fingerprint technology works through the case
As I’ve been through different phones over the years and updated my LifeProof along the way, I’ve been impressed that their designers have heeded the feedback and made changes to fix niggly little things that used to annoy me. For one, on some of the older cases, opening the door for the charger cable was difficult and resulted in damaging the rubber seal at one stage. With their new case for an iPhone 8 that I’m currently using LifeProof Fre 360, this has been fixed.
Pool of Siloam, Walls of Jerusalem (Pic: Caro Ryan)
Do you remember your first multi-day bushwalk? Was it somewhere that touched your soul and drew you back?
I can remember feeling like I’d walked into Willy Wonka’s factory, jaw dropping and astounded by everlasting gobstopping views. I couldn’t believe that a place as beautiful as this existed.
That place, was the Walls of Jerusalem and it was January 1999.
Delicate Cushion Plants need lots of tender loving care and shouldn’t be walked on
Like things in Willy Wonka’s factory, these can be eaten… but you wouldn’t want to. Blah!
With memories that still play out like photos, I was ecstatic at the prospect of heading back there. Although much has changed in my bush experience since then, I was delighted to be heading back with someone who felt like an old friend, guides from Tasmanian Expeditions. These guys the first to start commercial walking trips on the Overland Track in 1968, as well as taking the first commercial rafting trips down the Franklin River in the 70s.
The trip was scheduled for the end of March and being so close to the end of the Tassie walking season (Oct-Mar), I wondered what the temps were going to be like. Having experienced snow and horizontal sleet on the Overland track in Dec-Jan, I was prepared for anything.
As it would turn out, the cool, crisp nights and mornings with paper thin ice on the lakes, brought skies so dense with blue and warmth at noon that we allowed ourselves swimming… every day.
Walking towards the Wild Dog Creek Campsite, Day 1.
In some ways, The Overland Track is something of a sister (or maybe cousin) to its lesser known relative to the east. But along with its pristine views, crystal mountain tarns and isolation, they much in common… except the crowds. It’s not like some big secret that I’m letting out of the bag, people have been going there for years, but thankfully, much of the traffic has kept to the Overland, where the promise of huts and toilets can lure even the daintiest prince and princess away from five star luxury.
It’s because of this lack of resources such as trailhead infrastructure, huts, toilets, camping platforms and marketing that leads the Walls to have significantly less human traffic. Which makes it paradise for me!
We kicked off introductions to each other at the mandatory gear check and briefing the day before. This kind of attention to detail impressed me.
The Wilderness areas we’d be visiting can suffer such extremes and unpredictable changes in weather, that to have anyone out there without the correct gear, could be extremely serious… trust me, they’ve had someone turn up with a plastic poncho!! (#ohnoponcho)
On the drive in we caught signs of the bushfires that rolled through here in 2015. Sadly, there are ancient trees and plants in that area that will never recover and are lost forever. For us though, the worst of the fires were south west of where we’re heading, with the damage avoiding the magical Central Walls.
Trappers Hut, Walls of Jerusalem NP
Pulling into the carpark at the base of the Trappers Hut trackhead, memories of 1999 came flooding back. We hauled on our packs (15-18kgs) and made the slow plod up to Trappers Hut and morning tea. Apart from short, pinchy side trips, this 400m ascent is the only serious one for the whole trip and it was great to have our guides set a good pace, one that everyone was comfortable with. My pack felt unusually heavy for me, but given the incredible food that our guides were going to prepare for us over the coming week (for which we all shared the load), I didn’t mind one bit.
With temps reaching 23, we were all excited at the prospect of cooling off in one of Solomon’s Jewels, a series of pools that decorate the plateau region.
Walkers entering Solomons Jewels, Walls of Jerusalem NP
Entering Solomons Jewels, Walls of Jerusalem NP
Walls of Jerusalem - Part 1 - YouTube
Glinting enticingly we slid into what can only be described as King Solomon’s Court Jester, for 30cm below the surface, we slid and slipped into the slimy embrace of mud. Comedy ensued, helping break the ice with strangers and together we ticked off swim one, day one.
Onwards to camp at the Wild Dogs Campsite, with great facilities provided by Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, including tent platforms and fly in fly out toilet, running water taps and an elevated position over the valley. Absolutely perfect for watching sunset and satellites.
Heading across plain of Wild Dog Creek
Taking things a bit easier after the full packs yesterday, we headed off with only light day packs and of course, swimming cosies, for day two of exploring. The luxury of two nights in one spot, allowed us to spend a full day nestled in the embrace of the Wild Dog Creek Valley, before entering through into the sanctuary of the Central Walls.
Stretching our legs and spreading out across button grass plains, we visited the magical Solitary Man’s Hut, holding stories and secrets of a 1983 Vietnam Vet who built himself the hut (without Parks permission), seeking peace and solitude. He spent about 18 months living a quiet life, swimming in Tiger Lake (as we did), popping back to town for supplies, but generally, living apart.
Tiger Lake, Walls of Jerusalem NP
Cushion plants are home to 100’s of other species… so tiny!
The Walls of Jerusalem is home to many more than just Trappers Hut (Day 1) and Solitary Man Hut (Day 2). If you’re a fan of pioneering huts and the stories of families who etched out a tough living, in a tough land, then you’ll have another reason to love the Walls. Dixons Hut is one of those that has a postcard familiarity to it and was a perfect lunch spot on Day 3 and allowed us to catch up on history with interpretive signage inside.
Entering Dixons Hut is entering the world of pioneering Walls history
For those of us who wanted to really stretch our legs and embrace the incredible weather, we ended with an optional scramble up King Davids Peak. Scrambling and rock hopping and breathing with the unwordable reward of 360 degree views from the top to see all the way to the Overland Track and beyond.
I loved it up here, looking across to The Overland Track, from King Davids Peak
Looking south west towards the Overland Track from King Davids Peak
Walls of Jerusalem NP - Part 2 - YouTube
If King Davids Peak is the entree at the entrance to Herods Gate, then the following day would be the main course of the stunning and epic peaks of King Solomons Throne and Mt Jerusalem.
Using the word ‘peak’ can sometimes infer that they’re somehow unattainable and only the domain of experienced mountaineers and rock climbers. However, the teams at TasParks have done incredible jobs of creating walkable paths and rock steps, that puts the incredible sense of achievement of a climb, in the grasp of any walker with good fitness.
The narrow slot chimney, that’s a feature of King Solomons Throne, is my favourite and the Pool of Bethesda is one of those places where time stands still. Leaving there was very hard.
Another epic view from Mt Jerusalem, Walls of Jerusalem NP
Yay! I’m in the Central Walls!
Of biblical proportions – Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania.
Now it’s probably at this point that you’re thinking, ‘There’s a whole lot of biblical references going on here.’ The rather epic like nomenclature was from surveyor James Scott and passionate bushwalker, Reg Hall. James chose the name ‘Walls of Jerusalem’ in 1849 and, well, he kinda started something that caught on and if you’ve been to old city Jerusalem and then visit WoJ, you’ll get it.
After a couple of days cosied into the these walls, there’s a feeling of being suddenly purged from the belly of the Walls and out into the surrounds of Lake Ball. A giant silver swathe, cut low to the valley, reflected the now greying skies and prophesied the first rain of our trip.
Leaving the Central Walls and heading for Lake Ball
My home beside Lake Ball (glad it’s not tidal!) as clouds gather
Tiny mosses and plants thrive in alpine Wilderness environments
Walls of Jerusalem - Part 3 - YouTube
By the time we reach Lake Ball, Nothofagus gannii is the carpet, the wallpaper and in sections of overgrown track, where wildness reaches out to smother you, the ceiling.
Green for now, with the teasing hints of one or two hidden..
You know the term re-gifting, right? Are you guilty of doing it? Well, if you want to give your outdoorsy loved ones some things that they’ll actually use, then here’s a few Christmas gift ideas for hikers, bushwalkers and those that love to connect to wild places.
If you’ve ever been holed up in a tent in heavy rain for a day (or just fancy the thought of playing Uno half way through a canyon), you probably wished you had a good book or a set of cards. How about UNO… a waterproof version!
Almost as cute as a real Platypus, this little guy holds a whole bottle of the good stuff and keeps it fresh out in the bush, so you can leave the goon-sack behind. If you know a bushwalker who loves a tipple, this is an ideal gift (thanks to my friend Margot for mine!).
I’ve been using flints as my preferred way of lighting stoves and campfires for a couple of years now. There’s lots of different types on the market, but here’s the Light My Fire one (one of the types that I use) that might make a good stocking stuffer for the outdoors person in your life.
It doesn’t matter the time of year or season, every good bushwalker, hiker and tramper always needs a good set of thermals. These Geothermals from Macpac are currently on sale… bargain! I personally love the green colour in the mens styles!
I first heard about Brooke and her Slow Home Podcast over 4 years ago. Since that time, I’ve been a regular listener and have managed to put into practice many of the approaches to living that she and Ben (her hubbie sidekick) espouse about living a meaningful, slow and connected life.
It’s part of every basic kit and whether you’re like me who uses it mostly to cut cheese, open a beer and clean your teeth (these’s a toothpick and tweezers), it’s something that I always have with me.
If you know someone who loves a good coffee table book and is a nature lover, this is the perfect gift. Over 150 stunning images from 35 contributing photographers, that celebrates the richness and diversity of NSW National Parks and cultural heritage. Just a hint… if anyone is wondering what to get me this Christmas ;-). Oh and I currently have a copy to GIVEAWAY to one lucky subscriber to lotsafreshair!
Hmmmm, pillow. OK, so I know that the ultralight way is to stuff your down jacket into your sleeping bag cover (oh hang on, if you’re ultra then you won’t even have a bag cover)… but sometimes there’s nothing better than a real pillow and at only 70g, it’s a little bit of luxe for not much weight.
Do you like your Aussie (and overseas) adventure in an independent style, with a focus on bushwalking and backcountry exploring and a solid dose of conservation? Australia’s longest running adventure style magazine, recently re-invented, could be just the ticket. [Digital subscription available].
For the adventurous women in your lives, give Australia’s first women’s adventure magazine. Not just about bushwalking and hiking, but you’ll find stories about cycling (in all it’s forms), trail running, padding (in all it’s forms), climbing and of course general adventure travel and lots more… oh and just a few articles by me! [Digital subscription available].
Another recent reinvention, has seen Australia Geographic Outdoor magazine shift publishers and rebrand as Outdoor. Packed full with inspiration from independent outdoor adventurers, gear reviews and stories with great design, if you want variety… this could be the one.
If walking is your thing and you’re interested in inspiration, trip reports, gear reviews, how-to’s, etc, with a variety of independent style trips and commercial operator led ones, this is the subscription for you and your loved ones… just make sure they hand it on to you when they’ve finished! [Digital subscription available].
Until I saw the light, I sacrificed 2 iPhones on the altar of moisture whilst on adventures. One was due to rain, when the ziplock bag failed and the other was, well… the Colo River. I now won’t use anything else, except the Lifeproof and although I’ve had to update them every 18 months or so as the o-rings start to show wear, they are impact and waterproof. I totally rate em.
If you’ve ever tested out one of the new breed of lightweight hiking chairs around the campfire at night, you’ll know that it’s the equivalent of flying at the pointy end of the plane. 780 grams of post bushwalk luxury.
The bees knees of lightweight trekking poles, these guys are the gold standard in poles. If you read my How to Use Poles article and are looking to buy, I thoroughly recommend these. Carbon construction, folding up Z style for those off-track, rock scrambling or transport moments and only 285g per pair. These are also on my wishlist!
And now the priceless one… an experience! Why not book yourself in at the same time and share in an adventure in the Blue Mountains? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or an advanced level canyoner or climber, there’s something at BMAC for everyone.
So these are the legends that I hung out with and that helped with the filming of the Canyon Safety Video and I now count many of them as friends. If you’ve always wanted to try canyoning, but never quite got around to it – makes this a new year’s resolution to enter another world and experience exhilaration, wonder and fantastic memories. And the BEST PART use promo code: iknowcaro when you book and receive a 5% discount (expires 7th Jan 2018).
Maybe getting into a wetsuit isn’t your idea of fun, but you still want to challenge yourself, build technique and enjoy the incredible views that climbing in the Blue Mountains can give you. Well, I reckon a day of climbing with BMAC is perfect for that. Again, I thoroughly recommend these guys and they’ve kindly offered a 5% discount before 7th Jan 2018 if you use promo code: iknowcaro.
This is the PLB that I carry and hope to never use. It’s one of the smallest and lightest on the market and I wouldn’t want to leave the track head without it. Stop saying, ‘Yes, I really should have one of those,’ and actually buy yourself one. It could save your own life, or someone else’s.
The latest offering from Suunto, aimed fair and square at the outdoors adventure market, the Spartan Sports Baro GPS (oh and by the way, it also tells time) watch is something I’d love to see under my Christmas tree this year. If you’re wanting to make 2018 the year of your new watch that does it all (GPS, colour touch screen, breadcrumb trail, GPS and barometric altitude, compass, sunset and rise times, plus all the usual support you’d expect for multiple sports (80 different types to be precise) and training modes, then take a good hard look at this offering. OMG, I just read that it only weighs 74g.
Thanks to everyone who tuned (and called!) in to the segment on ABC Radio yesterday with the lovely Jen Fleming (filling in for Simon Marnie) on Weekends, where I was joined by Matt from Wildwalks and chatted through some ideas for bushwalking and camping over the Summer holidays.
They actually let us in the ABC building!
We had so much material that we didn’t get to, so I thought I’d pop down some of our thoughts here. So have kick back… have a listen and link through to some of these top spots!
ABC702 Weekends - Sun 10 Dec W Jen Fleming & Matt McClelland - SoundCloud (1804 secs long, 6 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Tips for Summer Hiking
Choose walks that favour shade or ocean breezes. Coastal or rainforest walks are good!
Look for walks with swimming opportunities #wildswimming
Carry and drink plenty of water (hint: don’t just think that 1 x 600ml bottle of water is enough!)
Start early and avoid the hottest part of the day
Check the forecast, if it’s going to be too hot, you’re not going to enjoy it… so make other plans.
And of course, pack all you need (I’ve got a handy checklist here) and follow the hiking safety acronym T R E K. Take what you need, Register your intentions (tell someone where you’re going), Emergency Communications (Personal Locator Beacon or mobile as appropriate) and Know your route and stick to it.
Matt’s Top Tips – Day Walks near Sydney
Jerusalem Bay (Cowan to Brooklyn)– 5 hrs 30 mins, 13.4 km One way. Hard track (Ku-ring-gai Chase NP). This Cowan to Brooklyn Station walk is a popular section of the Great North Walk, with scenery ranging from Hawkesbury River foreshore to ridge top lookouts. Swimming opportunities at Jerusalem Bay (tide dependent).
Early morning Jerusalem Bay… dressed for Winter, so no swimming this day!
Spit Bridge to Manly (Manly Scenic Walkway) – 3 hrs 45 mins, 9.1 km One way. Moderate track (Sydney Harbour NP). The Spit to Manly walk is a classic bushwalk on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The walk follows a well-maintained track and provides beautiful views over Middle Harbour. Multiple swimming opportunities along the way, including ocean pools near the end at Manly.
Just one of many swimming spots along the Spit to Manly walk.
The Karloo Pool Track – 3 hrs, 5.6 km Return, Moderate track (Royal NP). A popular trail for those wanting a well-signposted bush track, and a great place to swim. The Karloo Track follows the bush track from Heathcote Railway Station east, into the Royal National Park, to a great set of waterholes on Kangaroo Creek.
Chilled Karloo Pool, RNP
Matt’s Top Tips – Overnight Walks near Sydney
The Royal Coast Track – 2 Days, 27.4 km One way. Hard track (Royal NP). Heading south, this walk covers the coastline of the Royal National Park and can truly only be described as amazing. With breathtaking coastal views from Bundeena to Otford this walk follows the cliffs along a well managed and signposted track. Swimming opportunities at patrolled beaches along the way. Unpatrolled beaches can be dangerous so take care.
The Coast Track lives up to its name in the Royal NP
Blackheath to Blue Gum loop – 2 Days, 24.1 km Circuit. Hard track (Blue Mountains NP). This walk is great for fit people getting into overnight walking, with its fantastic scenery and nostalgia as a classic overnighter. Staying the night near Blue Gum Forest in Acacia Flats also adds to the experience. With the public transport options, access to this walk is made easier. Swimming in the Grose River is possible at a number of waterholes along the route.
Blue Gum Forest at the junction of Perrys Lookdown Track and Grose Valley Walking Track
Matt’s Top Tips – Overnight Walks in NSW
Light to Light Walk – 2-3 Days, 30.9 km One way. Hard track (Ben Boyd NP). This classic walk explores the coast from Boyd Tower to the Green Cape Lighthouse in the south, with overnight stops at the well established Saltwater Creek and Bittangabee Bay campsites (bookings required).
Looking from Mt Townsend to Mt Kosciuscko
Main Range Track – camping near Mt Townsend – 2 Days, 27.7 km Circuit. Experienced only (Kosciusko NP). This great overnight walk starts from Charlotte Pass and provides access to some of the best sights around the Kosciusko National Park. Just a few of the features along this walk include reaching the summits of the two tallest peaks in Australia, looking down on some glacial lakes and crossing the famous Snowy River. Navigation experience required.
Border Ranges National Park – Tucked alongside the QLD/NSW border, this park is part of the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest, alongside an ancient volcanic rim. It features walking tracks and 2 campgrounds (1 you need to walk to) and it 38kms west of Murwillumbah.
Sydney and Surrounds
Bouddi National Park – is home to the stunning Maitland Bay Walking Track and several campgrounds. It’s a busy time of year, so bookings are close to full, so maybe put this on your list for next holidays and plan ahead.
Maitland Bay Walk
Dharug National Park – is home to a big variety of terrain that includes convict history and the Mill Creek Campground, which currently has good availability for the holidays.
Deua National Park – is a bit of a hidden gem between Cooma and Braidwood. There’s several campgrounds and opportunities for experienced walkers as well as those who prefer a well marked track. Check out The Big Hole (yes, it’s big!).
Looking across Deua National Park
Kosciusko National Park – Ah, the top of Australia! But there’s lots more to this stunning National Park than just heading to Australia’s highest point. The Ngarigo Campground (by the river) is right on the Thredbo Valley Track (23km mountain bike track) and with the summer flower displays out, there’s stunning walks for people of all abilities.
Summer weather can change in minutes on the Main Range
Warrumbungle National Park – Australia’s only Dark Sky Park, this park and it’s stunning mountain features, along with 3 observatories, make it the perfect spot for camping, star gazing and bushwalking. Check with Parks about any closures since the fires of 2013.
For anyone who has felt their heart skip a beat or their soul take a pause when hearing about walking one of the ancient Camino trails of the world, this book is for you.
These days, there’s no shortage of information, journals, maps, photos and stories about this timeless pilgrimage tradition. With over 2,000 book listings for Camino de Santiago on Amazon, from famous walkers to extreme walkers – like those journeying barefoot… in silence… with no money – it truly is a noisy niche for such a silent and mindful place and hard to know exactly where to start in finding the best book on the Camino.
Sinning Across Spain - Walking the Camino in a book - YouTube
Well, let me make it easy for you. Start with a book that not only was written before everyone knew what the ‘Camino’ was, but that is well written in the type of language that causes you to stop, look away, read the paragraph again, and then exhale… slowly.
In language that is not only descriptive of the physical landscape and experiences, but somehow manages to put into words what I call, ‘the unwordable’. That place where the physical act of walking, connects to something outside of the natural and moves into the emotional and deeply spiritual space. Somehow, author Ailsa Piper has managed to make the unwordable, wordable.
Pausing to find the wordable [Pic: Ailsa Piper]
Smiling in the Pyrenees [Pic: Ailsa Piper]
I was stoked to finally meet Ailsa in Sydney, after connecting with her on social media many years ago. It was back in 2012 that I first heard her speak of her unusual journey on radio. Unusual, in that she decided to follow a little-known ancient tradition of walking the Camino by offering to ‘walk off people’s sins’. Her note (that subsequently went a bit viral!) went thus:
“I will walk off your sins. Pilgrim seeks sinners for mutually beneficial arrangement. Proven track record. Tireless. Result-oriented. Reliable. Seven Deadlies a specialty.”
A month later, she was walking in Spain.
What happened between writing that note and now, is woven into the pages, with words so rich, that you need to be forgiven for thinking you’ve been on the road with her, so vivid are the memories that she paints for us.
She’s recently issued a new version of the book, which adds more layers and depth, as she talks about returning to The Camino two years after suffering deep, personal loss and sadness.
Q: Have you walked your own Camino? Or is it something deep in you, that one day… you hope to experience?