Tag Archives: hiking

A quick trip to the snowy south – Queenstown ‘tramping’

This trip of four adventurous days with Matt was a blast and so good to catch up again. The first time in person since Christmas. We tramped 25 odd km around Ben Lomond for three days and had a day chilling out in Queenstown. We spent two nights camping, one up near Ben Lomond saddle in the snow and the other near the tranquil Moke Lake.

 

Map of where we went

Both having jobs now we didn’t think twice about catching the steepest chairlift in the southern hemisphere up the first 450m of elevation gain. BUT we stupidly forgot to buy gas for the camping stove before catching the chairlift!

 

We arrived at the top station, huddled in the cafe for an hour while the rain came down, then started our charge through the lightly falling rain. 20 minutes in, and like a light bulb going off in my head, I realise we forgot the gas. Matt instantly said, “oh well we’ll go without it. You can probably eat those freeze dried meals by adding cold water.”

 

I was like, “Woah, hold up. Let’s take more than 2 seconds to think about this!” The idea of no hot water for a couple of days camping in the snow didn’t sound appealing to me.

 

One of the problems we had was there was no gas available at the top chairlift station. And the other being we had return chairlift tickets so if we went down, then we’d have to pay another $39 for a ticket back up.

 

I thought it worth a shot though, so I called the chairlift reservations and plead my case for a free ride back up. Thankfully, after a decent think about it, and saying “this isn’t what we normally do”, she gave one of us a free pass.

We had gas.

 

So an hour and a half later we were back at the same point on the trail and on our way up the slippery, icy trail.

Matt on the climb up the slippery trail to the saddle which is visible in the background
Camping 1000m above the lights of Queenstown

The night was chilly, hard to say how cold but I think the forecast read -5. We spent many an hour that night huddled in our sleeping bags and talking away.

One of the things when you’re camping in cold weather is you’re in bed as soon as the sun goes down and you stay there until it comes up again. At this time of year the sun went down at 5:30 so we were horizontal for a good 15 hours. Needless to say we were pretty stiff in the morning and ready to bust out of the tent and stretch the legs.

 

We’d planned on climbing Ben Lomond (1710m) the next morning, but that wasn’t to be. Snow conditions were too hard, the ridgeline too steep and without crampons, neither of us fancied on giving it a crack. As Matt said “I’m not an alpinist and never will be”. His energy levels were down that morning. Probably something to do with those 15 hours horizontal I’d say.

Soaking up the morning rays – a great day when the sun arrived.
Matt’s comment about this picture – “Look at those wrinkles around my eyes. That’s not me. I’ll have to edit those out or something”

The morning did bring a lovely “bluebird” day though and we enjoyed roaming around the snowy plateau and getting a higher vantage point on the slopes of Bowen Peak. A few people passed our tent and one guy in particular was stoked with our effort of camping up there.

 

Over the next couple of days we finished off the tramp, descending north down to the valley floor along the Moonlight Track, and following the dirt road south west around to Moke Lake. It was very scenic being in the valley surrounded by mountains, and peaceful too. We only saw a handful of other people.

The night at camp 2 was so much warmer in comparison to the night camped in the snow
Not celebrating the summit – just posing for the hell of it

After a second night camping, Matt and I eventually limped down to Glenorchy Rd, he with his blistered heel and me with my tender achilles. We’d dashed into this tramp with next to no recent walks and, kind of surprisingly, were paying the price. We must be getting on at the mature ages of 23 and 27!

 

I stuck my thumb out waiting to hitch a lift for about 10 minutes while Matt changed and freshened up. After a couple of days without a shower we probably didn’t smell the best, let’s be honest. But literally, as soon as Matt is ready a car pulls over and whisks us back to Queenstown. Hitch hiking has never been so easy.

 

The following and final day of my quick trip, Matt proceeded to dissect me in a game of Frisbee golf. This was round two after we’d played the same course with fellow traveller/cyclist Lari 3.5 years earlier. He beat me then and he beat me again. This time by about 14 shots. Matt finished 4 under, a damn good effort that.

 

It was a bit sad leaving to head back to sunny Tauranga. Good quality time is much harder to come across now I’m living across the ditch. No doubt they’ll be another adventure around the corner sometime soon though. I have no idea where in the world it’ll be but it’ll happen.

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Oxfam Trailwalker – 100km in 36 hours

What a tough weekend this was! Even reflecting on it a week and a half later it still doesn’t seem any less daunting. I’ve come to the conclusion there’s no easy way to walk 100km, regardless of how much training you put in you still have to grind out the distance and it’s inevitably going to take 24 hours or more (for a normal person!).

I’m making my first post in a long long time and it comes about for two reasons. 1. I’ve already penned the words which I posted to Facebook which makes it easier and 2. It was the hardest challenge I’ve ever attempted so it simply had to make a blog appearance.

It’s also my first post since I moved to New Zealand on 10th April, 2017 which obviously marks a pretty major milestone in my life.

So this whole 100km journey started back in September 2017 when I put my hand up at work to get involved with Oxfam Trailwalker. Gratefully my work supported Oxfam and got on board with my wacky proposal. Three of my fellow young colleagues (Bridget, Liam and Nathaniel) also (strangely?) thought it to be a great idea so we decided to give it a crack. The challenge was two-fold. Walk 100km as a team of 4 and raise a minimum of $2500 for Oxfam New Zealand.

The seemingly large fundraising target was a bit scary to begin with but as the months went by and we slowly ticked away the dollars, mostly through sausage sizzles and bake sales, we quickly found out the real challenge was going to be the walk.

So how did we prepare for such a challenge? By walking as much as we could but to be honest, I don’t think any of us did the ‘recommended’ level of training. It just takes up so much time! We did about five group training walks varying in duration from 5 – 11 hours with the longest being 50km. Most of them were only 15 – 30km so you can imagine how ominous 100km looms when you’re not even doing a third of it and it takes you a full day’s walk.

Rather than reword the Facebook post to fit my ‘intro’ (consider yourselves lucky to get an intro! ;), I’ve copied it verbatim below:

Posted 12 March 2018

“100km done in 32.5 hours for the Oxfam Trailwalker! A big thankyou to everyone who supported the “Water we doing here?” Beca team and especially to our four tremendous ‘on the day’ supporters for tending to our every need and getting us back on the trail when it was the last thing we wanted to do. We definitely couldn’t have done it without you.

Walking 100km was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. A big call but true. No intense pain, just an endless grind. It didn’t help that our team of four barely got any sleep the night before due to the impending early start and excitement (maybe 2 hours for me). 6am Saturday we got going, the slow, seemingly painless exercise of walking was so easy. What could possibly be hard about this?

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7km – Overlooking picturesque Whakatane Heads

Check point 1 @ 16km was a welcome refuelling stop but we were all feeling good at this stage (you’d hope so only 4 hours into it!). From here it was 19km along the beautiful Ohope Beach to CP2, the hardest part being the sense that you weren’t making progress as the horizon didn’t look any different km to km. We were ‘boosting it’ though thanks to the firm, concrete like sand and arrived at our supporters tent in the early afternoon. 35km in, feet sore but mostly all good. Although I do remembering hearing comments of “I just can’t be bothered hey, how good would it be to just stop now” and “as soon as I sit down it feels like all my problems are gone” (may have come out of my mouth…)

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22km – Still going strong along Ohope Beach
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65km – Struggling big time at Check point 4

We had further breaks at 50, 65, 74, 85 and 92km. My lowest point personally was at 65km (CP4). It was 1am and we’d been going for 19 hours. I walked straight past the chairs and dumped myself into the car to get some shut eye. Apparently I ‘slept’ for 30 min but it felt like 10 min if that. I forced down half a burger, it was all I could manage, and trucked on through the cold night air.

One of our supporters was allowed to walk one leg of the event with us and Jakub was superb for us in this regard and kept us plodding along through the night from 65 to 85km. For me, the tiredness, the pressure on my feet from walking for so long, and lower back stiffness were the worst of it, so you could say I got the good end of the stick. My fellow team mates experienced bad chaffing (walking like a penguin for 35k didn’t look fun) and blisters that nearly forced our team down to three members.

A couple of times we implemented the power nap strategy where you’d find the most comfortable looking patch of real estate, laid down and got 5 min in (the gravel was super comfortable). I feel like it actually worked really well and apparently the marines use the technique so it must be ok.

At the 85km checkpoint I can remember one comment that summed up our mindset pretty darn accurately. Liam asked, “where’s my other shoe?” To his surprise, he found it right where he’d left it – on his other foot!

The last 5km were a real struggle for us, all hobbling along at our maximum pace of 4km/h. We’d all lost the ability to run and felt like we were as old as the km we’d walked. Crossing the finish line brought a mixture of feelings – relief, joy and disbelief. Disbelief that we’d actually finished and didn’t have to take any more steps.

I’m really proud that we were able finish this thing together and I’m proud of our support crew for being there through it all. We don’t often push ourselves to our limits and leap over such high hurdles. Thanks everyone! Cheers”

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100km – Ruined but very proud of ourselves for making it. Back row (from left): Renee, Nathaniel, my girlfriend Ashleigh, me. Front row: Bridget, Jakub, Liam, Michelle.

Scaling snowy Mont Blanc

Well at last I’m back on level ground after a remarkable journey skywards to the summit of Mont Blanc – the tallest mountain in western Europe 4810m. What an adventure!

A rare moment where the sun aligned perfectly
Battling upwards

I am writing this post from the perspective of a prospective climber who is trying to find out what’s involved in a Mont Blanc summit. Hopefully I can shed some light on this…

First up I know some people will be put off by Mont Blanc’s infamous record of consistently 20-30 deaths each year. Why is this number so high though?

The reason is Mt Blanc is just so accessible and cheap! That brings potential high altitude dangers such as rapidly changing weather, glacier travel and altitude sickness in direct contact with inexperienced and unassuming climbers.

If you go with one of many reputable guiding companies then you should be fine and have a blast. The people in the most danger are the ones who underestimate the difficulty of the mountain and stroll up in jeans and sneakers. No joke!

I spent a good deal of time researching companies and in the end decided on a company which in hindsight I’d definitely recommend, Mt Blanc Guides. They’ve been guiding on this mountain for 25 years.

A big part of making the summit was acclimatising to prepare our bodies for the 11.4% oxygen levels ahead (at sea level air is 20.9% oxygen) so that’s what we did. We drove a couple of hours into Italy to get a feel for things on Gran Paradiso, a reasonably challenging 4060m peak. Well past my previous highest of 2300m I’d climbed in Canada.

As well as providing good acclimatisation, starting here also gave our guides a chance to test our fitness and to give us a chance to see what we were getting ourselves into. A fair few clients bale out of Mt Blanc after they see just how hard this one is…regardless they still have a blast going on other mountaineering adventures around Chamonix.

The first day was an easy few hours climbing from 1800m to the “hut” at 2750m. I say “hut” because it was more like a hotel than what you envision a mountain hut as. This one had a restaurant, bar and slept more than 50 climbers. Alcohol is the enemy if you are trying to acclimatise so I stayed off it.

It was quite funny that first day though as all eight of us were making sure we didn’t lose a step in order to “pass” the silent fitness test. With a couple of hundred metres to the hut the guides stepped on it and it really felt like a definite test of fitness.

Keeping the pace
Keeping the pace
The hut and Gran Paradiso in the background
The hut on the right and Gran Paradiso in the background

That night was almost sleepless for me as I felt my body working hard to adjust to the lack of oxygen. My breathing was heavy and my heart was racing at 92 bpm. I was also a bit anxious about how I would cope with the altitude.

Summit day was a tough 9 hours but satisfyingly all of us made it and the guides cleared us all to give Mont Blanc a crack. We learned how to use crampons, scramble down rock faces, travel roped together across a glacier and how our bodies coped with altitude.

Making our way down above the clouds
Making our way down above the clouds was remarkable

Thankfully I fared pretty well, I felt a slight headache at 4000m but nothing worse. Still enough to keep me slightly concerned about how I will be 800m higher. Unfortunately there is no way to tell beforehand how your body will cope however the head guide said that only 10-15% of people don’t summit Mont Blanc due to altitude sickness.

After spending a second night at 2750m we descended and spent a night in Chamonix (1000m) before we embarked on the monstrous Mont Blanc the next day.

Chamonix sits on the valley floor and the mountains loom all around. I pointed to the mountain peaks from town and found my arm at a 45 degree angle!

The first day on Mont Blanc was similar to the first one on Gran Paradiso except this time we caught a train from a nearby town up to 2400m, then hiked up to our sleeping quarters at the Tete-Rousse hut at 3200m. It seemed like cheating a bit catching the train but with still 2400m to go I was happy to take the metres.

The Le Nid D'aigle train station was the last stop
The Le Nid D’aigle train station was the last stop
Hiking up from the train
Hiking up from the train. Here we are about 3000m (2000 above the town down there!)

From the hut the route to the summit can be spilt into three distinct sections. First up is the 45 degree rock scramble from Tete-Rousse hut at 3200m to the Gouter hut at 3800m (2-2.5 hrs), next the “Gran Paridiso” like glacier travel up to the Dome du Gouter at 4300m (2 hrs), and finally the scary looking path along Bosses ridge, which is a series of narrow steep ridges, up to the summit 4810m (2 hrs).

Looking head on at the rock scramble is a bit daunting and two out of the eight of us pulled out that night. But how bad was it?

This is a side on picture I took from the Gouter hut on the way back down. You can see the Tete-Rousse hut bottom left and the old Gouter hut top right.
This is a side on picture I took from the Gouter hut on the way back down. You can see the Tete-Rousse hut bottom left and the old Gouter hut top right. 600m vertical difference.

At 2:30am the next morning it was time to roll up the sleeves and get into it. A good 12 hours of effort ahead. The remaining six of us, along with four guides headed into the blackness and what looked like a vertical wall with dozens of head torches shining way way up high.

I thought it was quite fun climbing in the dark and really quite safe too even though it was steeper than I had anticipated. Two of us were roped up to a guide who would catch us if we fell and there were steel cables to grab onto for the worse parts. The last half hour the legs started to burn but that’s expected – 600m vertical is a long way.

A half  hour break in the warmth of the Gouter hut and we hit the trail again. It was sunrise and a magical moment of the day where the snow and the clouds turned a brilliant pink. Everything felt so calm and at peace.

Magical moment
Magical moment

Section two of the climb was just a matter of grinding out slow and steady footsteps for two hours.

The grind up the glacier to the Dome
The grind up the glacier to the Dome du Gouter. See the tiny looking people…

From here standing on the Dome du Gouter we could see the summit for the first time. That was encouraging! I had a slight headache here too.

First sight of the summit
First sight of the summit from the Dome du Gouter. Again if you look hard you can see people…

Funnily enough there is a small descent here before we were greeted by Bosses ridge and a rush of lactic acid to our depleting legs.

There is no doubt that the last hour to the summit was the hardest of the whole climb. I never doubted I would make it but it was a physical challenge for sure.

The final push for the top
The final push for the top. Steeeep!

It was fantastic to come up that final slope and be congratulated with magnificent views and handshakes all round. Eve, Sam and I summitted at 9:15am Thursday 11 July 2013.

On top of Europe!
On top of Europe!
Sam and I
Sam and I

It was cold up there, about -10 to -15 degrees so after some well earned pictures and time to soak up the moment we turned back.

Descending felt so easy in comparison, but you have to keep your head in the game because a fall on the descent is more dangerous.

Sam descends Bosses ridge only metres below the summit
Sam descends Bosses ridge only metres below the summit

1 hour 45 minutes later the three of us were refueling back in the Gouter hut waiting for the rest of our party. Out of the six of us who attempted the climb five made the top. Neil made it to within 150m and had a great story how he was on his hands and knees crawling up! His legs just said “enough” but his mind was not giving in.

The most dangerous part of the whole climb was to come – crossing the Grand Couler just before the Tete-Rousse hut. Rocks become dislodged 600m above and come tumbling down the slope at ferocious speeds.

Neil crosses the Grand Couler. A rock tumbling in front of him :/
Neil crosses the Grand Couler. A rock tumbling in front of him :/ Was it his unlucky day?

We did this section in the dark on the way up so we didn’t appreciate it’s full danger until seeing it in the daylight. The risk is best managed by crossing it at the time when least rocks are falling – at the beginning of summer and in the morning when they are more frozen. Besides that we had spotters watching for rocks. If you are caught in the middle at least you have plenty of time to see it and avoid it.

All in all the week of climbing Mont Blanc was a fantastic experience. Highly recommended by me and one to be remembered for a long time. Now get out there and do it for yourself!

Part 2 – Iceland the Incredible

Where were we up to…oh yeah that’s right. Wind, wind and more wind. Arriving into Swan Lake after the gob-smacking day we were greeted Icelandic style. Erecting our tents became a 4 man job and while brushing our teeth, spitting out became dangerous at the outdoor sinks. The wind blows doesn’t it Christiane?

But despite the high winds and our droopy eyelids we gathered around in the tent and relished the simple pleasures in life. Like being out of the wind (yay), sipping on hot chocolate…maybe with a dash of Bailey’s, and chowing down on a delicious pasta dinner.

Tonight we also discovered that Alli our guide loves to dish out daunting weather forecasts. “So I called the weather station and it’s not good. They say more wind and more rain tomorrow and getting even worse the next day” he said with a big grin and laugh. He’s a mountain man and loves “Icelandic” unpredictable weather.

We managed to drag ourselves out of our cosy cocoons to tackle Day 2 (of the official trail), 18km from Swan Lake to Emstur. This was the day of stream crossings and lava fields.

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Feeling refreshed after our first stream crossing

The three stream crossings required boots off, pants up and a walk through icy cold water. We learned good stream crossing technique – pick a shallow section (generally wider), unclip backpack straps, link arms with the stronger person upstream and slowly walk across angling slightly downstream while keeping your eyes on your target – the far bank. We were all super happy to get through all three and not have to face the arctic water….well until tomorrow anyway.

Furthermore some highlights of the day were eerie desert-like lava fields, witnessing angry, “tear you to pieces type” waterfalls and a magical low slung rainbow.

Lunch overlooking a lava field
Lunch overlooking a rock-strewn lava field
This is the most angry waterfall I've ever seen
This is the most angry waterfall I’ve ever seen
A low rainbow.
A low rainbow after the rains

With poor weather forecasts for the coming days we got lucky. Alli pulled some strings and got us into huts for the next three nights. To be fair the weather didn’t fully live up to it’s expectations and we really could have camped but it was a welcome luxury.

Even so we still spent a few days hiking for many hours in sopping wet boots, soaked gloves and depending on how good our clothing was, somewhere between dry and saturated for the rest.

Day 3 we continued along this incredible trail from Emstur to Thorsmork. About 19km and 7 hours of wet and windy work. We made it up ridges, gazed down into inspiring canyons, and finished by making our way up a dry river bed in the shadow of unforgettable glacier tongues.

Here's the old riverbed
The old riverbed that likely carved the surrounding mountians

Surprisingly we even found some actual plant life! A beautiful field of Alaskan lupine flowers. As Paul said as we approached lush vegetation, “Did we just leave Iceland?”

Alaskan Lupines were imported to Iceland from you guessed it Alaska
Alaskan Lupines

The food throughout the whole trip was brilliant and more than enough for seconds (or thirds) and I took full advantage of that! By the end of the trip if someone couldn’t finish their meal they knew who to ask.

Day 4 was the last day of the trail and it was just awesome. As it turned out the bad weather prevented us from taking the originally planned route so Alli made a good call to hike halfway and then re-trace our steps back down.

The trail went up and up until we came to a wind struck plateau about 850m up. From this point on we charged head down through mini blizzard-like conditions ever higher and into snow. We were now in a solid winter environment when just half an hour earlier we were enjoying a peaceful lunch.

One exposed plateau
A wind struck plateau
1000m elevation gain took us right up between two glaciers and into a mini blizzard.
1000m elevation gain took us right up into the thick of things

The sideways sleet stung my face like little pin pricks until we eventually reached our destination and the reason for enduring this – the still warm lava field from the eruption 3 years ago. It’s smack bang between two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Mýrdalsjökull hence the crazy weather.

I dug down into the loose gravel just 20cm and it’s still hot! Don’t ask me to explain how but it sure is, Iceland is wild.

The last couple of days were busy but also a welcoming wind down. Ice climbing on Sólheimajökull glacier was brilliant, seeing more thunderous waterfalls, and relaxing in natural hotsprings that got so hot I started sweating.

Iceland is just one of those places!

Ice climbing was a great experience but tough with soft soles boots
Ice climbing was a great experience but tough with soft soles boots
Skogafoss -  a picture perfect waterfall
Skogafoss – a picture perfect waterfall

It was so hard to pick which photos to put in these posts. To see the rest of my Iceland photos click here.

USA roadtrip – Yosemite

Yosemite National Park in California (pronounced Yos-sem-it-tee). Boy oh boy. The closest thing to paradise I’ve seen and the highlight to date of my USA roadtrip.

Waterfalls galore, tremendous glacier carved granite cliff faces, greenery abounds and the snowy Sierra Nevada mountain range that’s only visible from the highest peaks.

At the summit of the famous rock climbing peak  El Capitan
At the summit of the famous rock climbing peak El Capitan with the snowy Sierra Nevada mountain range in the background

There’s one problem though – everyone knows it!

And isn’t that the problem with so many “must see” places? By the time they reach that “must see” status that once secluded paradise has turned into Highway 101.

Now that’s not to say Yosemite was over crowded  or even remotely unpleasant when I was there. Not at all. I hiked for five hours straight and only saw five people.

What I gathered from others was right now is one of the best times of year to visit too. The waterfalls are approaching their peak, the crowds are quite alright, and the weather is just about perfect. The summer crowds of July and August are apparently wild.

But even so the evidence is still there. Trails that are a four hour tough slog away from the nearest car are well and truly beaten in and over a metre wide. And this is at the start of the hiking season too, albeit after the snowmelt. What will the trails look like in four months time?

This is the trail just before reaching Eagle Peak
This is the trail just before reaching Eagle Peak, four hours from the trail head

But regardless of this I had a really really damn awesome and satisfying time. Just mind blowing surroundings.

Yosemite was the place I was most looking forward to visiting on this roadtrip and it didn’t disappoint.

The valley itself is really impressive. 1 mile wide, 7 miles long and surrounded by sheer walls of granite that loom 1000m above in all directions.

I knew I only had two days to make my Yosemite experience one to remember so it was go go go.

Day 1 I did a 9km return hike to the top of Vernal Falls and Nevada falls. The mist at the base of Vernal falls was so intense that a rainbow was visible.

Vernal Falls (the mist falls)
Vernal Falls (the mist falls)
The rainbow from Vernal Falls.
The rainbow from Vernal Falls mist
Liberty Cap looms over Nevada Falls
Liberty Cap looms over Nevada Falls

Then I caught the free shuttle bus to Lower Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America and the fifth tallest in the world. 739 metres top to bottom over two waterfalls – Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.

I managed to squeeze in a drive up to Glacier Point stopping at the awesome and very popular Tunnel View lookout.

The weather turned wild that afternoon. Rain, fog, clouds, and even some hail.

The awesome view of El Capitan on the left and Bridleveil Falls on the right from Tunnel lookout
The awesome view of El Capitan on the left and Bridleveil Falls on the right from Tunnel View lookout
That's Yosemite Falls way down there looking from Glacier Point
That’s Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls way down there from the Glacier Point lookout

So so happy the weather played nice for Day 2. Thank-you weather gods. I did the longest hike I’ve ever done in a day. 31km over 10 hours and climbed about 1500m up and down. It was pretty tough but awesome to have accomplished. Eagle Peak was the highlight (and coincidentally the highest point) of the day.

Someday I’ll have to get back here to do the mother of all day hikes – Half Dome (the one in the picture below). Easy right? Only 26km.

Eagle peak. Still a few hundred metres below the top of Half Dome. It took me 8 attempts on timer to get this photo.
Eagle peak. Still a few hundred metres below the top of the majestic Half Dome. It took me 8 attempts on timer to get this photo.

Signal Mountain summit stories

Just a cruisy six hour return hike we thought. Ouch, how that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Take a look at the mountain. Looks kinda small right? Like a big hill, no real “mountain”.

But as we found out looks can be deceiving! The trail was covered in snow so with every step we sunk and slipped backwards ever so slightly. Over a few hours and with the steepness rising we felt the mountain trying to repel us backwards.

Signal Mountain - the target for the day
Signal Mountain – the target for the day
The going was tough through the snow
The going was tough through the snow

As we climbed through the tree lined trail I couldn’t help but think how lucky we were to have such brilliant sunny weather. Yesterday the prediction was overcast and a high of 3. Just our lucky day I guess.

The views in every direction are so worth the effort
The views in every direction are so worth the effort. Just a little further Gedas!

Once we finally got above the treeline we could see the summit for the first time. Life was good and we were within reach but we also glimpsed the challenging slopes that loomed in the distance. “We’re another hour away” was Gedas’ accurate guess.

At one stage it got steep enough that I and my Lithuanian climbing buddy had to monkey it up on all four hands and feet. The going was very slow and steady all the way to the top.

Gedas and I at the summit!
Gedas and I at the summit!

Now we well and truly realised that this “big hill” was definitely a real mountain. 2300m above sea level and views in every direction. What a fabulous feeling standing a top the snowy dome. For interests sake Pyramid Mountain (the tallest one on the right) is 2750m.

After three and a half hours up and just an hour and fifty back down we both settled for a soothing hot tub and a good feed. Awesome day!

Tofino surfing success

Wow.

Tofino is without a doubt my favourite  place so far. It’s a really small laid back seaside town with only one road in and out. It feels like a well kept secret.

The surfers here are nuts about surfing – they’ll go surfing all day everyday if they can – or go out in the morning, break for lunch, then back out in the afternoon.

23/11/12 – Stunning Tofino, BC Canada. The Tonquin trail lookout.
23/11/12 – The Tonguin trail in Tofino, BC

I achieved a goal – I stood up on a surfboard and caught a wave! Yay.

Something that I couldn’t do on my attempt back home. It was so much fun – even when the water temperature was 7 degrees. A thick wetsuit with hoodie, boots and gloves works wonders. Even caught some waves!

24/11/12 – Surfing Chestermans Beach, Tofino

The Schooner Cove trail was well worth the 30km round trip bike ride

And the ferry trip from Nanaimo back to Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver wasn’t too bad either.

27/11/12 – Looking back towards Vancouver Island at 4pm

Now I’m in Calgary on a cattle farming ranch. Today it was -10 degrees! I’ll post some pictures up in my next post.

Mount Warning sunrise climb

Mount Warning had been on my list of things to do for a while and I was looking for someone as keen as me to climb it. Unbeknownst to me I found out I had known that person for a while – Kelly, aka the Mt Warning mountaineering expert after climbing it countless times already.

We quickly made big, bold, brash plans to conquer the mountain in a month’s time in the darkness – yep be on the top at sunrise. Very exciting!

Soon we had seven of us braving the cold and predicted rain, Kelly, Jay (not the one from Mt Barney), Josh (the one from Mt Barney), Avin, Sarah, my brother Matt and me.

Although it must be said just how close we were to losing Avin, “It’s gonna be terrible weather, we won’t see anything once we are at the top”. But in typical adventurous trips spirit he went for the exciting option. Good stuff.

A great trip really is about the journey not the destination.

I quickly figured it was going to be a sleepless night for all of us.

29/9/2012 – The crew. From left: Josh, Avin, Me, Kelly, Sarah, Jay and Matt.

So the day of much anticipation finally arrived. All excited like little kids allowed to stay up late, we prepared ourselves.

We left Brisbane at midnight on Friday night and had plans to catch up with Josh and Jay an hour down the motorway. As it turned out I had a navigational nightmare the whole way down to Mt Warning and we ended up taking the most twisty, dark and isolated roads one could imagine.

“Hey Dan, are we going the right way?” and “Where are we?” were common phrases.

At long last we got to the base of the hike at 2:40am – quite surprised there were at least 10 cars there already!

Jay, quite the photographer was not going to miss the sunrise so we quickly made headway.

Up and up, heart rate went faster and faster, body got hotter and hotter, and clothes disappeared more and more. Put your shirt back on Jay!

As you can imagine it’s a completely different ball game climbing at night. Kind of like mountain biking at night which is awesome too. It makes the climb seem shorter because you can only see your next step – you have to live in the moment, one step at a time.

29/9/2012 – Mt Warning, NSW
Photo by Jay Ferguson. Website: jnfimagery.com

We made fast progress, passing a couple of groups along the way and soon found ourselves at the last 100 metre chain rope section. I had envisioned this section quite different to reality; it was a winding steep path up rock ledges through bush. More than achievable for most.

We made it up at 4:30am or so, a good half hour before first light and joined a dozen fellow climbers. It got chilly fast and like survivors on a raft we huddled together to keep warm…no, make that less cold. Thinking he wouldn’t need a jumper, Jay left his jumper in the car – what a mistake that proved to be! Brrrrrrrr

The clouds on the horizon cleared just in time to see the sun raise its head, it all happened so fast and a few minutes later we were the first in Australia to see the Saturday sunrise.

29/9/12 – First rays of sunlight on Australia. Mt Warning, NSW.

Bobbing along to the tunes of Kelly’s backpack, and thinking “I don’t remember this track or these stairs?” we scaled our way back down, stopping by to take in the views and listening to nature.

A very memorable experience – would be great for a first climb at 4 hours return.

I felt underwhelmed though after seeing the light at Mt Barney. It was too touristy for me with the deck built at the summit and the occasional handrails throughout, and the degree of difficulty was quite low.

All in all though I loved getting out on our adventure and I had so much fun hanging out with mates. Thanks all.

29/9/2012 – Kelly on her home turf. Mt Warning, NSW.
Photo by Jay Ferguson. Website: jnfimagery.com
29/9/2012 – Taking in the scenery. Mt Warning, NSW.
Photo by Jay Ferguson. Website: jnfimagery.com
29/9/2012 – Mt Warning, NSW.
Photo by Jay Ferguson. Website: jnfimagery.com
29/9/2012 – Summit views. Mt Warning, NSW.
Photo by Jay Ferguson. Website: jnfimagery.com
29/9/2012 – Josh descending in style.
Photo by Jay Ferguson. Website: jnfimagery.com

Mount Barney Climbing Expedition

Have you ever heard of Mount Barney?

For most of us I think that’s a clear “No”. I know for me it was up until a few months ago, and I decided I have got to climb this big arse mountain. Standing at 1354 metres above sea level (5th highest in QLD) it’s not exactly your typical school camp hike – far from it in fact as I was about to find out.Image

So Saturday 8th September came round and I had four mates coming on the expedition. But how’s this for luck – four out of four either are sick or were sick within the past 24 hours. Not the ideal way to kick off a weekend requiring physical stamina.

But pushing on, Josh and I arrived at camp in awe of the sheer size of the mountain looming over the campsite. After finding a stackload of firewood, Josh lighting it flamethrower style, and jumping into a freezing cold waterhole that was “tinglingly refreshing” we met Paul – the climber (and 39 year old astrophysicist). We quickly discovered that if you want to know anything about climbing up big scary mountains ask Paul. He plans his holiday destinations around what big peaks are in the vicinity, and ascends them both with and without ropes…..yes roped climbs = scary stuff.

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Saturday night my other two “sick” mates Rory and Scottie arrived (Jay, the most experienced mountaineer of us all unfortunately couldn’t make it, classified as Too Sick To Climb – TSTC). So with the wind blowing an absolute gale and howling like a pack of wolves we all proceeded to have a dreadful night’s sleep.

At long last Sunday morning arrived and at 4:30am we were up and well…..ummm not quite raring to go for our 10 hour hike. Following more sausages it became apparent that we had lost two more adventurers to the dreaded TSTC disease.

And then there were two. Not to be disheartened Josh and I marched off spritely at 6am sharp pondering over whether we would be the two highest people in Queensland when we made the summit? An hour later we were off the beaten track and going very steeply skywards. As we were to find out the steepness did not relent and no matter how high we got Mt Barney’s peak always appeared soooo far away. The views began getting more and more spectacular and the phrase “Let’s have a breather” more and more common.

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At 9am we could just about see that the peak was within reach, but yet again Mt Barney attempted to throw us back to where we came from. With spikey shrubs, massive slabs of steep igneous rock, spine tingling drops and “What If?” moments the trail was all but gone and it was literally a matter of bush bashing and rock scrambling your way to the top.

The summit appeared before us unexpectedly and well what can I say? The views from East Peak were “mind bozzling” as Jay had rightly predicted. 360 degrees, 1100 metres up on a perfect cloudless Spring day. After spotting a deep blue dam and haze way out in the distance we snapped a few precarious photos on rocks near the edge and headed for home.

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The way back was faster but required more concentration, as Josh found out dodging snakes and goannas and I found out falling headfirst down a rock face (the bush was hiding the rock ok).

After eight and a half hours on the mountain we made it back, tired but content and conjuring up ideas for the next adventure.