Monday, 23 November 2009

Australia: Unfinished Business

Me, Graham and Tess starting the Overland Track
Me, Graham and Tess setting out on the Overland Track in 2004
A little more than a week over 5 years ago, I set off with my two friends, Graham and Tess, and their neighbours, on Australia's most internationally renowned long distance trail, The Overland Track.

The route is 80km, and traverses through Tasmania's Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park. It's rugged mountain peaks and alpine moorlands offer some of the finest scenery in Australia. The walk requires you to carry your own provisions, and is not an undertaking that should be taken lightly.

We planned to complete the route in 6-7 days, but unfortunately, the weather wasn't with us. By the time we reached Waterfall Valley Hut on day one, it was apparent that this was to be a tougher ask than I expected. Late afternoon, the rain and winds that had soaked me to the core were replaced by snow, and the long term weather forecast was more of the same. The problem of drying kit was exacerbated by overcrowding in the hut due to so many large groups choosing to shelter there rather than use their tents, as they were supposed to. I could hardly blame them, it was pretty grim outside.

Snow falling on the return walk
The next day, we had to make a decision. In hindsight, I would have liked to have sat the day out in the hut, dried my gear and hoped for a break in the weather the next day. It would have allowed the crowds racing to the next hut to have got ahead of us, and hopefully out of our sight, but I was the only one with extra time to play with here; the others had to be back for work in Hobart. So we reluctantly decided to turn back. In the sleet and snow that ensued, I took a turn for the worse, and by the time we had reached the emergency shelter of Kitchen Hut, I was suffering from mild hypothermia due to my sodden clothes.

I had the forethought to recognise this and get out of the wind chill, change out of my wet clothes as quickly as possible. Graham and Tess brewed me up a welcome warm drink and lent me one of their down jackets, and when I had recovered sufficiently, Graham took my rucksack off me and we headed back down. Fortunately, the bad weather abated, and I eventually felt strong enough to take my rucksack back for the final couple of miles to the start.

Frozen Overland Track
Frozen Overland Track
Five years later, as I bask in the satisfaction of completing the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, my thoughts have now turned to what to do next and inevitably, I'm immediately drawn to what I see as unfinished business.

Cradle Mountain
Already, I have made tentative plans; Once again, I envisage a November (Spring) 2010 attempt, preferable thanks to the shackles of work commitments and budget. A December start would see me paying christmas prices for flights. Aside from the rough date, and pawing over the old maps, guide books and reminiscing, the challenge is in it's very early stages but the Overland Track is definitely calling me!

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