After the excitement of the the first day on the range, we woke to a complete whiteout and a howling wind with a biting chill-factor. We took our time getting out of our bags but eventually set up breakfast and performed ablutions. Water was now a problem but the alpine brooks had crystal clear running water that looked so appealing to drink but needed to be boiled to prevent infection from Giardia. A small risk but one none the same. Since their was no firewood, I boiled this with the Trangia but soon ran out of gas. Oops.
After breaking camp, we gathered what water we had and set off toward Lake Cootapatamba. The odd thing about these landscapes is the bizarre distortion of perspective due to the large scale of everything. Features that look like they’re only 200m away are in fact 2 km away. You seem to just keep walking and things don’t get closer. It’s very fatiguing.
We reached the lake and made the decision to cross Swampy creek and scale the Kosciusko eastern face. This was grueling in the extreme as we had to take our packs with us. Each step was an agony and we stopped every dozen steps or so for breath. Eventually, we reached the top in a pool of sweat but still not the summit which is another kilometer and a half away. I was so fatigued that I was willing my legs to move one more step at a time without even looking at the summit. Finally, I made it to the stone summit marker surrounded by tourists who had taken the walking track to the top. No such easy route for us. The view from the top is awesome and made better by the fact we actually climbed to mountain and experienced the real conditions on offer. The sense of achievement re-energized us immediately.
Not energized enough, however, to even contemplate Mount Townsend which was supposed to be next on the list to bag. We had nothing left and Townsend loomed ominously northward only 6km away. Unfortunately, we are just not conditioned enough to do more. It was disappointing but we accepted the reality and were pleased with our achievement so far.
We bounced happily down the Main Range trail and headed off to Seaman’s Hut to camp. This took an hour to reach and we met several other hikers at the hut. We also found firewood. Camping was relaxed and around a well kept fire. There was talk and food and all was good. Tomorrow we’d go home via the Main Range trail.
1. Do better water preparation. It’s heavy to carry on your back and boiling with gas is wasteful. We resolved to buy a Steripen which is both light and effective and solves the problem in this environment.
2. Every kilo counts. Must learn to lighten up.
3. Do better research for the location. There’s no firewood above the tree line. So can’t cook and can’t boil water. The terrain is very hard to walk on so footwear is critical. Our Merrell boots were comfortable but offered poor lateral stiffness so they kept rolling under our feet and causing blisters.
4. Be physically up to the challenge. We were not. Although we did OK we were a long way from our original goal. Training would have been helpful.
Things we did good.
1. I was well prepared and I learned this from kayaking. I had good clothes, good tools and good tent and bedding. All my gear performed well except my shoes. My own food stores were adequate whereas Adrian and Keiren were hoping to live off the land. You can’t easily on these ranges so they wisely bought some food on the way there.
2. Navigation was good. Map and compass were used and we also had a Garmin e-Trex GPS which verified altitudes but we didn’t navigate with it. I also had a reasonable understanding of the area so I knew where key features were relative to each other.
So, all in all not a bad adventure. I guess I’ll never be a serious mountaineer or alpinist but I’m keen to do more back-country work to supplement my kayaking life. I enjoyed the thrill of accomplishment, the teamwork with some good lads and being well away from retail.