Wild #186

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AUS: $13.95 NZ: $13.95





102 Dance of the Stirlings Setting a highlining record in WA’s Stirling Range 86

Powder Highway

122 Walking at Wilsons Prom REGULARS





Readers’ Letters 10 Editor’s Letter 12 Gallery 18 Columns 28 Getting Started: Long Distance Hiking 46 WILD Shot 146 Green Pages 36 Wildlife Monitoring in Sturt NP 40 Q+A with Jess Panegyres 48 Summer Reads: Books by Wild Contributors 50 Opinion: A Little Patch of Wild 52 Rediscovering a Kosciuszko Heritage Track 56 Profile: The Jonesies 60 Paddling the Martuwarra River 66 Canyoning at Glen Davis 76 Photo Essay: Canada’s Powder Highway 86 Walking the Brindabellas 94 Highlining in WA’s Stirling Range 102 Running Victoria’s McMillans Track 106 Climbing Frenchmans Cap 116 Walking at Wilsons Promontory 122 Packrafting the South Island’s West Coast 124 NZ’s Rabbit and Gillespie Passes 132 Talk and Tests 138 Support Our Supporters 140

40 Journey to the Centre

The Wild Deserts program in NSW’s Sturt NP taught Maya Darby that while new, high-tech equipment has helped ecologists greatly, simple tools still remain a valuable part of their toolkit.

66 Now & Forever

They say those who drink from the Kimberley’s Martuwarra River will be coming back for the rest of their lives, they say something about it getting in your blood. That’s certainly been the case for Lachie Carracher, who returned in 2022 for a seventh paddle of it, this time solo. And now, it’s under threat.

106 A Bloody Long Run

Victoria’s little-known 220km-long McMillans Track doesn’t just give Beau Miles the chance to challenge himself; it lets him learn about a violent chapter of Australian history, and in the process, engage in a healthy dose of introspection.


[ Letter of the Issue ]

KNOWN UNKNOWNS I read with interest Megan Holbeck’s ‘To Plan or Not to Plan’ article in Wild Issue #185, and overall I agree with her thesis: “Through the sheer amount of planning, I felt they’d removed most of the adventure.” As Anthony Sharwood points out in his great book From Snow to Ash, dealing with the unknown is both a challenge and a reward of adventurous activities. To illustrate the point let me relate an example from one of my adventures. In October 2020, I was a member of a group of septuagenarians (the oldest in his 80th year) who decided to walk from Katoomba to Mittagong. This walk was well documented in an edition of Bushwalks in the Sydney Region, so what could go wrong? Our first taste of what was to come was on the second day. We left the fire trail at a sign pointing to Mt Cookem on the other side of the Cox’s River. The steep descent to the Cox was a bushbash, as was most of the 450m elevation gain on the other side, apart from faint tracks appearing and disappearing. Fortunately, apart from this delaying us by a couple of hours, we were able to make our intended campsite after some 11 hours of walking. After a day’s break at Yerranderie, we continued the walk to Mittagong. Again, as soon as we left the fire trail after crossing the Wollondilly River to make the steep ascent to Beloon Pass, we were making our own tracks. But now we were running out of light, and were forced to camp halfway down Nattai Walls (yes, there was just enough semi-level ground for our tents). Nevertheless, we were hopeful we’d pick up the trails in the Nattai Valley the following day. Wrong again: There weren’t any. The best route was walking upstream in the river bed of the Nattai (making about 1km/h). By lunchtime, it was clear that we weren’t going to be able to make Mittagong the following day. We needed a Plan B. After studying our maps and doing some reconnaissance, we identified a possible alternative route and decided to exit the Nattai Valley and head for Hilltop via Wattle Ridge instead. Plan B worked. The whole point of this story is that adventures like this shape our lives. With any adventure, there is the unknown, and it’s this unknown which makes that adventure challenging and more rewarding. One must recognise when the unknown becomes a problem, and to then not panic and to calmly work out how best to solve that problem before things go really pear shaped. Perhaps Megan could discuss the art of problem solving in the outdoors in the next issue. I’m sure she has a lot of experience to draw on.




Reading Ryan Hansen’s article ‘Up S*^t Creek in the Budawangs’ in Wild #185 has prompted me to tell you about an experience I had in July this year. My husband and I had a Monday to ourselves while visiting relatives in the UK, and chose to spend it walking in Dove Dale in the Peak District National Park. It apparently attracts ‘millions of nature lovers’ every year. On the way up Thorpe Cloud, we encountered some small items of rubbish (bottle tops, cigarette butts), some of which I picked up to dispose of properly. On the way down, we came across a pile of perhaps thirty single-use water bottles that had been dropped over a barbed-wire fence. At that point, we could see National Trust people (not sure if they were staff or volunteers) out collecting rubbish, so figured we should leave it to them. We commented to each other about the scale of the rubbish collection job. This had not prepared us for the horror that we were to see just up the valley from the Stepping Stones. Piles of rubbish were everywhere. Some of it was gathered together into plastic carrier bags that it had probably been taken there in. And, yes, further upstream there was a pile of human excrement on the river bank. I think it would have taken at least half a dozen people all day to clear up the mess. It horrifies me that these so-called nature lovers can have so little respect for the inherently beautiful places that they visit. I truly hope that Australia’s national parks do not see this kind of disrespect. We need to do everything in our power to keep them pristine. What are those things? Education? Publicity? Signage? My fingers are crossed that this does not mean access restrictions.

On the shameful drowing of Lake Pedder 50 years ago:

Kate Palmer Cashmere, QLD

(Ed: Sadly, all-too-often, I’ve seen similar scenes here in Australia; attitudes like this aren’t confined to overseas. It makes my blood boil.)

SUSS-TAINABLE TIMBER Dear Wild, Thank you for the great expose by Dr Jennifer Sanger on the destructive effects of logging by so-called ‘Sustainable’ Timber Tasmania of Tasmania’s ancient forests. Which part of the word ‘sustainable’ does ‘Sustainable’ Timber Tasmania not understand? And thank you for presenting some hope for a solution which might save us, and our guardians, sentinels to our planet, these majestic giants, the trees. Thanks,

Dennis Wood

Berwyn Louise Lewis

St Ives, NSW

Bondi, NSW


“Me as a 7 year old on the last Christmas before the lake went under. Unforgettable, and I would cry tears of joy if the lake was restored.” CW

EVERY published letter this issue will receive a pair of Smartwool PhD crew hike socks. Smartwool is well known for their itch-free, odour-free Merino clothing, and their technical PhD socks have seamless toes and are mesh-panelled for comfort. Dennis’s Letter of the Issue will get something special: A Smartwool sock drawer. It’ll include hiking, running and lifestyle socks, enough for anyone to throw out all those old raggedy, holey and often stinky socks they’ve been making do with.



SHOT IN DEFENCE OF ALDI GEAR Hi James, I’m part way through the latest issue of Wild and it’s shaping up to be another excellent read. I appreciate the focus on conservation: There’s no point in planning trips or having gear if there is nowhere to go and use it. And the editorial also struck a chord; many times I have walked past very large tree stumps in places where there are no longer trees of that size. Just reminders of what was there, what we cut down and have lost. What I actually wanted to comment on, though, was the column by Dan Slater; call my response, since Dan went and named names, “In Defence of Aldi Gear”. I have a couple of pieces of their kit—cooking gear, merino clothes and even a pack—and have used them on several multiday walks. Sure, maybe not all of it is lightweight enough for some people these days, but don’t knock it till you have tried it! I’m sure there are many people that appreciate affordable entry-level gear. Finally, Kieron Douglas (‘Getting Started’ in Wild Issue #185) needs to add a pair of sidecutters to his kit list to remove all of those cable ties. Especially the ones around his ankles holding the plastic bags on! Regards, Andrew Naumann

By Neil Silverwood “THE NEXT RAPID IS GRADE 5 and we’ll need to portage,” our friend and guide, Barny Young, told us as we paddled downriver toward the thundering whitewater. “Just wait for the water to surge up, climb onto the rock, then throw your boat down the other side and jump on top before it floats away!” Barny grabbed my partner’s arm and hauled her onto the rock, boat and paddle in hand, before it could be sucked into the rapid. Below this set of rapids, we found ourselves in the most beautiful, peaceful gorge either of us had ever seen (pictured on the cover). Electric-blue water coloured by rock dust from glacial melt flowed between tall schist walls. The gruelling walk in, the difficult portages and the risk were all worth it, and Barny and I swapped turns both in front of and behind our cameras, each eager to photograph the magic environment. Read more about packrafting on the West Coast of NZ’s South Island in Neil’s destination piece starting on P124.


Melbourne, VIC

wild.com.au/subscribe @wildmagazine



Hi James and Kieron, Thanks for your excellent article (‘Getting Started’ in Wild Issue #185) which was full of very useful information and hints that I shall either continue with as I have for many years or embrace with enthusiasm to enrich my outdoors experiences. However, here’s a point to note about using cable ties. Either use releasable cable ties (a range of which are available and work with varying degrees of efficiency), or ensure that you have something easily accessible with which to cut said cable ties, otherwise you may end up in a world of pain. For example, you cable tie your pants together to stop them falling down whilst making that last attempt on the arête, and then discover the call of nature has arrived and the cable tie is not going to come off as easily as it went on. Not suggesting that has ever happened to me but ... Thanks, John Poulton Dapto, NSW

(Ed: No, but I’ve had something similar happen to me when I tied up some rope to hold up my pants.)

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The activities in this magazine are super fun, but risky too. Undertaking them without proper training, experience, skill, regard for safety or equipment could result in injury, death or an unexpected and very hungry night under the stars. The Wild logo is registered as a trademark; the use of the name is prohibited. All material copyright Adventure Entertainment Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without obtaining the publisher’s written consent. Wild attempts to verify advertising, track notes, route descriptions, maps and other information, but cannot be held responsible for erroneous, incomplete or misleading material. Articles and advertisements represent the views of the authors and not the publishers. Wild acknowledges and shows respect for the Traditional Custodians of Australia and Aotearoa, and Elders past, present and emerging.





Photo of rafting the Franklin taken by Bob Brown that ran as part of a Wilderness Society ad in Wild’s very first issue back in 1981


arly in 1976, a young doctor from New South Wales joined a rafting trip which changed his life.” So wrote Rob Mitchell in the opening sentence of his story that, back in 1983, ran in Wild Issue #7, the subject of which was Bob Brown. The trip, of course, was down the Franklin. Paul Smith, a forester from Launceston, had been casting around for people to join on a rafting trip down the then littleknown Franklin River. He’d asked fifteen or twenty people; they’d all turned him down. But Bob didn’t. Despite having no real paddling experience, and despite the fact that before that point no-one had hitherto paddled the Franklin in inflatable rafts, he decided to join Paul. To prepare for the trip, he practised paddling beforehand a little on the Liffey River in northern Tasmania. Really, the emphasis should be on “a little”. A notable element of this practice was the lifejacket that Bob wore during it; it had a large Queen Elizabeth I style collar, so that when Bob went limp—as he did when he was feigning being unconscious for rescue practice—it always turned him over facedown in the water. With so little paddling experience, and so little knowledge of what was in store, the Franklin—as Bob has told me when recounting that trip—was “daunting”. It was a different experience to what it is now, he said. “We didn’t know what was coming around the next bend.” There had been a few paddling trips down the Franklin by that time, but literally a few, and none, as mentioned earlier, had been in inflatable rafts. The first descent had been done in canoes and kayaks by John Dean and John Hawkins et al back in the 50s, and Hawkins had described cliffs hundreds of feet high. Upon setting off, Bob and Paul struck



two weeks of fine weather. The river was fortunately low, so the pair could take their time. “We paddled down this beautiful river, with waterfalls coming in from the side, with sea eagles soaring, and platypuses in the river, the leatherwood petals floating downstream.” But because it was just the two of them, and because, of course, there were no PLBs etc back then, they had to take it carefully. When they reached the Churn and Thunderush and the Cauldron, they climbed around the obstacles, deflating their rafts and packing up all their gear. “If we got into trouble, we’d have the Faustian choice of staying or going for help.” And they could see the Franklin’s potential for rage and fury. “You can see on the rocks the flood line ten metres up. You wonder what a spectacle [the river in flood] must be.” On later trips, Bob saw the Franklin in summer flood, and saw logs and branches coming down the Great Ravine. It was, he told me, awesome. But on that first trip, river levels were abnormally low, and it made for a wonderful, relatively relaxed experience. By the time he and Paul finished the paddle roughly two weeks after starting, Bob had been forever changed. The point with all of this is threefold. Firstly, I am writing about Bob because this issue contains his final column for Wild. But since there seemed little point engaging in a truncated, hagiographic profile here—Bob’s amazing life as a conservationist and as a politician, if not, above all, as a human, has been well-documented elsewhere—and since I personally would love to read more about him as an adventurer, I thought this brief vignette of his first Franklin trip seemed as good a thing to share about Bob as any. Secondly, I want to return to that first sentence of Rob Mitchell’s story from back in ‘83. Not only did the trip change

the young doctor’s life; it changed the course of the conservation movement in Australia. Bob has told me that prior to that trip on the Franklin, he’d had no real interest in environmental activism. “None. Nil. Zero,” he said. But the rafting trip changed everything. Bob’s experience is an example of how adventure can change us. We see beauty. We drink life deeply. We open our minds to new modes of thinking, to new life possibilities. Sometimes, the resultant changes will be small, barely perceptible. But they can, on occasion, be profound, sufficiently so to change our life’s course for the better. And not just change our life’s course for the better, but the lives of those around us. Would the Franklin have been saved if Bob had not, after that first paddle, subsequently become involved? Maybe not. Possibly. Probably. I like to think it would have been the last of these, but who knows? Would the conservation movement in Australia have been the same had Bob not paddled the Franklin? Again, maybe not. Possibly. Probably. Who knows? In any case, conjecture like this is essentially meaningless. But here’s one thing that is certain. Wild as a magazine would not have been the same. For roughly a decade now, Bob has been writing his ‘Green Living’ column for Wild (and he contributed to the mag many times prior to that). In these recent years, it would have been easy—given Bob’s stature, given the pressures and demands on his time, and given his age; he’s approaching 80—for him to ignore a magazine as nichey, excuse my neologism, as Wild, but that has not been the case. He has continued to share his thoughts and his profound knowledge with the Wild community. And for that, on behalf of all of us, I want to say an incredibly heartfelt thank you. JAMES MCCORMACK




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Andrew Jenour paddling into Western Creek where it meets the Meander River in Northern Tasmania. Much of this area is cleared farmland, but the pockets of forest clinging to waterways create narrow corridors of ‘almost-wilderness’ to explore. This day we were dropped a few kilometres upstream and leisurely steered the packrafts back to a secluded campsite beside the river.


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Ben Armstrong rappels into the lush sinkhole above Arakis Cave in Tasmania. Below this is an abyssal, vertical shaft that plunges seemingly forever into midnight darkness. The bottom is seldom visited, with only a couple of recorded visits.


Nikon Z7, Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4S, f5.6, 1/50, ISO 640



After Alex Mougenot, Kyle Addy and I rapped into the mouth of the beast that is the Summit Caves, Alex and Kyle took on the infamous (and rarely repeated) Back in Black (25 mixed). I challenge you to show me a more butt-clenching, acrobatic, technical and three-dimensional climbing route in Southeast QLD!


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Home to the Luritja Aboriginal people for more than 20,000 years, the George Gill Range in Watarrka National Park is a dissected sandstone plateau hiding a network of gorges, rockholes, domes and caves. During a multi-day circuit through the range, David Ridgers surveys the landscape while sheltering from a passing storm in one such cave.


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Columns: GREEN LIVING Bob.Brown.Foundation


bobbrownfndn www.bobbrown.org.au

​GOODBYE, WILD After decades of contributing to Wild, the time has finally come for Bob to hang up his hat. But the fire in his belly burns as brightly as ever, as Bob explains in his final column for the magazine.


orty years ago, on 14th December 1982, the Franklin Blockade began after a seven-year campaign failed to stop work on the Gordon-below-Franklin dam. Six months later, with the Hawke government elected, the High Court stopped the dam, but not before $70 million had been spent by Tasmania’s Hydro-Electric Commission. During the controversy, HEC supremo Russell Ashton complained that “if parliament is to work through popular decisions, we are doomed here and we are doomed around the world.” He was speaking for the power-brokers on Earth who want to bulldoze nature for profitable conversion into human-desired dead stuff, regardless of what humans really desire. The result is unique. In my lifetime, Earth’s wildlife numbers have dropped by 75 per cent. Abraham Lincoln warned that corporations were out to “seize the throne of democracy” from the people. That has now happened. Corporations have captured the parliaments. Why else would Australia’s publicly owned native forests continue to be blitzed when a 4:1 majority of people wants them protected? The trees keep falling, the woodchip ships ply their cargos to China, and more species are on their way to deliberated extinction. But there is a rising tide of public alarm, and the majority is getting restive. There is rebellion in the air, in particular amongst the young who will inherit this Earth. The massive pre-Covid school strikes, the rise of spontaneous groups like Extinction Rebellion and Blockade Australia and, conversely, the rapid legislative moves in many democracies to criminalise peaceful environmental protest, point to a looming showdown as H. sapiens comes to grips with what it is doing.



In Tasmania, new laws aim straight at the Bob Brown Foundation. That is because our peaceful defence of the island’s forests and wildlife—from the Tarkine to the northeast highlands to the southern forests and Bruny Island—has saved thousands of hectares which would otherwise have been flattened and incinerated. Backed by the chambers of industry and logging corporations, the laws aim to eliminate such effective protest. Organising to defend wildlife, trees, or seas by peacefully obstructing the profiteers is now criminalised. Any group that works



in that time-honoured way risks being stripped of charitable status, tax-deductibility of donations and loss of registration. Peaceful environmental defence is criminalised while wilful environmental destruction is rewarded. The rewards include massive public subsidies. If this highly orchestrated punishment of environmental enthusiasm had been in place in 1982, the Franklin dam would have been built. The great wild river would now be dead. Miners, loggers and industrial fish farmers have manipulated the law in our democracy to challenge every nature lover to either buckle under or face large fines or jail and a criminal record. In the Q&A session after the premiere

of The Giants at the Adelaide Film Festival in October (it’s due for general release next autumn), a man asked me why environmentalists are so meek and peaceful. He seemed a bit angry. Others have suggested that environmental action should go underground and become violent. While every parliamentarian who backs anti-peaceful-protest laws must shoulder responsibility for such consequences, I oppose both concepts. One had only to watch the recent ABC TV Four Corners programme covering what happened after hundreds of peaceful student democracy activists were shot in Myanmar to see how a much worse outcome for the authorities can evolve. I am neither for violence nor yet for buckling under. The 1990s words of Australia’s great poet and environmentalist Judith Wright are ringing in my ears: “What has happened to environmentalists? Where is the fire in their bellies?” As I tick over 78, and nature’s fire in my belly is burning as brightly as ever, the laws threatening our effective campaigning require more time and effort from nature’s defenders. So I am making this my final regular column in Wild. What a privilege the years of association with this wonderful magazine— going right back to its first issue in 1981 at the height of the campaign to save the Franklin—have been. I love Wild and hold an enormous respect for its editors, from Chris Baxter to James McCormack, and all who help maintain such an outstanding publication for wilderness, wildlife, and outdoor adventure. I shall be waiting by the post box for every new edition! (Ed: And thank you so much Bob for all your many, many contributions to the magazine. You will be sorely missed by the entire Wild community!)

End native forest logging and support the creation of the Great Forest National Park

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Columns: WILD THINGS @meganholbeck www.meganholbeck.com


A WILD PLACE NO MORE Accommodation or conservation? There’s room for luxury while walking, but no place for development in national parks.


n three days of walking, we saw only a handful of people. Instead of humans, we saw nature. We watched whales splash in a sheltered bay, followed cliffs along the coast, the red rock contrasting beautifully with the blue sea. The sun was out, the weather perfect—we walked in T-shirts and shorts and stopped to swim at empty, sandy beaches, squealing with the July cold. This wonderland of winter walking was the Light to Light walk near Eden, on the South Coast of NSW, in the newly renamed Beowa National Park (previously Ben Boyd). Nine of us walked the 30km track, a trip that’s been on my rather long list for a couple of decades. For the last 14 years, it’s been kids that have stopped me, the logistics of carrying, complaining and cajoling overcoming my appetite for adventure. Finally, however, I overcame my hesitancy, and our group was made up of four adults and five kids ranging in age from six to thirteen. It was a bit of a test run: The first multi-day walk with kids for both families; and the Kilham family’s first night in their new, ultralight tent. It could have been a nightmare; instead, it was amazing. The kids found their rhythm with barely a whinge, traipsing across coastal heathland and through the soft light of she-oak groves, through sand and water and mud. We all had mates to talk to for long, deep conversations, as well as time alone to soak in the views and the space. And despite the cold, the evenings were delightful, our huge meals followed by comfy beds. Our family slept solidly through the night, warm and cosy—we even had to wake the kids in the morning when our pancakes and hot chocolate arrived at the door. That’s right, to our door, because this



wasn’t your standard three-day bushwalk, but the ‘let’s ease ourselves in gently’ version, one with wine and ice cream, crisp white sheets, and warm showers. We basically cheated big time, taking Life’s an Adventure’s self-guided luxury walk option. (Full disclosure—it was a sponsored trip.) Each day we were driven to the start of the walk and picked up from its end, spending the night in Boydtown’s four-star Seahorse Inn, with all food and logistics taken care of. We only carried



WILL BE ONE LESS.” daypacks and finished each day with hot showers and dinner in the restaurant: It wasn’t hard core, but it was fun. (The Kilhams did a hybrid version, spending one night camping, one at the hotel.) I haven’t done a trip like this before, and the best bit for me was the ease. Not in the physical sense—I don’t mind carrying a pack—but in terms of logistics. Instead of hours of organisation, packing, sorting out food and all the rest, we just turned up. I’m sure there are lots of people in my camp, as well as those for whom not having to carry a pack makes a walk like this possible. Regardless of how or why you do it, having a pack-free option like this is amazing, giving people access and connection to nature without negatively impacting the area’s values or others’ enjoyment. I’m sure we’ll go back, do the walk again ‘properly’ or arrange car shuttles to lessen the load. It’s one of those perfect walks

with so many options: Not just how to do it, but also where to camp, with perfect little bush camps dotted along the track. All of this makes the proposal to put in accommodation complexes along the walk particularly disturbing, turning two of the most beautiful campsites in the national park (Hegartys Bay and Mowarry Point) into hubs with buildings that sleep 36, as well as dining huts, staff accommodation, new toilets and more. As with similar proposals, details are scant, but almost six hectares of land within the National Park would be impacted, as well as ten kilometres of new track built, and substantial other work that would impact the park’s prime purpose: conservation. This development is wholly unnecessary. As shown by my trip, there are already wonderful options for pack-free Light to Light adventures. Public access to Beowa National Park is fantastic as it stands, with two car-accessible campsites, and lovely accommodation in the Green Cape Lighthouse cottages. This area is accessible wildness at its best, well-loved by surfers, kayakers, fishers, and nature lovers of all descriptions. Beowa National Park is special: There are few places like it in NSW, where you can follow the coast for days, camping where you want, enjoying a wild stretch of bushland. If this proposal goes ahead, there will be one less. I’ve been involved in setting up a new website called keep-it-wild.org, designed to keep track of proposed developments in Australian national parks. It aims to give an idea of the scope of the problem and highlight the shift in focus from conservation to profit of Australian parks departments. There’s more information about the Light to Light proposal, as well as other development proposals around the country.


A PLEA FOR WILDNESS Luxury lodge proposals threaten wild places across the country. The Victorian High Country is another area that’s sadly in developers’ sights.


he bitterly cold wind of yesterday was gone, and with it the cloud. But that Antarctic blast had left a snowpack hard as concrete, though far more aesthetic than any concrete could ever be. Indeed, the utterly magnificent scene surrounding me was the antithesis of concrete. Draped over slender ridges, elegant spurs and steep faces—its smooth folds delineated by the late morning shadows—the spring snowpack was not only beautiful; it lent an added sense of remoteness and grandeur to the uniquely Australian alpine scene before me. To the east, across the deep timbered valley of the East Kiewa River, the shimmering plateau of the Bogong High Plains cut off any further vistas in that direction. Views westwards kept going and going, inviting my mind to go through the familiar ritual of naming all the high points on the horizon. Places I’d blistered my heels, rubbed my shoulders red-raw, cut my hands from icy falls while learning to ski, and shivered through many a night during my bushwalking and ski-touring apprenticeships. Far below in a valley floor to the north, I could just make out green paddocks. Once I would have thought of this as an intrusion to my ideal of vast natural wilderness but I’ve come to realise that that is just ideality, not reality. Now, from this high and privileged viewpoint, those green fields are a reminder to those of us who love the wild that we are extremely lucky to have the best of both worlds; to be able to experience it freely while living with the convenience, comfort and safety of a modern human-modified environment. From my long experience of taking novices out, I’m convinced the



love of wild places is latent in all humans. Discovering this enriches us immeasurably because it can help build a bridge connecting us back to a more authentic appreciation of nature and life—it is psychologically restorative. But it can only be fully realised by going out into it; that’s why it is so vital that we conserve wild, undeveloped places (as long promoted by Wild Magazine), especially ones so spectacular and easily reached as where I was now sitting.




Heeding my own advice from a couple of Wild columns ago, I’d stopped for a ‘refuelling stop’ atop High Knob, aptly named as the highest point so far on my impromptu ski along the Razorback ridge that connects Mt Hotham to Australia’s most iconic alpine peak, Mt Feathertop. I’d first come here during a long weekend many years ago while still at school. My friends and I had been dropped off— by my mother late the evening before—at the foot of the Bungalow Spur down in the valley near Harrietville. We spent the night in a hut near the top of the spur, climbed Feathertop and then cut across to the High Plains via the deep valley below. The route we followed was just a footpad, in places barely distinguishable.

The sense of wildness and adventure was a welcome tonic to the pressures of our last school year. Now, as I sat gazing out at the view while replenishing my energy levels, it was reassuring to see that fifty years on, this place and the view were still unspoilt. Kids like us and others could still have the same easily accessed adventure and sense of remoteness. Indeed, as I then continued skiing to the summit, I met three others on snowshoes who’d walked up from the valley. All remarked how special was the experience. Shockingly, I’ve since learned of the plan to irrevocably change this unique and very special place by constructing commercial lodges and an ‘upgraded’ track on much of the route my friends and I had so enjoyed. Totally extinct will be the sense of wildness existing now, to be invaded by the intrusion of urbanised comforts like unnaturally paved, healthand-safety-approved walkways, jarring interpretive signposts, tent platforms, and buildings that eschew the simplicity and beauty of natural footpads, and historic drovers’ and bushwalkers’ huts. I’m concerned about how the essence of our precious natural areas, and their ‘aesthetic of naturalness’, is being subtly destroyed by the intrusions of elements, such as those mentioned above, that are the antithesis of natural. By bringing ‘the street’—with all its associated sterilising and bland impositions—to the wild, land managers are killing the wild. For our sake and for future generations, please don’t let it happen. There is surely a better way forward where we have more lowkey but well-maintained walking tracks, open to all.

I need new heights.

I need Switzerland. Get inspired today at www.mySwitzerland.com


LONG COVID The availability, or lack thereof, of new gear has been one of the side effects of the pandemic. Surprisingly, that’s come with some positives.


’m pretty sure I’ve made it through the last couple of years’ columns without mentioning the dreaded C-word, because while it’s had a large and undoubted effect on our outdoor adventures, it hasn’t really impacted the gear that we buy to take on those adventures. Or has it? Well, yes. For a start, the pandemic has changed our buying patterns, at least in the short term. With international travel being more or less impossible, and being blessed with a plethora of amazing domestic bushwalking destinations, keen overseas trail-baggers swiftly made the transition. And rightly so! Any one of us could walk the rest of our lives in Australia without ever treading the same route twice. Imagine being a hiking nut stuck in Lichtenstein for a couple of years, or Kiribati. But enough about our good fortune. The equipment we’d take on, say, an Everest Base Camp trek is very different to that suitable for bush-bashing one of Tasmania’s Abels. While fully supported treks are available in Australia, they’re the exception, not the norm. And that’s exactly what outdoor retailers noticed— sales of 25-litre day packs plummeted, while those of large-volume, canvas bushwalking packs exploded. We needed gear that would withstand the brutal conditions of the bush. Short, lightweight, US-style shells waned in popularity; stiff, knee-length jackets with heavier face fabrics became the vogue. Mont, One Planet and Wilderness Equipment were laughing. So, we changed our buying habits, yes, but it wasn’t as simple as stores ordering



different stock from their suppliers. Even Australian products are hardly made in Australia any more, and the raw materials have to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is usually far across the sea. Welcome to the 2020-20?? global shipping crisis! (Note the ‘??’, because who knows when it will end.) Even if you’re not involved with transporting containers from Europe or the US on a daily basis, you’ll almost certainly be aware of the hair-tearing frustration occasioned by the speed of international


WE’VE LEARNED PATIENCE, MASTERED ACCEPTANCE, AND REDUCED WASTE.” freight at the moment. Shipping lead times are regularly blown out by months. Consignments are bumped, ports backed up and blockaded, ships queuing for miles, containers being sent across the world empty while goods stand on the dock. It’s a shambles, and one that was evident on the sparse shelves of our outdoor stores. Add to that the difficulty in sourcing basic raw materials, and manufacturing plants half-staffed due to illness or isolation, and it’s a wonder we’ve got two tent pegs to rub together! I don’t know how many of you have tried to buy a lightweight hiking tent in 2022, but if so, you’ll have noticed the severe dearth of choice. Almost every

brand has been out of stock for months at a time. Almost all the world’s mass-produced, lightweight tents are made in Vietnam, where the factories with the necessary machinery are located. But lightweight tents need lightweight tent poles, and the only poles that matter are made by DAC in Korea, who have a strictly limited manufacturing capacity. And even with everything else that was going on in the world, DAC refused to expand production to cope with demand. Add to that a major new tent brand, Sea to Summit, whose flagship pole structure was co-designed by the CEO of DAC, and you’ll understand the extra market pressures that came into play. The good news is that most people seem to have become used to the situation. We’ve realised that it’s not currently possible to compare, for example, every single sleeping mat in the world online, choose the perfect one for your requirements (or more likely the one with the biggest marketing budget), order it with a handful of clicks and take it to the mountains the following weekend. Instead, a miraculous thing has happened—we’ve made do with what’s available, or just used what we already had, or we’ve accepted longer lead times on that perfect model. We’ve learned patience, mastered acceptance, and reduced waste, ironically some of the exact attributes we’re chasing by venturing outdoors in the first place. In a way, like the smog dissipating for the brief period when the big cities shut down completely, it’s beautiful. But will we retain these attributes when the globe resumes spinning at its erstwhile frenetic pace? I doubt it.

marmotau.com @MarmotAus Tungsten 2p Tent

Find your nearest retailer



A selection of environmental news briefs from around the country. EDITED BY MAYA DARBY

Looking south across Beowa NP



Credit: Mick Ripon

KEEP IT WILD A new website called Keep-It-Wild.org will shine a spotlight on the numerous luxury accommodation developments being proposed within national parks across the country.


roposals for new luxury accommodation complexes in national parks are popping up across the country, from the NSW South Coast to Victoria’s Alpine National Park to the Cooloola Great Walk project in Queensland. There are many others, spread from the Northern Territory to Tasmania, the west coast to the east. The trouble is, each of these proposals tends to be seen as its own localised issue, rather than as part of a bigger problem: the shift in focus from protection to profit in our national parks. Regular readers of Wild Magazine will be aware of the many issues with the development of our wild lands for public gain. These include major environmental impacts on land set aside for conservation; loss of social equity; effects on the local, regional and wider economy; and their contravention of national park law. There is generally limited consultation for these proposals, with the whole process shrouded in secrecy.



To combat this, a new website has been launched: Keep-It-Wild.org. It will shine a spotlight on these

proposals, showing the scale of the problem and the cultural shift behind them. It will also raise awareness about individual large-scale construction proposals in our parks, help community groups battling these projects, and be a valuable resource for sharing information and resources. When the website launched in November 2022, keep-it-wild.org listed three proposed large-scale construction projects in our national parks: Victoria’s Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing, Queensland’s Cooloola Great Walk and NSW’s Light to Light Project. We’d love the site to be a comprehensive resource of all similar projects in the country. Please visit the site and sign up to our mailing list to stay informed. If you’re aware of any similar proposals, please get in touch at keep.it.wild.org@gmail.com

Please help us to Keep It Wild. MEGAN HOLBECK

HERE’S WHAT’S BEING PROPOSED FOR VICTORIA’S FALLS TO HOTHAM CROSSING: - 4 complexes euphemistically called ‘overnight hubs’, near or at popular—and currently free—camp spots - Up to 80 new structures in total - Up to 36 huts - 31 rentable tent platforms - 4 large communal shelters for group gathering and cooking, each capable of accommodating up to 50 people

They are more like sea bears Fifty million years ago, while some bears stayed on land, some took to the sea. As these creatures evolved, the Australian sea lion was born. Australia’s pinniped is found nowhere else on Earth, but they’re endangered. It is critical their homes—like the Great Australian Bight—are protected. They deserve care and respect. Find out more about the Great Australian Bight at wilderness.org.au/bightfacts Image: Australian sea lion | Tim Watters


GREEN PAGES SWIFT PARROT NESTING TREES BEING LOGGED Critically endangered swift parrots have returned to Tasmania, the only place on Earth they breed. This time, however, they’ve returned with less forest habitat for their nurseries. Wilful destruction of nesting and foraging forest is continuing. As the parrots returned, campaigners and volunteers from the Bob Brown Foundation discovered logging in the very forests the Credit: BBF parrots are flocking to, and radar and satellite surveillance has revealed that more than 2,250ha of swift parrot core-range habitat has been logged since 2019 in Tasmania. In July 2022, Tasmanian Premier Rockliff’s government approved more than 9,700ha of swift parrot habitat to be targeted by the current 2022–2024 three-year logging plans. Enough is well and truly enough. The key solution to saving the swifties from extinction is a rapid exit from all native-forest logging, and an immediate end to logging in all their habitat. In fact, the IUCN recommended all the swifties’ habitat on public land be placed in secure conservation reserves seven years ago. This recommendation has been ignored. Logging needs to cease in all swift parrot habitat in Tasmania and in their NSW winter-feeding forests, but governments are refusing to take the action needed. Learn more at: saveswifties.org JENNY WEBER, Bob Brown Foundation

GIVING BACK TO CULTURE AND COUNTRY Bush to Bowl is a 100% Aboriginal-owned social enterprise creating spaces where families and community members can engage with Australia’s native plants and traditional Aboriginal knowledge and culture in order to give back to and nurture both Culture and Country. Schools provide a great resource, where exotic lawns can be transformed into native gardens that provide habitat stepping Credit: Maya Darby stones in urban areas, nurture local biodiversity, and allow kids to engage with and be inspired by Traditional farming techniques of native plants. With growing populations and urban sprawl, native gardens and Traditional farming of native species will be fundamental to a sustainable future. To find out more, head to bushtobowl.com

NORTHERN JARRAH FORESTS THREATENED BY MINING Last year, the WA Government announced the protection of South West native forests from logging by January 2024. A powerful campaign, led by the WA Forest Alliance, has resulted in one of the state’s largest ever environmental reforms. However, the WA Government’s logging policy omitted existing mining operations, which continue to clear large swathes of forest and bushland, including precious, ancient jarrah forests. What’s more, earlier this year, the International Panel on Climate Change highlighted the Northern Jarrah Forests as an ecology at risk of collapse. “We can see the enormous impact of bauxite mining, which is ripping apart this biodiversity hotspot,” says Patrick Gardner, the Wilderness Society’s WA Campaign Manager. “It is absolutely crucial that efforts are made to protect and restore this ancient landscape.” Visit wilderness.org.au/jarrah for more information. The Wilderness Society

ADAM BYRNE, Bush to Bowl

TOONDAH HARBOUR STILL UNDER THREAT In Wild Issue #182, we asked you to support the protection of Toondah Harbour. This Ramsar listed wetland provides crucial habitat for an array of threatened migratory shorebird species, including the eastern curlew. A year on, the Walker Corporation has just released their Toondah HarCredit: Judy Leitch bour draft Environmental Impact Statement that says destroying the wetland to build a $1.3billion, 3,600-unit luxury high-rise would be “wise use”. To help save this wetland, and to have your say by opposing Walker Corporation’s destructive proposal, head to actforbirds.org/savetoondah. ANDREW HUNTER, Birdlife Australia



Jarrah forest stripped away for bauxite mining. Credit: Patrick Gardner

GOT ANY GREEN NEWS? Engaging in an environmental campaign that Wild readers should know about? Send a paragraph explaining what’s happening and why it’s important to editor@wild.com.au

Credit © Brooke Pyke / Greenpeace

These whales need your help Every 5 seconds, for months at a time whales could be impacted by seismic blasting as Woodside Energy expands their deep-sea gas drilling in Western Australia.

Sign the petition now Scan the QR code or go online act.gp/choose-wildlife


JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE The Wild Deserts program in NSW’s Sturt NP taught Maya Darby that while new, high-tech equipment has helped ecologists greatly, simple tools still remain a valuable part of their toolkit. Words




n Wangkumara and Maljangapa Country in Sturt National Park it’s 5:30AM and I’m on my knees in the red dirt, pulverising a mandarin in a sandwich bag. An immense and deep orange sky coats the desert flowers amber as they gently unfurl to start their days. Ten ecologists-to-be huddle in the desert wind, watching eagerly as Wild Desert’s lead ecologist, Dr Rebecca West, cradles an endangered dusky hopping mouse against the warmth of her chest. She offers it a sip of my freshly juiced mandarin and releases it amongst the grass. Wait. Did my forgotten, bottom-of-the-backpack mandarin/discarded sandwich bag just help tackle the extinction crisis? OK, maybe my ego got away from me there, but it did get me thinking about our ecological toolkit. When I started research for this piece, months before visiting the desert, Fiona York from GECO (Goongerah Environment Centre) in Victoria had told me how technology has changed the way we find and protect native species. She described that in the 90s this was mainly done using hair traps. If you wanted to find an endangered species—and once found, logging in the area would often be forced to stop—you’d roll up a bit of plastic with some double-sided tape and some bait, then something would crawl through and leave some of its fur. You’d then drive the sample to Canberra or Melbourne and wait months for the lab results ... only to learn it was the fibre from someone’s woollen jumper. As she spoke, I smirked with wide-eyed, millennial disbelief—hair traps sounded rudimentary and laughable now, in an age of AI, NFTs, joy rides to space, electric cars and, of course, camera traps like the ones that help GECO find (and save) greater gliders. It wasn’t until I stood in Sturt NP, alongside some of the country’s most notable ecologists, clasping my little bag of mandarin smoosh that I questioned my naive, tech-snobbery. A dynamic



toolkit got results, and even the most unglamorous of ‘tech’ played a vital role in saving our species. I had this assumption that there was good tech and there was bad tech. Good tech was new and shiny, and bad tech was old and useless. I knew that conservation ecologists like Dr Debbie Saunders were using drones to survey swift parrot numbers, and thermal imaging to monitor koala populations. And organisations like the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and CSIRO were studying how gene drive technology has the potential to eradicate feral cats. I knew the Australian Quoll Conservancy were using camera traps as a non-invasive way to monitor numbers of pouch young and lactating females. But I didn’t know that existing technologies like radio trackers were being refined so that entomologists like Myles Menz were able to put them on the back of moths to track their migration. Or that ornithologists like Professor David Watson (our leader in Sturt) were using existing audio technology alongside AI to monitor bird populations and ecosystem health. New tech was being developed, new uses for old tech were rapidly emerging and, most surprisingly, this was all being buoyed by the most simple of tools.

ON MY WAY TO STURT NP, I spend a few days at The Palace Hotel in Broken Hill, where smiling locals teach me about Pro Hart and buy me beers. But outside, set behind the Priscilla-clad hotel, there’s an enormous wound, the ‘broken’ part of Broken Hill, the pride and joy of this place. The old BHP mine is dizzyingly large, and at one point I venture up to the lookout, but turn back with a sick, dark feeling inside. The contrast between remnant bush and industry here makes it impossible to ignore the impacts of colonisation and industrialisation. In Sydney, we’ve sought to erase everything that reminds us of

where we’re standing—brick, metal and bitumen help us suppress an awareness of what was once here and who’s land we’re on. But in Broken Hill, its wound glares at us, willing us to take ownership for what we’ve done. I’m glad to say goodbye to Broken Hill, welcoming the expanse of the desert as my mobile bars drop and eventually land on SOS. On the Silver City Highway driving north, the landscape is a dreamy mix of Star Wars and Mars. For seven hours we head north, passing mobs of emus and red kangaroos (my first time seeing either). The emus are, despite popular belief, not majestic. They flee awkwardly, turning in on each other with wild eyes. It’s sheer chaos as they hear our bus (yep, the one plodding along, nowhere near them, at a glacial speed). Their enormous tail feathers bounce up and down like a 19th Century bustle beneath a lady’s gown as they skitter off into the distance, the ugly stepsisters late for the ball. I am obsessed with the rock formations, and while there’s no resident geologist on board it doesn’t stop me from asking “How old would those rocks be?” at least a hundred times. Eventually, people stop answering. But I find out later some of these rocks are upward of 1,800 million years old. The gibber plains are blindingly shiny and unimaginably vast; I am drawn to them.

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Beefwood trees in the Wild Deserts exclosure Dave Watson holding a crest-tailed mulgara for the very first time The common name for Acacia tetragonophylla is unusual—dead finish. There are various theories as to how it got this name, but the most common refers to the plant’s hardiness, and that in a drought, it’s the last bush to die

MORE INFO: Wild Deserts are reintroducing seven locally extinct mammals into Sturt NP; the cresttailed mulgara, golden bandicoot, western barred bandicoot, burrowing bettong, greater stick-nest rat, western quoll and greater bilby. To learn more, head to facebook.com/WildDeserts




Later, I’ll spend hours hobbling across a gibber plain, looking for a pair of lost sunglasses but instead finding fossilised wood, a kangaroo with a neurological issue that seems to bounce ten feet in the air, and acacias that flower yellow and pink on the same bush. I’ll also visit the milky, white waters of the breathtaking Lake Pinaroo; the shock of seeing so much water out here adds to the other-worldliness of this desertscape. The desert isn’t as deserty as I’d imagined—it’s absolutely bursting with a rainbow of flowers and offers saltbush and bluebush in every shade and texture. Some areas by the creeks are abundant with greenery and flocks of birds that roost in big, fat gum trees. After more rock sightings, a family of brolga, and an insane orange-red sunset, we arrive at the Wild Deserts site. We pitch our tents under the light of the stars, which sounds romantic but is actually a bit of a nightmare, although not as nightmarish as the dozens of little spider eyes that shimmer at you in the sand as you make the crossing for a midnight wee.

WAKING UP IN STURT NATIONAL PARK is both beautiful and disorientating. It’s 4AM, and the stars shimmer across the sky. Being able to see the horizon in every direction is discombobulating to this city-slicker, who’s more used to gazing at photos of places like this on an iPhone a few centimetres in front of me. One of my peers says it’s like being in an enormous snow globe, which not only describes the immense sky but also how insignificant this vast place makes you feel. It’s like I’ve been studying an artwork my entire life, but it’s been concealed. I’ve only been able to see the top right corner, but never the whole picture. Here, though, I can see the brushstrokes, the goldembossed frame, the artist’s signature, the full scene. Months later I’ll be back in my terrace in Sydney’s Inner West, glimpsing the moon through the bars on the windows and remembering the freedom of the desert. Sturt’s eastern horizon is a stretch of ochre-red waiting for the sun. Out here, the stars don’t abide by the rules of the city; they’re in the sunset and the sunrise and only briefly disappear when the midday sun builds enough brightness to erase them momentarily. The warm desert colour palette conjures hot outback but delivers Antarctic wasteland as I begrudgingly climb out of my sleeping bag and rush to throw on another layer of thermals, a down jacket, gloves and a beanie. It takes an hour to drive from the Wild Deserts headquarters to the first exclosure zone (as opposed to an inclosure that keeps animals in, an exclosure keeps them out). Here we meet Dr Rebecca West, whose team is leading the reintroduction of locally extinct mammals that have been missing from the NSW landscape for a century thanks to the effects of colonisation and pastoralisation that saw the degradation of the landscape and introduction of exotic pests. The exclosure is a rabbit, fox and cat-proof fence (and



WHY NOT USE EVERY TOOL AT OUR DISPOSAL TO PROTECT WHAT WE HAVE LEFT SO THE NEXT 200 YEARS DON’T REPLICATE THE LAST?” kangaroo-proof, for now), and as we drive alongside it, outside the exclosure, an enormous feral kitten bounds alongside us, fat and energised, with a tummy full of dunnarts. The ferals are plentiful on this side of the fence, so we’re sure to shut the gate behind us when we enter. To some it might look like just any fence, but only when you compare the Wild Deserts fence to the dingo fence at the junction of South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales do you realise there are fences and then there are fences. The dingo fence at Cameron Corner looks all-but-impromptu, seemingly flimsy enough that a solid boundary from our backyard game of inter-state cricket would send all 5,614km of it toppling down like dominos. The Wild Deserts fence is a 40km2 impermeable exclosure, with a floppy top to deter climbing cats and foxes, and a mesh apron that prevents rabbits and foxes digging their way under. It’s also electrified in some areas, and it cost a mammoth amount of money to build. The team at Wild Deserts know a larger-scale, more sustainable model is needed—we will probably never eradicate ferals and we can’t protect every native in such an exclosure—so they’ve created the Wild Training Zone, where naive natives learn to fear, and therefore avoid predation from, feral animals. The high-tech infrastructure and innovative practices at Wild Deserts are used together with those technologies I previously thought of as unsophisticated, but now realise are simply part of a good tool kit. Being closed off to solutions that aren’t centred around state-of-the-art tech means we’re overlooking dynamic ingenuity. Elliott traps, for instance, are adored by ecologists; these simple devices of folded aluminium—when used alongside some melted peanut butter and oats—are the ultimate field ecology tool, and are in fact fundamental to saving locally extinct species like the crest-tailed mulgara. Amongst all the new experiences in the desert, I’ve been taking these critters for granted. Catch, release, catch, release. Peanut butter bait-ball,

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Dr Reece Pedler in front of Wild Deserts’ state-of-the-art exclosure fence Footprints in the dried swamp A crest-tailed mulgara carrying young Dave Watson adjusting an acoustic monitor Fleshy groundsel—one of many species of abundant wildflowers A set Elliott trap

woolly blanket, ant powder … repeat. I go through the motions with a casual arrogance, like being in the desert catching mulgaras is something I do all the time (rather than eating avo toast in Sydney cafes googling photos of ‘Sturt National Park’). It’s not until our ecology professor Dave Watson (who, according to his nail-biting yarns, has been a lot of places and seen a lot of things) is just about ready to weep with sheer joy as he holds a crest-tailed mulgara in his hands that I realise how lucky I am to be here experiencing these animals. On the last day of surveys, we find—huddled cosily inside an Elliott—a female crest-tailed mulgara carrying eight jellybean-looking young; it hits me how groundbreaking this work is. And how these simple, reliable Elliotts are providing crucial data that measures this project’s success with each and every capture. Bolstering dynamic ingenuity isn’t about going back to basics; it’s about using fundamentally masterful techniques to nurture our natural world. This is not just a western idea of science and technology, but more crucially, the wisdom that First Nations people honed over millennia, a wisdom that’s perhaps the most essential, and critically undervalued, tool in the ecological kit. On a bird survey along a dry creekbed in the southern part of the park near Mt Wood, Dave Watson is combining exciting tech advances with equipment like his handy yellow waterproof notebook and pencil. We walk towards an acoustic monitor, passing masses of pink eremophilas and green foxtails. We spot birds with our binoculars and sing out their names to Dave, who jots them down; cockatiel, budgerigar, rufous songlark, crimson chat, peaceful dove, pallid cuckoo, red-backed kingfisher, crested bellbird. Later, I flick through this little book, and there are pages of desert bird surveys as well as lists of unfamiliar birds from South America—years of important research written neatly in lead. The twenty years of bird survey data in this notebook will provide the crucial information needed to better understand and protect our desert species. We make it to the acoustic monitor, one of many dotted throughout the country listening intently around the clock. Once we change the SD cards over and everyone walks away, one guy leans forward and says into the microphone: “To whoever is listening to this a year from now, I hope you heard some good stuff.” Three days later, when I’m on my failed trip to find the lost

sunglasses, I climb the same hill and meet the acoustic monitor again. I get the distinct feeling it knows something; maybe it doesn’t know which ‘roo is out there wearing my sunnies, but it has knowledge about this landscape. It knows if a sundown parrot visited alone or with its mate, and how hard the rain fell that day. It knows if the nearby creek flows fiercely or babbles gently, and it knows if the plane passing overhead is a commercial jet or a small propeller plane. It listens all day and all night, waiting for those whispered sweet nothings from the landscape. This knowledge in the hands of a great acoustic ecologist can not only help us measure the health of an ecosystem, it can help us rebuild one. Dave’s latest research, alongside Elizabeth Znidersic, shows that broadcasting a healthy ecosystem soundscape in a disturbed area fast-tracks its restoration. So not only is this little box on the gibber hill listening out, it’s recording essential data that can be used to measure and reconstruct desert ecosystems. The gap now, says Dave, is that we often have too much data, which then requires costly AI solutions to code and analyse findings. So a lot of data (from acoustic monitors, camera traps, etc) sits dormant until a keen citizen scientist can manually sort it.

I BOARD THE TRAIN FROM BROKEN HILL back to Sydney, and notice a bluebonnet glued lifelessly to the front of the train. For fifteen hours, I watch the desert disappear into suburbia, and I think about its mate and its empty nest. I think about what’s ahead. Australia is a world leader in sending mammals extinct and destroying native forests. So why not use every tool at our disposal to protect what we have left so the next 200 years don’t replicate the last? These tools might be life-giving mandarin juice, simple and unassuming tin traps that help us count mulgaras, acoustic monitoring stations that allow ecosystems to be rebuilt, camera traps that stop loggers in their tracks, or notebooks where we write down the names of desert birds. Good science, species-saving science, is science that knows how to utilise all the tools in the kit. CONTRIBUTOR: Maya is a Sydney-based nature writer. When she’s not freaking out about climate change, she enjoys gentle hikes looking for her favourite bird, the spangled drongo. IG: @plumulicious



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With the right training, gear, preparation and mindset, nearly anyone can take on a long-distance hike, says Wild Earth Ambassador Jacinta Pink.




I make lists when I’m out on the trail so that I remember what I may or may not need next time. I will buy a set of gloves for my next cold hike, as I suffered on the Larapinta. Remember though, there may be some gear, like first aid, that you may not have used but is essential. Distinguish your needs from your wants.

ome of the most beautiful places I’ve visited on

Earth required many days of hiking to uncover, places so epic and remote I wish everyone could experience them. In the past four months, I’ve walked both the Larapinta Trail (223km over 12 days) and the Great Ocean Walk (110km over 6 days). These long-distance hikes required loads of training and planning, and along the way I had my share of challenges. Here are some of the elements that helped me prepare for my hikes.

Long-distance hiking requires not only walking stamina, but it needs to be coupled with the capability of carrying everything you’ll need to be self sufficient. I personally like to keep a base fitness all year round, but when it comes time to prep for a long hike, I start challenging myself with day hikes carrying a full overnight pack. Walking with a pack will help build strength and fitness, and will train you to be comfortable walking with a heavy load. I also like to get out on overnight hikes, too. Not only is an overnighter a great way to test your fitness and gear as your prep for your first ever long-distance hike, it can also help put your mind at ease. Before taking my mum out on multiday hikes, I took her on her first ever overnighter; it not only put her training to the test, but it gave her great psychological comfort—she knew she was capable of doing this. Training, plus some overnight experiences beforehand, will help you believe in yourself when it comes to tackling your first long-distance hike.

GEAR Choosing the correct hiking gear for you is critical, and it’s not the same for everyone. Other people may take gear that’s necessary for them, but that’s unnecessary for you. Or vice versa. The big thing to note is that it’s common to carry too much! Every little thing adds up. You’ll enjoy your hike a lot more with less weight on your back. Lay all your gear out and ‘Marie Kondo’ it. Is it an essential item, or a luxury item? Do you really need a full toiletry bag? Do you really need those extra clothes? Remember, though, some ‘luxuries’ are worth it … like my extra camera lens. Certainly, it’s something I could do without, but for me it’s worth the extra weight. Another aspect to consider is being prepared for the specific weather you'll face. Make sure you research this; it will determine the gear you should take. On the Larapinta, my partner and I were camping in -3°C … and for two North Queenslanders like us, facing any temperature under 15 degrees was tough! Each morning, we woke up with frost on our tent. These temperatures are something we researched and prepared for, and you bet we were wearing all of our layers each night.


Jacinta on the Great Ocean Walk



KNOW YOUR ROUTE Set out with a plan. Know the distance you will be walking each day, and where you will be camping. Know if and where there will be water sources. Know if and where there might be emergency help. Know potential spots you can bail out if necessary. Don’t wait until you’re out on the trail with no telephone service to figure out your emergency plan. Understand, however, that you may need to change the plan. On the Great Ocean Walk, we found ourselves in terrible weather, drenched head to toe. We decided to walk 11km to an access point where we knew we could leave the trail for a night and re-enter it a day later after the wind and rain had settled. It also avoided a flooded river. We did miss a small amount of the trail, but we decided that while this wasn't the hike we planned for, it was the hike we were on at the time. Plus, a pub meal seemed enticing. So don’t be afraid to change your itinerary if something isn't right; it can turn a miserable trip into a much more enjoyable one.

EMBRACE THE SUCK Don’t expect every day to be epic. Most trips have some days where you’ll have low points. Sometimes you’ve just got to battle on, knowing this will be short lived and that there will be good times ahead. Embrace the suck—it will be worth it.

ENJOY THE REWARDS Being able to hike long distances is a privilege. Being in touch with nature, and seeing places the average person doesn't get to see, gives you a huge feeling of achievement. You can build on your ability, and push yourself further as you improve, achieving longer and more difficult hikes. Watch out, though—you'll likely catch the long-distance hiking bug; chances are you’ll be planning the next hike before you’ve even finished the finished the first. CONTRIBUTOR: An outdoors lover from Cairns, Queensland, Jacinta is usually found with a camera in hand, hiking or mountain biking. She is an Ambassador for WildEarth.com.au



with Greenpeace's Jess Panegyres Jess Panegyres is a Western Australian environmental activist now working with Greenpeace. Wild’s Editor James McCormack asks her about her background, what got her involved in activism, and the campaign she's leading now transition Australia to clean energy.

WILD: You got involved in environmental activism at a young age. Tell us about that. JP: I grew up in the Perth Hills, and my mum is an amazing artist, so as a small child I stared at trees for long periods while she painted them. But my first “activism” was marching with about 10,000 others to protect old growth forests when I was about 11 years old. That campaign was ultimately successful, so from a young age, I learned that people taking to the streets could change things for the better. WILD: As a teenager, you blended music with forest activism. And today, you’re on the board of Green Music Australia. What does music add to the environmental movement? JP: Music and nature are very connected for me—actually, I first learned to play guitar in a forest blockade! Musicians have been on the forefront of so many environmental and social movements.



They encourage us to be brave, to speak the truth, and to feel connected to each other as we fight for justice and the planet. WILD: Are you able to talk about the history of environmental activism in WA? JP: You can’t talk about activism in Australia without first talking about First Nations peoples fighting for their rights and country. But in terms of white environmental activism, Western Australia has an incredible history—Greenpeace Australia Pacific actually started in WA, protesting against whaling. WILD: At university, you studied law. Was that choice difficult given your history as a muso engaged in forest activism? JP: To me, as a kid of a single parent who dreamed about making the world fairer, I wanted to learn about the systems we had in order to know how to change them. Law seemed the best way to do that. I honestly thought to myself: “What did Peter Garrett do?” Oh, he studied law. OK, I’ll try to, too! WILD: After being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, you did a masters on climate ethics at Oxford. What drew you to that particular field of study? JP: At uni, the more I learned about climate change, the more I thought, this is going to affect literally everything I care about. After uni, I was lucky enough get a job with Greenpeace to work on campaigns to protect the Great Barrier Reef, and to protect Indonesian rainforests. I’m still doing this work because it still feels like the most important work for me to do.



Credit: Abby Wells

WILD: What are the similarities and divergences between forest campaigns in Australia and a place like, say, Indonesia? JP: In one way, it’s similar: you’re figuring out how to replace a system that destroys forests with one that doesn’t. On another level, it’s very different. In Australia, we have more money, a more diversified economy, and we can pay workers to transition; in Indonesia, the individual stakes for smallholders are sky high. We have to transition environmentally in a way that can work for the poorest countries' poorest people, or it’s not going to be successful. WILD: Although forest activism is dear to your heart, that’s not what you’re working on now. Why did you decide to get so involved with campaigning against Woodside Energy's new ocean gas drilling proposals? JP: To me, the issues of nature protection and climate action are part of the same struggle. For example, in WA we've just had the hottest, driest summer on record; some of our most beautiful jarrah forests are dying as a result. So for me, I’m involved in Greenpeace’s campaign against Woodside’s massive new fossil fuel projects because the scientists are telling us unless we stop expanding fossil fuels and radically speed up the shift to clean energy, we’re looking at a “catalogue of human suffering.” On top of that, it’s deeply personal: We used to camp near Ningaloo Reef when I was a kid, and swimming with whale sharks is one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever had. But if something goes wrong with Woodside’s pipeline, it could harm Ningaloo Reef’s incredible marine life. WILD: You worked with Peter Garrett on creating the anti-Woodside protest vid that ran at the recent Midnight Oil concert in Perth. Tell us about that. JP: It was a total privilege to support Peter Garrett and Midnight Oil. There was an amazing moment at their final show in Perth where they stopped the concert, and Peter Garrett delivered an impassioned speech about how Woodside is risking us all. I’m so impressed that they spoke truth to power right to the very end. WILD: Unfortunately, we're not all Peter Garrett; how can ordinary people help? JP: There are so many ways. Over 170,000 people have already signed up on our campaign website. We also have a tool where you can ask Labor MPs and Senators to stop Woodside’s projects. You can also sign the petition, join a local action group, or donate to fund our work. Greenpeace campaigns are 100% supporter funded. This is Australia’s biggest new fossil fuel project, and we need as many people as possible to get involved. Learn more about Woodside's proposal, and sign the petition against it, at: greenpeace.org.au/woodside

101 Cape Woolamai

73 Seal Rocks

Welcome to Victoria's Phillip Island, 101km2 of amazing experiences distilled into one easy-going island sanctuary. visitphillipisland.com.au 57 Penguin Parade

99 Cape Woolamai




If you're after awesome inspiration, or reading material to wile away the long summer days, or simply some Xmas gift ideas, check out these books by recent Wild contributors.


Of Marsupials and Men recounts the rollicking and often hilarious history of Australia's amateur naturalists. To the first European colonists, Australian wildlife was bewildering, but a remarkable band of enthusiastic amateurs were determined to get to know the new colony's fauna. From ‘snake men’ who fearlessly thrust their arms into hollow logs, to the Tasmanian bushmen who blazed the trails now followed by Overland Track walkers, and the top-secret plan to smuggle a platypus to Winston Churchill at the height of World War II, these are their stories.


TBA is a dodgy Australian book by a dodgy YouTuber. He's watchable,


and readable, but there are better thinkers, runners, paddlers, pump-

Photographer David Neilson’s life-

kin growers and conversationalists out there in abundance, especially

long quest, chasing the mountain

in pharmacies when you wait for your script. Don't expect this book

light, has resulted in this striking

to be about expertise. No. This book is about adventures that are irrel-

collection of 150 black and white

evant and at times ridiculous. Here's a review: This is the best 7.2/10

landscape and wildlife images from

book I've ever read. Worth the money, just. Review written by Beau M.

Southwest Tasmania, Patagonia, Antarctica, Karakoram and the Austra-


REID MARSHALL & MARINA SANTIAGO Featuring 17 destinations and over 1,000km of trails, Day Hikes: SEQ

lian, New Zealand, and European Alps. REID MARSHALL & MARINA SANTIAGO

Day Hikes SEQ

There are more than 50,000 words of text, too, describing David's early mountaineering activities and his

takes readers, hikers, and explorers all over South East Queensland.

evolving interest in photographing

Immerse yourself in the wilderness of ancient Gondwanan rainfor-

wild places and their conservation.

ests, catch a glimpse of a glossy black cockatoo, walk underneath towering waterfalls, and summit a gigantic granite pyramid. From wheelchair-accessible to challenging full-day adventures, this guide has the perfect day hike for everyone.



In 1998, Paul Pritchard was struck on the head by a falling rock as he climbed a sea stack in Tasmania called the Totem Pole. Left hemiplegic by his injury, Pritchard is not content to simply survive, he finds ways to return to his old life. The Mountain Path is an adventure book like no other, an exploration of a healing brain, a journey into philosophy and psychology, a test of will and a triumph of hope.


Grant Dixon’s new book, Wild Light, features both grand vistas and inti-




mate details of Tasmania’s wild landscape, with 95 sublime images of its rocky basement, cloak of vegetation and rugged mountains, and also fea-

A guidebook for people who don't like guidebooks, full of all the

tures Tasmania’s sub-Antarctic out-

tips, trail notes and directions to secluded camping spots that you

post, Macquarie Island. It’s another

wish your mates would share with you about Western Australia's

top-quality book in the Tasmanian

Coral Coast, plus the Pilbara and Karijini. It'll also tell you about

tradition of fine-art productions and

secret surf spots, summits to climb, biking tracks, and quirky places

of using photography to activate

to eat, drink and resupply when the adventure is done and dusted.

awareness of the environment.


Action engenders hope Turn the tide on environmental despair Join the Nature restoration revolution



A LITTLE PATCH OF WILD We don’t necessarily need to go deep into the wilderness to seek solace; small areas of bushland can equally replenish the soul.

Words & Photography NATHAN BRAYSHAW


he thing about getting older is that you tend to know a really wound up, and stew on it for a while until the next annoylittle bit about a lot of things. Sometimes it’s helpful. ing thing comes along to distract me from the first thing that got Other times, it’s just enough for you to put your foot my goat. But if you ask anyone who knows me, they’ll probably in your mouth. Trouble is, you just don’t know enough about the tell you I’ve got it in me to write a sternly worded, passive-agthing to even know you’ve just stuffed said foot in your mouth. No, gressive letter to the powers that be. the value of hindsight often comes with a little bit more age. And Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t care. I like to think with that, I owe some nice people a deep and heartfelt apology. I’m a staunch environmental defender; I’m just not one of the Most folks have a friend, work colleague or family member front-line soldiers. I’m much more comfortable working ‘back who have suffered from an adverse mental health condition. of house’, preparing the drinks for when those brave fighting Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, social anxiety dismen and women return. Oh, apart from that time in Grade Two order … no matter whatform it takes, it can be crippling. Which when me and a bunch of my mates got suspended from school for brings me to my apology. I’m sorry to those people who were jumping the back fence and blocking bulldozers as they cleared unwell to whom I suggested that if they wanted to feel better, a stand of eucalyptus trees and a family of koalas. Yeah, apart they should “Get out and get some from that, I’m happy to play a supsun” or “Go for a workout and let off porting role. THIS AREA ISN’T EVEN some steam.” While good-meaning You’re probably thinking that advice at the time, I now know it taking on the local council about a was less than helpful. Because, you few noxious weeds—writing to them see, with age and time, I’ve recently telling them how they’d failed the IT’S THE SORT OF found myself in the same situaenvironment and every ratepayer PLACE THEY’D DRIVE RIGHT ON BY.” that they represent—is a curious tion. A situation where sitting in my recliner with the windows shut, way to deal with mental illness. blinds pulled down, and my front door shut for days on end felt Well, it all has to do with my ‘little patch of wild’, as I like to much safer than going outside. Where crippling anxiety made it call it. It’s a few hectares of remnant melaleuca wetland and a seem that staying in my pyjamas for another day was safer than little lake, just two minutes from my front door, smack-bang in going to the gym where I might see someone I knew who might the middle of suburbia and bordered by a 24/7 industrial estate. then ask where I’ve been all this time. We bought land and built our home here way back in 2003, and a Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. I achieved major deciding factor in our purchase was the existence of three nothing. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I live forty minutes’ drive green belts* in the immediate area—a quick walk through them from Binna Burra and the amazing Gondwana rainforests of identified all sorts of native reptiles, old-growth eucalypts and Lamington National Park. I lost count of how many times I an extensive expanse of melaleuca wetland. packed my kit with the best intention of getting out for a walk the In the time it took our daughter to go through school, leave next day but didn’t. There comes a time, though—after talking to home and become a nurse and a mum, I watched the destruction the right people and doing all the right things—where you have of our local green belt—cleared to make way for more houses, and to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it. bulldozed to clear the way for more roads. The wetland became All this leads me to the tale of how a little patch of urban wila weed- and cane toad-infested wasteland. So I found myself pen derness helped me in dealing with anxiety and depression. I’m not normally the sort of person to complain to the local coun*Green belt: Noun; a fancy word used by governments, local councils & develcil about environmental weeds. I’d rather bottle it up inside, get opers to hoodwink you into thinking they care about local flora and fauna.







in hand, lamenting this to my local council. Well, it wasn’t just the weeds that raised my ire; there’s more to the story. You see, I’d fallen into the trap of living to work. Working harder for longer and taking overtime whenever it was offered, all the while planning the next big adventure. Wild Malaysia, then Borneo, remote Pakistan and onto the Himalayas, each adventure trying to outdo the last. I worked (and travelled) so hard that my physical health was suffering. I pushed on. In my downtime, I trained my aging body hard in the gym. The excitement of planning the next adventure kept me going, but inevitably something had to give. And give it did … one afternoon I found myself staring at bunches of bananas at the supermarket, trying to decide which ones to choose. There were so many bananas—big ones, small ones, big bunches, little bunches, ripe yellow ones, and not-so-ripe ones. It was overwhelming. I couldn’t decide. I stood there, heart pounding, sweating, feet seemingly glued to the floor, unable to decide. I was having a full-blown panic attack. It was my body’s way of saying enough is enough, time to slow down big guy. I left the shop empty handed, almost ran to my car, and cried. And so began my introduction to anxiety and depression, the doctors' visits, the medication, the allied-health professionals, and the steps one takes in order to restore good mental health. Daily walks and practicing mindfulness was a major part of my (ongoing) recovery and learning to deal with anxiety. Those walks took me into the melaleuca wetland. It’s only a short walk, so to slow down, I would photograph the plants and practise mindfulness. I would pretend I was deep in the wilderness, finding shards of sunlight breaking through the canopy and photographing the way it lit up a leaf or flower. As summer turned to autumn, I noticed how the landscape changed. How the eucalyptus trees dropped their bark to make way for new growth after the summer rains. How all kinds of parrots and nectar-feeding birds gorged on the flowering melaleucas. And



how the amazing black wattle flowered twice in just one month. When I was there, I was miles from anywhere. I was in my own little patch of wild. Of course, this area isn’t even a blip on the radar of a true wilderness explorer. It’s the sort of place they’d drive right on by during their mundane nine-to-five while daydreaming of adventures ahead. But it’s wild to the family of shy, white ibis— nothing like the city bin-chickens you can almost walk up to and catch. It’s wild to the elusive azure kingfisher that makes enough sporadic appearances to tease me into carrying my heavy 100400mm lens in the hope of catching just one photo of him. And it’s wild to the green tree snake that I occasionally see on days when the sun pokes through just enough for him to warm himself out in the open. This little patch of wild helped me recover. I owed it something, anything. Even if that something was a lame attempt to garner the interest of the local council in the hope they would care just a fraction as much as I do. I’ll bet you’re wondering how the letter to the council went. Well, I didn’t send it. I didn’t need a trigger for my anxiety, and I didn’t need the angst. I didn’t need the anticipation of imagining my letter pop up on the council’s email, wondering if it’d get the attention I thought it deserved. Would my words stir the same emotion in the reader that they did in me? My gentle brain needed to be saved from an inevitable let-down when nothing happened. So I didn’t hit send. The council never would come and inspect this amazing area in the heart of the city. In the end (is it ever really the end?), my little patch of wild, with its weeds and cane toads, didn’t change, but I did. I saw it, warts and all, for what it really is. A tiny patch of wilderness with its own ugly bits, in an ever-changing world just trying to do the best it can. And, really, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? CONTRIBUTOR: Nathan is a random photographer who is always planning his next adventure before the current one is done. View and read more of his work at amanabeardacamera.com.au



FROM THE MONARO TO THE MURRAY Rediscovering an almost completely forgotten historic route across the Kosciuszko High Country.



amped at Clover Flat, along the Tooma Road in NSW’s Kosciuszko NP, in late March this year, our aim was to find the western end of an ancient route, now almost forgotten, which once linked the Monaro to the Murray. Charles Huon had been taken along it by Aboriginal guides in 1837, four years before other guides took Strzelecki up Mt Kosciuszko. On old maps it is shown as a Travelling Stock Reserve (TSR). It was later used by graziers, gold miners and the Snowy Mountains Authority. It appears on Lands Department maps in the 1930s, and what is significant about this is that—one hundred years after European colonisation of the Upper Murray— there was still no better connection between the Monaro and the Murray than the route followed by the old TSR; a testimony to its usefulness. What ended its run was the building of the Alpine Way, after which it simply faded away. In recent years, I had been walking bit by bit the old TSR, and had now explored nearly its entirety. Just one piece of the puzzle was left for us: the section from Tooma Rd to Greg Greg. What we wanted to do was find out what, if anything, was left of it at its western end where it reached the upper Murray. And that’s what brought us to our camp at Clover Flat.

AUSTRALIA’S TRAVELLING STOCK RESERVES did not spring from nowhere. Many have a long history going back thousands of years; this may be one of them. An article on the origins of the TSRs and their possible connection to Indigenous traditional pathways appeared in The Rangeland Journal in 2010, which said TSRs were [originally] “thought to have originated from the informal tracks of early European explorers, pastoralists and settlers. However, the historic development of TSRs has been poorly documented. An alternative perspective is that many TSRs may have originated from previous Indigenous traditional pathways.” The park’s southwestern corner, where we were camped, is rugged country. In my book Exploring the Jagungal Wilderness, I suggested, “If you are walking in the bush trying to find an old track, consider whether it was made by graziers or by bulldozers because the route it would have taken is likely to be different. The bridle trails and stock routes of the graziers followed dry land, ridges and contours; stock were moved through saddles and gaps. By contrast bulldozers were used to prepare roads




LOGICAL ROUTE FROM THE WEST FOR ABORIGINAL PEOPLE TO ACCESS THE MOUNTAINS DURING THE BOGONG MOTH SEASON.” for jeeps. They were not bound by contours or small areas of wet ground. Jeep tracks could, and did, go straight up and down a hill in a way that no stockman would ever drive sheep or cattle. “[T]he old routes chosen by the stockmen made perfect sense. They had the benefit of seeing a countryside which had been cleared by stock. Their bridle tracks followed logical and reasonably direct routes to their destination.” Likewise, just as bushwalkers today might look out for routes taken by stockmen, so might stockmen have sought out routes used by Aboriginal people. This would have especially made sense for crossing between the Monaro and the Murray; not only would it have been the logical route, but it would also have been the logical route from the west for Aboriginal people to access the mountains during the Bogong moth season. So what we were looking for was a route through rugged country which had been used by people and stock in the days before there were vehicles; a ‘people-friendly’ route which cleverly made use of the contours, valleys and ridges to find its way through some rough and steep country. Some research had led me to a book published in 1920 called The First Settlement of the Upper Murray 1835 to 1845 by Arthur Andrews, a doctor from Wodonga who had access to

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Coming from the east, the old TSR reached the Tooma River at its junction with Hell Hole Creek. Credit: Mika Kontiainen Mt Jagungal (aka The Big Bogong). Too big to go over, the old TSR went around it. Credit: Mika Kontiainen From the Upper Murray, it took two days for stock to reach Wheelers Hut. Credit: Mika Kontiainen

some early colonisers’ records. Dr Andrews described the Upper Murray of the 1840s as being “Not too heavily timbered and with little undergrowth the general aspect was parklike. “The natives were accustomed to burn it off almost every year and thereby prevented the heavy growth of young trees. That these frequent fires had the effect of keeping the country open was demonstrated in many parts. After settlement put an end to this practice ... dense masses of scrub then took possession of large areas of valuable country, especially on the lower slopes of the mountains in the south.” He also recorded that “Charles Huon … reported how he travelled from Monaro in 1837, under native guidance, toward the Upper Murray in search of this inland sea. They crossed the divide between the upper Murrumbidgee and the Murray, and struck the latter at what is now known as Welaregang.” That description of Huon’s route is so remarkably like the route taken by the TSR that it is reasonable to assume that they are one and the same. From the Great Dividing Range near Cesjacks Hut in the east, it went westerly along the secondary divide between the rivers (like the Geehi and the Tooma) which flow to the Murray, and those (like Doubtful Creek and the Tumut) which flow to the Murrumbidgee. Mt Jagungal (aka Big Bogong) straddles that divide. Much of its route still exists today, unacknowledged but hiding in plain sight. The tracks which make use of it are the (former) Bulls Peaks Fire Trail, the (former) Strawberry Hill Fire Trail, Grey Mare Trail, Round Mountain Trail, Hell Hole Creek Trail, Dargalls Trail, the old track through Wolseley Gap (also known Homer Hut as Port Phillip Gap), Tooma Rd (from near the Tooma Dam to the (former) Link Trail, and Whisky Flat Trail.

From Whisky Flat (Cooinini), where grog was sold to gold miners and where a Chinese prospector was murdered, it followed a ridge to Welumba Creek, reaching the Upper Murray at Greg Greg. Huon’s trip was important because it immediately led to the settlement of the upper Murray, and within a few years the route shown to him was being used by graziers to take stock into the high country. They were soon followed by gold miners going from Victoria to Kiandra using Surveyor General Ligar’s route, which in this area followed the TSR.

AND THUS WE ARRIVED AT our camp site at Clover Flat, along the Tooma Rd between Tooma Dam and Khancoban. The five of us were Klaus Hueneke of Huts of the High Country fame, John Williams, Graham Scully, Stephen Joske and me. It was late March, and at 1200m the night had been cold. Klaus described it as “a toes-freezing night.” We were experienced; three of us were in our seventies, though Stephen was ‘only’ 61. John Williams, of Corryong, has lived in the district for many years and has climbed Mt Jagungal 47 times. He has also recorded the GPS locations of hundreds of huts, ruins and other locations in the park. For his 50th birthday, John walked 50km in a day, and for his 60th, 60km in a day. He made it 70 and 70 some years ago, but 80 and 80 was a stretch too far. But he was happy to join us that day. Grazing ended in Kosciuszko NP in the 1960s, but the TSR was still a legal route in 1976 when it was used by a party, which included Brian Pendergast and Jim Pierce, to take about 800 cattle across from the Snowy Plains to Welumba. That was the last time cattle were legally allowed in the park.



IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Robert discussing the old TSR’s route with Colin Findlay before setting off. Credit: Klaus Hueneke Mt Jagungal, Australia’s highest mountain north of the Main Range, straddling the divide between the Murrumbidgee and the Murray. Credit: Mika Kontiainen Robert on an indistinct remnant of the track. Credit: Stephen Joske

Klaus now takes up the story: After a car shuffle, we met Colin Findlay, a member of an old grazing family whose uncle Harry I’d interviewed years before. Harry knew Wingy Wheeler who built a sturdy slab hut near The Dargals. On nonchalant, sweaty horses, Colin and a lady from Khancoban wanted to show us the beginning of the old track. It was a meeting of east and west, old and new, country and city, all in the quest to discover a historic route. As a long-time recorder of high country life, I found it riveting and richly symbolic. My camera felt the same. We found Whisky Flat/Cooinini but no sign of huts or any fences. The main talk was about a thriving marijuana plantation from years ago. The guys got caught just as the plants were maturing. After settling on where the track might have started, we plunged into untracked forest to see what we could see and hopefully come out at the right place. The alternative was a cold night out without tents, not enough water and, maybe, a most embarrassing search party. In all the drama of worrying about my abilities, a long, winding drive, meeting many new faces and going into unknown country, I’d forgotten my day pack, parka, extra food and walking sticks—not a great start for someone who once knew all about it. It was hard. We climbed over fallen logs. Pushed through thick regrowth. Brushed away spider webs. Tripped into wombat holes. Slipped on scree down precipitous slopes. Robert did the leading and direction finding and Stephen the co-ordinates reading, while John and I wagged the tail, told silly stories or made rude remarks about what the bloody hell we were doing there. When they’d plunged out of sight, which was far too often, we’d cooee, or if we weren’t heard, make a louder Coo i ninnie ... That word soon took on another meaning—we sure were the ninnies. Twice we descended too soon and had to crawl hundreds of metres out of cliff-lined gullies. Robert didn’t get any brownies for that. Then, almost near the end, we finally hit a benched-in track. Hooray at last. This was not made by nature, this is where they drove all those hooved animals up the hill. We really have been on some kind of track. Core blimey.



By late afternoon, we were at the waiting cars and a refreshing face wash at cool, clear Welumba Creek. Thanks Robert. Was it worth it? Yes. It’s one thing to pore over maps at a pub or read about adventures in the comforts of home, but quite another to be out there amongst swaying trees, flowering everlastings, fresh wombat tracks and the sounds of lyrebirds and mountain currawongs. As Paddy Pallin used to say, “It’s the trips you do that count.” This one counted double because we also found the end of the lowest and easiest route across the high country, one that may have been used for thousands of years.

SO WHAT NEXT FOR THIS HISTORIC ROUTE? The authors of The Rangeland Journal article said, “These findings highlight the significant cultural heritage values of the TSR network, and the need to appropriately protect and manage this important national asset.” But in this case, matters are not so simple, because this route passes through the Jagungal Wilderness, and that raises the questions of whether and how ‘heritage’ can be preserved in a wilderness area (or even whether it should be preserved at all). The NSW Wilderness Act of 1987 is underpinned by the assumption that ‘wilderness’ areas were largely untouched by humans, so is silent on matters of ‘heritage’. The Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management is different. It calls for the recognition and protection of “travel routes used by successive waves of people”, though it is also silent on how to protect those routesthat travel through declared wilderness. Doubtless, readers will have different views on the interplay between ‘wilderness’ and ‘heritage’, but probably we can all agree that, despite the difficulty in resolving this problem, it’s one that warrants a clear answer. W CONTRIBUTORS: Robert Green is the author of Exploring the Jagungal Wilderness. You can contact him at rvgreen45@gmail.com. Klaus Hueneke, AM, is a high country author, historian and photographer.

“There’s plenty of gear shops out there. But we know what it’s like to be out here.” En route to Cho La Pass, Gokyo Valley, Nepal. Photo Simon Alsop

trekandtravel.com.au 447 Kent St. Sydney 02 9261 3435

The Jones family enjoying sunset in the fields on Bruny Island. Credit: Jo Smith





THE JONESIES What happens to young adventurers when they grow up? Megan Holbeck traces how Justin and Lauren Jones have set about turning their life into one big adventure.

Words Megan Holbeck


his is a profile of an adventurous family. Lauren and Justin Jones and their two kids, Morgan (6) and Dylan (2), live on a 240ha property in the remote north of Bruny Island where they have sheep, chickens, pigs, a colony of quolls living under their toilet, possums and birds aplenty. They bushwalk and garden (badly); Lauren does long, looping runs, their collar-wearing sheep trying to follow; Justin (aka Jonesy) spearfishes a couple of times a week, bringing home cray, abalone, kingfish and more. This lifestyle is one ‘the Jonesies’ consciously created, moving from Sydney in 2020 after lives spent mostly in cities. The catalyst for the change? A threemonth, 1,800km trek across the outback, from the Red Centre to the coast of South Australia, towing 15-month-old Morgan in a cart. The documentary about the trip (Expedition Parenthood) ends with a wonderful, goosebump-inducing voiceover from Lauren. “Parenthood is one of the craziest adventures ever. First your life completely unravels, and you lose yourself in the process. Then the magic happens and you find yourself again, reinvented, reborn. You set out in search of adventure, but it’s only when you slow down [and] surrender that you realise adventure was there all along.” Adventure is something the Jones’ have taken into their life, giving it a satisfyingly broad definition: an activity with an unknown outcome. It can be in the outdoors (which is nice— we all need nature, too), but also in sports, the arts, business, whatever. And adventure is relative to your experiences, wants and needs. Which fits in well for this piece. Because while this is a profile of a particular family, it’s also something more: A look at adventurous lives and what that even means, and how you can have one while also having a family, a career, or whatever else you choose to include. +++++

I first met Justin in August 2022 in the windy canyons of Sydney’s CBD, but I’ve known of him for decades. I remember the jubilation when he and best mate James Castrission (aka Cas) landed safely in New Zealand in 2008, 62 days after setting off to cross the Tasman in a double sea kayak. The two were relatively inexperienced then, aged 25 and 24, and the first people ever to make the crossing in a kayak. On that January day, more than 5,000 people waited at the beach to watch the boys hug as they stumbled up the sand on legs unaccustomed to walking. There was euphoria at what they had achieved, as well as their safe arrival, especially as it was less than a year since seasoned kayaker Andrew McAuley had disappeared on his solo attempt, only 65km from the NZ coast. The pair did other expeditions together, the most well known of which was skiing from Antarctica’s edge to the South Pole and back in 2012. It was the longest unsupported polar expedition ever, and they were the youngest team to reach the South Pole. They came up with this polar plan while they were kayaking the Tasman, before either of them knew how to ski. Similarly, they committed to crossing the Tasman before they’d ever kayaked out of Sydney’s heads. This is the way Justin rolls. “I’m a constant believer [that] you should never let lack of skills stop you from having an idea or dream. I don’t ever plan to be the best at anything in my life; I believe in just being good enough.” They publicised the trips in their own ways: Cas writing books; Jonesy making documentaries. Crossing the Ditch was about the paddle, while Crossing the Ice won 15 international film awards, including the Grand Prize at Banff Mountain Film Festival. But on the Sydney street, the first thing I noticed was Justin’s eyes: big, brown, seal eyes that look right at you—for a second or so anyway, until something more interesting comes along. The second was his energy and confidence: His walk has a bounce; his chat is continuous, considered and smart. He seems imminently capable: The afternoon before we met, he’d travelled from Tassie to the Hunter Valley to present at a




conference, two-year-old Dylan in tow. The next morning they woke at 4AM to make Justin’s next engagement, a 9:30 presentation to a tech firm in Sydney. Then he met me for lunch and a two-hour chat, only asking what “this whole profile thing” was about in the last ten minutes. He still had another presentation to go, this time for a software company. ‘Jonesy’ became “the Jonesies” after Justin and Lauren met at a friend’s 30th in May 2012. Justin introduced himself as a professional adventurer; Lauren was intrigued. She had grown up in Seattle, and had bought into the corporate model of success. She’d been successfully climbing that ladder—she had the office, the Vice President title, a serious boyfriend—but felt unsettled and “blew it all up”, moving to Sydney to do a Masters in Sustainability. Which is where she met Justin, aged 32. “There was just an energy and a life force that I loved in him … His ‘job’ opened a whole new world of what a job could be, or what was possible.” They chatted until 3AM, and went on their first date the following day. Things moved fast: They bought a flat together a year later, married in September 2014. Justin describes Lauren as tall, strong and beautiful, as well as the kindest person he has ever met. (She’s 6’2”—he half-jokingly credits their relationship starting with the fact he was standing on a step for the first 15 minutes they spoke.) They talk about having shared values but being vastly different. Lauren is much softer, likes calm and peace; Justin is loud, motivated by FOMO and not having regrets, and describes himself as “very ADHD”. What’s obvious from talking to them, or watching them on camera, is that their relationship is based on love, laughter and curiosity. Morgan joined their tribe in March 2016. She was hard work: Silent reflux meant she slept very little, and only in 45-minute bursts. Lauren did the days, while Justin was the crazy guy who roamed Bondi Beach at night, baby strapped to his chest. Justin says: “Life changed for me. Life for me was how can I blend family with adventure? Looking at Andrew McAuley going across the Tasman and leaving behind a wife and three-year-old son—that had a big impact on me. I was thinking that maybe family was incongruous with adventure.” At the same time, Lauren was trying to work out whether corporate life and motherhood were compatible; who she was without her job. Which is when things got interesting … One of Justin’s outdoor idols is Jon Muir, and he particularly admires his 128-day, unassisted trip across Australia, surviving off the land. Justin had long been thinking about doing a similar trip, had begun to upskill and plan. But he didn’t want to miss Morgan growing up, and it wouldn’t be fair on Lauren either. Then, on their first date night post-Morgan, Lauren came up with a suggestion: Could they ‘dumb down’ his trip and do it as a family? According to Justin, “All you need is sleep deprivation, too much red wine and an idea.” The stage was set for Expedition Parenthood.






Lauren didn’t do it for the chance to walk through the desert, not primarily anyway. “It wasn’t really about how many kilometres or where we were going; it was about giving us space and time to say, ‘If we don’t know what that [future life] looks like, let’s define it.’” What she saw was an adventure in a wild place, with the opportunity to work out what mattered, who they were and what they wanted—to define their own path. “The worst thing that could have happened is we spent time together in a really important period of time that sometimes you otherwise just want to pass quickly, because it’s really hard.” So the commitment was made and the trip was on, despite Lauren never having done an overnight bushwalk. She’d had

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Jonesy sled hauling in Antarctica. Credit: James Castrission Jonesy covered in ice while enduring -30°C temperatures. Credit: Justin Jones Jonesy and Cas at the South Pole—their halfway point. Credit: Eric Larsen Cas and Jonesy pulling into Ngamotu Beach, New Plymouth, NZ, after 62 days at sea. Credit: Luke Langelaan

an outdoorsy life growing up; developed a lifelong love and appreciation of nature. But her first night “proper camping” was with her husband and daughter early in 2017, on a trial run for a three-month trek. It was a disaster: blood gushed from Morgan’s nose before they left the carpark, the carts they pulled left bruises; everyone was cold and didn’t sleep. Lauren remembers the drive back from the Blue Mountains— if one night was that bad, imagine 100! She didn’t talk, afraid of what she’d say; she wondered who was going to tell their sponsors that the trip was off. But debriefing over dinner, Justin was buzzing, thrilled with the amount of feedback about what didn’t work (the tent, the sleep setup, the high-chair, the harnesses— pretty much everything!) and why, and about the opportunities to fix it all. Says Lauren: “Don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress is a big thing I’ve held from that point on … Failing quick, if you learn from it, isn’t actually a failure—it’s one of the best lessons [learnt from] doing anything new.” So they set about fixing everything. Both say that getting to the start of the trip was the hardest bit. They had to get fit, plan, organise logistics, get approvals, gather all the things they needed to do it safely, and in a way that worked for everyone.

Video of their two-bedroom flat in Bondi shows a long hallway lined with stuff—food and clothes and boxes and more—to be sorted into six food drops. The trip was mostly self-sufficient, and as zero-waste as they could make it, adding to the work, but they took care to make it fun—there were chocolate chips in the pancake mix, popcorn and bread on the fire. Eight days into the walk they almost quit. They’d made little progress (only eight kilometres in the first two days), everything took ages, and it was incredibly hard. Justin’s cart had had two flat tyres (each of which required unpacking and repacking, and took two to three hours) and snapped an axle, and they didn’t have a spare. Their documentary shows dejection, tears, from everyone except Morgan. They hitched to Yulara near Uluru, got new axles, and regrouped. And off they set. The rest of the trip was easier. But not easy. Temperatures got into the 40s, with video showing mouthfuls of flies. There were nights spent huddled in a tent with a screaming, teething toddler—the footage is enough to trigger parental PTSD—as well as a total of fourteen flats and another snapped axle. (Lauren queries at one point in the documentary whether her husband is the best designer of carts—her modified Burley Design bike trailer sailed through, although it was lighter.) Justin sprained his



ankle in Week Three and it was strapped for the rest of the trip— bone was grinding on bone by the end, doing lasting damage. They were called crazy in a variety of languages (rama rama in Central Australia), with the most common question being why they were doing it. But according to Lauren, parenting and adventure is a perfect match because you’re already in the shit. What particularly gets her is when people ask: “Why have adventures if your kid won’t remember them?” Her reply? “They might not remember them, but it will form them. I mean, what better gift can you give than for them to see you struggle and survive and thrive or work through that struggle?” The best bit for both parents was watching Morgan grow: She learnt to run on the trip, and her language exploded with naturebased vocab—star, sun, moon, dingo. (Her most frequent word, in the documentary at least, was happy.) They saw camels and dingos and emus and brumbies; there was magic in the frequent in-between moments. The couple got up an hour early daily to drink coffee while the sun rose; sat together by the fire before going to bed. Justin describes it as beautiful. “To have that time, 24/7: We were together for over 100 days. We’re never going to have that again … It was amazing to bond our family together and also to see part of Australia, to see the outback, to see the quieter moments.” “It wasn’t the funnest experience in the world,” he adds, echoed later by Lauren. “But … it helped us clarify and work out that we wanted to live a life that was a little bit different.” They finished their trip, returned skinnier, fitter, clearer. Lauren got part-time consulting work, and began a book; Justin continued his speaking work and made the documentary about their trip. They toyed with moving to Tasmania but couldn’t quite make it work. A family sailing trip was on the cards (and still is).



Justin got a development contract with a production house in the US and was going to chase speaking work there, their move scheduled for June 2020. But first came child number two … Dylan was born into the bushfire smoke of November 2019, leading straight into COVID, lockdowns and life changes. Justin’s work dried up overnight; their US plans vanished. Instead, they were locked in a two-bedroom apartment with a baby and a four-year-old, with no idea when it would end.



This is when their adventure mindset came in. They realised they could either be stuck and wait for things to return to normal, or work out what opportunities they had and what they could control. They chose the latter. The pandemic made remote working feasible, so they cut down their expenses, rented out their flat, and moved to a rented worker’s cottage on a sheep farm on Bruny Island in October 2020. It was a huge life move, but they love it. Says Lauren: “Everything I’ve been taught in my corporate world has no use on a farm, which is kind of humbling and fun. Yet in the world, when you give up something and let it go, it’s interesting what comes back in.” In her case this was a remote job she loved at Republic of Everyone, a sustainability and socialimpact creative consultancy. She works as Head of Sustainability Strategy—building a team and working with clients globally. In February 2021, Justin started his “hardest expedition” ever:

a six-month stint as a stay-at-home dad. He says every guy should do it, calling it a dehumanising (or perhaps ultra-humanising) experience. He lost his sense of identity, instead existing for two small kids. The couple were also working out their new life: Driving the fourteen-kilometre dirt road each way to the school bus; getting groceries once a fortnight, supplemented by making bread and yoghurt, and a weekly veggie box from their neighbour. There was running, swimming, diving, bushwalks on weekends, and a regular family date night on Saturdays, when the only café on the island is open, making the best pizza in the world. What do they miss? For Lauren, it’s friends, family, and a bigger bath—not a lot else. She still sometimes catches herself comparing their life to others, pulling herself back by asking questions like this: “In a perfect world, how would I want to be raising my child? Do I want to be living pretty much how we are?” The answer is yes. “It’s not glamorous, but it’s meaningful.” This approach is summed up in their family mission statement: Live kind, live curious, live great. Justin continues to present and speak, while also trying to nail down his purpose. His focus is on two things he loves: food and adventure. He’s working on plans to create amazing, challenging adventures on Bruny Island that also have beautiful food, luxury and help foster connections between people, the food we eat, and the environment we live in. “If we can be a more connected society, then we can be a better society; if we can be connected to the land, we’re going to take better care of it, we’re going to give a shit about things like climate change and future generations.” Their list of prospective family adventures is long: cycling through New Zealand; going on a year-long sailing adventure; living in a country where no one can speak the language. Asked how ordinary families should get more adventure in their lives, Lauren finished with this: “We are an ordinary family. People are driven to adventure for different reasons. I was driven to create that space to consciously figure out my next step. And adventure allowed me to do that, versus just going day-to-day unconsciously and showing up at the end of my life wondering how I got there. So consciously carve out time—that could be a night [or] a weekend. But by the time you’ve gone through all that, you might as well stay out there for a while. So take a week or two, and just do it.” It’s an apt place to leave both them, and this piece. W

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM Lauren and Jonesy trudging across the gibber plains of SA, Day 46. Credit: Justin Jones Morgan flying beside Lake Eyre, Day 78. Credit: Lauren Jones Lauren and Morgan enjoying a dip at Redbank Gorge on the Larapinta Trail, NT. Credit: Justin Jones Jonesy and friends, Simpson Desert, NT. Credit: Lauren Jones This is farming isn’t it? Lauren and Rosemary hard at work. Credit: Justin Jones The Jones’ first Christmas on Bruny Island as residents. Credit: Justin Jones

CONTRIBUTOR: Megan Holbeck is a Sydney -based writer. She’s convinced that an ‘adventure mindset’ is a real thing, and cultivates it at every opportunity. Sometimes it even works.




FOREVER They say those who drink from the Kimberley’s Martuwarra River will be coming back for the rest of their lives, they say something about it getting in your blood. That’s certainly been the case for Lachie Carracher, who returned in 2022 for a seventh paddle of it, this time solo. And this time, it’s under threat. Words Lachie Carracher Photography* Lachie Carracher, Sally Baker & Ian Bool

A warning to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers that this article discusses deceased people.

*Images used include not only those from Lachie’s solo 2022 expedition, but from other Martuwarra and Kimberley trips

A braided section of Martuwarra in Nyikina Country as it approaches the King Sound, Western Australia




he humid air is stiflingly hot even at 5000ft as the Cessna 207 ducks and weaves around massive cumulonimbus clouds on its weekly mail run to the isolated stations and remote communities of the West Kimberley. I catch a glimpse of a thin ribbon of blood-red dirt as it threads itself over the seemingly endless expanse. The Gibb River Road—the one road that services an area three times the size of the UK or two times the state of Victoria—has been closed for months, rendered useless by the wet season. Vast bodies of dark water lay a mosaic against brilliant green vegetation and burnt-orange sandstone escarpments. The most pristine savannah woodland on Earth has just undergone a major transformation: Blue skies have turned black, and once-parched soil is now sodden. From the light aircraft, I can see few obvious signs of human impact. Location has always been the saving grace for the Kimberley, with rugged terrain and vast distances resulting in uneconomically viable transport hurdles for extractive industries. Regarded as a living ancestor by Indigenous groups connected to the watershed, at peak flows the Martuwarra/Fitzroy River is one of the world’s highest-volume waterways; 30,000 cubic metres per second have been recorded at Fitzroy Crossing, 21 times the Colorado River’s peak flow through the Grand Canyon in the United States. Over its 735km from source to sea, the Martuwarra crosses no less than eight Indigenous nations and drains the majority of the West Kimberley to the ocean. The watershed is Western Australia’s largest Aboriginal cultural heritage site. It is easy to feel small and insignificant in this landscape, especially when you are alone.

Fitzroy Crossing






HE PLANE LANDS ON the bumpy airstrip at Mt Barnett Station. It’s from the headwaters here that I’ll start my 400km week-long paddle down to Fitzroy Crossing, first down Manning Creek, then the Barnett River, the Hann, and finally the Fitzroy River. Although on the map these rivers—and the Fitzroy’s other major tributaries, which number 20 in total—have individual names, I personally refer to the entire system of rivers in this watershed by just one name—Martuwarra. I am no stranger to the Martuwarra. When paddling my first descent here in 2010, I did exactly what they warn you about—I drank the water. They say those who drink from the Martuwarra will be coming back for the rest of their lives, they say something about it getting in your blood. And come back I have, on numerous occasions: 2011, 2012, 2017, 2018 and 2021. I am normally leading groups of friends on these expeditions. But after my visit here in 2021, I took up a job here, and have been living in the Kimberley since. To make things quicker, though, this time I will paddle solo and self-supported. It’s not the first time I’ve paddled here alone, and I have been criticised for these lonesome multiday jaunts. Solo expeditions are introverted experiences—you only have your own thoughts to keep you company. I cannot help but reflect on the past and ponder the future for the river. The artery of the wild that I love so much, that I now call home, whose flow comforts me like the familiar warm embrace of a mother, a life mentor that continues to school me in everything from culture and philosophy to patience and respect. I believe the word ‘wilderness’ is overused, a colonial invention for an ‘untamed’ foreign environment. In contrast, Martuwarra is the focal point for identity, law and culture in the region. I have been told the very origin of where Indigenous first Law travelled across Australia is within earshot of my starting location on the river. “Wilderness,” I laugh to myself in tropical monsoon air so filled with electricity it almost feels alive. “This is the centre of the universe.” (Ed: Agreed, the ‘traditional’ Eurocentric understanding of wilderness as being free from all human intervention is indeed problematic, if not racist. Most land on Earth has been peopled for millennia. But, as Martin Hawes and Grant Dixon said in Wild #181 ‘What Do We Mean When We talk About Wilderness’, we can still have a definition of wilderness that allows for land that is used and influenced by Indigenous peoples. You can read their important story at wild.com.au/conservation/ what-wilderness-means)

I PUSH INTO THE FLOW of Ngarinyin Country. Floating for the first few kilometres, I take my time to notice the world around me, to reintroduce myself to the river and the






prolific life along its banks. Moving downstream, it is not lost on me that I’m in someone else’s Country, that I am a visitor here, and that I am sharing a space that provides refuge for a myriad of endemic and threatened species. Black-soil bogs are fed by fractured rock aquifers. Vibrant green grasslands are punctuated by low-lying shrubs. The boab trees appear somehow wise, lining highwater marks from years gone by. The immediate river is lined with melaleuca, pandanus, and freshwater mangroves. Within the first hour on the water, I spot a red goshawk circling high above, a Gouldian finch and purple-crowned fairywren dancing in the riverside canopy, and a peregrine falcon sternly watching me from afar. All are threatened species seeking refuge on or near the Martuwarra. Off the top of my head, I can think of another eight endangered species known in the area. I leave the meandering, spring-fed wetland country after forty kilometres and enter the Phillips Range. Here, rock aquifers and springs flow year-round from the folded and fractured sandstone, providing a critical water source to not only threatened species but to the Martuwarra system as a whole. Pockets

of Central Kimberley rainforest—listed as threatened ecological communities—fill chasms where the springs drain into the gorges. And the water I paddle on is home to the endangered, endemic Barnett River gudgeon and the critically endangered freshwater sawfish. This section of the river is seemingly untouched by time, but that is a naive thought. Looking up from river level, I spot yet another panel of Gwion Gwion images, arguably the oldest example of art in the world—some panels are thought to predate the last ice age. The culture of the ‘Old People’ who inhabited these gorges is still alive and strong today, although the arrival of the pastoral industry is believed to have heavily affected the region’s population distribution and land management. After the fall of the famed Indigenous resistance leader Jandamarra in 1897, the invading colonists were able to fully penetrate the Phillips Range, the final frontier, thus completing the occupation that now infiltrates every corner of the continent. It was at this time that a small number of men of European descent loaded their horses with modest provisions and a surplus of firepower, and went about cutting the lands into various pastoral leases. They established cattle stations—95% of which continue to operate to this day—comparable in area to small European countries. The tender faces of old countrymen hang low, and they mumble the names of these cruel men whose actions I will not elaborate on, actions that can only be described as those of the Devil himself. My mind wanders to my dear friend Yodabine, a senior Ngarinyin man. The gorge I paddle through is his father’s Country, and I asked very nicely if I may visit without him; we usually travel here together. Yodabine is like no other—jet black, shoulder-length hair is held back by an imposing cowboy hat, gracefully decorating his weathered face. He spent his childhood between a mission and the back of a horse, and now, even in forty-plus degree heat with 100% humidity, you will find him in thigh-high boots, Wrangler jeans, and a longsleeve button shirt—a true indicator of the ‘real deal Kimberley stockman’. Yodabine’s voice is the definition of gravel. He speaks in guttural strings, mixing English, Kimberley Kriol and Ngarinyin into long, highly animated stories that last all night. Yodabine, to me, is the distillation of all this country has seen in recent times.

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT Brilliant green grasslands in Ngarinyin Country, the headwaters of Martuwarra. Photo: Lachie Carracher A boab tree enjoying a good drink in the flood plains. Photo: Lachie Carracher Yodabine at the now-abandoned Glenroy Station. Photo: Lachie Carracher Lachie surfing the Croceater wave in 2018. Photo: Sally Baker



In his younger years, he was a staunch cultural man, putting many children through Law; his dancing at ceremony time is still talked about today. After a lifetime of working on horseback at various stations, he found out he had aggressive throat cancer. In his own words: “That’s when I threw it all away, [the] drinkin’ and smokin’. I gave my life to Jesus.” Yodabine survived his treatment and is now one of my dearest friends. He often tells me of the time he completed the same




paddle I am doing now, back in 1998 with then-Senator Bob Brown. Their goal was to raise awareness for a campaign to stop a dam downstream. Emerging from Yodabine’s Country, I feel a mixture of emotions: strength from visiting such an inspirational place, abundant with World Heritage ecological and cultural values, but I also feel upset and angry as an all-too-familiar tale of social



injustice and greed is unfolding at this very moment on his Country. A massive diamond-mining precinct is planned for not only the Phillips Range—which just took me three days to paddle through—but for 2400km2 of the Martuwarra catchment. The mining company is being supported by the WA government, but it has no experience mining diamonds; it does, however, have plenty of experience with bankruptcy and fire sales. Traditional Owners are coming together to say, loudly and clearly, “No!” to this proposal, but in a world of corruption and inequality, questions are raised as to how such an audacious, potentially destructive project has come so far without the option for clear, informed consent from Traditional Custodians.

ENTERING WHAT I CALL ‘THE BADLANDS’ is scary; the water breaks its banks and spills out over a vast flood plain. In this network of backchannels, it is impossible not to get lost. I find myself at the point of no return in a channel with literally hundreds of spiderwebs housing fist-size golden orbs; breaking through them, I enter a large pool and hear a massive colony of bats overhead. The smell of fresh guano from the river means only one thing, and—rather than looking up—I scan the surface of the water, and spot not one but four crocodiles waiting for an easy feed below a bat-laden eucalypt. This section of the Martuwarra is known formally as Lake Gladstone, and has been registered as a wetland of national

IMAGES - FROM FAR LEFT, TOP TO BOTTOM Lachie running Galaru’s Nest in Sir John Gorge, 2018. Photo: Sally Baker Gumbie Rock on the Hann River. Photo: Lachie Carracher Aerial view of Sir John Gorge. Photo: Lachie Carracher Jum Jum near his community on the Martuwarra. Photo: Lachie Carracher Freshwater crocodile. Photo: Ian Bool



LANGUAGE FOR THIS COUNTRY.” significance, the largest of its type in the Kimberley. Lake Gladstone is a magnificent example of how conservation groups and pastoral interests—in this case, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and Mt House Station—can work together. This wetland, as a result of the surrounding cattle industry, had become profoundly degraded over the prior century, due to overgrazing, soil compaction, and weed introduction. But—understanding the significance, and the deteriorating health, of the wetlands—the AWC came to an agreement with Mt House Station to fence the area, thus excluding stock from the waterway’s immediate surrounds. Within two years, the improvement was dramatic. Days in the badlands are long and the nights full of terrors; arriving into what is now known as Sir John Gorge rejuvenates me with sweet relief. This is Australia’s answer to the US’s Grand Canyon, and vertical sandstone gorge walls close in around me. The constriction at this point, along with a huge, saturated catchment half the size of Tasmania, plus a powerful monsoonal

climate, all result in extremely volatile river levels. It may not rain a drop on me, but if the big, black thunderheads upstream open, the river here can spike five metres overnight. I am now in Old Man Jum Jum’s Country. Jum Jum is famous in the Kimberley for his long walks, some lasting days. I picture my at least 80-year-old friend with a cheeky smile, and soft kind eyes laughing as he says, “I am surprised no one gets lost looking for me.” No one knows this Country like Jum Jum, and sadly no one will again. Another stockman from an age gone by, Jum Jum is the last fluent speaker of the language for this Country. This fact is profound, its meaning beyond my ability to articulate. Language is not only a way to communicate, but a unique answer as to what it means to be a human being, an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, and a fundamental contribution to humanity. Jum Jum has taught me a few words and sayings from time to time. “Jillbadee Goda?” I yell. Translation: “Where are the men?” The eerie silence is broken as the wind picks up and pushes me downstream. Surrounding the Sir John Gorge and Dimond Gorge area is Mornington Station, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s flagship property; here a team of ecologists and land-management staff carefully work to rehabilitate the ecological values of what was a cattle station. Tourism flourishes here during the dry season, and it’s a great example of a stakeholder that generates economic



viability and employment opportunities for local people without the costs of environmental degradation associated with other proposals in the area. Their business is invested in conserving the heritage values of the region for generations to come. The AWC model is just one of many highlighted by Indigenous and conservation groups throughout the catchment. According to the Kimberley Development Commission, tourism currently adds a bigger economic contribution to the region than mining, and is responsible for an estimated 10% of the region’s gross revenue. But I believe the ‘green-collar sector’, as I like to call it, has much more room to grow, with a new generation of Indigenous tourism operators that are being met by a far more open-minded domestic market than was present a decade ago. Bird-watching tours, bushwalking, horseback riding, and short culturalawareness programs are popping up throughout the catchment. Additionally, ranger programs—combined with capacitybuilding and caring for Country initiatives—run by larger Indigenous groups are also flourishing. And early-season fire programs are being awarded carbon credits, with one group rumoured to have obtained 1.5 million dollars’ of credits this year alone with their early-season fire program. Various ‘on-Country’ education facilities/programs are also progressing throughout the region, as calls grow for an alternative to current models that are said to be failing local youth.

GOLDEN LIGHT ADORNS THE SANDSTONE WALLS that surround me; fractures in the strata decorate the cliffs as vegetation erupts from every crevice and crack. A waterfall pours somehow from the midpoint of a sheer wall of rock, a testament



to the complex hydrogeology. I wish I had the energy to appreciate it more, to get my camera out and capture the scene that engulfs me. But I do not; I am exhausted. I drag my boat from the water’s edge, trying to get high enough up the gorge wall to be safe from rising waters. “Good enough,” I lie to myself as I reach an angled rock shelf. It has been a long day on the water, and instead of setting up shelter and cooking dinner, I decide to just go to sleep there.


MADE DISASTER ON EARTH.” Holding onto my kayak with one hand and my paddle with the other—still in my lifejacket, helmet unclipped—I fall asleep on the rocks as the sun slips beneath the horizon. I am awoken by a rattling boom that reverberates through my whole body. I sit straight up to see a bolt of lightning strike the gorge‘s opposite side, illuminating a rock wallaby as it bounds from boulder to boulder searching for safety. The wind picks up, and the rain is so heavy it stings my tender, sunburnt skin. I clip my helmet up and drag my gear towards a little shelf that provides some minor shelter from the wind, and then—curling up in the rain and holding tightly onto the equipment I rely on for survival—I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep. The songs of the morning birds make a promise of a new day; I am on the water at dawn. When I reach Dimond Gorge, I soon spot on the rock walls surveyor’s marks, a reminder of how close

we have been to losing it all. The gorge has been the centre of continued plans—all thus far rejected—by pastoralists to take water from the river, the most recent being in 2017 by NSW agricultural company KIMCO. The Harris Family and Gina Rinehart moan on like broken records about the benefits of water extraction, although they have learned that the public doesn’t respond as well to the word “dam” as it once did. And so they have changed their terminologies, and now use words like “diversions” and “flood plain harvesting”. It’s yet another coffer-filling endeavour from Gina and friends at the expense of someone else’s Country. You only need to look at far as the East Kimberley’s Ord River to see one unviable agricultural project after another, with very similar unemployment rates as the West Kimberley. Recent land purchases by Twiggy Forest and Gina Rinehart have all raised concerns in the community, especially in relation to the entitlements of water licenses for pastoralists regardless of annual climatic conditions.

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM Lightning explodes in Jum Jum’s Country. The glow is a combination of a wildfire started by lightning and the last touches of daylight. Photo: Sally Baker Northwest red-faced turtle. Photo: Ian Bool Water lily. Photo: Ian Bool Waterfalls leap off the sandstone escarpments throughout the gorge sections. Photo: Sally Baker The striking skin patterns of a Kimberley rock monitor. Photo: Ian Bool

APPROACHING THE END OF MY river voyage, I enter Dangu (Geikie Gorge) where the geology changes. I am now surrounded by limestone walls, created from a vast Devonian reef system. Recently, this area was listed as a national park, in addition to a separate new national park surrounding the Margaret River, another major tributary of the Martuwarra. A Parks and Wildlife boat cruises past me, full of tourists, cameras in hand. The boat bears the name of the mother of well-known Kimberley figure Joe Ross. Joe has championed hard over decades for further protection of the river, and has been involved in most of the river descents before my time. At Fitzroy Crossing, I paddle up to the famous bridge and am greeted by a group of young boys. It is a relief to yarn to someone other than myself after seven days on the water. Somehow, I muster the energy for a few flips off the bridge with the lads. They don’t believe me when I tell them where I started my paddle. “You paddled from all the way up there, on the Gibb River Road?” one asks. “That’s my grandfather’s Country!” another proudly states. To say that Fitzroy Crossing is a well-functioning rural centre would be a lie; the town only really grew to be more than an outpost with the classic 3 P’s (Post Office, Pub, and

Manning Falls, Ngarinyin Country, Martuwarra headwaters. Photo: Sally Baker




IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Fitzroy Crossing lads enjoying some high water under the Bridge. Photo: Lachie Carracher Welcome to the Crossing. Photo: Lachie Carracher The sprawling tidal mangrove forests of the Martuwarra as it reaches the King Sound. Photo: Lachie Carracher

CONTRIBUTOR: Lachie has spent the last 15 years poring over maps and developing his skillset as an expedition whitewater kayaker. The investment of blood, sweat, and tears have resulted in some very scenic picnic locations.



Police station) after equal pay came in 1968. Traditional Owners were taken off their Country by pastoralists and dumped at the Crossing. At that time (and some still say today), Fitzroy Crossing resembled a refugee-camp-style settlement, a melting pot of the different surrounding language groups together with a few missionaries, mercenaries, and madmen. Today in Fitzroy Crossing, youth suicide rates are the highest in Australia. Calls for meaningful on-Country engagement have been repeated in a desperate plea to engage the next generation of the region’s leaders before more are lost.

I GET OUT OF THE RIVER at Fitzroy Crossing. From this point onwards, the threat of saltwater crocodile attack becomes too great, and I continue my journey to the sprawling tropical mangrove forests of the King Sound and its open waters via car instead of kayak. But I have one more stop on the way: the Canning Basin. In 2019, the McGowan Government banned fracking across 98% of Western Australia, but not in the Canning Basin. Yawuru man Micklo Corpus was the backbone of the anti-fracking campaign here for decades; his tireless work and devotion to protecting Country is an example to us all. After a lifetime of being the face of anti-fracking in the Kimberley, Micklo, unfortunately, passed away earlier this year; his work, however, will go on. Environmental groups say that fracking here would result in the largest human-made disaster on earth, a carbon bomb. A report by Climate Analytics (‘Western Australia’s Gas Gamble’) notes that fracking the Canning Basin alone could release 13-21 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent gases (CO₂-e) into the atmosphere, an amount far higher than Australia’s entire Paris Agreement-compatible emissions budget of 5.5 billion tonnes of CO₂-e for the sum of all years between 2018 and 2050. Much like the volatile river levels, my emotions fluctuate drastically when I reflect on what is now, then, and what will be forever on the Martuwarra/Fitzroy River. The river itself is at a crossroads, one way leading to investment in forever ‘green-collar’ industries, focusing on the preservation of ecological and cultural values that are proven to stimulate economic growth in the area. The other leads to opening the region up to broad-scale extractive industries as seen in the neighbouring Pilbara region, Australia’s quarry. When I reach the Martuwarra’s outlet, my eyes are focused on the nothing space before the endless horizon of salt water when a dragonfly lands on my arm breaking my trance. The appearance of the dragonflies signals the end of the wet season—the salmon will be running soon—and the river will transform from a raging torrent to sporadic remnant pools. All life in the area will slowly retreat for sanctuary to the diminishing water of the Martuwarra, awaiting the next wet, going all in on their bets for the future to remain as consistent as the past. But will it? Only time will tell. W




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Things don’t always go to plan, especially when you’re on a remote multi-day canyoning trip. But, writes Ryan Hansen, that’s half the fun.

Words & Photography RYAN HANSEN


hen the sun’s arc angles higher in the sky, and the daylight hours begin drawing out, there’s one thought that springs to my mind: “Let’s go canyoniiinggg!”

My thoughts fill with romantic imaginations of abseiling down cascading waterfalls, wading through pristine pools between narrow, sculpted, fern-adorned walls. I see dreamy mental pictures of sunbeams streaming down through the clefts, illuminating the depths in a heavenly aura. Like a kid hyped on red cordial, I get an uncontrollable bout of the jitters, and rapidly set about devising enough wild and extravagant plans to last the next five years of weekends. On the other hand, for my wife, Martine, the word “canyoning” doesn’t immediately inspire such enthusiasm. Quite the opposite. Aside from telling me she wishes she had more of my energy, she often insists that I calm down and remember some other details, the ones that tend to populate her mind first. The heavy packs. The demoralising hill climbs. Our seemingly unalterable habit of returning under headlamps. Speaking of which, we’ve become so adept at turning cruisy 7 to 9-hour canyoning days into crazy 11 to 12-hour ones that we no longer even try to return in daylight hours. And then afterwards, there’s the lingering, jarring scent of dank neoprene on the nose, coupled with the joy of hours spent cleaning all the gear. “Meh, minor details!” I jibe. But just because Martine thinks of canyoning’s challenging aspects first isn’t to say she doesn’t enjoy canyoning. Actually, maybe I just have a selective memory. Anyway, Martine’s not a pessimist either. It just takes her more time to warm to the task and get in what educators call the ‘green zone’ – a happy, focussed, and relaxed space. This normally occurs many, many hours later down the muddy, slippery track, when we’re actually there, on-rope at the first abseil. At which point, all the other difficult bits finally seem worth it. Strangely, not even two hours into the first of four days canyoning near Glen Davis, NSW, it’s not Martine who needs reminding of this, but me. Normally, I consider myself an optimistic guy, but wowsers, the positive vibes are lacking as we battle off-track up a nastily revegetating spur. Being cheerful is difficult when wild-tomato barbs are protruding from every patch of bare skin. Or when—because you’ve been bumbling for half an hour through malevolent incense plant that has formed vindictive




Martine in the literal ‘green zone’. This tiny slice of canyoning paradise already made the ordeal to get here absolutely worth it




patches, when you could have instead, had you been navigationally competent, been enjoying a leisurely stroll at the base of the cliffs—your knees look like Wolverine’s slashed at them. It’ll all be worth it. It’ll all be worth it! “It’ll … all … be … WORTH IT!” “Huh?” Martine asks. Damn, did I say that aloud? I don’t like to show Martine that I’m frustrated too. One of us has to be resilient for the other’s sake; if we both lose it at the same time, it’ll all unravel from there. Normally we’re good at taking it in turns to have our ‘moments’. “I was saying how lovely this incense plant is.” No response. Her facial expression says it all. It’s also hard to think happy thoughts when you’re both carrying 30+kg packs. This isn’t always the case, but since we’re two of the barely sane types who opt for multi-day canyoning adventures, our packs are chockas with ropes, harnesses, ‘biners and technical devices, wetsuits, anchor materials ... The list goes on. Then there’s the camping side of things, all the items that sane, day-tripping canyoners normally don’t carry—a sleeping bag, tent, inflatable mats, stove, billy, four days’ worth of food, dry clothes, a ridiculous amount of camera gear. It’s no wonder our packs are stretched to within a bee’s willy of their load-bearing limits, with bits and pieces tied outside to whatever remaining attachment points we can find. To any innocent bystander, we must look like Himalayan Sherpas, dwarfed by the supersized bulges on our backs. Come to think of it, the resident rock wallaby we stumble across does glare at us rather quizzically. I’m not sure what it’s more confused about—why there’s people here, or why they’re carrying those stupidly big things on their backs. “It’ll all be worth it, won’t it?” I ask the wally, valiantly faking joviality for both of our sakes. No response either, except for a jubilant boingg away in the other direction. Speaks for itself, really. When we finally reach our intended camp cave, the only emotion left is that of sheer relief. At first, we have no energy for marvelling at the stunning 40m overhang, decorated with the characteristic honeycomb-like patterning of Blue Mountains sandstone. Instead, we slump into the dirt, utterly defeated. I can count on one hand how many times, as an adult, I’ve slept during the day, all of which have been due to illness. But this situation calls for one thing, and one thing only: an afternoon nap.

THE THING IS, WE AREN’T even supposed to be here. Well, that’s not true. We are supposed to be here. But it wasn’t our first choice. Our original plan was to spend five days canyoning in the South Branch of the Bungleboori (aka ‘Boori), but two—how can I say this?—unanticipated events forced us to come up with a Plan B.





Firstly, the day prior to setting off—which was supposed to be a pleasant warm-up day on the Newnes Plateau—turned into a nightmarish 13-hour visit to Galah Canyon which quickly went up the proverbial. Being thwarted by an obstacle course of fallen trees in between constrictions, replacing multiple anchors and handlines, baulking at the exposed exit climb, and then being caught bare-bummed (figuratively speaking) by a chance thunderstorm meant that we stumbled back into camp at 11:00 (PM, that is). The canyon certainly made a galah (haha) out of us. Secondly, after a leisurely sleep in and then cooking an elaborate breakfast curry—when you miss out on your favourite curry for dinner because you took too damn long to exit a canyon, why not cook it for breakfast instead?—while driving to the South ‘Boori the next day, we discovered a new severe-weather warning for heavy rains and gale-force winds had been issued. Sure enough, when we reached the starting point, the fragile, fire-affected trees were swirling around like a wacky, inflatable dancing man at a suspect car yard. The risk of treefall on us—and, worse, on our beloved RAV—was too great. Reluctantly, we bailed, tails between legs, with a carload of whoofy canyoning gear.

We had no back-up plan, either. I should point out that this adventure was at 2021’s tail end, before all the recent La Niña-associated rain events made aborted canyoning plans more of a norm. Fortunately for us, though, a quick weather search revealed that the Glen Davis area, just a little further north but off the plateau, promised kinder weather. And there just so happened to be an enticing creek system there that I’d been very, very interested in for some time, but which had kept getting pushed further down the list because we rarely had enough time on a regular weekend for a proper investigation. Over a year ago, I’d even contacted another canyoner for some info on this creek system, who’d kindly given me GPS coords for a camp cave, entry points for two canyons, and a brief description of a pass to use. I always knew that my ADHD-like planning of future canyons would come in handy someday! I digress. The point is that, less than 24 hours ago, we were expecting to be somewhere completely different. But right now, we find ourselves here, and that’s the most important thing—the present moment. Reinvigorated after our snooze, we salvage the afternoon’s remains by reversing the main canyon’s bottom section, which we hope to properly explore from the top tomorrow. (Knowing us though, that’s no certainty). After a few slippery scrambles, leaving us thinking we’re ice skating rather than canyoning, we ascend into a remarkable canyon corridor. It’s right about then when we both (finally!) begin to enter the ‘green zone’ (pun intended). The late-afternoon light creates a mystical, soft glow in the canyon. Shallow, glassy pools transport us to a literal dreamy paradise, perfectly reflecting the magnificently carved walls and rows of vibrant ferns thriving on the constant dampness. Entranced, half an hour passes as we marvel at the incredible beauty. Ahead lies a bend, enticing us to uncover more of the canyon’s mysteries; instead, however, low on time, we return to camp. But already, in only the hundred metres or so of the canyon we’ve currently witnessed, our mojo has well and truly recovered—the ordeal we faced to get here has been rendered 100% worthwhile.

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Ice skating or canyoning? After a revitalising snooze, Martine reverses a beautiful-but-slippery cascade on the first afternoon Barely sane canyoners: Martine fruitlessly reorganising bags to try and fit our ridiculous amount of gear into the packs The facial expression says it all Martine trying to ignore the spiders in one of the many breathtaking constrictions of our first canyon Savlon: a welcome antidote for wild-tomato lashes Will it all be worth it, Mr Wally?



Wishing we were in the shade on Day Two

That’s better, muuuuuuch cooler—a swim in an upper section of our first canyon

THE ORDEAL ISN’T OVER, THOUGH. Well, the gettinghere ordeal is, but only to be replaced by another ordeal, one for which I can unreservedly thank one person: Tom Brennan. For those who haven’t heard of Tom, he’s a Blueys guru (actually, his guru-ness extends far beyond the Blueys) especially when it comes to bushwalking and canyoning. Tom’s webpages are an infinite source of inspiration and information for adventurers, not the least of whom is me. OK, I admit it, I’m a bit of a fanboy. Alright, alright, I’m a big fanboy. Damn it, possibly the biggest. But that’s not enough to stop me from blaming you, Tom. Neither is the fact we’ve never met. You just had to go and share that dang photo of a death adder lurking near your camp across the valley, didn’t you? Couldn’t help yourself. Now, thanks to you, even though we’re sleeping in a massive camping cave that no sane person would bother erecting a shelter in, we don’t fall into that category; your pic of the death adder meant we had to lug this stupid tent with us, too, all so I can try and rest without constantly having one eye open. As if we weren’t already carrying enough stuff! Did you want us to suffer? And no, the fact I already had a fear of snakes (just thinking about them gives me the shivers) is beside the point. I put my fear down to one main encounter. While on a five-day remote canyoning trip in the ‘Boori’s North Branch at the back end of 2020, I came face-to-face with a tiger snake. We were so close we could’ve practically kissed each other. Well, touched tongues anyway; snakes aren’t big kissers (I imagine). After a long and strenuous day, on the unforgiving slog back to camp, I had my head tilted downwards, concentrating more on the effort required rather than where I was going. (In truth, I was dreaming of the Mountain Culture beverage I’d smash on the way home. Ooh, and those delicious kebabs. Stop it!) We’d used this pass three times already, so I knew the exact size and shape of each twig I’d step on. For some reason—I don’t know why, but I’m sure glad I did—I glanced up to see the coiled serpent staring right at me, less than a metre away, ready for a smooch. (Afterwards, we realised it was cleverly positioned for a feed, as





we were on one of the few routes through the cliffline, meaning most animals would probably use it too). Thankfully, I mustn’t have looked overly tasty, or like a good kisser for that matter, and, while I tried to stop my heart from bursting out of my chest, the snake stayed there motionless as we gave it a wide birth. But the net result was that my snake-related emotions were scarred for life. Still, when it comes to psychological challenges, Martine and I are an odd mix. We have few fears in common, which I’m grateful for. It means one of us is usually calm while the other needs a change of underpants. While snakes bother me, I’m not afraid of heights, probably a good thing when you’re a canyoner, although I must admit I occasionally have a few leg wobbles when the abseils are over 30m. On the other foot, while I barely give a second thought to most spiders, that’s when it’s Martine’s turn to freak the heck out. Unfortunately for her, canyons tend to be spider sanctuaries. On that same ‘Boori mission last year, we barely spared a third thought for the array of holes we noticed in the floor of our camp cave, especially after I placed a series of not-insignificant rocks over a few nearby holes. Pfft, as if there’s anything living in there! Wrong. Again! We awoke on the second morning to find a small boulder heaved aside from the mouth of a hole just outside our vestibule. Are you serious? There it was, an eight-legged friend—I’m no spider expert, but possibly a mouse spider, which, FYI, are similar to funnel webs in both looks and envenomation effects—chilling at the entrance, just below the surface. Flexing its muscles too. Must’ve been smashing protein shakes. Still doesn’t absolve you of blame, though, Tom.

Our incredible camp cave. Would’ve been even better without the tent, but look at all those death-adder-like leaves … thanks Tom (not!)



Back in the present, after a relaxing cuppa and a hearty slop of muesli, we’re on our (now merry) way, finding our intended pass out of the creek without any hiccups. It turns out to be an absolute ripper, with fun but non-technical scrambling and zig-zagging that distracts me from stressing about slitherers and Martine from arachnids. Before long, we’re up on the ridge and back in the energy-sapping heat, something we’d forgotten about down in the gorge. I make yet another navigational blunder, opting to sidle too early rather than continuing up along the ridge. As a result, we weave our way in and out of minor clifflines for most of the morning. “What happened,” Martine asks, “to the expert navigator?” Cheeky. It’s my turn to not respond. My excuse is that I feel tentative, as the sandstone crumbles beneath my boots too frequently for my liking. Post-fires, the rock here is charred, brittle and unstable. But two years prior, before the Black Summer fires of 2019-20, almost within eyesight of where we are now, I was canyoning when a friendly looking chunk of sandstone deceived me, collapsing underfoot. I couldn’t have fallen more squarely on the edge of the broken piece if I tried. Two torn ligaments and a helicopter ride to hospital later, I no longer trust sandstone. (I also now have ambulance cover; what a rookie error). To this day, my ankle pains me every single time I put my boots on—a reminder to be cautious.





The other aftereffect of that trip is that the two mates who joined me—Caden and Hayden (no, I’m not joking; it’s a good name pairing, isn’t it?)—haven’t come on a multi-day canyoning epic with me since. I’ve got no idea why. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that the chopper wouldn’t take my pack, and the boys had to haul it back as well. Jokes aside, us being out here now at Glen Davis, as a mere pair, is inherently riskier. There’s safety in numbers. But with just two of us, if one of us has an accident, the other is forced to make a critical decision of whether to stay, or go to seek help. In a dire situation, that could be life changing. We’re as prepped as we can be (at least as we think we can be) for the most likely emergency scenarios. And this is the risk we’re willing to take for the reward. Nevertheless, there’s still a whiff of nervousness that lingers above our heads. “Is that what I can smell?” asks Martine. “Whoops, that’s the beans.”

Much later than we’d like, but without any concerning sightings of local wildlife (aside from the snake that was actually a lizzy), we arrive at the first abseil in an approach tributary, where we find a big ol’ gum looking significantly worse for wear after a scorching, but still sufficiently sturdy for an anchor. We replace the incinerated webbing and maillon—indicating we’re the first canyoners to use this route in a good while—and after another shortish abseil, we’re revelling in the coolness of the main canyon. Now down in the depths, we meander our way through a breathtaking canyon which continues for over a kilometre in length (by Blue Mountains’ standards, this is a very long canyon!). Like a chameleon, it changes guise the further we descend, as if three or four uniquely stunning canyons have all been smooshed together. My camera receives an absolute workout. Unfortunately for Martine, that’s when a profusion of eightlegged friends also reveals itself. “Can you hurry up?! They’re everywhere!” “Just one more photo. Pretend they’re not there.” My encouragement fails miserably, and it becomes my official duty to de-web the route for her safe passage. Late in the day—weary, well overdue for a cuppa, and longing to escape from the wetsuit-induced chafe—we round a twist in the canyon to discover another stench. And it’s not from my bowels. It’s a dead wallaby. “Hope that’s not old mate from yesterday …” “Nope, this guy’s been here for a while.” “You filtered the water last night, didn’t you?” Oh dear, this could be a longggg night.

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM Martine on our first abseil in the main canyon The afternoon ritual—drying out gear. Our nostrils are ingrained with the smell of dank neoprene Canyon country Martine scrambling down our awesome slot pass on the way to our second canyon Curvy canyon goodness




IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT Despite the deluge—and the ridiculous pack—nothing can erase the smile from my face Martine having a final bit of squeezy canyon fun in our second canyon

CONTRIBUTOR: Educator, photographer and outdoor enthusiast Ryan Hansen relishes any opportunity to get in a canyon, even if it means kissing a few snakes and battling extreme chafe.



DAY THREE BEGINS, WELL, LETHARGICALLY, but thankfully our stomachs have retained their food. Nonetheless, it’s a mission to summon the energy for another round. After the painstaking morning ritual of imagining snake-like figures among the leaves and de-spidering the wetsuits, we’re back using the same pass as yesterday, and are soon looking for a way down into our second creek. A large boulder, broken away from the main cliff, affords a spectacular slot-pass to a lower bench, and with some additional less-spectacular scrambling, we find ourselves on a narrow ledge peering down into our next canyon. It looks like a goodie. It turns out to be pretty, but it’s nothing on yesterday’s canyon. Wait, that makes me sound like a canyon snob. Oh well, it’s still fun. If anything, the effort we exerted to get here—rather than make us regret that same effort—means we value the canyon for its feeling of being more remote and less visited. Waking early on Day Four to a therapeutic drizzle in the rainforest gorge, it’s hard to fathom that, four days earlier, we were at the weather’s mercy. There’s not a sliver of sadness for missing out on the South ‘Boori. Even the prospect of cleaning all our filthy, stanky gear when we get home—and the fact that the drizzle turns into a deluge—isn’t enough to dampen the mood. After the last few days of canyoning in the wilderness, who could possibly wish they were somewhere else. Over the last four years of canyoning together—which, in the scheme of things, isn’t a monumental amount of experience—we’ve come to appreciate canyoning as something much more meaningful than a thrill-seeking experience or a picturesque pastime. That’s not to say that seeking canyoning adventures purely for their endorphin-inducing or visually appealing qualities is invalid—not at all. But as an outdoor-adventure sport, it offers much more than these benefits alone. We’ve especially come to value canyoning—even more so, remote multi-day canyoning— for its balance of risk, challenge, and reward. With regards to risk, I say this respectfully; each year, for varying reasons, there are canyoning fatalities, in the Blue Mountains alone. However, compared to some other outdoor pursuits, the risks are relatively moderate; for us, this is a major drawcard. When you combine this with the associated physical and psychological challenges—regardless of how irrational they may be—the precious moments that we live and breathe in a canyon are significantly enhanced. While Martine still tends to think of the tough bits first, as opposed to the successes we enjoy, together we appreciate that the more effort we put in, the more worthwhile the experience becomes. Without the challenge, there’s less reward. Sometimes we need reminding of that, sometimes we don’t, but in the end, it’s all worth it. W

WHAT IS ADVENTURE? For generations, adventure has been in our blood. It’s taken us to new heights and pushed us to new limits. But what is adventure? It’s in all of us but it’s different for everyone.


E S T. 1 9 7 5



POWDER HIGHWAY While Canada’s Trans-Canada Highway runs the breadth of the country, there’s a section of it that is a nirvana for backcountry enthusiasts lusting for deep snow: the Powder Highway. Running from Revelstoke in British Columbia to Banff in Alberta, this stretch of road offers stunning terrain, pillowy snow, long descents, easy access, and endless options. Dylan Robinson spent three weeks sampling the area’s delights during the last Northern Hemisphere winter.




Coen Bennie-Faull during a late-afternoon descent from Bonney Glacier in Rogers Pass. After being shut for around a week due to unfavourable conditions, this part of Glacier NP had just reopened SUMMER 2022


The Powder Highway, BRITISH COLUMBIA


S THE WORLD REGAINED MOMENTUM after COVID-induced mass-border closures, I decided to bite the bullet and plan a trip. This one was special in the sense that I—along with many others—

hadn’t seen an airport for a long time, and had been left only to the screen in my hands to dream of a long-awaited trip to the Northern Hemisphere. But the inevitable eventually happened, and when borders reopened, I set off in 2022 with Drew Jolowicz to spend three weeks skiing along Canada’s infamous ‘Powder Highway’—a section of the Trans-Canada that runs from Banff, through Golden, Rogers Pass, and then on to Revelstoke—that includes the famed mountain ranges of the Rockies, the Monashees, the Selkirks and the Purcells. We had no solid plan except to strike out into the backcountry and to explore beautiful, big mountains, and hopefully to dive into the deepest snow either of us had skied in nearly two years. At first hesitant of new protocols and the ease (or lack thereof) of movement through a foreign land, upon arrival in Calgary our trip quickly gained a natural feeling of momentum. I was fortunate to encounter only one hiccup—early on, as we ventured to interior British Columbia, it had slipped my mind that the combination of -25˚C temps, the distraction of a bluebird powder day, and standing still with cameras can result in banged-up feet and frostbite. Nonetheless, the excitement of travel was back. And on the way, we reconnected with fellow Australian friends Coen Bennie-Faull and Jess Winston-Smith for an array of exploration and good times. It was the rekindling of a sense of freedom.



IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP When it comes to memorable days for us along the ‘Powder Highway’, none rank higher than this one. Drew dives in on a frightfully cold February day, dwarfed by the giants of the Purcell Mountains, where the ski-touring options are endless Deep days in Rogers Pass. Nothing compares to the intensity and volume of snow that falls in ‘The Pass’. A remarkably proactive user-permit system enables backcountry enthusiasts to recreate in Glacier NP with the right knowledge and permits Onwards and upwards. Coen, Jess and Drew en route to Bonney Glacier. We’d set out in the morning under stunning blue skies, but by early afternoon, conditions had deteriorated. Although not yet at a worrying level, the cloud build up was enough to adjust our objectives It’s hard to understand just how much depth there is to these mountains from the road. Looking southeast from the back of Kicking Horse Resort, down the Columbia River and past the town of Golden, the vastness of your surroundings very much comes into perspective



Late-afternoon exploration and shadow chasing in the backcountry off Kicking Horse Resort—which lies above the town of Golden—allowed Drew and I to capture some special moments like this

The Powder Highway, BRITISH COLUMBIA

IMAGES - THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT A bird’s-eye view of the ‘lemming line’ in the backcountry of the Purcell Mountains The Trans-Canada running through Golden, BC, is the main transport and freight corridor that connects east to west In the Rogers Pass stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway that runs through Glacier NP, there are 130 avalanche paths. Due to the high frequency of traffic along the route, these avalanches must be controlled; doing so involves explosives and temporary road closures Drew using motel-room time wisely, scoping the routes of Rogers Pass ahead of the following days of touring The last rays of light beaming behind Kicking Horse as Drew descends untracked powder into the pines SUMMER 2022


The Powder Highway, BRITISH COLUMBIA

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Coen and Drew traverse the outskirts of Revelstoke in the Selkirk Range. We were lucky enough to score another bluebird day Drew misjudged whether or not he’d need for a snorkel while tree skiing during this break in a storm near Revelstoke Bowls upon bowls with jagged peaks towering above. The Purcell Mountains are an absolute spectacle, leaving endless terrain for those willing to go the distance. Here, Drew descends another untouched face Rogers Pass is one of those places that makes you feel small. We were dwarfed by these towering monoliths, and I found myself constantly staring into what seemed like infinite detail When the stars aligned, a clear weather window and fresh, stable snow allowed us to push into steeper terrain; Drew drops into some crags of the Purcell Mountains

CONTRIBUTOR: Dylan Robinson is a Wollongong-based photojournalist of more than 12 years. Storytelling, filmmaking, contemporary issues and mountains are his key interests. See more of his work at instagram.com/dylrobinson





The Good. The Bad. The



Craig Pearce heads off into the high country on a walk that becomes an adventure of two tales: The first half, pleasantly enough, called—Days of Heaven; the second half, far more ominously—Heart of Darkness.

By Craig Pearce Who says you need to travel to the ends of the Earth to have a real adventure? Just 160km from Sydney, Sebastien Deubel goes sleuthing for some vintage trails on a vintage bike.

Words & Photography SEBASTIEN DEUBEL

Sydney Brindabella Range




rossing a rare parcel of treeless but razor rockstudded ground, Faceplant Dave, fast and furious, hit the deck. He became,

in fact, the deck. Petrified into rock itself. Wincing at the impact, cringing at its anticipated outcomes, time and I held our breath. It was Day Five of five in our Bimberi Wilderness walk, and we’d thus far negotiated a sclerotic jail of tangled shrubbery, scrub wriggled off-track at an exquisite level of intensity, and withstood the vegetal hurricane nature had thrown at us. But of all things in this comprehensively non-human-impressed bush, it was a thin, rusted stretch of wire that had taken Faceplant down. Eons later, after composing himself back into human form, Resurrected Dave lumbered punch-drunk to his feet. An act of mercy; he was undamaged. Well, not additionally damaged. He’s been around a few blocks, has Dave. Tolls have been taken. This wasn’t the final time Faceplant was to headline the day’s excitement. Late in the drizzly afternoon gloom—with home base, dry clothes and cold beer beckoning—the horror reappeared. We were criss-crossing Clarke Gorge’s Caves Creek, which was running the fastest and fullest I’d seen it in 15 years. Moss-greased stones were plotting for victims. And, lo, that mythical beast—yea, Faceplant!—returned. Reaching the penultimate shore, I turned to witness Dave taking his second dive of the day; only his backpack remained above water. The judges raised their cards. All tens. Dave, however, once satisfied with his examination of the creek’s aquatic life, raised a face that was utter thunder. Prudence took precedence over piss-taking.

I kept my counsel.

Looking towards Coronet Peak from Mt Bimberi SUMMER 2022


Brindabellas, NEW SOUTH WALES

RIVER AND RIDGE Spreading across the NSW/ACT border, the 60,000-odd hectares of the Bimberi Wilderness take in the 11,000ha Bimberi Nature Reserve, a swathe of Kosciuszko National Park’s northeastern section, and 27% of Namadgi National Park. I’d been playing on the edges of this wilderness for years. The Brindabella Range and the Goodradigbee River—this walk’s ley lines—had become a romantic fascination for me, and they provided what seemed a sensible guide for winding through this wilderness. Little did I know. Even less did my brave foolhardy accomplice victim, Devil May Care Dave, know. He has extensive experience in backcountry skiing. He teaches avalanche management. He is no neophyte to wilderness hiking. (In other words, he should have known better.) But neither he nor I were prepared for what was to befall us when, in days to come, hell was unleashed. But it didn’t start out that way. Our five days and 80-odd kms seemed a walk of two tales: The first half—from Blue Waterholes in Kosciuszko NP to Bimberi Nature Rerserve’s Mt Ginini on the NSW/ACT border—was, despite being primarily off-track, pleasant enough and well-behaved; let it be called Days of Heaven. But in the second half, where—broadly speaking—we followed the Goodradigbee (aka the Good) back to the Waterholes, the Brindabellas bared their fierce and vengeful fangs; let the tale of this second half be called Heart of Darkness.

DAYS OF HEAVEN Thawing out of ice-cube cars to a sub-zero dawn, our Day One welcome was a dingo’s howling lament. Rosellas were flinging themselves about in the sunny morning. We happily caught their fever, setting off for high-country openness and a flourishing freedom, escaped from the Alcatraz of another lockdown. A sense of weightlessness was emphasised by the novelty of looking down into the karst spectaculars of Clarke and Wilkinsons Gorges. Peregrines hovered and arrowed. Caves Creek wrinkled its way over cascades and the full-blooded Cooleman Falls. The off-track was mild at first, picking up in intensity the further we ventured. But Horse Pad Whisperer Dave worked his magic. It’s bad business the brumbies up this way. Latch onto one of their pads, though, when in the thick and, trust me, it’s a not-so-small mercy. Blemishes were pig rootings and horse wallowings. Fire, too, had made its mark. Gnarly, blackened spikes along with thick regrowth reared out of the ground. I’d been closer to the Good when previously doing this route. Assault by riparian vegetation had scarred me. The going was quicker up high. We dropped down to the river in a meadow below a series of waterfalls and cascades, not far north of where the Goodradigbee aqueduct has a weir. This is the only mild taming on what is primarily a wild river.






The campsite at Oldfields Hut is a classic Australian high-country beauty. The expanse in which it sits is encircled by black sallees, and towered over by Mt Bimberi and Mt Murray—these twins are often wreathed in ever-changing floods of mist. A glut of eastern grey kangaroos and red-necked wallabies thronged the joint. Macropod Dave didn’t much appreciate them, though. He accused one of tail-whacking his tent for half the night, and then staring at him while in work mode on the thunderbox. Funny how some people seem sane on the surface … The formal Bimberi Wilderness Zone begins from Oldfields, and the walk from there up to Mt Bimberi’s alpine fields is bushwalking at its best. Views in all directions unfurled: the Main Range, Cooleman Plain, Corin Dam, and the resolute, barefaced, nuggety Coronet Peak. Over our five days, we saw the distant back of just one person. Nonetheless, going up Bimberi, exalted by freedom, Yahoo Dave let loose a cooee. We were shocked to hear one come back to us. Middle of the scrub, no one in sight. He tried another.

No response. A spectre of hikers long past? Then, at dusk, we heard a gunshot. And in three days’ time, a massive honk belched out of the jungle. No perpetrators were sighted. But we saw lyrebirds and many of their mounds on this walk, and we wondered whether they might be the guilty parties. Bimberi had intermittent cairns and a stop-start pad wending up its hip. No such luxuries on the rest of the rollercoaster Brindies. It was a zig-zagging pandemonium: Mitigating the cardio and quad thing upwards; reducing knee strain and maintaining balance downwards. I tended towards sidling my ascents or descents, but Dave The Goat scoffed. Straight up or bust, he ploughed his own furrow. I thought to question his sanity but, after the macropod episodes, it felt wiser to leave that stone unturned. We followed the ACT/NSW border as much as possible. Off-track and all its inherent impediments made that a not-always-realised ambition. It took no time at all to diverge from our intended path, but a heck of a long time to get back on it. In parts, the bush was battle-worn from fire. Even in recovery, the sclerophyll was vibrant enough to give us a savaging as we huffed and puffed our way through its congestion. Views were hard to come by even from the peaks. We passed through forests of snow gum above 1,500m; at about 1,300m, the snow gums found company in alpine ash. Nearer the Good, drier montane peppermint gum forests occurred. Leguminous shrubs, herb fields, grasslands, heaths, swamps and the odd sphagnum bog were all present. Approaching Mt Ginini, through granite tors and snow gum-adorned grassland, our hearts opened up—Tantangara’s plain, Mt Jagungal, ranges all around—sprawled out beneath us. We were ignorant that this was to be the last of what we’d consider to be moderate off-track walking. Days of Heaven was now a closed book. The descent into and through hell was waiting.

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM Constructed of timber slabs, Oldfields Hut was built in 1925 Oldfields Hut sign The fire pit in front of Oldfields Hut has great views of Mts Bimberi and Murray Cave Creek cutting through Clarke Gorge The Brindies beckon Mt Bimberi trig tree Dave takes a breather at the entrance to Pryors Hut



Brindabellas, NEW SOUTH WALES

HEART OF DARKNESS The first day of Heart of Darkness began with a deceptive calm. Dawn saw a cloud inversion swathing Cotter Dam’s valley, and the sun eked out of its slumber. Isolated peaks pierced the cloud. Happy days, we thought, as we cruised down the grassy Harrys Spur, planning brunch by the Good in no time. Then it appeared. A shattered, splintered staircase to hell. My mind jagged with the local ranger’s warning: Post 2019-20 fires, the fire trail had been “rehabilitated”; it might prove, she said, “difficult.” Difficult! Other adjectives came to mind, not ones for polite society. While ‘only’ five kays in length, it took three hours to complete this once-was-a-fire trail. Trees (a pandemic of them) had been dragged across it, making it impassable for any sort of vehicle no matter its off-road credentials. And it was a walker’s knee- and ankle-busting nightmare. We were never quite sure if we were going to sink, splinter, spin, twist or hold steady. Demented lumberjacks at a log-rolling Olympics had nothing on this. It was at this point where the walk evolved from tough-but-doable to why-would-you-do-it status. What we didn’t know yet was that this wouldn’t end until nearly the end of the following day. We were now in the Bimberi Nature Reserve. There were giant trees. Lyrebirds flustered away. The remains of a snake gorged on by ant and maggot. Brown snakes slithered away from our clumsiness. A cuddling mum and bub common ringtail possum—wide-eyed—flinched at us out of their tree hidey-hole. From the point where we blundered hard and steep off the once-was-a-fire trail, it was a 600m half-freefall to the Good. Or so we thought. Things were now seriously real. Off-track par excellence real. We couldn’t see more than two metres in front of us. Derrière Dave and I spent more time on our bums than our feet. And it was here we encountered—for the first but alas not final time—the bastard terrain-choking narrow-leafed bitter bush pea. Somewhere in this slow-mo car crash of our trip, my melting brain took issue with the Australian Walking Track Grading System. Grade 5 is the hardest. Some of Grade 5’s descriptors (eg very steep and difficult, no modifications of the natural environment, no directional signage) were apt for our imbroglio. But I decided there needs to be at least one, no, two more gradings. The first would capture the need to defend yourself against nature’s cruel and calculated attacks. Grade 5 is fine for moderately difficult off-track (eg Days One to Three on this walk), but not for the Heart of Darkness. In a category beyond even that, there should also be something capturing the damaged, delusional psyche that willingly enters realms such as that which Dave and I were being eviscerated by. The bush spat us out onto a small beach. A clearing! Sky! This was the Good, the beautiful Good, our salvation from the darkness Good, the waterway we were going to walk up Good.




EVERY STEP WAS EXPLOSIVE. ” Ummm, about that. We made our way upstream, clumsily, a slapstick of slips and trips as we clambered over leviathan logs, sometimes up to our waists in water. At one point I did a Dunking Dave, full body, only my arm above water, outstretched with camera and tripod, a lady in the lake with Excalibur. Thankfully, King Arthur Dave, held it steadfast, clear of the torrent. We continued for 45 minutes before checking our now-not-so-accessible—due to us waterproofing it—nav. Oh dear. Wrong way. Wrong waterway. We were on Blackfellows Creek. So back we went (Waterway Dave perversely enjoying himself), before bush-battling over a spur to the true Good. Except it was the bad Good. The polite Good—the one upstream in which, in our younger, pre-Darkness afflicted days, we had frolicked in— was now too deep and powerful to be our saviour. So we turned to Plan B: walking riverside. It too failed. The vegetal wall, ornamented with snarling blackberries, could not be pierced.

IMAGES LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM Welcome to the (bitter bush pea) jungle Dawn calm from Mt Ginini Wrong fella route up Blackfellows Creek Fungi thriving in the damp Silver snow daisies Bloodied, bruised, frigid Mum and bub Faceplant: unimpressed pretty much captures it

We turned to our last resort, Plan C: Punch our way up through that damned bush again. In short, intense bursts, we hoped to get above the worst of it. Five hours later, we reached the 1,100m contour we’d put our bedraggled faith in. We then cut a path across the V-shaped incision of the Goodradigbee Valley to where, eventually, the bush would become more forgiving. This Shangri-La was the junction of Caves Creek and the Good. We collapsed into camp as light faded. It was a beautiful location, enclosed by tall trees, hills steepling up behind us—a wilderness idyll at another time. Not tonight, though. Unfortunately, it was already populated … by mosquitoes. A biblical plague assailed us. We’d already this day been scraped, spiked, tripped and pinioned. Down our shirts were dumps of sticks, leaves, pollen (which I’d nose hoovered like an attraction to death). Our wounds throbbed and wept. And now this. In my coffin tent that night, under the hammering rain, stress levels rose. Deep breathing calmed me down: we knew where we were, it was only (only!) 12km back to the Waterholes; we had a plan; and there was water. The food thing wasn’t ideal (how many muesli bars amount to a health hazard?), but we were not about to starve. The next morning, what passed for first light was accompanied by drizzle. That this was going to be a day from hell, in hell, of hell, was self-evident. It felt as if nature had to be defeated, not collaborated with, and certainly not ‘enjoyed’. An unravelling end of a mental tether felt uncomfortably close.

To avoid the malevolent rope-and-claws bush pea, we tracked into clear areas, which in turn led to us circling back to where we began. “Bloody bush,” said Head Shaking Dave. Casting each other baleful looks, we picked out a chink in the scrub’s amour and entered the affray. It was—this is not a metaphor—hand-tohand combat. The hills weren’t so much clad by the bush pea’s fibrous iron bars as fortressed by them. (And just so you know, narrow-leafed bitter bush pea, nemesis, nature’s evil spawn, I am crowdfunding a campaign to have you dynamited from Earth.) Welcome to the jungle, baby. Sticks poked up our nasal passages. Our eyes were sliced by leaves and twigs. And beneath our feet was a camouflage of vegetal trash. Every step was explosive. Lurking under the surface’s bark, branches and leaves were holes, rarely stable rocks and gravel, mud, and more branches. Fallen trees, giants come to rest, their prolific, anarchic spread of branches were unfailingly generous in the exercise they provided. Dave preferred the high route. One of my many personality flaws was apparent in how I was a downhill avoidance sort of guy. Tilt gear on the steeply angled incline was relentless, ankle ligaments stretched to capacity. Gullies inevitably had even thicker bush to tame. Of the day’s 12km, it was eight kays of this bastardry to Shangri-La. It didn’t seem like a lot but, deep in the jungle, 600m/hr was the going rate. Checking the nav (yes, we learnt from Blackfellows, don’t you worry) was, inevitably, dispiriting. Is that all we’ve covered in the last 30 minutes?



Brindabellas, NEW SOUTH WALES

IMAGES THIS PAGE CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Harrys Spur - this is what once passed as a fire trail Shangri La - optimism at last Yea, and Faceplant Dave has risen from the depths



Exertion squeezed out of us in caveman grunts, purple curses and tortured gurgles, an inchoate language of exhaustion and suffering. Occasionally, though, a wraith of meditative Zen cast its spell. Rags of mist seeped out of the valley’s creases. And the sun refused to reveal itself; only in the mid-afternoon did we briefly get to see the pinnacle of any peaks. Around us, though, mother trees soared. Over the river, a daunting density of forest was stationed on the Brindabellas’ flanks. No sign of fire damage. It felt primeval. ‘Shangri La’ was eventually reached. This featured a betrayal of thorn-tendrilled blackberries and the eager needles of scotch thistles. From here, at least, the bush became more open, even if this was counterbalanced by the cumulative weight of our exhaustion. When it arrived, the Clarke Gorge track—an actual formed track! For humans!—materialised like a yellow brick road of deliverance.

WILDERNESS UNGRAPPLED The rain bleaknessing—yes, bleaknessing is a word of my own invention—us as we extinguished the walk was the final, cold ashes of hell. But at least we had the pleasure of shutting that jungle gate. Its cackle, though, persisted for days. I was wracked with stomach cramps. Climbing small flights of stairs felt like ascending Everest. Our fingers were so filigreed with cuts, it was difficult to tie shoelaces. Some say no worthwhile achievement occurs without suffering. We certainly managed the latter. Our battle led to us being floored so often that any sensible referee would have called it



a technical knock-out. But we were still standing—admittedly, only just—at the end. Apocalypse wow. Peering back at this walk, it had many faces. Some sublime and uplifting. Some the silent horror of a Munch scream. A massive psychological, emotional and physical weight lifted from us on making it back to the cars. The bear hug Dave and I shared was all we could muster, but it said all that needed saying, too. Three luminous elements comprised this walk: Nature in all its diverse, confounding glory; off-track in extremis; and the companionship and support of Dave. The full-on wilderness made it clear what specks we were, buffeting us with forces well beyond our addled ken. But it also shared sights, insights and experiences with us that very few humans receive. It was truly an epic. We were privileged, but no, I will not do the Heart of Darkness again (I hear Bali is nice this time of year). The ordeal had me working in a team (normally I go solo), and it was the most difficult outdoors situation I’ve been exposed to. I now know my own capabilities better, have improved them, and have a clearer idea of the benefits of partnering up with someone who knows what they are doing (sort of; well, in moments; okay, just scratch this one). But I wouldn’t swap the hardships for quids. And I’m grateful I had Solid As A Rock Dave. He had in spades what you always want a partner in adventure to possess—a reliable shoulder on which to lean. He didn’t know it, but a simple pat on the back after it was my (admittedly rare) turn to thrash and bash a trail through the chaos fed me the odd teaspoon of cement the adventurer’s diet demands. Without Brother Dave, this experience would have lacked its most memorable—and integral—constituent. It was almost enough to renew my faith in humans. W CONTRIBUTOR: Sydney-based Craig Pearce escapes, whenever possible, the wilderness of the corporate canyons for the non-anthropocentric society of snakes, snow gums and wallabies.















STIRLINGS A team of highliners set out in 2022 to break records in Western Australia’s Stirling Range.





Stirling Range

When you camp on top of a mountain, you can really maximise line time. Ben Austen takes the final walk of the day along the Stirling Ridge


he weatherman lied to us.

We’d been promised a win-

dow of good weather; instead, the roaring wind sounded like a whining jet engine—all subtler sounds were erased—and constant rain drove parallel to the land. Any exposed skin felt the full brunt of the vicious ele-

ments. Our ears were bitterly numb with cold. Our teeth chattered. But we marched on regardless, grabbing at shrubs for balance as we relentlessly moved up the mountain on a poorly maintained trail that had been transformed into a treacherous slush of mud. One misstep could spell serious injury or death. And with our boots balancing on precarious edges, or slipping on loose scree, every footstep felt tedious and slow, made worse by the harsh reality of hauling backbreakingly heavy loads and grappling with cumbersome gear. I questioned why I was here, and my mind wandered to a more comfortable, peaceful place. +++++ I’ve been chasing highliners around, and documenting them, for a few years now. It started one fateful day, when one of my rockclimbing friends invited me to a local crag to come and watch. It was summer, and not far from Perth, and we hiked for thirty minutes along a narrow, well trodden path. Eventually the trees parted to reveal a big rock quarry, in the middle of which was Terence, walking in mid air, with bush-doof music blasting in the background, reverberating off the steep rock walls encircling him. It felt like I was at the Colosseum. Everyone in the vicinity sat on the rocks and watched the spectacle unfolding. From that moment I’ve been hooked and amazed by the limitless potential of humans ...



Known for its high temperatures and relatively flat surrounds, Perth might not be the first place that comes to mind for a group of ambitious highliners to call home. Yet over the last decade or so, a small community has been meeting regularly, sharing knowledge, refining skills and spending their house deposits on having gear shipped into one of the world’s most isolated cities. Essentially, slacklining is the act of staying balanced and walking on an almost-tight webbing, similar to a tightrope. Highlining is the same, but much further away from the ground; attempting it requires more skill, gear, knowledge and commitment. In the same way a young surfer might learn on small whitewash only to end up at Pipeline, it’s a natural progression for a slackliner to end up in the mountains. The problem here in WA is that there aren’t many mountains, or slackliners for that matter. While other states and countries were making leaps and bounds in their slacklining achievements, WA was like a younger sibling trying to keep up with everyone else; lots of potential, but not quite able to match the pace around them. For some members of the community, that had to change, and they made plans for slacklining in WA to experience the most radical growth spurt it had ever seen. And what better place to make such a change than the Stirling Range National Park. So in May 2022, a group of ten of us headed to the park searching for a place to rig a line in the sky, a place where no human has ever danced before. In our sights was Talyuberlup Peak—at 786m asl, it stands high and proud in the Stirling Range NP. As you head to the western side of the park, the sweeping, dirt-orange gravel roads contrast with the thick green banksia, jarrah and woolly bush. From there you climb, and upon reaching the upper headwall of the mountain, there is a cave that burrows twenty metres below its summit. This cave opens up into a large amphitheatre, and looking far below to the valley floor, a rock





PUSHING THE LIMITS, IGNORED ME.” the size of a car is perched halfway down. You can almost imagine its crashing path down the mountain, gaining momentum on the steep slopes until it reaches the valley floor, far below where it now rests. On a highlining expedition, you have the time and space to take things in, to breathe the fresh country air and to marvel at nature’s splendour. Coming back a couple of months later, the weather was perfect. We set off, weighed down with gear and ambition. The poles to construct the A frames we needed were an awkward two metres long, and they seemed to tangle on every second branch on the way up. Jack Gooch, who carried the poles, summed it up through gritted teeth: “This sucks.” We nodded in grim agreement. Finally, after five-and-a-half hours of careful and complicated rigging and plenty of head scratching, we had ascended the peak; we set up our highline using natural protection. The mountain range would have experienced many things over its two-and-ahalf-billion-year life span, but nothing quite like this. This would be the first time that humans had stepped foot on its skyline! The sunset threw out red and orange hues that bent and warped through the hills. But the air was still. Dead still. Every utterance in the amphitheatre boomed off the imposing rock walls, echoing far off into the distance, all the way down to the valley floor hundreds of metres below. “I’m so scared,” Nick stammered as he zipped out onto the line before making a successful crossing. As the fading light filtered

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM Nick Pontin makes the final walk of the day on Talyuberlup Peak Jack Gooch (R) and Joey Curry (L) bridging the gap on the Stirling Range (The crew on the way to setting up the highest-elevation line in WA’s history: (L to R) Ben Austen, Joey Curry, Jack Gooch, Nick Pontin, Alex Clapin and Jeremy Shepherd. Not pictured, but part of the crew: Natalya Garcia, Carmen Schoenjahn, Robbie Burnett, Matt Bray, and Terence Michael Chan Jack Gooch stoked on life on Talyuberlup Peak Jack spreading the wings on the Stirling Ridge

out, and as darkness threw its shadow across the land, it was time to get back down to camp and rest our weary legs. Back home after this success, we cast our eyes to the next challenge—the main ridge of the Stirling Ranges. It’s classified as the sixth-toughest walk/scramble in Australia. (Ed: Who classifies these things?) After three-and-a-half hours we made it to the ridge’s summit. We searched for two full days, sleeping on the mountain at night, watching shooting stars and listening to the wind whipping the trees as they swayed in unison. Search as we might, though, we couldn’t find a line that would go; the mood was sombre at camp. But on the morning of the third day, Alex Clapin and Carmen Schoenjahn spotted a possibility. It was, however, a daunting line, one that would require abseiling for forty metres carrying all the rigging gear, not to mention traversing a steep and exposed ledge. We were not convinced. It looked impossible. I advised targeting an easier mountain, but Alex—being a marathon runner and used to pushing the limits—ignored me. Thank god.

TWO MONTHS LATER: OCTOBER 2022. Once a suitable weather window appeared, we returned, only to find ourselves back where this piece started, being buffeted by the elements. The stinging forty-knot wind that first day lashed any exposed bit of skin. The drenching rain was relentless. The weather window quickly turned into a foul nightmare. To make matters worse, there is a labyrinth of false trails along the range, and many ways to get lost. Upon reaching the position to set up our first anchor we discovered, to our dismay, that Joey Curry—who under the strain of his heavy load couldn’t keep pace— had gotten lost. And in the poor visibility, we couldn’t see him. But then someone yelled, “Joey, what are you doing up there?”

We turned to see Joey, having taken a wrong turn, standing on the summit of a neighbouring mountain. We erupted in laughter. Ben Austen set off to retrieve him, but when he arrived on the summit, Joey was now nowhere to be seen. Cue more laughter, only harder. But on the return, Ben found Joey, and he herded the lost sheep back to the flock. Despite the grim weather, we decided to set up the anchor and rappelling ropes regardless. In the end, though, we had no choice but to descend the mountain, completely saturated and cold to the bone; a vague sense of defeat permeated the crew. But the next day, the weather gods smiled on us. We hauled more gear up the mountain. With the crew using slings around rocks and trees—to ensure we’d leave no trace of our adventure—we worked to secure our highline. The rig was quick to assemble, and within an hour we were flying a drone, to which we’d attached fishing line to bridge the gap. I watched and marvelled as my friends rappelled off ropes and traversed the ledge with 25kg of rigging gear; it was like watching a live James Bond film. In no time, the webbing was flying over the precipice, ready to go. Soon, one-by-one (with the exceptions of Alex Clapin and myself, who’d dedicated ourselves to documenting the attempt), the team danced across the most elevated highline ever attempted in Western Australia. The unbridled joy we all experienced was sublime. Sleeping on a blow-up mattress on the mountain that night, and opening my eyes and watching the stars slowly move about in the sky, I knew that we’d been a part of something special. When I’m old and grey, I thought, there will be a moment when I’ll look back fondly on the time we really lived. W CONTRIBUTOR: Perth-based Jeremy Shepherd discovered his love for photography as a way of avoiding the terrifying art of highlining.




BLOODY LONG RUN Victoria’s little-known 220km-long McMillans Track doesn’t just give Beau Miles the chance to challenge himself; it lets him learn about a violent chapter of Australian history, and in the process, engage in a healthy dose of introspection.

Words BEAU MILES Photography CHRIS ORD



Looking over the famous Wannangatta Valley SUMMER 2022


McMillans Track, VICTORIA

Woods Point


n the same weekend I lost my virginity, which is a badge of some kind, I found another valuable kind of symbolism in the form of a small metal diamond nailed to a tree. As if tacked there to help remind me of the excellent fun I had among arms and legs, the piece of metal was one of many thousands just like it, fixed in places along the spines of mountains and at river confluences to tell people which way to walk. Lo and behold, I had lost my flower on a small chunk of the Australian Alps Walking Track, and I have been obsessed with the allegory of walking tracks ever since. Actually, this is only two-thirds true. The flower part is honest, and it’s no lie that a considerable link was made that snowy weekend between myself and the mountains. But in truth, I knew long before that boozy afternoon about the spell of longrange walking paths—and the miniature road signs that direct us for months at a time from one place to the next. The other half-truth is that I’ve come to love walking paths less for walking and more for running. Walking paths are the best running routes in the world. If I’m to wrap my identity into an atlas-sized rectangle of tin foil, I’d have to say that walking-path-love is as much a part of me now as eating rolled oats in the morning then bananas for the rest of the day. Deep lifeforces. I’ll happily run any trail, anywhere, trusting the idea that even a halfwit would never go to the trouble of putting a track somewhere that was underwhelming, or if it was, it leads you somewhere that isn’t. Such a simple willingness to run or walk any trail on any part of the planet has revealed this truth, and either the trail or the destination, most

often both, are worth hitchhiking to, telling select friends about, and trespassing on if required, sometimes at all costs. Off-track life is even more engaging for its liveliness and the bloody mess it leaves me in, and excellent stories come from finding your own path. Even being lost is something we should all do more often to dial in on our cognitive and physical thresholds. But trails that have been—over time—padded into existence by the feet of people I’ll never meet, is a spellbinding idea. As you walk and run such trails, kicking up dust or mud, it’s as if those particles are the cells of the wayfinders before you. Every passer-by shares a bond that you can either think about, or ignore, which is both the majesty of community and the solitude of existentialism—the big reasons we often head bush. Regardless of how your collective or individualised mode of thinking pans out, many feet make a trail and without them, it doesn’t exist, and because of it, we’re linked. Famous trails have become celebrities in their own right. Well-known trail markers make it onto T-shirts and forearms as tattoos. As much as a Trump hat or a footy scarf, these blazes of meaning, markers that tell us where to go, emboss a person’s soul beyond the fabric and ink, informing anyone who pays attention that they’ve lived a good life on a good slice of trail. I’ve seen the Pacific Crest Trail’s famous lone green pine in front of a mountain range, the shell of the Camino El Santiago, or the acorn representing the rolling green rambles of the UK’s South West Coast Path; all told me not just where a person had been, but that a particular kind of experience had taken place along a dotted line. The thought of releasing ourselves onto a footpad for a simple, better life, getting lean, breathing good air, thinking deeply and feeling bits of your body that you don’t pay enough attention to is intoxicating for the habitualised, even content, all-too-civilised human. Having long used my body to get places, the long-distance foot trail might well be the holy grail of embodiment—blood and bone knowledge from the ground up. Although I must admit, I never thought as deeply about trails and their deep histories until a few years ago. As a newly minted 40 year old, my once- (and no longer) bendable limbs have meant I’ve had to shift my plasticity to the mind, in the process becoming more critical of everything and anyone, as if stiff hamstrings have tightened the screws upstairs on cognitive tensions. Humans are, after all, just a mass of sinew connected by electricity, and our emphasis might very well start to become head-centric over time as connectivity to outer extremities fizzles with age. In this phase of my life, post PhD, dad of two, custodian of a small parcel of land, I’ve made a conscious choice to complicate things only when I have time to do so, and simplify everything else. Complexity is sought when the root of things wants to be investigated, lived, and experimented with, but in order to make room for that complexity, an obsession with reduction is required. +++++




McMillans name is still on prominent, modern-day signage



ALL OF THIS PREAMBLE CAME INTO ACTION when I took the long way home via Woods Point, one of the deepest mountain towns in Victoria, which likely makes it one of the deepest mountain towns in Australia. Only dirt roads lead to Woods Point, snaking up riversides and across mountain passes. If you have fillings in your teeth, they’ve rattled out by the time you roll into town, which is fitting because the place was settled on the prospect of gold. Like a lot of these boom-and-bust places, it had more pubs than people during the boom, before it then retreated back to the diehards and outcasts once the loot dried up. The place is now famous for its pub, cold river and stupidly steep bulldozer tracks that have become a rite of passage for cock-fighting four-wheel drivers making the ruts deeper. After 50km of corrugations, I stopped on the only patch of sealed road in the centre of town to check the wheel nuts. I lied and told my wife that the next 50 kay wasn’t as bad. Squatting next to the car, half-expecting Helen to give my head a swift and deserved smash with her door, I noticed a sign. It read “McMillan’s Walking Track finish point, 220km”. I know a little about the pastoralist Angus McMillan, mostly because his name is everywhere in the valley I grew up in, but nothing about this track, named either in his honour or because he had something to do with making it. How the heck does a 220km walking track

exist in my neck of the woods that I’ve not heard of? I felt a little out of touch and insulted all at once. I asked Helen to remind me to Google it when we got home. Actually, I asked Helen twice, knowing that my wife would not remind me, so by asking her twice I set in place a strange request that I’d remember myself. Over a pot of tea a few days later, I tapped into the power of the subconscious (Helen is always sure to remind me of the power of the subconscious, which makes up for her lack of reminding), and prompted myself to look up “McMillans Track”. How excellent! A 220km route re-created by plucky bushwalkers of the Ben Cruachan Bushwalking Club. Stitching together old travelogues, they searched out a horse-wide, terraced, completely overgrown, remarkable route between the gold-mining outposts of Omeo and Woods Point. It seemed, too, that the track hadn’t been run, and that most bushwalkers—who are few and far between—take two weeks to do it. To guide those few walkers, nailed loosely to trees are wonderful, sparse, red triangles with white lettering saying ‘McMillans Walking Track’, each word taking up a side of the resplendent marker. Bloody hell, I thought, what a find! Excitement struck. Naturally, as both an opportunistic and activity-based filmmaker, this would not be just a run—it would be a film. I pitched the idea to Mitch, my filmmaking partner, and started digging into the storyline. Other than being a walking track that’s sat fairly untrammelled for 120 years before reincarnation, and being a track that’s never been run, the name itself is equally interesting. McMillan, it turned out, was not the swashbuckling hero I was told about as a kid. Truth be told, which until now hasn’t been the case, McMillan might be one of Australia’s largest mass murderers.



McMillans Track, VICTORIA

IMAGES - THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Day One, Attempt One. The first cloud cover of the day hides the hottest day of the summer As one of the first white pastoralists to enter Kurnai Country, now Gippsland (McMillan named it New Caledonia), monuments like this are throughout the district Standing in the Crooked River on a baking-hot day. I had yet to tell the crew I was likely not going anywhere after Day One

This story, as I saw it for the film, is not about the historical violence that took place in various locations around Gippsland under the command and watch of McMillan—he oversaw massacres in which anywhere between 60-150 Kurnai people were slaughtered—because such a story can’t be told as a subtext for running in the hills. It deserved more. Volumes in fact, but a starting point was McMillan’s great, great, great grandniece, Cal Flynn, who wrote an excellent commentary on the well-crafted myths that made McMillan a household name. Her bloodline to the man himself makes her account a compelling read. As I read Cal’s words, I thought, bloody hell, what have I got myself into. This isn’t just a track; it’s a line across our mountains that represents a time in history I sadly don’t know enough about. In the summer of 1864, hot as heck, McMillan and a bunch of men set off from Omeo with horses, track-building kit and provisions for a month. Their mission was to link two gold-mining outposts and see what sparkling opportunities lay in the vast unknown. Of course, it was only unknown to the whites. With the full force of irony, First Nation trackers were the vital navigators on the mission- coercing a party of men and their bulky, horseborne loads across steep, untracked high country. It was not this particular track where McMillan’s name is now entrenched in horrendous crimes, but it was his swansong, and it seems to be a good place to reflect on his life then and my life now. Keen for a long run in the hills again after almost a decade of opportunistic and circuit-breaker runs between the tidal forces of midlife, I was very much enamoured with the romance



of being back on foot for the long haul. But it seemed from the outset that, for any thought I had about making my story about running, the significant other would have to be about black and white injustices that took place in the hills and valleys of the place I call home. More to the point, how I’d come to be such a lucky white bastard living in a five-acre Eden and how it was only now, after 42 years of living within sight of where I was born, that I stopped in my tracks to reevaluate the view.

ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX YEARS LATER to the day after McMillan set off, I, too, am setting off. I have a small 8L running vest bursting at the seams with calorific goo and powdered potions, an excellent but basic set of PDFs from John and Monica Chapman, a big hat, thick sunscreen, and a strong pair of legs that have run ten hours a week for six months. Legs, I might add, that haven’t run a single kilometre in anything over 25 degrees. Today will be 38 degrees in the valleys. Off I trot, supported by 4x4’s full of people and a huge amount of stuff. Having so much gear along means that my on-track life can be as minimalist as a Swedish bus station, although my rule of thumb is that I’m independent during the days, with the obligatory set of stuff that will keep me alive if I pass out from a lack of bananas. Brother-in-law Charlie, who drove and cooked and problem solved and pored over maps with me across the Australian Alps nine years earlier, is chief again. Brett, Mitch and Chris come along to look through a lens, and Jodi comes along to make sure we’re not dicks to one another.

Perhaps going a little too fast when it’s a little too hot


trying to do something physical—the other disappears as I dig into the selfish nature of running all day. Caught up in distance and time and how many amino acids I’ve sucked down (or not, as is the case), I’ve forgotten one of the big reasons I am here. I return home with a ginger gait, thinking about what to do next.

The story that unfolds on Day One is typical of a run that doesn’t go to plan. An idiot was lurking in my decision making. Perhaps rotten from the get-go—meaning my temperature-guided training wasn’t quite right—I drink twelve litres of water across a baking-hot day in a fire-ravaged bush with no canopy. Sitting in a sauna all day drinking margaritas would have been a more sensible way to hydrate. By 5PM, I’m wobbling about the place singing show tunes, and wondering what story to tell the crew. I am toast; it’s as clear as day even in my dim-witted idiocy. So that is that. At midnight, when I should be propping on my elbows at the edge of my sleeping bag taking the most satisfying leak of my life, I’m not. Self-absorbed, thinking about running, or not running as it were, means by default I’m not thinking about McMillan, which in truth was the case for the great majority of the day. The man who has a track named after him, likely one of the most violent men to ever pass through these hills, a man whose actions were half the reason I am here, has vanished into the bush like a ghost. This is a problem. While one of the film’s themes is thriving— because who doesn’t like a big dose of failure when someone’s

FIFTEEN WEEKS LATER, I’M BACK at the start line—a rusty old gate on the side of the road between Omeo and Dinner Plain. Cable ties still hold onto a slice of corrugated iron that tells folks to stay away from the sprayed blackberries. A good reminder. In my absence from the track, I’ve reconceived why this running venture inspired me in the first place; reminding myself that I do, in fact, love toiling away up steep hills, in the heat, playing dot-to-dot with a giant Australian landscape via the help of lovely, rare, red triangles. In the shade during those weeks of recovery, a series of pep talks to myself confirmed that this second attempt would be my last, meaning both my internal and external narrative of this film had to give more time and energy to the other red-bearded bastard: McMillan. And, as I originally set out to do, I will wrestle with my version of ‘white-mans folly’, which loosely relates to the inherited luck I’ve been handed because people like McMillan lived a bloody life. Like it or not, my five-acre plot of thick dirt and abundance is at every turn a modern-day outfall of colonial violence. When I think of my own turf like this, it’s mighty hard not to think of my life as an adventurous, nature-loving storyteller without giving it air. Every breath, in fact, and especially as a




parent, because when I was young, the right kind of history wasn’t taught. Damned if I want this failed history lesson to repeat itself. Off I set. Again. New shoes, new head, new poles. Yep, I’ve become a pole person. The only other comparison I can think of that relays this seismic leap towards a piece of gear is when I finally decided to bolt a sail to my kayak. Up until that point, I’d happily, perhaps a little righteously, decided that the only real form of kayaking was propelled by the arms, not the bloody wind. No, that’s what sailors use, burning money on their yachts surrounded by rope and teak. Then I popped the sail up with a following breeze; in a matter of moments I’d reinvented a form of life I thought I knew back to front. Lightweight poles for long-distance trail runners were much the same, as if, on that first hill, I grew an angular and nimble set of limbs that helped pull me up the slope like I was tethered to a fit Norwegian. Me and my poles together become a tic-tacking confluence of person and stick triangulating across the landscape, looking up more, feeling as if my torso has come along as a conductor, and not just a heavy barrel of ballast to slow my legs down. These changes are important if I am to think more about the reason I’m running the track, and not just the running itself. Two hemispheres of thought need to be told; both need the freedom to do their thing. The running goes swimmingly. Before I know it, I’ve reached the second plateau of the day and am fast approaching the 30 kay mark. Legs and lungs and now arms repeat themselves in the best way I know how, which—with a mouth full of jelly





snakes—provides me with my first comparison between me and the party of men who passed here nearly 160 years earlier. How unalike are our eras and bodies! I’m shoving down jelly snakes while being nimbly-pimply, dashing about in tight clothing, big-eyed through polarised lenses; their job was hotter, slower, harder, and altogether meaner and grittier. I imagine that if the guidebook calls the track hard, or very hard, it would have been very bloody hard and stupendously bloody hard to make. Cruelty on each other, on whoever they met, on the animals, and on the landscape no doubt persisted. Yet, while McMillan was lauded as the expedition’s leader, I’ve been told he was rarely the man at the front of the party, scouting the route. Both McMillan and I—tattooed in freckles and fair skin—were guided by someone else’s read on the world. Me via staggeringly accurate, 1:50,000 maps cooked up by bushwalkers and satellites, and McMillan by Kurnai men who had an unnerving knowledge of the place even though they, too, had never set foot in much of it. Two white blokes pumping around similar blood, split by almost two centuries, engineering our way across the hills. I roll into camp thinking, “Great, I’m back where I finished fifteen weeks earlier. Now the run really starts.”

DAY TWO ROLLS OUT AS A LOVE LETTER to long-distance running. Consumed by the map and what it looks and feels like in reality, I continue to live my trail life, consumed in bite-sized chunks between triangles, road signs and chainsaw cuts wide enough to allow a human. Self-poking reminds me to not think about myself so much; instead, I marvel and dwell on the crude yet magnificent line between mountain towns. I cross the 100km mark not long after eating a very good apple, and ascend from the declared wilderness of the roadless, and now trackless, Moroka River Valley. I can’t help but feel that myself and Chris Ord—my good friend and cameraman (Ed: And the damn fine ex-editor of Wild’s sister publication, Trail Run Mag) who runs with me the entire day—have shared a special day in the bush, surrounded by ancient rock and a landscape that’s escaped the last few decades of megafire. It saddens me that I’m only ever really a transient in such places, and my knowledge merely as tangible as the speed with which I pass through, sucking on gels and electrolytes. My third day on the trail further exposes my folly at being just another white tourist traipsing across the hills. From the summit of Mt Tamboritha, I see the grand procession of hills ease into distant farmland. The view is one of Kurnai lands, yet the staggering, almost exclusive sum of it is owned and managed by non-Kurnai people. Sadly, this obvious observation is something that’s been in the periphery of my entire life. I own a slice of what I can’t quite see, lush foothills that were once the giant forests of West Gippsland. This isn’t white guilt. At least, I don’t think it is. Guilt sometimes has elements of sadness. No, in the simplest of terms, I’m angry, not sad, in that I’ve had to rely on my adult conscience to bring me into line with things, and that my childhood sponge-like brain instead soaked up a watered-down, safe, gentrified history full of white-haired men being heroes in the face of wild adversity. As I descend Tamboritha—on a steep, goat-like track of concentration and bug sounds—I tweak my right knee. It’s not a big tweak, but any tweak for me is worth mentioning given I’ve enjoyed decades being injury free. I plug away, a little slower, a little more cautious of my connective tissues, enjoying the reduction of urgency. At all times nowadays, I’m happy

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM One of the dozens of times you cross the Crooked River (Attempt Two) First sign of the spellbinding Moroka River Grinding up the Cynthia Range Poring over the next day’s maps and track notes while rebooting the body The brutal, magnificent, sparsely marked section of Mt Tamboritha (going the wrong way to be snapped by Chris)

MCMILLANS WALKING TRACK: THE GUIDEBOOK Beau would like to thank John and Monica Chapman for advance PDFs of their then-unpublished guidebook McMillans Walking Track. The guidebook is now available on John’s website at john.chapman.name/pub-mcm.html



McMillans Track, VICTORIA

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Roughly half of the track is singletrack, used by few and cleared intermittently Some sections, like this descending to the Black River, are original sections of terrace made by McMillan’s men (and some old trees like this are blazed with 160-year-old cuts) Woods Point Pub is a treasure of the Australian mountains. The beer is the best I’ve ever tasted. (Ed: Unfortunately, the pub has since closed, though hopefully not forever)

POST SCRIPT: The film A Bloody Long Run, is due to be released on my YouTube channel (youtube.com/beaumiles) in early 2023 and is hands-down the hardest film Mitch and I have ever made. My narrative was riddled with questions: What to tell, what not to tell, what is mine to tell, and what is not? I was gun shy from multiple angles. Exploitation of an idea, truth, fairness and subtext all wound up creating a piece that was often contradictory and lacked identity, which—when I thought about it—was actually a key theme that I should explore. Such a theme is hard to tell in story form. A big thanks to Kurnai Elders Cheryl, Sandy, Pauline and Russell, who also now hold the reins of looking into giving the track a more appropriate name. My film, and ongoing presence, will be part of the conversation. CONTRIBUTOR: Filmmaker, speaker, writer and author of The Backyard Adventurer Beau Miles is from Jindivick, Victoria.



to only do what I feel is sustainable. I long ago gave up the idea of getting somewhere as fast as possible at all costs. Stuff that, I want my limbs to function for as long as my organs do. The body blow sees me head inwards again as I contemplate the injustices of faulty education. I go up and down a few more times that day, stewing and getting stupid as the heat washes over me. A large heel blister that I no longer care for bursts and makes my foot wet. Like an on-off toothache, it gives me something to think about as I shuffle into camp by the side of the road. I descend into half-awake sleep, not yet trusting the prospect of my planned lunchtime finish on Day Four at Woods Point, nor of the final shuffle towards town, a pub, and a story that I’m not sure how to tell. My final kilometres of the track are incredibly reflective—a good sign that I’m not totally written off. Things are coming full circle, back to the place I first set eyes on a sign. Beer has become the most wonderful four-letter idea I can fathom, and it occupies my final kilometres as much as does the idea of sitting under a tree without the need to get up again. I pass what is likely the last of the small red triangles. What to do with the bloody name printed in clear white lettering? Equally obsessed with waste, and not sure McMillan’s name should be removed entirely from this route, I think my last on-track thought. Perhaps the next set of triangles to be made, likely sporting a new name, is the perfect way to transition a new story or a proper hero without getting rid of the old? Over a generation or two, tree trunks and the harsh Aussie sun would squeeze the legacy from McMillan’s name. Still there, but no longer for the same reasons. I wonder how much a set of triangles would cost to replace, and immediately think I’d like to be the man who helps nail in place, filling in the gaps, the new set. I remind myself to remind myself about such an idea. Then disaster strikes. The pub isn’t open. I knock on the door regardless, then go around the side, then back to the front to another front door. Having met a local a few kilometres out of town who confirmed the pub was open, I fester in the pure unfairness of being unable to—after what I’ve just been through—knock myself out with a jug of beer. I drag over a bench and try the windows. I see movement, and pick up the sweet sound of a woman’s voice in the pub. I knock some more, rigorously, taking skin off my left fist before moving onto my right. When that starts to bleed, I get out my poles. Carly, lovely Carly, wonderful, humanitarian Carly, comes to the door, and the rest is history. At least for me, a newer, rawer, better kind of history. W

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Thine be the

Glory Wendy Bruere once hated heights. But thanks to pioneers like Jack Pettigrew and Bryden Allen, she felt confident enough to tackle one of the biggest wall climbs in Australia: Frenchmans Cap.

Words Wendy Bruere Photography Peter Rohde & William Skea



Frenchmans Cap, TASMANIA

Gazing up at the Tahune Face of Frenchmans Cap



Frenchmans Cap, TASMANIA

Frenchmans Cap


tanding at the base of a nearly 400m rock face contemplating the climb ahead would be daunting for many people—including me. Luckily my companions seem less daunted and more excited. After two days of hiking, we’ve found the start of The Sydney Route, an epic 13-pitch trad climb on the vertical quartzite face at the top of Frenchmans Cap, in Tasmania’s Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. This route was first climbed in 1965 by Bryden Allen and Jack Pettigrew. In the 57 years since then, climbing gear has advanced dramatically. Photos of people climbing in the 1960s show clunky boots, thick-laid ropes and harnesses that were often little more than a bowline-tied loop around the waist. Stories from older climbers tell of homemade protection to secure the rope as they climbed, soft steel pitons to be hammered in, and belaying off single slings using steel carabiners. In those days, the gear might have saved your life in a fall, but it was best not to test it often. These days, our gear is lighter and more comfortable, and protection is carefully designed, more varied and tested for safety. And, thanks to all those who’ve come before us, we have a detailed description of the best line to follow. Even so, I’m nervy. I can only imagine how Bryden and Jack, at the time 24 and 21, felt as they began the first ascent. The decision to climb Frenchmans Cap came from my partner, Peter. I was an almost throwaway suggestion. We’d booked a trip to Tasmania, then realised our friends—a climbing power couple Will and Nat—would be there too. Peter suggested we all meet up for a few days. I agreed, enthusiastically imagining a long coastal route, and maybe an easy sea stack. Peter, however, presumably just Googled “mad adventure climbs in Tassie”, and he and Will started planning for Frenchmans Cap. I muttered something to Peter about a long walk in and the fact that wild trad epics graded in the 1960s aren’t comparable to the Blue Mountains sport grades we were accustomed to. But I was happy to run with their plans, confident I could second my way up whatever Will was prepared to lead. Will is an expert climber and mountaineer; Nat and I are seasoned sport climbers; and Peter has dauntless optimism, coupled with an excellent head for heights. Rockclimbing isn’t the only way to reach Frenchmans Cap, however. The hike to the summit is a Tasmanian classic, usually attempted over three or four days. You leave from the car park on the Lyell Highway and ascend more than 1,000m in just over 20km, before returning the same way. It’s a walk that takes you over the mighty Franklin River on a swing bridge, through shadowy green rainforest and across open moors, alongside the muddy banks of lakes and waterfalls, and around bright white boulders strewn at the feet of alpine peaks. There are two huts along the way: Vera and Tahune. We planned to base ourselves at the latter for several days, as it’s located just over an hour of walking and scrambling away from the summit



via the hikers’ trail, and slightly less than an hour from the base of the climbs we would attempt. But while Tahune Hut offered easy access to our objectives, getting to Tahune itself took two gruelling days; our packs were heavy with climbing gear, and my pack—weighing in at 23kg, including a 60m rope and a week’s worth of food—was probably the group’s lightest. Before we set off from the car park I tried, and failed, to lift Will’s pack—a gigantic haul bag not-so-affectionately nicknamed ‘The Pig’. On the first day, the trail took us through rainforest, then out onto expansive buttongrass moors with uninterrupted views up to the mountains and the peak of Frenchmans Cap. Previously famous for the Sodden Loddons—a long slog of kneedeep mud through the Southern Loddon Plains—this section of track has been thankfully rerouted in recent years with funding from Dick Smith who, turns out, is a keen bushwalker. When we arrived at Vera Hut, Nat pulled a full lamb roast and a selection of fresh vegetables out of her bag, partly explaining why her pack too had been so heavy. As the roast cooked, Will outlined


TO ME IT RESEMBLED A GIANT BERET SITTING ATOP THE MOUNTAIN.” his ideas for the next few days. He had four different multi-pitches in mind, each hundreds of metres long. One of the routes disconcertingly seemed to require crack climbing through a roof. “It’s only a Grade 20,” Will told me. “You can climb 20s.” “Yeah, maybe not that 20,” I mused, wondering what the rest of the grades would be like if a crack climb through a roof was only considered a 20. Will’s plans seemed ambitious, but he has an unreasonable amount of energy. That evening, he told us about a time during his short-lived military career when, as a 21 year old based in Canberra, he decided he felt like a mid-week snow adventure. So, leaving at 5PM after work on a Tuesday, he drove two-anda-half hours to Perisher, skied into Blue Lake, ice climbed until nearly 3AM, skied out, drove back, and just had time to get into his uniform for the 7AM division inspection. He explained away his dishevelled appearance to a sceptical superior by insisting he’d merely gone for a morning run.

LEAVING VERA HUT THE NEXT MORNING, the trail followed the lake before becoming consistently steeper. On the map, the lakeside track looked flat, but it was rough and

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Our home for four nights, the luxurious Tahune Hut Early-morning reflections on the lake Looking back towards ‘the Cap’ on the hike out Splashes of red in the dense green bush

rocky, with obstacles sculpted from the sturdy roots of tall trees, requiring constant stepping up and stepping down. It was only six kilometres to Tahune Hut, but it took us six hours, most of which I spent trying to calculate how much lighter my pack might be on the way back. I contemplated what the formula might be for determining how much heavier each kilogram becomes with every extra degree of incline. Other hikers, and even a trail runner, skipped past us as we slowly staggered onward and upward. Mid-morning, Peter and I decided we needed a hot chocolate break. Rather than keep going until we found a nice clearing to sit, we collapsed on the edge of the trail beside a narrow creek that rushed so steeply downhill it was basically a waterfall. The damp ground quickly permeated our pants with moisture and our nostrils with the earthy smell of mud and decaying leaves. I was already too spent to bother considering the risk of leech attack as we put water on to boil. As we slogged up the steps to reach Barron Pass, I had a clear view of the menacing face we would climb rising up high above the rolling hills spread out before us, dotted with alpine lakes. Apparently, the reason it was named ‘Frenchmans Cap’ is not entirely known, but on that angle it seemed obvious to me that the rocky peak resembled a giant beret sitting atop the mountain. After the pass, the terrain changed decisively as the trail skirted above the dense green scrub and across pale boulders below sheer rock faces that made me feel dizzy—looking up at them looming over me felt like being pushed backwards into an abyss. With utter relief, we reached Tahune Hut. We’d thought Vera Hut was well decked out, with bunk beds, a potbellied stove, and a rainwater tank beside it, but Tahune Hut may be one of Australia’s most deluxe huts. It’s not just spacious with ample tables and benches and awe-inspiring views across the mountains from its wide veranda, but solar power means it has luxuries such as lights, heating and a charging station.

We took a full day to rest and swim in nearby Lake Tahune before attempting our first climb. It was a clear morning, and the surface became a perfect mirror, reflecting every detail of the quartzite cap towering above it. We expected the water to be icy, but the lake is shallow enough that the water had warmed in the sunny weather. For our first climb, Will suggested a short climb that would let us get a feel for the rock and the grades—Tierry le Fronde, a 150m trad multi-pitch Grade 16. For those unfamiliar with climbing grades, a 16 is considered reasonably easy these days. That said, you can expect a 16 graded in the 1960s to be considerably harder. Trad routes also tend to be harder than sport routes. And for routes that don’t get much traffic, like those on Frenchmans Cap, you should anticipate plenty of loose rock. With Nat chilling back at the hut, Will, Peter and I began the climb. As expected, there was indeed plenty of loose rock, and to me most pitches felt about three grades harder than the official grading. Only one section was intimidating—a lengthy traverse with sparse holds for hands and feet, and limited options for Will to place trad gear. On a traverse like that, a fall would mean an uncomfortable pendulum swing. But Peter and I managed to follow Will’s lead and inch our way across without incident. Aside from that pitch, the quartzite was encouragingly grippy and featured, making for interesting, three-dimensional moves. The last pitch took us up a damp chimney, bridging across a wide chasm. Starting out on the route had felt strange and awkward, entirely different to anything I had climbed before. It was like riding a motorbike for the first time: I was initially dubious I would stay upright and balanced, but when, to my mild surprise, everything worked just fine, it was fun. By the time we reached the top, quartzite was my new favourite rock type. The next day, the three of us got up at 5AM for the highlight of the trip, the Frenchmans Cap classic The Sydney Route



Frenchmans Cap, TASMANIA

(originally named, and still sometimes known as, A Toi la Glorie —Thine be the Glory). The walk in was similar to the day before, but we had to continue further round the base of the rock face to find the start. Now, I’m not convinced we followed the recommended line for Pitches One and Two—or if there even is a recommended line. Regardless, Will ran the best part of both pitches together in a single rope length. I’d understood the first pitches were Grade 13, but this was far and away the hardest 13 I’d ever encountered; it had me pondering the upcoming Grade 17 pitch. I followed Will, and Peter came up after me, collecting the gear on the way. When he reached us and clipped into safety, Peter said, “I think I’d better just rap down. I don’t think I can do this.” It wasn’t that Peter had suddenly discovered fear, or anything as pedestrian as that; he just didn’t want to slow us down. Will was unfazed. Peter had brought ascenders with him, and Will told him to use them if he needed. “And remember,” Will added, “we can always all bail and rap down at any point. We’re never going to be more than an hour from the ground.” And so we continued. Will led each pitch, finding the right line and placing gear, choosing a narrow ledge (usually) to build an anchor. I came up second, and then belayed Peter while Will sorted the rope and scoped out the next pitch. We weren’t fast—a group of three rarely is—but we managed a steady pace. The cold morning air had us wearing our down jackets as we belayed and waited for each other to climb, but as the sun rose and we followed the route up and out of the shade, we stuffed our jackets back into our daypacks. At one point we saw an ancient, rusty piton on the rock near where we were anchored, and we discussed the likelihood of it being from the first ascent. It was a piece of history, and for a moment we were in a vertical, open-air museum. I wondered how long it took Bryden or Jack to bash in a piton, compared to us slotting the right-sized cam or nut into a gap in the rock. The climb’s crux, according to the guidebook, is the ninth pitch; for us, however, it was the sixth. It began with a short traverse left, then up some blank-looking rock, and finally ascending to a jutting nose. Will climbed smoothly while I belayed, watching him intensely; if any moves were hard enough to challenge him, I’d likely find them impossible. However, Will made it to the top with ease and shouted down a pep talk to me about how even though it was more like a Grade 21 or 22, rather than a 17 as the guidebook claimed, it was well within my range. This proved to be true; the moves were all achievable. But once I’d finished the pitch and clipped into safety, Will looked down towards Peter and asked, “Is he going to try to climb this or just use the ascenders?” “Probably just the ascenders,” I replied. I hadn’t really considered how Peter would navigate a (gentle) traverse on ascenders; I’d just assumed he would figure something out.





Will considered the difficulty of the climb and the angle of the traverse. Then, with practiced efficiency, he abseiled down to Peter, collecting the gear on the way. Leaving one nut and one carabiner behind, Will showed Peter how to control his swing left until he was directly below the anchor, and could begin to ascend the rope. Peter was entirely unconcerned by the fact that he was dangling hundreds of metres in the air as he slowly and, frankly, awkwardly made his way upwards. The thing is, nothing fazes Peter. Some years ago, he began mountaineering, and has since amassed far too many stories about nearly dying. His first attempt to climb Mont Blanc is a case in point. After heading out from Gouter Hut in abysmal conditions with someone he’d only just met, the pair ended up crawling around the mountain in a blizzard, with barely two metres of visibility, taking it in turns to wear the single pair of gloves they had between them. They found the hut eventually, entirely due to good luck. (Good management was clearly off the table.) Meanwhile—as I sat on my tiny rock seat and gazed out, and down, at the mountains and lakes disappearing into the horizon, at the birds soaring and diving below me—I felt a lot less comfortable with the exposure than Peter. Heights have never come naturally to me. When, as a teenager, I first heard of rock climbing, it sounded like the stuff of nightmares. Who would willingly do that to themselves? Balancing on a sheer cliff face far above the ground … for fun? The first time a friend dragged me to a climbing gym, I made it halfway up the easiest route there before down-climbing

every move because I was too scared to let go and trust the rope. I was 22. Clearly my idea of what constitutes a good time has changed since then, but the wait for Peter to reach the top of the pitch seemed unreasonably long. The climbing became easier after that, although the next pitch involved wriggling up loose rock in a wet and mossy chimney, which Peter described as “a rainforest on the rock”. He also thought it was the least enjoyable pitch of the day. Will, however, loved it. “This is epic!” he gushed. “Every pitch has such a different character.” To my relief, the final pitch of climbing was dry and straightforward, like coming home to a reassuring hug after a long day. Will had turned 13 pitches into eight (plus an unroped scramble to the summit). We were on the rock face for 10.5 hours—slightly longer than Jack and Bryden’s 10-hour first ascent. From the summit we tried to identify other peaks in the distance, certain we could make out Federation Peak to the south, and the ocean to the west. And then, with the sun slipping lower in the sky, we made our way back down the hikers’ trail.

A FEW DAYS LATER, I HEARD THE NEWS. I’d come back into phone range and was idly scrolling social media when I learnt that Bryden Allen had passed away, at not quite 82, the day after we climbed The Sydney Route—and around 57 years since he first climbed it. Jack Pettigrew had passed away only three years earlier in a car accident. For amateur climbers like Peter and I, this adventure was only possible because of pioneers like Jack and Bryden. I hope they realised while they were alive how important their legacy would be. Their memories will live for a long time yet in a thousand different ways. I used to see Bryden occasionally at the climbing gym in St Peters. I can’t remember if we were ever introduced, or if I’d just been told who he was—someone pointing climbing royalty out to me in a self-conscious whisper. I’d said “Hi” once or twice and he’d nodded back, almost certainly with no idea who I was. I wish I’d risked a bit of social awkwardness to introduce myself properly while I had the chance. If I’d been born a few decades earlier, I never would have rock climbed. I’d like to pretend that, had I lived in a different time, it would have just forced me to be braver, but realistically there’s not much doubt that the danger, the unknowns and the lack of reliable equipment would have scared me too much to ever try. It’s a different sport now, of course. (Did anyone even view it as a ‘sport’ back then?) I’m sure there are purists who lament the burgeoning popularity of climbing, but I’m just grateful for those pioneers like Jack and Bryden who helped make scaling insane cliffs in wild places accessible to people like me. W

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Walking down from the summit, victorious at sunset Getting accustomed to the rock, Peter follows Will’s lead on our first climb Peter dangling, unconcerned, as he figures out how to ascend the rope Showing off my epic biceps after topping out on Tierry le Fronde

CONTRIBUTOR: Wendy is a freelance writer and media advisor. A remote-work advocate, she has joined conference calls and answered emails from campgrounds, hiking trails and rock faces around the world.






A quick lowdown on



Wilsons Promontory

Words & Photography Alistair and Bruce Paton

WHEN GRANITE MEETS THE SEA, the results are usually spectacular, and Wilsons Promontory is no exception. The 500km2 peninsula that forms the southern tip of mainland Australia—and which is known affectionately to Victorians (and confusingly to American tourists) as the Prom—contains a stunning diversity of environments: sweeping beaches; secluded coves; rocky headlands covered by tough coastal heathland; rugged granite mountains cloaked in tall eucalypts; and deep valleys sheltering pockets of temperate rainforest. Weaving their way through this landscape are some of the best hiking trails to be found anywhere in Australia. Whether you’re after a relaxing day walk, an overnight hike suitable for those just starting out on their bushwalking journey, or a challenging multi-day trek that requires high-level navigational skills, you’ll find it here. The trails are generally well maintained, aren’t too steep, and they offer consistently fabulous scenery. It pays to plan ahead, though, since the weather here can change quickly, and because Parks Victoria have imposed strict booking limits on both the car-based and walk-in campsites. And don’t forget your camera!



In many places, an out-and-back walk that follows the same route in reverse is less than ideal. Here, however, it’s a bonus, and it offers a chance to experience a trio of gorgeous beaches a second time with a new perspective—the water is on your right instead of your left. The walk starts at Tidal River, crossing the river itself on a bridge (watch for wombats who like to munch on the grassy banks) before heading north to explore the highlights of the Prom’s western shore, including Squeaky Beach. There is a car park at Picnic Bay if you want to organise a car shuttle, or you can turn around and follow the same route back for a perfect morning out. THE CLASSIC


One of Victoria’s great multi-day walks, this route visits most of the national park’s best-known landmarks. Starting at the Prom’s main hub at Tidal River (there is a large campground here along with a shop and some more expensive cabins), the trek is a counter-clockwise circuit staying at remote campsites on Days One and Three, with a night in the middle at South East Point,



home to the Prom’s historic lighthouse and cottages that have been refurbished for use by weary walkers (book a comfy bed on the Parks Victoria website). The walk south to the lighthouse is largely through bush, while the walk back visits a string of stunning beaches on the eastern side of the Prom—Waterloo Bay, Little Waterloo Bay, Refuge Cove and Sealers Cove. These are a highlight of the trip; if you don’t have time for the full circuit, a dash across the Prom to visit one or two of them is a delightful overnight (or very long day) walk from Tidal River. THE VIEW


Do you want to tell your friends you’ve seen Tasmania from Victoria? Then this walk is for you. Follow the signposted track from Darby Saddle for two kilometres before taking the short side trip to Sparkes Lookout for panoramic views of the west coast and of many of the Prom’s numerous offshore islands (including the distant Rodondo Island, which is Tasmanian territory). The track then descends to a junction; take the side track to Tongue Point for more great views, then on the way back, take the left track to Darby River. Make sure you time your walk to take the side track to delightful Fairy Cove, which is only accessible at low tide.





IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Classic Prom scenery—granite peaks hit the sea at Oberon Bay Most Prom walks include sandy sections

The walk from Tidal River to Oberon Bay is a nice day trip, but we highly recommend staying the night at the campsite at the bay’s southern end. This is an ideal hike for beginners (young and old) and a very enjoyable escape even for experienced walkers. Starting on Norman Beach (the main beach opposite Tidal River), you round a headland then visit the gorgeous Little Oberon Bay before dropping to the wide, sweeping beach of the main cove and following the sand for about one kilometre. After pitching a tent, you have the afternoon to explore the beach and enjoy the sunset before returning via the same route the next day.

Heading south on Oberon Bay; next stop, the campsite at the southern end of the beach From the lighthouse, the track winds its way uphill through lush forest before descending abruptly to Waterloo Bay



This circuit traverses the remote northern section of the park, crossing from the main access road on the west coast to Five Mile Beach in the east (with an optional stopover at Barry Creek), before striking counter-clockwise through Johnny Souey Cove, Three Mile Beach, Tin Mine Cove, and then back across the heathlands and swamps of the northern Prom (you can also do the walk clockwise if you wish). This trek isn’t for the faint hearted—expect to spend much of your time navigating off-track, battling through dense coastal scrub and wading through creeks up to 1.5 metres deep—but you’ll be rewarded with a stunning coastal landscape. The experience of viewing the sunrise over the Tasman Sea from Five Mile Beach is simply unforgettable.

CONTRIBUTORS: Twin brothers Alistair and Bruce Paton started overnight hiking in their university days. They try to get away together from their respective homes in Melbourne to somewhere amazing at least once a year.




NZ’s South Island


THE WEST COAST Words & Photography Neil Silverwood

IF PADDLING TURQUOISE RIVERS in unspoiled wilderness is what floats your boat, then New Zealand’s western South Island (AKA West Coast) may be the best destination for your next packrafting adventure. The region is a world-class packrafting and whitewater kayaking destination with around 1,000km of paddle-able waterways. The West Coast offers everything from short whitewater trips, where you can fit in two or three different runs a day with a coffee in between, to multi-day wilderness adventures. There are Grade 1 float journeys through to Grade 4+ trips requiring a great deal of teamwork and river skills, pushing the limits of what’s possible in a packraft. The area has the highest rainfall in New Zealand, with over 130mm per hour being recorded in the Hokitika Catchment. It contains a large chunk of the Southern Alps, and 86% of the region is public conservation land. There is a plethora of trips— tramps and rivers that can be linked up into classic packrafting trips. This is a guide to some of the best.



Packrafts are the perfect tool for exploring the Blue River in Haast Pass

Rock flour from a glacier above creates an electric-blue tinge on the Whataroa River

There are nearly infinite campsite options on the Upper Grey River, a classic two-day trip





WHEN TO GO The best time of year for packrafting here is during the warmer months between January and April. The rivers are lower and less pushy, and the days longer and, for the West Coast at least, balmier. Winter months (May to early September) are wet and cold. Moreover, the opportunities are more limited in winter due to high water levels and, let’s be honest, packrafting on cold, short days just isn’t much fun. September to December (spring) offers windows for packrafting between a seemingly never-ending series of wet westerly fronts coming off the Tasman Sea. Water levels are likely to be higher than in summer, which will limit some options. For general, long-term weather forecasts check out metvuw. com and for detailed forecasts and hourly rainfall rates, see metservice.com and windy.com.

GETTING THERE The nearest international airport is in Christchurch, three-tofive hours’ drive from the West Coast depending on where you head to. There is a domestic airport in Hokitika, with daily flights from Christchurch on Air New Zealand, and a small airport in Westport with flights to and from Wellington on Sounds Air. If you’re looking to hire a vehicle, your best bet is to hire it from Christchurch, although there are vehicle-hire options on the coast as well.

ACCOMMODATION There are a number of backcountry huts in useful river locations. Almost all of these are standard huts with a cost of one hut ticket ($5); bunks are just first in, first served. A backcountry hut pass, available from the Department of Conservation website (doc.gov.nz), costs $108 for six months or $144 per year. This covers all DOC huts that are likely to be of use to packrafters in the region, but read the fine print if you plan on combining your visit with other activities because some huts, such as on Great Walks, aren’t covered by the pass. Off the river, DOC campgrounds, motor camps and backpackers’ hostels provide the least expensive camping/accommodation options. Worthy of mention is the Riverside Holiday Park in Murchison, a much beloved spot for whitewater kayakers providing inexpensive accommodation in a beautiful location.

EQUIPMENT You’ll need a packraft that is designed for whitewater. Self-bailing is preferable on the higher-grade rivers as it easier to get in and out while scouting rapids. The rivers will range from warm (lakefed) to glacial. A drysuit, or at least a thick wetsuit, is essential. All paddlers should carry rescue equipment, a throw bag, and have the skills required to carry out rescues. River-rescue courses are available in Murchison at the Whitewater Kayaking



School. A spare split paddle is recommended for trips such as the Upper Grey River or Karamea. A large tramping pack—60L plus—will be needed for walk-ins.

OFF THE RIVER Over 80% of the West Coast region is public conservation land managed by DOC. It’s a veritable cornucopia of recreational opportunities. In addition to whitewater paddling, the region boasts multi-day tramping trips, world-class, multi-day mountain biking trails (the Heaphy and Paparoa Tracks, the West Coast Wilderness Trail and the Old Ghost Road) as well as excellent surfing, rock climbing and caving. It’s worth a visit—you won’t be bored.

SUGGESTED PADDLES There are so many packrafting opportunities in this region that we can’t cover them all here. But here are a handful of classics:


Whataroa River; Grade 4

The Whataroa’s electric-blue colour comes from ‘rock flour’—silt derived from the glacier’s scouring action and washed in by meltwater. The river is at the upper end of what is safe to packraft. It requires both strong whitewater and rescue skills, along with a capable team and a low flow. It is a glacier-fed, powerful river, with rock sieves and portages and consequential, must-make moves. If you have the skills, it’s well worth the effort, and it contains some of the region’s most spectacular gorges. SINGLE-DAY OPTION: The river is 1.5 hours’ drive south of Hokitika. Hike up the true left for two hours to the Whataroa swing bridge, then cross over and follow the track for another hour to Scotty’s Beach flat and put in. The first gorge contains a couple of Grade 3 rapids before mellowing out. The next big rapid is at Reynolds Beach, and is a mandatory portage on the true right for packrafts. Then there are two Grade 4 rapids that will need to be scouted properly. These can be portaged on the true left with a must-make get-out on a bend (involving Grade 3 portaging over large boulders. Whew!) Now you’re through the hardest parts. Take a deep breath, and float through a stunning final gorge and a cruisy one-hour float to the get-out. There are a number of straightforward Grade 2-3 wave trains along this section. LONGER OPTION: This river has been packrafted once from Ice Lake in the headwaters, but it is Grade 5, and it requires strong whitewater skills and some portaging. There are two backcountry huts in the upper section.

The Whataroa is an intensive Grade 4 packrafting trip and the stunning gorges make it worth the walk if your team has the required skills




The Grey River is as good as it gets. Bouncy Grade 3 whitewater and stunning wilderness settings. The river can be paddled in almost any flow

ROADSIDE PLAYGROUND Around Murchison Township; Grades 2 to 3+ Murchison is a small farming town near the confluence of five rivers. There are over ten different short trips here, and it’s a great place to cut your teeth on the sport. Trips range from tight and technical creek boating to high-volume big-water trips with equally big holes and waves. All rivers are suitable for packrafting if your whitewater skills match the grade. Perhaps the best of these are the Upper Mātakitaki River, the Buller River from source to the State Highway 63 bridge, and the Granity run on the Buller River with a portage around the powerful Grade 3+ Granity Rapid. The Maruia River Gorge is a Grade 2+ river with great scenery and enjoyable whitewater. The Maruia trip can be done in a day or as an overnighter with two short days paddling. The Wairau River, Grade 2, is a good option when other runs are too high. (For more info on these and other options specifically around Murchison, Wild ran a destination piece on paddling here two years ago in Summer 2020, Issue #178.) It is also possible to do a five-day source-to-sea packrafting trip on the Buller starting at Lake Rotoiti and finishing at Westport on the West Coast. Most of the journey is accessible by road but has a backcountry feel. Camping is required; there are no DOC huts along the river here.


Upper Grey River; Grade 3

The Upper Grey River has it all: fun whitewater, stunning scenery and campsite options galore. It’s a must-do if you’re packrafting in the region. The only downside is the long car shuttle. It’s best in spring flows or a couple days after rain, but it can be run at any flow. It has been packrafted in very high flows (but only with adequate skills) and in drought. DAY ONE: Put in on the Blue Grey River beside the Lake Christabel Track trailhead on Palmer Road. In low-to-moderate flows, it takes about four hours from the put-in to the confluence of the Upper Grey and the Robinson River, with numerous Grade 2+ to 3 rapids along the way. Once out on the river flats, there are plenty of campsite options. DAY TWO: Annie Gorge, Grade 3, is the crux of the trip, with numerous boulder-garden-type rapids. Most can be boat scouted. It’s not necessary to camp in the gorge, but if you choose to there are a few camping spots, including one halfway down the gorge which is an island camp. It’s on the true left. After Gentle Annie Gorge, the river mellows to Grade 2 and meanders through farmland. There’s a final gorge before the take-out, which is marked by a ‘Ford’ sign on the true left. Hop



out quickly, as the clear area of riverbank is narrow and easily missed. Cross a paddock to reach the carpark on Waipuna Road.


Hokitika River; Grade 2+ to 3 This trip on the Hokitika River has it all: An easy hike in, water— to use a cliché—the colour of gin, a fun, achievable whitewater grade, and a cosy, character-filled backcountry hut to stay in. Did I mention a cableway to get to the hut? Low-to-medium flows (summer flows) are best for packrafting this section of river. And note the section described here is in the lower reaches, and is different to more difficult section in the Upper Hokitika River. DAY ONE: The journey begins at the Hokitika Gorge carpark, and crosses farmland on a rough 4WD track before dropping down to the river and picking up a backcountry track. This is a good chance to check out some of the rapids that will be encountered the next day. The remainder of the way to the hut follows a well-graded pack track. The Hokitika River is not crossable here, so to reach Rapid Creek Hut requires using a cableway. Hop into the cable car and zing your way across. There are basic instructions on the car, but, most importantly, check out how it works carefully before you begin. If you’re alone, you’ll have to use the tool provided to crank yourself the last bit across. If you’re travelling with mates, you can crank each other across. Either way, be careful of hands and arms in the process; it moves fast. Rapid Creek Hut has four bunks. It’s usually quiet but it is


worth carrying a tent on weekends and during holiday periods. It takes about three hours to walk here and costs five dollars per person, per night (pay with a standard hut ticket or use a backcountry-hut pass). DAY TWO: Put in 50m upriver of the hut. In low summer flows, the rapids are mostly enjoyable Grade 2 boulder-gardens with long flat stretches in between. In higher flows, expect Grade 3 conditions. Shortly before the Hokitika Gorge is a Grade 3 rapid—a super fun wave train. There are several more Grade 2+ rapids just upriver of the gorge. Floating through the gorge is the trip’s highlight—you’ll be surrounded by bold colours with aquamarine water, lichen and moss-covered grey-granite walls, and deep-green podocarp forest with 500-year-old trees. Take out on the true right below the gorge at the Granite Creek confluence; it’s just a few minutes’ walk back to the car along the road. This trip is easily done in one day if you’d prefer not to stay out overnight.

IMAGES - THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT One of several stunning gorges on the Whataroa River Idyllic camping on the Upper Grey River Medium flow on the Gentle Annie Gorge of the Upper Grey River, Day Two Portaging a rapid on the Blue River


Mokihinui River; Grade 3-4

The Mokihinui has been paddled by whitewater kayakers for many years, although they typically fly in. In recent years, increased costs and increased popularity of other runs has meant the river has seen fewer kayak descents. Now, through the increased portability of packrafts, this journey has had a renaissance. In 2010 this river was threatened by a hydro scheme that would have created a large dam. The rapids and surrounding old-growth forest would have been drowned by a huge lake. Recreation and conservation groups rallied, and a nationwide campaign to save the river eventually succeeded in 2012. The land around the river was recently added to Kahurangi National Park, ensuring its enduring protection. This trip is best tackled in low summer flows, but it still requires strong Grade 3 paddle skills. In moderate-to-high water, it requires Grade 4 skills.

DIDYMO Didymo is an invasive alga present in some canyons in the West Coast region. To avoid spreading it, you must check, clean and dry your gear between rivers every time. It is essential we stop the spread of Didymo; it’s detrimental to our aquatic life and clean rivers. Full information on treating your equipment can be found here: mpi.govt.nz/travel-and-recreation/ outdoor-activities/check-clean-dry/



IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT It’s hard to find clearer water to do a roll in than that found on the Whataroa River The Pack Rafting Association of NZ (PRANZ) yearly meet up is a great way to meet paddlers from around the country. In 2023, this will be held in the West Coast Region There are numerous backcountry huts in the region which can be used on packrafting trips. Mudflats Hut, Arahura River, Hokitika

HOT TIPS: In-depth descriptions and maps of many Western South Island packrafting trips can be found at packraftingtrips.nz. Another useful site is whitewater.nz. While more tailored for whitewater kayaking, it contains a river guides section and links to flow gauges. Pack Rafting Association New Zealand (PRANZ) hold yearly three-day meet ups for packrafters of all skill levels (minimum of Grade 2 whitewater skills). Their website is packrafting.org.nz. The 2023 meet up will be held on the West Coast in Reefton starting on January 26th. These events are a great way to connect with packrafters from across New Zealand.

CONTRIBUTOR: Occasionally—very occasionally—photographer and caving diehard Neil Silverwood comes up for air, takes off his gumboots, and goes on a paddle near his home on the West Coast of NZ’s South Island.



DAY ONE: The hike in from the Seddonville Road end to Mokihinui Forks Hut takes five hours. The track is part of the Old Ghost Road, an 85km-long mountain biking and tramping trail with its own commercial huts. The route follows an historic ‘road’ which was never completed between the Buller and Mokihinui Rivers. It’s easy walking on a well-benched track, with spectacular views of the river. The place oozes character, history and beauty. The first facility you’ll come to is Specimen Point Hut, part of the Old Ghost Road network. It’s a good alternative to using the Mokinui Forks Hut, and it includes private cabin options as well as gas stoves with cooking equipment. It requires advanced booking, however, and is often busy or full in the summer. It is about four hours’ walking to Specimen Point and a further 30-45 mins to Mokihinui Forks—a traditional DOC hut with 10 bunks and a wood fire for heating that’s free to stay at, making it a budget alternative to Specimen Point Hut. Bunks are first-in, but there’s usually plenty of space. DAY TWO: The put-in is just metres from Mokihinui Forks Hut. Follow the path to the loo and carry on across the flats to the river. Float down through a graveyard of log jams and dead trees, and keep your eyes peeled for an old plane wreck on the true left until you reach the top of the first rapid. This rapid should be scouted; portaging is recommended, as it’s an ever-changing Grade 4 between limestone boulders. Portage it on the true right. Beyond lies a series of boulder-gardens which in low flow will be Grade 3, but they go up a grade in medium-to-high flows. This is the crux for packrafters. Below, you’ll have 12km of whitewater with a mixture of Grade 2 and 3 rapids. Enjoy long pools in between rapids; you may even spot some of the historic features described on the trail signage. Take out by the cableway (marked on the NZ Topo50 map as the 4WD road end).


The Karamea River is New Zealand’s answer to the Franklin. It’s an uber-classic, weeklong wilderness journey—a serious undertaking which includes two days’ walking to the put-in and high-volume Grade 3 to 4 whitewater. There are several places you should be prepared to portage, depending on your skill level and river conditions. The main portage is around Roaring Lion Rapid, and it involves a one-hour walk over boulders and through bush without a marked track. This trip requires a great deal of planning, a strong team, and an excellent weather forecast. There are DOC backcountry huts to stay at along the way. The Clarence River is not on the West Coast but the put-in is close enough that it’s achievable on your coast trip if you have enough time. It is a five-to-six-day Grade 2 to 3 trip through Molesworth Station between Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura. There are DOC huts along the way and plenty of camping options. W



Words & Photography John Chapman



QUICK FACTS Activity: Multi-day tramping Location: Wanaka, South Island, New Zealand Distance: 106km (approx) Duration: 8 days (but allow extra for weather) When to go: Summer and early autumn Difficulty: Hard—requires off-track skills on steep slopes Permits required: None for tramping, but needed for huts Car shuttle required: Yes Maps: NZ Topo 1:50K BZ11, BZ12 & CA11

Rainfall (mm)

CLIMATE: MT ASPIRING NP (1,500M ASL) Temperature (C)

MT ASPIRING NATIONAL PARK IS ONE of New Zealand’s most scenic parks, and this tramp along the eastern side of the park is one of its best tramps. It has it all: snow-capped peaks, glaciers, waterfalls, ancient forests, river valleys and alpine meadows. It is also challenging, with some very steep slopes to climb, descend or sidle across. The route is divided into two sections which are often done as independent tramps. The first few days crossing Gillespie Pass follows well-marked tramping tracks, and has two large huts. This section is popular, and camping away from the huts avoids the crowds. While it is not very remote, the three days has some great scenery. The second half of the route over Rabbit Pass is more remote, with a combination of rough tracks and untracked river valleys. It has some intimidating climbs and descents. It is not as well marked as the first three days, but provides awesome views of the Southern Alps. While many do these passes as separate tramps, the combined route is a great experience as it starts off on well-marked and maintained tracks, changes to rougher tramping tracks, then heads along an alpine route over a steep pass. There are also a number of large rivers to cross. They are glacial-melt streams, can be very cold, and after recent rain can be difficult to cross. Rabbit Pass is infamous in tramping circles, so this trip is one to both remember and to talk about for a long time afterwards.

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Young Basin with Mt Awful above Lake Lucidus Campsite near Gillespie Pass


Crossing Wilkin River near Kerin Forks Hut

CLIMATE This is a high-rainfall area. The route is on the rain-shadow side of Mt Aspiring, which means that—although it can still be very wet—it does get some reduction in rainfall compared to the West Coast. Rainfall across the year is fairly consistent, and it is rare for a week to pass without some rain. Due to the many river and stream crossings, it’s best attempted in periods of fine weather.

WHEN TO GO The only time of the year when this route is considered to be reasonably safe to walk is from mid-December through to late March. Winter and spring trips are not advised due to the numerous avalanche paths, and you will see evidence of this when crossing recent slips. Reversing the route is not advised, as most find it is easier to climb rather than try to descend the steep snowgrass slopes on Gillespie and Rabbit Passes.

GETTING THERE This is a thru-walk starting near Makarora and ending at Camerons Flat on the Matukituki River. (Confusingly, there is also a campsite called Cameron Flat near the start at Makarora). The closest town is Wanaka, which provides a convenient gateway to both ends of the route. To get to Wanaka, the closest major airport is Queenstown, which is 109km away by road. Ritchies operate a twice-daily shuttle service from Queenstown to Wanaka, but that still leaves you short of the trailheads. Great Sights has a bus service that operates three times a week; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from Queenstown through

Wanaka to the West Coast and this does provide direct access to Makarora. There is no public transport from the end of the route at Camerons Flat back to Wanaka, but you can organise a return with Ridgeline Tours. If you’ve only got one vehicle, leave it at this end rather than at the start; it will mean you’re not on a schedule to get out if there’s poor weather.

FEES/PERMITS No permits are required, but fees apply if staying in huts or camping nearby. Backcountry Hut Tickets can be purchased from Department of Conservation (DOC) offices and some retailers. There are two types of tickets: ‘Standard’ hut tickets are blue and cost $5 each, while ‘serviced’ hut tickets are green and cost $15 each. For serviced huts, three blue tickets can be used instead of a single green ticket. The ticket stub is placed at each hut’s honesty box. An alternative is to purchase a six-month ($108) or 12-month ($144) Backcountry Hut Pass which allows free use of all standard and serviced huts that do not require booking. There are four huts on the route. Three of them—Young Hut, Kerin Forks Hut and Top Forks Hut—are classed as serviced huts (one green or three blue tickets) and are open on a firstcome, first-in basis. If camping near Kerin Forks or Top Forks Hut, then the fee is one blue hut ticket. There is no camping near Young Hut as the hillside is too steep. Siberia Hut is the route’s fourth hut. It is very popular, and between December 1st and April 30th bookings are required for the hut; the fee is $20 per person per night plus a $10 booking fee. Bookings aren’t required for camping near Siberia Hut, and




Mt Awful

Mt Dreadful Mt Alba


Lake Diana

Mt Ragan

Top Forks Hut

Wilkin River



Mt Turner


START Makarora


Kerin Forks Hut

Riv er

Siberia Hut



Young Hut

Crucible Lake

Mt Castor(2524m) Mt Pollux



(2027m) Gillespie Pass

Ma ka ror a


Waterfall Flat )(

Rabbit Pass

Ruth Flat tB ra nc h

Mt Aspiring/ Tititea

Ea s


Rob Roy Peak

Lake Wanaka Lake Hawea



tuk ituk i Ri


Junction Flat




Camerons Flat




the fee then is two blue hut tickets. There are no fees if camping elsewhere on the route. Tents are required once Top Forks Hut is left as the only shelters are bivouac sites under rocks.


Makarora to Young Hut

This is a hard tramp. It’s essential you have prior experience on steep, exposed slopes before tackling it, as there are some very steep ascents and descents on snowgrass and scree. (Ed: This is the bit where we cover our arse by saying this hike comes with risks; walkers have slipped and died on some of the steep sections. Do not attempt this hike without accepting and understanding the risks involved.) There are also untracked sections following rivers, plus several river crossings; after heavy rain these can be impassable. It is advised to include some extra days for weather. We spent a day at Top Forks Hut waiting for rain to ease. If you have a spell of fine weather, you can shorten the final few days using intermediate camps. A food drop can be arranged with the jetboat company at Makarora to be collected on the Wilkin River on Day Three. This reduces the load carried, and, if the river is too high to wade, the boat will take you across for a fee.

20km; approx 6-7 hours

Here are the NZ 1:50,000 topo maps you’ll need for the walk: BZ11, BZ12 and CA11. Printed maps are available from retailers, or for free downloads that you can print yourself, go to linz.govt.nz


Map data © OpenStreetMap





To Wanaka

The trip begins by crossing the broad Makarora River. If it’s rained recently, arranging a lift with the jetboat company at Makarora to the Wilkin Track’s start is a wise decision. The alternative is to start at Blue Pools (10km north of Makarora) and follow the Young River Link Track to Young River Track, about 3-4 hours. If river levels are low enough to safely cross, then either arrange a lift or walk 2.5km north along the road to the stile at the walking track’s start. The track initially follows the river flats to the junction of the Young and Makarora Rivers. This is a wide crossing, and it shouldn’t be attempted if higher than thigh-deep. Once across the river, locate the track on the edge of the bush and follow it west on the north side of the river, passing through a mixture of forest and river flats to Young Forks, three hours from the Makarora River crossing. (Note that there has been recent storm damage with landslides and fallen trees, so until the track has been repaired, expect longer travel times.) The track continues following the river northwest for one kilometre to a long swing bridge over the river’s north branch. At

Gillespie & Rabbit Passes, NEW ZEALAND

IMAGES - TOP TO BOTTOM, LEFT TO RIGHT Walking through the Wilkin Valley The last, very steep part of the traverse on the Waterfall Face March icebergs in Lake Crucible

the time of writing, note that the bridge has been damaged; until it’s repaired, trampers will need to ford the river. Past the swing bridge, there is a 200m-long sidetrack on the right to Young Forks Campsite, which has an open shelter with tables, tank water and toilet. The track continues on the left to follow the northern bank of Young River South Branch. This is a steep-sided valley, and the track is at times rough, crossing numerous land slips to Young Hut. The hut is set on a steep hillside, and there are no campsites nearby. DAY 2

Young Hut to Siberia Junction 12km; approx 5-7 hours

The track continues northward through more forest, then breaks out of the dense bush before crossing the river into the more open valley of Young Basin. Follow the valley for one kilometre to where the track turns left and climbs very steeply up snowgrass slopes to Gillespie Pass. In fine weather, this is a scenic place to camp with excellent views of Mt Awful, but there is no reliable water. From the pass, the track descends steeply down snowgrass then forest to the valley of Gillespie Stream. Campsites are available here. The track then zig-zags, descending in forest to the open valley of Siberia Stream and a track junction. Campsites are available on the edge of the forest.


Siberia Junction to Kerin Forks Hut 18km; approx 6-7 hours

The day begins with a 3-3.5-hour sidetrip to Crucible Lake. Follow the track NW up the valley, crossing Gillespie Stream then Siberia Stream. The track enters forest and climbs very steeply up a spur close to a creek, then crosses the creek into an alpine basin. A final climb leads onto the rocky moraine wall damming the lake. A glacier tumbling off Mt Alba falls directly into the lake, which often has icebergs floating in it. Return the same way to the track junction. Collect your pack; it’s then an easy 1-1.5-hour walk along the valley to Siberia Hut. After heavy rain, the stream just before the hut can be difficult to cross. This hut is popular; bookings are required for overnight use. From the hut, a well-maintained track follows the open valley past the airstrip to enter forest. It sidles around a broad spur then descends to Kerin Forks, which is the junction of Wilkin River and Siberia Stream. The track continues along the northern bank of the river for 1.5km to the jetboat landing site. Kerin Forks Hut is 400m below the junction on the opposite side of the river. If water levels are not high, the river can often be crossed between the hut and the jetboat site. This is an area of active erosion and river conditions regularly change. If the river cannot be crossed safely, an alternative is to pay the jetboat for a ferry to the southern bank. Campsites are available near the hut.





Kerin Forks Hut to Top Forks Hut 15km; approx 6-8 hours

The marked track passes through forest on the south side of the Wilkin River. (Note: until recent storm damage to the track is repaired, expect longer walking times.) The track is at times rough, with several slips and steep-sided ravines to cross. About halfway along the valley, the track emerges onto open flats. From here, it is less defined, and either passes through patches of forest or follows river channels to Jumboland. Continue following the southern side of the river to the base of Hill 710. If the river is low, cross it and, past the hill, recross the river to Top Forks Hut. The alternative is a marked, rough track climbing steeply over Hill 710 to Top Forks Hut (actually two huts). There are great views of Mts Castor and Pollux with their attendant glaciers. Even in summer, it is common to see small avalanches tumbling off. DAY 5

Top Forks Hut to Waterfall Flat 17km; approx 6-8 hours

Start the day with an excellent 4-5-hour sidetrip (13km) from Top Forks Hut exploring the Wilkin River’s North Branch. There is a marked track up the valley that crosses several streams that can be difficult at high water levels. From Top Forks Hut, the track heads north to cross the south branch of the river. It then follows the western side of the valley, crossing a large side stream to a track junction just before Lake Lucidus. Left leads to a large lake with glaciers high above it, while the track on the right crosses two streams then follows the river, crossing it several times to Lake Castalia. This lake is in a rocky bowl with glaciers on Mercury Peak falling into it. Return the same way to Top Forks Hut. Collect your pack and head west to enter Snow Bridge Gorge. The track climbs above the Wilkin River, and the walking is more difficult across the steep slopes and slips. The markers end at the start of the open meadow of Waterfall Flat. Follow the valley for one kilometre to a bivvy rock—campsites can be found nearby. This is a spectacular site, surrounded by cliffs and waterfalls.


Waterfall Flat to Ruth Flat 13km; approx 7-8 hours

Continue to the end of Waterfall Flat, where a 35m-high cascade blocks a direct route up the valley. To the right, a 90m-high waterfall tumbles off the slopes of Mt Taurus, and the route climbs the steep grass tongue between the two waterfalls.



Well-spaced markers show the way up what trampers call the Waterfall Face. The route climbs steeply, keeping far to the right until it reaches a narrow sloping ridge where the route swings sharply left and sidles across very steep grass slopes to reach the lip of the valley about 130m above the 35m waterfall. Be careful! The slope is steep and hazardous, particularly if there’s snow, or in wet or windy weather. Once the top is attained, it’s easy walking up an alpine valley to the top of Rabbit Pass, about three hours from Waterfall Flat. Exposed camping is possible on grassy patches in this high valley. Rabbit Pass terminates in a high cliff. The pass obtained its name as it was thought rabbits used it to cross the alps—one wonders why anyone thought rabbits would find this an easy crossing. Turn left and follow a rocky shelf eastward along the top of the cliffs, crossing a stream before climbing steadily towards Lois Peak for about 30 minutes (1.3km). Markers show where the route turns right to descend a rocky chute composed of very loose rock—great care must be taken. Descend the loose chute for 30m; near the bottom, veer left to the base of the cliffs. Below the chute, continue to descend steeply on scree then grass to open flats at the top end of Matukituki River East Branch. Camping is available here and along the valley to Ruth Flat. It’s then an easy two-hour walk following the river to the stream junction at Ruth Flat.

Gillespie & Rabbit Passes, NEW ZEALAND


Ruth Flat to Junction Flat


8km; approx 4-6 hours

Mt Awful from the slopes above Gillespie Pass

It is an easy walk following the river for three kilometres, passing more campsites to the start of Bledisloe Gorge. This has been nicknamed the ‘Bloody Slow Gorge’, and the only way to avoid it is by a long tedious climb around it. The marked track leaves the river, and a steep 500m climb leads to open slopes where there are views of Mt Aspiring and its surrounding peaks and glaciers. A steep descent leads back to the river, which is crossed via a suspension bridge to Junction Flat where there are campsites.

The stove at Kerin Forks Hut can be a welcome sight


Junction Flat to Cameron Flat

Crossing a gully near Glacier Burn Waterfall Flat, heading towards the Waterfall Face Looking back towards Rabbit Pass Mt Aspiring and surrounding peaks from above Bledisloe Gorge

8km; approx 3-4 hours

This is an easy walk following the river. Some will find it anticlimactic after the exhilarating and at times dangerous route that has been followed so far. The track crosses a suspension bridge over Kitchener River, then continues following the western side of the river passing more campsites to a 3-wire crossing of Glacier Burn. Often this stream can be waded. Enter farmland, and continue following track markers to meet the Matukituki River West Branch. If the river levels are low, cross it to meet the road at Camerons Corner. If the river is too high to cross safely, then turn right and follow the river for an extra hour to a bridge. If you’ve arranged transport, make sure they’re aware you could be coming out three kilometres past Camerons Corner. And back in Wanaka, be sure to reward yourself with a beverage of your choice. W

CONTRIBUTOR: Melbourne-based John Chapman has been writing and publishing walking guidebooks since the 1970s, and even contributed to Wild’s very first issue back in 1981. His next guidebook will be on the Sierra Grand Traverse, a new, high-level route in California. It’s due in April 2023.








Wild wrangled an exclusive sneak peek at the soon-to-arrive (and hard to get your hands on) Beta LT Hadron. It’s a featherweight jacket that changes everything.

OK, LET’S GET RIGHT TO THE POINT here: 2-5-5. They’re

with no pit zips. For some, the lack of pit zips might prove

the three little numbers that should make you sit up and

problematic, but I think it’s just one of the trade-offs that

take notice of Arc’teryx’s Beta LT Hadron jacket, because

are necessarily made to create a jacket this light.

that’s the weight in grams of this fully waterproof, three-

pletely waterproof. Breathability has proved good as

men’s medium anyway, mine actually came in at 264g.

well, with the usual caveats being that this depends

Still, that’s very, very impressive; it’s easy to find water-

both on the intensity of exercise, and on the outside air

proof jackets three, or even more, times that weight.

temperature. For regular bushwalking and ski-touring,

Granted, many of those other jackets fill a slightly dif-

I never found breathability to be an issue. And even for

ferent niche. Nonetheless, compared to many jackets

low-to-moderate-intensity trail running, this remained

out there, the Beta LT Hadron can knock 500+ grams off your load. Unbelievably, the Beta LT Hadron isn’t even Arc’ter-

yx’s lightest waterproof Goretex* jacket; the Norvan

The impressive Beta LT Hadron should be

high on your list of contenders.”

LT comes in at a scant 190g. But it’s more a running

the case. But once I hit big climbs, either trail running or

specific jacket; it’s not designed for carrying a pack, has

on the bike, or simply upped the intensity, it definitely

just one small pocket, and has a trimmed-down hood.

got a tad warm and clammy. I want to stress, though, I

For trail runners, the Norvan LT looks awesome, but for

literally mean a tad, and certainly no more so than I’ve

most users who are looking for an ultra-lightweight all-

experienced from any similar breathable-yet-fully

rounder, I think the Beta Hadron jacket—with its ability

waterproof jacket.

to carry a pack, its large pockets and its helmet-compat-

I’d like to give a particular thumbs up to the hood

ible hood, making it something you can wear bushwalk-

design. I can honestly say I’ve never had a jacket where

ing or skiing or mountain biking—is likely the better bet.

the hood feels so natural. When worn over my ski hel-

That’s not to say you can’t wear it trail running; I have,

met, it has zero impact on visibility or movement, yet it’s

and it’s done well. But the Beta Hadron’s real beauty is

not so big that when worn without a helmet that it flops

that it’s an all-round jacket that is nonetheless feather-

around. And while the hood has a drawcord adjuster, I’ve

weight. It packs down small, too, to somewhere halfway

honestly never found the need to use it beyond setting

between a beer can and a Nalgene bottle. I can easily fit

correctly the first time I used the jacket.

it in my MTB hydration pack when I’m out riding. Despite this lack of weight and bulk, Arc’teryx says

One thing that’s worth noting is that this isn’t a ‘quiet’ jacket. It definitely has a crinkle factor. When I first put

its newly developed, proprietary Hadron face fabric is

it on, I thought this might bother me, but once I was out


exceptionally durable, and rivals other materials twice

on the trail, I immediately found I noticed this only if I

Product class: Waterproof/breathable jacket

the weight. I haven’t owned the jacket long enough—nor

actually listened for it. The second I stopped concentrat-

has it been on the market long enough—for me to know

ing on it, the sound was unintrusive enough that I com-

this absolutely for sure, but thus far, I’ve got no reason to

pletely forgot about it.

Materials: 3L Gore-tex with proprietary Hadron LCP face fabric

argue. It certainly seems abrasion resistant, and I’ve worn

Weight (as tested): 264g RRP: $750 More info: arcteryx.com.au


Perhaps the biggest downside to the Beta LT Hadron,

it ski-touring, bushwalking, trail running and mountain

however, is simply that thanks to global supply-chain

biking. I’d have zero qualms with taking this jacket out on

issues, Arc’teryx has struggled to get them shipped to

a three-week trip.

Australia. That’s about to change, with a shipment due to

As you’d expect, though, it’s still a relatively minimalist jacket, with a fitted cut, just the two chest pockets and

* By Goretex, I mean genuine Goretex; I’m not merely using Goretex as a synecdoche for all waterproof jackets.


As you’d expect from a Goretex jacket, it’s com-

layer Goretex jacket. Well, the claimed weight for a

land in—hopefully—November/December. Once they do arrive, though, if you’re in the market for a do-it-all waterproof jacket that is game-changingly light, the impressive Beta LT Hadron should be high on your list of contenders. JAMES MCCORMACK





Bombproof. Waterproof. Adventure-proof.


OST COUPLES HAVE AN ISSUE they disagree vehemently over. A really polarising one. It could

be who does the most housework. Or whether it’s OK to use your phone while on the toilet. (It’s not, BTW). But for my wife and I, our polarising issue is this: duffel bags. My wife, for reasons unknown (but then again, reasons unknown are the source of many of our arguments), hates them. But I absolutely love them. I don’t think

the rain; when I took it out on a couple of skiing road trips

I’ve used a suitcase in decades. Being soft and flexible,

this winter, the fact I could just throw it out on the wet

duffels are way easier to pack into cars for road trips,

ground of the car park without a care in the world made

or to sling them over your shoulder to carry them over

rummaging around for gear so much easier. There are

uneven ground. And if you’re travelling, they’re so much

a couple of trade-offs for all this strength and durability,

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everything. You can see your gear easily. There are fewer

weighed it at 2.9kg. Secondly, it’s not cheap, either. That

items for airport baggage handlers to snap.

said, it’s going to last far longer than anything compara-

Anyway, I love duffel bags so much I’ve probably owned

ble. Honestly, the Panga feels like it’s the very antithesis

five of them over the last 15 years. But my current one,

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not all of them combined. It’s a 100L YETI Panga, and it’s

The entire duffel is not just waterproof, it’s actually submersible."

There are a few more things worth noting: The Panga

bombproof. Well, to be precise, the tag that came with

comes with straps to let you carry it backpack-style,

the duffel didn’t say bombproof, but instead “adven-

and it has six heavy-duty lash points for securing the

ture-proof.” It also called the Panga an “All-weather gear

bag (on a car roof, or kayak deck, for example). Lastly, it

fortress”. Honestly, this barely counts as hyperbole. I’ve

also comes in a range of size options: 50L, 75L, and 100L.

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Volume: 100L

the abrasion- and puncture-proof shell, or the added pro-

but the largest of these. I need something huge; I don’t

tection of an EVA-moulded base, the zip is without doubt

travel light. Actually, the sheer amount of gear I carry is

Weight, as tested: 2.9kg

the burliest zip I’ve ever seen. And it’s waterproof, too. In

another polarising issue I have with my wife; in fact, it’s

RRP: $499.95

fact, the entire duffel is not just waterproof, it’s actually

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More info: au.yeti.com

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Weight, as tested: 70g

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time varies based on water quality, I found it much quicker than waiting for purification tablets to kill bacteria. And once I was back home, it was an easy clean—swizzle and swish with clean water. There’s also a 1L version, or if you’re after a more camp-based setup, there’s 3L, 6L and 10L gravity-based filtra-

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Materials: PVC- and BPA-free

no-brainer. I should’ve got one years ago.

RRP: $69.95






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The Stratus is a high-performance design for active adventures

loft Ultra-Dry Down and

where weight and breathability are key. Using Pertex® Shield

featherweight fabrics, this

fabric to allow you to move fast and stay comfortable, its versa-

well-constructed quilt offers

tile 2.5-layer construction combines a lightweight face fabric

freedom from the weight of

with a waterproof, windproof and breathable membrane. Artic-

a sleeping bag zipper and

ulated elbows enhance arm movement, the two-way zipper and

the freedom from the con-

pit zips give you ventilation, and an adjustable hood keeps your

strictive shape that comes with some sleeping

face and head dry. RRP: $349.99 MOUNTAINDESIGNS.COM





An Ember quilt can be an


BRONO SOFTSHELL SHORTS We designed these durable, dynamic

The PackLite Titan is your all-in-one solar

and lightweight softshell shorts to do

lighting and power solution. With a twist-

everything. They’re made with abra-

to-open design, this shatterproof inflatable

sion-resistant, double-weave fabric to

lantern is waterproof (IP67), floatable, and it

protect you in the mountains or forest.

packs flat. Featuring 300 lumens of LED light, 5 bright-

We added stretch and a crotch gusset

ness settings and red-light mode. Built-in 4000mAh battery

for the ultimate freedom of movement.

provides up to 100hr of light, recharges by direct sunlight or USB,

The exterior has a PFC-free, water-repellent treatment in case

and recharges your phone 2-3 times on a single charge. 100% PVC-

the weather changes. Extra details include belt loops and a zip

free and lead-free. RRP: $150 MULTISPORTIMPORTS.COM.AU

cargo pocket on the thigh. RRP: $120 HELLYHANSEN.COM.AU



An Xmas gear guide from our advertisers




ROADIE 48 WHEELED COOLER The Roadie® 48 Wheeled Cooler is the newest

Created for Nepalese mountaineer and Osprey Ambas-

addition to the YETI family. Easily transport the

sador Nimsdai Purja’s historic 2020 winter ascent of

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carry and exceptional stability for the planet’s most

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low-impact package. RRP: $449.95 OSPREY.COM/AU/EN




NETPLUS BAGGIES With Netplus™, Patagonia has transformed one of the

When a small pack size and minimal weight are

most harmful forms of plastic pollution into some-

the top priority, Ultra is the mat type for you. Made

thing you can wear again and again. Baggies are

from 20D recycled polyester, it’s strong and light. Air chambers are filled with synthetic fibres which

made with 100% recycled fishing nets—helping pro-

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down small, and a Pumpbag is included for moisture-free, rapid mat inflation. $259.95 EXPEDITIONEQUIPMENT. COM.AU


DITCH RIDER 32L Built for extended day hikes, lightweight excursions,


MOUNTAIN TRAINER II MID GTX BOOTS The next generation of Salewa trekking boots features a breathable suede leather upper and waterproof Gore-Tex® membrane to keep you fresh in all conditions. The Mountain Trainer II

and everyday use, the Ditch Rider 32L pack includes a compression-moulded back panel, contoured shoulder straps, and a foam-padded hip belt. Streamlined for exploring in comfort using ultralight sustainable materials, this technical pack has plenty of storage and won’t weigh you down. RRP: $279.95 WILDEARTH.COM.AU

strikes a good balance between the cushioning and stiffness required to tackle technical terrain. The Salewa 3F tensioning system provides stability on the heel, while the Vibram outsole is engineered for improved grip and traction. RRP: $449.95 ASPIREADVENTUREEQUIPMENT.COM.AU


INREACH MESSENGER Home is closer than you think with the Garmin inReach Messenger. The small, rugged satellite communicator that pairs with your phone for two-way messaging beyond the limits of mobile


phone coverage. $469 GARMIN.COM.AU

I.N.O.X. PROFESSIONAL DIVER TITANIUM LIMITED EDITION Captures the exploration and adventure of a deep sea dive. Reflecting a shipwreck’s oxidised brass, the dial features a stunning 3D pattern; yellow details echo the colours on diving equipment; and enlarged hands and Super-LumiNova® colours ensure readability in the darkest depths. We’ve updated the titanium case


VACUUM INSULATED 1.5L SPORTS BOTTLE This 1.5L Thermos® Sports bottle is vacuum insulated to keep your drinks cold and fresh for up to 24 hours. Made from durable stainless steel with a lockable flip-lid, the bottle comes with a protective carry pouch, making it the ideal companion for any adventure. RRP: $94.99 THERMOS.COM.AU

with a matte black PVD finish and it’s secured with an

* We also wouldn’t exist without our amazingly talented and tireless contributors, either.

expandable rubber strap that fits over your wetsuit with a

One of the best ways you can help reward them is simply to subscribe to Wild. The more

quick-change system. RRP: $1995 VICTORINOX.COM.AU

subscribers we have, the more we can pay our contributors. wild.com.au/subscribe






Not all of our supporters make gear, and they deserve our support, too. Please check out what they’ve got to offer.


EXPERIENCE PHILLIP ISLAND BY SEA KAYAK Pioneer Kayaking offers guided sea kayak tours exploring Phillip Island’s beautiful coastline with all tour routes carefully chosen to provide you with a unique experience of the island’s diverse natural environment. Our pick? Explore the spectacular, rugged coastline of Cape Woolamai, discover hidden caves and marvel at vast granite cliffs, and even stop at some of Phillip Island’s most breathtaking and secluded beaches. VISITPHILLIPISLAND.COM.AU





Adventurers like you live the part, not

The first snow has already arrived in Switzer-

just look it. So this Christmas, you can

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ON-DEMAND INJURY INSURANCE Flip is Australia’s first on-demand injury insurance for accidents, so you can flip it on or off to be covered for injuries that happen on the days or weeks you want it. Only $6/day or $9/week. Simple. Use code FLIPMAG22 when buying your first Day Pass to save 50%. Flip is issued by HCF Life. Read the promo terms, PDS and TMD at GETFLIP.COM.AU




From restricted movement to numbing pain,


there’s nothing worse than sore and achy

Join the adventure professionals, Cradle Mountain

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GESUBSCR T I IBE (plu NO s g IT’S T B et a A W f re GR Y X & E e$ M 50 AT A GIF Ad re T S

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for 4 issues of your favourite For 40 adventure years now, Wild has been and get magazines bringing the community stories like no other magazine. Stories of adventure. Stories amazing free gifts of conservation. Stories of wilderness. CELEBRATING SKI CULTURE

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Australia’s Olympic and World Cup Champion


The go-to runs in your resort


New Zealand, Chamonix, Alaska, Canada’s Powder Hwy, Switzerland, Jackson Hole

HOKKAIDO HOME GROWN Meet Niseko’s real locals


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Wild is no ordinary magazine. Since its establishment in 1981, Wild has been the inspiring voice of the Australian outdoors. It is a magazine of self-reliance and challenge and sometimes doing it tough. While it is not necessarily hard-core, what it certainly is not is soft-core. It is not glamping. It is not about being pampered while experiencing the outdoors. Wild does not speak down to experienced adventurers. And SUBSCRIBE.CHILLFACTOR.COM Wild does not look on conservation as a mere marketing tool. For nearly four decades, Wild has actively and fiercely fought for the environment. Campaigning to protect our wild places is part of our DNA. Show that you care about stories that matter by subscribing to Wild. Better yet, subscribe to Wild yourself and tell your friends and family how great Wild is and encourage them to subscribe too. We’re not asking for a hand-out, but supporting Wild means that we can better support our contributors. They’re our unsung heroes; their amazing words and images of adventure and conservation inspire us all.




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Show our smaller supporters some love

Ultralight tipis, hiking, camping and expedition equipment.

pastoutdoors.com ↓ Win Amazon Gift card ↓


Time to chalk up 15% off

Name These Two Peaks


FIRST PRIZE: Two $25 Amazon Gift Cards to first 2 people who guess both photos correctly. SECOND PRIZE: Two $10 Amazon Gift Cards to first 2 people who guess one photo correctly.

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December ‘22, January, February ‘23 - Christmas Trek, Island Peak, Aconcagua & Ojos Del Salado or Kilimanjaro

Buy your next climbing product and receive 15% off $1 from every purchase goes to ACAQ to support them in maintaining our crags


April - May ‘23 - Everest Summit Climbs: Nepal or Tibet, Everest Camp 3 Training Climbs, Mount Lhotse, Everest’s Sister. Also, Everest Glacier School & EBC Trek with leader Dan Mazur 12 Successful Everest expeditions. June - July - Aug ‘23 - Gasherbrum 1 and 2, K2 Summit, 8000m Training , Broad Peak, K2 Base Camp Trek, Pastore Trekking Peak (near K2). 3 time K2 Leader Dan Mazur and Sherpas! September ‘23 - Manaslu October / November ‘23 - Baruntse - Mera Peak, Ama Dablam, Lobuche, Island Peak, Everest Base Camp and Remote Service Trek Ring me for a chat in Sydney: (02) 8091 1462. WhatsApp : +13602503407. Email: DanielMazur@SummitClimb.com www.SummitClimb.com Messenger: Facebook.com/DanielLeeMazur

Contact paul@adventureentertainment.com to get your spot in the Wild Classifieds

For everyone. For every season.

Explore the Blue Mountains like never before.


WESTERN ARTHURS TRAVERSE Wild. Spectacular. Challenging. Treks depart February 2023

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Two Brand New Guidebooks Out Now. lostmtns.com


1300 666 856 tasmanianexpeditions.com.au


While backflips off slippery rocks into questionable water in a canyon is not my cup of tea, it certainly is Sam Thompson’s. An epic day in Claustral earlier this year which was made almost too long by the new walk out.” ANJA FUECHTBAUER Newcastle, NSW



Anja wins an awesome Osprey MUTANT 22 climbing pack. It features integrated rope carry, a wide-mouth zippered opening, customizable options for carrying crampons/other items on the front of the pack, a secure and easy-touse ice tool carry system, and the webbing hipbelt won’t get in the way whether worn, buckled behind you, or removed. osprey.com

SEND US YOUR WILD SHOT TO WIN GREAT GEAR! For a chance to win some quality outdoor kit, send your WILD SHOT and a 50-100 word caption to contributor@wild.com.au

Atmos | Aura A DV E N T U R E , M A N I F E S T

Explore novel trails and storied peaks with the new Atmos/Aura, updated with enhanced AntiGravity suspension, a fine-tuned Fit-on-the-Fly ® harness and hipbelt, and an exceptional dual-access main compartment for ease of organisation.

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