Wild Magazine #191

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80 Photo Essay:

Kimberley Dreams




Track Notes: Mt Anne

The Cover Shot 12 Readers’ Letters 16 Editor’s Letter 18 Gallery 20 Columns 26 Getting Started: Your First Expedition 52 WILD Shot 146 Green Pages 34 Behind the Tasmanian Masked Owl 38 A Conversation with Mark Graham 42 Tackling the Fear 48 Opinion: Boardwalks 50 The Karens 54 Profile: Peter Marmion 58 MTB-ing in Pakistan 66 Photo Essay: Kimberley Dreams 80 Festivities on Fedders 88 Subantarctic Hiking 94 Running the Gibb River Road 104 Putting My Neck on the Line 110 Destination: Caving on NZ’s South Island 116


Walking in Southwest WA 124


Tasmania’s Mt Anne 126


Talk and Tests 136 Support Our Supporters 140




Riding to the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods

42 A Conversation

with Mark Graham

An extended discussion with NSW MidNorth Coast ecologist Mark Graham, who details the widespread threats facing the area, including overdevelopment in Dorrigo NP and native forest logging within the proposed Great Koala NP.

94 Untamed

The subantarctic islands to Australia’s and New Zealand’s south offer some of the wildest and most pristine hiking on Earth, with wildlife interactions like nowhere else. Just be prepared to deal with the weather.

110 Putting My Neck on the Line It seemed like it was going to be a simple outing to Queensland’s Mt Barney. But a mistake turned Fergus FitzGerald’s life upside down in an instant. The thing was, he just didn’t know it at the time.

TAKE TO THE TRAILS Photo: Harrison Candlin

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EDITOR: James McCormack EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Ryan Hansen GREEN PAGES EDITOR: Maya Darby PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Caitlin Schokker PROOFING & FACT CHECKING: Martine Hansen, Ryan Hansen DESIGN: James McCormack FOUNDER: Chris Baxter OAM COLUMNISTS: Megan Holbeck, Tim Macartney-Snape, Dan Slater CONTRIBUTORS: Katie Lovis, Suzannah M Macbeth, Dean Miller, Joe Nethery, Fiona Howie, Laura Spandler, Ben Broady, Fergus FitzGerald, Catherine Lawson, David Bristow, Neil Silverwood, Martin Bissig, Gerhard Czerner, Georgia Doherty, Al Bloom, Ben Southall, Lachlan Gardiner, Jared Anderson, Daygin Prescott



SHOT By Neil Silverwood When people think of caving in New Zealand they often think of our most well-known cave, Harwoods Hole, an amazing 180m-deep shaft leading to a spectacular streamway. There are, however, many other equally spectacular, but lesser-known cave systems. This edition’s cover shot is of Ironstone Cave on Tākaka Hill, Golden Bay. Our knowledge of cave systems is constantly expanding. Ironstone was only discovered in 2009 by hunter Tony Salmon while out goat culling. After exploring a short way in, Tony was stopped by a pool with just a tiny airspace above. He returned with a wetsuit, and swam solo underwater for four metres before resurfacing on the other side. His boldness was rewarded with the discovery of one of the most spectacular streamway caves in NZ. On a later trip to document Tony’s exploration, the photographer (OK, me) drowned his Canon 5D camera filming the swim, despite it being sealed in a waterproof casing. This shot was the first to be taken on his replacement camera. You can read the accompanying story in this issue’s destination piece ‘Underground Inspirations: Caving on NZ’s South Island’, starting on p116.



PUBLISHER Toby Ryston-Pratt Adventure Entertainment Pty Ltd ABN 79 612 294 569 ADVERTISING AND SALES Toby Ryston-Pratt 0413 183 804 toby@adventureentertainment.com CONTRIBUTIONS & QUERIES Want to contribute to Wild? Please email contributor@wild.com.au Send general, non-subscription queries to contact@wild.com.au


Get Wild at wild.com.au/subscribe or call 02 8227 6486. Send subscription correspondence to: magazines@adventureentertainment.com or via snail mail to: Wild Magazine PO Box 161, Hornsby, NSW 2077 This magazine is printed on UPM Star silk paper, which is made under ISO 14001 Environmental management, ISO 5001 Energy Management, 9001 Quality Management systems. It meets both FSC and PEFC certifications.

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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 represent the views of the authors and not the publishers.

WARNING: 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.

WILD ACKNOWLEDGES AND SHOWS RESPECT to the Traditional Custodians of Australia and Aotearoa, and Elders past, present and emerging.

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[ Letter of the Issue ]

MORE NEGLECTED WALKS Hi James, I couldn’t stop nodding my head as I read Mick Ripon’s recent piece (‘Great Neglected Walks’, Wild # 190). In recent years I’ve seen the same pattern of neglect play out in the national parks surrounding Sydney, with considerable dismay. Countless tracks and campgrounds that are part of the amazing natural heritage that surrounds us here in greater Sydney have been seemingly quietly abandoned. In Blue Mountains National Park, Perry’s Lookdown campground—a lovely spot on the edge of the escarpment over the Grose Valley—has been closed for years with no fanfare and no apparent plan to reopen it. The incredible Grose Valley itself, which lies at the heart of the area’s UNESCO heritage status, has had for years most of the trails heading into it off-limits “due to rockfalls and landslides”. The list goes on: Pulpit Rock? Shut for years. Many walks around Katoomba and Wentworth Falls? Long inaccessible. And plans to reopen them? None that I’ve heard of. In Royal National Park, the story is the same. North Era campground, the only legal campground on the spectacular Coast Track, has been closed for years. Ditto large sections of the Coast Track itself. (Ed: Sublime Point, nearby in the Illawarra, too.) Indeed, you can open the ‘current alerts’ webpage of almost any Sydney-area national park and be greeted with a list of closures as long as your arm. A list that often remains unchanged, year after year. This is not to say that I don’t respect that the National Parks & Wildlife Service has a hard job: Climate change has hammered the physical infrastructure of our national parks, and—as our politicians continue to approve gas and coal projects to support the spurious ‘clean energy transition’—will continue to do so. Nonetheless, if you have a lot on your plate, at some point, you just need to start eating. And therein, as Mick Ripon writes, lies the rub, because funding and resources do appear to exist for projects of often-dubious value to the natural environment. A shiny new lookout at Govett’s Leap in the Blue Mountains has been built to give drive-in views over the Grose Valley that hikers can no longer access. Worse, plans to build a grotesque Scenic World-style theme park in Gardens of Stone National Park continue to march ahead. The question is one of priorities. And when it comes to ensuring access to and preservation of our great wild spaces, it appears that successive NSW governments have had those priorities exactly backwards. Matthew Crompton Sydney, NSW



ONE THAT GOT AWAY (Re: Wild #190’s gallery image of abseiling down Danae Brook.) Dear Wild, Danae Brook. That one beat us. By the time we reached the bottom of the falls, we were already well behind schedule and one member of our party was half-chilled. So after huddling in a patch of sunlight and eating our muesli bars, we free-climbed 200m straight back up to the left of your photo. Not a hard technical climb, but still with decent exposure. We were relieved to reach the top still with light but without any bad leads or further dramas.

QUICK THOUGHT On Wild’s social media post about an antechinus stealing Wild Editor James McCormack’s $1,000 GPS watch: “A Tassie devil once stole my Prius key, left in what I thought was a secure place. It turned what promised to be an uneventful car shuffle at the end of a packrafting trip into another adventure!” YML

Brian Farrelly Canberra, ACT

(Ed: Yup, Danae is definitely not the friendliest place to get benighted. Glad you got out OK.)

ROCK THROWING Dear Wild, I write this in response to the article ‘An Age-Old Problem’ in Issue #190. Whilst in Pine Valley, Tasmania in Dec 2023, we met a group of young men who were aiming to cross the challenging Du Cane Range. We were impressed by their preparation and enthusiasm. But the next day, our group was standing on top of the Acropolis when we observed a group summiting the nearby Mt Geryon. Whilst this was impressive, we were horrified to observe a large rock tumble off the top, followed by two more over the next ten minutes. We had a camera with a long-range lens and verified it was the group we had met earlier, and that they were indeed throwing large rocks off the top of the mountain. Any climber (and most bushwalkers) will tell you it is an unwritten rule never to throw rocks off cliffs. You simply never know who could be below you, having their own epic adventure. The consequences, were anyone struck, could be dire, and the rock thrower/s would no doubt be racked by immense guilt. We all have a responsibility as outdoor enthusiasts to pass down these ‘rules’ to the next generation of adventurers. Simon Kube Queanbeyan, NSW

SEND US YOUR LETTERS TO WIN! Each Letter of the Issue wins a piece of quality outdoor kit. They’ll also, like Matthew in this issue, receive A FREE ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION TO WILD. To be in the running, send your 40-400 word letters to: editor@wild.com.au

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. Matthew’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.

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Funnily enough, I had similarly low expectations when I went into the NSW backcountry in 2023. A crap season, I’d heard. Instead, I had a blast. Pictured: Shaun Mittwollen with the Sentinel in the background. Photo by me



ast month, I went skiing. Actually, by the time you read this, it will have been at least two months ago, if not more. I was in northern Idaho in the US, where I have relatives, and this last January, in 2024, was my fourth time visiting at that time of year. And compared to every other visit, the snow was lean and crappy, probably not even half the depth of the next lowest mid-January snowpack I’ve ever encountered in that part of the world. It wasn’t just Idaho that was affected, either; it was pretty much the entire US, both East and West Coasts, that had low tide conditions, and Canada too. Only Alaska seemed to have escaped unscathed. This is highly unusual. Normally, if one part of North America has low snow, other regions are getting hammered. That includes during El Nino years. But not in 2024. A few days before arriving, barely a quarter of the ski hill I was heading to was open. At nearby Sun Valley, it was nearing just ten per cent open. In mid-January. And it was the same across the continent. It was arguably the worst start to any winter that North America has ever seen, and it’s hard to discount anthropogenic climate change as being the culprit. But I’m not writing this to talk about how we, as a species, need to pick up our game, about how our leaders seem embarrassingly reticent to tackle head on the ecological calamity that awaits our planet. Instead, I’m writing this to talk about the fact that I had an absolutely awesome trip. Four days out from our arrival, it began



properly snowing for the first time this winter. I’d mentally prepared for no skiing at all, so even though the snow totals were low historically—in fact, pathetically low—just getting onto the slopes at all seemed to be a massive win. I’d mentally prepared for snowshoeing for two weeks; instead, I had a blast. The point with this is to talk about how expectations govern our happiness. You could argue that being a pessimist helps, but if that was the case, then you’d only dwell on the less-than-perfect elements while you’re actually doing the activity. Ie, even if conditions were good, you’d still dwell on the worst. Ideally, perhaps, you’d want a mindset that’s pessimistic in advance, but that flips to being wildly optimistic once you arrive. Better yet though, you might adopt a Buddhist attitude—or if you prefer, a Buddhish attitude, that is, Buddhist-inspired thought for non-Buddhists; I only heard the term for the first time recently—of simply saying this: “Shit happens.” And then rolling with it. I was not raised Buddhist. But I have spent enough time in the outdoors to learn that shit happens, and regularly at that, and there’s little you can do but learn to deal with it. There have been crappy ski seasons, unstable snowpacks, cancelled hiking trips, floods, unseasonable weather, droughts, injuries, sickness, storms, unreliable partners, yes, even wars—all have conspired against me, yet all have taught me the value of not setting expectations too high. And it’s not just me, of course. Anyone

who has spent any length of time outdoors has learnt enforced humility— weather, the seasons, climate. In short, Nature (yes, with a capital N) is so much greater than all of us that our aspirations seem like the tiniest of gnats waiting to be trampled by the largest of elephants. Any joy we have outdoors is not so much earned as granted. The upshot of all this is that, and I truly believe this, the outdoors makes us happier, if by virtue only that it forces us to accept whatever is thrown at us: the good, and in particular, the bad. Many will argue that nature makes us happier because it clears out our minds, because it forces us to live simply, because it puts us into places of life-affirming beauty, because—atavistically—we descended from trees and that as a result, we feel at home in the trees (although deserts can be incredibly calming, too). I don’t think these arguments are lacking in validity. But as important as all these elements are in terms of creating happiness, I think they’re less important than the simple lesson of learning to keep your expectations in check, or at the very least, learning to deal with those occasions when expectations aren’t met. These aren’t always easy lessons; often, they involve bitter disappointments and dashed hopes and unrequited dreams. But the more times the outdoors teaches these lessons, the more they sink in, and the more we learn to accept what is. And in the end, happiness is the result. JAMES MCCORMACK




After several days and over 20 hours of solo driving, I was more than ready to be outdoors, and this meandering stretch of the Eucumbene River beside my campsite in Kosciuszko NP looked perfect for some lateafternoon packrafting fun. I’d walk along the bank, jump in, float past my camera, then quickly reposition the tripod. The sky was exploding as I dashed down the hill one final time, hoping the timing would be just right ...

BY LACHLAN GARDINER Lumix S52, 16-35mm f/4, f5.6, 1/400, ISO 1250




I’ll take every opportunity I get to bivvy. Taking away the tent and sleeping under the night sky is by far the best way to sleep in the outdoors—when conditions allow. We had the option of tent/car camping, but opted instead for a night on Mt Buffalo granite. And then in the morning, we opened our eyes to the Victorian Highlands and its pastel horizons.

BY DAYGIN PRESCOTT Sony A7III, 16-35mm f/4, f7.1, 1/6, ISO 400



Martine appreciating her first ever day of walking among Aussie snow gums. Threatened by fires and now dieback from longicorn beetles, this giant snow gum—en route to Pounds Ck—is a testament to their raw beauty. I wonder how many others have paused here in awe too.

BY RYAN HANSEN Sony A7RII, FE 16-35mm f4, f8, 1/100, ISO 160






Mitchell Stewart on Falling Water Wall in NSW’s Blue Mountains. The image on the left is Gaze a Gazely Stare (26), located on the upper part of the wall; it’s a route that’s so wildly overhanging that no drones were needed to get this angle for the shot. The image on the right is the first ascent of Rookies of the Future (22), which sits on the lower wall. Although the two routes can be combined, they’re considered separate. The inset is of Simmo (aka Simon Opper) carbo-loading on pizza between climbs.


Left: Canon 6D MkII, Sigma 14-24mm f2.8, f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 800 Middle: Canon 6D MkII, Sigma 14-24mm f2.8, f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 1600 Bottom right: Canon 6D MkII, 24-105mm f3.55.6, f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 640



Columns: WILD THINGS meganholbeck.substack.com


meganholbeck.com @meganholbeck

SEASONS AND CONNECTIONS Being outdoors can deepen not only your bonds with nature, they can deepen your bonds with those you love.


n the last week of May last year, I took my oldest daughter to the Blue Mountains for a day walk. We stopped for coffee in Leura and scrunched through drifts of red leaves. Scarlett looked around at the bare branches and asked, “Is it autumn?” To be fair, the weather in Sydney last year made it hard to tell. There were patches of cold, but with sunshine that made it feel like a cold snap rather than an entirely different season. Unlike other parts of the country, in Sydney we don’t need to change our wardrobes over or mentally prepare for winter’s long haul. Instead, we swap thongs for shoes and put on a jumper, at least in the morning. This lack of variation means that if you’re not paying attention, the seasons can pass you by, along with other markers of natural cycles—phases of the moon, the tide and the life going by outside. On an Aboriginal Dreaming tour of the Rocks in Sydney, our guide talked about her totems. “They’re based on what’s happening in nature at the time and place you’re born,” she said, suggesting I pay attention to what was moving and blooming around my birthday. So last year, I did. In May, the coastal paths were bright with yellow wattle, and families of whales spouted along the headlands. The kookaburras no longer woke me—instead it was chirping parrots and raucous cockatoos. And camellia petals dropped on the deck; it seemed to be covered with pink snow. On that Blue Mountains hike with Scarlett, there were clear signs of the approaching winter. It was a brilliant, still day as



we walked along Fortress Ridge, the clear cliff edges contrasting with murky valley depths. Despite our t-shirts, it was not summer. There was no bite to the sun, and no depth to its warmth: A step into the shade and it was cold. Scarlett kept pace as we followed the ridgeline to its end, orange sandstone dropping away into deep green in every direction. She’s fourteen now, and strong and capable enough to shoulder a pack and head off on overnight adventures. If she wants.



That’s another transition that’s hard to recognise, harder to manage and just as inevitable: the process where she goes from being a part of my life, to me being allowed to be a part of hers. I’ve got some seasons and years left, to influence and guide. To teach her resilience and to appreciate beauty, to model patience and grit. Let her take risks and hear what she learns. To help. These lessons don’t come when we’re negotiating screen time or managing the logistics of weekend sport. Instead, they happen outside. Things like: It’s worth putting on a band-aid to prevent a blister, because sometimes pushing through leads to unnecessary pain. Always look

before you get in the ocean, because the same rip that makes it easy to get out the back also quickly takes you out of your depth. It’s important to pay attention to where you’ve come from, as well as to recognise the markers and signs that show you’re off track. Understand that life’s challenges can teach you the most and can expand your comfort zone, or at least make good stories. To say yes to things, to make choices that enlarge your life rather than shrink it, and to choose good company along the way. But mostly that life (like nature) is really outside your control, no matter your age or situation. Plans are lovely, but they do (and should) alter. It’s knowing the general direction you want to head that will help you cope and change, bunker down or backtrack when a sunny morning becomes a washout, or when you need to regroup and work out where you are. In normal life, your compass is your values, developed by paying attention to the things that matter to you, and deepening these connections. So I’ll keep taking Scarlett out bush, and make her step outside to admire the sunset. I’ll let her go to the mall and the climbing wall, and also take her to the beach to meet her friends (even if I’m not allowed to surf too close). And for years and decades to come, I’ll keep doing this (in one way or another), and appreciate the trip, the joy and the views and the golden, magical days that offset the steep hills and times of trudging. Because parenting is truly long-haul: even longer than a Canberra winter.


APPROPRIATE DEVELOPMENT Land managers should ensure that built structures are constructed in tune with natural landscapes.


recently found out about a new via ferrata operation to be built near the summit of Mt Buller in the Victorian Alps. Mountain playgrounds like this are rare for Australia, and given that Buller has been a ski resort for nearly a century—complete with cleared runs, lifts, summer MTB trails and, most impacting, a whole village of lodges with multiple-story buildings—my view is that this will be beneficial … with a caveat: so long as, unlike the original developments, it is built with aesthetic sensitivity to the location. I’ve climbed many via ferratas, including in the Dolomites, where they originated. As someone who loves clambering up and around things, I enjoy them, and they allow those without rock-climbing skills to experience some of the wonder and excitement of climbing. However, given the choice of rock climbing up a cliff—rather than ascending an installation of steel rungs, ladders, chains and cables (via ferrata)—I’d always, of course, go for the rock climb. While I find a line of steel hand and foot holds up a cliff irresistible, once I climb it, detailed memory of it soon fades. On even easy rock climbs, however, route finding, working out the best sequence of moves, and managing fear as I ascend further above my last piece of protection, all combine to focus my attention sharply on the moment and my surroundings. Consequently, it’s far more memorable. It’s not just the added engagement that attracts me. The more natural feel—what I call the ‘wild aesthetic’, a principle that applies across the board when we step out of our modern urban environment— creates for me a truly memorable experience. This aesthetic feels like a balm



on my consciousness, an antidote to the modern world’s alienation from nature and its overkill of urban congestion. I’ve sought out this aesthetic all my life. It’s the reason I’d rather weave through prickly scrub than jostle through shopping-mall crowds, why I prefer making my own tracks backcountry skiing rather than weaving around other skiers on a resort piste, why I’d rather ride my mountain bike on singletrack than road, and why I’d rather walk a simple foot pad than an urban footpath-style walking track…




no matter how ‘iconic’ it may be. It’s also why I prefer climbing on bigger cliffs than on those with ‘consumer friendly’ single-pitch sport climbs. Of course, not everyone is like me; most people like to experience nature in a less energetic fashion. But given the chance, I’m sure most would also appreciate that a ‘wild aesthetic’ be applied to developments in natural places. I was recently riding and walking on Mt Stirling, which rises to Mt Buller’s east. The views are grand in every direction, except that Buller’s natural beauty is marred by the village with its jarring

high-rise apartment blocks perched on the tree line. But the resort didn’t just pop up; it evolved over many decades. With the benefit of hindsight, a more aesthetically appealing, environmentally sensible and economically viable option would have been to locate the village in the valley like so many ski resort villages overseas (Ed: Or more locally, even like Thredbo). This might have been possible had the original developers possessed either the vision of what it could become, or a more finely tuned wild-aesthetic sense. Had visitors been forced to park in the valley some distance below the village, they might today reach the resort via a shuttle, or even be whisked up to it in a gondola. Despite the probable hefty ticket price, the latter would be popular—and would spare visitors driving up the sometimes icy road. It would also likely be profitable, with a portion of profits potentially channelled into mitigating the effects of skiing and mountain biking on the sensitive alpine environment. Unlike the controversial gondola proposal for Hobart’s kunyanyi/Mt Wellington—which would be highly visible from virtually all the city and therefore, in my opinion an unacceptable eyesore—Mt Buller’s topography allows for a discretely placed gondola that wo uld have had a minimal visual impact from most aspects. Leave No Trace famously has seven principles which generally apply to individual behaviour, but I think there could be a worthy, overarching eighth principle, one that would help land managers focus on the wild aesthetic: Ensure that any built structure, be it a track, road, building or tower is hidden from view or made to blend into the landscape.


WIMPS Gear selection is a process of lifelong education, even for experienced adventurers. Dan discusses the lessons learnt during his recent 800km traverse of California’s Sierra Nevada.


o self-respecting adventurer can have failed to notice the continuous smashing of new goals in the outdoor sphere. Records are broken annually by new and more amazing demographics. Teenagers climb Everest and sail single-handedly around the world. Paraplegics and octogenarians do things that, fifty years ago, the fittest men (and women, if they’d had the opportunity) in the world couldn’t have achieved. Has the human race evolved superhuman powers compared to our ancestors of only a couple of generations ago? Has the human organism reached the pinnacle of physical perfection, gods to their wimpy grandparents? No. We’ve just got better gear. As modern outdoor-equipment technology advances, more adventures become possible to more people. Quests that would only have been attempted by the hardiest of rugged, bearded types are now routinely completed by all and sundry. But the truth is that, without modern lightweight materials, without insulating, waterproof clothing, and without faultless GPS readings, we’ve not only failed to build on our forefathers’ achievements, we’ve become pale imitations of them. We’re the wimps; they’re the gods. Of course, everything is relative, and those stoic, superhuman forefathers would have looked feeble compared to their own forefathers, but for the sake of simplicity let’s keep this model to the present. In a story for Wild about packrafting the Western Arthurs [‘Get WAKT’, Wild #183], I jokingly commented that “I can just imagine a few hairy 70s bushwalkers, just for a lark, hauling a 17’ aluminium canoe up here; there’s probably one sitting



at the bottom of this very tarn, slowly disintegrating.” It was a throwaway line, but it contained more than a grain of truth. Old-school adventurers used to do ridiculous, incredible things, things no one in their right mind would attempt nowadays. I’m not talking about the likes of Captain Scott’s Terra Nova party sled-hauling to the South Pole fuelled by pemmican and staying warm in reindeer-skin sleeping bags, or Mallory and Irvine climbing Chomolongma/Mt Everest in hobnail boots while carrying a 14kg oxygen setup. They


BECOME PALE IMITATIONS OF THEM.” were high-profile, government-sponsored expeditions. I’m talking about normal, everyday people doing bonkers-hard things just for a laugh. There’s Dervla Murphy, who in 1963 rode a three-speed steel-framed bicycle roughly 5,000km to India, alone, with not much more than a notebook to record her tribulations and a pistol fight to off ravenous bears. There was Franz Romer, an audacious German aviator who rowed approximately 6,500km across the Atlantic in an open kayak of his own design. The waterline was only six inches below the gunwale, and he couldn’t move from a single sitting position. He never slept more than a few minutes at a time, his muscles atrophied, and his entire skin became a mass of sunburned blisters. He

made it from Lisbon to Puerto Rico before being lost in a hurricane on the last leg to New York. It was 1928. And then there’s my personal favourite—Emma Gatewood, the 67-year-old grandmother who in 1955, with no previous bushwalking experience, thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, solo, with no protection from the elements except a blanket and a shower curtain. She became the first woman to complete the AT, and the first person to hike it three times. There are plenty more where these came from. Indeed, a whole section of the website adventure-journal. com is dedicated to the ‘historical badass’. In the same Wild story, I joked about my companion dedicating five kilograms of his pack weight to a boat, but that’s peanuts compared to the 38kg a 17-foot aluminium canoe weighs. My point is, we don’t have to tackle that level of craziness/fun anymore because our gear is so much lighter, so much more efficient, multi-purpose, and online. But would we even have the gumption nowadays? Maybe I’m being a little harsh on today’s adventurers. In 2018, Belgian Louis-Phillipe Loncke made the first unsupported winter crossing of Tasmania, north to south. He set off with a 62kg pack, which included a dry suit, snowshoes and a packraft. A dry suit! Shower curtain be damned! It took him 52 days. In another generation, when even more technological advances have been made, some young upstart will probably run the same route in a week, their entire wardrobe consisting of a single paper-thin, allin-one suit, and carrying food pills that reduce a day’s rations to 10g. And they’d think us mad for ever humping a five-kilo packraft up a mountain. Bloody wimps!


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

A thing of the past in Victoria, though sadly not across the country. Credit: VFA

BIG WIN FOR NATIVE FORESTS IN VICTORIA Let’s give thanks to everyone involved in saving Victoria’s forests.


n May 2023, the Victorian Government announced an end to native forest logging in the state by January 1, 2024, coupled with a sizable transition package for industry workers. This monumental announcement followed decades of campaigning, citizen science, research and direct action from hardworking community members across the state. While we celebrated this massive win, the many exemptions from this declaration left us apprehensive. These included ‘logging under other names’, including community forestry and so-called ‘salvage’ logging. But on February 5, 2024, community forestry—one of the greatest ongoing threats to forests around western Victoria—ceased. Now, the healing and restoration process can take place. Researchers Professor David Lindenmayer and Dr Chris Taylor explain that with the centuries-old hollow-containing trees gone, critical habitat like nest boxes are required for endangered species like Leadbeater’s possum and the southern greater glider. The re-establishment of suitable vegetation often requires mammoth seed collecting and planting efforts, and the heavily degraded, vulnerable sites will require protection from large scale prescribed burns and feral animals. The Victorian Forest Alliance will be campaigning to ensure native forests are properly protected and secured with long-lasting tenure changes, focusing on giving land given back to Traditional Custodians,



supporting the establishment of more national parks, and ensuring they’re managed effectively in the long term. We are immensely grateful to all the people who were part of this fight over the years. The Traditional Custodians who stood up and said no to the destruction of their Country. The citizen scientists who dedicated themselves to years of overnight forest trips to search for threatened species and to patchwork the forests with buffer zones to hold off the machines. The frontline activists who blockaded roads, locked on to machines, climbed to the treetops, and put their bodies between the forests and those seeking to destroy them. The volunteer groups who lobbied and campaigned. The ecologists and scientists who researched to prove exactly how valuable these forests are, and how damaging their destruction is. The lawyers and legal teams who took on forest legal battles in court, effectively bringing the entire industry to a screaming halt. The forest campaigners across the state who dedicated their lives to working on this fight—educating people, collaborating, and building power. And every individual who attended events, shared posts, signed petitions, and donated. We thank you. To learn more about how our fight continues, head to victorianforestalliance.org.au



Credit: M Hrkac




VIC GOVERNMENT BACKS DUCK HUNTING Despite an overwhelming response from the community and a parliamentary enquiry that recommended a ban, the Victorian Government has announced that recreational duck hunting will go ahead this year. Waterbird populations have declined by as much as 90% over the last forty years in eastern Australia. Nonetheless, over the last ten years, an average of 320,000 ducks were shot and killed each hunting season in Victoria alone. Credit: Maya Darby Birdlife Australia President Mandy Bamford explains “Australia is in a climate and biodiversity crisis, and wetlands are under pressure across the country. With recent climate change modelling projecting more extreme weather events, declining waterbird populations continue to face mounting challenges—exacerbated by the unnecessary and significant threat posed by recreational hunting.” To learn more, head to birdlife.org.au ANDREW HUNTER, Birdlife Australia

MAMMOTH EMISSIONS FROM NATIVE LOGGING Back in Spring 2022, Wild published a story about The Tree Projects, whose research found that native forest logging is the highest emitting sector in Tasmania. Since then, The Tree Projects have gone on to study the emissions from native forest logging in other parts of the country, making more startling findings. Lead scientist Dr Jennifer Sanger found that in south-eastern Australia alone, the emissions from native forest logging is greater than the emissions from Australia’s entire domestic aviation industry. Credit: Rob Blakers Protecting native forests is one of the most immediate and effective ways we can reduce our emissions. If we ended native forest logging now across Australia, it would be equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road. Not only is this industry costing taxpayers, driving biodiversity loss and worsening the impacts of climate change, ending native forest logging would prevent more than 9 million tonnes of CO₂ being emitted each year. Find out more at thetreeprojects.com DR JENNIFER SANGER, The Tree Projects

DARWIN’S DUSTBOWL TO DREAMLAND It’s been 20 years since Chris Darwin (the great grandson of Charles Darwin) inspired a community to get behind Bush Heritage Australia’s acquisition of nearly 70,000 ha of highly degraded agricultural land in WA. The restoration of the Charles Darwin Reserve on Badimia Country is led by Bush Heritage Australia in partnership with the Badimia Bandi Barna Aboriginal Corporation. What was once an overgrazed dustbowl—rampant with feral goats and ravaged by the impacts of European settlement—now boasts an abundance of wildflowers, birds, microbats and reptiles, and more closely resembles the diversity and beauty of the land that existed before colonisation. With 55% of Australian land used for agriculture, this project serves as an exciting case study, inspiring others to restore highly degraded landscapes, protect biodiversity and safeguard our future. Learn more at bushheritage.org.au JILL RISCHBIETH, Bush Heritage Australia

SEAGRASS SOWN FOR SNAPPER IN SA The OzFish Seeds for Snapper project is a community-led initiative focused on restoring lost seagrass assemblages along the South Australian Coastline. Volunteers play a crucial role, collecting seagrass fruit from beaches, processing it in aquaculture tanks, and sowing the resulting seeds into sandbags for deployment by boat to priority sites. Given the slow growth rate of seagrass, this project provides a muchneeded boost to its restoration. Credit: OzFish Historical seagrass loss can be largely attributed to terrestrial activities such as wastewater discharge. However, with improvements in wastewater treatment, and awareness on how land-based activities can impact ocean health, causes of loss have largely been addressed, ensuring cleaner water for successful restoration activities. Seagrass provides important habitat for numerous marine species, aids in erosion prevention by stabilising sediment on the ocean floor and serves as a potent carbon sink, storing up to 35 times more carbon than a rainforest. Learn more or get involved at ozfish.org.au RACHEL WILLIAMS, OzFish



Credit: Dale Fuller

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

5mm bleed


Diggers. Not bulldozers. WA’s Jarrah forests are species-rich, expertly maintained by digging mammals like bettongs, potoroos, numbats and bandicoots. But there are destructive forces afoot.

Find out why miners like Alcoa are tearing down these iconic forests—and how you can help stop them: Image: Numbat, WA | Robert McLean



BEHIND THE TASMANIAN MASKED OWL The story of how an enigmatic but endangered bird of prey became the star of the campaign to protect the Tarkine. Words AL BLOOM


n 2022, for the second consecutive year, a team of scientists, activists, campaigners and volunteers from the Bob Brown Foundation (BBF) gathered to watch drill rigs from the giant resources company MMG—majority owned by the Chinese government—retreat from the precious, carbon-rich, World Heritage-proposed takayna/Tarkine forest in Tasmania’s northwest. The BBF had started their blockade in takayna’s McKimmie Creek valley back in December 2020, after a mining lease there had been controversially approved. One of MMG’s plans for the area was to establish a new tailings dam—an open storage pit containing mining waste. If constructed, the dam’s impacts on the ecosystem here would be devastating. The natural, roughly undulating hills on three sides mean the company would have to build up one side to create the 140ha dam, with the end result being a giant swimming pool fifty metres deep filled with toxic waste. They wouldn’t even need to employ chainsaws to clear the trees destined to be flooded by the dam, says BBF spokesperson Scott Jordan, “[because] the 25 million cubic metres of acid-producing tailings will do the job of killing [them].” Surrounding the dam, however, 145ha of trees would be bulldozed for supporting infrastructure and settling ponds. MMG claims the tailings dam would be built to rigorous environmental standards, but history says otherwise: Two of the company’s existing tailings dams at nearby sites have leaked eighteen times since 2018 into the Stitt River. In 2021, flaws in the mine’s approval process led to MMG’s departure from the site. And in August 2022, the company was forced to leave yet again, much to the joy of the group watching on. And while the onlookers may have, in the words of veteran campaigner Scott Jordan, looked like “a bunch of hippies in the forest”, the strategies they’d employed leading to this point had been well organised, systematic and sophisticated. They had used front-line protest. They had used the courts. They had used data collection. And one of the keys to these strategies was, and still is, an extraordinary creature, the enigmatic and endangered Tasmanian masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae castanops).

KASEY MCNAMARA IS A SCIENTIST and researcher. She camped out here in takayna in 2021 for two months in the Tasmanian winter, and on and off again in the subsequent few months, collecting data on the many endangered resident flora



and fauna species. “It was wet and muddy. It was cold. If stuff got wet, it didn’t dry,” she explains. While initially being involved in the campaign as part of the blockade, she quickly fell in love with the place. “I hated leaving. If I wasn’t there, I’d dream about it, and I just wanted to be there all the time. It’s magical there. And it was under threat.” In 2022, I met with Kasey, and she took me and another volunteer, Helena, into the forest to measure trees. We bush bashed through thick brush, and were soon inside the footprint of MMG’s proposed waste site. The forest was stunning. I tried to picture the luminescent green wonderland we were walking through turning into a dead place. Distracted by the enjoyment of walking in this ancient and complex ecosystem, we continued along vague old prospecting tracks until we reached a ridgeline. From this vantage point, we could see the Pieman River; on its far side sat an already-built tailings dam currently used by MMG. The dam overlooked the river like a grotesque oceanside mansion surrounded by an orange and scarred landscape. But the dam, according to MMG, was nearing capacity. So too was another tailings dam nearby. To overcome this, MMG’s plan was to pipe more tailings waste over the Pieman River and into the precious forest we’d been walking through. We continued on, looking for the largest trees. We were surveying to record possible habitat trees for what had become the star of the campaign, a bird with sadly just 615 breeding pairs estimated to remain: the Tasmanian masked owl.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act (1999) sounds like a useful piece of legislation. It’s a register of endangered species and it lists management plans for them. It also ranks those species from vulnerable, to endangered, to critically endangered, and, lastly, to extinct.

In reality, however, the EPBC Act is, according to the government’s recently requested review of the Act, led by Graeme Samuel, “not working for the environment, business or the community” and “is not fit for current or future environmental challenges.” Surprisingly, logging operations are exempt from the EPBC Act, but that’s another story. But in short, when an endangered species is found within an area under a mining licence, the company wanting to perform work has to sign off on employing a harm-minimisation or mitigation strategy. And so it was that after MMG had been court ordered out of the forest the first time for illegal work and incomplete assessments in mid-2021, the Bob Brown Foundation began gathering data of endangered native species over the spring and summer of 2021/2022. Soon they heard the haunting, screeching call of the endangered Tasmanian masked owl; the large predator became the main focus of data collection. The problem was that MMG almost denied the owl’s existence here. The birds are rarely studied, and the company used old research stating Tasmanian masked owls only lived in sclerophyll forests. And when MMG contracted ecologists, they found just two calls over two days. Part of the reason for the low count is that the standard method for detecting such bird species is playing a call through a large speaker: If there is a response, the bird gets marked down as present; otherwise it’s deemed non-existent. The BBF knew this claim of just two masked owls was a serious undercount. The team’s data proved otherwise, and they set out to gather more evidence. And this brings us to Kasey’s friend and colleague Charley Gros, a French scientist and old-school bushman. Rumour has it that Charley sleeps in his bivy in a park in town, making a coffee out the side zip as his university professors walk past. He’s in Australia studying Marine Science, which comes as a surprise seeing as he grew up in the mountains of France. When asked how he got into activism, he said that he helped refugees translate and gather their documents at an oftenused refugee entry point in a mountain crossing near his hometown. He and his friends started the organisation. I begin to understand the depth of his compassion, and it’s humbling. Like Kasey, when MMG was first driven out in 2021, Charley didn’t want to leave the forest. Both of them wanted to hold the space, and start surveying for more activity. “A protected species right in the middle of the footprint?” says Charley. “We had to do something.” With 280ha of forest under threat, the BBF team needed more eyes and ears on the ground for masked-owl surveying. They borrowed five bio-acoustic recorders and twelve cameras, which would record every night for ten nights until their batteries died. Given the

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT Star of the campaign: the Tasmanian masked owl. Credit: Rob Blakers Kasey McNamara, scientists and researcher, taking a break in the forest. Credit: Rob Blakers






takayna, TASMANIA

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Spectograms of Tasmanian masked owl calls. On the left, the red box contains a screech call; the three blue boxes on the right contain chattering calls Charley Gros’ programming skills radically altered the time needed to analyse thousands of hours of sound recordings. Credit: Adrian Guerin Go home, MMG. Credit: BBF

huge area of the forest, changing the batteries and collecting the SD cards was a time-consuming job. And then there was the huge task of analysing the recorded sound, all 5,500 hours of it. It became all the more urgent when it appeared MMG was to commence work again in 2022; Charley remembers having “thousands and thousands of hours” of unanalysed data. He set to work, and designed an algorithm for a program which detected the Tasmanian masked owl’s cry. It scanned all the recorded sound, spitting out 500 audio clips of 1-2 seconds in length. The team listened to the clips to validate which were masked-owl calls, as the high-sensitivity recorders would also pick up the wind, rain, brushtail possums or cockatoos. Charley explains the method didn’t only register an owl’s presence; it could ascertain its location. “We can look at the timestamp from recorder number one,” he says, “and see if it arrives quicker at another recorder. We know how quickly the sound propagates, and we know the distance between the three recorders because we know the coordinates. So, with the time data, [and thus knowing] the difference between when the call was received between the three recorders, we can ... pinpoint the exact location.” Once sifted through and verified, the surveys resulted in the largest Tasmanian masked owl data set ever produced, with 470 calls heard over five months; in contrast, MMG counted just two.

OVER THE YEARS, THE BBF has launched multiple legal proceedings to halt MMG’s construction of the tailings dam. In July 2022, one of those cases came before the Federal Court. The foundation of the case was the Gros Report, which detailed the ‘passive acoustic monitoring’ method employed by Charley and the team. It clearly demonstrated significant numbers of breeding adult and juvenile masked owls in the very forest that MMG had set their sights on turning into a waste dump. To assist the case, long-time volunteer and photographer (and regular Wild Mag contributor) Rob Blakers began a mission to get a photograph of the elusive masked owl in early 2022. People told Rob that the Tasmanian masked owl would be impossible to photograph; images of the nocturnal predator were extremely rare. But Rob had an advantage: the team’s triangulation methods. Kasey recalls they “camped out in the same spot for ages. The court date loomed. Then he finally got it. Rob got a photo of the



owl, four days before the court case; we were losing our minds.” Unfortunately, this proved too late to use as evidence; the time period for lodging the images had expired. But Rob’s 118 photographs of the endangered owl have nonetheless proved extremely effective at putting a face to the numbers on the documents, and for the campaign. And even without the photographs, the incredible amount of recorded data—over 470 calls from an endangered species within the footprint of a proposed waste-storage pit—was sufficient. BBF won the court case, based on the fact that the Federal Environment Minister who gave it the green light had not observed the precautionary principle. MMG was forced to leave.

BUT THE CAMPAIGN WAS MORE than just wildlife surveying; it was multi-dimensional. “Now we are at 89 arrests,” says Charley. But he adds that because people held the space and slowed MMG down, “we were able to record enough data, and use it in the court case. If there was no blockade, the forest would have been gone. No owl, no court case, nothing. It’s all linked together.” There are environmental campaigns in every Australian state employing similarly diverse tactics. The unwavering dedication of thousands of volunteers, citizen scientists, and activists arriving at a site or blockade and then performing various roles, enables the conservation of increasingly rare, native ecosystems. “For a lot of people,” Scott Jordan says, “it’s a thing well outside their comfort zone, so we appreciate the courage and commitment it takes to step out into that front-line action space.” And the fact that it’s ordinary people turning up, taking time off work, or giving their time is, says Scott, “incredibly powerful.” The empowerment of connecting with other individuals—coming together for action in the face of fear—is a beautiful opposition to an individualistic and disconnected society. Sadly, MMG has not necessarily left this area for good; whether or not the company returns to destroy this stunning forest is contingent upon a long-awaited decision by the Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek. And so the question now is, will she allow MMG back in again? W CONTRIBUTOR: Having previously worked with the Bob Brown Foundation, Al Bloom is a photographer currently based in Sydney. He tries to bring his pet ducks, Pid and Pod, into most conversations.

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8/2/2024 18:38



MARK GRAHAM New South Wales’ Mid-North Coast is home to some of Australia’s most precious forests, and is a stronghold for threatened species like koalas and greater gliders. Right now, however, forests in the area are either under threat by tourism developments, or worse, being wilfully destroyed by loggers. Mark Graham, who grew up in the area, is an ecologist who runs a network of private conservation areas, takes people on tours, and educates people about the wonders of the Gumbaynggirr Nation. From 2011 to 2020, he worked with the Nature Conservation Council of NSW as a senior ecologist. He talks with Wild’s Editor James McCormack at length about what’s happening in the area.

Photography Mark Graham (unless credited otherwise) Credit: Greg Borschmann

WILD: Before we move onto what’s happening more broadly in your area, first can you tell us specifically what’s proposed for Dorrigo NP? MG: Dorrigo National Park is a really important part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. It’s effectively a cloud forest, or a highland subtropical rainforest, on the very edge of the escarpment. The existing facilities there include two main components of infrastructure. One is the Skywalk, which is a very loved, fit-for-purpose piece of infrastructure that allows people to walk through the canopy out onto the escarpment, where they can experience astonishing views across the Rosewood Gorge and the Bellingen Valley, and of a sacred mountain called N’gali. It is twenty-something years old now, and is pretty close to the end of its serviceable life. The other piece of infrastructure is the Visitor Centre. It’s also very well loved and very well used, and it sits fairly sustainably within the world heritage area. [In 2022] there was, however, a public announcement of a major development of some tens of millions of dollars of new infrastructure at the site, and the proposal is to demolish both the existing safe and functional Visitor Centre and the Skywalk. WILD: Some people might argue that spending funds like this on a park is good thing. MG: I’m in no way opposed to visitor infrastructure. I recognise that society gains greatly from being provided with infrastructure to facilitate visitation—particularly for people who are mobility challenged—but what is currently in place at Dorrigo is actually wonderful. What’s of concern is the expansion of the footprint. Currently, people can—because it’s all at ground level, and it doesn’t jump above the escarpment—be exposed to the canopy and the birds within it and the general ambience of this astonishing forest. [But they’re proposing] to build what can only be termed a massive donut mausoleum, jutting significantly above the escarpment. And my real concern with this major infrastructuredevelopment program is that it will create serious and significant harm to these outstanding universal values, because



there’ll be clearance of trees and a major impediment to the movement of wildlife. But above all else, it will require extensive expenditure to demolish a perfectly functional building. WILD: So not only is it expensive, it’s unnecessary. MG: We don’t have a magic pudding. I’m aware that some halfa-billion dollars in the forward estimates [in NSW] have been dedicated to the development of serious built infrastructure across the conservation-reserve estate, and that the Dorrigo expenditure of $56.4 million is a significant chunk of that. And the thing is that at the World Heritage property of Dorrigo, at the bottom of the Rosewood Gorge, there is [a huge] patch of old-growth subtropical rainforest: white booyong, suballiance one [in] Alex Floyd’s rainforest categorisation. But around that, and within the national park, are extensive areas that are degraded by weeds; in particular, lantana. Now, the cost of regenerating and restoring those weed-infested areas within the national park is small fry in comparison to the cost of this massive new mausoleum. Even the annual cost of just keeping it clean—as in keeping the mould and the mildew and the grunge at bay—would be much better spent regenerating and restoring weed-infested areas, and returning them into lowland subtropical rainforests. WILD: But the reconstructed Skywalk and Visitor Centre aren’t the only elements of the plan for Dorrigo NP that are troubling; there’s the new track that’s proposed. MG: I grew up here at the foot of the escarpment, and I’m now 47 years old; I’ve walked these valleys and mountains and ridges since the 1980s. I know them better than most. And the track route that’s been proposed to go from Dorrigo through to Bindarri National Park—through a landscape that is known to support astonishing Gondwanan forest values—has the greatest diversity of threatened frog species on our continent of any similar-sized area. The stuttering frog. Giant barred frog. Sphagnum frog. Pouched frog. New England tree frog. And in the drier bits, the green-thighed frog. And we know, and the science is irrefutable here, that almost all of those frogs are highly

susceptible to the chytrid fungus, which has wiped out a number of frog species on the eastern seaboard of Australia—many of them ancient Gondwanan frogs in pristine rainforest areas—since it was accidentally introduced here in the late 1970s. What’s more, each of those frogs are known to be highly susceptible to heat. And because of recent desiccation of the landscape, there have been fundamental declines [of these species], particularly for the pouched frog and sphagnum frog. Strongholds of these ancient species [in areas like Dorrigo] are a critical part of [maintaining] world-heritage values here. Another risk is with Phytophthora cinnanomi, because there are already signs of it at places such as Tucker’s Knob, an isolated and almost unique patch of Antarctic beech rainforest in association with hoop pine and mountain water gum. And so, you know what’s the best thing we can do for these pristine and primordial realms? Probably keep people out. And I don’t like to have to say that, because they’re stunning, and I don’t want to be exclusionary and exclusive. WILD: Are there better alternative routes in the area for the track? MG: I totally understand why they’ve selected [the route they have], because it’s bloody magnificent. There are places where the views are just breathtaking. The forests are astonishing. But the route goes right through pristine and effectively unvisited headwaters, which raises a huge risk of bringing chytrid into these areas, because it comes in on people’s boots and equipment. So what I’m advocating for here is a lower-impact, lower-risk, lower-harm alternative. Perhaps it’s not quite as scenically grand, but it would still give people an amazing exposure to the World Heritage property. I’m talking about the areas downstream of Dorrigo National

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP View from the edge of the Dorrigo Escarpment Artist’s rendition of Dorrigo NP’s proposed elevated walkway. Source: Dorrigo Arc Rainforest Centre Draft Master Plan Stuttering frog Subtropical rainforest in Dorrigo NP. Credit: James McCormack





Park and that skirt connectedly around the northeastern borders of it. But that’s not what’s being explored. WILD: Why do you think that the proposed developments here are actually taking place, given the high costs and potential ecological dangers? MG: In some ways, it makes no sense except when viewed from the lens that people within the bureaucracies want to build kingdoms, and that politicians want to open big things. But then, this development steps into broader regional issues. The Great Koala National Park, under both the previous and current governments, is very contentious. When this [proposed Dorrigo development] was first cooked up, it was confected and concocted as a neoliberal smokescreen to direct or divert attention from the fact that the government was destroying globally significant forests within the [proposed] Great Koala National Park. Industrial logging practices at the Forestry Corporation were effectively isolating, and heavily impacting upon, the three Gondwana World Heritage properties on the Dorrigo Plateau— Dorrigo National Park itself; New England National Park; and Mt Hyland Nature Reserve—and this logging is destroying the connective corridors that sustain them. Forestry is going about targeting these globally significant forests for what can only be termed taxpayer-funded extinction operations. It’s koala killing. Ecosystem collapse, by virtue of these massive machines going in and pillaging all the timber in these beautiful forests. The logging of multiple areas of the [proposed] Great Koala National Park right now is the most distressing thing to bear witness to. In Oakes State Forest, which is the number one






candidate for reservation of any area of state forest in New South Wales, the Forestry Corporation has recently illegally built roads within rufous scrub bird habitat. I live right adjoining that area, and I know from monitoring programs that the fires of Black Summer and Black Spring in Anderson’s Creek actually wiped out territories of [endangered] rufous scrub bird, the world’s most ancient songbird. These birds are in steep decline. At Roses Creek, at a place called Boot Hill, where they’d been monitored for 20 or so years before the fires, they’re not there anymore. And we’ve now had forestry go in and illegally build roads, destroying their habitat. At a place called Clouds Creek on the western Dorrigo Plateau, hoop pine dominated rainforests are being logged. Oldgrowth tallow wood, blue gum, brush box, New England blackbutt forests are being logged. Right now. And it’s accelerating. It’s the greatest crime to the collective imaginable. At Wild Cattle Creek, and at Clouds Creek, where [there were] greater gliders in extensive numbers, yellowbelly gliders, koalas, glossy black cockatoos, these species have all precipitously declined as a consequence of logging, clearing, and the fires. Their decline toward extinction is being accelerated right now across the public forest estate. There are Gumbaynggirr cultural

Gerhard and Jakob pause to marvel at the towering spires of the Karakoram

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Headwaters of the Nymboida Rver Ellis State Forest oldgrowth logging Antarctic beech forest on the Dorrigo Plateau What’s left of a mapped koala hub in Pine Creek SF after being logged in late 2023

sites being annihilated. There are police acting—and spending millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money—to protect and guard what are often illegal logging operations. It’s insane. It’s distressing. It’s causing great trauma to the bushfire-affected communities, and it’s endangering our lives and properties, because this logging makes future fires much more severe, and much more frequent. It’s drying out ancient, moist refuges—Gondwanan refuges. The Dorrigo Plateau has [incredible] biodiversity, with some of these assemblages extending back well beyond 100 million years, back into deep time. And the actions and activities of the Forestry Corporation of New South Wales are wiping away tens of millions of years of evolution, right in front of our eyes. WILD: Are things worse than they used to be here? MG: I’ve actually got really clear memories of this country extending back to the late 1970s. I’ve watched massive changes in logging practices, from when you had dudes with chainsaws and dozers to now, where there’s no manual logging at all. It’s all done by up to 30 tonne harvesters, and up to 25 tonne skidders, and large bulldozers. And the cold, hard reality of these industrial logging practices in these globally significant forests is that you actually do not have a forest left after those machines have been here. They are so big that they do a number of things. Firstly, they take the logs which brings the canopy to the ground, so it brings light and wind and desiccation to these moist ancient forests. Secondly, in the case of the harvesters—which are an excavator with what’s like a big automated chainsaw on a swinging boom arm—they need a safe working distance of 30 to

40m so they can swing around and mash the whole mid-canopy, including intentionally destroying black oak and forest oak that feed glossy black cockatoos. There were populations of tens of thousands of the [glossy black cockatoos] before the fires; there are now maybe 8,000 or less left. So all this turns these moist, ancient, refugial forests that were dark and sheltered and shaded into fire-prone, desiccated wasteland. And this is happening on a truly industrial, landscape scale. WILD: Are they doing this in just one or two state forests, or is it the whole area? MG: They worked their way through all sorts of forests under the final phases of the last government. Clouds Creek State Forest. Wild Cattle Creek State Forest. At Newry State Forest, they smashed the only area in the whole Gumbaynggirr Nation close to the coast that still supported both koala and greater gliders. At Conglomerate State Forest—the most diverse eucalypt forests in all space and time are in Conglomerate Forest, which is west of Woolgoolga, and is in the northern parts of the [proposed] Great Koala National Park. One third or more of Australia’s microbat species live in that very state forest. There are less than ninety microbat species [in total], and just shy of thirty [of them] are known to occur in these forests. Ten of them are threatened. Most depend upon tree hollows. Even now, Forestry is currently industrially logging these globally significant conservation assets. They burn the blazes out of it, intentionally killing rainforest and old-growth, threatened-species habitat, or threatened-flora hotspots. I could go on and on and on. Boambee State Forest. Orara East. Moonpar.




Bob Brown and NSW Senator Sue Higginson on a visit to the Kalang River headwaters with Mark in Nov 2023



RESTORATION, REHABILITATION, RECOVERY AND REPAIR.” And this destruction is occurring under the current government in the known koala hubs that they have crowed about protecting. There is koala blood, absolutely, on the hands of the Minn’s government. They are koala killers. WILD: So what should be done to stop this? MG: The simplest solution is to buy out the wood-supply agreements; these are the contracts that are driving the industrial logging that’s causing the problems. To buy out the contracts across the Great Koala National Park would cost about $20 million. I told this to previous NSW Environment Minister James Griffin directly; about two weeks later, his agency released this Gondwana theme park plan. But the quantum of funds involved—$56.4 million—could (a): be used to buy out the wood-supply contracts that are driving the collapse of these globally significant forested ecosystems; and (b) be used to regenerate and restore areas degraded by fire, weeds, and bell miner-associated dieback. It would cost in the low tens of millions to buy out those contracts, extinguish them, and rip them up. All of our society would benefit, including the loggers and their children, because the rivers will keep flowing and they will continue to have water security that will provide drinking water for them, for their families and for all future generations. WILD: And it’s not as if the logging provides huge numbers of jobs, I’m guessing. MG: The major pillars of economy here include nature-based tourism, agriculture, fisheries, and the health industry. Now, I don’t know exactly how many Maccas outlets there are around here, but there would be significantly more people employed by Maccas than directly by the logging industry. Really, only a limited handful of individuals and companies are taking profit:



the haulers, the millers, and the retail chains. So it’s this kleptocracy where public money is used to underpin this outrageous disservice to the public interest, this taxpayer-funded extinction. And it buggers up the rest of the regional economy, too. Tourists don’t want to come up here and see logged wastelands. They want to come and see beautiful forests. They want to swim in clean rivers. WILD: So much of this seems to come down to ideology rather than economics. MG: There are rational, plausible, achievable alternatives [to employment from logging]. There is so much remedial work required across the public forest estate: weeds, erosion, bell miner dieback. We need to flip from a culture of taxpayer-loss-making ecosystem destruction to a culture of restoration and rehabilitation. And the myriad benefits of that are not just addressing the extinction crisis, but in shoring up our water security. Given how wet and fertile these landscapes are, it would draw down phenomenal amounts of atmospheric carbon and store them in terrestrial ecosystems. And it would maintain moisture in the landscape, effectively augmenting precipitation when rain-bearing fronts come through. We’d get water security, we’d store carbon, and everyone would benefit. And the types of skill sets that exist within the forest destruction industries can, and must, be readily redeployed to restoration, rehabilitation, recovery and repair. WILD: If you could guarantee no logger would lose their job because they’re all going to be employed in reforestation and repair, that would offer an alternative pathway. MG: Exactly. Stop the logging, pay out the contracts, redeploy the workers, and flip it from destruction to repair. WILD: Restoration, rehabilitation, recovery and repair seems like a positive note to finish on. Thanks so much. W (This conversation was edited for length and clarity. Also, since this interview was conducted in late 2023, Mark has been, along with many other local community members, involved in an ongoing blockade since January 2024 at Clouds Creek State Forest. You can learn more about the blockade at facebook.com/blicksriverguardians

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TACKLING THE FEAR At New Zealand’s Lake Waikaremoana, Suzannah Marshall Macbeth sets off on her first ever solo overnighter.



t’s true that a lake among mountains doesn’t have to work I wandered along the edge of the lake wondering what to do. I hard to be beautiful. It’s true that hundreds of people walk came across a kingfisher, soft and limp on the ground. It was in the track around NZ’s Lake Waikaremoana every summer. the shadow of a small building with clean windows that reflected It’s true there is usually a water taxi to get you home at the end the sky. It was so beautiful I picked it up and held it, trying to of the walk. It’s also true that even though I’m here ready to walk find some meaning in the feathery body, in its tiny, ultimate around the lake, my heart is pounding and I’m not really ready death. The lake darkened with cloud and the paradise shelducks to walk around the lake. moved softly across the water. On the drive in from Rotorua, there were groups of horses The day had begun as an adventure, but as the mountains along the windy gravel road. Woolly and stocky, some with grew bigger, the forests denser, and the clouds lower, the sense foals. I’m used to horses behind good solid fences, not grazing of venturing into the heart of Te Urewera rainforest uninvited the roadside on the approach to villages. I drove through nerbegan to weigh on me. Once a national park, now Te Urewera is vously. Feeling my alone-ness. Feelthe first natural place to be recognised in ing it particularly because I had to be New Zealand law as having rights equivaso damn brave about it if I was going lent to a living person. to go through with my first solo hike, Big lakes are mysterious to me. I grew noticing my alone-ness and then up familiar with the expanse of the Indian I COULDN’T squashing it, noticing it and squashLOOK AT. NOW I WEND DOWN- Ocean, and with the small creeks and dams ing it, until by the time I arrived at of farming country. Lake Waikaremoana is WARDS AND the lake I didn’t know what I felt dark and humbling, bounded horizontally anymore. but limitless in reflecting the sky. I decide In The Old Ways—a book about to heed my nerves: Setting out for my first ancient tracks, paths and sea solo hike in a hurry, expecting things to routes—Robert Macfarlane writes about how we unfold our own align for me in this ancient place, does not feel right. story as we walk. Setting out alone for my first solo overnight I find somewhere to stay and decide I will walk a little bit of hike, this walk was, to borrow Macfarlane’s words, “a reconnoithe track the next day. No need to do the full loop; no need to tre inwards”, an exploration of my own thoughts and fears. But worry about the water taxi. Just a day in and a day out. My bighere—psyching myself up to start the walk—the living landscape gest fear about solo hiking is fear itself—knowing I’ll be anxious of forest, bluff and lake created a kind of anxious humility: Who at night, imagining strangers in every shadow. So I need a night was I to venture out there alone in pursuit of my insignificant out there to test me. To see if I can do the alone thing and not human goals? completely flip out.



AFTER I HAD BEEN TO THE SHOP to ask about the water taxi, and had procrastinated looking at toothpaste and then asked about the taxi, and had been told there was no water taxi for the next few days, I went outside quickly.



IT’S TRUE THAT THE MORNING is the best part of the day. It’s true that if you start early you can relax as the day goes on. It’s also true that I have never left early for anything, and solo hiking was not going to be any different.

Lake Waikaremoana

It’s late morning when I set off from the car. There’s another car parked there. Who owns it? Will I meet them on the track? Is it a weirdo? Are they ahead of me? I walk fifty metres down the muddy road before I decide I do need that extra muesli bar on the dash. I go back for it, relock the car three times. Key in pack, pack hoisted back on again. Walk a hundred metres, wonder where I’d put the key. Pack off, bracing as the hip belt is undone, painful shoulder shrugging, trying not to drop the thing. Check, key is there. Pack on again. Far out! Frustrated with my angst, heart rate through the roof already. I finally get going and encounter the start of the hill—500m up over four kilometres before another five kilometres of up and down. Horizontally brief but, for me, vertically challenging. Ten minutes in, and the track looks like it will go up and up for ever. I walk, and walk, discovering that my usual approach of “don’t stop until you get to the top” might not work so well when there is, apparently, no “top”. When I pass two guys going downhill carrying hunting guns—one with a huge stag’s head strapped to the top of his loaded pack—I forget to worry about fear and instead I’m worry about getting there. I reach a trig that signifies 900m asl. The worst of the climb is over, and I start to notice the forest. It’s green and dense, dominated by beech trees. They have the appearance of great age, thick with moss and lichen, such that the overall impression is one of cushiony green. In places, the track nears the edge of the bluff and I look out across the lake’s riffling water and dark, forested headlands. A small bird with a big round head darts in front of me and perches sideways on the trunk of a tree just ahead. I watch it watching me. It is adorably plump, black with a white underbody, white patch on the wings and a little white patch above its beak. It jumps ahead to a new tree; I follow it, it darts a little further. For a while we play this game; it is cute and confident. It is a miromiro, or tomtit. I climb a staircase against a wall of sandstone and the hut appears among the trees, high on Panekire Bluffs with a spectacular view

over the lake. There are people outside. A group of five. They haven’t seen me yet, but I’m glad to see them. I stop, and breathe; it feels like my first real breath in a while. I can finally shrug off being alone and late and weighed down by fear of my own fear.

TODAY THE LAKE IS SHROUDED in a mist unlike any I have seen before: It settles and lifts, settles again, lifts but leaves behind plumes of cloud like smoke on the distant lake shores. Even though it’s several days until I’ll be back in Australia, I have the strange sensation that I am going home. It’s windy on the bluff above the mist. Below the ridge, in the shelter of the forest, the wind in the trees still drowns out the sound of my footfalls and rustling raingear. Occasionally the wind eases, and birdsong fills the spaces. I am reminded of the words I read the night before I set off: Above all remember Te Urewera is a living place, more than just forests, rivers and land, it deserves yours and our respect and care. Halfway through the morning, I hear loud wing beats and look up in time to follow the flight of a kererū, a New Zealand pigeon, coming clumsily to land on a branch above me. It’s green and iridescent purple with a big white breast and pink beak. The kererū was New Zealand’s bird of the year in 2018— it is well known for a tendency towards inebriation after eating too much fermented fruit. The miromiro are back, too, perching sideways on tree trunks to inspect me. I see no one: It’s a Monday and the wind is intense. The walking is easy, my confidence back. The path ahead pulls me on towards home, but at times I look back the way I’ve come. I hiked up the hill around Lake Waikaremoana with a fear I couldn’t look at. Now I wend downwards in the company of the birds and the beech, and I hope this is a beginning. W

Beyond Cradle Mountain, Tasmania’s Overland Track winds gar boodja in southern WA. She has worked in conservation and agri-public south, providing huts for all walkers, culture. She writes to explore many things, and walks to do just one. without sky-high fees

CONTRIBUTOR: Suzannah Marshall Macbeth lives on Menang Noon-




ARE BOARDWALKS DISCONNECTING US FROM WILD PLACES? Boardwalks can help reduce walkers’ impacts, but environmental reasons aren’t the only reasons they’re being constructed. And that, Georgia Doherty argues, comes at a cost. Words GEORGIA DOHERTY


ecently, I hiked the Jatbula Trail in Nitmiluk NP in the But boardwalks are smothering these experiences. Northern Territory. As I walked, the spinifex slashed my I hear you conservationists. Boardwalks are designed to minilegs; beneath my feet, I felt the rocks and uneven surface. mise our impact, to reduce erosion and compaction, to conserve My eyes searched for buffalo, and I constantly was on the lookthreatened flora and fauna, and to enable accessibility for all. I out for snakes. hear you. These are important goals. But they need to be balTowards the walk’s end section, closer to human contact, I anced against the freedom raw trails give us as hikers. As an was in a swampy area when I came across a ten-metre-long outdoor educator, providing positive experiences with nature for boardwalk. It was fine, easy, bland almost. However, the section people is important to make them come back and care for it. after was muddy and sloshy, and my boots were sucked under But the other thing is that although some boardwalks are built the brown sludge. I laughed, squealed, and pried my way out, with environmental protection in mind, many are not, because navigating the compacted spots on the trail. But the experience what confounds the issue is that some hikers—even though stayed in my mind: Physically connected to the land, I was hyper engaging in an activity requiring exertion, resilience and peraware of its texture and moisture content. sistence—want ease in everything; this includes a clean, neat It had me pondering: Are boardwalks disconnecting us from boardwalk. Government and tourism marketing agencies have wild places? been happy to normalise As a decade-long experienced these ‘freeways for our feet’ hiker and child-nature wanderer, in our national parks, and to BOARDWALK CONSTRUCTION it feeds my soul to feel the dirt and generate interest in them by IS OFTEN A REFLECTION OF rocks and uneven surfaces under advertising neat and accessimy boots. The ground is where my ble campaigns for the subset senses are heightened, and my feet of hikers who crave physibecome strong. There is a story here cal and psychological ease. in the layered soil, sand, dirt and Perhaps, given the sums dust that falls beneath our shoes involved, it’s little wonder on the trail. It forges a connection we’ve built well-groomed, to the place where I’m leaving footprints, showing me how to infrastructure-heavy walkways: Tourism is a huge driver of our respect the land I walk on. Nature is really in charge when the economy, with nature-based tourism bringing in a whopping footpath is muddy, rocky or undulating; I need to adjust my foot$19 billion into NSW alone. steps to suit the environment. However, not only are these board-walked tracks in national I’ve learnt, through walking fiercely rugged trails, to stamp parks often unnecessary in environmental terms, they are also my feet moving through tall grasses so that snakes hear my frequently counterproductive. Mostly built with the quickvibrations. I’ve learnt how to balance by hopping across uneven est route in mind, they don’t weave within and around nature; rocks and by trudging across rivers. I’ve walked step by arduous instead, they destroy whatever native plants lie in their path. step across sand dunes and through swamps, and found these They displace fauna, too. Moreover, many boardwalks are now sections to be the best parts of my journey. And on the way, I’ve constructed with FRP (fibre-reinforced plastic) for their deckfound myself to be more aware of stepping around animals, and ing; the microplastics left as a result contradict our nationalthat I am more curious about the flora layering the walls of the parks-stated goal of conservation. trails. I gain insights; I manage risks; I problem-solve; I use my And it’s not merely that boardwalks can implement their own intuition to get from one spot to the next. direct damage; building them diverts funds that could otherwise




Nearly half of the iconic Coast Track in NSW’s Royal NP now lies under plastic boardwalk. Credit: James McCormack

be spent in national parks on pest and weed control, on community engagement, or on ground conservation efforts such as monitoring, translocating and building resilient reserves for a changing climate. We need to stop guilting our way into thinking boardwalks are playing their part in minimising our impact; instead, they are often ultimately adding to the next problem—in this case, disconnection and an overkill of polished foot highways. What’s more, boardwalks are usually directed at a specific cohort of people, those who desire using structures to manicure national parks. But such construction is often seemingly a reflection of detached authorities making decisions far removed from the actual experience of hiking. And these decisions impact on society by distancing us from the one thing we need—connection and grounding to nature. Perhaps these decision makers forget that, ever since early hominids arose in Africa, we ‘ve been creatures of the Earth, and that for many thousands of years, it’s by walking on it directly with all its imperfections that we have connected to it. +++++


y brothers and I did a surf/hike trip a few years back on the coast of Nadgee NP in southern NSW; it was dense terrain. We used our surfboards to clamber through sections, ducking, crawling and using all senses to navigate. It makes me sad to think that wild fragments like this may one day become riddled with boardwalks. Let these areas stay wild. Let remote places stay remote. Let animals and fauna be surprised by a human coming through. Let people who want a challenging journey, or those who wonder what might be possible in a wild area, be forced to pull out a map. Our cities, our suburbs, and our farms are continually eating into our untamed lands, and there are already thousands of places we’ve developed that cater to human access; let what wild areas remain do so without over-engineered pathways and boardwalks. Boardwalks are just the start, too. It soon moves to being able to carry swags to neatened campsites free from ground dwelling critters, to then wanting simple access for our generators. Next come the service towers set up in remote areas for more access

to phone coverage; soon following are cabins built to give hikers a pleasant, perfect experience surrounded by comfort and ease. Meanwhile, experienced hikers have had their challenges taken away. The more industrialised the surface under my feet is, the less dirt on my boots, the less strength used in my ankle, and the less sensory activation taking place. Raw experience is lost. It feels like an un-balanced seesaw. Because yes, I know boardwalks are lovely to walk on, that they are easy on the hips, soft on the heels and really double up on the boot comfort. But this shouldn’t be why we come out to hike. We feel solid surfaces—in the form of concrete, bitumen and many other man-made materials—under our hoofs every day. When I seek nature time, I want it to be intense, invigorating, spirited, and with an element of risk. These pleasant but overcrowded boardwalks have hindered my experience, and likely yours too. It’s pushed me into favouring wilderness areas and nature reserves where I see the priority being the preservation of flora and fauna, and not anthropocentric construction. I wonder when we’ll stop taking a human-centred approach to our national parks, and instead let nature and creatures (including humans) flow more freely. We need to leave some areas untouched by human-made walkways, and to allow those seeking wilder trails to have opportunities to experience them. And others can too, if they’re willing to endure discomfort, or to get themselves fit and vigorous enough to take on such walking. Perhaps I may just be entering an older badgering phase of life, rejecting the comforts of modernity. But I don’t think that it’s just me who would rather seek out quieter, unpopulated spots for that hit of ‘forest bathing’, spots where my boots squeak against the grass and the sand eats at my shoe. We want people to visit our natural spaces, but we want them to feel all the elements under foot. To care for wild spaces, we need to immerse ourselves in the soils of our landscapes. And we need to connect with our primal selves by relishing all the experiences nature can offer us. W

Beyond Cradle Mountain, Tasmania’s Overland Track winds when she’s not guiding students through the wilderness, grovelsouth, she’s providing public huts trails. for all walkers, ing for waves and playfully misguiding herself along hiking without sky-high fees

CONTRIBUTOR: Georgia fervently embraces the great outdoors;





Ben on Lake Attabad, Pakistan

with Ben Southall

Your first expedition can challenge you physically, mentally and culturally. Wild Earth Ambassador Ben Southall gives some tips on how to plan for success.


eading out on your first self-planned expedition is a massively rewarding, ridiculously exciting affair, but it can be highly stressful if you get the basics wrong. My first major expedition (a year driving an old Land Rover around Africa), didn’t just happen: It took years of research, training and planning to even get to the start line. So how do you get your first expedition underway with the highest chance of success? Here are some tips and lessons I’ve learned along the way.


BUILD THE FROTH: Nothing gets my adventure muscle

GET YOUR GEAR RIGHT: Unless you want gear failures at

twitching more than stories of bygone adventure. My motivation for driving around Africa and from Singapore to London stemmed from reading First Overland (a 1955 tale of pioneering adventures by road), and reading Sir Ranulph Fiennes' autobiography made me fall in love with harsh environments. So try to uncover gems at old bookstores, scour internet forums and listen to podcasts (I love Adventure Sports Podcast). Surround yourself with the tales of those who’ve been through it, and learn from their mistakes.

inopportune moments, invest in quality equipment that’s designed for the environment you’re heading to; you get what you pay for. Treat your gear well, too, and it’ll last a lifetime. Test all your gear, too. There’s nothing worse than a critical piece of gear or clothing failing when you need it most. Ensure you’ve road-tested everything before setting off. Sleep in it, wear it around home, trial it in the environment it’s designed for.

TO PLAN OR NOT TO PLAN: There are two vastly different

shit is. Use colour-coded dry bags or packing cells to separate gear and clothing. It makes a huge difference when you’re tired or in a dangerous environment; faffing around can put your life or that of others around you at risk.

methodologies around expedition planning: the ‘6Ps’ category; or ‘winging it’. Choose whatever works for you. Personally, I prefer the former. Be aware, though, that if you plan the crap out of everything, there’s no opportunity for adventure to happen.

ASK THE EXPERTS: They’ve been there and done it, and they should be more than happy to share their learnings with you. Whether you DM them via their socials, chat face-to-face at an event or send them an email, asking experts for their tips gets you answers straight from the horse’s mouth.

HESITATION IS THE ENEMY: Don’t delay, commit today. Too many people I’ve met had that great idea, but never got around to actioning it. Set yourself a realistic date your expedition will start, then tell everyone about it so you are accountable. It gives you a timeline to work towards, and a D-Day to count down to.



tire easily, make mistakes, potentially injure yourself, and ultimately fail. What’s the solution? Either train harder, or take more time. You’ll probably enjoy the experience even more if you take the time to smell the roses.


LEARN THE BASICS: Don’t rely on your phone or even a dedicated GPS unit. At some stage it’ll fail, and unless you have the paper map and compass skills to navigate to a safe place, you’ll be at the mercy of the wilderness environment you’re traversing.

OVERPACKING IS THE ENEMY: It often happens: I plan from the comfort of home, spend a week on expedition, and return having used only 30% of the clothing I took. Be ruthless; jettison what you can. Remember clothing made from materials like wool can be used day after day without absorbing odours. Less clothing = less weight = less strain on your body and gear.


decided on roles and responsibilities in advance. The stressful environment that comes with fatigue, expectations and deadlines can strain even rock-solid friendships.

By stepping out into the great unknown, you’re taking your life in your hands, putting theories into practice, and trusting your instincts. But planned properly, you can not only get home safely at the end of your first expedition, you can have fun on the way. W


CONTRIBUTOR: Founder of Best Life Adventures, Ben Southall is a Wild

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THE KARENS The story of an unsung hero and her list of one hundred high points in NSW’s Shoalhaven Region. Words JOE NETHERY Photography BRETT DAVIS


wo years ago, back in 2022, Karen Davis (pronounced Car-en) was contemplating a swim. She lives in NSW’s Shoalhaven district—two-and-a-half hours south of Sydney, and roughly the same east of Canberra—a 4,567km² area of coast and hinterland with some of the finest beaches in the world. Hyams Beach, in particular, is famed for its squeaky, white sand; the beach is now in danger of being loved to death. As a result of Hyams Beach’s popularity, Shoalhaven City Council initiated a “100 Beaches Challenge”, aimed at spreading the tourist load along the region’s 125km of coastline. But the Shoalhaven also has much to offer the bushwalking fraternity: Coastal walks along fantastic sea cliffs and beaches, and through forests of old man banksia and bangalay and stately spotted gums; inland hikes along the escarpment cliffs of Morton and Jerrawangala National Parks, or up into the peaks of the Budawangs. It incorporates all or part of many national parks and reserves, including Budderoo, Jerrawangala, Morton, Budawang, Jervis Bay, Booderee, Cudmirrah, Conjola and Murramarang. It also includes the Ettrema Wilderness Area. The problem is that some walks in the Shoalhaven can get crowded. There are times walking in the Budawangs, especially entering from Wog Wog on a weekend, when you can feel like you’re part of a conga line. Climbing Pigeon House in Morton



NP is the same. But while thinking about her swim at one of the Shoalhaven’s designated 100 Beaches, Karen—a long-time member and prolific walks leader of the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers Club—happened to read an article called ‘The Abelists’ in the Summer 2021 Issue (#185) of Wild. The piece was about climbing Tasmania’s ‘Abels’, a list of 158 mountains in the state that are above 1,100m and have a prominence of at least 150m. She had a lightbulb moment: Why not do the same in the Shoalhaven? Why not come up with a list of high points that would take some of the pressure off the Budawangs, and at the same time showcase the walking potential of the rest of the Shoalhaven.

KAREN IS A BORN ORGANISER, full of ideas, with usually two or three projects simultaneously in the pipeline. In 1999, she and her husband Brett—having just spent three years cycling 17,500km around Australia—moved to the Shoalhaven and almost immediately joined the Shoalhaven Bushwalking Club. Over the years, their contribution to the club has been enormous. Karen has led over 260 club walks, many in remote areas, and has been on the committee for twenty years, including eight as president. Brett— tall, rangey and red headed, although these days sporting a very Father Christmas style beard—spent two years in the president’s

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT On the summit of Donjon Mountain (#14) Two of the most iconic ‘Karens’ lie in the Budawangs: the Castle (#18), with Karen on its summit back in 2016, and, in the background, Didthul/ Pigeon House Mtn (#40) Karen exploring one of the Shoalhaven’s many clifflines




chair, and has been the club’s webmaster since, well, forever. They were both awarded Life Membership of the club in 2016. The pair didn’t restrict their volunteering to just the Shoalhaven, however, or only to bushwalking. In 2008, they became Australian Wildlife Conservancy volunteers, and have done caretaker and survey stints at Newhaven (NT), Buckaringa (SA), Pungalina (NT), Bowra (QLD—twice) and Mornington Sanctuary (WA). And somewhere along the line they joined Birdlife Australia, and in 2014 were instrumental in establishing a branch in the Shoalhaven. Karen is the group’s treasurer, Brett the secretary, webmaster, and publisher of its quarterly e-magazine. But back to Karen’s idea for Shoalhaven’s high points. Coming up with lists is not something new for her. Back in 2006, while perusing topographic maps for possible club walks, she noticed the Shoalhaven had an unusually high number of trig

points (fixed survey stations), many in interesting places. So, she thought, why not try to visit them all. After much cross-referencing of maps and correspondence with helpful officers in NSW’s Department of Lands, she and her husband Brett came up with an official list of 74. Thirty of these they ticked off straight away as having been previously visited; it left 44 to go. With some trigs on private property, others on public buildings (like water towers, dams, and the Council chambers) and more on restricted Defence-controlled land, this was no easy undertaking. With the assistance of a hard-core group of Shoalhaven Bushwalkers, and Brett’s encouragement and support, the project was completed over the next twelve months. The finale was a difficult three-day bush bash to the Ettrema Trig; it was fitting given that the Club’s newsletter—The Ettremist—is named after the Ettrema Wilderness Area. That list of trig points, however, was just a warmup for Karen when it came to creating her new list of Shoalhaven high points. She set to work, poring over topographic maps. She soon realised, however, that she had to define what exactly a Shoalhaven Beyond Cradle summit was. This was not necessarily easy. As Karen later wrote Mountain, Tasmania’s in The Ettremist, “I had long and involved discussions with my Overland Track winds husband Brett, and applied great thought tosouth, the best definiproviding public all walkers, tion of a Shoalhaven summit. It was not an easy huts task for to choose

without sky-high fees




IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Karen in 2011 shimmying up Donjon Mountain (#14), one of the more technically difficult climbs on the list Karen at Wineglass Tor (#39) in 2021 Atop Tallowal Hill Trig (#48) in 2006

SELECTED LIST OF ‘KARENS’ - #1: Mt Budawang (1,138m) - #2: Currockbilly(1,132m) - #7: Wog Wog Mtn (880m) - #13: Shrouded Gods Mtn (852m) - #29: Talaterang Mtn (779m) - #40: Didthul/Pigeon House Mtn (720m) - #50: Mt Bushwalker (640m) - #60: Drawing Room Rocks (610m) - #89: Durras Mtn (285m) - #100: Pulpit Hill (100m) The full list of ‘Karens’ can be found at brettdavis.com.au/thekarens.html

CONTRIBUTOR: Joe Nethery lives in

between the many mountains, hills, spot-heights, knobs, and high points in the Shoalhaven. The exercise also makes you realise how big the Shoalhaven is and how remote some of these unheard-of summits are. The highest mountain in the Shoalhaven is Mt Budawang at 1,138m. The lowest named mountain is Mt Jervis … which rises to the grand height of a little over twenty metres! And there is an unnamed plateau topped by Sassafras Trig that rises to 822m. So, should Mt Jervis be included because it has a name, and Sassafras Trig be rejected because it does not have a name? A height limit, or height above its surrounds, excludes some well-known and interesting points. An 800m limit eliminates Pigeon House; a 700m limit excludes Mt Bushwalker; and even a 300m limit would see Durras Mountain absent from the list. In the end I have decided to do away with limits, rules, and definitions—all of which are somewhat arbitrary in themselves—and to make my list totally arbitrary, consisting of high points that I consider are features of the Shoalhaven, and which make interesting walk destinations.” Karen soon realised the list would come to around 100; given Shoalhaven Council’s 100 Beach Challenge, a hundred seemed an appropriate cutoff mark for her list. But then came her next decision: what to call the list. Karen has written that she and Brett “brainstormed and rejected names like the ‘Evans’ (an early Shoalhaven explorer that is also the name of two life members of the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers), the ‘Yuins’ (Aboriginal Country name), the ‘Summits’ (boring), the ‘Wangs’ (short for Budawangs but potentially controversial), the ‘Billys’ (after Currockbilly).” But it’s worth going into a little history here, because the Abels in Tasmania isn’t the only list of peaks like this. That list itself was modelled on similar lists in the UK like the Munros—282 Scottish peaks with heights over 3,000 feet (914.4m), named after Sir Hugh Munro, who charted and produced the first list of such hills in 1891— and the Wainwrights, 214 peaks (fells) in England’s Lake District named after author Alfred Wainwright, who wrote a seven-volume series of books called the Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells; the Wainwrights are those peaks included in the guide. In short, there was historical precedent in terms of naming the lists after the person who came up with the list. And so it was that Karen decided to name the list ‘The Karens’, simply because she could. Some may think that’s a bit presumptuous. But Karen and husband Brett Davis are just two of the unsung and rarely acknowledged grassroots heroes within local bushwalking, conservation, and environmental communities. They never blow their own trumpets, so if Karen wants to put her name to the high points of the Shoalhaven, I say, go for it. You have earned that right many times over. W

Vincentia, NSW. The first thing he did on retiring 12 years ago was join the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers, and hasn’t looked back since.



Ed’s note: To date, Karen has summitted 65 of the peaks on her list, with the most recent being #49: Water Race Creek (643m). She says #20: Mt Mooryan (824m) will likely forever remain out of her reach as it involves rock climbing and serious exposure.


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MARMION Teacher, nature guide, explorer, adventurer, sailor, conservationist, storyteller, naturalist, photographer and author Peter Marmion has a self-described, almostreligious zeal for acting as an ambassador for Tasmania’s Southwest. Words Fiona Howie


eter Marmion is one of those people. He is technically retired from one career–teaching–but this is only one of the many things Peter does. He’s also a nature guide of over three decades, an explorer, adventurer, sailor, conservationist, storyteller, naturalist, photographer, and now author. If you live in southern lutruwita/Tasmania, and haven’t met him, chances are you know someone who has. “Well, we’ve sold lots of copies of your book, Pete. But we haven’t sold one yet to someone who doesn’t know you!” a bookseller tells him. It’s only partly a joke. When I first call Peter, he and Robyn are about to host a community street party. They welcome me for an interview at their home over the weekend, even though it is Friday and I have phoned out of the blue. Peter’s book, Hidden Worlds: A Journey into toogelow/Port Davey, gives the reader a window into the wild country of the Southwest, the most remote corner of Tasmania. In it, Peter shares stories and photos, together with his rich knowledge of the place. Arresting images capture the patterns of nature, the varied moods of the landscape. The character of its residents, human and animal. Peter knows this place perhaps as well as anyone alive today, after more than half a lifetime exploring it. Five decades and counting. It’s a place of darkly dramatic mountain ranges and buttongrass plains, its ecology shaped by thousands of years of custodianship by the Needwonnee, Ninene and Lowreenne people. White beaches, rough seas. In its heart, there are no roads. These far reaches can only be visited by foot, small plane, or boat—and even then, only if the infamous weather allows safe passage. One of the routes in is the South Coast Track, a riteof-passage for young bushwalking Tasmanians, marked by mud, waist-deep puddles and the thigh-burning Ironbound Range. (I emerged from my own journey on the track spellbound, but seemingly hobbling on sticks, with blisters that would more accurately be described as wounds.) The Marmions’ house is nestled in a well-tended garden fringed by giant blue gums. There is a curved row of Mt Fuji



trees out front, and slender silver birches frame the house. Peter says the birds were one of the things that drew them here. Over sixty species visit the house, including critically endangered swift parrots, which used to roost here in large flocks. Peter and Robyn are warm hosts, offering tea, coffee, slice. A study next door is filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with books on Tasmanian history, sailing and geology. There is a huge collection on Tasmanian Aboriginal history. Beside the piano hangs a map of lutruwita/Tasmania, with pins and lines marking the places that Peter has visited, both land and sea. Nearly the entire coast is marked with a dotted blue line. Peter and Robyn, who met in high school and embarked on teaching careers together, have raised three children in a spirit of adventure. The entire family would fly out to the Southwest as volunteers in programs to conserve the orange-bellied parrot, which breeds only at Melaleuca. On one trip, typically inclement weather prevented a Sunday trip home. The next day, the family waited alone on the airstrip for a promised special flight, children dutifully dressed in their school uniforms. A wild ride home at under 100 feet—still one of the most exciting flights Peter has ever done—had the kids arriving at school by 9 o’clock, ready to learn.

OVER THE MOUNTAINS Peter’s fascination with the Southwest began in childhood, well before he set eyes on it. “I’m endlessly curious, so I want to know what’s over the mountains. I was always like that, and my parents encouraged it.” His imagination was captured by tales about its hardy residents, whose names were known throughout the island. So as a thirteen-year-old scout, Peter jumped at the chance to walk from Cockle Creek to Flat Rock Plain. There, they encountered two men in gumboots and combination overalls, who had just finished a challenging ten-day walk. Listening to their tales by the fire, Peter decided he wanted to spend his life exploring the Southwest. It’s a place that now feels like home. You might think that the Southwest would be a place you’d go

Peter looks over a swathe of his beloved Southwest Tasmania near Port Davey. Credit: Jimmy Emms




to get away, but Peter is equally drawn by its small community. “We all look after each other, which is another thing I really like. You never know, it might be you that needs the help next. It’s how a community should be—there’s a lot of warmth, generosity, and support.” In earlier travels, Peter met many larger-than-life residents who are now part of Tasmanian folklore. “I feel very fortunate. I used to rub shoulders with some of the famous fishermen like Clyde Clayton and his wife Winn, [and with] Herbie Hall, Rupert Denne. They were just great characters. They taught me a lot about seamanship, knowledge of the place.” Peter also had the chance to get to know its most famous resident, Deny King. Deny was well-known around the state not just for his self-sufficiency, but also for being an all-round lovely human. Peter has happy memories of eating Deny’s freshly baked bread and home-grown raspberries—an excellent break from dehydrated food—while tiny wrens hopped around the kitchen floor. Peter describes himself as having an “almost-religious zeal” for creating ambassadors for the Southwest. “I call it the fabled land, because wherever you look, there are stories. If I can share my love and passion successfully with visitors, then hopefully there will be more and more people who want to help look after it.” Peter especially enjoys guiding older Tasmanians who are visiting for the first time. One of the oldest people Peter has guided was a 92-year-old man on what was meant to be a daytrip. Flights were unexpectedly grounded—this time, by smoke—resulting in an unplanned overnight stay. An empty Par Avion camp was well stocked with food and wine, luckily. Just a couple of days before my visit to the Marmions’ house, the same man had called him up to tell him that this was the second-best day of his life, after his wedding day. “We had a lovely chat. I said, ‘You’ll have to come back down!’ He said, ‘I think I will!’” Some of Peter’s favourite memories of the Southwest involve accomplishing physically difficult feats. He was one of the first people to raft the Solly/Old and Crossing/Davey Rivers, which few people have successfully done. There have been some close calls. On a trip with his daughter, lightning struck so near that the static electricity made their hair stand on end. And on a sailing trip along the famously dangerous coastline, a fair-weather forecast descended into gale conditions. I’m curious about how Peter thinks about risk. As usual, his answer is connected to relationships. “It’s just experience, talking to other people and taking on board what they’ve got to say. I’ve done that all my life. It’s no accident that I wanted to put all the people in the book acknowledgements, there are like 150! But,” he confesses, “I like risk too ... storms, well, I love them actually!” As a guide, Peter is usually involved in a couple of rescues each year, “always people who’ve underestimated the country and not had the gear.” The challenge of the country is another element that keeps drawing Peter back. “You’ve got to stay fit if you’re



going off-track, and be self-reliant. It’s one of the reasons I go there … I seek adventure. At the same time, I’m getting older. I’m still fit and strong now, but I’ve got to understand that it’ll tail off and I’ve just got to adjust. That’s the next tricky challenge.” The Southwest is marketed as wilderness, but this is a label that many palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) people find troubling. It suggests a natural landscape, free of humans–obscuring a long history of occupation. Peter instead calls it wild country. Recognition of the original custodians has come a long way since his youth, when it was still wrongly taught that Truganini was the last of her people. As a young person, Peter encountered many ideas he found “crazy”, even at the time, like the widespread theory that Tasmanian Aboriginal people were unable to light fire. “You don’t forget how to do that … they’d see people carrying [the firesticks], but it was such an important job to fire the country that they were always doing that.”

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP (All images by Peter Marmion) Flying home from Melaleuca in the late afternoon with autumnal light flooding the Norold Range Federation Peak, Eastern Arthur Range Winter calm amongst the Celery Top Islands, Bathurst Harbour Mt Berry and Mt Stokes viewed from the entrance to Port Davey, Southwest Tasmania




My partner Dan remembers Peter as Mr Marmion. A principal with great empathy, who seemed to get along with everyone. Franklin, where Dan grew up, is a small historic township in a green valley surrounded by orchards. Brightly painted cottages look down to the still waters of the Huon River. Handcrafted wooden boats drift lightly on grey water, often wreathed in mist. It seems an idyllic place to grow up. But when the Marmions arrived,

“lots of the children were quite disenchanted with Franklin. So we’d take them to look down over these beautiful vistas. Jan [an accompanying outdoor-education guide, and an expatriate], he’d say, ‘Look at this, this is more beautiful than Switzerland!’” “We wanted it to be a school where the edges between school and community were not there,” says Peter. Excursions were an ideal way to blur these boundaries. “I think that the best classroom is outside. It’s become more fashionable now, but I was always interested in how nature was good for mental wellbeing. You’ve got to nurture children. They’re not empty vessels.” The kids began walking in prep–catching the bus to the top of the road and trotting back down to the school garden. By sixth grade, they’d hike all the way from the top of kunanyi/Mt Wellington to Montagu Thumbs, “a really meaty walk”. The annual highlight was the Grade Six South Cape Rivulet Camp. This endof-year tradition involved a long trek carrying overnight gear.



“Relationships ... built around adventure activities often have a deep foundation … It worries me these days about relationships being built on these,” says Peter, pointing to his phone. “[That walk is] not easy for an eleven or twelve-year-old to do, but good for building steam entering that difficult teenage time. I think if you’ve got those runs on the board, that’s going to help.” These trips fired the students’ curiosity about the natural world. Peter would informally point out mountains and other distant landmarks. The history of places, traditional First Nations’ uses of the plants. Interesting facts about the birds and mammals they encountered. “I guess because I’m such an ardent conservationist—and I think we all have to be—I was wanting to teach children about the wonder of the natural world. I always think ‘How incredible does nature have to be before people get switched onto it?’ It’s extraordinary. That’s what I was always trying to teach children.” Passing on a love of nature to their own kids was also important to Peter and Robyn. When son Adam was just a few months old, Peter took him down in a little sling in the pouring rain to look at the Franklin River. Many years later, Adam—a lead searchand-rescue paramedic and former member of the national canoe slalom team—guided his father down the same river. Daughters Analie and Claire have followed in their parents’ footsteps as school teachers, carrying on the tradition of nature education. Most special of Peter’s Southwest memories is of an intergenerational trip with all seven of his grandchildren.

CONSERVING LAND AND SEA As a father, guide and teacher, Peter has passed on his passion for place and nature to many. The Marmion family have also spent many years volunteering to conserve nature. Peter is Treasurer of the Friends of the Seabird Islands. These little





Bass Strait islands are important habitat, but breeding sites have been smothered by invasive mirror bush. Rats, mice, cats, rabbits and “possums in the wrong places” threaten the birds too. Island-by-island, the group are tackling these problems, so that seabirds can again return in numbers. True to form, this involves more adventure—these tricky-to-access places must be reached by small boat in the height of winter, when the shearwaters are not there. It’s a challenge that I suspect only adds to the appeal of the project for Peter. The shift towards high-end development and mass tourism in national parks are both trends that concern Peter. A former working-class teenager who saved money from his paper rounds to buy hiking equipment, he believes it’s important that the Southwest doesn’t become a place only for the wealthy. “If you’ve got the determination and the imagination to go there, you should be able to. It’s a dilemma that I debate a lot because I do work for some high-end organisations. I haven’t properly resolved [it].” For some years, there has been talk of an “upgrade” of the South Coast Track to include luxury huts—a proposal which would involve destructive clearing. Peter is horrified by this prospect. Instead, Peter is advocating for a new Great Tasmanian Walk in the European style—that is, through beautiful but already inhabited places. Perhaps along the east coast, with its sea vistas, rosy granite mountains, and islands that change colour with the clouds. Local seafood, cellar doors. Or through the green

cider-producing hills of the Huon. “I think a walk from the top of Mt Wellington to Recherche Bay would be fantastic, coming through this beautiful valley where we’ve already got cafés, restaurants, accommodation, bus companies … We should be putting those sorts of things where people want to live and work, not in the heartland of the wild country. We don’t even know what’s there yet. Every scientific expedition, they find new things.” The possibility of attracting more people to the Southwest worried Peter when working on his book, to the point where he once stopped writing altogether for an entire year. “Then I thought, people have got to know what they’ve got [to protect it].” Take the Port Davey waterway. “We’re custodians of one of the most amazing waterways in the world, but not many people know about it,” says Peter. The ecology of the area is unique. A layer of fresh water, blackened by buttongrass tannin, lies over the top of tidal salt water. It is home to colonies of quirky creatures more usually found at greater depths, such as feathery sea pens, named for their resemblance to quills. This fragile environment is threatened by human activity in the area. Although the area is a marine reserve, Peter says government cutbacks have limited the ranger presence on the waterway. In their absence, guides are left to do their best to draw people’s attention to no-anchor sites and to other rules that are supposed to protect the area. Peter has even seen people try to bring cats and dogs ashore. Invasive species clinging onto boat hulls are a particular threat—small numbers of New Zealand screw shell, Pacific oyster and several non-native crab species have all been detected. Runaway numbers might pose an existential threat to this one-of-a-kind ecosystem. The Wildcare group Friends of Melaleuca—of which Peter is secretary—are striving for greater protection. They are working on a brochure to educate fishers and yachties on the critical importance of having a clean hull before entering the waters. Peter’s love of the sea has been a driver of another of his ambitious projects: a mission to walk the entire Tasmanian coastline, section by section. He has only one leg left to complete, with a book of stories already underway. Peter’s Southwest is an almost-mythic place. Turning the pages of Hidden Worlds, you gain some sense of its enormous scale, its past, the diverse collection of communities that it encompasses. In our increasingly urban world, it still has an otherness that leaves space for imagination. Peter writes, “It is a vast landscape that cannot be known or understood in a short time. It really does take a lifetime to fully experience.” W

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM Peter on the Franklin River on a trip guided by his son Adam. Credit: Luuk Veltkamp Sailing with his granddaughter Emily Marmion. Credit: Robyn Marmion The view north from the Cheyne Range. Credit: Jimmy Emms It’s not only the land of Southwest Tasmania that Peter loves; the seas and coastlines hold equal appeal. Seabirds at Round Top Island, off Tasmania’s south coast. Credit: Jimmy Emms Peter on a trip in the Du Cane Range on Tasmania’s Central Highlands. Credit: Jimmy Emms

CONTRIBUTOR: Fiona Howie enjoys getting her young family out in Tasmanian nature. Unfortunately, more of her actual time is spent coaxing people to put on their shoes.



WARRENMILLER'S MILLER'SALL ALL TIME TIME - 74 WARREN 74 YEARS YEARSOFOFFILMMAKING FILMMAKING RETURNSRETURNS TO AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND TO AUSTRALIA Warren Miller’s ALL TIME is bringing 74 years of filmmaking reimagined to a theatre near you this fall. And this season, it's all about good turns and good snow on good hills with good people. Narrated by Jonny Moseley, ALL TIME dives deep into elements that Warren himself first identified as the stuff of which snowy dreams are made. From the birth of ski towns like Sun Valley and Aspen to icons and innovators like the original hotdoggers, the film brings the best of seven decades along with humor and inspiration from today—featuring Maine’s finest athlete, Donny Pelletier, and the next generation of skiers and riders at Woodward Park City. In addition to the main feature from Warren Miller, this year's tour will exhibit 2 local films from presenting partner Arc’teryx. Delve deep into what makes winter so special as we share stories from local film makers Divya Gordon and Taylor Bennie-Faull. This will serve as the perfect entree to the two-year party for Warren Miller’s 75 seasons on snow.

SPECIAL ARC'TERYX WINTER FILM TOUR EVENTS Sydney North - Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace 11 Apr, 2024 | 8:15 PM


US A U S T R A L I A N DAT E S Canberra Wollongong Sydney East Sydney North Sydney Northern Beaches Melbourne Hobart Sydney Inner West Geelong Cooma Adelaide Perth (Leederville) Brisbane Bright Jindabyne Central Coast Gold Coast

Dendy Cinemas Canberra Gala Twin Cinema Ritz Cinemas Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace Glen Street Theatre Village Cinemas - Rivoli Peacock Theatre Dendy Cinemas Newtown Village Cinemas - Geelong Cooma Twin Cinema The Regal Theatre Luna Cinemas Five Star Cinemas - New Farm Sun Bright Cinema Jindabyne Cinema Avoca Beach Theatre Home of the Arts

11 May 12 May 15 May & 19 May 17 May 18 May 23 May, 24 May & 26 May 29 May 31 May 31 May 01 Jun 01 Jun 07 Jun 7 Jun & 9 Jun 8 Jun & 9 Jun 08 Jun 16 Jun 20 Jun

N E W Z E A L A N D DAT E S Auckland Rialto Cinema 14 Jun & 16 Jun Tauranga Luxe Cinemas Tauranga 20 Jun Wellington Penthouse Cinema & Cafe 21 Jun & 23 Jun Christchurch Hoyts EntX 27 Jun Dunedin Rialto Cinemas Dunedin 04 Jul Arrowtown Dorothy Browns Arrowtown Cinema 5 Jul to 7 Jul Wanaka Cinema Paradiso 14 Jul to 16 Jul




The Concordia Trek leads through one of the most spectacular mountain regions on Earth, the Karakoram. Four 8,000-metre-high mountains, including K2, stand here, along with countless 7,000m peaks. Getting here on foot is hard enough, but getting here on bike ...? It pushed this team to its limits.

Words Gerhard Czerner Photography Martin Bissig



Framed by the majestic Karakoram Range, Gerhard and Jakob approach base camp near Laila Peak





The Karakoram, PAKISTAN


reathing heavily, we have been struggling for hours now, trying to get up a steep, ice-covered cliff in the dark, holding tightly onto fixed ropes. Our crampons seem to be doing no more than scratching the stone, and it’s hard to get a foothold. At 5,500m, it feels like our lungs are on fire; with every step, we need to stop for a breath. Our bikes, strapped to our backpacks, have increased the load we’re already carrying to over 20kg. The trek itself is exhausting enough, never mind trying to fight the weight of our bikes and stay balanced. But we haven’t given up our hopes of conquering the biggest obstacle on our route, the Gondogoro La. When I started planning this trip two years ago, I had no idea how hard this ascent would be. Looking back, it’s probably a good thing. I wanted to fulfill one of my dreams, that of visiting Concordia in northern Pakistan. The confluence of two mighty glaciers—the Godwin-Austen and the Baltoro—Concordia is considered the heart of the Karakoram. Nowhere else on earth are there more 7,000- and 8,000m mountains in such close proximity. And, of course, one of those peaks is the mountain of all mountains: K2. Once I’d planned everything in detail, I started looking for travel companions. I found a motivated mountain biker in Jakob Breitwieser, and Martin Bissig was the ideal photographer and filmmaker. Back home, reactions to our travel destination were a mix of incredulity and misconceptions. Hardly surprising. Media coverage about Pakistan is often filled with stories of terror and fear. But those who’d actually been there thought differently. They were enthusiastic, and spurred us on. +++++


kardu. The biggest city in the Baltistan region. Located at the confluence of the Shigar and Indus Rivers—the source of the latter being holy Mt Kailash in Tibet—the small city is the starting point for all mountaineering expeditions in the Karakoram. With our bikes, we were the source of much excitement on the city’s main street, which is lined with hundreds of shops. People everywhere waved, offered to take our photo, chatted with us, invited us to tea. It seemed as though Pakistan and its citizens were as interested in us as we were in them. We never expected this degree of friendliness and hospitality. It blew us away. After just a few short hours in Pakistan, our image of the country had transformed. In Skardu, we met the person who would be our guide for





COUNTRY HAD TRANSFORMED.” the next two weeks: Isaak, sixty years old, with a magnificently full beard. When we discussed the details of the trip with him, he said he’d never seen cyclists on this trek. “Is it possible on mountain bikes?” we asked. “Yes,” he replied, “it is possible.” And then he added, “Inshallah!” God willing! We quickly grew accustomed to devout Muslims’ reliance on God’s goodwill. It

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Gerhard and Jakob mingle in a buzzing and vibrant market street in Skardu, where the adventure begins Gerhard performs tricks in Hushe village, captivating a crowd of local children A scene of teamwork and learning as the local porters load the team’s gear Traversing the rugged landscape, an epitome of the solitude and challenge of the Karakoram Circuit Isaak, our seasoned guide, was the face of local knowledge and the spirit of the Karakoram Companions in adventure, Jakob and Gerhard pose with one of the Pakistani crew members

helped put into perspective things beyond your control, whose outcome you can’t predict. We also talked to tourists just returning from the mountains, trying to get their impressions of the conditions. The answers we got ranged the spectrum, with everything from “The snow was waist-deep,” to “You’ll be able to bike 70% of it.” What else could we say but “Inshallah!” It was a two-day journey by jeep to reach the small village called Hushe, our starting point. Unfortunately, when we got there, Jakob was afflicted with a stomach bug, and was flat on his back, so I rode through the village on my bike alone. Within minutes, I became the star attraction, quickly surrounded by a gaggle of kids. I began rifling through my bag of trail-riding tricks—hopping on my front wheel and back, and jumping up and down stairs—and the crowd became unstoppable. Applause,

loud cheers, cell phones filming. Rarely had I had such an enthusiastic audience. That evening, we set up our tents in the densely planted garden of a guest house so dirty we didn’t want to spend the night inside; our sleeping beds were far preferable. We soon met the rest of our team: four porters and a cook. Overall, they appeared friendly and very fit. The gear was weighed and evenly distributed among everyone. Luckily, Jakob was feeling better the next morning, so we were able to set off on our expedition’s first leg. We’d planned to take five days to make it to the highest point of our trip, the Gondogoro La, located at 5,650m. To be able to make it through the pass—the primary concern I had when planning the trip was acclimatisation—we had to gradually adjust to the elevation if



The Karakoram, PAKISTAN

we wanted to be in top shape by the big day. Knowing this, we set off at a leisurely pace, enjoying the first few metres on our bikes. Surprisingly, the route was flat, and even seemed to have been partially cleared of stones. We were able to spend time in the saddle and to bike uphill. Around us, majestic peaks—granite giants—rose skyward to such heights that we had to strain our necks just to see the summits. To get used to the altitude, we spent two nights at our first camp, located at 3,600m. This also gave Jakob some more time to recover. During the day, it was unexpectedly hot, and the air was extremely dry. Even at this elevation, vegetation grew thick and there were trees. To escape the heat, we headed out



at 5:30AM on the third day to cover our next stretch. The path started out going up a steep glacial moraine; cycling was out of the question. We strapped our bikes to our backpacks, but when we got higher up, it flattened out, and we were able to inch our way forward, pushing our bikes. Masherbrum lay ahead, its 7,821m peak thrusting into the deep, blue sky. To our left was the rubble-strewn glacier. Bright yellow tents—already set up— awaited us at 4,100m, and we were greeted warmly. The porters moved a lot more quickly than we did; on average, they only needed half the time. The young men were incredibly fit, always cheerful, and ready to laugh at any joke. Though they barely spoke English, we were always able to communicate with them and have fun. This evening was no different. Sheer perseverance was needed to conquer the Karakoram‘s steep trails



Gerhard and Jakob pause to marvel at the towering spires of the Karakoram



The next morning, we once again set out early, aiming to make it to the camp before the pass. In response to our question about the trail, Isaak, grinning widely, gave us the same answer he’d given the day before: “Too easy. No problem. Little biking.” But after eight hours of pushing and carrying our bikes across a glacier, we reached our 4,600m camp feeling exhausted. We looked at Isaak. When we told him the day hadn’t been easy at all, we were met with another grin. “This is no city,” he replied. “This is a mountain adventure.” We couldn’t help but laugh. It became our mantra for the rest of the trip: We’re not in the city. This is a mountain adventure! After all, that’s precisely what we came for. All that stood between us and the pass now was an elevation gain of 1,000m. So we wouldn’t have to do the entire ascent with the extra weight of our bikes strapped to our packs, the next day we carried them up to 5,000m. so we could collect them on our way up later. That afternoon, we arrived back at the tents feeling




EASY. LITTLE HARD. BUT, INSHALLAH, YOU CAN DO IT.” fatigued. Tension was high. Would we be able to make it to the pass the next day with our bikes? At that particular moment, we didn’t think we had it in us. The next day, filled with euphoria, we packed our equipment and devised a plan: Start that evening at 9PM. Trek through the night. Reach the pass at 5AM. This way we’d be there before groups coming from the other side started descending on the fixed ropes, possibly showering us with falling rocks. Safety trumped sleep.

Isaak briefed us about the stretch ahead. He sounded surprisingly serious. Instead of his usual cheerful “Too easy,” this is what he said: “Not easy. Little hard. But, Inshallah, you can do it.” We looked at each other, unnerved. At 9PM we left, bundled up against the cold; stars in their thousands looked down on us. When we strapped the bikes to our backpacks at midnight, we were each carrying loads over 20kg. Our equipment was above standard compared to a traditional mountain-biking tour: Warm clothing for down to -15°C, heavy climbing boots, crampons, hiking poles, headlamps, a climbing harness and an ascender to clip onto the fixed ropes. We trudged through the night, moving slowly, breathing heavily. Except for the sounds we made, we were surrounded by total stillness. The terrain got steeper. Soon the substrate was covered in ice. We pulled out crampons. Shortly after, we reached the fixed ropes. Like a handrail, they snaked their way up, disappearing into the dark of night. With relief, we put on our climbing harnesses, attached our crampons, fastened ourselves to the fixed rope, and continued on. One step at a time. Slowly. Very slowly. Here and there, we were up against vertical sections that we couldn’t have managed without the ropes. The weight of the bikes on our shoulders seemed to be getting heavier. It became increasingly strenuous, but we continued to pull ourselves up.

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM Jakob navigates a rocky descent, his focus as sharp as the peaks looming behind him Our tents at base camp nestle under a twilight sky, a serene moment before the ascent of Gondogoro La begins Rugged trails en route to base camp Gerhard and Jakob, dwarfed by the grandeur of K2, share a moment of awe and achievement as they gaze upon the world’s second-highest summit Ascending Gondogoro La Carving paths in the snow on the precarious slopes of Gondogoro La







It wasn’t just the altitude that took the team’s breath away; the razor-sharp peaks of the Karakoram were simply stunning



The Karakoram, PAKISTAN

After what seemed an eternity, the horizon finally brightened, and the route flattened out. Soon we met the first mountain climbers and porters on the descent; they gave us questioning looks. Finally, at 5AM we reached the pass’s summit, at an elevation of 5,650m. We fell into each other’s arms. Ahead of us stretched the Gondogoro La in all its white splendour. We’d actually made it! The rising sun shone strongly, warming our frozen bodies. We poured ourselves a hot tea and enjoyed the magnificent view of the snow-covered peaks, resplendent and white. Four of the planet’s fourteen 8,000+m mountains stood before us: Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2, Broad Peak and K2. It was overwhelming. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop for long; we had a long ascent ahead. We climbed onto our bikes and headed off. But after just 300m, that was it for the downhill ride. More fixed ropes. The path, secured by ropes, snaked through crevasses, making




OF US—EVER! BUT IT HAD ALSO BEEN ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE.” its way down the mountain to a glacier basin. We carefully descended, pushing our bikes. By the time we reached Camp Ali at 11AM, we still hadn’t gotten back on them; the snow had become too soft in the heat of the day. Here and there, we sunk up to our hips. Advancing was sheer torture. But after some soup and a short nap, we decided to take advantage of the day and to continue on to Concordia. As usual, we asked Isaak about the route; we were happy to hear his usual answer: “Too easy. No problem! Biking!” And this time, he was right.

Riding on the immense Baltoro Glacier, we felt small and insignificant. Most mountains around us were higher than 6,500m, and towering before us was 8,611m K2. A truly colossal peak. At its feet was Concordia, dubbed by famed American mountaineering photographer Galen Rowell as the “throne room of the mountain gods”. It was 7PM when we got here, having left camp 22 hours earlier, with just two hours’ break; it was one of the longest, most strenuous days for any of us—ever! But it had also been one of the most memorable and awe-inspiring. The local porters had our full respect; without them, tourists couldn’t survive treks like this. What’s more, the gear they carried for themselves was just a fraction of what we thought we needed. Many, even when crossing glaciers, wore nothing on their feet but rubber, clog-type gardening shoes. And when they travelled along Gondogoro La’s steep and icy passages, they didn’t wear, like we did, hiking boots or crampons so they wouldn’t slip on the ice; they merely pulled woollen socks over their rubber shoes.

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT Jakob looks out from his tent at majestic K2 With the formidable 7000m peaks of the Karakoram as their backdrop, Jakob and Gerhard expertly navigate a labyrinth of boulders Despite the rigours and the altitude, Gerhard still had the energy to catch some air The team makes its way down the vast expanse of Baltoro Glacier




IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Navigating a narrow path along the Braldu River on the way to Askole Although this bridge seems precarious to cross even on foot, Jakob decides it’s the perfect place to pop a wheelie The locals greet us with radiant smiles, intrigued by the sight of bikes in their terrain for the very first time The dedicated local team provided indispensible support Some of the funnest moments of the trip were teaching the team’s enthusiastic porters to ride a bike

CONTRIBUTORS: Gerhard Czerner is a German mountain-biking author and speaker. Swiss-based Martin Bissig traded banking for biking and balance sheets for breathtaking shots. In the process, he’s become a Canon ambassador and one of Europe’s most published outdoor photographers.




fter a day of rest, we continued on. We may have reached our big destination, Concordia, but we were still on the glacier amid giant mountains. Our tour was to end in a small mountain village called Askole. We needed four days to reach it. For three days, we stumbled along with our bikes, pushing them more than riding them across the rubble-strewn glacier before it ended abruptly. From there, the path continued along the banks of a glacial river, the Braldu. We’d fervently hoped that we’d encounter more ridable terrain here, but the constant clambering up and scrambling back down—and the millions of rocks covering the entire surface of the ice for long stretches—made riding impossible. Still, just being able to travel through this impressive world of granite and ice was a privilege, and our happiness was all the greater when we were able to bike for a few hundred metres here and there. And fortunately, the final stretch turned out to be almost fully ridable. Our farewell party in Askole was an emotional one. Everyone was happy about how smoothly the tour had gone, but also sad about bringing this shared time to a close. We had the feeling our team had taken a shine to us and our unusual idea of attempting the big Karakoram circuit on mountain bikes. This had been assisted by the fact our evenings were spent helping our porters fulfill a wish: learning how to ride a bike. Everyone had so much fun with this! And in fact, by the end of our tour, each of them was actually able to bike. They were totally thrilled. Even if, in hindsight, our bikes spent more time on us than we spent on them, and even if this was the most strenuous bike tour we’d ever done, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. We’re certain that many of our encounters wouldn’t have been so profound if we hadn’t had our bikes with us. Sometimes I have the feeling that a bike is like a magic wand: It miraculously helps overcome language barriers and the fear of reaching out. And Pakistan, we will be back: Inshallah. W

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DREAMS The Kimberley Region in Australia’s northwest is home to some of the nation’s wildest and most beautiful country. Local photographer and guide Ben Broady shares with us a stunning collection of images that showcases the area’s magnificent landscapes.




The core of the Milky Way Galaxy arches over the beehive domes of Purnululu NP

The Kimberley






Y LOVE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY WAS BORN from my love for the Kimberley landscape. I am blessed that I have lived in my favourite place in the world since I was one year old. As a young boy growing up in Wyndham

(Western Australia’s most northern town), I used to stare, from the window of the school bus, across the mudflats of the King River at the majestic Cockburn Ranges. I was in awe. Today, these mountains are my favourite place on the planet, and I firmly believe that when they are in flood during the wet season, nothing else compares to them. Some of the earliest philosophies refer to light and dark, good and bad; in essence, yin and yang. The Kimberley is the classic archetypal representation of this philosophy: majestic, ancient and grand, albeit fragile, treacherous and unforgiving. We experience some of the most divine weather during our winter, when it’s perfect for camping and being outdoors. But during the build up to the wet season, it becomes harsh and inhospitable. Light and dark. Yin and yang. The Kimberley: The land has shaped me as a man; I revere it as a deity.



IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Known as Thethebeleng to the local Miriuwung people, this amazing feature sits on the banks of the mighty Ord River near Kununurra. Thethebeleng is also known as Carlton Ridge, but also, more commonly, as Sleeping Buddha or Elephant Rock; it depends on what angle you’re viewing it from Cathedral Gorge in the World Heritage-listed Purnululu NP. This is a blend of two exposures taken from the exact same location about thirty minutes apart: The first in blue hour to expose for the walls of the gorge; and the second in astronomical twilight to expose for the core of the Milky Way The Ord River starts in the gorges of Jaru and Gija Country, travels through the ragged ranges of Miriuwung Gajerrong Country, and finishes in the marsh and mud flats of Balangarra Country in the north. It is one of the hundreds of tributaries that serve the mighty Ord




IMAGES THIS PAGE - TOP TO BOTTOM Mandangala Dawang. Dawang is the Miriuwung word for Country, so this is Mandangala Country. A pivotal part of the Barramundi Dreaming story of the Miriuwung people is where the Barramundi is trapped by old ladies, but it escapes by jumping over the spinifex traps and into Argyle Diamond Mine. They believe the scales of the Barramundi are the diamonds that Rio Tinto mined for over thirty years The majestic Cockburn Ranges near El Questro Wilderness Park on Balangarra and Wilinggin Country. The range is my favourite feature on the planet, especially in the wet season when the waterways are in flood The boab tree, endemic to the Kimberley, holds a very special Dreamtime story—one of humility. The boab tree was very loud and proud; it is the biggest of all the flora, it had the nicest skin, and the most beautiful flowers. The gods humbled the egocentric boab tree by ripping it up and replanting it upside down. Hence why the boab tree is also known as the upside-down tree



Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) is home to the Overland Track, TASMANIA Wunambul Gaamberra people, and also to the Rainbow Serpent. One of the pros of shooting astro photography in the Kimberley is that there is no ambient light; the con of that is that you lose detail in the landscape very quickly in the evenings, which is why I tend to shoot everything at astronomical twilight

Subject to horrendous weather, the flora in Tasmania’s alpine region is impressively rugged. The shapes that these trees form due to the constant battering of wind is nothing short of art




IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP I call this image ‘The Serpent’. It is a mega 60-image, 3-row panorama stitch of the King River near Wyndham I lucked out when I captured this massive shelf cloud over Walmandany (James Price Point) near Broome in the most southern part of the Kimberley. I was on assignment for a client shooting textures and patterns on the Kimberley coastline, praying for clear skies as I needed good light for the shoot. All my wishes were granted as I had stunning light on sunset, and when the shoot was over, this breathtaking shelf cloud popped up and dominated the landscape I call this one ‘The Stingray’ as the spit on the eastern side of Steep Head, in the Admiralty Gulf, has this island very much looking like a stingray. The Admiralty Gulf is where I spend the bulk of the wet season, caretaking the Kimberley Coastal Camp This image of the Saw Ranges on Woolah Country near Wuggubun Community is another huge 60-image, 3-row panorama taken from a drone. I grew up with the Woolah peoples in Wyndham, and some call me their Jimudi or Jimjim, meaning we grew up together This is what I call the best campsite in the world—the Or Chasm. It is located inside the Cockburn Ranges, and is unforgiving country to walk on; the reward, however, is unrivalled



CONTRIBUTOR: Photographer and guide Ben Broady was born and bred in the Kimberley. He hopes his photography raises awareness about this majestic, ancient, albeit fragile part of the world and that it inspires you to come and visit. See more of his work at benbroady.com AUTUMN 2024



Festivities on


Re-creating and re-imagining a photo that graced the pages of Wild Magazine back in the 90s led a group of university students on a very different kind of Tasmanian adventure.



picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. Sometimes, however, just explaining the picture takes double that.

It is, after all, a silly photo. A very silly photo. For starters, there is the silliness of us being there at all. Federation Peak is an iconic landmark in the outdoor world. People who know it appreciate the difficulty required to get there. We wanted people to see us wining and dining in formal garments under the gaze of this imposing peak, and be equally confused, amused, intrigued and, hopefully, impressed. Maybe we succeeded in these goals: After the trip, I got the photo blown up and printed for my share house in Brisbane. It catches everyone’s eye when they walk in, but very few believe we are the people in the photo.



Thirty years in the making: an update of the iconic ‘Cocktails at the Castle’ image, this time at Federation Peak. Like the original, it was shot on film to keep it authentic

Federation Peak



Federation Peak, TASMANIA

Alice Springs


ven though the moment of inspiration for the image struck me in 2020, its actual genesis came from another very silly photo taken decades earlier. Way back in 1993, the Australian National University Mountaineering Club headed into the Budawangs in NSW, with the aim being to stage a party scene that they then captured with an image they called ‘Cocktails on the Castle’. The image ended up running that year in the pages of Wild, back in Issue #50. Having climbed the Castle, I admired the idea of hoisting all the cocktail attire up the mountain. It gave me a goofy, giddy feeling. Uni students in Canberra have a reputation for nonsensical fun, and during the COVID lockdowns, I felt the most intense sense of missing out. So I sent the ‘Cocktails on the Castle’ image, coupled with a screenshot of the iconic Federation Peak skyline, to a group of mates with the simple instruction: We are going to recreate this, but level it up Tassie-style. Five of them decided to join me: Will, Chelsea, James, Amy, and Nic. My father decided to tag along, too. Our first attempt in 2021 failed. We went in via Farmhouse Creek, quick and dirty, trying to get onto the range and onto Federation Peak and back down the Arthurs. Instead, we got smashed by the Roaring Forties: 100km/hr winds, rain, and hail across Upper Bechervaise Plateau stopped us in our tracks. There was no way we were getting the photo that trip. We walked out two days early. At Cracroft Crossing, getting smashed by the wind, we ate lunch huddled in a circle, with everyone eating extra food so we didn’t have to carry it out. There were wraps and cheese and outrageously large chunks of salami. There were bowls of last night’s risotto, too; within minutes, they became buckets of flavoured rainwater. I don’t think I’ll have another lunch like it, huddled with family and friends, all of us too cold to stand still and too wet to sit down.

A YEAR LATER WE REGATHERED, minus Will. We felt sorry for him; the preparation, time and physical effort put into the trip had been huge. But for Lachie, who could not make that first trip, our failure was beneficial. We made a defeated phone call to him from Huonville, letting him know that we hadn’t achieved our goal. He was stoked. Annoyingly so. He knew it meant that plans were already in place to try again; this time he would not miss it. It was lucky for us, too, that Lachie could make it this time. He proved to be a vital part of the team, a workhorse who had experience as a paid guide in the Arthurs, hauling heavy packs for eager guests. And while, as it turned out, he had the biggest blisters and lugged the heftiest pack, he complained the least. At one point, while ferrying packs across a sketchy section, he




AS THE SITUATION’S RIDICULOUSNESS STARTS TO HIT.” hoisted a lighter bag up from the ground to his shoulders. Used to lifting packs so much heavier, and expecting this one to be the same, he overcompensated with so much force that he over-balanced and almost fell off a ledge. But heavy packs were the norm for this second attempt. We took a completely different approach to the first, and this time paid the Arthurs the respect they deserve, allowing ten days to come in from Lake Pedder and out via Farmhouse Creek. The weather, it turned out, was perfect the entire trip. The tarps we brought for the rain ended up being used for shade from the sun. A ten-day trip already means packing loads of gear and food, but for us to get the shot we wanted, we had a lot of extra stuff: Corrugated plastic signs to make the table (x2); aluminium home-made table legs (x4); a custom-cut bed-sheet tablecloth;

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT A quick practice snap the day before the final shot The inspiration for the escapade: The ‘Cocktails at the Castle’ image by Duncan McIntyre that appeared in Wild Mag’s Issue #50 way back in 1993 Behind-the-scenes fun. Once we had snapped the main photo it was time for the vanity shots Nic using the same concentration face he uses to measure out the correct amount of water for a dehydrated meal, now used for the struggle of remembering how to tie a tie Lachie feeling grateful that he didn’t wear his Year 10 formal suit on Moss Ridge A soggy huddle under our makeshift Cutting Camp cooking shelter on the failed first attempt

plastic champagne glasses (x4); a plastic champagne bottle; a ukulele—our pretend violin; ball gowns from the op shop (x3); Year 10 formal suits (x2); a film camera; and film canisters (x4). And, of course, we needed our general gear for camping, suitable for all weather. Plus, we had ten days’ worth of food. It meant even ‘essentials’ had to be sacrificed. First aid kits had to be cleaned out. One of the boys cut back on his undergarments. Food was rationed down to the gram; sadly, snacks—especially chocolate—took the biggest hit. We figured out our food rationing by using my father’s famous excel spreadsheet that has portions and serving sizes figured out for particular items. Counting vita weats and measuring out powdered milk like a cartel was a normal pre-trip occurrence in our house. Our family is a prime example of starting with heavy old-school camping gear, and then transitioning into lightweight gear when we kids had jobs in outdoor gear stores. And this was the time—more than ever with us carrying kilos of seemingly useless stuff for a photo—to give in to the lightweight gear fad, and to respect the excel algorithm.

JUST AFTER LUNCH ON THE FIFTH DAY, we passed over a knoll and saw a gravel mound in the foreground, framed by Federation Peak. This was the spot. We pulled up, unpacked, and suited up. Everyone was reluctant to stop, but once you are pulling on formal wear in that kind of location, you begin to get excited as the situation’s ridiculousness starts to hit. Amy, the engine room of the group, slipped into her orange dress. On the failed 2021 trip, she was the driving force behind pushing on further and trying to make it work when everyone else was ready to call it quits. Meanwhile, Chelsea, my best friend from Brisbane, readied herself as the pink champagne server. Chelsea had never walked in Tasmania, but I knew—having seen her long-distance running and her success in law—she had the grit and determination to take on the Eastern Arthurs. Chelsea also celebrated her birthday on the final day of the trip. We came prepared for the lack of contact with the outside world, carrying in handwritten birthday letters from all her closest friends and then surprising her on the morning of her birthday. Kerri, Chelsea’s mum, gave me



Fine dining in frocks at Fedders. Now taking reservations and with an almost non-existent waitlist

Companions in adventure, Jakob and Gerhard pose with one of the Pakistani crew members

a small package for Chelsea, and I took it without much thought. It turned out to be a block of gourmet chocolate, the very thing we had been savagely culling in the packing phase. For a block of chocolate to last until Day Ten was a miracle. Also, to everyone’s benefit, we had a fresh orange that sufficed as her cake. It was the best orange I have ever eaten. But that was yet to come. For now, we had to continue prepping for the photo. Dad rigged up the table and the scene; James meanwhile acted as director. He was on-hand with costume alterations, and even put on my dress for a video rendition of a song from The Sound of Music featuring the ukulele; it was essential for the vibes, and caused a cascade of even funnier shots and antics. Eventually, it was time to frame up the shot. I yelled at people to turn this way or that; once we were ready, I passed my SLR to Dad. Note that I said SLR, and not DSLR. From the beginning, we wanted to align the concept behind the photo as closely with the original as possible. This meant, rather than using a digital camera, we’d use my dad’s old film camera and take the photo on 35mm film. It added a layer of complexity to the planning, along with the risk of losing the roll of film to the elements, and on top of that there was excitement in the delay of knowing how it had turned out. It was also an acknowledgment that all these things were the norm in the original photo. If we were going to recreate the photo in Tasmanian style, it would not make sense to make any part of it easier. Anyway, Dad now began looking through the camera’s viewfinder. He’s always had a good eye for framing photos, something I only realised when I started going on trips with my male school friends who always seemed to get a finger in the shot or a lame angle in the most epic climbing locations—and then I ran down to get in the photo myself. From there it was easy; everyone looked equally as good as they did goofy. The boys barely fit in their Year 10 formal suits, squeezing and sucking in but determined to get another wear out of them. The gowns were bright, but in the wind, you could see, poking out from underneath, the muddy gaiters and walking boots—things that really shouldn’t co-exist in any context except this one.



Once we got the shot, we were all ecstatic, and we mucked around doing some ballroom dancing.

BUT I DON’T THINK ANYONE GOT much sleep under Federation Peak that night, because the photo was not the sole motive for the trip. There was an alternate aim, one that scared me: climbing Fedders itself. Dad had talked about it as being the scariest summit walk in Tasmania. He feared it, and for Nic and I, that was scary enough. I was also worried about my brother; to me he was still my younger sibling, and he had only just discovered his love for climbing. In the end, Lachie, Nic and I summited. Nic, in particular, was capable, strong and calm throughout. For me, after the ascent, as we stood on top with 360-degree views of the Southwest, I remembered we still had to climb back down the exposed section; I wanted nothing more than to get off the mountain. There was still one highlight of the trip to come: swimming in Hanging Lake. After seven days of walking in the heat carrying excessive gear, your brain and your body both start to get fed up. But diving in with your mates into Tassie snowmelt leaves you with the memory of feeling refreshed and of the purest form of feeling alive. We had felt uncomfortable and grotty for too long; this swim washed away all the sweat and grit of the trip in an instant. It was bliss. Sitting on a boulder in the sun and eating a big chunk of salami makes you feel a different kind of happy. But a different kind of joy is why we were here in the first place. We did this trip because it was silly, and because the concept—and carrying it out—gave us a giddy, nonsensical feeling. We did it because people would look at the photo and think it was ridiculous, but in a way that maybe made them happy. We did it because taking this photo gave us a different reason to be in the Arthurs. We did it because it gave us a different sense of fulfilment. W CONTRIBUTOR: Laura Spandler is a Brisbane-based, Hobart-grown paramedic. She has an eye for creative photos, and a love for bossing friends around to get the best shot at their most fatigued.

UNTAMED Words & Photography Dean Miller



The subantarctic islands to Australia’s and New Zealand’s south offer some of the wildest and most pristine hiking on Earth, with wildlife interactions like nowhere else. Just be prepared to deal with the weather.

Battered by the winds and waves of the mighty Southern Ocean, Campbell Island has an abundance of breathtaking scenery AUTUMN 2024


Subantarctic Islands, AUST + NZ

Enderby Is Macquarie Is


s I sit on the inflatable pontoon of our zodiac, layered in thermal protective clothing underneath my lifejacket, I squint my eyes to tiny slits to best avoid the freezing wind and driving snow. I look at my companions doing the same, and we all bounce in silence as our driver manoeuvres across the bay from the ship, doing her best not to let us get wet as our little boat negotiates the waves. Smiling, I think to myself, “Not many hikes start this way.” Not many indeed. In fact, there are few places you can really escape the world and seek out remote wilderness experiences like this. For starters, you need a boat or a ship. Then you must head to the cold and angry Southern Ocean, down to the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties, down to the islands in the sub-Antarctic region below Australia and New Zealand, islands with rich histories of adventure and misadventure, islands that have seen countless shipwrecks and failed settlements, seen almost superhuman feats of endurance and survival, and seen no shortage of people who met their untimely ends due to the extreme conditions. These are windswept and freezing landscapes inimical to humanity. They are, however, perfect habitat for a wide range of plants and animals. And although these islands were heavily exploited for commercial interests in the 1800s and 1900s—for whaling, seal skins, and animal oils—it is lucky for modern visitors that the animals here don’t remember those days. As a result, they have absolutely no fear of humans (nor of any other mammalian land predators; they simply haven’t evolved with them). This is in direct contrast to the Arctic, where almost everything is still hunted, and so getting close to wildlife is tough.

On the zodiac to Campbell Island



Campbell Is

I’m not going to lie: These are not simple islands to get to. You can either visit as part of an expedition with the Australian or New Zealand Governments, or you can secure a berth on a tourist ship. On this occasion, for me, it is the latter, and I am aboard the tourist vessel Heritage Adventurer on their ‘Galapagos of the Southern Ocean’ voyage. Departing from New Zealand’s southern tip, we will spend ten days visiting four distinct island groups to the south and southwest and, on two islands, we’ll go hiking. The island groups have seemingly more differences than similarities. Each has its own distinct geology, each has its own plant and animal species. Many of these are endemic, hence the region being compared to the Galapagos. All the islands are uninhabited, save one: Australia’s Macquarie Island, which has a permanent scientific base manned by no more than forty people, and usually less. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been one of the scientists based here. Between 2008 and 2010—in my first real immersion into sub-Antarctic life—I spent twelve months on Macquarie studying a fur seal population. It was a world foreign to me in every way: the wildlife, the terrain and the weather. To get anywhere on Macquarie, as I learned, you have to hike, and it’s not the nice, fair-weather hiking many of us look for on our weekend escapes. Instead, it’s usually miserable—fiercely windy, wet and bone-chillingly cold. Nonetheless, I fell in love with the weather, the landscapes, and the unique assemblages of life—approximately four million penguins, seals and seabirds call Macquarie Island home over the summer months, when they come to breed. I developed an itch for the polar regions, and over the last decade, I have spent over two years exploring both the Antarctic and Arctic regions in search of adventure. On many of those trips, I secured—after my Macquarie stint—spots on tourist ships as part of the crew, as a naturalist, guide, and zodiac driver. But on this occasion on the Heritage Adventurer, I am aboard as a paid passenger. We first visit a small group of granite-cliffed islands jutting out of the ocean called the Snares. Hard to spot from a distance and usually mist shrouded, the islands were named for their ability to capture unsuspecting sailing ships. We set off in zodiacs and cruise the islands’ margins, spotting thousands of seabirds, penguins and seals. The bounty of life here is incredible. From here we sail to the Auckland Islands, the largest, highest and most biologically rich of the places we will visit. Formed by two extinct volcanic calderas, these are dramatic islands: their sea cliffs, mountains and valleys were carved out by glaciers in the last ice age. Auckland Island—the largest of the seven in the group—is nearly 40km long, with peaks rising in excess of 600m, and is marbled with narrow inlets and harbours that slice in from the east. Enderby Island, in contrast, is flatter and far smaller, just two kilometres wide and ten long. Nonetheless, the island will be our

While we eat lunch, New Zealand sea lions joust for dominance in North West Bay on Campbell Island



first dedicated ‘landing’ site, and the first location for a full-day hike, so we start prepping. Clothing is a hard one to get right down here, especially for people who have never been, and today it is just five degrees. But it’s not the temps that make it tricky here; it’s the wind and the rain, and there is usually plenty of both. And then there’s biosecurity. Biosecurity is serious business here; every item taken ashore must be thoroughly cleaned, scrubbed, and sprayed with disinfectant to kill unwanted micropests and to ensure we don’t introduce seeds or other potential hazards that would threaten any of the plants and animals. And everything, and I mean everything, has to be brought back with you, even an unplanned poo! From the ship, it’s into the zodiac, an adventure in itself. With our lifejackets and backpacks on, down the rollicking gangway we go, down to the water level, which depending on the swell can rise and fall several metres; good timing and a solid sailor’s grip with crew is essential. We make our way to shore, wrestling with high winds and waves, 8-10 of us plus a driver squished onboard. At the shore, though, the fun isn’t over just yet. The crew, wearing waders, secure the boat; we jump out, land in the water, and scramble to the beach before the next wave. Now, and only now, does the real challenge begin: negotiating the first of the island’s wildlife. New Zealand sea lions, particularly the males, can be the things of nightmares, striking fear into even the stoutest of

hearts. Shaggy, matted black fur. Giant heads. Blunt snouts. Black eyes. Dagger-like canines that can only be seen through a foaming mouth. The deepest death growls you have ever heard. The bulls—up to 500kg—are big, fast and aggressive, and they seem to love nothing better than jousting each other for the best mating location on the beaches. Unfortunately, they seem to think humans enjoy this game too, and they often charge you at high speed. More unfortunately still, they maintain one of their biggest breeding sites on Enderby Island’s only sandy beach. Of course, this same beach is our best landing site. If a bull charges you, every part of your DNA screams: “Run like hell!” But your job is to stand your ground. It’s terrifying. But mostly these rushes are bluffs, and result in nothing more than being sniffed. And the crew have played this game many times, so they happily act as decoys while we scuttle behind them. “Not many hikes,” I say to myself again, “start this way.” We swap gumboots for hiking boots, and set off. It’s a huge group, 32 in all. Experienced guides lead and tail us, ensuring we stay on track. We’re planning to hike ten kays, eight hours, starting by hugging the island’s eastern coastline, then heading across the cliffs and the beaches of the north, before returning down through the interior along a boardwalk across the plateau and through rata forest back to the landing beach. Much of the hike will be an undulating, uneven scramble, with no real defined track. But no matter; in essence, we’ll experience a bit of everything the island has to offer in one day. The vegetation—ancient looking and Lord of the Ringsesque—is nothing like that in Australia or New Zealand, and even as we traverse the island, it continually changes. There is one constant, though: Nothing grows over five metres; wind, rain, and snow batter everything down. Tussock is common, as is southern rata tree, otherwise known as iron wood—it gained its name when shipwreck survivors found out they could barely cut it. The rata are gnarled and twisted, and they form an impenetrable labyrinth that provides canopy cover for megaherbs and ferns to thrive underneath.



In the air are giant petrels, pipits, red-crowned parakeets, New Zealand falcons, and Auckland Island shags. There are also yellow-eyed penguins, the rarest of all penguins. Hard to see, and extremely shy, you mustn’t hinder their path to or from the shore as they may simply get spooked and go back from where they came. They live a mostly solitary life at sea and on land. Along one section of the coast I managed to get a pic of both a yellow-eyed penguin and a juvenile male New Zealand sea lion together on the rocks, both representatives of the rarest of their animal types in the world. Above all, though, there is one bird here that demands your attention: the albatross. Two species are here—the light-mantled sooty, and the southern royal, one of the largest flying birds on Earth. Both are majestic, and almost surreal. Albatrosses often nest or manoeuvre close to the boardwalk—yes, there’s some on Enderby Island to protect it from hikers’ impacts—so getting within a few metres of these birds is common. On the ground, they’re much bigger than you expect, standing 70-80cm tall. But it’s in the air, however, that they capture your imagination. With wingspans of three metres, they almost look like pterodactyls. Watching these birds soar on the winds, with dramatic landscapes as the backdrop, is one of the greatest wildlife experiences I’ve ever had. In fact, albatrosses seem almost mystical; they have the most incredible calming presence, and you feel absolutely no fear, nor can you sense any







form of aggression. It’s pure bliss. Sit and watch them for as long as you can stand the biting winds: You will, I guarantee, be forever a different person.

ONCE BACK AT SEA, WE HEAD WEST to Macquarie Island, where I was stationed for twelve months. ‘Home’. The conditions are unseasonably good, good enough for us to go ashore. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we can explore. There is no good anchorage here, and while you might get a good enough weather window to disembark on the island, if the weather deteriorates rapidly—which it often does—you might not be able to get back off the island for days. Weeks even. And so our visit onshore is brief. Still, we see hundreds of elephant seals and sea birds, and hundreds of thousands of penguins. We are even lucky enough to spot the same orca pod on three occasions.

Gerhard and Jakob pause to marvel at the towering spires of the Karakoram

Back on the ship, it’s northeast for 36 hours to Campbell Island. Lying 660km offshore, Campbell is New Zealand’s southernmost island, and its land mass is an extinct shield volcano about 6-11 million years old. Campbell has a good harbour, so landings are almost guaranteed. In the seven times I’ve been here, I’ve never been restricted by conditions. The surefire landings mean we can set off on the second of our hikes, this one—around 14km and up to about 250m in elevation—more impressive and difficult than Enderby’s. And the weather is far colder; heavy winds tear across the island. Snow is in the air. As we will be exposed to the weather all day, I have one rule down here: Don’t let yourself get cold; it’s just so hard to warm up again. And that can be dangerous. Once dropped off by the zodiacs, it’s straight into it. We climb towards Northwest Bay, up a once-glaciated valley to a ridgeline. It is a long slow slog. The ground is soggy, and soft with cushion plants, and we grapple with brawling winds. Every thirty minutes it snows. Lower down, we push through rata forest, and up higher we wade through tussocks. There is no defined track. As we near 100m elevation, it dries out underfoot. But the winds up here are screaming, and the cold is intense; at least we are generating heat from the climb. From the ridgeline, we get a spectacular view down the valley to Perseverance Harbour where the ship lays in wait. And the megaherbs up here seem so out of place that they look like they’ve been dreamt up in a fairytale. Their leaves are huge; their flowers splash colour across an otherwise drab landscape of yellows and browns. And once again, we see the southern royal albatross. They wheel on the wind in large groups, and are scattered along the hills and cliffs, sitting on nests and courting. There are about 8,000 breeding pairs here, and over the day, we see at least 100 individuals. Descending the ridgeline’s other side, we tiptoe for an hour above stunning coastal cliffs that are exposed to the full might of the Southern Ocean. The views are breathtaking. And looking out far to sea, the feeling of sheer remoteness is exhilarating. This isolation,

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP TO BOTTOM The very strange flowering megaherbs of Enderby Island Beauty in every detail—bull kelp on a rocky shoreline of Enderby Island A southern royal albatross nesting among tussocks on Campbell Island; the bird is awaiting the arrival of its mate for life Our group takes in its first view of the Northwest Cape of Campbell Island Boardwalk to heaven. These structures on Enderby Island allow you to have minimal impact on plants and animals, and get you out of the mud for a short while Incoming! Nothing can prepare you for how incredible it is to have a 3m wide albatross buzz you within metres at Enderby Island, over, and over, and over. (Ed: Wow! You can get a sense of scale by comparing the wingspan to the height of the onlookers)



IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Single file along the ridgelines of Campbell Island One last challenge—crossing the inlet at low tide to catch our ride back to the ship at Campbell Island Catching the flowering megaherbs in December is a must if you want to see these islands in all their glory Keep your eyes on the person in front; it's easy to disappear in the rata forests of Campbell and Enderby Islands

CONTRIBUTOR: Dean Miller is marine scientist, adventurer and conservationist based in Far North Queensland. He is restless beyond belief and simply won't sit still, much to the dismay of everyone he knows.



however, is a two-edged sword, as we’re reminded when one person in our group rolls their ankle and has to endure a painful walk out. The options for extraction here are limited, and while it might be possible—in the case of serious injury—for a crew to come from the ship with a stretcher, it would be a long and brutal experience for all involved. In short, you’re on your own. Get injured, and you’ve just got to suck it up and get yourself back to the ship. We then drop into Northwest Bay, on a haphazard track through near-impenetrable rata forest interspersed with fern gardens. On the beach, we eat lunch and watch the wildlife: yellow-eyed penguins quietly come and go; New Zealand sea lions fight; and flightless Campbell Island teals look for food in the kelp that lines the shore. We get back on the trail before we get cold, shimmying past two elephant seals on the way. Elephant seals are by far the largest of all seals; bull males look like humongous caterpillars, and weigh up to four tonnes. The two we dodge are sub-adults, though, mere 200300kg pups, and they seem unperturbed by our passing. Up again we go, through the rata forest so dense we often lose the person in front despite them being just metres ahead. We are forced to snake up in single file, all the while calling out to each other to provide vocal positioning. After nearly eight hours, and roughly 14km, of walking for the day, we are back where we started. It has been a day where we have negotiated large obstacles. Scrambled on our hands and knees. Slipped in the mud. Braved the wind and cold. Taken many wrong turns in the heavy rata. But all these trials have been worth it, because we have been granted unprecedented access to one of the most remote and wild places on the planet. We have spent quality time with some of the rarest species, in their natural habitat, and been only metres away from them. We have felt, touched, and breathed in an utterly untamed place. The wind is blasting. Salt spray and sea foam whip through the air. And as I clamber aboard the zodiac, ready to return to the ship, I know more than ever that if I have one message to share after today, it is this: If you ever have the chance to visit these islands, take it. I urge you. It will make your body and soul complete. W

Reel Rock 18 premieres in Australia and New Zealand starting March 2024! Immerse yourself in four gripping new climbing films from across the globe: a visionary first ascent on Japan’s mythical Mt. Mizugaki; a climbing community held together in war-torn Ukraine; a treacherous free ascent of Jirishanca in the Peruvian Andes; and an exploration of Mallorca’s deep-water soloing. Reel Rock 18 is presented by The North Face and supported by Black Diamond. The Reel Rock Australian and New Zealand tour is presented by Wild Earth and proudly supported by Black Diamond, SCARPA, YETI, Stax and GME.




The Astor Theatre Five Star Cinemas - New Farm Home of the Arts Dendy Cinemas Canberra Dendy Cinemas Newtown Ritz Cinemas Luna Palace Cinemas Mount Vic Flicks Luna on SX The Regal Theatre Glen Street Theatre

12 Mar 14 Mar 15 Mar 19 Mar 20 Mar 20 Mar 21 Mar 25 Mar & 26 Mar 28 Mar 28 Mar 4 Apr



Northland Climbing Club Lecture Theatre Middleton Grange School Paradiso Cinema The World Bar & Restaurant Luxe Cinemas Tauranga Luxe Cinemas Papamoa Village Cinemas Takaka

8 Mar 11 Mar 14 Mar 21 Mar 4 Apr 6 Apr & 9 Apr 6 Apr & 9 Apr 9 Apr




Katie Lovis set off to run on foot the Kimberley’s iconic 660km Gibb River Road. But an injury forced her to slow down, with unexpected benefits.



T’S 4AM ON A MILD MAY MORNING at the western end of the Gibb River Road, just outside Derby, Western Australia. It’s a little earlier than most would get here, but we’re not most people. Slicing through the remote Kimberley region in the state’s north, the Gibb (as the road is often called) is a 660km stretch of predominantly gravel that acts as a gateway to untouched landscapes, picturesque gorges, waterholes and challenging river crossings. Your average traveller cruises the Gibb in a 4WD from campsite to campsite, looking forward to the next incredible location. However, on this particular morning, we are not setting off in cars; we are attempting to run it. The Gibb has always held a certain magic over me. As a previous resident of Broome, I remember sitting in my office, staring at a map of the Gibb that took up an entire wall. I sent many an intrepid traveller on their way there, and even packed up my own vehicle and hit the road at times myself. It feels like one of those last true wildernesses—cared for by Traditional Owners, but barely touched by industry or agriculture, and isolated, vast and unapologetic. Anything in nature with this kind of wonder instantly moves me to want to travel through it in the way we evolved to—running. The seed was planted; now to make it happen. It almost feels redundant to explain how different our journey along the Gibb will be. The pace between runner and vehicle is understood, but it’s the total travel time that’s harder to express. With us running roughly 100km daily, the plan is to complete the road in seven days; if we were to drive the road (ignoring all the stunning Gibb detours), it would barely take one. To choose running over driving means the experience becomes entirely immersive. There is no engine to drown out the birdsong, and no windscreen to separate you from the dust and baking sun. When you wake in the mornings, deep in the Australian outback, your first thought is of the road: You live it and



200+km into a 660km run, Katie presses on, unknowingly running on a broken leg. This slower pace and the support of her crew transforms the journey along the mighty Gibb River Road, and ultimately redefines her notions of what success and failure truly are. Credit: Ben Pilatti

Kunanurra Derby





breathe it. At times, tunnelling into the pain cave, you start to question why you do this to yourself. Fortunately, incredible displays of nature or connections with others on the road are quick to remind you that these fleeting thoughts are just that—fleeting. Don’t get me wrong; you do see the Gibb from a vehicle. I’ve done it myself and loved every minute. However, some things when we are even just slightly separated from them lose their tangibility, things such as the early-morning glow. It starts in deep purples then oranges, and then lingers for hours before the pink hues start to appear—as though an artist were painting in watercolour right before your eyes. Then there is the complete silence, momentarily pierced by some of the most varied birdlife our country has to offer. I’ve seen and heard these birds many times, but they still catch you off guard with their morning song. It reminds me of coming home and remembering the nuances of the house, a place so familiar but far removed, especially after a time away. And then there’s the smell. There’s nothing like it. I can only describe the scents of solitude, stillness and dust as the scent of Australia itself. The concept of travelling this barren and corrugated dirt road has become a metaphor for my life. A smooth and stable highway might suit some, but not me. I’ll take the unsealed, more challenging road; it may take longer, but it reaps the biggest rewards. And when you make the active choice to run one of Australia’s most notorious four-wheel-drive tracks, rather than drive, you remove comfort. There’s no opportunity for air conditioning when the mercury rises. No windows to roll up when the flies are unrelenting or the dust suffocating. You experience the environment because you have to, because you’re in it. The landscape is presented to you in its full glory. Hours can be spent studying one monolithic rock formation disturbing an otherwise flat horizon. And as you move slowly into the formation’s shadows, with a kilometre sometimes taking more than ten minutes to pass, intricate details reveal themselves. Boabs, with their incredible will to survive, flourish within miniscule cracks and crevices, and their nuts fall and settle, ready to mature over the next millennium. Moving through these landmarks—havens for wildlife—on foot allowed us to study them and appreciate their character in a way that driving makes impossible. Returning to the idea of immersion, this adventure made me feel so big, but so small and completely at one with the Kimberley.

REGARDLESS OF HOW I FELT BEFORE, I couldn’t come to the end of my days not knowing what could have happened if I had just tried. It’s hard to say how long I worked towards this run. In training terms, it was over twelve months, with the structure built on an already-solid foundation. However, I could feel an injury forming in the lead-up. Questions began to arise—both internal and external—but with so much





KNOWING WHEN TO STOP.” organised and with others relying on me, I knew I needed at the very least to try. Before we departed, I journaled my whys: To be kind to my crew and others; to have an incredible adventure in nature; and to see what I am capable of. Unbeknown to me, that injury was getting worse by the day, and (as you’ll soon understand) it eventually changed the expedition. The ‘Katie the runner’ élan vital that I pinned so much of my identity on had to be put away. What was left became the story. And so it began. On that mild May morning, with no expectations or thought as to what lay ahead, I set off with fellow runner Jarrad Bolton (Ed: Running the Gibb had a special significance for Jarrad, a Stage 4 melanoma survivor—read more on P98). We started side-by-side, but we knew before it even began that Jarrad and I wouldn’t be running together for long. Our inevitable separation was foreshadowed by our difference in pace and my injury. Every single step I took thereafter felt like a small win on this behemoth journey. Metres became kilometres, minutes became hours, and we all settled into our rhythms.

That rhythm led to our team becoming more present with every moment of every day. We noticed gnarled boab trees and waterholes teeming with birdlife. I began to smell river crossings well before I saw the sun glimmering on their rippled surface. At one point, it felt that nature stood still with us: The air was so unmoving the dust hung like fog, and the single howl of a nearby dingo was the only thing breaking the silence. We spent our evenings under a canopy of stars, with no light pollution to spoil the show. In the mornings, the dawn light crept gently into the sky before the sun finally peeked over the horizon, like a cautious marsupial emerging from its den. This pace, so different from even the quietest of country towns, seemed to resonate with the connections we made. At one point, while repairing flood damage from the wet season rains, a water-tanker driver named Roger slowed to spray down this lone and weary runner—the repairs could wait for a moment it seemed. But while the mighty Gibb may have been getting repaired, I could feel my body breaking down, and like all great adventures, this one reached its end. At kilometre 363, I lost consciousness and collapsed.

THERE AREN’T MANY THINGS THAT I don’t finish, and that’s something I pride myself on. Despite this, even in the lead-up to the run, I was coming to the realisation that I may not finish. Not for lack of will or mental resilience, but because my body was truly stretched to its limit. Upon reflection, I can truthfully say that not one step was comfortable. Not a single one. Suffice it to say, this is not how I saw this going. I love to run, and I envisaged kilometre upon kilometre of flow state in the incredible West Australian outback. Instead, it was a painful, limping shuffle. You could barely call what I did running. It was devastating. But while I knew that something was terribly wrong, I kept going. I never believed it might

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT A common misconception of Australia’s far northwest is one of an arid, desolate wasteland, but for those that take the time to travel this country, magnificent displays of nature await. Credit: Jeremy Hammer A moment of joy as the bitumen turns to gravel and Katie, as a trail runner, begins to feel at home. Credit: Ben Pilatti Even the strongest of wills can only go so far. On this stretch of the road, crossing the border into the East Kimberley, the journey, at least by foot, is almost over. Credit: Jeremy Hammer Incredible boab trees litter the landscape. Taking millennia to mature, they are a symbol of resilience and provided Katie with great solace in moments of hardship. Credit: James McCormack



IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM RIGHT Laughter and roadside snacks—powdered mash potato with butter and protein powder, for anyone wondering—with the crew. These were the micro moments that made the trip. Credit: Ben Pilatti Katie reflects on her collapse, still unaware her leg is broken. Credit: Ben Pilatti At first glance, this stretch of road may not look dissimilar to the rest, but slow down, be present and the Gibb will show you how wrong you are. Credit: Ben Pilatti

A BIGGER STORY: Katie’s run on the Gibb was part of something bigger: her running partner Jarrad Bolton is a Stage 4 melanoma survivor, and the pair tackled this project with the aim to raise much-needed funds for the Melanoma Institute of Australia. A YouTube docuseries produced by Jeremy Hammer about the run is available at jeremyhammer.com/gibb-river-run

CONTRIBUTOR: Katie is an ultra-distance trail runner from Margaret River, WA, where she currently holds the FKT for the iconic Cape to Cape Track.



be as serious as a broken leg; I’m not quite that stubborn. As it kept getting worse, I remember thinking What the hell is wrong with you? How can you not be tougher than this? I shuffled, walked, stumbled, sat and kept trying to will myself forward, to little avail. That’s not to say there weren’t small wins, as there were plenty. One that springs to mind is re-starting from Imintji after a horrendous morning, having told my crew to leave me for a while. I needed to do some soul-searching. It started as a painful walk, which then led to a shuffle, but in that brief time alone, I found myself. By the time my crew joined me, I was in great spirits, so we pushed on. We ran until well after sunset, well after what we thought possible. Andreas ran by my side, and my sister Abby blasted all manner of tunes from a speaker hung from the passenger door on the Hilux—anything to keep the energy up and the pain at bay. Next, a thunderous rumble heralded the arrival of a herd of cattle barrelling down the roadside next to us. This sound would evoke fear in most, but not us—it made us feel alive. But finally, at one point while lying in the dirt as a kite soared overhead, I recognised that perhaps the power and purpose is not in making it all the way: it’s knowing when to stop. While the thought had peaked in a moment of great hardship, it had been building and waiting for the moment it could be heard. I believe that for true change to occur, as humans, we fulfill our potential when we go further, when we seek our edge. Five days after the journey began, I found mine—a completely broken fibula, and a deep, unwavering knowledge that injury aside, this was a success. To go slow teaches us patience, a skill commonly lost in this fast-paced, modern world. Patience truly is a gift. As we recognise goals that align with our values, it sits there, ready to step in when life throws us a curveball. Often, the curveball comes well before the skill of patience has been developed. However, like an archer pausing on the inhale to take their shot, once patience is in your quiver, you’ll be prepared to wait out the moments that require it. When that time does come (and trust me, it will eventually) you’ll be all the more willing and able to feel grateful for it. For me, there is no better environment to experience this gratitude than in nature. As we made our way along the Gibb, there were many micro moments of true appreciation for where we were and for what we were trying to achieve: A resilient tree growing from a rocky crevice shading our lunch spot; a moment of running after several painful minutes walking or sitting on the roof rack as a team; taking in the endless horizon and basking in our isolation. I will cherish these memories forever, and I truly believe they all came about from going slow. I am grateful for the privilege of travelling over that country on foot, and I am grateful for the injury. Without it, we never could have gone that slow, and we never could have been so completely immersed in all that the Gibb has to offer. Next time you’re on a road trip, why not pull over and take a walk or a run? Maybe the journey is the destination. If it happens to be on the Gibb, well, maybe I’ll see you there. W


PUTTING MY NECK ON THE LINE It seemed like it was going to be a simple outing to Queensland’s Mt Barney. But a mistake turned Fergus FitzGerald’s life upside down in an instant. The thing was, he just didn’t know it at the time.

Words & Photography FERGUS FITZGERALD


nd what’s happened to you?” The triage nurse in the Emergency section of the Sunshine Coast University Hospital looked me up and down as I presented with lots of skin off. “I’ve had,” I replied, “a bit of a fall in the mountains.” A bit of a fall indeed. Yesterday, I had been out alone on Eagle’s Ridge on Mt Barney, and was bypassing a cliff by descending a steep chute. Two or three steps in, I lost my footing. Suddenly, I was sliding face down, picking up speed. I snapped off a callistemon sapling as I sped past, sliding five, ten, fifteen metres down the chute at an accelerating pace. And then I was free-falling.



Time to reflect on my ’near miss’ on the Eagle’s Ridge

Mt Barney AUTUMN 2024



Alice Springs


s I tumbled through space, I had a clear thought: “Is this how it ends?” I was strangely calm. I had no idea how high the cliff I was falling over was, but I knew that all around were drops of potentially hundreds of metres. I’d been around mountains for long enough to understand that falls like this don’t usually end well. Then I slammed into rocks, landing flat on my back. I was alive. Miraculously. I lay there, shaken, and, strangely, relatively unhurt. My trusty backpack, a 40-year-old Macpac Cerro Torre, had broken my fall. I unbuckled my pack and carefully stood up, checking that I hadn’t broken any arms or legs. My neck was sore, but I could still move my head a bit, so I convinced myself that it was just a bad sprain. But the next day—after hobbling off the mountain alone during a long and agonising overnight epic—here I was, being questioned by the triage nurse. Within minutes, I’d jumped the queue of Sunday-afternoon outpatients and was lying on my back on a clinic bed. Because while I thought I’d gotten away with no broken bones, a range of scans and x-rays confirmed I’d been mistaken. That sore neck was more than just sore; in fact, I was lucky I wasn’t a quadriplegic: I’d fractured my C5 vertebrae.

LYING IN THE HOSPITAL—immobilised to prevent further spinal injury, and on an intravenous drip to help restore my kidney function after a sky-high Creatine Kinase (CK) blood reading, probably a result of extreme exertion in my self-rescue—I reflected on how I’d got here, and on the decisions I’d made. But I wasn’t thinking merely in terms of my thought process over the last two days; I was reflecting on how almost sixty years’ recreating and working in the bush and the mountains led me to this point. I grew up in Tasmania, and doing so awoke my life’s twin passions: mountains and geology; I’ve been exploring these intertwined elements ever since. What I never would have expected, however, was that the intersection of those passions would prove nearly fatal. But it was that intersection that’s had me long fascinated with the Mt Barney region. About 25 to 30 million years ago, the southeastern Queensland part of the Australian tectonic plate slid over the top of a “mantle hot spot”, where magma periodically broke through to the surface and erupted as volcanoes and lava flows. A second phase of volcanic activity followed, this time with the magma cooling more slowly, enabling medium sized crystals to form, and giving the resultant ‘granophyre’ a granitic appearance. Further sub-surface pressure resulted in the doming of the surrounding rocks and the dramatic uplift of the Mt Barney granophyre mass inside a major ring-fault zone. As a result of all this, today the region is considered by many to be Queensland’s most spectacular mountainous area. The peak’s rocky summit stands 1,000m above the surrounding plains, and






many mountaineers foray into this rugged landscape. I have subsequently learnt the Aboriginal word for Mt Barney is bagabaga, meaning “keep away”—another thing to reflect upon! Over the years since moving to Queensland, I’ve climbed Mount Barney via its various and often exposed ridgelines, and I’ve descended some of its rocky gorges. But one ridgeline remained elusive—the Eagle’s Ridge. Possibly the hardest route to the summit, this long, serrated ridgeline traverses numerous smaller summits. I’d tried six years ago to climb it in a day trip with my climbing buddy, Mendelt, who was visiting from Tasmania, but we hadn’t allowed enough time, and we abandoned the attempt before the going got too hard. So Eagle’s Ridge remained unfinished business for me. The years passed. Potential climbing partners came and went. Covid came to disrupt. And I turned seventy. Was I still up for the challenge? But then a window of opportunity arrived. My beloved Libby was going to Coffs Harbour to help crew a magnificent sailing boat, South Passage, for four days. Conquering the Eagle’s Ridge felt like now or never. But this time, I’d allow two days, ascending from the Lower Portals carpark and descending

The serrated Eagle’s Ridge looking west. Left to right: Mt Barney, North Pinnacle, Leaning Peak, Northeast Rock and Toms Tum (the 3-toothed pinnacles on the right skyline). Fergus’s fall was off the southern-most pinnacle

via Barney Gorge and Mt Barney Creek. With no climbing partner—and thus no shared equipment—carrying my tent, sleeping bag, cooker, food, emergency gear and 5 litres of water meant my 40-year-old Macpac Cerro Torre weighed in at almost 20kg. Not wanting a pack any heavier than this on such a rocky, technical route, I ignored the guidebook’s recommendation to include a 50m climbing rope and harness to abseil. Folly? But I felt confident. Just a few years ago, I’d completed, over ten days, a full traverse of Southwest Tassie’s rugged Western Arthurs. I’d done it alone, too; Mendelt had pulled out at the last minute because of a troublesome back problem. With the Western Arthurs Range—thanks to its precipitous topography, and its famed and tempestuous weather—being widely regarded as one of the country’s most challenging mountain traverses, surely the much shorter Eagle’s Ridge, in sub-tropical Southeast Queensland no less, would be well within my capability.

HOT AIR BALLOONS FULL OF EXCITED people on a very different adventure were just lifting off into a magnificent dawn as I sped along the Mt Lindesay Highway south of Beaudesert; it was a perfect day for ballooning, and for being in the mountains: not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind. As I crested a rise on the Upper Logan Road, my pulse quickened; the Eagle’s Ridge, running all the way to the summit of Mt Barney, filled the horizon. My route was laid out in a crystal-clear profile. I was underway by 6:40AM, happy to be heading up Mt Barney again. Soon, I left the Lower Portals Track and started the climb

proper, pushing through acacia scrub that had grown densely after devastating wildfires swept the park in 2019. Two hours of steady climbing up the narrowing ridgeline brought me to the first challenge of the day—Toms Tum. It consists of three rocky summits separated by slabby, north-facing ramparts and sub-vertical south-facing cliffs. Without a rope, I worked my way carefully down a steep spur off the east of the ridge at the first summit. This, however, plunged me into a thicket of acacia regrowth and a tangly native vine, coral pea, that had, like the acacia, flourished after the 2019 fires. The vine wrapped around my legs and caught my pack, and I burnt up valuable energy and time as I wrestled to break through. Climbing the next two pinnacles presented mixed challenges. The granophyre outcrop had secure holds, and I felt confident it was within my climbing ability … just. While it wasn’t too dissimilar to my ascent of Federation Peak a few years ago, the big difference was the 20kg dead weight on my back. There were several moves over steeper ground and spots where the holds were tenuous; both were problematic with the pack on. In one instance, my only option was to jam my pack into a crack I was climbing, and then bridge out and over a chockstone, with my make-do pack-hauling line (a 4mm, five-metre-long cord) tied around my waist until I reached a more secure stance. Then I had to haul my pack up while not getting it snagged on the chockstone nor pulling myself off the slab and then falling all the way back to the saddle 20-50m below. I knew I was right on the edge of my ability; any mistake could be fatal. My pulse was racing. By the time I’d overcome the last of the Toms Tum summits,







it was midday. It was getting hot. But the way ahead was clear: Head over the Northeast Rock, up the steep saddle between Leaning Peak and North Pinnacle, and then on to Mt Barney’s East Peak, still 600m above me. But first I had to find a way off this last sub-vertical drop into the next tight little saddle. I worked my way carefully across the cliff’s edge, and saw a narrow chute that looked like it would bypass the cliff. I was reassured; there was evidence others had used this line. Unlike any of the dry and grippy granophyre, this narrow chute was a basalt dyke that had preferentially weathered to an orange-brown clay. The chute was also overhanging on one side, with the only moisture I’d encountered since leaving the Lower Portals Track. I knew I had to be careful. Really careful. I turned to face the slope as I started down-climbing looking for hand and foot holds to secure my descent. And then, in an instant, I was sliding face down. I picked up speed, unable to stop, and after sliding perhaps fifteen metres, I sailed off the edge. Time seemed to dramatically slow. This, I thought, is how it ends. Crash! I stopped abruptly. The cliff I flew off was not, thankfully, one of the hundred-metre-plus drops nearby, but instead just (just!) 6-8m. I was in the land of the living. Despite the fall, strangely, I was seemingly unhurt; while airborne, my trusty and weighty old Macpac—that had contributed to my fall in the first place—had also rotated me through space so that I landed on my back in such a way that the pack itself broke my fall. In fact, the shock of being alive was far greater than any shock of pain. My neck was really sore, though. What to do? I could fire off my PLB. But I come from the ‘old school’, growing up and adventuring in Southwest Tasmania’s wilds in the 1960s and 70s. You were expected to be self-sufficient in every way. If you got into trouble, you got yourself out of it. There was no rescue at the end of an emergency signal; no PLB to fire off to get choppered out. I had a second option, though; I had a signal on my phone. I could call 000. But I dismissed this option, too. Pride, I’ll admit, was part of it; I didn’t want to be on the TV news: “A 70-yearold man climbing alone was rescued after falling on Mt Barney today. He was an experienced mountaineer ...” “An experienced idiot!” I imagined people shouting back at their TV screens. So instead, I chose Option Three: Getting myself out of my predicament using the skills, stamina and experience I’d forged over those many years working and recreating in the bush and mountains. Actually, there was one other option that I fleetingly considered: I could continue and finally knock-off the Eagle’s Ridge. Luckily, I dismissed this idea quickly. Still, had I known I’d broken my neck, I’d have made a different decision. The only other broken bone I’d had was after falling in the Himalayas at the start of a three-month trekking and climbing expedition in the Everest region in 1977. That time it was in



my left knee, but I was young, fit and gung-ho, and I continued to climb for the whole trip, albeit slower and less comfortably. Perhaps that experience influenced my decision now to push on. But while I didn’t know I’d broken my neck, what I did know was that there was no easy way home. I’d fallen onto Eagle’s Ridge’s east side, and below me were a series of bluffs tumbling down into trackless bush. But to get to my intended descent route—via Barney Gorge and onto Mt Barney Creek and back to the Lower Portals Track—I needed to be on the ridge’s west side. My first challenge, then, was to see if I could get myself and my pack over there. Once I’d made it to the ridge’s west side, but before dropping out of phone range, I fired off a short SMS to Lib, now out at sea. I wanted to alert but not alarm her: “The Eagle’s Ridge has beaten me. I’ve had a bit of a scrape. I’m heading home.” Descending, in my battered state, was a painful challenge. The ground was steep and unstable, the fire-regrowth scrub was thick and obscured my footholds, and the afternoon sun blazed directly onto me, with the hot still air sucking even more moisture from my rapidly desiccating body. I stumbled, and took more skin off my knees. At times, I would just lie there, alternately sobbing or cursing, not wanting to go on. But having opted to rescue myself, I had no choice but to dig deep into my reserves of physical and mental toughness. I ended up downclimbing (backwards) the steeper sections to save myself further injury. Finally, I made it into the scrub-free Barney Gorge. It was almost four hours after leaving the site of my fall that I arrived at the top of Barney Falls. But I knew that to try to find a way down the waterfalls now could be fatal, because I was physically and emotionally spent. All my muscles were cramping. My first pee in over eleven hours was an alarming orange-brown colour. I needed to recharge my battered body, so I stopped and set up my tent on a semi-horizontal rocky ledge, and rehydrated with some Staminade.

BEFORE I CRAWLED INTO MY TENT, I scrambled by the light of my head torch to an adjacent ridge to get mobilephone coverage; I needed to send Lib an update. In particular, I wanted to let her know where I could be found if I was unable to move in the morning. After a long night, at first light, and with dark clouds gathering ahead of forecast rain, I made a brew, tried to swallow some muesli, and then set off back to the vehicle. The first obstacle was to navigate the steep terrain beside Barney Falls safely down to its junction with Mt Barney Creek, a beautiful river draining the northern ramparts of the Mt Barney massif. The river has cut a steep-sided and sinuous path through volcanic and older sedimentary rocks. This necessitated criss-crossing the water many times to avoid sheer buttresses. The rocks

were sometimes slippery, and sometimes unstable; the last thing I wanted was a dunking in the, at times, thigh-deep water. There were also large log jams to negotiate, evidence of flash flooding of frightening intensity. All the while, I was anxious about stumbling and making my neck worse. If I’d only known: A single trip could have further displaced my fracture and resulted in quadriplegia. Finally, I reached the top of the Lower Portals, a stunning gorge with beautiful cascades. There was, however, no way through them. But on the north bank I found a rough track that avoided the gorge by ascending a spur and then leading down to the Lower Portals Track, a popular camping and day-trip destination. At the top of the spur, I met a party of five backpackers, my first encounter with anyone since setting off yesterday. I must have looked a mess. “Are you alright?” “I’m a little bit banged up,” I replied, “but I’m almost back home.” An empathetic woman in the party pressed me: “Are you sure you’re OK? Can I help you?” But I was stubborn; my decades of perseverance and self-reliance in the bush meant I was resolved to not accept any support. Again, if only I’d known this stubbornness could have permanently cost me the use of my arms and legs. Instead, I shuffled slowly and painfully back to the vehicle, complete with my burdensome Macpac. Five excruciating hours after setting off, I reached my car, physically and emotionally exhausted. On the drive home, I contacted Lib and my daughters in Brisbane, who were increasingly concerned about my welfare. They insisted I go straight to hospital, accompanied by one of them. Yet again, my dogged determination to be self-sufficient—and in this instance to not disrupt them and their young families on a Sunday afternoon by having them spend hours waiting in emergency with their foolish dad—meant that I declined. But after the painful three-hour drive home, I did, in the end, agree to take myself to hospital. As the results from the scans and x-rays came in, it was clear I’d dodged two bullets: one from the fall; the other from my foolish self-rescue. Five weeks later, I would have surgery, and afterwards, a full recovery. How could I be so lucky or blessed? While my wings may have been clipped on the Eagle’s Ridge, I now cherish each day more than ever. Even if epic solo adventures might now be off the agenda—and I’ve come to realise that sometimes my dogged determination to be self-reliant is not in my best interest—I’ve been given a second chance to live, to love and even to climb my beloved mountains again. W

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT My camp above Barney Falls The cliff I shot over (top left). If you look carefully near the bottom right, you can see my faithful Macpac lying where it broke my fall A few more bangs and scrapes after descending Eagle’s Ridge




FitzGerald goes bush with his old gear, you’re liable to hear all about the landscape and the underlying geology, whether you’re interested or not!





Words & Photography Neil Silverwood

THE WIND ROARS THROUGH THE NARROW tube in front of me, just 30cm wide. I contort my body into the impossibly tight space, but it is hopeless: I can’t fit. Then I remember the sequence: left arm first, head up, bow your back, yes that’s it. The wind that always funnels through this squeeze—the aptly named ‘Hinkle Horn Honking Holes’—stops as my chest plugs the gap. Inch by inch, I force my way through before giving one last push with my foot, wiggling, and then falling out of the squeeze. This obstacle was the last on the first-ever through-trip between the Nettlebed and Stormy Pot cave systems. The descent from Mt Arthur’s upper slopes to its base near the Pearse Resurgence took three days of abseiling, squeezing, swimming, and traversing massive chambers. At 1,174m from entry to exit, the Stormy Pot/Nettlebed system is now officially Aotearoa/New Zealand’s deepest cave throughtrip, and it’s likely one of the best in the world. But what makes the South Island such a special caving destination is its variety—from marble alpine-cave systems requiring an expedition-style approach with days spent in extremely testing underground environments, to friendly lowland limestone caves where trips last just a few hours and where you can stroll through with your hands in your pockets. To cave successfully in NZ, overseas visitors will need good preparation; they’ll need to connect to the NZ caving community; and they’ll need to make offerings to the weather gods. But planned well, the adventure will be worth the effort, providing a deeply rewarding experience. This article isn’t intended to be a detailed caving guide, but rather to provide enough information to spark curiosity and provide inspiration.



Looking for an excellent multipitch alpine caving trip? Middle Earth at Tākaka Hill near Nelson is, at 37km-long, hard to beat


Nelson Christchurch



Caving, NZ SOUTH ISLAND The uber-fun, high-volume Fox River Cave is a must do for cavers visiting the West Coast

WHEN TO GO Summer and early autumn (Jan-April) generally provide NZ’s most stable weather, and dry spells can last weeks. Temperatures are warm; flood risk is at its least. With weather windows, winter caving is possible, but getting to entrances above the bushline can be difficult or simply not possible due to snow. Rivers often run high in winter, the bush may be wet and grim, and there’s a greater risk of flooding underground. These obstacles aren’t insurmountable, but let’s be honest, coming out of a cave tired and wet when it’s cold and dark isn’t fun. Meanwhile, spring (Sept-Dec) often brings a seemingly never-ending series of wet westerly fronts. While caving is possible, finding weather windows is difficult, and more floodprone caves such as Fox River Cave and the Green Link System become riskier prospects. For general, long-term weather forecasting, check out metvuw. com, and for detailed forecasts and hourly rainfall rates, see metservice.com and windy.com.

GETTING THERE The nearest international airport to the South Island’s main caving areas is Christchurch; from there, it’s a four-hour drive to the West Coast and six hours to Tākaka Hill (near Nelson). Nelson has a domestic airport with regular flights. There are also small airports in Westport and Hokitika. If hiring a vehicle, Christchurch or Nelson are your best bets, but vehicle-hire options exist on the West Coast as well.

ACCOMMODATION There are two cavers’ huts open to visitors; both make great bases. The Charleston Caving Base (CCB) is near Westport and can be booked through the Canterbury Caving Group. It is basic, inexpensive accommodation with wood-fire heating, a kitchen, composting loo, hot showers and a few mattresses for sleeping inside, but most people sleep outside in a tent or campervan. CCB is $15/night. The second hut, near Tākaka Hill’s summit, is especially cosy, with a similar self-catering set up to CCB and bunks for sleeping; contact the Nelson Speleological Group to book it and arrange a key. Non-members pay $12/night. Most of the South Island’s caves are in public conservation land managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). You’re free to camp in most DOC areas. Use designated campgrounds in the front country or camp freely in the backcountry using Leave No Trace ethics. There are over 950 DOC huts in the backcountry as well—all personal items like sleeping bags, stove, fuel, food, and cooking equipment must be carried in with you. A few of these huts are useful for caving, namely Mt Arthur Hut and Ellis Basin Hut. These huts are first in for a bunk, no booking required. Check out DOC’s website for more info: doc.govt.nz



Limestone cliffs along the Fox River are up to 200m high and contain numerous caves

EQUIPMENT Caving requires specialised equipment and skills. If you’re new to the sport, I recommend looking up your nearest caving club and tagging along on some trips or signing up for a course. Single-rope technique (SRT) is essential in most NZ caves. If you’re only visiting the West Coast, then a 50m and 20m rope, as well as carabiners and slings, should be enough. See the ‘Fox River Cave’ section for what to bring if you’re going there. If you’re heading to Tākaka Hill or Kahurangi NP, you’ll need a lot more rope and rigging gear. Caves on the coast are warm; about 10°C. Tākaka Hill caves are around 7°C, and Kahurangi’s alpine caves are just 4°C (the same temperature as your fridge!). For wet caves, wetsuits are recommended (but not essential). Cotton overalls and warm layers will do for the coast, and cordura or PVC overalls are better in the rest of the caves because they’re tougher. Make sure you have enough layers to stay warm while underground. NZ cavers like gumboots; their sticky rubber soles give great traction. For short, cruisy caves like Te Ananui/Metro, you can wear tramping boots or sturdy walking shoes, but get gumboots for any other caves in this article. Also consider PVC or sturdy gardening gloves to protect your hands. Neither of the two main caving huts have power points for charging, something to keep in mind for your caving lights, photography gear, phones or GPS devices.

MAPS Downloadable 1:50,000 topo maps of NZ are available online for free at topomap.co.nz. These are essential for finding cave entrances and are helpful for understanding each area’s geology and topography. A GPS or a phone mapping app is also useful. Stack the odds in your favour; get as much good info as possible.

Bohemia on Mt Owen, Kahurangi NP, contains New Zealand’s largest chamber. At its widest point, it reaches 110m across and is 810m long

THE CAVING AREAS THE WEST COAST, CHARLESTON & PUNAKAIKI The Paparoa syncline between Charleston and Punakaiki contains nearly 100km2 of karst (limestone noted for caves, sinking streams, and dolines). It is covered in lush temperate rainforest, with kilometres of cave snaking below this complex landscape. With no major population centres nearby, the caves are relatively pristine, and exploration is ongoing with vast areas yet to be explored. No trip to the coast would be complete without a visit to Fox River Cave, Te Tahi, Te Ananui/ Metro, or Xanadu. If there’s time, and you enjoy getting off the beaten track, a trip to Armageddon requires several days of hiking and camping, but it is a magical place.

Fox River Cave One of only two of its kind on the South Island, Fox River Cave is an uber-classic, high-volume streamway cave. You’ll need a wetsuit, SRT climbing and abseiling gear, a climbing rope, and the skills to lead a bolted aid climb. You’ll also need stellar weather, with no precip forecast for 48 hours before your trip, or 24 hours after (a safety buffer). Any change in flow while you’re underground could be fatal. Fox River Cave’s entrance is marked on topo maps and easy to find. Shortly after the entrance, this trip becomes technical, with a series of short pitches followed by a bolted aid climb. At the top of the climb, you reach the high-volume streamway and the best part begins. For the next kilometre or so, you’ll traverse a high rift. Progress is made by swimming or tubing across pools and climbing up short waterfalls. In low flows, it’s fun and straightforward. At the end of the streamway, you’ll be rewarded by some beautiful horizontal caving, glowworms and nice formations. Return the same way you came in. Allow twelve hours for the return trip from the car park.

Te Tahi Cave No West Coast trip is complete without visiting Te Tahi near Charleston. This is a sporty, fun streamway trip with unique cave formations. It can be hard to find, and is best visited with local cavers. My favourite through-trip in Te Tahi is to abseil down an entrance called Hi Hi, a perfectly cylindrical shaft with a small waterfall flowing over the edge. From Hi Hi, you’ll traverse a small, sporty

CONSERVATION Caves are extremely fragile; a misplaced boot or hand can destroy formations tens of thousands of years old. To protect formations and other unique features, and to limit impact to a narrow area in popular caves, the NZSS and DOC place signage and string lines or tape to mark the trail through sensitive areas. Some caves require a permit to enter. Extreme care should be taken in every cave, but especially in fragile passageways and areas of scientific importance because damage to a cave is forever—respect our special places and aim for zero impact. If you plan to explore new cave systems or passages, contact the NZSS beforehand, and ensure you abide by their best-practice standards for rigging and bolting. Several alpine caves—Story Pot/ Nettlebed, Bulmer Cavern and the Middle Earth System—have permanent underground camps set up, including sleeping bags, cookers, rope and back-up food stashes. Using the same campsites helps avoid spreading camping impacts on the fragile underground environment. Setting up new camps for convenience in any South Island cave is unacceptable. All rubbish and toileting waste must be carried out with you and disposed of appropriately.




streamway with waterfall climbs, crawls and wet squeezes and finally come to some multi-coloured formations stained by iron in the rock. Eventually, you’ll pop out at the top entrance with a short bushwalk back to your car. This through-trip takes half a day and requires a 50m rope, SRT gear, and the skills to abseil down Hi Hi shaft. There’s also a through-trip option with no abseiling. You’ll exit the cave via an entrance called the Birth Canal and have a thirty-minute walk back to your car.

Te Ananui/Metro Cave As the name implies, Metro Cave is made up of large tubular passages like underground railway tunnels. It’s an eight-kilometre-long maze with a mix of active streamway and dry walkthrough passages, long abandoned by the water that carved them. Metro is unique in that it’s extremely friendly and easy. There are interesting formations, a stunning remote entrance reached from within the cave, and out-of-this-world glowworms (the best on the South Island; my wife and I got married here). Located in the Nile River valley inside Paparoa NP, Metro is used for commercial tours which can be organised through Underworld Adventures in Charleston (caverafting.com). Members of the NZSS can request a permit and key from DOC in Westport for private trips. The best way to see Metro is to join local cavers on one of their frequent visits. The walk in to the cave entrance is also well worth it, and only takes thirty minutes each way on a well-formed track.

Xanadu Xanadu Cave is located at Bullock Creek, a river valley near Punakaiki surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. The creek itself disappears into a gravel-stream sink beneath the Paparoa mountain range, and then travels underground before resurfacing in the Pororari River catchment. Bullock Creek is one of NZ’s best examples of karst river capture. In flood, the creek flows above ground and sinks further down the valley into the Xanadu system. While you wouldn’t want to be here during high water or when rain is forecast, during dry weather, the cave—formed on three levels—is super complex and interesting to explore. It’s a five-kilometre maze of passageways requiring excellent navigating skills and equally good memory. Xanadu is a clean cave formed in pearly white limestone. Trips take one to five hours, depending on your nav skills. Contact the NZSS for more info.

Armageddon Hidden deep in Paparoa NP, Armageddon and its surrounds are incredibly special, and your visit will be a highlight. It’s not easy



At 37km, the Middle Earth system is so long it has a permanent campsite


PLACE FOR A BAD TIME.” to reach, however; getting there involves a four-to-five-hour hike through jungle-like bush, mostly on a lightly marked route. You’ll also need a topo map and compass (or GPS), camping gear, SRT gear and a 25m rope, plus have good bush navigation, camping and SRT skills. Starting at the same car park as Fox River Cave, you soon turn off the main track and follow a dry valley before dropping into Cave Creek North. Camp with care at a unique rock bivvy perched above the creek. This area has a Jurassic-era feel, and you’ll fall asleep to the calls of ruru and weka, and dream of dinosaurs in the inky darkness. Downstream, Cave Creek North descends into a misty hole; just beyond that you’ll find a dry fossil entrance (which still floods occasionally) leading into the cave. The caving trip is a straightforward loop with just one bolted pitch to abseil. Armageddon has a bit of everything, with impressively large chambers dotted with glowworms, high-volume streamway passages and lovely polished tunnels. Allow four hours to complete the loop. If you’re adventurous, and up for a cold swim, you can go deeper into the system to the very end. Walk out the same way you came in. Armageddon is best done over three days, and fine weather is essential. Don’t even contemplate heading underground if rain is forecast; the water rises over 20m in places when it floods!

IMAGES - THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Riuwaka Resurgence in flood. Caves are essentiaily drains. Any rain water on the surface quickly reaches the systems below. Most caves on the West Coast and Tākaka Hill are prone to flooding. The Riuwaka System, which Middle Earth is part of, has a largest-recorded flow of 93.7 cumecs! The squeeze at the entrance of the Middle Earth system must be passed on every trip into the system. Razor-sharp karen outcrops on Tākaka Hill Many caves in New Zealand are permanently rigged. This is a fixed rope on the 100m Light House Pitch in Middle Earth

THE NELSON/TASMAN REGION, TĀKAKA HILL, AND KAHURANGI NP Tākaka Hill is a 600m-high marble massif located between Nelson and Golden Bay. It’s an interesting place with zillions of karen outcrops—exposed marble rock that’s dissolved to form pointy rock lumps and spires, razor sharp in some places. The Middle Earth and Greenlink systems were discovered in the 1970s, and cavers now believe they’ll one day find the systems to be part of a much larger system surpassing 100km in length. If you enjoy rigging multi-pitch caves and challenging, even gruelling, through-trips, Tākaka Hill is a great place to spend a month. Before you arrive, chat with the Nelson Speleological Group (NSG) about the area’s caves, restrictions, and safety info as well as hut availability and bookings.

Middle Earth Middle Earth has been described as “a good place for a bad time”. It’s an extraordinary cave system with an equally interesting human history. The entrance is humble—just a small hole in a pile of boulders that gives no hint as to the 37km-long system that lies beyond. This cave contains impressive chambers, stunning formations, and a 100m-high pitch called the Lighthouse Pitch. Near the deepest point, there’s a permanent campsite which can be reached in one very long, physically challenging day. There are several excellent loop trips in Middle Earth’s upper passages. The upper section of Middle Earth is high and dry. Many pitches are permanently rigged, but check in advance with local cavers about what’s in place. The system’s lower half is flood prone and

no place to be in wet weather—water can backfill passages and chambers up to 50m above the floor. Middle Earth is on private land; ask the NSG before visiting.

Greenlink The Greenlink System is a lovely, low-volume streamway cave, a polished marble underground canyon with heaps of supersporty short pitches and crawls through water. The system is connected to Middle Earth, but a through-trip requires negotiating committing sumps (submerged passages) and dive gear—a mask, weight belt and wetsuit—to get through. The sumps have been occasionally swum, but the through-trip has only been successfully completed once. Like Middle Earth, dry weather is a must for Greenlink. Even moderate rain renders pitches unpassable, and in the lower section, experienced local cavers have been trapped and later rescued when they chose to go with the most optimistic forecast instead of listening to models predicting rain. The cave entrance was recently purchased by the NZSS Cave Conservation and Access Trust—consider donating to the Trust to preserve NZ’s caves and access to them for future generations.

Harwoods Hole Harwoods Hole is an enormous shaft around 180m deep—it’s a spooky place to hang out. I’ve been through over a dozen times, including as a guide for film crews, and I still find the abseil intimidating.



MEET THE LOCALS It’s always best to contact the locals; access to some caves in NZ requires membership of the New Zealand Speleological Society (NZSS), and generally, information is hard to find without local knowledge. New Zealand has a small, tight knit caving community. They organise several club and family caving events each year as well as the odd expedition. These gatherings are a great place to start, but you can also visit the NZSS website to start making connections: caves.org.nz.

IMAGES - LEFT TO RIGHT Harwoods Hole, an eerie 180m shaft on Tākaka Hill is a must do for visiting cavers, as long as they possess the skills needed to tackle the trip The stunning Harwoods Hole streamway. Wetsuits allow you to swim rather than climb around the deep blue pools found throughout

Harwoods was discovered in 1957, and is named for the farmer who found it. Early explorers were winched down on a 6mm steel cable. (Ed: Neil wrote an excellent feature on Harwoods Hole and its history for Wild Issue #177, Spring 2020.) These days, the pitch can be rigged from permanent anchors below the end of a popular tourist track. The abseil requires a 200m-long static rope, and the through-trip takes most groups around ten hours from the car park. From the bottom of the hole, you’ll travel through cathedral-like chambers, huge rimstone dams, emerald pools, passages coated in pure white calcite, multiple short pitches, and a sporty streamway. The bottom entrance, called Starlight, is especially beautiful. Many of the cave’s pitches have permanently rigged lines (but carry a lightweight 30m rope as a backup) and key junctions are marked with arrows. Once you exit the cave, follow a marked track back up the hill. The Harwood Hole shaft attracts thousands of tourists each year; numerous rescues, however, have been required. Connecting with local cavers for up-to-date safety info is a good idea, but better yet, go with someone who knows the system. Consider pre-rigging the shaft the evening before to save time in the morning; leave a sign or person at the top advising people not to throw rocks, and keep group sizes to a minimum to avoid a long, cold wait at the abseil’s base. Also ensure all party members are confident with caving-specific SRT gear and skills. Rock climbing equipment and experience aren’t sufficient here. Wetsuits aren’t required but they do make the trip safer and more comfortable.

OTHER AREAS There are many other South Island caving adventures. The most committing one is a throughtrip of NZ’s deepest cave system, Stormy Pot/Nettlebed beneath Mt Arthur in Kahurangi NP. Getting through Stormy Pot requires descending dozens of pitches and pulling the rope down behind you, also known as a ‘pull-through trip’. There's no way to traverse this system safely without going with local cavers or getting detailed route and equipment advice. You also need to be an experienced alpine caver confident with SRT. This trip takes most cavers three days. Bohemia Cave on Mt Owen is also a classic. Discovered by Czech cavers in the 1990s, it contains NZ’s largest enclosed space, a broad chamber 100m wide in places. A great way to get to Bohemia would be to join the annual Bulmer expedition organised by the NZSS each January.

CONCLUSION 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.



New Zealand’s subterranean environment is world class. While many visiting cavers focus on exploration, simply heading to the West Coast or Tākaka Hill for intermediate-level caving trips is equal parts fun and rewarding. Any time of year can bring conditions not conducive to caving, though, so have an alternative activity like tramping to keep you busy on non-caving days. Again, for a successful trip, the best starting point is to get in touch with the New Zealand Speleological Society. Have fun exploring one of our last great frontiers! W



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Words Catherine Lawson Photography David Bristow A MICROCOSM OF WILD LANDSCAPES, the giant karri, marri and tingle forests of Western Australia’s southwest gives rise to rugged, windswept ridgelines and towering quartzite peaks. Sculpted by turbulent weather, and showcasing turquoise coves and rugged sea cliffs, this pocket of grandeur incongruously harbours some of Australia’s most fragile, endemic blooms, along with some of our most critically endangered species—numbats, woylies and western ground parrots. Walkers needn’t shoulder heavy packs to scale this region’s accessible, low-rising peaks, but that doesn’t mean the area won’t test your mettle. Nothing on this list has less than a Class 4 rating, and you’ll need at least six weeks to become an end-to-ender on Australia’s oldest, wildest and most famous thru-hike, the Bibbulmun Track.



This rough, rigorous scramble defines walking on the Stirling Range, shooting straight to the top of Mt Magog’s ragged wedge of bare rock. Don’t be fooled by the innocent start; within an hour, the terrain steepens into a tangle of undergrowth, and as you battle above the heath-covered plains, pausing for grand vistas gives you time to pluck off plenty of hitchhiking, red kangaroo ticks. Zigzag up the short, sharp switchbacks for a direct, vertical climb over scattered boulders to the saddle. Scale some airy, exposed rock slabs until an icy, face-smacking wind signals you’ve finally gained the summit (856m). From the top, Mt Magog’s neighbouring Talyuberlup Peak appears tantalisingly close, and generous vistas are studded with peaks from the Stirling Range to the Porongurups. The hike in reverse is an hourlong, knee-crunching scramble. Walk in spring for warm temperatures and wildflowers. THE NATURE LOVER


Standing sentry above rugged sea cliffs, tannin-hued inlets and vast mallee-heath plains, East Mt Barren is known as Kojonup (‘place of the stone of the axe’), so you should expect a rocky scramble. Clean your boots to prevent the spread of phytophthora dieback, and then step off the boardwalk onto a loose, slippery path of white quartzite rockfall.



Climb to the top of the western ridge, spotting mountain banksias, Barrens regelia, jug flowers and Barrens clawflowers en route. Climb around the tumble of giant granite flakes, and scramble fifty metres to stand atop the mountain’s windy scatter of sculpted rock. Your eyes will be drawn to grand vistas of the Recherche Archipelago and Doubtful Islands, but remember to watch the trail for dangerously venomous dugites and tiger snakes too. THE EASY


Located 40km from Albany, the Porongurup Range is a majestic sweep of 1,100-million-year-old granite peaks and peeling domes, and the Nancy Peak Circuit provides the grand tour. From Tree-in-the-Rock picnic area, the track climbs steeply away to a rare island of karri forest thriving high on the ridge. Clean your boots here to safeguard against dieback—check out Wild Issue #189’s story on phytophthora for a rundown of best cleaning practices—before continuing up the granite flakes and above the tree line to the summit of Hayward Peak (610m). Cross a saddle peppered with everlasting daisies and the huge boulders that crest the ridge for summit vistas atop Nancy Peak. Drop down into the gully beneath Devils Slide and climb up again to the park’s high point at Marmabup Rock, where wedgetailed eagles surf the sky. Complete the circuit back to the car park, keeping an eye skyward for endangered Carnaby’s and Baudin’s cockatoos, and keeping an eye groundward too, where you can spot delicate, endemic orchids blooming incongruously amongst the rock.




Stretching the entire length of WA’s Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge, this sandy coastal trail teeters atop crumbling Tamala limestone cliffs, and dips down into turquoise bays for turbulent, Indian Ocean swims. Is it remote? No. Will you be joined by day-trippers and car-based campers? Yes. But the reason you’ll haul a pack over windswept ridgelines of 600-million-year-old granite is to spend five days gazing out to sea on one of the west’s most scenic coastlines. After touching the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse, Cape-to-Capers (as thru-walkers are known) set off south past Sugarloaf Rock to Mt Duckworth Campsite (free), 10.5km and 3 hours away. Day Two is a longer haul to Moses Rock (23.5km/7-8hrs/free) that’s full of distractions: surf breaks, beach swims and red-sand blowouts. Day Three brings boggy heath and flowering pink pimeleas, and the spectacular climbing crag at Willyabrup Cliffs. Gather spring water at Biljedup Brook before reaching Ellensbrook Campsite (19km/8hrs/free). There are plenty of ways to break up the wilder, more challenging second half of this walk, but most favour stays at Contos Campground (29km), and Deepdene (30km/ free) before touching the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse on Day Six, 17km away.

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Walk within reach of the sea on the Cape to Cape Track Fee-free and refreshingly undeveloped, the Bibb Track rates as one of Australia’s best Known as Kojonup (‘the place of the stone of the axe’), East Mt Barren provides a rocky scramble to the top Vistas await as a reward once you’ve hauled yourself up Mt Magog




1,003KM; 8 WEEKS – CLASS 4 Rated as one of the world’s longest, oldest and most rewarding wilderness trails, the Bibbulmun Track weaves through the southwest’s grandest old-growth karri and tingle forests from Kalamunda on Perth’s outskirts to Albany. The 1,003km-long journey across traditional Noongar lands takes between six and eight weeks, and, remarkably, stays at the trail’s 49 walker-only campsites are all free. It’s impossible to map out just where this adventure will take you, but becoming an end-toender is nothing short of life changing. Zealously safeguarded by an all-volunteer organisation, the Bibb (as it’s locally known) has so far escaped the luxury commercialisation carving up east coast parks, so you can expect solitude and a refreshingly back-to-basics experience. Walk in spring (September to mid-November) for clear skies and wildflowers (bibbulmuntrack.org.au).

CONTRIBUTORS: Inspired by adventures into unpopulated places, author Catherine Lawson and photographer David Bristow are hikers, bikers, paddlers and sailors who advocate simple, sustainable, self-sufficient living. Check out their adventure books at wildtravelstory.com





MT ANNE Words & Photography Ryan Hansen



Mt Anne

QUICK FACTS Activity: Multi-day bushwalking Location: Southwest NP, Tasmania Distance + Duration: approx 4 days, 27km (as described, but can be shortened or extended) When to go: Dec-Mar is best Difficulty: Hard (Grade 5); requires experience and specialised skills, including navigation Permits required: Tasmanian Parks Pass, Mt Anne Overnight Walker registration Maps: TASMAP 1:25,000 Anne + Scotts, or TASMAP 1:40,000 Mt Anne Walk Map & Notes Car shuttle: Yes (else 8km road walk)

Rainfall (mm)


SOUTHWEST NATIONAL PARK, within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, boasts some of the most spectacular—and tough—bushwalks in Australia. And bordering the southeastern corner of Lake Pedder lies arguably one of its best—if not the best— multi-day walks: the Mt Anne Circuit. Put plainly, my wife and I reckon it’s possibly our favourite walk to date. Ever. Centred around its namesake—the Southwest’s tallest peak, Mt Anne (1,423m)—the walk offers an incredibly varied bushwalking experience. Buttongrass plains, jagged ridgelines, dolerite boulder fields, luscious rainforests, exposed alpine moorlands, glacially carved bluffs, lakes, picturesque tarns. There’s the full gamut of track types and walking styles, too: From constructed boardwalks and compacted gravel steps to Tassie’s notorious muddy bogholes and melaleuca scrub, from duckboard walking to boulder hopping, scrambling and mild rock climbing. You’ll struggle to find something this walk lacks. Being high-altitude (by Tasmanian standards), panoramic views are a highlight, if the weather permits … Grandstand vistas are aplenty, not only of the dramatic terrain you’ve already traversed and are yet to explore, but also of the surrounding ranges. Of note are Lake Pedder and the Franklands to the west, the Snowy Range and Mt Weld to the east, the Western and Eastern Arthurs (including Fed Peak) to the south, and even Precipitous Bluff on the state’s southern coastline. Another drawcard—if it needed more—is the myriad of possible variations. Described here as a clockwise trip, it can also be completed (with increased difficulty) in the reverse direction. You can skip Mt Anne itself, along with the extremely challenging section to Lots Wife. And you can extend the walk to include side trips like Mt Sarah Jane or to camp at Lake Judd. For those willing and suitably prepared to handle its challenges, of which there are many, Mt Anne promises to be talked about in your household for years to come.

Big boulders on the approach to Mt Anne

Magnificent rainforest walking near Lots Wife Hitting the boardwalk after descending Mt Sarah Jane

WHEN TO GO Tasmanian weather is harsh and unpredictable. Summer tends to be best for bushwalking. Only suitably experienced and prepared adventurers should attempt the trip in winter, when the range is snow covered. Snow, storms, and bushfires can also occur in summer, and walkers should be equipped with dependable gear that can handle all conditions. Take all weather forecasts, especially good ones, with a proverbial grain of salt. This is an alpine area, and weather can rapidly and severely change. If poor weather is expected, strongly consider saving the walk for another time. Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (TPWS) have established a free booking system (see ‘Fees/Costs/Permits’) for the walk, capped at 12 people daily. In summer, book well in advance. And if you want a quieter experience, mid-week is preferable; there’ll likely be fewer day walkers, especially on Day One, and less campers at Shelf Camp and Lake Judd, which are popular with overnight walkers.

GETTING THERE The only way to reach the walk is by car. Driving from Hobart to the trailhead takes approximately 2-2.5 hours; if you’re bringing your car from the mainland, the Spirit of Tasmania docks in Devonport, from where it’s roughly 4.5 hours’ drive. Wherever it is that you’re approaching from, you want to get yourself to Westerway, from where you’ll take the Gordon River Rd. Head west for roughly 50km, and then turn left onto the unsealed but 2WD-friendly Scotts Peak Dam Rd. A further 20kms brings you to Condominium Ck, the start of the trip.

Be aware that despite Mt Anne often being referred to as a “circuit”, it’s actually not. It requires either a car shuffle, or an 8km road walk at either the walk’s beginning or end, to get you back to your starting point. Using bikes or hitching during the busy summer months are possibilities (or, like us, if you meet some lovely walkers going in the opposite direction, you could swap car keys!). Otherwise, factor in some extra time for the last day. If you’re without a car or friends to chauffer you, there’s personalised walker transport (approximately $110pp, one-way) available from Hobart.

OPTIONS The walk described here is a four-day clockwise trip beginning at Condominium Ck, climbing Mts Eliza and Anne before camping at Shelf Camp. It then heads east along the undulating ridgeline to the Notch (which is climbed out of) and Mt Lot, before descending Lightning Ridge south and then southeast to the Lonely Tarns’ camping platforms. A day-long side trip is made to Lots Wife. The final day involves a steady climb south along an exposed plateau, skirting beneath Mt Sarah Jane, before descending along a scrubby, eroded, and muddy track to the Anne River, from where the final push to Red Tape Ck is mainly boardwalk. The advantage of this direction is that you’ll climb, rather than descend, out of the Notch (see ‘Day Two’) via an infamous rock scramble. However, the circuit can be completed anticlockwise, starting at Red Tape Ck. The suggested itinerary assumes fine weather. On a previous attempt ten years ago, we only made it to Shelf Camp before






Mt Anne (1,423m)

The Notch

Day 1 Camp (Shelf Camp)

Mt Lot


High Camp Hut Mt A

nn e T rack


Eve Peak (1,357m) es nc f FraBluf

Mt Eliza (1,289m)

Judds Charm

Lots Wife (1,089m)

Lake Picone Days 2 + 3 Camp (Lonely Tarns)

Eliza Bluff (1,311m)


Mt Sarah Jane (1,290m)

Lake Judd Lake Judd Camp








Tra ne


Snake River






J ke


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Map data © OpenStreetMap

becoming tent-bound for three days and retreating. Adding spare days for dodgy weather is wise, especially as the rock scrambling and boulder hopping can become dangerously slippery in the wet. Camping near High Camp Memorial Hut will shorten Day One, and it affords stunning views of Lake Pedder. Similarly, camping at Lake Judd breaks up the section between Lonely Tarns and Red Tape Ck. Both camps are popular with overnight walkers; it may be difficult (or impossible) to snag a site. The suggested route includes some challenging elements that, although exciting, can be skipped by either the time-poor or by anyone without sufficient experience or a head for heights. In particular, the extension to Lots Wife, while spectacular, can be skipped, as can the side trips to Mt Anne on Day One, and to Mt Sarah Jane and Lake Judd on Day Four. Fast walkers can potentially combine the suggested Days Two and Three.

FEES/COSTS/PERMITS You’ll need a Parks Pass simply to enter the national park, which can be purchased at a TPWS office, visitor centre, or online at passes.parks.tas.gov.au. As of February 2024, a two-month Holiday Pass costs $44.75 per person (or $89.50 per vehicle). Oneyear ($95.30) and two-year ($121.75) passes are also options, with concession and senior discounts available.








Additionally, TPWS requests that everyone staying at Shelf Camp and/or Lonely Tarns register for free online at the TPWS website. Bookings are capped at 12 people daily, with Parks requesting a maximum stay of three nights at each camp. Only the departure date is required for booking, but book well in advance. And note that booking doesn’t guarantee you a site.

DIFFICULTY & NAVIGATION This walk is a serious undertaking. Don’t let the short length or the manicured trails at either end deceive you: Injuries, rescues, and fatalities have occurred here. Take care! The Notch (which can be avoided with commitment) and the optional ascents of Mt Anne and Lots Wife all involve exposed scrambling where a slip would likely be fatal. A 15-20m rope is useful, for hauling packs and providing additional holds. These sections should only be attempted in fine weather. Previous experience with downclimbing/scrambling (ideally in a Tasmanian context) is potentially lifesaving. Strenuous boulder hopping, large steps, and thick mud are also common. Navigation-wise, the extended sections of constructed track at the beginning and end are easy to follow. In sensitive alpine areas, stepping stones have also been placed. Vegetated sections contain obvious, often muddy, tracks. At the time of writing, the


IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Soaking up the views from the Lonely Tarns campsite, overlooking Judds Charm and Lightning Ridge Topping out after one of the tricky bits on Mt Anne’s final ascent Warning! Be safe! Make good decisions! The first exposed but blocky scramble up Mt Lot. It’s much higher than it looks!

numerous boulder fields and rocky traverses contain a proliferation of rock cairns; rocks are usually scoured by walking poles and discoloured from foot traffic. There are occasional wooden stakes/snow poles. Except for a short, indistinct section to the east of Mt Sarah Jane (see ‘Day Four’), and the Lots Wife route (see ‘Day Three’), experienced walkers shouldn’t experience too much difficulty navigating in fine weather, although there are a few false leads to negotiate. However, poor weather will complicate what’s already a difficult walk. Due to extensive rocky traverses and exposed alpine moors, it’s suggested to delay your walk or use rest days to avoid rainy, windy and/or foggy weather. Park rangers sometimes patrol the track to discourage walkers from setting off in such conditions.

EQUIPMENT Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Even in summer, Tassie’s Southwest can be brutal. Suggestions include a 3-4 season tent, ideally freestanding (sites at Shelf Camp are predominantly on rock slabs, and there’s camping platforms at Lonely Tarns), and sleeping gear rated in the minuses. Gear for extended wet and cold weather should be considered mandatory. Consider a 15-20m handline for potential pack hauling and scrambling,

and if you’re after a PLB, they can be hired from Service Tasmania in Hobart. Lastly, this is a fuel-stove only area. Solid-fuel stoves (aka fires) aren’t allowed.

ACCESS TO WATER Unless it’s a dry summer, water shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll be camping near lakes and tarns, but carrying a day’s water will be necessary. There’s a rainwater tank at High Camp, but don’t rely on this. Also, it’s recommended filtering your water; a group we met had found a fresh, uncovered steamer laden with wipes just 10m from drinking water.

MINIMAL IMPACT BUSHWALKING The walk sees considerable visitation, which raises numerous potential problems. While there are toilets at Shelf Camp and Lonely Tarns, these can be (literally) overfull. Bring a poo trowel, and ensure you toilet well away from campsites and water sources; carry it out if necessary. Mud is another sensitive issue. To limit further damage to the sensitive vegetation, walk through mud rather than avoiding it. Also respect the signposted revegetation zones. Lastly, phytophthora spray stations are located at either end of the walk.




Condominium Creek to Shelf Camp (via Mt Anne) 7km; 970m ascent/170m descent; approx 4-7 hours (plus 2km; 190m ascent/descent; 2-3 hrs return for Mt Anne)

The walk begins at Condominium Creek, where there are toilets, a rego book, info board, phytophthora spray station, and a handful of rough campsites. On a summer’s weekend, expect the car park to be chockas. Immediately, views of the snaking trail and Mt Anne’s cragged summit loom large. It’s a continuous uphill slog until Mt Eliza’s summit, some 4.4km and 950m vertical later. Carry plenty of water, as you’ll be exposed to the sun’s blazing rays all day. Although steep, the extensive track work completed following the 2018/19 bushfires—mainly steps with some boardwalk—means you gain altitude quickly. Old iterations of the track are regularly visible, pertinent reminders of lasting human impacts. Travelling almost due east, half-an-hour’s ascent brings you to a lookout on the right (south), a good excuse for a drink. The



emerging scene of Lake Pedder, Mt Solitary, the Arthurs and Franklands is impressive, views which become more breathtaking the higher you get. Reaching the top of a gully, the track swings briefly SE before re-orienting east to continue climbing the open spur. Depending on the time of year, you’ll likely notice a range of wildflowers. About two hours’ ascent brings you to the welcome shadiness of High Camp Memorial Hut, opened in ‘74 by the Hobart Walking Club to commemorate three fatalities. It’s for emergency use only, with a water tank (don’t rely on this), toilet (back a little from the hut), and sheltered campsites 100m before the hut, with a smattering of other sites. Continuing east up the spur, bid farewell to the constructed track; the final push to Mt Eliza (1289m) involves another 270m vertical of awkward, tiresome scrambling up and over large boulders. Rock cairns and poles mark the way, and there’s usually a choice of routes. Bleak weather would make this challenging section considerably tougher. Once up top, the views are dramatic. Wave to Mt Sarah Jane, which you’ll acquaint yourself with on Day Three, and follow the easy-going track over a rise, squiggling your way along the exposed

plateau in a general NE direction towards the ominous Mt Anne. Avoid the regeneration zones, pass numerous picturesque tarns (don’t rely on these), and negotiate another extensive boulder field on the edge of Eve Peak to reach an obvious saddle, where a large cairn marks the turn-off to Shelf Camp. If heading there now, turn right (ESE) and descend steeply for another 20 minutes to the rocky slabs of Shelf Camp. Otherwise, follow the well-defined pad north for a crack at Mt Anne. After about 200m, the vegetation ends; you’ll mainly be on rock from here. Boulder-hop your way up another rocky section, following the cairns and sticking below and to the left of the main ridge, then skirt the eastern side of the next rocky hill. At the saddle, take in the expansive views east to Mt Lot and Lots Wife before eyeing off the final stretch to Mt Anne. Cairns can be difficult to spot here, but head NE up the boulder field to the distinctive green gully near the SE (right-hand) base of the first cliffline. If you don’t intend to attempt the final climb, the views from here are nearly as good. There’s a choice of routes to gain the true summit, but navigating the tiered cliffs requires exposed scrambling. From the top of the green gully, one cairned route involves scrambling straight up a narrow 3m-high cleft, before traversing left across slabs to a technically easy but exposed climb of 2-3m. Be mindful that you’ll need to downclimb these parts on the return. Switchback a long way right towards a distinctive pinnacle (obvious from afar), cross the spur, and follow cairns north. Further zigzags lead more easily to the summit, with grandstand views of Pedder and the surrounding ranges. Savour it, before carefully returning towards Shelf Camp. Shelf Camp, nestled at the base of Eve Peak’s towering bluffs, has numerous levels of outstanding slabby campsites, so free-standing tents are desirable. It’s very exposed to the SE. There are numerous tarns (treat your water), and an open ‘sitter’ toilet for a top-notch poo with a view.

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Taking in the views of Lake Pedder and beyond A section of Day One boardwalk, approaching High Camp Memorial Hut Expect lots and lots and lots (did I say lots?) of boulders Soaking up the sunset views from Mt Anne Days One and Four have large stretches of constructed track Views across Schnells Ridge to Precipitous Bluff and Fedders Appreciating some flat walking on the Mt Eliza Plateau





Shelf Camp to Lonely Tarns 3.3km; 190m ascent/ 410m descent; approx 5-8 hours

Sunrise from Shelf Camp, overlooking Mt Anne, is a spectacle to behold. Over a cuppa, admire the ominous, seemingly unnavigable way ahead to Mt Lot, and prepare yourself for a day of classic Southwest Tassie bushwalking: minimal distance, maximum effort. If it’s wet, wait for better weather. Load up with enough water to reach the Lonely Tarns and, avoiding some early false leads, descend ESE to a series of terraces. Sidle along the obvious but muddy track, and gently ascend to a small saddle, where you’ll receive your first views of the monstrous Lake Judd. Continue briefly along the rocky ridge to a narrow point, then follow cairns steeply down to the left (ENE), off the ridge’s spine. There are some short but tricky downclimbs here where pack lowering may be helpful; it’s possible to avoid these by detouring wide. Continue undulating ENE across large boulders, staying below the main ridgeline. After about 1.5 hours’ walk from camp, you’ll turn sharply south and peer across at the much-famed Notch. Head right up the boulders, and then descend steeply down loose scree into the steep-sided saddle. Ascending out of the Notch requires commitment. Go straight up the chimney on good holds, then lunge awkwardly right onto exposed blocks. If you’re short, the final step up is complicated; imagine pushing yourself up out of a pool. While some groups will opt to use a handline, care is needed to ensure effective, safe use. It may also be possible to avoid the climb by descending south from the saddle, sidling, and then re-joining the track. Once conquered, sidle south—with sensational views of Lake Judd, Frances and Eliza Bluffs—for approximately 200m, and ascend via a choice of routes up onto an expansive rocky plateau. If taking the scree approach, be careful of loose rocks. Continue to the summit of Mt Lot (1262m), where you’ll be rewarded with outstanding views over Lake Picone and Judds Tarn, at the outlet of which you’ll spot the Lonely Tarns’ camping platforms. The slow and taxing descent south along Lightning Ridge demands concentration, with a mix of boulder-hopping and slippery, awkward downclimbing. With joints hopefully intact, you’ll enter a magnificent and unexpected rainforest, unlike anything you’ve witnessed thus far. Veer SE and descend steeply, clinging to elephants’ trunk-like pandani, ignoring a few false leads, until the track flattens and crosses a boggy plain to gain a moraine wall. Follow this east for about 700m to a track junction: Left heads to Lake Picone and Lots Wife; right leads you to the Lonely Tarns campsite, the perfect destination for an afternoon swim. There’s a pod toilet and four distinct camping platforms with tie points at Lonely Tarns; each accommodates multiple tents, and there are steel plates for cooking on. Secure your food and scraps—you may encounter inquisitive rodents.




Lots Wife 4km; 170m ascent/descent; approx 4-6 hours return

Unless you’re an experienced hiker with a head for heights, you’ll likely want to skip Day Three, which is a side trip to Lots Wife (1089m), and instead continue on to the route’s terminus at Red Tape Creek. For experienced navigators and rock scramblers, however, Lots Wife is a challenging though brilliant addition. Take note though: This side trip, and in particular the final

ascent, involves multiple sections with narrow ledges and significant exposure; it’s far more committing than anything else on the walk (including the Notch). You really do need to take the utmost care here, and these notes are kept intentionally brief due to its significant risks. Seriously, be careful! And don’t do it if you’re not sure of your abilities. Leave your tent set up; you’ll be staying here again tonight. Retrace your steps to the junction, and then descend to the muddy outlet of Lake Picone. Turn left into the jaw-dropping forest, and climb past a landslide to a mini saddle. Turn east, and battle the scrub. Fan out for the final open approach to the base of Lots Wife, then hug the scrubby northern base to the second major break in the cliffs (there are considerable dangerous false leads) before scrambling to the summit. Return the same way, back to your tent.

IMAGES - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Ascending out of the Notch Early-morning light on Mt Anne from Shelf Camp Open walking towards Lots Wife The first (surprising) stretch of rainforest, on the descent to Lonely Tarns Lonely Tarns’ camping platforms Another airy section on the Mt Lot ascent



Looking back from Mt Sarah Jane along the rugged country we’d traversed; that’s Mt Lot and Lightning Ridge to the left and Lots Wife down on the far right


Lonely Tarns to Red Tape Creek 12.3km; 270m ascent/ 860m descent; approx 5-9 hours (Plus 1.2km; 190m ascent/descent; approx 1.5 hours return for Mt Sarah Jane) (Plus 2.3km; 50m ascent/ descent; approx 1.5 hours return for Lake Judd)

IMAGES - THIS PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT It wouldn’t be Southwest Tassie without some mud, and Day Four’s got some juicy bits. Protect the surrounding environment by heading straight through Leaving behind the Lonely Tarns

From the Lonely Tarns campsite, rise gently at first south then SW past a series of tarns, and up a muddy, open and eroded track with sensational views back over the country you’ve traversed. Give yourself a deserved pat on the back. After the bulk of the climbing, swing south and descend past a lake, with Mt Sarah Jane now posing a striking figure ahead. As you approach another small lake at Sarah Jane’s northeastern base, you may be fortunate enough to encounter a thigh-deep boghole or two. Keep ascending south onto an exposed alpine zone, where the track becomes indistinct, and sidle below Sarah Jane. If you lose the pad, be careful not to drop too low, and keep an eye out for a rare cairn and a random, distinctive stretch of boardwalk leading past numerous small tarns. Soon after, another cairn indicates the turnoff to Mt Sarah Jane (1290m). If you’re tackling this worthy 1.2km return add-on, follow the well-worn pad briefly, and then choose your own adventure up the boulder field. A half hour or so finds you at the summit. By now, you’ll either love or hate boulder fields, and you’ll possibly be desensitised to 360-degree views. Back at the main track, sidle SE along stepping stones for a few-hundred metres to a large cairn marking the start of the knee-tingling descent to the plains. Avoid an early false lead or two, keeping left to follow the base of some small quartzite cliffs. Brace yourself for large steps. The further you go down, the more eroded and muddy the track becomes, with plenty of dense scrub either side. (You can only imagine how difficult this part must’ve been in the early days!). Be careful not to trip over the remains of pruned plants. After the contours ease, the bogginess returns until, suddenly, you’re back on boardwalk. Soon after, you’ll reach the signposted turn-off to Lake Judd. If heading in, cross the bridge, and allow about 40mins one-way of relatively easy walking into the campsite, at the start of the Anne River. Unlike the other established campsites so far, there’s no toilet here. It’s a stunning setting and a beautiful spot for a swim. From the junction, it’s a 6.2km boardwalk and gravel bash (with one short muddy section) to Red Tape Ck. When you hit the suspension bridge at the Anne River, you’re on the home stretch. For your sake, I hope there’s cold beverages and a car awaiting you at the end. W

Easy walking on the home stretch to Red Tape Creek

CONTRIBUTOR: Educator, photographer and outdoor enthusiast Ryan Hansen relishes any opportunity to get out bush, even if it means slogging litres of water up a mountain just for the sunrise.






Comfortable and hard-wearing.

Our impression was that they’re

clever, well designed and, most importantly, tough.”


ROSS THE MOUNTAIN (XTM) HAS RECENTLY launched a new line of bushwalking kit: the Dun-

keld/Cumberland long-sleeved shirts, and the Glenaire/ Lara pants (listed here in order of men’s/women’s version). An Aussie company based out of Torquay in VIC, you’d expect these clothes to handle some harsh conditions, so my wife and I tested them in one of the most unforgiving places we know: Tasmania. Resoundingly, our impression was that they’re clever, well designed and, most importantly, tough. Let’s start with the top half: the Dunkeld/Cumberland

NEED TO KNOW Materials: (Shirts) 88% recycled nylon, 12% spandex ripstop 115GSM with PFC-free DWR (Pants) 90% recycled nylon, 10% spandex ripstop, 150GSM with PFC-free DWR Weights (as tested): Dunkeld shirt 265g (M); Cumberland shirt 230g (14); Glenaire pants 305g (M); Lara pants 305g (14) RRP: $99.99 shirts; $129.99 pants More info: xtm.com.au

shirts. Soft and stretchy to the touch—courtesy of the 12% spandex ripstop—it’s comfy but doesn’t immediately scream “bomber!”. First impressions can be deceptive, though. While I wouldn’t make a habit of it, we

collar—which can be flipped up to provide sun protec-

knocked and scraped the sleeves against abrasive dol-

tion for your neck—to be a little floppy, and even with

erite and scratchy and spiky scoparia, yet aside from the

the top button done up, I was frequently re-adjusting.

odd scuff mark (which, to be honest, I doubt any shirt

The wrist collar, especially on the men’s Dunkeld, is also

would’ve avoided entirely), you’d think these shirts had

quite loose at the tightest setting, so it covers a larger

had an easy life. While cut/fit is a personal thing, I found

portion of your hand; some slim-wristed males may find

the shirt to be longer than others, something I think is

this a little irritating.

advantageous, especially when bustling about with a

What about the pants, the Glenaire/Lara? They were

backpack; you’re less likely to end up with exposed skin

genuine standouts. Even after sixteen days of Tassie bush-

from bunched material. The ventilation eyelets in the

walking—a significant portion of which involved intense

armpits are good for sweaty humans like myself, too.

scrub bashing through banksia, tea tree and waist-high

And if you’re someone who likes stashing bits and bobs,

scoparia—they’re barely blemished. Admittedly, we

there’s two generously sized front pockets.

were commonly wearing canvas gaiters over the top,

I did, however, find the fabric of the extendible





Move freely.

but the exposed knees and thighs stood up to ongoing

The North Face (TNF), and then took them out on multiple hiking trips this last summer in Tasmania. My favourite feature of the Dryzzles (other than their punny name) is their full-length leg zip, which while not uncommon on alpine-oriented shell pants, is less common on hiking pants, where quarter, half and three-quarter zips tend to prevail. Anyway, with the full-length zips, there’s no more faffing about trying to get them on. These zips also allow for increased ventilation, as you can partially unzip


HATE RAIN PANTS. I actually despise them. Even when the heavens have



them to increase air flow, and it makes drying the pants out afterwards a cinch. Smart. Comfort, and adjustability, are other major upsides of the

opened, or I’m busting through saturated

Dryzzles. The half-elasticised waistband caters to varied

vegetation, I still avoid wearing them. I

physiques, while its slim-profile press stud avoids a nasty

sweat so much that I end up just as wet as

pressure point forming under your pack’s waistbelt. Unlike

without them, and they’re so heavy, bulky

other thick and restrictive rain pants I’ve owned, the Dry-

and cumbersome that they irritate the

zzles are impressively thin and flexible, which means your

hell out of me. And that’s after the ordeal

movement is uninhibited, especially around the knees; the

of haphazardly squeezing and stretching

articulated knee design also assists with this. The two press

and nearly ripping the stupid things to try

studs on the bottom hem, near the feet, enable tightness

and get them over my boots. Arrgh! They

to be varied around the boots. At only 370g for the men’s

make me so cranky! Until, that was, I got

medium, they’re not a burden to throw in your pack “just in

my hands on the Dryzzle shell pants from

case”, and they’re super packable too.




TITAN COOKWARE Light and strong.


E ALL KNOW—OK, most of us know—that light is right when it comes to gear. But space is a not

insubstantial issue either, which is why is great to see

harassment. (For context, we met other walkers whose pants’ pockets, from

that MSR has considered both when it comes to its rede-

a reputable manufacturer, had been ripped off by the aggressive vegeta-

signed and expanded range of Titan ultralight cookware.

tion.) The gusset panel and four-way stretch ensure ease of movement, and

The entire range is made from titanium, which has half the

the elasticised waist provides customised comfort to the slim-fitting design;

weight of steel but twice the strength of aluminium, and it’s

Martine’s tried a few different pants now, and she says the Lara’s waistband

all designed to nest together better than ever before.

is her favourite. They also have an additional sneaky zippered pocket—so

Starting with its redesigned Titan Kettles, there are

sneaky that I completely missed it until Martine pointed it out—and a bonus

two new sizes—1400 and 900mls—both of which can fit

PFC-free DWR finish. And while they’re not promoted as being amazingly

MSR’s Pocket Rocket Stoves and MSR’s fuel canisters. The

breathable, I—a profusely sweaty individual—didn’t overheat at all. Hon-

1400ml kettle weighs just 153g, and the 900ml version

estly, I cannot fault the Glenaire/Lara pants.

126g; both have silicone folding handles, improved pour-

XTM’s new hike range offers comfortable, hard-wearing kit. It’s all certi-

ing spouts, and interior gradation lines—perfect for fig-

fied carbon-neutral too. We’ll certainly be crossing many more mountains

uring out exactly how much water you need to pour into

in these clothes.

your freeze-dried meals. Yum!


Also redesigned has been the Titan Cup. At 450ml, it too has interior gradation lines, and it can double-function as an ultra-minimalist 68g cook pot for solo adventurers who want to go lighter than ever. Most, however, will want

If you’re a clumsy bushwalker like

to use it for its primary function, that as a robust ultralight

me—I regularly kick the inside of my

cup, for which it has a removable silicone lip saver along

opposite leg—then you’ll appreciate

with silicone folding handles.

the reinforced ‘kickpatches’ on the

New to the range is the 116g Titan Double Wall Mug.

inner ankle. Made from 15% Kevlar

Despite its double walls and resultant heat retention—

schoeller-keprotec (a tough fabric

which will keep your miso soup, coffee, tea et al hotter

initially designed for motorcycle

than ever—it’s still light enough for gram-saving adventur-

clothing), they can handle knocks and

ers. And its plastic BPA-free lid will help keep your drinks

scrapes from not only your own boots

warm even longer.

but also sharp rocks. While I’ve not

Also new is the 19g Titan long spoon, designed with

owned them long enough to com-

an extra-long handle to be able to dig into the deep cor-

ment on the longevity of their waterproof/breathable/windproof qualities, so far so good on this front too; they dealt with everything Tassie threw at them. Bear in mind, though, that there’s only one pocket, and that’s on the backside; if you want extra, you’ll

ners of any freeze-dried meal packet. There’s the spork

NEED TO KNOW Product class: Waterproof/breathable shell Materials: 50D, 96GSM, 3L Futurelight

as well, which MSR says can be clipped on a carabiner for on-the-go hang-ability (but let’s face it, you’d need to be seriously time-pressed for this to be a consideration). More relevant, however, is its featherlight 15g weight and its durability. (Yes, I’ve snapped a plastic spoon out bush). All in all, it’s a well-thought-out set, with its nesting

need to wear pants with pockets

Weight (as tested): 370g (Men’s med)

capabilities allowing significant reductions in volume, and


RRP: $370

the titanium allowing significant reductions on weight.

More info: thenorthface.com.au

info, go to spelean.com.au

I like them. My hatred of rain pants stops here. RYAN HANSEN

Expect to see it on sale in Australia in April 2024. For more JAMES MCCORMACK






The two-way radio reinvented, with some seriously cool tech.


NE OF THE BEST THINGS about the great outdoors is sharing the experience with someone. Usually,

however, actually being able to talk only occurs once you’ve stopped moving, when you can cluster close enough together that you can talk without shouting. The Milo action communicator changes that. It enables

Connecting the Milos to a group is super easy

easy communication with your outdoors playmates

only speak with one member in the group, and then ask it

(and lots of them too; up to eight can join a group), but

to return you to the group once you’re done.

lets you do so over distances of up to 600m, and to do

Milo’s wind and background-noise suppression works

it hands-free. The easiest comparison to make is that

well, up to a point; really blustery chairlift rides pushed its

they’re like walkie-talkies, except they have some cool,

limit. There’s apparently up to ten hours’ battery life, but in

advanced tech features that separate them from mere

the cold, we found we got a little less than that. Speaking

mortal two-way radios.

of cold, if you’re wearing ski gloves, the device’s volume

Milo says its system is for anyone on the trail, in the

Milo has the

most amazing, innovative tech of any communication system on the market.”

Perhaps the biggest drawback, however, is the lack

or on the slopes, and it was on the latter on a January

of range. Two-way radios can be used to communicate

2024 ski trip with my family in the US that I put the

over long distances, with even most low-end devices

device through its paces. (Although I’m going to talk

giving several kilometres, and high-end ones many

largely about skiing here, what I’ll say will hold true for

more. With Milos, you’re restricted to 600m line of sight;

many other activities too.)

it meant I couldn’t just send my son off to a different lift

But to start, I’ll explain the devices. Each weighs about 80g, which you keep close to your mouth via a

Waterproof: Yes (IP67), submersible to 1m for 30 minutes Range: Up to 600m line of sight, although multiple devices can ‘relay’ or create a mesh network to get greater range


him from the far side of the ski hill. One important thing to know is that it can take a bit

your bike’s handlebars—and it locks to these using a

of trial and error to get the settings—such as tweaking

magnetic clip mechanism that’s super quick and easy.

the voice-detection sensitivity and the proximity-mute

Occasionally, we found the devices could be dislodged,

distance—working well, and until I realised this, there

however; there’s a small leash that comes with the Milos

was some occasional frustration. Once I got the set-

that we used as a backup.

tings right for my needs, though, I was far happier. But

Getting the devices into the group is effortless; just

because these features are controlled via the Milo app

hold them close to each other while holding a side but-

on your smartphone, adjusting them out on the slopes

ton. And then speak away. It’s that simple. You don’t

in the cold and snow just isn’t that feasible; you need to

need to use your hands at all, and the devices only allow

do this before you head out.

One of the coolest features is that the devices adjust

Weight (as tested): 80g

to the one I was skiing at, let alone communicate with

number of means—armbands, pack straps, pockets, to

one speaker at a time; you won’t all talk over each other.


buttons are unfortunately too small to manipulate.

water (yes, they’re fully waterproof, with an IP67 rating),

I found our Milos super useful while skiing with my son to be able to give him ski tips on the go. And Milo heavily

their volume, or switch off entirely, depending on how

pushes the devices for not just skiing, but hiking, MTB-ing

close you are. Milo calls it “proximity mute”. What that

and surfing. But here are some additional use scenarios I

meant was that I could be on the chairlift with my wife,

could see being great, when communication is necessary

with my son on the chair ahead, and my words wouldn’t

(to convey info, say, about a set of rapids, or an abseil or

come through my wife’s device (because Milo figures out

climb sequence, or the snow conditions), but when shout-

that, thanks to our proximity, we can hear each other’s

ing at each other from a distance is difficult: whitewater

natural voices easily), but my words would still transmit

paddling, canyoning, climbing, and backcountry skiing.

through to my son’s device (again, Milo could figure out

They’d be helpful for adventure photography, too.

he was far enough away that he wouldn’t hear my voice

The devices won’t be for everyone, for sure. They’re not

without the device). There’s actually some super cool tech

cheap, for starters, and not everyone actually wants to be

here. It also can figure out, when you’re close, to not echo

able to communicate hands-free on the go. And there’s

through the neighbouring device. Largely, anyway; I still

still a slight sense of crackly, radio voice coming through

found some echo on a few occasions.

the devices (but not as bad as if you were actually using

The hands-free operation can be switched off, or

a radio). But all in all, if you’re someone who wants, or

turned to mute so that it only communicates with a

needs, to be able to communicate with others on the go,

RRP: $399

PTT (push-to-talk; similar to most two-way radios) if you

and you don’t necessarily need the range that two-way

More info: okmilo.com

don’t want everything you say to be transmitted. There’s

radios can provide, Milo has the most amazing, innovative

also feature to have voice-controlled one-on-one side

tech of any communication system on the market.

chats, where you can simply ask the device to have you



The home for mountain biking in Australia

Australian Mountain Bike magazine is the country's leading off-road cycling publication. You'll find a wide range of features that cover guidance for newer mountain bikers, through to reviews and discussion for even the most experienced riders. AMB showcases some of the greatest riding locations around Australia, New Zealand and further afield, and covers what's happening on the ground with the latest trail developments.


PHOTO: Nick Waygood



SUPPORTERS We get it; we know ads aren’t the primary reason you read Wild. But without our supporters, Wild simply wouldn’t exist*. If you love what we’re on about here at Wild, if you’re passionate about both adventure and protecting our natural heritage, if having a magazine that’s full of well-written, crafted stories means something to you, a magazine that fights hard for our environment, then support our supporters; without them, Wild wouldn’t exist. We know that our advertising supporters aren’t, of course, your only options when it comes to choosing what gear you purchase. But if you’re in a situation where you have a few cool options to choose from, and one of them happens to be from one of our advertisers, then show them their support means something by choosing their product. No-one’s asking for handouts, here; we genuinely believe that everyone who advertises in the mag offers something great. But if everything else is equal, please support those who support us. Here’s a selection of new and interesting gear that our advertisers think Wild readers should know about.


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PHOTO: David Ariño


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New Zealand, you’re not the only place that has caves with limpid, crystal-clear pools (see this issue’s cover); Chillagoe in Queensland has them too. Admittedly, usually Chillagoe’s caves are water free, but rain in early 2023 meant many became spectacular swimming holes. Unlike NZ, though, you don’t need a drysuit to swim here; Grant Polomka has dressed for a dip in Chillagoe’s Macropedes Cave in true QLD style— nothing but budgies and a helmet! TIMOTHY KOLLN Cairns, QLD 146


Timothy wins an awesome Osprey MUTANT 22 climbing pack. It features integrated rope carry, a wide-mouth zippered opening, customisable options for carrying crampons/other items on the front of the pack, a secure and easy-to-use ice tool carry system, and the webbing hip belt 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

M O V E M O U N TA I N S W I T H A E T H E R ™ | A R I E L P R O

Hardcore. Capable. Customisable. Through type II expeditions and unforgiving conditions, the perfect fitting Aether/Ariel Pro overcomes every obstacle. Whether you’re on a wilderness expedition or backcountry adventures, custom-fit suspension and strippable features lighten even the most gear-intensive loads— so you can be at your most capable in the backcountry.




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