Writing about hiking can be a funny thing. Upon reflection, a painful day of walking may be remembered quite fondly. As time passes, it seems the nasty parts of the walk are forgotten and a more upbeat memory remains. A bit like relationships really?! The trouble is, I’m writing this only a week after the long day of walking on the 15th March 2011.
In fact, right now I can still feel what that day did to my legs. My heels have a soreness, as if they’ve been beaten with a cricket bat and my thighs still have an incessant dull ache. The only way I can describe the pain is this scenario.
First of all, dim the lights and lie back on your chesterfield couch and imagine you’re jumping out of an aeroplane (oh yeah, sorry, but you forgot to put your parachute on). After picking up a little speed over a few thousand metres, you land perfectly upright with both feet onto concrete with a few garden tools dotted about just to make the landing a little more interesting. You know, a rake and mattock for starters, plus maybe a few bowling balls. The end result of how you now feel, is what I’m feeling as I write this blog entry.
Anyway, the day started out okay. I woke up, which is always a bonus. During the night, I’d slept, either on the hut floor on the deformed mat with my feet in the vertical position. I guess one should elevate their legs after a day of walking. Shouldn’t they? If so, I’ve got a solution. Just buy a dodgy sleeping mat and wait for it to detonate internally.
Describing the mat as having a pillow inserted in it is not really accurate. It was more like the Hindenburg airship had docked in the middle of my mat. MK and I had actually ordered some spanking new Thermarest mats for this hike, but they hadn’t arrived before setting off. So, we were both left with crap mats to endure for a couple of nights at least.
I’d also woken up with a booming headache and grief from a wisdom tooth, which seemed to be trying to escape through my cheek. It was a bit of a struggle and so far, it’s interesting to see how much I’ve complained in every paragraphs. Oh well, maybe in future I should write things a few weeks after the event. Oh, one last complaint. There’s no obvious water source near the hut, so it caused some breakfast trauma. Our eggs had to be scrambled instead of poached. Shocking.
The stone walls of the hut really blocked the cold, as I didn’t feel the temperature drop during the night, so it was quite surprising to walk outside and find it quite chilly. The weather looked okay though. Pockets of sunshine mixed in with a few clouds whizzing by.
Our walking plans for the day were a little fluid. The aim was to complete the entire Main Range Circuit, Snowy Mountains and either finish up at Seaman’s Hut again or continue on somewhere else! Either way, we wanted to finish walking before last light, which would be about 8 pm.
Setting off, we retraced our steps to Rawsons Pass. It’s a different world when you can actually see, as the track has a number of curves, which for the life of me, I didn’t notice in the dark. The surrounding landscape, which is devoid of trees reminded me a little of walking in Wales. Okay, I could be wildly wrong about this, as I’m recalling a memory Welsh memory when I was only 9 years old. I’m running with it though.
One of the first things we noticed was how cultured the walking surface is. The Main Ridge Track appears to have been graded until level and generally consists of crushed rock held together with big rubber things. Is ‘rubber things’ a technical term? I think so. Anyway, one of the noticeable aches early on was in the feet. I thought the metal grate of the previous day was a bit of a bummer, but that seemed like a bed of feathers compared to walking on the rock.
It was going to be a long day and any thought of having another look at the summit of Mt Kosciuszko were scotched when low cloud swung in again reducing any view. So, besides stopping at the Australia’s highest comfort station our main interest was Lake Albina and in particular a hut that’s near the lake.
It wasn’t hard to find the lake…
…but we couldn’t see the hut until we realised it’s marked as a ‘ruin’ on the map. A bit of scouting around off the track and we confirmed the hut wasn’t in the greatest of condition.
Instead of having a snack inside the hut, we opted for a one surrounded by rubble. It’s a beautiful spot though, as Lake Albina sits in valley, which appears to drop off suddenly at the end of the lake. Low clouds kept drifting by, but we had plenty of sunshine as well.
As we lay on the grass having lunch, MK showed a bit of interest in a ridge line opposite us. Within the ridge line was Mueller Peak and a bit further back was Mt Townsend, which is only marginally smaller than Mt Kosciuszko. Well, I think it was Mueller Peak, as I didn’t have the map in front of me. MK was the official map holder, so perhaps I should buy my own before attempting to write this up.
Anyway, being a part of those weird, rock climbing hombres, she wanted to scoot up to the top of the ridge via the boulders in front of us. No easy stroll up the spur line I’m afraid. With my masculinity being under threat again all I could do was utter confidently, “No problem. That’ll be easy, as I’m a man. If you haven’t noticed.” This was said whilst I was eating a turkey sandwich with brie cheese and cranberry sauce.
So, we picked out a point to climb up having dropped the backpacks. I was confident of getting up first because I was going for the shortest approach. Straight ahead was the theme. At this point the sun came out and all photos for this section went berserk due to the polarizer. It’s not often you see a polarizer disclaimer is there?
Heading off, I was stumbling through the vegetation and noted I’d fallen behind within 8 seconds. The reason being I was too busy taking photos and not for the fact I’m a bit sloth-like in movement. I did get some nice photos on the way though.
It was nice to be walking without a backpack and I was feeling confident as I started to climb a grassy gully. I did note it was a little wet making it a tad slippery. I was concentrating on a firm foot hold before inching up when my foot slipped on a wet rock.
Gravity then became an important part of my slip, as I fell down about 10 feet on my bum. It was a fairly painless ride, but I wasn’t impressed with my pants being pulled down as I continued to slide on the wet grass. With the strides down a little I had the comfortable feeling of grass and debris forced into my boxers. How erotic is this hiking stuff?
Upon regaining control, I now had the feeling of officially having a ‘grassy arse’. It rhymes, so it doesn’t seem so bad now, but it wasn’t a barrel of laughs at the time. Well, up I continued as there wasn’t too far to go. I had lost sight of MK amongst the rocks, but I thought I was possibly in front.
Finally I reached the top. There was a nice grass saddle amongst the rocks, which was quite nice to lounge on. I didn’t know where MK was, but I had a feeling she was still coming up somewhere. That was until I heard a voice from behind, “Oh, there you are. I thought I could hear you.” I was sitting on a rock perfectly quiet, but apparently my breathing sounded like an old locomotive. She’d beaten me by a decade and had spent some time exploring the area whilst waiting for me. Blast!
Oh well, it was a great view of the lake below though. A smaller lake had a nice reflection happening, whilst looking at it from a different angle.
We’d considered going on to Mt Townsend, but peak bagging wasn’t an important part of the trip, so maybe another time. We had a bit of a rest, taking in the sights under a blue sky, mottled with clouds cruising in sent my polarizer bonkers. The bare rocks made a good contrast to the sky though.
Whilst lying around we did manage to spot some people, which ended up being the only human sighting for the day. They were on the Main Ridge Track, heading in an opposite direction to us and were only carrying small packs, so I assume they were on a day walk.
Eventually, it was time to get going, so headed back to pick up our packs. We set off at the same time, so I’m not sure how MK ended up so far in front of me as the next photo shows. Actually, while you’re at it, if you grab your portable Hubble telescope you can see the ruins of Lake Albina Hut in the lower centre of the photo, whilst the Main Range Track is easily seen crossing below the ridge. If you can’t see these things, then I suggest some reading glasses constructed out of an electron microscope. How cool would they be? A bit crazy for driving though.
Upon grabbing the packs we headed straight up the slope to re-join the track. My pack was felt lighter, because somehow I’d drunk nearly four litres of water for the day. I needed re-fill and our next major stop at Blue Lake would be the ideal place. I was mildly dying walking straight up the slope to the track, but once on the level, crushed rock again, I was soon racing along.
MK wasn’t happy though, as she wanted to see what was at the end of valley that Lake Albina seemed to disappear into. Could there be a waterfall? I had no idea, so I was interested in exploring a bit more, so the packs got dropped again and we were heading off the track to get some Lake Albina action.
It was nice to see the lake from the opposite end, but there wasn’t much water flowing out of it. I can imagine in spring it’d be a different scene with melting snow. The valley, which stretched off into the horizon was quite nice to look at, whilst I lay down yet again for a rest. Do you see a theme here?
It’s great to lounge around, but it had to end at some point, so slogged back up to the track, collecting our packs along the way. Back on track, clouds enveloped us, as we began the climb towards Carruthers Peak. At this stage, I was noticing my feet were getting pretty sore walking on the crushed rock and was hoping for something a little less ‘constructed’ to walk on.
It was a steady climb and along the way, MK found a rocky spot off the track, which seemed to be pretty good impromptu lookout. I certainly didn’t mind the stops either, as it was a chance to dump the pack again.
After some valley perusing, we continued on, as we made our way to Blue Lake. At the turn off it was a chance to guess what? Yep, dump the backpacks and head off on the track to the lake. I took my water bag with me, as I was officially dry. Apparently the lake has magnificent water, so I thought if I was going to refill anywhere this might as well be the spot. It’s a pity it was so cloudy, as the lake had a bit of a bleak look about it.
There’s a lookout at a timber landing, but we continued on and walked down to the lake edge. Finally, it was time to fill up my four litre water bag, as at this stage I was dying of thirst. The water, taken straight out of the lake was smooth and tasted insanely pure. It could be placebo pure, but I was impressed. So much so, I feel it may have been the best water I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Whilst MK set off climbing over rocks again, I declined to join her as my job was to be official photographer. This meant I had to lie down and take photos whilst lying on a soft rock. I do enjoy my job.
Whilst relaxing, sorry, I meant working, I noticed amongst the rocks and water a very colourful feather. I’m not sure what sort of bird it came from, but it made for a nice photo with the water droplets on it.
All good lounging around finally has to end, so we began to walk back to get our packs. I also realised strolling uphill for a couple of kilometres, whilst carrying a four litre water bag was quite annoying. How heavy can four kilograms be? Well, heavy enough that I had to cradle it like I was carrying a baby, complete with swapping arms all the way back to the packs. That water baby felt bloody heavy in the end.
I then made a tactical error when I put it into my pack. Instead of placing it low in the compartment, I just stuffed it in near the top. When we started walking again, I immediately noticed the pack feel a bit top heavy. Oh well, at the time it was all downhill, so I didn’t worry about too much. There were no major sights to see now, as we headed towards the Snowy River, but we still had to negotiate the Main Ridge Track, official hay bale steeplechase which was mildly entertaining.
It also looked like we’d be finishing in the dark, as the light began to dim and the moon became clearly visible. MK assured me it was all downhill to Charlotte Pass, which technically was correct, but in the distance a sizeable hill was appearing with a track heading up the side of it. I was thinking this wasn’t in the script as I felt a bit ‘hilled’ out.
Even more interesting was a white four wheel drive slowly cruising along the track leading back to Seaman’s Hut. I’ve no idea who would have been in it, other than a Parks vehicle.
As my legs were feeling sore I had a cunning plan. If the car reappeared we could get a lift. I was still concerned about my masculinity rating, but I thought if I waved it down, whilst nude (except for boots) I would still have a high masculinity rating. It was still problematic though, as I wouldn’t be able to get my pants off with boots on. Pants stuck around the ankles is a recipe for disaster. I was always told if one ends up nude, then take the socks off first. It’s a silly look to be starkers with only your socks on. I’m not sure how any of this applies to Charlotte Pass, but maybe take it as a life-tip instead.
As we continued, the car moved on and my grand plan was in tatters. Huh? I’ve got to walk instead? Outrageous. The Snowy River was reached as the light was dimming and we had an easy crossing as the water was quite low. It’s a rock hopping exercise which would be slightly dodgy if the water was even slightly high.
We were now over the river, but I was feeling a little bit depressed looking at a reasonably steep climb to Charlotte Pass, so we could join the road back to Seaman’s Hut. My legs were feeling pretty heavy, as I began the trudge up the path.
What’s interesting is the path has a number of large lumps in it, as if they’re speed humps. Every time I reached above snail pace, I struck a hump and came to a stop. Even MK wasn’t impressed, which was a shock, but she came up with an ingenious method to make it a little less painful. Walk backwards.
At first, I was a little suspicious, but decided to give it a go and actually it wasn’t too bad. At least it was nice to see where we had walked, which was more interesting than looking up the hill. I’m not sure how, but it was also marginally easier on the legs.
It was all going well until MK decided to reverse up past a snake on the path and hadn’t seen it until she had passed it. I reached ‘crapping my pants status’ at this point and reverted to the traditional head on approach. It had been a long day and the slow 600 metre slog left me feeling spent. Storm clouds were also brewing in the distance.
Finally reaching the top, we had a quick pit stop at the Charlotte Pass comfort station, before heading towards Seamans Hut. Unfortunately though, it’s six kilometres, which is all on a gradual incline.
The backwards walking hill had blasted my legs and feet, leaving me shuffling and I was now aware my shoulders were hurting. The incorrectly placed water bag was coming back to haunt me.
Darkness set in, but with some moonlight I didn’t need the headlamp. A six kilometre walk shouldn’t pose too many problems, but having walked twenty for the day already, I was looking out for the mystery four wheel drive we’d seen earlier. Miles ahead, I began to see lights flashing in the hills, which I thought might be headlights, but as it continued for some time we worked out it was lightning on the horizon.
The lights for the night hadn’t finished though. Whilst struggling along, we noticed a bright light near us, down the hill next to the Snowy River. It appeared to be a stationary strobe light, which took us both by surprise.
Having seen no one for hours, it seemed strange someone would be down in a spot, which wasn’t really level and just a little rocky. There was no noise from the direction of the light either and I was feeling intrigued enough to walk down and have a look. The main problem is I had a feeling it was a Yowie relaxing with a pot of Dilmah, so I was a little too scared to investigate.
I’ve come to the conclusion the last hour and a half of walking absolutely sucked. In the dark, at quite some distance, I started to see the silhouette of Seamans Hut, but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. I couldn’t believe the pain in my feet and as I crawled to the hut I was at the first stage of blubbering.
I.was.absolutely.rooted. I’m not a fan of the full stop after each word trick showing how dramatic it all is, but it works when I think about how I felt. Do you want some more? Okay, how about this.
Anyway, finally the day was done and perusing the GPS I noticed we’d walked over 25 km with total elevation climbed of about 1000 metres. No wonder I was feeling weary. Whilst I was unable to speak, MK went chorizo sausage crazy and cooked a super sized pasta. Whilst doing this, she also managed to pump up my air mattress complete with built-in Hindenburg. Following this confession I might have to agree my masculinity rating just plummeted a little…