Bushwalking: Collins Bonnet, Tasmania

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This is nice, not too demanding walk, close to Hobart that still commands excellent views. It takes in another, less busy part of the Mt Wellington Plateau and provides for walking in an alpine environment. As such, warm and waterproof clothing should always be carried.

The walk commences at the Myrtle Forest Picnic Ground, just under 5km from the village of Collinsvale. The trail crosses a bridge into forest and then follows Forest Creek southwest climbing steadily all the while. At a track junction you continue south (left) until the East West fire trail (a 4wd track) is reached. Some parts of the walking track prior to reaching the fire trail were somewhat unclear, so take care as it would be easy to drift off the actual track. There is a green shelter building at the base of Collins Bonnet that can be used as a guide if you do lose the track (head straight for it).

Around 100m or so south along the fire trail from the hut, there is a walking track to the summit marked with a cairn; this is easy to miss (I walked straight past it). Follow this track, which required negotiating some boulder fields, to the summit which is marked by a trig point.

There are excellent views from the summit, which include Mt Wellington itself.

After enjoying the views, assuming the weather is kind, you could return by the same route or alternatively take the East West trail west and then turn north on to the Collins Cap trail and at the base of Collins Cap take another walking track east to join the original track out of Myrtle Forest. This diversion also provides the opportunity to climb Collins Cap if you are so inclined – I wasn’t on the day I was there as the track is steep and looked reasonably rough and it was getting late in the day.

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Bushwalking: Mt Rufus, Tasmania

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Another terrific day walk in Tassie, this time taking in the summit of Mt Rufus in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.

The walk commences from the National Park Visitor Centre, seven or so kilometres along a sealed road from a turn-off at the Lyell Hwy. The visitor centre sits at the southern end of Lake St. Clair and is a popular and busy spot with camping, cabins, a visitor centre and a licensed cafe.

The walks in this part of the park all start by following a closed (except to management vehicles) vehicular track that proceeds west from the visitor centre. After about half a kilometre a signposted track to Mt Rufus is reached. This track climbs steadily west for about four kilometres to a junction. Ignoring the link track, the path proceeds to climb west, before turning south-west and the north-west to work around a prominent rocky outcrop. There’s a final steepish pull up to the ridge line and then a fairly leisurely stroll up to the prominent summit cairn.

Views from the summit are simply magnificent with Lake St. Clair to the east, the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to the west and to the north, Cradle Mountain and the wilderness traversed by the Overland track.

From the summit you could return the same way, but if time permits a better option is to descend north-west to a saddle and then eastwards towards Shadow Lake, before following the path through forest, an impressive clearing that requires careful attention to staying on the track as this area is rather boggy, and some wonderful woodland that includes one of Australia’s few native deciduous trees, the deciduous beech (or Fagus)*. I was there in autumn, so the leaves had started to change colour and this part of the walk was particularly attractive. The path eventually arrives at Watersmeet where it’s a 1.5km walk back along the vehicular track to the visitor centre.

All-in-all a definite A+ must do Tasmanian walk.

* I thought this was Australia’s only native deciduous tree, but a bit of research revealed that there are several others, although all are monsoonal deciduous (i.e. they lose their leaves just before the wet season) – the beech is the only native winter deciduous. This page has more information.

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Stars

One of the joys of overnight bushwalks is seeing the night sky without light pollution – I always enjoy lying back on my therm-a-rest and looking up at the stars.

French photographer Thierry Cohen wondered what the sky would look like in major cities without the light pollution (and smog). He set about creating some images by combining photographs of the cities with photographs of the night sky taken at the same latitudes but in remote areas.

The results are superb.

 

Everest Base Camp Trek Days 9-12: Pherice to Lukla

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The final four days of the trek involved re-tracing our steps back to Lukla, stopping at Tengboche, Namche Bazar and Phakding.

These days also provided an opportunity to recuperate from altitude sickness and associated loss of appetite and lack of sleep. My mild case of altitude sickness disappeared as soon as we reached Tengboche – the headache I’d had for the past four days went and my appetite returned with a vengeance. I also managed to get my fist good night’s sleep for five days, and the following night in Namche Bazar was even better with almost 10 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.

We celebrated the final afternoon and night in Lukla by playing pool with our guide (a Lukla native), as well as consuming several beers, at one of Lukla’s bars, followed by dinner with our guide and porter. A quick coffee at Lukla’s fake Starbucks (had free wi-fi and better coffee than the real thing) completed the evening and the trek.

There was one last item of “excitement” though – being the take-off from Lukla’s airport the following morning. There’s no messing around, straight down the hill and pray that the wheels have left the tarmac before the end of the disturbingly short runway. Surviving this we had one final night in Kathmandu (with a good dinner at K-Too Beer & Steakhouse in Thamel) and that was it, for this trip at least.

Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable two weeks and some of the best walking I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. The issues with altitude didn’t detract in any significant way from the trek, and I vowed I’d be back to Nepal, which I am pleased to say I will be later in 2012…

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Everest Base Camp Trek Day 8: Gorak Shep to Pherice

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The plan for this day is to start very early with a side trip up to the summit of Kala Patthar before the beginning of the return trip which goes via Pherice.

The weather had changed the previous day and snow had been falling all night. When I got up at 5am it was still snowing outside and was very cold. I went to wash my hands and face and discovered the drum of water for washing had frozen over. Because of this weather, the start of the walk had to be postponed and in the event I didn’t commence the walk to Kala Patthar until after 8am and a very light breakfast.

I was still feeling a bit weak and tired from the lack of sleep and gastro; this combined with the altitude made the walking surprisingly hard work. The incline isn’t that bad but I found myself stopping regularly to get my breath back (I now have some understanding of how climbers on high peaks must feel). In the end I didn’t make it to the top, stopping about two-thirds of the way up as our guide was concerned to leave enough time to get to Pherice. I did take some time to take quite a few photos (including of course of Mt Everest – the photo above is as close as you will get on the trek).

After a quick lunch, the walk to Pherice commenced, retracing our steps from yesterday to Thokla but through a landscape that looked very different thanks to all the snow.

From Thokla a slightly different path is taken that leads to Pherice, a small village in the middle of a windswept plain. Our Tea House here was neat and tidy and I had my first ‘shower’ since Namche Bazaar (actually a large bucket of warm water and a jug) which felt fantastic – it was a bit chilly though running from the out-house to the lodge, past a large pool of ice…

Day 8: Gorak Shep (5140m) to Pherice (4240m) via Kala Patthar (net height loss 900m)
About 6 hours

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Everest Base Camp Trek Day 7: Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp

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Day 7 and the day we finally would arrive at Everest Base Camp.

I started a little weary having hardly slept the night before and could barely eat anything at breakfast. Nonetheless, this was the day I’d travelled a long way to experience, so onwards and upwards, in this case alongside the Khumbu Glacier, before dropping down to the frozen lake at the southern foot of Kala Patthar. At 5550m Kala Patthar is a significant mountain on a world scale, but compared to the immediate surroundings is a mere pimple.

From the lake it is a short walk to Gorak Shep, the final village on the trail. We stopped here for a quick lunch before the final pull up to base camp. By this point the weather had started to change, it was much colder, the cloud base was a lot lower and it had started to snow a little. Nevertheless, we pushed on and in about an hour and a half reached our final destination. Visibility had by now reduced considerably, but as it happens this wasn’t really a problem as there is no view of Everest from base camp, which, out of season is just a large ampitheatre of rocks, snow and ice (in season it is festooned with hundreds of tents).

It was a great feeling to have reached base camp, but given the conditions we didn’t hang around for too long and after the obligatory photos set off back to Gorak Shep. I was glad to get back to Gorak Shep for some rest, feeling quite light headed from the altitude and a little weak from the gastro and not eating.

Day 7: Lobuche (4910m) to Gorak Shep (5140m) and Everest Base Camp (5364m) (net height gain 454m)
About 2.5 hours / 4.5 kms to Gorak Shep, another 1.5 hours / 3 kms (one-way) to Base Camp

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Everest Base Camp Trek Day 6: Dingboche to Lobuche

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Today was a fairly short day. Departing west from Dingboche before turning north-west, we passed through Dusa and soon thereafter arrived at Dughla, a village that sits in a valley at the southern end of the Khumbu Glacier. We stopped at Dughla for a tea-break before crossing a bridge to the west side of the Khumbu Glacier and then climbing quite steeply to the north. The track here passes some stone memorials built in remembrance of climbers who have lost their lives in the Himalayas. Views from here are simply magnificent – I found myself stopping quite often to turn around and take in the fantastic vista.

After negotiating the short Thokla (Dughla) Pass the trail continues north to the village of Lobuche. Lobuche was packed with trekkers and the room we thought we had booked was not available. Again our guide searched for an alternative, which ended up being in a half completed lodge near where we were supposed to be staying. Thankfully, the half that was completed included most of the roof and a bed, but there was no sealing between the doors and windows and the walls, and the floor was gravel, which made for a somewhat uncomfortable night.

I’d also started to suffer from gastro and as a result of the altitude had developed a headache that wasn’t to go away until we reached Tengboche on the way back. I slept only fitfully and at one point woke up feeling like someone was pounding a nail between my eyes. Paracetamol tablets helped suppress the headache but couldn’t get rid of it. The altitude also affects your appetite – despite expending a lot of calories I could barely eat a thing. Still, the next day was the day we’d reach base camp, so while tired I was still keen to keep moving.

Day 6: Dingboche (4410m) to Lobuche (4910m) (net height gain 500m)
About 3 hours / 7.7 kms

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Everest Base Camp Trek Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche

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An early start after a quick breakfast and a coffee at the Tengboche bakery. Until the sun rises above the mountains, it is very chilly, and gloves and a beanie were required for the first part of the walk, a reasonably steep descent through a forest of conifers, birch and rhododendrons to Deboche. This trail was a bit muddy, although an overnight frost meant the ground was still reasonably firm.

After the first of several river crossings (this one across the Imja Khola) there are a series of chortens; one particularly good example also frames a fantastic view of Ama Dablam. The path then proceeds along the western side of the Imja Khola, through a landscape becoming progressively more barren and dusty. Not long after Shomare, where we stopped for an early lunch, the path forks. We took the right fork that initially drops down to a bridge across the Khumbu Khola and then climbs upwards to Dingboche (the left fork goes to Pherice which we would visit on the way back).

Dingboche was a very busy village, full of trekkers. Indeed the accommodation we intended to stay at was booked out, thankfully we (or more accurately our guide) were able to secure an alternative. The day was not over at this point though – after a short tea break our guide got us back on the trail to climb up to Nangkartshang Gompa, above and to the west of Dingboche, as part of our acclimatisation. The views from the trail up are simply magnificent, but we were not able to tarry as the wind started getting stronger and the weather looked to be changing.

That night we had a nice meal and our final beer until we reached Pherice on the way back from base camp; our guide strongly recommending that we not drink alcohol at the higher elevations. I wasn’t to know that this would also be the last time for a few days that I would get any real sleep, with altitude sickness and gastro about to set in…

Day 5: Tengboche (3860m) to Dingboche (4410m) (net height gain 550m)
About 4.5 hours / 12 kms

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Bushwalking: Ormiston Pound Walk – Ormiston Gorge, Northern Territory

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From the car park walk over to the walk information display board and then follow the path clearly signed Pound Walk and marked along the way by a red triangle. During my visit in July 2010 ‘Caution Notices’ had been added to the Pound walk signs warning of the high water level in the gorge as a result of the recent extensive rainfall and the possibility of having to resort to wading and swimming to complete the walk. Not wishing to turn around after driving all the way from Alice Springs I pressed on hoping that only a short stretch of the track through the gorge would be affected.

After a short walk alongside the access road the path drops down to the left into Ormiston Creek which has to be crossed before picking up the path again as it rises gently upwards to the first ridge line. Cross over the ridge following the well-marked path as it meanders through the rocky terrain eventually reaching a prominent saddle and a nearby viewpoint from where there are spectacular views of the pound. After crossing another ridge line the path drops down into the pound descending towards the broad bed of Ormiston Creek.

Noting the red triangle sign on the other side of the creek marking the paths position an interesting time was had in finding a suitable crossing point which did not involve the removal of socks and boots. After trying various options a series of boulders in the riverbed was eventually found which finally allowed an uneventful crossing. A further two creek crossings were negotiated in a similar manner until finally picking up the path as it left the creek bed and meandered into the gorge. As the path continued further into the gorge across sandy beaches and rocky terrain it eventually became necessary to resort to scrambling across large boulders beneath the towering red cliffs. Due to the amount of water it became progressively more difficult to find a suitable route through the gorge and to link up with the Ghost Gum Walk. Despite wading through the water to waist level it became obvious that the only way to get through would be to swim the final stretch as indicated earlier by the caution signs at the beginning of the walk. I decided that this was not a sensible option as the water was becoming increasingly cold and the prospect of a long drive back to Alice Springs in wet gear was not particularly appealing. The decision made I retreated and made my way back to the start of the walk the way I came in. As it turned out this was not such a bad outcome as it was only early afternoon, the sun was shining and although it lengthened the walk the views were magnificent and I did manage to dry out by the time I got back to my car.

Overall this is was a very enjoyable walk despite being unable to complete the full circuit due to the water level in the gorge. The views along the walls of the Pound and the red towering cliffs inside the Gorge are stunning and well worth the effort.

Start & Finish: Ormiston Gorge Visitor Centre approx 135 km/2 hrs drive west of Alice Springs.
Distance: approx 9 kms circular walk, allow 3 – 4 hrs or approx 17 kms return to Gorge along same route.

Fact Sheet available for down load here.

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UPDATE:

I visited Ormiston Gorge last year (2013) – there was a lot less water and so I was able to complete the full circuit without getting my boots wet. I did the circuit clockwise (opposite to that descibed above) starting with the Ghost Gum walk which delivers fine views before dropping down into the gorge and permitting completion of the circuit walk. I’d recommend doing the walk this way – if there is too much water in the gorge to navigate, you’ll find this out at the start rather then the end of the walk, and then can make a decision about how far to walk the other way if you are so inclined.

See here for a photo set of the walk.

 

Everest Base Camp Trek Day 4: Namche Bazar to Tengboche

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An early start and another short, sharp climb to kick things off – heading eastwards and then turning north-east to pass the Tenzing Norgye Memorial Stupa. The path from here through to Kyangjuma afforded superlative views of the Himalayan mountains.

There’s a steep descent to Phungi Thanga, where we stopped for a tea break, before another long slow climb to Tengboche.

Tengboche is a magnificently situated monastery, one of the oldest in Nepal. After climbing up a ridge to the east of Tengboche to visit a couple of Chortens and take in the views, I returned to visit the monastery for a service at 4pm which was open to, and indeed packed with, trekkers.

Once the sun passes behind the mountains it gets very cold, so in the evening I donned my down jacket and took a stroll around the area, again admiring the amazing views, including Mt Everest, before finishing the day at the bakery with another excellent coffee..

Day 4:
Namche Bazar (3440m) to Tengboche (3860m) (net height gain 420m)
About 4 hours / 6 kms

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