Ocean to the Outback…

One of the great things about Australia, apart from the laid back nature of the people, is the diverse landscapes in our sunburnt country.

 The beauty of our never-ending beaches where one can walk for miles and feel the golden grains of sand between your toes, to the ochre red colours of the Outback…

In a couple of weeks we will be heading off on our first trip of the year and themed from The Ocean to the Outback.

Starting close-by to the World Renowned Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world we will make our way inland to Trilby Station, a large sheep property situated on the mighty Darling River in Outback Australia…

Hey, it will be great to have you along, so I’ll give you a shout as we are heading down the driveway in “The Landy” – strewth, if we’re lucky Janet-Planet might cook up some of those great scones of hers over a camp fire!

Photos: Baz – The Landy

Vagabonds, Scoundrels and Highway Robbery

Targo

 Vagabonds, Scoundrels and Highway Robbery, along with the shout “Stand and Deliver” would send a shiver down the spine of many in days past as bushrangers were an integral part of the Australian landscape.

Recently, we had the occasion to travel into the beautiful Southern Highlands region of New South Wales. Our destination was Tarago, a small town located on the eastern side of Lake George which has a couple of historic buildings in its midst, including a quaint Anglican Church and at its epicentre, the “Loaded Dog Hotel”.

Nearby is the Woodlawn Mine, which produced gold, copper and zinc up until 1998, providing employment opportunities to the local community.  Today, the site hosts a “Bio-reactor”  which converts waste product, transported by rail from Sydney, to methane gas.  And given its proximity to the political capital of Australia and its resident population of politicians,  the hot air produced may very well be matched by that coming from Parliament House.

The Loaded Dog, which takes its name from the story by Henry Lawson, has had many visitors since opening its doors for trade in 1848 and amongst these have been the well-known bushrangers, Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner, and the Clarke Brothers.

It was at The Loaded Dog that this infamous bunch planned a robbery of gold being transported from the Majors Creek Gold Mine – the planned heist never unfolded but needless to say there was plenty of romance, skulduggery, a murder, and a brush with the “law”.

Tarago is a destination in its own right and an easy drive from Sydney. And if you enjoy live music the pub hosts some great Australian talent in the front bar regularly on a Saturday evening. I imagine the scene may be as boisterous today as it would have been back in the days of the visiting bushrangers!

Alternatively, if you have the time it is a pleasant way to detour if you are travelling to the New South Wales south coast region, which you can do via Braidwood along the King’s Highway.  Just outside of Braidwood is a beautiful free-camp spot by the Shoalhaven River where we stopped for a leisurely lunch amongst the travelling caravan groups.

The Australian Bush is full of interesting towns and Tarago is well worth making the detour for, even if just to visit “The Dog”.

And if in the area, beware of that cry “Stand and Deliver”,  after all you are only about 75-kilometres from what might arguably be the hang-out of Australia’s modern day bushranger, Canberra!

 

Photo: Baz – The Landy

Red dust in your pants…

Welford Sand Dune

Mountaineering is all about going up, and down mountains, and isn’t that a reflection of life in general!

There are the highs, and the lows…

As many of you will know I have been on a mission to climb amongst the world’s highest mountain peaks and this year I had two trips planned in Nepal.  But isn’t it funny how priorities in your life can change!

Recently I wrote about my sister, Deb (Merle) and the illness she is courageously facing.

Well, I’m pleased to say that her treatment is progressing in line with expectations, but there are good days and not so good days.

But her spirit is amazing!

A couple of weeks back I was sitting on the couch, pondering life in general, as I am inclined to do, and realised that I no longer felt the compelling urge or need to head to Nepal this year, but I wanted to go touring the great Australian Outback with my family…

And yes, I’ve never needed any encouragement to get Out and About – my love of Australia and the Outback is almost as great as the love I share for my family, for Merle…

I know many of you have been “rooting” (that is the US expression isn’t it – makes me chuckle though! ) for me to get up the mountain and I appreciate the support, and who knows, the desire may return, but I have things that have far important to me as a person right now…

I know you will understand.

Hey, that doesn’t mean I can’t go climbing in the Blue Mountains, so there is still some scope for “More Dope on a Rope”.

But strewth, I love the Outback, so I have reset my website back to my other passion!

Photo: Baz – The Landy

Are we being ripped off?

Camping in a tent on the side of a mountain at heights above 6,000 metres has a number of considerations to take into account. 

Selection of the site, safety from environmental factors, and of course, staying warm is paramount!

Much of my camping above the snow line has been in New Zealand’s mountain huts, and whilst it can still be cold, the huts provide protection from the elements. So up until now my sleeping bags have been sufficiently warm enough.

Fox Glacier

But they are unlikely to provide the protection I need for this year’s two expeditions to Nepal which involve camping above 6,000 metres. So I have needed to add another sleeping to the many that already reside in our “gear room”.

There are numerous choices available from the obvious manufacturers’ such as The North Face and other popular brands. The quality produced by North Face is first rate, and this is a piece of equipment that shouldn’t be driven by cost considerations.

You want the best and it won’t necessarily be the cheapest!

But I am very reluctant and discriminating when it comes to supporting these major brands due to the differential pricing they have in place. Dependent on which country you reside in it may cost more, despite the product being precisely the same.

Try and buy a sleeping bag from the North Face in the United States and you find that it will direct you back to the Australian website and the price increases considerably.

This is a hotly debated topic in Australia covering a range of major companies!

I like to support local businesses and Australian manufacturers, whom are a dying breed mind you due to the high cost of producing anything in Australia, but a company I have supported many times is One Planet.

One Planet is an Australian based manufacturer of sleeping bags of extremely high quality and I have used and tested them on my mountaineering trips to New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Without hesitation I contacted the company’s owner and asked would he make me a specialist sleeping bag suitable for temperatures of around minus 20 degrees Celsius – yes, no problem was the reply; we’ll get on to that straight away…

Today I took delivery of this important piece of equipment, which came at a cost far less than the equivalent from the major global brands here in Australia.

Hey, I can’t wait to be wrapped up all snuggly and warm inside it on a Himalayan mountain!

Photos, Baz – The Landy

Reality – It is what we choose to believe

Mountaineering

Do we underestimate the power of the mind, the power of positive thought?

Is anything possible, without limitation, if you give your mind’s eye a vision and allow it to believe you have already achieved it?

Okay, it will take much more than an hour or so in the lotus position every other day telling yourself you are a brain surgeon before you get to pick up a scalpel, but it all starts with a vision, right?

My countdown for this year’s two expeditions to Nepal is well underway and I am undertaking plenty of physical activity to prepare and rest assured the body is feeling it sometimes.

But just as important as my physical preparation is that I am mentally prepared.  And to take my mind off the 20-kilogram pack strapped to my back when I am out walking at silly o’clock I fill it with visions of standing atop those mountain peaks.

I picture myself telephoning my family, telling them I have summited and returned to the base-camp safely and sharing different aspects of the climb with them whilst sipping a warm mug of Sherpa tea.

Those conversations with my mind, with Janet and TomO, go right down to the detail of what is said!

Oh don’t worry, I’ve been practicing many other aspects of mountaineering these past few years, after all there are things to be learnt and practised – but that just reinforces what the mind knows it can do, right?

There are people who believe in positive affirmation, some who are not sure, and others with whom no amount of discussion will convince them it does. But let me share my own personal insight of why I know it does.

It was the mid- 1970s, I had just left school to join one of Australia’s largest banks and a month earlier I celebrated my 15th birthday. At the time the company produced a quarterly magazine called “The Etruscan” and in the very first edition I received was a story describing a day in the life of the people who undertook the bank’s money market operation…

I was enthralled, I wanted a job like that so in my mind’s eye I play-acted the people in the article, not that I actually had a clue what they really did, after all it was a short article, so I just made it up as I went – I was a natural.

Perhaps it was a bit unusual for someone of my age to be getting into this esoteric stuff, but that is what daydreamers do and I am a daydreamer. And I’m sure many will agree that a very fine line exists between dreams and reality confirmed by the days you wake up thinking, the dream I had was real….

Shortly I will have spent 40-years with this institution. Yes, 40-years, it wasn’t a typing error and for most of that time I have been managing and trading currencies in the bank’s money market operation.

You see a few years after convincing myself I was a natural at doing whatever it was they did, and following a set of events which were unrelated, I “woke” up in the bank’s trading room in front of a trading screen…

My vision of how it worked all those years ago is quite different to the sophistication of today’s global financial market, but that is just detail. I didn’t have to get the detail right all I had to do was to chant that mantra long and loud, to have a vision, to daydream and play act my part.

To simply believe!

After all, reality is what we choose to believe in…

Climb-on!

High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

everest-top

 I have been researching the impact that high altitude climbing will have on my body, what I can expect, what I can do to assist my body’s ability to cope.

And importantly, to be able to recognise the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness in its more serious forms.

Acute Mountain Sickness, AMS as it is often referred to, is the effect the declining number of molecules of oxygen in the atmosphere has on our body as we ascend in altitude. It can range from a mild illness, to the more severe life-threatening forms of the illness, such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

The latter two conditions require immediate attention and descent from altitude otherwise death is the most likely outcome.

I’m not intending to go into a great discussion on either, nor am I qualified to do so, but as part of my journey “To Climb a Mountain” I want to gain a better understanding of both conditions.

High altitude is defined as 5,000 to 11,500 feet, very high altitude 11,500 to 18,000, and extreme altitude as 18,000 feet and above.  At extreme altitudes physiologic function will outstrip  acclimatisation eventually.

My reading has taken me across a wide variety of topics, but the one that caught my attention was the connection between muscle and the requirement to fuel our muscles with oxygen when under exertion.

Over the years I have trained as a power-lifter for strength purposes and I have achieved results I am happy with.  As a consequence I have grown muscularly and currently weigh-in around the 95 kilogram mark.  This has given me a good power-for-weight ratio and has enhanced my speed on the kayak over the short to mid sprint distances.

Power-lifting has helped me develop strong legs, especially my quads through squatting, and dead-lifting.

Will this muscle help, or hinder me on the mountain as I trudge up the side of an 8,000 metre peak?

When exercising, the body, or more specifically the contracting muscles have an increased need for oxygen and this is usually achieved by a higher blood flow to these muscles.

And therein lies the dilemma as I see it.

Due to the less dense air at altitude the number of oxygen molecules for any given mass of air will drop. Consequently, mental and physical performance will decline, and the larger the muscles, the larger the requirement for oxygen to prevent muscular fatigue…

So what can I do?

There is not a lot that you can do to prepare for the effect of AMS, some people will adapt and perform better at altitude than others and this is hard to predict from one individual to another.

What I can do is decrease my muscle mass, and whilst that will mean a decrease in overall strength I can try and maintain the power for weight ratio balance.

The upshot of all this is that ahead of my expedition to Nepal in April I will deliberately take around 10-12 kilograms out of my frame…

The climbs in Nepal will be done without the aid of supplemental oxygen.

I won’t be changing my training routine greatly, I will maintain some weight training, rowing and kayaking, and importantly, a daily walk of around 10-kilometres with a 25-kilogram backpack at silly o’clock in the morning (that is 4:00am).

The best way to control weight change, either gaining, or losing, is via your diet and that starts in the  kitchen.

Baz – The Landy (In my home gym in the “Shed”)