Suitable only for Masochists and Israeli Paratroopers

Stretching between the villages of Salamaua and Wau in the island Nation of Papua New Guinea is a long-forgotten second world war track called “The Black Cat Track”.

It has it all…dangerous river crossings, swamps, cliffs, precarious rock-ledges, venomous snakes, and leeches that will suck the blood from your veins after the malaria carrying mosquito’s have finished with you…

The Lonely Planet guidebook describes the Black Cat Track as “suitable only for masochists and Israeli Paratroopers”.

This region of Papua New Guinea has some of the most spectacular jungle scenery on the planet and is the habitat of the country’s national emblem, the superbly beautiful Bird of Paradise.

I had to postpone a trek along the Black Cat Track a few years back due to civil unrest in the region, something it has been prone to from time-to-time, but I have been anxious to undertake this adventure and revisit a country Janet-Planet (Mrs Landy) and I lived in as newly weds many years ago…

Grey's Peak

And whilst I have not given up on my desire to climb amongst the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas, the earthquake and tragic devastation it caused to Nepal and its people earlier this year has added a layer of complexity to that ambition!

But crikey, I need to “feed the rat” with adventure and an opportunity has arisen to join a trek along the Black Cat Track in May 2016 with a group of  Papua New Guinean Nationals – “Legends” as they are rightly referred to and ably led by Aidan Grimes.

Co-incidentally, it will be almost 10-years to the day that I walked the Kokoda Track with Aidan, a veteran of 100 traverses of the Kokoda Track; a track that is synonymous with Papua New Guinea and the battles fought by our brave and courageous “diggers” during World War Two.

It will make a change to the Australian Outback and snow covered mountain peaks…

What an adventure, hey!

So strap on your backpack and get your hiking boots out…there is plenty of training to be done…

Baz – The Landy

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Working with Indigenous Australians…

Anne Beadell Highway

The opportunity to visit an extremely remote and arid part of Australia came my way the other day, an opportunity to spend time in country with a group of traditional landowners and aboriginal elders deep in the desert region of Western Australia.

“The Landy” will be pointed westward travelling deep into the desert region, crossing sand dunes and making tracks as our small convoy travels deep into the desert.

We will make tracks where no other European Australian’s have previously been as much of this trip will be completely across country, no roads or tracks to follow.

They say one door closes and another opens and crikey, isn’t that the truth!

Recently I wrote a piece on “Fate, are you a Believer” after forgoing a trip to climb a 6,500-metre peak in Nepal, but missing the terrible natural disaster that devastated the country following last week’s earthquake; a tumultuous event that has sadly taken the life of many Nepalese people.

I was due to arrive in Nepal last Wednesday, as it turns out the day our son, TomO, broke his kneecap in the school gym.

And yes, he is making a great recovery…thanks!

Mind you when I’m not climbing I am travelling the great Australian Outback, photographing a parched red earth that stretches from horizon to horizon, kissed by a deep blue sky that provides a canopy over our sunburnt country.

Outback Australia

As fate would have it, I received a telephone call from an acquaintance this week, a fellow kindred spirit and outback traveller who is assembling a team of people to assist a group of traditional owners, indigenous Australians, build a structure to house a pump in an extremely remote part of Australia; an area rich in aboriginal history and culture, but rarely seen by European Australians.

It was less than 40 years ago that an elderly couple came in from this desert region after living a nomadic life with no European contact at all. Their’s is a remarkable story and  told in a book The Last of the Nomads” by WJ Peasley.

I vowed to visit this area one day…

Strewth, I’m more excited than a rooster in a hen house and there isn’t a lot of time to prepare so I’d better get cracking – I look forward to sharing the stories and photographs I capture in between wielding a shovel, pick, and hammer!

Photos: Baz – The Landy…

Fate, are you a believer?

A couple of months ago I decided to put aside my climbing ambitions in Nepal this year after my sister, Debbie, was diagnosed with advanced cancer.

Instead Deb and I went on a road trip a week or so ago with our mother to the Queensland country town where she grew up, having a wonderful time together as a family.

Last Wednesday, TomO, the crown prince, broke his patella, his knee cap as it is more commonly known, in a bad fall in the school gym.

Needless to say it was a traumatic time for Janet and me to see the little bloke in so much pain.

This happened on the day I was due to arrive in Kathmandu to climb Mera Peak and just ahead of the tragic news overnight of a severe earthquake involving large loss of life in Kathmandu.

TomO had surgery on Thursday to repair his patella and all went well and he is recovering at home with lots of ice-cream! Unfortunately this will keep an active young man on the benches for the next few months, but the young bounce back quickly!

My climbing partners on this trip to Nepal headed to Lukla just prior to the earthquake and I’ve had news they are okay…

Janet has always been behind my mountaineering ambition and adventures one-hundred percent, but gave me a hug this morning and said,

“Glad you didn’t go you were needed here for reasons we didn’t know at the time…”

If it had not have been for Deb’s condition, which we would change in a heart beat if we could, I would have been in Nepal. But despite her condition Deb is still looking out for her little brother in ways that big sister’s do and perhaps only the “universe” will ever understand…

Our thoughts go out to all those affected in Nepal and if you are able to support the wonderful Nepalese people via a relief fund, please do.

 

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!

To Climb a Mountain

Southern Alps, New Zealand

Have you noticed that I have retitled my blog?

It started as a chronicle of my mountaineering journey so it will now be known as…

 “To Climb a Mountain…with Baz – The Landy”

Mind you, I have approached this decision with some trepidation…

They say it is bad luck to change the name of a boat as it  may anger the Gods of the Seas, and given I will be climbing in a “Sea of Mountains” this year, caution is king!

As many will know I have been on a journey to climb amongst some of the world’s highest mountain peaks and have spent a good deal of time in recent years training and progressing to the point where hopefully I can reach out and touch the sky from an 8,000 metre peak in the Himalaya’s.

They say it is all about the journey and I’m a great believer in that notion. I am climbing mountains because I enjoy standing at the top and looking out, and down – the freedom this brings me is overwhelming…

And who knows where this journey will take me, Janet (Planet), and TomO!

I am heading into a pointy end of the journey with two trips to Nepal this year so I now want to bring greater focus on the journey and hence the name change.

Think of it as chanting a mantra!

Every time you see it, just say “To Climb a Mountain…” – I am firm believer in the power of the universe and that it will help me greatly.

Okay, so I’m a little weird, you knew that anyway, right!

And crikey, are you kidding me? I’ll need all the mantras and support I can get my hands on so don’t hold back!

Oh don’t worry, I’ll still post some of those Outback Australia photos from time-to-time that many of you have come to love, after all I live in the greatest country in the world and I’m happy to share it with you…

And rest assured, I’ll still be handing out a bit of a cheek when the circumstances warrant it.

But as for bad luck in changing the title.

I don’t think so, with all you wonderful people supporting me, and I’m overwhelmed at the support I am shown, there is no way bad luck will get in our way…

Stay focussed now, Baz!

Photo, Baz – New Zealand’s Southern Alps

Nepal Mountaineering Expeditions – Gearing up

DSCN0576

The call to climb amongst the highest mountains in the world has been echoing in me for a long time.

The allure of standing on top of the world and looking out, and importantly, looking down, has proven far too great to ignore these past few years…

I had expected to be in Nepal in 2013 and 2014 after spending 2012 and the early part of 2013 training in New Zealand with the world’s best high altitude experts.

But, somehow life has the propensity to throw a curved ball every so often, and I’ve had a couple to catch over the past 12-months!

Whilst New Zealand has some of the world’s most magnificent mountain peaks, it doesn’t have the altitude of the Himalayas’. My ability to adapt to the altitude is an unknown, but it will be put to the test on two expeditions to Nepal in 2015.

The first will be in April to climb Mera Peak, which stands at 6,476 metres, 21,246 feet, and in September I will attempt Himlung, a peak that stands at 7,162 metres, 23,497 feet.

Both of these climbs will be done without the use of supplemental oxygen, but there will be a rigorous acclimitisation process to ensure the best chance of success.

And hopefully these climbs will set-me up for an ascent of Cho Oyu, an 8,000 metre peak bordering Tibet and Nepal.

I am confident of my ability to adapt; certainly I don’t expect expedition life will be a problem given my remote outback experience and the hardship that often brings.

Training is in full swing, but as always, remains a work in progress, and I will be spending time climbing in the wonderful Blue Mountains in the weeks ahead…

The first ascent of Mera Peak was made on 20 May 1953, using what has now become the standard route from Mera La and no subsequent ascent occurred until 1975. We will just miss the anniversary of the first climb in 1953 by a couple of days.

We will have two camps on the mountain, camp one at Mera La and camp two, our high camp, at 5,800 metres. Our summit day will typically start before dawn and we are hopeful to summit in 4-5 hours. Some fix rope will be used near the summit where it becomes very steep.

As 2014 draws to a close, grab your climbing harness and a rope, or perhaps if you prefer, a coffee or tea and a nice comfy couch.

Either way please be sure to join me in on these climbs; one step at a time, we can do it together…

 

Baz – The Landy