Friday, December 15, 2006

Wild Mountains of Tasmania

(21/12/2006-07/02/2007)

The Tasmanian World Heritage Area (WHA)
The Tasmanian wilderness is an area in the world that is extremely fragile and therefore must be protected. It has obtained the most criteria ever to be ranked WHA by the UNESCO. Hiking in there is to be surrounded by almost untouched nature. It's pure wilderness.

The project
Hike across the entire Tasmanian wilderness starting north from Cradle Valley and arriving at Cockle Creek on the South coast. Underway climb a list of 15 MUST climb mountains and if possible as much of the 30+ other mountains in the same area. The adventure is solo and unsupported (no food drops, buy nothing underway, carry garbage).

The 15 must climb mountains
Cradle, Barn Bluff, West Pelion, Ossa, Gould, Olympus, Rufus, King William 1+2+3, Anne, Hesperus, Orion, Federation Peak and La Perouse. The nice to have summits are: Achilles, Thetis, Massif, Hyperion, Eros, Geryon North, Minotaur, Byron, Hugel, Wright, the Thumbs, Mueller, Bowes, Eliza, Lot, Sarah Jane, Hayes, Pegasus, Capricorn, Columbus, Taurus, Aldebaran, Scorpio, Phoenix, West Portal, Bobs, Precipitous Bluff and Pindars peak.

The preparation
I plan the yellow path, which is a trade-off between time and distance to reach all 15 mountains. It links official tracks with off-track bushbashing in the dense vegetation. The bushwalking forum and several highly experienced Tasmanian walkers helped me to decide for this path, including escape options in case of injury. Several rivers must be crossed swimming or wading. It is forbidden to light up fire, hunt and pick up plants in the WHA so all food must be carried from the start. I plan 40 days of food which is the maximum weight and volume I can carry.

Two weeks before leaving, I eat a lot of fat like full spoons of butter, peanut butter, fries... I expect to loose between 5 and 15 kg.

Brief adventure log - Download here excel file

It's hard to summarize 49 days of effort in the wilderness. I rather put here some conclusions about the trip. I have put some more day to day details on my blog and panoramic photos. These photos represent why I’m going to these places. The beauty for my eyes is above the pain, the hunger, the cold and the loneliness.

I started with 49 kg on my back (food, equipment) and possibly did the longest unsupported walk in Tasmania. 


On the 21-01-2007, I woke up with a swollen calf (leg) the weather was bad with thick clouds and it was still raining. I was very close to Federation peak. I stayed in my tent the entire day. The next day I saw some sun through and climbed the peak. I only had 1 MUST climb mountain left, Mt La Perouse. To reach it, I have to go down the Eastern Arthurs range, find the Lake Sydney track to Mt Bobs. I entered the last off-track part.

The calf remained swollen during the 3 last weeks of the trip. It slowed me down and I decided not to go to Mt La Perouse but to escape and save my life ASAP (lack of food) by following the Salisbury River, the New Lagoon River to the south coast. While saving my life, my GPS broke. If I was not following the river, I would have been lost and probably dead. When I reached the south coast track, which I walked in 2004, I knew I would live. Five minutes after seeing the first humans in 13 days I cried because I was speechless. I finished at Cockle creek and 36 hours later I flew from Hobart to Sydney and 3 days later I was back in Belgium. I had lost 10 kg of my body weight. 


I was lucky and happy to be alive. The injury (swollen calf) was bad. I had the early stage of the Trench Foot disease. In Tasmania you cannot beat the wet, the mud off-track. I was proud of making the decision to abandon the last summit; it’s a sign of courage and maturity to finish your adventure when your life is at stake. To cure the trench foot, I ate 16 pills per day during 2 months and the feeling in my toes came almost back to normal after a year. 

I have 40 pages of diary, hopefully I can write this in a book when I’ll find the time. If it’s a story you’d like to read, drop me a line to encourage me to start.


The Aussie bushwalking googlegroup people who have helped me to prepare this trip. Specials thanks to Chris Bray, Roger Caffin, John Chapman, Roger Chao and all Tassie rangers.

Sponsors
This gear shop in Sydney gave me advices on dehydrated meals and equipment. The manager allowed me to use his GPS.

EPIRBhire supplied me with a PLB (personal locator beacon) to be found in case of emergency.


This is the website to the dehydrated food. Very tasty and containing necessary vitamins to keep my body healthy. Lightweight and not bulky.

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