Thursday, October 09, 2014

Adventures don’t have to make sense

The view from Bullock's hut
It dawned on my during a particularly rough patch of hike-a-bike on last weekend’s trip to the Snowy Mountains that adventures don’t need to make rational sense. In fact, the opposite is often true.

Leaving Sydney with my good friend Ross at 6PM, we stopped only to fuel up on double-meat meatball subs. Having not driven at highway speed for some time, least of all at night, the journey was a rush. Thankfully Ross took the wheel of his Subaru and he weaved his way through herds of wombats on the final stretch to Lake Crackenback.

We proceeded to fumble around on the dark trails searching for Bullock’s hut, located at a GPS waypoint I’d marked in a high rise building in Sydney, a world away. Fortunately it turned out to be where the internet had told us, and even more fortunately the historic hut was unlocked, providing warm haven away from the frosty mountain air which was settling outside.

This is what night looks like after six hours of bleary eyed Friday evening driving to a place we’d never been. This was adventure.

Curling up in our fart sacks staring up at the wooden ceiling, we went to bed by putting the uncertainty of the journey ahead on hold, knowing that whatever the mountains would throw at us, we could only do our best.

On waking in the morning, my excitement at opening the green wooden door to reveal the vista we’d arrived at sight unseen was palpable. The thin strips of morning sun outlining the door gave way to a beautiful scene that made our seemingly irrational toils to get to the mountains worthwhile.

Waking up to this was adventure.
The bridge where our journey began
My ill-conceived plan, which rivaled even Michi Speck's for sheer half-bakedness, was to bash our way up and over a ridge, crossing from the Thredbo to Perisher Valleys. We’d then link up with some of the cross country skiing trails and head for the geographically misplaced Seaman’s hut past Charlotte’s pass, and deep within the Mt Kosciusko Park.

Ross, who should take no responsibility for the trailless gong-show which ensued, had decided to join in. We’d brought our fat bikes in a last ditch attempt to ride the snow before a spring induced phase change took it on its own adventure to the Pacific Ocean.  The internet tells us that fat bikes are perfectly capable for riding on snow, and after only experiencing sand and trail we were keen to verify these far-fetched claims.

Ross readies his bike of fatness
The adventure began with a sneaky crossing of the rail bridge, following the Ski Tube line up to its tunnel portal, then entering the jungle on the bank above. My limited planning had involved scoping the route online; revealing a 3 km straight line to the trails which I was confident we could knock off in an hour. How wrong I was.

Our ill fated journey
What began as an ironic laugh inducing carry through knee high scrub, become a nightmarish thicket of woods which could only be penetrated through a combination of branch snapping, clambering and profanity.

Beer and skittles to start

Before the proper carry ensued...
After 3 hours and less than 500m progress, upside-down frowns became inverted.
The carrying techniques we adopted certainly wouldn’t be found on internet cycle tip websites, dragging and throwing our fat tired steeds with little regard for paint finish nor hydraulic hose integrity. I’d opted to stash gear in a back pack, which proved to be less cumbersome than Ross’s bike-packed Moonlander. On offering assistance it was apparent that his steed weighed at least one million moon units. Navigating the bush with these bikes was equal in awkwardness to carrying a fine Elizabethan era chest of draws around an army assault course.

Battered and bruised by the ordeal, we sat on a tangle of twigs in a rare clearing and dug into our rations. We’d learnt the hard way that up to 1800m elevation, Australia’s mountains are without the alpine scrub which can be a saving grace in New Zealand. With no clear terrain to measure our progress, and only the recurring nightmare ahead, we made the decision to cut our losses and return to the valley.

While defeated, the prospect of leaving the hellish bush buoyed us, and retracing our GPS track we wrestled and tossed our bikes down the slope, using the slopes distance advantage to full effect. In forty minutes we were back at the tunnel portal and ecstatic, not even a flat tire could deflate the joy of return to the known and comfortable realm of ridable trail. We’d had an adventure.

Ross restores positive inflation
On return to Bullock’s Hut we found a network of smooth trails which while lame under normal circumstances, became a heavenly ribbon of single track; a metaphorical ice-pack for our bush bruised egos. 

No Segways = Hardcore

Jumping back in the Subaru we drove the road to Perisher and scampered up at the first snowy slope we could find. At this late stage of the day there  only slush remained and any attempts to control direction or speed were met with a face full of snow, which was hilarious (at least for those watching). Turns out that you need crisp early morning snow to make any kind of progress on fat bikes.

Ross eats a snow sandwhich
Slushy snow proved super sketchy
For two seconds,Ollie keeps the rubber down
Looking on the bright side, the cool snow was a literal salve for out stick battered shins, and with the drive to the lacklustresw we’d saved ourselves the disappointment of slaving up a mountain with no reward.

Lying awake waiting for sleep back at Bullock’s Hut that evening, I contemplated the nature of our adventure, and how despite being dealt an embarrassing lesson by Mother Nature, I was filled with a warm contentment. We’d failed to complete the route we’d planned, and failed to ride properly on snow. But we were still out there trying something new, some of it that no one else would have done before, and this I feel is the essence of a good adventure.


RossC said...

The is almost no chance that anybody else in history has tried to carry a loaded fat bike over that ridgeline on a saturday.

Michi said...

Reminds me on a time we tried to climb a certain mountain on the coast:)

Oliver (Ollie) Whalley said...

Both valid points. Michi, I had similar hate for nature after this one also.

Rob Davidson said...

Well done - I have a friend that has led me astray in this way a number of times... You should get together then I could stay home!

Unknown said...

That was a a funny and great post on your adventure to which I could really relate with my own bushwalking adventures - great writing! Am getting into bikepacking to expand my adventure horizons - thanks for the great, realistic and inspiring read on this and your other adventures (eg Blackheath to Campbelltown)!

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