16/1 – 22/1/2016
7 days and 6 nights
Total Climbing: 3,070m
Total Descent: 3,225m
Maximum Elevation: 2,228m
Day 1: 14.5km
I am bubbling over with enthusiasm and eager to get started, after driving from Wagga Wagga, tea and coffee at the Kiandra Courthouse we are finally off and, of course, we start by going up a hill – someone jokes to me and says “well we could have just dropped you at Thredbo” (that is of course where we finish or thereabouts.) After an hour of walking I find my pack needs adjusting and I am grateful for the experience of others as it made such a difference to my poor back.
One of the things I was warned about was the March Flies that are quite prolific at this time of the year but nothing quite prepared me for the constant buzzing and the overwhelming quantity of them – literally in their 100’s. I seem to be fortunate not to have them biting me as others stop to put on various insect repellants – maybe they don’t like redheads.
We are on the Tabletop Mountain Trail and the mountain lives up to his name, very flat at the top and slopes down each side – just like a table. As we come into its magnificent profile we veer off the track to the left down to the Broken Dam Hut our first nights camp which is a very welcome sight.
First job: add liquid to dehydrated food – I’m first cook for my group of 3. (Very brave people in my group as I have never done anything like this before.)
A few of us set of to do a little sight seeing, an old well, waterfalls and the broken dam of course.
Myself and 3 others are sleeping in the hut and this will allow us to get an early start.
Lessons learnt: 1.Small straps on top of the bag do serve a purpose – loosened off this eliminated my pain between shoulder blades. 2.Don’t add too much water to the dehydrated meal!
Day 2: 18km
Broken Dam Hut to McKeahnies Creek
Four of us are up to get an early start and we arrange to meet the others at an intersection about an hour down the track. The sun is rising over grasses weighed down with a heavy dew so on one side of the track the grass looks like its covered with a silvery, sheer gossamer fabric and on the other side the tiny droplets are lit up like diamonds scattered randomly, glittering everywhere.
The sights we can see on the high ridges are fantastic, the sky is so clear you can see for many kilometres – Lake Eucumbene Dam, Jindabyne Dam and the imposing Mount Jagungal comes a little closer with every rise and fall.
Our original plan was to camp at Barneys Creek but we press on a couple of extra kms to reach McKeahnies Creek where the site is less exposed. The ground is crawling with ants, everywhere, thousands and thousands so it is quite a challenge to put up tents without letting any inside. The billy is boiled and I stand in the creek to get away from the constant harassment. A quick wash in the creek is an absolute delight but as soon as my shirt was off the March flies went into immediate attack mode to take their vengeance – I now have a theory that the white shirt is what is keeping the annoying little bitty things off me – loving my wonderful, pest shielding, white shirt now!!!!!
Day 3 19kms
McKeahnies Creek to O’Keefes Hut
‘Hit the Wall’
Another early start, although we did have to pack up damp tents – these are rolled up and kept on the outside of our packs until we get chance to dry them out, and our first part of our walk today is up a really big hill – should have been an omen for how the day was going to go. In my head I have – “shorter walk today” and “staying at a hut” so imagine my joy when I reached Mackey’s Hut. Pulled out the fly to dry it out, went into the hut and the billy is boiling, I made a comment about the beds looking a little uncomfortable and then those words came drifting into my ears…..”Yer, good thing we are not staying here”! What?, what?, WHAT? A sad story was being written about a girl, hopes dashed and only half way from home.
I have to say lunch was a highlight at Doubtful Creek,(another sign?), and in I went for an absolutely wonderful swimming session – the water was the perfect remedy for a tired body – clothes and all.
The track continued, up, down, up, down – I likened it to walking up and down The Rock four times, it was that hard. Another highlight was reaching Farm Ridge and learning about the ties to a family in Wagga Wagga that once lived here on the top of the ridge, the history of these pioneers fascinates me – how they survived these harsh conditions miles from real civilisation.
As we got closer to our destination those that had gone before had written encouraging things in the dirt…nearly there, 1km, (that was a lie!), and a smiley face. Finally we could see the tents near the hut. I am completely and utterly exhausted but so relieved – walking for 9 hours on and off was too, too much. I did break down, a mixture of happiness, relief and absolute tiredness hit me like a wall.
We are staying at O’Keefes Hut which is quite unique – rebuilt in 2007 after 2003 bushfires. Again meticulous care has been taken to keep it as close to the original with newspapers being donated from the 1940’s to put on the inside walls of the hut – great stuff to read.
Lesson Learnt: Avoid disappointment and be sure of the name of the hut your staying in.
Day 4 19ks
O’Keefes Hut to Valentine Hut
‘Boots off Tuesday’
After a hard day on the track yesterday I realised I had to go about things in a very different way, walk slightly faster, take only 10 minute breaks, don’t carry 2ltrs of water just fill a small bottle as I go and push through using some creative diversions – such as going through songs A – Z.
A 7am start and things are going well as we skirt around the side of Mount Jajungal, its extraordinary to be in the shadow of this formidable landmark and feeling the instantaneous drop in temperature as we pass by. Its hard to believe but for a short time I am actually in the lead – a deliberate ploy by my fellow walkers I suspect but I am quietly enjoying the moment whilst scanning for any snakes that may be in our path.
I’ve named this section of the K2K ‘Boots off Tuesday’ as there are ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ and we literally do have to get our boots off for quite a few crossings. My feet absolutely love getting into the cool refreshing streams but unfortunately this activity does tend to slow our walking down considerably.
Today is our longest section but its proving to be a little easier than yesterday as the ups and downs are interspersed with nice long stretches of relatively level ground……that is until lunchtime. We sit at Straight Creek at the bottom of what I am calling ‘heartbreak hill’ and it is a daunting sight. I tell myself “just one foot in front of the other” – we are climbing up roughly 200m in just 1km. The decent down the other side is not as severe but still a challenge. To help with the steep downward track we are blessed with the spectacular views of the Geehi River valley.
The afternoon is slow going with the constant ups and downs back again so when I finally see the little red hut close to the top on the next rise I let out a very happy “yippee”!
The Valentine River is a great place to enjoy a long, languishing swim whilst washing clothes and the all important collection of water.
A lovely sunset tonight, a little Australian Bush Rat and a Antechinus (native mouse like creature) are an added bonus to getting through another day.
Day 5 15kms
Valentine Hut – Consett Stephen Pass
A bit of a restless night, thinking too much about that little mouse crawling into my sleeping bag so I zipped everything up – top to bottom. This soon becomes unbearable as the night is very warm so it wasn’t long before my extremely hot feet made there way out of the sleeping bag and keeping cool outweighed scary mouse thoughts.
I have also found some new blisters – not severe and grateful to have one of my fellow walkers patch me up for another day. They all seem to be on my right foot so a heap of theories are tossed about – my bigger foot?, my lead foot?, the one I keep putting in my mouth?
Today is a bit of a struggle for some of our walkers, one is in a lot of back pain with a nasty sore developing from an ill-fitting back pack and some slight disagreements are causing some uncomfortableness.
Schlinks Hilton is a good place to stop and have a good discussion about going further and our injured party decides to do the very sensible thing and stay here the night to walk out in the morning. As a walker will never be left on their own my tent buddy decides to walk out with him. This means some juggling of food and equipment but it is not long before we head off again to Whites River Hut and say our goodbyes to our two colleagues.
At this point we are asked to stay close together, ’10 grey elephants balancing step by step on a piece of string’, its another tough climb of 200m but we make good time – perhaps it was the sighting of a snake that urged us on quickly. There are no reprieves until we reach the Rolling Grounds where our group stops for lunch and those with greater powers consult compass and maps to find our way across this wild wilderness section with no track to guide us. To me everything looks the same, rocky outcrops, hills, bogs, heaths, hidden water pools and there is an atmosphere of eeriness. Some of our group even see other people that were definitely not there!!!!! Spooky!
With some excellent compass skills, not mine, we reach Consett Stephans Pass but with the weather closing in and the pass being very exposed to the ever increasing wind we head back a kilometre to hunker down amongst some rocky outcrops. We barely get our tents up when a heavy shower rolls over us. Thankfully this does not last for long, the wind drops and we are able to enjoy our ‘cuppa’s’, soups and then dinner.
The views are amazing, you can see all the way to the Victorian Alps. You look over layers and layers of mountain ranges – it looks like a stormy sea that has been frozen in time.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sunset – such a privilege to be sitting here on premium rock viewing platforms, witnessing a sight I will never forget.
The wind picks up after dark so not many have had the best of nights sleep – I’m very happy with four uninterrupted hours.
Day 6 16.5kms
Consett Stephen Pass to Muellers Pass
The weather is going to turn nasty on us this afternoon with the threat of some late thunderstorm action so we try to make our way with the outlook of setting up camp before the worst hits. There are alternative plans being tossed about like heading for Seaman’s Hut if things look really bad but for the moment we focus on enjoying the surrounds and our last full days walk.
Consett Stephen Pass is of significant value to some of our biggest river systems and more importantly for me I can see we now have a track to follow again – be it quite faint it is a welcome sight.
It is surprisingly wet up here on the top of the ranges with many little streams and bogs to navigate around and to add to the excitement we are on a very narrow path with a huge drop on our left hand side. We can see the little township of Guthega tucked away in the valley of these giant ranges.
The walking is hard as with dodging water holes, stepping high to get over the grassy tufts and the compass seems to take us up to 2,000 feet and down, then back up and down, repeated for most of the day. One of our walkers twists their ankle so it is tread carefully and try not to get injured. We appear to go on and off the track following the compass so while the track may still get us to the same place it would be a little longer as it avoids the climb to the peaks – following the compass may be shorter but the walking is harder.
Lunch is a great relief and I am starting to enjoy these food breaks more and more as my body yearns to be fed. We sit and watch the clouds come down lower and lower whisping silently past us, sometimes suddenly lifting revealing incredible views.
So far we have been very fortunate with the weather and the clouds lift up for most of the afternoon so we can appreciate the great heights of Mount Tate, Mount Anton, Mount Twynam, just to name a few. The wind is so strong it feels like I am going to get blown off the side despite my heavy pack.
Soon we are back on a four wheel drive track and pass by Blue Lake, Club Lake and around this section we start meeting up with other people.
Just near Lake Albina we discuss the possibility of getting to Seamans Hut but the general consensus is that the hut is too far and we should find a spot as soon as possible to get down off the range avoiding the possibility of lightening strikes – this sounds like an excellent suggestion to me. We don our wet weather gear, cover our packs and head off as quickly as possible. It has started to rain and the rumbling of thunder echoes over our heads extending down into the valleys below. There are some beautiful sights along this mountain goat track but it is difficult to enjoy with the sense of urgency to find a camp site.
We plod on a little further than Muellers Pass and at last we scurry 100m or so down off the track and quickly begin setting up in the rain most just getting finished before a violent storm hits, pelting us relentlessly for 15 minutes.
We emerge to check any damage, a lost shoe, some wet packs but worst of all – one of our walkers is drenched and shivering uncontrollably. All hands are on deck to remove his wet gear, get on some dry clothes, hot drinks and hot water bottles as he snuggles back into his sleeping bag. He is well looked after and is soon warmed up again. We get about the usual camp business. I feel physically and mentally drained, exhausted so get into bed before the sun has even set. Spirits are good as we joke around with each other before someone calls me out to see the sky – the show has begun as the sun sets unfolding a most extraordinary display of nature at its very colourful best. It is spectacular, I have never seen anything that comes remotely close to this and in the end I am lured into climbing back up the hill to see the whole thing from the best viewing spot. I am completely blown away and I even tear up with this incredible beauty that seems to surround me everywhere making me a part of the whole amazing scene.
The wind has dropped and it is a very happy camper that finally hops into bed for the night.
Day 7 10km + 1.8km to the top of Australia
Our morning routines seems a little more sluggish today as we organise our packs for the last time – perhaps we are reluctant to leave. The sunrise is beautiful coming over Seaman’s Hut a whole valley and hill between us – very glad we didn’t have to do that part of the walk.
The weather is again cloudy but fine. My tent buddy has a very swollen ankle so it is strapped and I decide to take our tent poles and ground sheet to ease her burden – bad move. We head up hill and the extra couple of kilo’s weigh heavily upon me as we steadily climb for a couple of kilometres to where the track shoots off to climb up Kosciuszko. Our leader takes the poles and another extremely fit walker takes the ground sheet – I am one very grateful hiker.
We leave our bags to make the climb to the top. It feels like I am light as a feather without my pack and run up the final steps to the top – I feel euphoric, elated, excited and cannot stop smiling – its awesome!!!
Back to earth as we still have 9kms to go. The raised metal walkway is a great way to protect the environment and winds lazily around the hills down to the top of the chairlifts from Thredbo. The walkway is hard on my feet though and I am happy to be back on track with only 4kms to Deadhorse Gap – our final destination.
It is a very pretty part of the walk coming down through beautiful snow gums, flowering shrubs and fairytale rock formations but there is nothing like crossing that final bridge and seeing friends waiting for us. My legs may be shaking from the rapid descent, I may be weary, exhausted and a little crazy but overwhelmingly I am truly ecstatic – IT IS DONE and I have finished.