Last weekend our Hiking Group engaged in a mini-version of the event they’re training for – Kepler Track in NZ.
The goal of the training up until this point has been to build up to a “pack weight”. Our adventurers were asked to build up to a fitness that allowed them to complete 15km two days in a row before our hiking group even started. We then got in to wearing packs, starting at 5kg and building to 12kg this weekend, by adding 1kg every week. We have been completing anything from 10km – 18km every Saturday until now, and the original intention was to back up 18km with our 12kg packs.
Of course, nothing ever goes to plan in these groups! Firstly, the accommodation that we planned to hike in to was booked out until April (literally unheard of – its a bunkhouse that sleeps 40!).
Then, as we were driving in to our alternative hike, Google Maps took every one of the 4 cars in our group on a merry dance – at one point telling us that 40km was going to take 2.5hrs. Clare’s gps took her up the six-foot-track, which is a muddy, 4WD trail and she was in a Mazda 3… Anyway, half an hour late, rerouted a couple of times due to road closures, and 29km of potholed, unsealed road later – we finally got underway!
The Kanangra Boyd National Park is a spectacular mix of wind-swept alpine scrub, sheer cliff faces, and prehistoric jungle. We wandered to the lookout to start (brilliant), then ambled along, open-mouthed and incredulous for the next 2.5km – which took us an hour and a half! Unfortunately the track was too overgrown to continue not long after that, so we back tracked and took another track which promised us a mountain (or in the very least, a “top”). Of course… this was overgrown after a couple of kilometer too, and we lost the track all together when we tried to push through. At this point we were hungry, but the dense, march-fly and ant infested single trail left a lot to be desired in a lunch spot. We pushed through determinedly, when, right as we were about to give up we found a rock platform and a pleasing view, and settled down with our Jet-Boils to rehydrate our dehydrated lunch!
We made it back to the carpark by early afternoon, but we had only lugged our packs 10km, so continued on to Kanangra Falls. It wasn’t even a kilometre to the bottom but it was ALL STAIRS. Brilliant. Even better, there was a beautiful pool at the bottom of the falls where we could rinse off and refresh before the climb back out again. The team climbed out in 10min. With 12kg pack. Legends.
Considering most of us had been up since 5am (or a bit before), had been little balls of anxiety as we battled with our GPS, walked 12km with our 12kg packs in 6hrs… we were pretty pooped.
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We had cabins in Oberon overnight, and rather than facing more dehydrated meals, we headed off to the RSL. At this point we had gathered enough information about our day 2 hike to realise that we were not going to gain access to the carpark we needed to leave a car in to complete the hike. Jenolan caves is only open to ticket holders at the moment, and as people who just wanted to hike, they wouldn’t allow us access to park. So, quick change of plans again!
Most of us had lights out by 9am – and we were up again with the birds to head out to Mount Victoria, about an hour away. We did part of the Victoria Falls to Blue Gum Forest hike, which included the Victoria Cascades. It was only about 6km, but at least two of those kilometres was down stairs, while another two was going up them. You might think the up was the difficult stage, but when you’re walking down you’re accelerating with gravity. The upshot is you’re absorbing between 1.3 and 3x your bodyweight – plus the pack – every, single, step… This meant the 60kg bodies among us were absorbing between 93kg – 216kg every step. So while the climb out certainly starts your heart, the true strength training happens on the descent. Safe to say we were trembly and wobbly by the time we got to the bottom.
At the bottom of the valley we followed the river through a magical landscape, stopping for snacks at the waterfalls, and even making time for a quick dip in the cascades.
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At the end of the weekend, we have a firmer idea of how much we eat, how much we drink, clothing, equipment, and where our fitness sits. This was the sole purpose of our adventure this weekend, so I am feeling like we nailed it! We have 4 weeks to build our fitness up to a 15kg pack and 15km x 4 days in a row… I think we have got this!!