Friday, January 8, 2010

Down but not out

With reflection several things led to our giving up on our attempt to complete the entire AAWT. And like reflection on any failure there are many 'what ifs'. On Day 5 as the sun sat low in the western sky we raced against time to skirt around the Razor, ascend and descend the Viking and find Barry Saddle to set up camp before dark. We realised we weren't going to make it back to the crew van that night. Our planned one-night camp out was now extending into the third night. We had already rationed our food down to meagre amounts (dinner would be instant porridge and breakfast an anzac biscuit each) and we were hungry beyond belief. We reached 'the chimney' high up the steep face of the Viking. I looked at Phil and asked incredulously if this was the route up. There was no other way. Up we went, clinging to the steep rock, bracing, heaving, straining every sinew to pull ourselves up the treacherous cavern. When we emerged into the warm late afternoon sun we grinned at each other. We were pumped, high on adrenaline. We knew we were quitting the next day but we didn't care. Right now we couldn't be more alive. We had taken on our biggest challenge ever and given it our best shot. We would sleep cold and hungry that night but walk into camp the next day content with our effort.

We have learnt many things about the trail that will be invaluable in our next attempt. But more importantly we learnt many things about ourselves.

Thank-you to all those who followed our, at times slow, progress. The net access was very patchy. Thank-you to Injinji for helping kit us out and supporting us. Thank-you to those who donated to help save Pungalina. But most of all thanks to Kathy, later joined by Dave, for crewing us. The crew were an integral part in making this all possible.

As time permits, we will add more detail and pics about how our adventure unfolded. Of course we are already making notes in preparation for our return attempt. We are now more resolved than ever to complete this amazing trail.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

AAWT1-0 Mellum (ie the trail won this time)

Thanks for the kind words and encouragement guys.

Just back to civilisation after an incredible experience. Truth was we were too optimistic/unrealistic with our itinerary. We set ourselves a very aggressive time target and it was our undoing. The weather didn't help but certainly wasn't the reason for our short coming. We had thunderstorms two of the camp out nights and the second last morning was a white out but generally the days were good (hot).The combination of difficult navigation on zero trail and bush bashing through thick scrub slowed our progress down to as little as 1km/hr.We blew out our 2 day contingency in the first few days arriving at camp 4 on day 6. Surviving on very little food for these unplanned camp out nights (three instead of one) resulted in us going backwards. We were in calorie debt and although never in trouble (we found ample water and had shelter) we were too beat up to continue after several 12-15 hrs days.

Andy, thanks for (easily) convincing me to come along and share your dream. The planning and logistics involved were huge. We learned a lot and will be much better prepared next time. Dave you crazy bugger, gutsy to the end, even when you pulled the pin your crewing was awesome. Coming down the trail on the last day to meet us with food, a sight for sore/hungry eyes. Kath, you are the epitome of excellent crew. Cook, driver, camp set up, photographer, motivator, unbelievable. Thank you so much for giving up your time to share this experience with us. time mate.

The AAWT changes year to year, trail markers go missing and the trail disappears as a result of overgrowth. It requires very careful planning and as up to date recon as possible on trail conditions. Thanks to Mr Dutchie for his invaluable course notes/guidance and major kudos to him for his solo unsupported traverse last year, an astounding achievement that deserves more recognition. Upshot:We managed to cover 200kms, almost one third of the course through what is reputed to be both the most picturesque and difficult part of the entire journey. As IDW mentioned the Crosscut Saw with The Cobbler, Mt Buggery, Mt Speculation, The Razor and the majestic Viking in the Wilderness Area have to be seen to be believed. We were fortunate enough to experience this very special part of our great land and truly run with our feet in the clouds. As ultrarunners we are constantly trying to set challenges to test ourselves and see where our limits lie. Every once in a while we are successful. This was one such time.

Cheers, Phil