It’s at times such as this …

From Robyn Colman

It’s at times such as this

She’d be tempted to spit

If she wasn’t so ladylike

Elvis Costello

Recently I did a lovely circuit walk on kunanyi when, coming down the Snake Plains track on the way back to the car, I slipped and (as it turned out) sprained my ankle. I knew it wasn’t broken and that this wasn’t an emergency, and like a good Pandani member I was carrying a first aid kit, clothes, snacks, water, a PLB, etc. 

But the symptoms of shock (nausea and faintiness) persisted for rather longer than I liked, so I applied for medical advice. First, I rang my doctor’s practice but was on hold for a long time, with phone juice running low.* I gave up and rang 000. I received a phone diagnosis from a paramedic, based on my symptoms, reassurance and good advice. So after a bit more rest I was able to hobble back to the car with my two sticks, and thence to the doctor. 

But Here’s The Thing: the paramedic explained that my location meant I was technically in a wilderness area. (The Snake Plains Track!) So if I needed rescuing (which we both knew I didn’t), he would have to invoke the Wilderness Paramedics not the usual ones, and that meant going through the Police, which would take an awfully long time.

I’m mentioning this because it was a surprise to me and is perhaps useful to others to know. If I’d been at Mt Montague or Devil’s Throne, well, yes, I would understand – though I wouldn’t dream of going there on my own. But for what I think of as “lower slopes” and quite near civilisation to be considered a wilderness area was, well, a surprise.

Another Thing: When I passed the Disappearing Tarn turn-off, a worker was reluctantly installing a sign on the main track to tell people where to go. Reluctant, because like me, he wasn’t thrilled about sharing the location with Hordes. But so many people are getting lost, apparently, that the sign is thought to be necessary. Another one was to go in downhill, closer to the Tarn, so that when people can’t see it they will know not to press on across the basin and scramble up the hill on the other side, looking for it. Thank you social media.

* I usually walk with my phone in aeroplane mode, and take photos with a camera. But I did have Avenza on, to track my path, distance and timings. I presume this is why the battery was low after being fully charged only about six hours earlier. Note to self: perhaps carry a charger device?

Losing people, lessons learned

(written after interesting long chats with Susan Gardner and Urszula Stanny)

A while ago Susan Gardner organised a walk to Marriotts Falls on which a comedy of errors accumulated to the point of considerable tension and embarrassment. No blame attached to anyone here but there is a useful lesson. Two sides to the story:

Susan reports that all went well until the return when five people were lagging a bit and did not appear when those in front paused at a track junction. Susan headed back up the track calling and whistling, without success. She returned to the rest of the group at the track junction and waited another 40 minutes, still with no sign of the missing walkers. This was starting to get serious.

There was no phone reception at the track junction so they left a note and returned to the cars. From the carpark Susan was able to call the club Search & Rescue contact and asked what to do next. He in turn contacted Simon Kendrick who recommended that most people should go home but two should wait at the carpark while Susan and Robert walked back up the track for an hour. There was only about two hours of daylight left so a longer search would have been unwise. However just as they were setting off back up the track the missing five arrived – all good.

Urszula Stanny was part of the group that became separated, all of whom were experienced walkers. Somehow the party had spread out and a gap opened up – the walker in front of the rear group could not see those ahead. And then where the track turned sharply to cross the creek there was also what looked like a well-trodden track straight ahead. (Haven’t we all fallen into that trap at some time?) So the rear group took what seemed to be the obvious route, until (after quite a few minutes) it became equally obvious that it was not the route. A fair bit more time was then spent in reassessing where they were and where to go.

On backtracking they found that the change in direction at the creek crossing was quite clear when seen from the different angle so they resumed the correct route. Susan’s note left at the track junction further down had mentioned the lower falls so the tail-end group took a detour to those as well, adding further to their delay in returning to the cars.

So a series of minor events added up to a big time gap between the two groups and a great deal of uncertainty for Susan as organiser.

On one view this is a mildly interesting anecdote and we can all move on and forget about it. On the other hand there is a useful lesson here for both participants and organisers:

EVERYONE has a responsibility to keep the group together

The organiser can’t do that from the front, although they certainly should pause to re-group now and then (as Susan did).

  • Every walker should make sure that they can see both the person in front AND the person behind
  • If you can’t keep up with the person in front, call out (don’t be shy).
  • Look back every now and then and if you can’t see the person behind pause until you can AND pass the word forwards that the whole group should wait.

Perhaps all that is obvious, until it gets overlooked and things turn to custard. Stay together, stay safe.

A perfect day at Hartz Peak

(From Robyn Colman, 30 November 2021)

Meeting in Kingston at 8 am, we were in shirts-without-jumpers! It was an auspicious start to a beautiful day in the Hartz Park, where the weather was balmy, the breezes gentle, and the sky blue. We had vast views and tiny flowers. The waratahs were getting ready for Christmas. Fish were rising at Lake Esperance, teasing a young fly fisherman. It was so warm it was almost tempting to swim, but giving our hot feet a cold bath, while refreshing, didn’t inspire anyone to go in further.

Since I was last on the mountain, track work has improved the climb from the saddle to near the summit, with impressive stone steps some of the way. We met two or three young couples also out for the day but there was a sense of having the place pretty much to ourselves. And there, on top of the world, we rejoiced in our beautiful island and companionship.

Thanks to John Tisdell for arranging amazing weather and giving us a relaxed, lovely walk.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Leeches – everything you want(?) to know

Interesting and useful information from Lesley Wickham (thanks!) …

Most of us on the recent Ryton Hills walk had close-up encounters with leeches. These little devils have a three-pointed star-shaped biting mouth which slices through skin and some clothing. Although they sometimes drop from shrubs, mostly they get onto the body from the ground and tend to climb up until they reach somewhere they can hide while they feed, like an elastic clothing edge or a watchband.

People generally expect to find them in wet places but our experience has shown that there are varieties, usually larger than the wetland varieties, which like dry places so they can strike unexpectedly when you don’t think you’re in an area which favours them.

In ‘biting’ the leech releases an anti-coagulant and an irritant into the bloodstream to encourage flow. This is what causes the swelling and itching following a bite and makes it difficult to stop the blood flow when they’re pulled off. 

If you’re familiar with their bites, you will often notice a vague, difficult to pin down itch as they start to attach which can be a warning to check. If you get them off before they start to feed, you can avoid most of the after-effects. If allowed to feed until full, they withdraw most of their secretions before dropping off, so the subsequent bleeding and itching are considerably reduced. This can be disturbing if you’re not used to leeches and many people are too horrified to leave them once they know they’re there but the results are usually better if you can resist the temptation to interfere.

Styptic pencils, available from chemists, can be used in the field to stem bleeding as sometimes they will even soak and bleed out around a bandaid.

Many preventions can reduce the risk. Having lived in an area abounding with leeches, we found that wearing knee-high stockings (“trouser socks”) under bushwalking socks was a big help as they will burrow through the fabric of the socks if they can but can’t bite through the stocking. When we removed our socks, we would often have numbers of half-dead miserable leeches trapped between the layers, unable to move or bite. Putting a smear or spray of insect repellent round elastic clothing edges, round the neckline of teeshirts, round your watchband  and on the outside of boots and/or gaiters can also help.

A friend of mine heard that dishwashing detergent was a good deterrent, so she smeared it over her boots before a walk. All went really well until we had to go through a water crossing, after which her boots developed a magnificent halo of foam, a source of great hilarity to the rest of us on the walk.

Mud, Blood and Laundry

From Robyn Colman…

So many new walks in a week! How to choose? With several boring, responsible activities in competition, the clear answer was, “Just do all the walks.” 

First, was Christine’s walk to the Yellow Cliffs, over the back of Collinsvale. The cliffs are spectacular – a narrow path below takes walkers alongside multi-storey sandstone cliffs, textured with honeycomb here and there, and coloured with golden striations. 

The track in took us through pleasant open forest, with a steep descent to the Glen Dhu Rivulet, whose spate made crossing interesting.

The cliff path also gave us a lovely view across forested hills and farmland to Mt Dromedary. The forest track changed interestingly from drier to wetter, with plenty of treeferns and mossy logs as we got closer to the rivulet.

At the end of the day, a spectacular afternoon tea at Christine’s added to her and Dave’s reputation for legendary hospitality.

The second new walk (for me) was Chris, Bob and Karen’s botanical ramble in the Ryton Hills. Here we had a most delightful stroll through woodland, dancing over all the delicate little flowers at ground level, looking up to the varied eucalyptus trees overhead, and keeping a weather eye on the dramatic roiling storm clouds to the west. This was very much a “Look down, look up, look down, look up” walk.

Between them, Bob, Chris and Bob’s friend Karen had a wealth of botanical knowledge, generously shared. Bob helpfully remarked at one point that “Repetition helps” with Latin names, so I’ll just have to stumble along with “Mitochondria tetris” and “Echinacea eritrea” as my fall-back until I’ve heard the proper names about 43 times more.

The countryside and views, once again, were lovely. From a ridge we could see Maria Island’s Bishop and Clark nudging a tuft of cloud, while the view to Mt Hobbes to our west (?) brought reminiscences of an enjoyably scary trek through Split Rock a few months ago.

And once again, we were provided with a lovely afternoon tea, this time beside Bob’s envy-making cabin. There was even a little fire and a billy, which brought more reminiscences of happy camping “back in the day”.

And so to the mud, blood and laundry. Usually at the end of a walk, I look at my dusty or lightly muddy trouser cuffs and shirt and think, “Will I wash you, or will I leave it …” Yeah, nah … Might as well leave it another week, they’ll do for now. 

No doubts, however after the Yellow Cliffs walk. Having taken the bumslide fast route down to the Glen Dhu Rivulet, I wore mud from pack top and bottom to ankles, shoulders to wrists. A swim rather than a wade across might have been more useful. So, into the wash went everything.

Then again, after the Ryton Hills. So many leeches! Lots of us had at least one bite, I had three. It was dramatic, but! Sarah looked as though she’d been stabbed in the stomach and I looked as though a vampire had been at my neck. (Perhaps the light-coloured check shirt and white singlet hadn’t been such a good idea.)

So once again, back into the wash it all went, after an overnight soak. I am the cleanest I have been in months. Oh yes, didn’t I say? Thorough showers followed too!

Now I’m all anticipation to see what laundry adventures Marg’s walk from Geeveston brings tomorrow … detergent is at the ready.

New Pandani blog

At its July meeting the club decided to improve communication with members and to reinforce the feeling of club community by introducing a blog with regular updates on matters that are not well suited to the main website or the Facebook page.

A major benefit of the blog approach is that every time there is a new post here it will also be sent to members who subscribe to the blog (and we hope that is all members). After subscribing you don’t have to keep checking back to see what is new. We promise not to flood you with messages, only one or two a week or less (probably much less).

What sort of content can you expect? Ideally the committee will report from time to time on what it is planning for the club. We hope that some organisers or other members may be inspired from time to time to write a report on a particularly interesting trip or provide other news, as a sort of partial replacement for the former Pandani Post newsletter. The blog won’t replace Facebook as the best place for posting photos immediately after a walk.

Future leaders!

Could you be persuaded to be a walk organiser? The club needs more of them. There are two issues:

  • Firstly, program coordinators tend to have difficulty filling all of the days in each quarterly program, although they usually get there after a bit of gentle arm twisting.
  • Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, walks are often booked out well in advance with quite a waiting list (not counting those don’t even try to book once they see the waiting list). Clearly there are members keen to join trips but unable to because not enough are being run.

With more organisers we could run more walks, either walks of different grades on the same day or walks on more days of the week.

We make it as easy as possible to become an organiser. You are not thrown straight in the deep end, although there are some checks and balances. New leaders organise a walk in collaboration with a mentor who is already a very experienced leader. Organising a trip involves both some administrative tasks (putting the walk on the program, monitoring who has registered) and then actually leading the trip on the day. The mentor provides guidance through all stages. And that’s about it. Unless you have demonstrated irremediable incompetence you will be all set to take others to your favourite places with your own walks on the program.

To find out more about how to become an organiser go the the Pandani web page, click on the “Organisers” tab and then “Become an Organiser”, or just click here (you will need to log in first if you are not already logged in).

Needles and Holes, 10 Aug 2021

Robyn and I were keen to revisit both The Needles and Growling Swallet, but neither was long enough to fill the day so we combined them (plus Junee Cave) into “Needles and Holes” on 10 August.

The Needles are a spectacular quartzite outcrop above Humbolt Divide (highest point on the road to Stratghordon). It seems to be the first bit of classic SW quartzite terrain that you encounter as you head west. On a clear day they offer wonderful 360º views including Mt Anne, Mt Mueller, bits of the Western Arthurs, The Thumbs, Mt Reid (above Lake Rhona), even a distant glimpse of Frenchmans Cap. And of course parts of Lake Gordon in the middle distance.

Looking E along The Needles ridge

The walk is only 1.5 km but it’s a steep climb of 350 m with a particularly rough bit near the top. Some of the group elected to wait just below that where the views were still excellent.

Most of the happy crowd on top of The Needles

We had lunch in a sheltered spot a bit further down (pretty windy on the exposed ridge and summit). The whole walk showed clear signs of the dreadful fires in 2019 but also encouragingly strong regrowth.

Lunch with our backs to the wind

Growling Swallet (isn’t that a wonderful name?) is where a creek descending from Mt Field West disappears down a deep dark hole, to re-emerge (together with water from other streams) at Junee Cave. The swallet itself is a bit anticlimactic because you can’t safely access the point where the water plunges down.

Growling Swallet

But the real delight of this short walk (less than 1 km) is the glorious mixed forest along the way. Massive eucalypts soar above huge myrtles and sassafras with the usual understory of huge ferns and lots of fungi. Personally I think it’s up there among the best forest I’ve seen in Tasmania.

Forest en route to Growling Swallet

Junee Cave is just a 400 m tourist walk, and it was getting close to sunset by the time we reached the opening at the bottom of a south-facing gully. Hence the light was poor and we could not really see much into the cave. Nevertheless it felt nice to have “closed the loop” of the water flow from Growling Swallet.

Junee Cave

How to use this blog

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This blog is to keep members of Pandani Bushwalking Club up to date with club news. It complements and does not replace the official club website or Facebook page.

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