It’s been a great start to Summit To Sea 2016! All participants arrived safely and were greeted with a cooler change in weather and even some welcome rain. After an initial meet and greet over lunch, participants were split into two groups to begin their Summit journey. It was straight into either abseiling or the team ropes challenge ‘Giants Ladder’. Both activities demonstrated that ‘taking the first step is the hardest’. This was followed by a group initiative ‘The Cube’ where participants were challenged intellectually, socially and physically. The evening activity ‘video clips’ was a group challenge with a twist and provided the opportunity to break down social inhibitions in order to get the most out of an experience. Both groups definitely hit the ground running and seem to be bonding well in their teams.
The beginning of early morning starts with a run along the Murrumbidgee River corridor and a cool bath in the river. Groups returned to the high ropes course for a follow up session from the previous day. After an initial fitness assessment to record basic results which will be used as a comparison tool at the end of the program, it was into their first Navigation briefing where the organisational challenges of route planning, food and equipment preparation were introduced. It was then onto a basic first aid session in preparation for when the groups head into the wilderness on Day 3. The groups spent the remainder of the day working on route plans in more detail, cooking enough flapjacks to last the duration of the program (a traditional Outward Bound expeditionary snack) as well as organising clothes and food drops. It has been an exhaustive information packed day but both groups are starting to get excited about the beginning of their expeditionary journeys.
An early fun-run and splash to kick off the final base day and the start of their experiential learning. Then it was back into information overload with more theory sessions on radio communications, leadership styles and effective team-work models, followed by finishing off expedition preparation, equipment packing and cleaning up. The groups combined for a colourful group activity involving canvas and paint before the raising of the Blue Peter flag, symbolic of ships leaving the safety of their harbour out into the unknown. The groups have chosen the names of ‘The Blue Gunns’ (in memory of Jeannie Gunn, a city dweller who moved to the Northern Territory in the early 1900’s to bravely face a new life and befriended many locals. She retold her stories in writing, including “We of the Never-Never”) and Leichardt (in memory of Wilhelm Leichardt, an eccentric explorer in the mid 1800’s who lived off the land to the extreme). Both groups have now departed national base to begin their journey into the Australian Alps National Park.
There were lots of mixed emotions for this group throughout their first hike. They headed off for Mt Morgan in the northern section of Kosciuszko National Park. Day 4 presented a tough hike but the group learnt to persist and support each other and were rewarded with magnificent views and a great feeling of satisfaction when they reached the top. After the big challenges of the previous day it was decided to not push too hard on Day 5. The group set up camp early and rested up on a ridge above the Murrumbidgee River. This set up Day 6, their third day of expeditioning, as a big one with the group walking a massive 20km to make up ground. They watched the sun set over the Nungar Plains and walked on into the night. They learnt that “with perseverance even impossible looking goals can be reached”. The group felt very accomplished and proud for having made up ground. The group woke up on Day 7 satisfied and motivated by the distance covered the previous day, so set their sights on getting up and over Gang Gang Mountain which was a huge achievement. They were rewarded with a relaxing afternoon by Lake Eucumbene and an evening paddle into camp.
It was a big first day of expeditioning off track toward Mt Morgan. Group morale was high and people were already pushing through personal boundaries. It was a steep, wet and thick hike and they discovered how far their ‘gunn’ team could push to achieve their goals. On Day 5 they continued though ridges, saddles and knolls and camped near the Murrumbidgee River still on a high from the day before. The biggest challenge was the hot weather and their aches and pains from the previous day. Day 6 saw the group hiking away from the river to the summit of Mt Nungar and then down onto the plains. “It was a tough day of hiking but the Gunn team pulled through, overcame obstacles and succeeded not to mention the incredible views”. During the day they felt pushed to their limit but when they arrived at their beautiful campsite they felt ‘relieved, stronger and more united than ever’. They are learning how to handle situations under pressure and how to work as an efficient team. The final day of their initial expedition saw the group hike up to Gang Gang Mountain and down to Providence Portal where they collected their rafts and headed out onto Lake Eucumbene. They were on a high making it to their destination. A massive achievement both physically and emotionally. The biggest challenge/learning so far: “we learnt to come together and head through the difficulties as a team with compassion for everyone’s physical ability”.
Both groups paddled on Lake Eucumbene today. It was a welcome relief to get off their feet after the previous 4 days of hiking. Rafting tested their abilities to communicate with each other across the boats and to work together as a team to keep their boat straight and headed in the right direction. It was also a great chance for the groups to practice raft manoeuvring and different paddle strokes before taking on the moving water of the Snowy River in a few days. Both groups really appreciated the beauty of the lake and had a terrific day. Once in camp both groups were very busy getting ready for the mountain biking leg and had an opportunity to get into some clean clothes.
During the mountain biking section, Leichardt and Gunn groups travelled together most of the time. With the help of their mountain bike specialist guides from ATC (All Terrain Cycles), both groups were soon familiar with their bikes and headed off down the road toward Nimmo Hill. Mountain biking presents an individual challenge for all the participants and a chance to push themselves to their own limits. Team Leichardt said of Nimmo Hill “- it never seemed to end” but they learnt to break a big job into smaller challenges. Both groups made it into their beautiful campsite at Gungahlin River in good time and had a swim to wash away the dust and sweat. The second day of mountain biking was a tough start as everyone was feeling it in the legs and butt after a big day in the saddle. The terrain proved to be challenging yet again with a lot of elevation to be gained before the groups reached their destination at Guthega. Both groups had another big day but felt a huge sense of achievement at having covered 60km of challenging terrain on their bikes. They also came to the realisation that things go far more efficiently when there is a nominated leader for the day. Some wonderful leadership opportunities, relevant even to a corporate setting. Even though both groups are feeling proud of their achievements so far there is still a bit of uncertainty about how far they still have to go.
Our groups both faced some challenging weather during their time on the main range. The aim of this expedition is for the group to ‘bag’ as many peaks as they can. While the day started off quite nice it soon turned against them with freezing cold temperatures, unrelenting rain and wind gusts up to 80kmh. Both groups struggled with the cold and learnt many new strategies for keeping warm. Though the weather got them down at times, both groups struggled on and found new depths to their perseverance. Quote from the Blue Gunns “It is a strange feeling walking through 80kmh winds at -5…. It’s indescribable. Not being able to see in front of yourself nor feel the extremities of your arms and legs. We all pushed on through exhaustion and made it well beyond our objective point. Our team learnt to deal with extreme weather conditions to battle through the cold and wind, to strive for our goal of reaching a safe location to camp and to protect the members that were suffering the cold. We really learnt our true potential both personally and collectively”. Day 12 woke to a cold wind and everything frozen. Despite the challenges of the cold the rain had cleared and both groups were able to summit Mt Kosciusko and hike the trail down to Dead Horse Gap where the bus waited to transport them on to McKillops Bridge on the Snowy River ready for the next section of their adventure. Members of Leichardt noted that they “feel closer as a group after seeing each other so vulnerable”.
Today was the first day of rafting and after the last few days of hiking they were keen to get out on the water. The group started their rafting leg from the remote McKillop’s Bridge heading south towards the coast. It was a bright and sunny day and the team appreciated the rafts doing most of the work. The added bonus of some excellent white water and refreshing swims added to a much needed relaxing and fun filled day. The group pulled off the water, had their mid-course catch up and everyone touched base with how they were going both as a team and as an individually. Everyone agrees that they are doing well and are looking forward to the next half of the trip.
Blue group was a bit slow this morning after a late night organising gear and food for the river trip. A mid-course debrief was had as they recapped the first half of course. The group discussed the high and lows of the program thus far. After wrapping up the first half of course, the group was keen to begin the next part. The leaders of the group chose rafting teams, recognising each individual’s strengths and team dynamics. The group decided to push on and get as far as they could before dark.
Today saw the biggest day of the rafting trip as they moved through the infamous Tulloch Ard Gorge where the largest rapids lay. It was a mammoth effort from the team as they had to portage or go around the largest rapids by unloading and carrying there rafts. The group toughed it out though and made it out of the gorge in one piece.
It was a very hot day as the group moved through the beautiful Tulloch Ard gorge. As the hunger and heat set in the group moved slowly. Thankfully not all the big rapids had to be portaged – lines were set-up and the rafts were guided with ropes through the rapid (with only the packs on board). The group found a beautiful campsite. A relaxing afternoon was had with cups of tea, a wash in the creek, and stories around the fire.
Today was a cruisy fun filled day. Having done all the work the previous day the group spent hours splashing, playing, jumping and swimming in the river. Much earlier than expected they pulled off the water.
The blue group had a similar day to that of Leichardt. Camp was reached early and a few took advantage of the beautiful cool river and had some fun in the water flipping rafts and balancing on rafts. Others took time to catch up on their journals and prepare for their performance that night.
A delightful summer day greeted both groups for their final day on the river. On the water the groups learnt about the origins of Outward Bound and went for one final swim before making it to the coast. After packing up the gear the groups hiked to a place called the Hayshed. It was then onto solo, a solitude activity where everyone makes a camp on their own and reflects on what has, is and will be. This can be a profound experience as people gain clarity on themselves, their relationships and their future. The participants will be on their own for the next three days before they move into the final days of the course.
Days 17, 18 & 19
So begins their 72hr (3 Day) Solo experience. Each participant set up their own campsite and were offered a chance to rest from the intense activities they have experienced so far, reflect and rejuvenate body and mind. “Being isolated from social media and all forms of communication with other people allows you to reflect on your time at Outward Bound and general life back home” stated one participant. The external and internal challenges faced by each participant varied. For some it was their first time truly being by themselves without distraction or interaction – let alone for three days, and for others it was an opportunity to rekindle some solitude which they had not experienced for quite some time. Everyone re-joined each other on the morning of day 19 feeling refreshed, rested and eager to smash out the next phase of Outward Bound. Everyone commented on their solo experience as being very relaxing and stress free. Once everyone had regrouped they found out the next challenge was going to be a caving adventure. The groups were mixed up and split into four smaller groups and progressively made their way into a nearby cave throughout the night and following morning. The caving adventure involved several physical and psychological/emotional challenges including an abseil into the cave in the dark, many tight squeezes and long crawls through narrow passage ways – Yikes! Overall it was an experience enjoyed by all.
After caving and a relaxing lunch the groups gathered for a briefing – they were about to embark on their ‘Final Expedition’. A four day hike to get from where they were to their final destination through some of the thickest bushland they had yet to come across. They were to plan, prepare, lead, discuss and decide it all by themselves (with Outward Bound staff shadowing them as safety support and emergency assistance only). After some frantic route planning, food rationing, gear shuffling and discussions with new team-mates the two new groups the ‘Summiteers’ and ‘Blue Oceans’ departed their location and began their ‘Final Expedition’- an opportunity to bring together the previous 20 days experiences, learnings, skills and knowledge in a new and exciting environment. Will they get lost? Will they make the distance? Will they overcome all the natural challenges that hiking with a new group in a wilderness environment brings? They have the skills and attributes necessary…. Though it’s all about bringing it together from here on.
Days 21 – 24
The first full day on final expedition saw both new groups summit Mt McLeod as their first big challenge – having to deal with some of the steepest and thickest terrain they had yet to come across. After some tough hiking and tricky navigation, both the ‘Oceans’ and ‘Summiteers’ found the rest of the day was not so tough as far as the bush went, although there were plenty of kilometres still to cover. Both groups pushed hard towards their intended evening checkpoint, with the Summiteers making it just a little further – crossing the Buchan River.
The reality of the size of this final challenge started to sink in on day 22 as an early start got the groups on their way for another big day – with the goal to conquer Mt Tara, “its not as steep or thick as Mt McLeod” some said. After the bulk of the day was spent navigating through some moderate terrain to get into the right position to summit Mt Tara, both groups chose different routes to tackle the mountain. It was soon discovered that whoever said it would be easier than Mt McLeod was gravely mistaken! Several hours later they finally reached the top to celebrate and rest. Both groups left the summit towards their campsites, the Oceans this time making the extra distance and the Summiteers making their camp at their resupply point.
It was all about getting as far ahead as possible on day 23 to set up as best as possible for the final push the following day – it was also about celebrating Australia Day in style, in the middle of nowhere with a whole bunch of good mates. A steady pace was set by all and momentum was gained. It wasn’t until towards the end of the day on the final push up to Stringer Knob (where an amazing and historical wooden fire tower stood). Things then slowed down again with yet again some thick, steep, trackless bushland. Both groups arrived at the resupply point at the same time – enjoying a good catch up and yarn about their experiences so far, an Australia Day hoorah and photo and then onto camp they marched.
Day 24 didn’t seem like much to begin with – the map showed it wasn’t very steep at all, there were quite a few tracks to walk on, navigationally it didn’t seem too technical. Although after the previous 3 days efforts most things had become a challenge. The groups took off in the morning with a pace fit for day one and it was impressive – so impressive that optional checkpoints were thrown in as an extra challenge. After a 30 odd km walk the groups made it to their final destination tired and ready to eat, sleep and hopefully not do too much the next day. The Oceans, with a few niggling injuries, made it into camp early in the evening. They sorted themselves out well for the night to allow for their time to be spent helping the Summiteers upon their arrival who had made the admirable decision to bag the extra check points. Finally, quite late in the evening head torches were seen coming up the road and the Summiteers were cheered on in to the end point of their expedition. They were warmly welcomed with their shelters being set up for them along with dinner being prepped and then a crawl into bed.
Started with another early wake up and a few yard jobs for Aunty Glenda (who is so kind as to let us stay on her property). Then a 14km run towards the ocean – to think it was only 11 days ago everyone was standing on the Summit of Mt Kosciuszko and the main range in the headwater catchment of this amazing and iconic river and now everyone reached the sea! With some grand cheers as people finished their run and jumped into the ocean, the next step was to swim across the Snowy River – a lovely way to take a bath – and then a bacon and egg roll, how luxurious! It was then into Orbost where the groups undertook a service project. This involved a visit to Lochiel House and Waratah Lodge – care accommodation for elderly people in need of assistance. The next hour was spent having cups of tea, chatting, playing games and offering some companionship to the elderly as an act of service to the community. The afternoon was spent cleaning and sorting through the plethora of gear used throughout the trip along with a few one on one chats and then a big final debrief to help add closure and highlight key learnings from the whole experience. Throughout the debrief there were many commentaries on how challenging yet rewarding the program was. To cap it all off was a BBQ and an evening of chatter and laughter, sharing stories of the epic 26 day adventure everyone had undertaken.
Short and sweet this day was. A quick pack up in the morning followed by a fitness test to compare results with the same test done 25 days previous. A final sharing of group memories through a momento for each individual. Offering of certificates and Blue Peter badges – a symbol with significant meaning to each individual, and the lowering of the Blue Peter flag – signifying the completion of each members Outward Bound Journey. Congratulations and well done to our 2016 Summiteers, may you journey onward bound knowing how much more you are capable of achieving … Plus est en vous