Welcome and Introduction
Warmest greetings to you, and welcome to the blog for Summit to Sea 2018. This is Outward Bound Australia’s famous 26-day journey, from Australia’s highest mountain to the south coast of Victoria.
Follow this year’s team and live vicariously through their adventures. Leave your comments and messages below to be shared with the team. Feeling jealous? That’s the cue to contact Outward Bound Australia for information about how you can join Summit to Sea 2019.
Everyone has arrived, and we are kicking off right away. We have a team of eleven bold adventurers. They are currently participating in some group-bonding activities, and starting to get a feel for what the next few weeks will look like. Check out the first (and last) photo of the team while they are clean…
Working with this team are some of Outward Bound Australia’s finest leaders. Some will visit to assist with the activities, but the core team for program duration are our Group Instructors Juanita and Matt, and Program Coordinator Coral.
The day started with a very early morning fun-run and a splash in the Murrumbidgee River, followed by a delicious continental breakfast. Some of the participants have been going to the gym as part of their preparations for the course, and this seems to be paying dividends now, especially for that first fitness test!
High ropes was the flavour of the day, accompanied by first aid training and a massive navigation briefing where the team mapped out the first 16 days. The team are bonding well and are excited and willing to learn. So, it’s time to send them away from Base-camp and on to the real thing.
Carrying over from Day 2, the team have completed CPR training and sorted their backpacks for the start of the expedition. At Outward Bound Australia, one of our core philosophies is to give back to our community through Service activities. The team joined us in the ongoing project of restoring the Murrumbidgee River corridor by planting trees near the bank.
Now it is time to depart Base, and head out into the wild. To signify the journey’s start, everyone joined for the Blue Peter flag raising ceremony. When raised, the Blue Peter flag announces that a ship has left the safety of its harbour and is now doing what ships were made to do: battle the seas and then return its crew home safely. Away from Base, team had a 1.5 km practice walk with their backpacks to Yaouk campsite. Here they have received their expedition camping equipment for the first time, and given instruction on how to set up a bomber campsite.
What’s in a name?
Summit to Sea teams are encouraged to take up a name, reflecting the personalities and aspirations of the group as a whole. Names are taken from those who have sought adventure and perhaps pioneered the path for others to follow after them. Summit to Sea 2018 shall from now on be known as Team Jessica Watson. Only 16 years-old at the time, Jessica Watson solo-sailed the yacht Ella’s Pink Lady, making an around-the-world voyage of the southern hemisphere. Jessica Watson represents the youth of the 2018 team and the determination to face challenges head-on with enthusiasm and self-belief.
Today saw the first big day of hiking. Only two kilometres were covered in the first three hours. This was mostly the result of introductory bush-bashing, but may of our participants learned first-hand how to correctly prevent hot spots from becoming blisters.
Reaching the summit of Mt. Morgan made all the effort worthwhile. This will be the first of many summits, so knowing the feeling of summit success will become a great motivator in days to come.
Days 5 & 6
The team are on their way to Eucumbene, and the off-track terrain requires committed concentration. Day 5 was a big walking day, and the decision was made on Day 6 to change to route to an easier option. A relentless wind kept everyone awake later than wanted on the night of Day 5. The easier route of Day 6 allowed the team to visit some of the historical huts in the area and get to camp by 6:30 pm. By arriving early, the team had the chance to enjoy time around a campfire before heading to bed early.
A cold start to the morning provided favorable conditions for walking along the Nungar Ridge and then dropping down onto Lake Eucumbene to begin an overnight canoe. It was difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed, due to the chill. All was made worthwhile once they reached the top of the ridge. Today has been a great lesson: when something seems too difficult, this is exactly the time when you need to push yourself through, because when you reach your goal, you will feel amazing, and know the result is all due to the effort you put in.
The canoe journey through Lake Eucumbene continues. Today was another big day, with 20 km of water to power through. Perseverance was definitely needed today, and probably a reminder of who their elected role model is (Jessica Watson), as headwinds blew against the boats, trying to push them backwards. The team never gave up, and by sticking together, enjoyed celebrating the success of reaching their goal for this section of the Summit to Sea course – making camp at Providence Portal.
Time for a change of pace! After battling the wind on the lake, it was a welcome sight to see a fleet of bicycles. A session was spent on basic skills before giving the arms a rest and cranking the legs for a 30-km marathon over hills, and along asphalt and gravel roads. Nimmo Hill was the real test due to its steepness, and everyone’s legs were burning for the effort.
The team were hell-bent on reaching camp early and feeling the success of throwing dust on a big chunk of distance behind them. The uphill might have hurt a bit, but the downhill rides were sweet glory. By getting into camp early, there was plenty of time to go swimming in the Gungarlin River, which was a fantastic opportunity for a natural wash down and relax of the muscles before an early-mark into bed.
Sore legs and bottoms made for a slow start in the morning, especially knowing there was another 30-km bike ride ahead. The end point was Guthega carpark, where bicycles were swapped back for hiking packs. Team Jessica Watson are now on the Main Range, covering the roof of Australia: next major destination will be Mt. Kosciusko. Hiking the Main Range does provide the little luxury of camping in a hut rather than the bivvy. The team made slumber in Illawarra Lodge to the lullaby of the upper Snowy River running alongside.
Day 11 & 12
Everyone has a few body creaks that are causing minor tensions in the group, but everyone is still enthusiastic to be immersed in the Main Range environment. The mornings are slow to get going, but that hasn’t stopped the team from finding the laughter in life, such as having a snowball fight (there’s snow in Summer – who would have thought?). The reality of needing to take responsibility for both yourself and everyone in your expedition team is a key message that is being learned at the moment. To help the communication continue to flow, the Instructors ran a communication skills session where everyone was asked to speak in public for a short amount of time on a topic of their own choosing.
The team are seriously committed to making memories together, no matter what struggles they may be facing. It was agreed by all to make a dark-morning summit of Mt. Kosciusko so as to watch the greeting of the sun. The team’s euphoria of the morning carried them through until lunchtime, and then everyone started to fade in energy. The rest of the afternoon of Day 12 was spent by a river being fed by snow melt; the perfect way to cool off in the heat.
Day 13 & 14
It’s time to hit the white water in some inflatable rafts. Started at McKillop’s Bridge at 9am, and continued through to 5:45pm, covering a huge 20km. This will make the next days easier as it allows for shorter distances and time. That didn’t stop the group from waking up early the next day to be on the water again at 7:30am!
The group are really bonding on the river, and everyone is relaxing now that each day’s effort is slightly less. The easier and shorter days are revealing a fun-loving aspect to the group, with teh raft trip turning into an opportunity to pull people into the water to cool off as if gets too hot on the boats.
With the extra time, an emergency response scenario was run through. It was a stretch for the whole group to use their first aid knowledge and problem solving skills. At the end of the training, everyone agreed that they would feel confident in how to response should an emergency occur, including after the program.
Day 15 & 16: Written by the team
We started the third day of our rafting trip. We completed four of our most difficult rapids including ‘A Frame’, ‘Constrictor’, ‘Gentle Annie’, and ‘George’s Mistake’. We each got a chance to swim rapids and continued having fun pulling each other out of the rafts and swimming. Day 3 of the raft trip ended early because of a storm, but when it went past we returned to swimming. Day 4 was fairly quiet and we didn’t have any big rapids and we finished paddling at about 12:30pm when we reached Travs Gate.
We are feeling great! We are all bonding and having a lot of fun. We had a swimming competition at the end of Day 3. It has been a nice change of pace, rafting instead of hiking. We have been learning to work together and it has made us stronger as a group. We are learning to have fun while working to get our goal.
The biggest learning of the day is that we need to have fun. We are working hard to reach our goals and if morale isn’t up, then we won’t accomplish anything. So we have been saving time at the end of breaks to play games, and finding games to play while we work. You can have fun and work at the same time!
Today started with an unfortunate incident that required the evacuation of a participant for medical assessment after a fall near Jackson’s Crossing Track. The emergency and scenario training at the beginning of the Summit to Sea program helped everyone immensely during this time. Day 17 became a day of rest from activities, and the group spent time reflecting and recuperating from all the previous days. In the afternoon, some of the group came together and worked through a set of initiatives, focusing on solving a series of riddles presented as play-based challenges; this helped with focusing the minds of those who participated. The coordinating team from Outward Bound Australia joined the team in the evening, and provided ingredients for a special, non-expedition, dinner. It was lovely to meet the people working behind the scenes, who have been supporting the expedition throughout.
Day 18 & 19
Days 18 and 19 offered a very new experience to the group. These two days had the group camping by themselves in an extended activity known as a Solo. This means no other people present to distract while reflecting on all the past experiences of the program.
Needless to say, not many of the participants are accustomed to spending such a large period of time in their own company. Some were certainly nervous about the idea, and others expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of having an uninterrupted sleep. Either way, everyone expressed a keen resolve to give the experience their full commitment.
Added from the participants’ perspective:
We were all tested in multiple ways. We were required to draw on some of the skills we had learnt, such as knot tying and bivvy construction. There was also the emphasised challenge of controlling our thoughts and feelings about all the experiences on program thus far. However, it was in our ability and we were able to learn more about ourselves and our aims for the remainder of the program, and our future beyond.
Today was another change of pace, with the group spending the day abseiling and rock-climbing. Everyone was stoked to be spending their time doing something that wasn’t hiking, or any other forward-moving journey for that matter. After everything the team have gone through, working with the heights was not as challenging as some had first anticipated.
The day was rather hot, and the final days are expected to stay that way. The heat is the real challenge for the moment, and the group are nervous about their final expedition to the end, but the knowledge that it is the end is an exciting prospect.
The evening was spent preparing the maps and navigation preparation, marking out all the compass bearings and uphill and downhill sections. There is a mixed feeling among the group, as everyone is beginning to realise that while there is still much to be done, the program will very soon be over.
Day 21 & 22
The final expedition of the program has begun! The team set a cracking pace to cover 21km in only 10.5 hours on the first day; this team is Performing! By reaching camp at Tara Tower by 6pm, there was lots of evening sunlight hours to enjoy.
The navigation is challenging, with a good amount of off-track bush-bashing in the mix. Short breaks throughout and an afternoon siesta at Stringers Knob has assisted in keeping everyone feeling energetic, accomplished, and overall positive. There is a little bit of soreness and stiffness starting to creep up, but the end is in sight.
Day 23 & 24
These were the last two days of the Final Expedition and the instructors were all but shadows. The weather changed for the cooler, which we were grateful for after several very hot days. The fire trails were our friends and we got to camp at a good time in the afternoon where everyone promptly set up their bivvies and had a nap.
Day 24 was a great day, navigating exactly to where we needed to be. We picked up two members of our team who had been spending a few days at base camp. This meant we could walk the final several kilometres to camp together as an entire group. It was a fantastic feeling to make it to our final destination that day! Overall these two days were very positive and this was reflected by every member of the group.
This morning started with a chill in the air, but everyone was soon very warm with a long run to the ocean. We then ran along the beach and crossed the sand dunes to where the Snowy River meets the sea, and what was intended to be a 6km run turned into 12km. The water was cold and it was a bit of a shock to the system after the run.
Once we swam across the river we boarded a bus and went to our final camp ground where we finally hat a HOT shower and got fresh clothes! Then we went to Lochiel House in Orbost, where some sat and had tea with the residents while others went outside and helped around their garden; this was a great experience for all!
We then went back to our camp ground and had a chance to rest before getting into cleaning all our gear. We had an amazing BBQ for dinner and then got into our final debrief of the program! Everyone is very excited to reach the end of their long but amazing adventure. It was great to wrap up the program and discuss all we have learnt and in what areas we have grown.
And here we are: the final day.
It was a reasonably early start, but everyone was so excited to have a last chaotic morning together.
While scrubbing everything clean, everyone gave their last words of wisdom and recapped some of the crazy and incredible moments throughout the month.
Before the bus arrived to take everyone to the train station, the group took bolt-cutters to the valuables box, tied rope to our wrists, hugged every incredible person goodbye and couldn’t believe this time had actually come.
26 days of highs, lows and everything in between.
We did it!
If we can do this, what can’t we do?