The Mysterious Lindeman Pass

I love a good story. And the story of The Lindeman Pass in the Blue Mountains is a cracker.

Today I was reminded of this quote by Thomas Edison, which I found inside my daily Happy Pills.

Thomas Edison: A man obsessed

Thomas Edison: A man obsessed

So, Edison was obviously passionate, focussed, single-minded and one could argue,  obsessive. So too, was Charles Lindeman. A council alderman in the Blue Mountains and a man on a mission to build a walking track that would link Wentworth Falls and Katoomba, along the base of the cliff line, at the top of the Talus slope.

nb: Please tweak your YouTube playback settings to 1080p or 720p before watching this video!

If you’ve ever been to The Blue Mountains, you’ll know that one of the most popular tourist hiking tracks is the Federal Pass. It snakes along the base of the cliff line from Mt Solitary’s western flank, past the Ruined Castle and the Golden Stairs, scooting along across the Scenic Railway and into the lush Leura Forest, where it finishes abruptly at a stunning waterfall. [It’s got it’s own interesting modern history, wrapped up in coal shale mining, but that’s another story.]

Mt Solitary at the south of the Jamison Valley

Mt Solitary at the south of the Jamison Valley

Then, just to the east in the same Jamison/Kedumba Valley area, you can walk at roughly the same height along the jaw-droppingly gorgeous National Pass and Wentworth Pass, around Wentworth Falls and even link up onto Kings Tableland at the far east of the valley.

Kedumba Walls/Kings Tableland to the east (as seen from Lindeman Pass)

Kedumba Walls/Kings Tableland to the east (as seen from Lindeman Pass)

Logic and foresight is a great thing and poor old Charles Lindeman seemed to have lots of that, thinking that a track to join the east and west sections of the Federal Pass together, would make good sense. However, what he didn’t foresee was how vocal and political the Katoomba shop owners of the time would be in their lobbying of the Katoomba Council to ensure that the last 200 metres of the track were never completed. They were scared that all the Sydney tourists of the time (the trains were packed on Friday nights) would all walk away from Katoomba to Wentworth Falls and take all their custom with them. The somewhat darker side to the story is rumours of ill-feeling and anti German sentiment towards Herr Lindeman at this time prior to WWI.

Some of Lindeman's original retaining walls seen in a 'good' section.

Some of Lindeman’s original retaining walls seen in a ‘good’ section.

An article, from the Blue Mountain Echo, 5 September 1913, sums up the case succinctly. Those with an eye for place names, will recognise Dash and Copeland in this article, as they relate to Dashs Cave (see video) and Copeland Pass, being the name given to the somewhat airy pass on Sublime Point above Lindeman Pass. Again, in January 1927, another push was on to finish the track, with the journalist seeing the need for co-operation between the rival Katoomba and Wentworth Falls councils.

Beautiful waterfalls, pounding after storms. (Sadly, the old Water Board ladders are no more, so the trip isn't finished yet).

Beautiful waterfalls, pounding after storms. (Sadly, the old Water Board ladders are no more, so the trip isn’t finished yet).

Now, I’ve already said too much about this grand tale, for someone who knows so little about it. I will leave the detail and relentless research (perhaps as passionate as dear Lindeman himself), to Mr Jim Smith and his wonderful book, “Blue Mountains Mystery Track: Lindeman Pass,” who along with Wilf Hilder, worked tirelessly in the 80’s trying to get the track opened and welcomed into the family of great bushwalks of the Blue Mountains.

In all my 15 years of bushwalking, I have never seen leeches as bad as on Lindemans… epic!

In all my 15 years of bushwalking, I have never seen leeches as bad as on Lindemans… epic!

Alas, these days, after all the blood, sweat, tears and leech bites, of many passionate people, it is only the hardy and experienced navigators and route finders who can today, make their way from Wentworth Falls to Katoomba, along Lindeman’s dream.

The sign says it all - there is one of these at the east and west of the route.

The sign says it all – there is one of these at the east and west of the route.

I am sure the costs to renew the track and bring it up to a ‘manageable’ state, whereby average hikers could be able to undertake it safely, would be well over $2m. There’s simply too much to be done, not only to the track, but also cliff stabilisation above, to warrant the spend of NPWS already tight budgets. I believe that sadly, Mr Lindeman’s dream will remain just that. However, it is a dream that those passionate and experienced few, can continue on.

Encouraging signs… a small but committed work party install new signage - June 2013. [Photo credit TBC]

Encouraging signs… a small but committed work party install new signage – June 2013. [Photo credit TBC]

 

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Hiking Food Review : Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack

Following on from last week’s post on Easy Hiking food for Overnight Trips, I was sent some product by the nice folk down in Tassie from Strive Food.

I was interested to read that this small, Aussie business has grown from Todd and Melanie’s basement in Hobart and from their expertise as a nutritionist (Melanie) and Outdoor Ed Instructor (Todd). What a winning combo!

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

For people who are time poor, or lacking experience in the outdoors, having someone else do the packing, prepping and planning for them is a nice weight off their mind.

For years, the market in Australia has been dominated by NZ company Backcountry and fair enough, I’ve eaten many of these in my time and their freeze dried meals are lightweight, easy and tasty. Exactly what everyone wants in the bush.

Vegetarian Laksa Weigh-in at 138 gms

Vegetarian Laksa Weigh-in at 138 gms

I’m encouraged now that there seems to be a really good local Australian competitor to this market in the form of Strive.

I took the 24hr Ration Pack out for a test and the video above shows my experience and thoughts.

Let someone else do all the work - Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

Let someone else do all the work – Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

The range of products were all known to me and were tasty. I’m not sure about the demand for this full 24hr pack, except perhaps for outdoor ed purposes, which probably is a reflection of Todd’s background. I guess it makes it super easy for a school running Duke of Ed or similar to just stack up on 50 of these packs and hand them out as necessary.

Veggie Laksa Cooking up a treat.

Veggie Laksa Cooking up a treat.

The preparation was super easy, only negative I could find was that the bags didn’t have a simple tear from corner. I needed a knife to get into the bags. Also, the cooking time needed to be about 7 mins longer than stated on the instructions as the noodles weren’t cooked at the stated time.

However, the flavour was good and the serving was ‘generously hearty’ one might say. Actually, it was huge and I struggled to eat all of it! I needed to roll back down the mountain when I’d finished, thankfully I was certainly full of carb energy to do so.

Gnocchi is heavier at 213gm

Gnocchi is heavier at 213gm

I’ve still got the bolognaise and pasta meal to try out and I’m looking forward to that on my upcoming 3 Peaks trip to Kanangra-Boyd NP (just not the traditional route!).

All up, I recommend giving Strive meals a go. Apart from feeling warm and fuzzy inside from the food, there’s also that nice feeling about supporting a local Australian small business.

Ordering online is easy through their website and if you live in Hobart, you can even pop into their shop.

Generally speaking, I think that most people will opt for the main meals when it comes to pre-packaged dehydrated or freeze dried meals. I think it’s basically pretty lazy if you can’t wrangle together breakfast, lunch and snacks from your local supermarket.

For goodness sake, you’re about to put yourself out in the bush for several days – if you can’t manage to pop some muesli and milk powder into a ziploc bag, there’s something wrong!

Q: What’s been your experiences with pre-packed dried foods for hiking? (The good, the bad and the inedible!)

Coming Soon – Brand New Hiking How-To Videos and New Look Blog!

Yay! I’m so excited!!

You know how they say that change is as good as a holiday? Well, I guess I’m about to feel as though I’ve had one big holiday, because there’s a whole lot of ‘change’ coming very soon.

If you follow the @Lotsafreshair Instagram or Twitter, you might have seen me and the crew oot n’ aboot (a loving nod to my Canadian friends) shooting new clips for the 2nd series of the Lotsafreshair – How To Hiking videos.

The amazing crew of Mark (Big Dog), Peter and I, spent an incredibly busy day up in the Blue Mountains at the end of 2013, putting down as many tips n’ tricks as we could in the time we had.

That's a wrap!

That’s a wrap! Big Dog & Caro – Butterbox at Sunset – near Mt Hay, Leura.

Thanks to the awesome guys at National Parks, we had some amazing locations including Pulpit Rock, overlooking the Grose Valley, and the Butterbox at sunset, out near Mt Hay.

And as they say in late night TV, ‘…But that’s not all!‘ Alas, I don’t have any steak knives to give away, but I am also working on a lovely, fresh new look for the blog. Well, actually, the lovely Cath from Phase Creative is doing all the pretty stuff and I’m super happy with it.

Lotsafreshair.com - New Design Sneak Peek!

Lotsafreshair.com – New Design Sneak Peek!

I’ve been frustrated with the existing design, as I didn’t feel the design allowed enough topics and content on the screen. So we’ve been working on moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (the bloggers amongst you will know what that all means!), and using this renewed flexibility to come up with a layout and design that really works.

And another sneaky look...

And another sneaky look…

The great news is that the design phase is nearly complete, and now it’s just down to the developing and coding side of things… oh you amazing, mighty, Web Princess of the dark arts of < and >. I am not worthy!  So no launch date yet for the new blog design, but you will start seeing the new videos over the coming weeks… YAY!!!

I’d love to hear what you think about the teaser video and any thoughts on what types of videos you’d like to see in the future. Please drop me a line below to let me know!

Where’s your hiking home?

Following on from last week’s post about living in small spaces, I’ve been thinking about where I feel most at home.

I’ve always said, that ‘home should be your refuge’. It’s the place where you can go and shut the door, relax, truly be yourself and be at peace.

I kinda feel like I’ve got two homes… one indoors and one outdoors.

I know I do go on about them, so it’s no surprise that I’m pretty much at home in the Blue Mountains National Park, just west of Sydney. It’s got a great mix of tracked and managed areas, along with intensely wild, untracked wilderness, gorges and canyons. Lots of variety and being a massive 268,987 ha (664,681 acres) in size, there’s plenty of choice and opportunity to get away from civilisation.

So what about you? Where’s your wilderness home?

Leeches – That slimy, slippery, itchy, sinking feeling

Can you feel it? Nah, you probably can’t. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the first thing you feel is the damp trousers against your calf as your blue blood oozes, unrestrained, into the fresh wilderness air. Last Monday, Australia Day (Invasion Day), I set out to walk a historic, somewhat invisible, track in the Blue Mountains.

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Although the day started grey, it wasn’t long before the blue sky broke through and my companion and I were bathed in beautiful sunshine. However, down at ground level, under the lush canopy, the mystery of the disappearing track and recent downpours had the earth beneath our feet become the unmistakable home sweet home of Euhirudinea – the Leech.

Lush and ferny - a perfect home for leeches

Lush and ferny – a perfect home for leeches

Like something from Alien, the Australian version of these hermaphrodite little darlings have 2 toothy jaws, (3 in other countries) and seek out a tasty dinner which can keep them going for up to 3 months. They do this by producing a secretion called Hirudin, which stops the blood from clotting… hence the unstoppable flood of our precious, red stuff.

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

Like most people, I used to get pretty grossed out by these little critters, however, over the years I’ve come to admire their tenacity, patience and curiosity and am happy to reward them with my ample B positive. I’m no Buddhist, but find it quite unnecessary to smother them in salt, which causes them to sizzle, froth and die – surely a bit over the top. I simply get my finger nail under them and flick them off, making sure not to flick them in the direction of my friends.

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

Sure, I bleed. Big deal. And for the next 5 days I am scratching into the wee hours of the night, whilst reaching for my trusty spray of Stingose, but I kinda think of it as being part of the Circle of Life, like something from The Lion King.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Not to get too sentimental about these suckers, as they can cause infections such as cellulitis, but for me I don’t give them a second thought. Get over it… move on – oh, unless of course you’ve got one on your eyeball!

Oh and with gonads in their heads, I should probably start calling them Dickheads, instead of my usual expletive… bastard (as per the video)!

Q:  What’s your favourite method of dealing with leeches?

Mt Paralyser and other names that inspire fear

When looking over the topographic maps for the southern parts of the Blue Mountains, especially the Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness area, a virgin navigator would be forgiven for never wanting to step foot in this part of the world, due to the array of fear inducing, high blood-pressure invoking place names.

After putting off tackling Mt Paralyser all my life, I found myself there twice last year. They were both such enjoyable trips (thanks Roysta for the first one and then I led this group from Sydney Bush Walkers club there a few months later), that I wonder why I put it off for so long.

Here’s a selection of my favourite gut-wrenching, fear inducing Kanangra-Boyd place names:

  • Mt Paralyser
  • Mt Strongleg
  • Mt Despond
  • Mt Great Groaner
  • Mt Savage
  • Mt Misery
  • Mt Hopeless
  • Sombre Dome

… I wonder if I can plan a route that will take in all of them in the one trip? 🙂

What are some place names that you visit which would put off the less fearless? Please share your suggestions in the comments below!

Blue Mountains – Open for Business!

This October has been an incredibly difficult one for many people living in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

I’ve had non-hiker friends say to me, ‘Oh, you must be so sad about your beloved Blue Mountains and the fires?’ I kind of didn’t know what to say. I don’t live there, I haven’t raised a family there, had the comfort of home and community there, been gripped by the gut wrenching fear of losing my home, physical memories and pets, let alone loved ones and friends.

Sure, I spend a lot of time there, my car can almost drive itself, but apart that, not being able to walk in the burnt or (relatively small) closed areas is only an inconvenience to me. It simply means changing my plans – not changing my life. Nearly 200 families lost everything. It’s not about me.

So what can we (those not affected by the fires) do?

  1. Donate money – Cold, hard, cash can bring warm, soft and practical outcomes! There are various charities and funds set up. Choose one that resonates with you. My pick is http://www.salvos.org.au | ph: 137 258
  2. Help a mate – Do you personally know people who are affected? Maybe a member of your bushwalking club? A colleague? Ask them what they need or just be there for them and simply listen.
  3. Encourage anyone you know who may be affected to seek help. The Salvo’s are providing a range of services from trauma counselling, practical supplies, short and  long term assistance, helping people plan for the future, financial counselling and legal advice. I mean seriously, when you’ve lost everything… where do you even start?
  4. And here’s the fun one… Visit the Blueys! – It’s bad enough that people lost homes and suffered so much during the height of the fires, but now, the lack of tourists and visitors to the region is damaging local businesses. If it continues, people could lose their jobs. What are you waiting for? Get off your toosh and get up there! Sure, you might not be able to visit some of the tracks or canyons for a while, but it’s an ideal time to see all those other attractions, canyons or tracks that you’ve, ‘always been meaning to do.’ Here’s some thoughts:
  • So often, us bushwalkers/canyoners, will leave Sydney at 6am, arrive in the mountains at 8am and head straight to the track-head. We’ll spend an awesome day out in the bush, then turn around and head back. 4 hrs in the car for 9 hrs on the P1020760track. Why not leave work a bit early on a Friday and spend a night in a local hotel/YHA/B&B, before starting out on the Saturday morning? I’ve recently become a fan of the wonderful warm hospitality at the Ivanhoe Hotel at Blackheath. If you’re on a budget (or had a few too many cooling ales with their enormous steak, salad, chips and pepper sauce after a hike – I deny all rumours to that effect!) this pub is perfect! I recently had a room upstairs, set back from the main road and slept very well. I think I paid $30 for a room with share bathroom. Good old fashioned Aussie pub accommodation and the squeaky floorboards are thrown in for free!
  • Spend a day, ‘doing all the touristy’ things. You’ve whinged about the tourists blocking the tracks in a dazed state at the bottom of the Scenic Skyway/Railway/Cableway for years… when was the last time you checked it out for yourself? Scenic World might surprise you! Oh, and the lovely staff have just put up their favourite things to do in the mountains… good tips there!
  • Whilst you’re down that way in the Jamison Valley, see what millions of tourists each year see of our Blue Mountains… look through their eyes… imagine you’re seeing it for the first time and walk the Prince Henry Clifftop walk. Then, put your adventure hat on and research the options for continuing further around the valley, above or below the clifflines.
  • P1020796And my new personal favourite… The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. The audio/visual exhibition about the Blueys World Heritage is really amazing. There’s an art gallery, shop, cafe and lovely rooftop open space. A real surprise.
  • Go for a wander up and down Katoomba Street and check out the Antique and other shops. There’s been a lot of change in the last few years and wizzing past at 7.30am, you’ve probably missed it all except Elephant Bean (my favourite Katoomba coffee) which is usually the only place open at that time.
  • Stretch your legs from Katoomba and walk through the back streets to Leura. Dream about owning one of those lovely old timber mountain cottages… maybe even buy one! That’s supporting the locals, eh?
  • Join the Sunday driver crowds in Leura and wander the main drag.
  • Drink and eat at Red Door coffee (my Leura favourite)
  • Drink and eat at Anonymous cafe (my Blackheath favourite)
  • Check out (and BUY) from the local artists at Bespoke and Found and The Nook, Leura. P1020783A great co-op of local artists and artisans. Huge variety – from edgy out there stuff, to things that even your Nanna would love. Thankfully, they’re a PFZ – potpourri free-zone.
  • And from the, ‘where have you been all my life?’ files… Mrs Peel. Deep love indeed.P1020772
  • Come to the mountains and do ALL your Christmas shopping in the Mountains.
  • Buy accommodation gift vouchers for friends and family… then they can come too!
  • Don’t just drop in to the Apple Bar for a meal/soothing ale on the way home after a canyon or walk… you Stink! Haven’t you often thought, “Geez, it would be nice to spend a P1020830weekend up here.” What could be better than a long, lazy, lunch, chowing down on one of their amazing woodfire pizzas with more than one or two shandies, and walk back to a nearby B&B? Sigh, Apple Bar… How do I love thee? I cannot count the ways.
  • How often have you P1020824driven past Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens (Now called Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens) and never actually ventured inside? It’s truly beautiful and the home to the Royal Botanic Gardens (in Sydney), cool climate plants.
  • Sick of hearing Simon Marnie talk on ABC702 about the Farm Gate Trail every Saturday morning and never actually visited any of the farms? Giving particular focus to the farms nearby the bushfire area..Stop listening… start visiting. www.hawkesburyharvest.com.au
  • Go wine tasting… not quite BLOR area, but Ebenezer not only has a couple of great wineries (especially www.tizzana.com.au), but is also home to Australia’s oldest church!
  • Do a high ropes / zip line course at Treesadventure.com.au in Yarramundi, at the junction of the Nepean and Grose Rivers. If you like being up close and personal with Blue Gums, this put you right UP in them. Oh, and someone else can do the rigging and safety for once!
  • Challenge yourself to eat the menu (or the list) at the Fat Canyoners Good Grub Guide. Awesome resource (the whole site that is, not just the food page), which outlines all the places to eat on the way to/from bushwalks and canyons. Check it out and then email the Fat Canyoner himself with some new finds!

www.visitbluemountains.com.au/events.php

www.hawkesburytourism.com.au

My advice?

Visit

Eat

Drink

Spend

Stay

Walk

Repeat

Six Foot Track Project Launch!

Ok, so you know how they always say, ‘Never start with an apology – it’s too negative.’?

Well, here I am breaking with tradition because for the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken leave of my blogging senses to concentrate on a very exciting new project that is launching this week!

For the past year, I’ve been working with the fabulous Matt McClelland (www.wildwalks.com and bushwalk.com) and Geoff Mallinson (geoffmallinson.com and Dad of danmallo.com) on a new approach to multi-day hike websites. We’re getting down to the pointy end of the work these last two weeks and we’re racing to get it all ready in time!

We all share the same aims of wanting to encourage people to get out into (and enjoy) the bush in a safe and fun way, so we pooled our collective skills into this project.

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

The Six Foot Track is one of Australia’s best known multi-day hikes and although the 45kms is usually done as a 3 day trip, it is also run during the annual Six Foot Marathon in around 5.5hrs.

The book, website and associated YouTube channel are full of information, photos, track notes, videos and an exciting new development called, ‘EmuView’ which adds a 360VR experience to the interactive maps on the site.

Guess who on the bridge?

Guess who on the bridge?

We’re launching this Thursday night with a shindig at the Hornsby RSL, so once that’s out of the way, I hope to return you to your regular weekly blog programming!

Hope you enjoy it!

What’s Your Excuse?

When I started this whole bushwalking/hiking thing about 13 years ago, I was astounded at how unfit I was.

If you’d asked me to fill out a form that included a question about my fitness, e.g.: unfit / average / fit / marathon fit, I thought I was average, possibly even average-fit. As a desk junkie during the week, I still managed to get out and walk the suburbs regularly, could happily walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge (one of my favourite past-times) and would take the stairs at work.

But it wasn’t until I started venturing in the outdoors with people who had serious fitness (especially the ‘rock-scrambling-up-800m-elevation-with-an-overnight-pack-and-still-holding-a-conversation-type-of-fitness’), did I begin to learn what being fit is really all about.

Talk about everything being relative!

During that painful first 12 months, I discovered a range of techniques to blend in with the others and now, over time, I’ve learnt that there are often more actors in the outdoors than in NIDA.

The video above shows some of my excuses… what’s yours?