Well... our training for the GNW has felt just a little rushed, like falling in at the deep end (that first week was a real shock to the system), but it's the time that we had – I hope we've made good use of it… I'm certainly starting to feel physically ready (though I haven't been relishing heading out with 25kg on my back to climb up and down 1km each weekend, but I did find the last week extremely enjoyable with only 20kg on my back, so I guess it's got to be working ).
So the eight weeks of training looks like this, compared to the actual walk…
- Week 1: Queen Victoria Hospital to Solitary Pass and Return
- Week 2: Perry's Lookdown to Acacia Flat and Return
- Week 3: Goanna Track (Heathcote) and Furbar Steps to Ruined Castle and Return
- Week 4: Golden Stairs – Ruined Castle – Mt Solitary and Return (over Ruined Castle again)
- Week 5: Glow Worm tunnel to Glen Davis and Return (over night)
- Week 6: Dunphy's – Meadlow Gap – Maxwell's Farm – Furbar Steps (3 days)
- Week 7: Lockley's Pylon to Perry's Lookdown and Return
- Week 8: Springwood to Blaxland
Over the time since getting back from our Kosciuszko Hut Tour (3 months: how time flies!), we've had a significant purchasing of new clothes, re-fitting our gear and adjusting our diet… lightening the weight and increasing the warmth… and basically getting ready for the dry-run of the Great North Walk (which is in reality final testing for the Australian Alpine Walking Track).
We've washed and we've scrubbed, de-labelled and re-treated… it seems like everything! And all our old gear looks amazing (almost didn't recognise the tent when we took it out to Glen Davis ) and is functioning brilliantly: we feel like Moses in the Red Sea in our boots (I'm sure they're not just shedding water, they're repelling it from metres away!)
The perfect just gets more perfect
It's really wonderful, when you've spent a considerable amount of time (and sometimes money) sorting out the best alternatives that they prove themselves to be just right… and in some circumstances, seem to get even better!
- It's now impossible to think about degrading back to being bi-pedal after evolving into a quadruped! We were all quadrupeds in the beginning, utilising all four limbs just made perfect sense when we were young… I'm not sure why we left it all behind?
- I still get amazed at the power they deliver, especially up hills and steps, when previously I felt very bowed by weight and the effort: now I get to stand tall and push myself up
- Aarn Packs
- It's the same for our Aarn Packs… life is just so much easier and well balanced with an Aarn Pack. Everything is within easy reach and you don't need to lean into the walk (I remember one occasion down at Kosciuszko, a passing hiker asked about the packs and balance pockets, if they made any difference. I said that it meant that I didn't need to lean over to keep balance — like she was! They were on the first day of their hike and had very full packs–but that is the point isn't it?)
- One aspect that we were a bit dubious about was how and where to carry our water. It's turned out that the balance pockets are perfect for a bladder. The other pocket gets filled with lots of heavy food.
- Bridgedale Socks
- Trekker and Coolmax socks replaced our previous Horizon socks (that never seemed to dry). +85 + 32 - 120 = -3g saving (and drier feet)
- Icebreaker Thermals
- These are our first merino thermals! We took our skins down on the Kosciuszko Hut Tour, and basically didn't get out of them while on the Main Range… so we thought that something warmer was necessary for the up-coming Spring hike. +242g
- Icebreaker Atom Zipped Jacket
- We replaced older and heavier jackets with new and lighter Icebreakers. +346 - 545 = -199g saving.
- Mont Latitude waterproof pants
- Part of lightening our load was to combine the track pants (384g) with new super light-weight Mont Latitude water proof pants (355g) which also replaces existing Mountain Designs Grampians (274g), knowing that the new merino thermals could be utilised if it was super cold. +355 - 384 - 274 = -303g saving.
- Smartwool cuffed beanie
- I lost my favourite red merino and possum beanie so had to get a new one… which proved more difficult that what I would have thought. Finally walked into our favourite camping store (Camp Hike Climb) to find Mark with the perfect beanie (able to be pulled down over ears and neck, rather than being an oversized skull cap): which he happily ordered a new one in for me. +55 - 70 = -15g saving (and a warm head).
- Camp Sandals / River Shoes
- To be honest, we never really bonded with our Keen Newport sandals: it was sold to us at Mountain Designs as 'water proof'… but they never were and they were heavy too (probably explains why we never did a review). So after a bit of re-search we found Teva original sandals that were much lighter and non-absorbant. +450 - 650 = -200g saving.
- Garmin Oregon 600
- The Oregon 300 we've had forever has been great, but it was showing it's age and the screen was pretty milky, so thinking of the AAWT where navigation will be much more important we decided to upgrade to the 600. It also had the benefit of being able to be charged directly from the solar panels. +153 - 145 = +8g
- Garmin Thermometer
- This was pure treat, as we were always wondering what the temperature was +11g.
- MAHA USB Charger
- Our original Sanyo USB charger has served us well, but Jeff, our battery man at Protog, suggested the updated charging functions would be better on the MAHA… and a huge benefit is that it looks like it'll charge directly from the solar panels at something approaching 10W!! Which means direct charging of the batteries without the 25-30% re-charging loss is an option. It also has:
- 4 slots
- a neat lid to keep everything clean
- and it's black and shiny!
- JetBoil Titanium
- We love our JetBoil PCS — the Titanium is 109g lighter though, and we can just make do with the 200ml reduced volume. We had to hunt to find one though, as I think they decided they didn't want to cope with people who couldn't understand the product restrictions: a real shame, as it's perfect for what it's designed for. +291 - 400 = -109g saving.
- SteriPen Ultra
- Our SteriPen Clasic died a sad death, and during the investigation in the aftermath we decided to move to the Ultra which has an internal battery and is charged via USB. The new Ultra is lighter than the Classic (with batteries) and has the ability to charge from the V44 battery or directly from the solar panels. +135 - 190 = -55g saving.
- Sea to Summit Reactor
- We'd bought two silk inner sheets and Sandi had sewn them together, expecting an increase in warmth, but we've decided that we need something warmer: so we've gone with Sea to Summit Reactors. We've not used them in the wild yet, but we have tried them with our old bags and there was a significant warmth increase (I had to sleep with my bag undone). We also think that it will make our new DownHugger bags more comfortable, as Montbell have changed the fabric to 'ballistic' nylon which we felt a little clammy in…
- HumanGear GoBites Duo Cutlery
- We'd never really bonded with our Sea to Summit sporks either, and when Camp, Hike & Climb showed us these we were very happy: extended they also replace our wooden spoon .+23 - 12 - 10 - 30 = -29g saving.
- We ditched our trusty Tupperware bowls for cheap (and light) disposable ones… we couldn't think of a reason not to, have not discovered how quickly they'll destruct, but it saves: +12 - 80 = -68g saving.
After discovering Brenda L Braaten's Pack Light, Eat Right we completely adjusted our diet… and judging from our training walks, it seems to be working (though it seems like we spend all the day eating) …packing it all up the other day was a mammoth effort:
- Overall breakdown: 13% Protein | 37% Fat | 46% Carbohydrate
- I lost quite a bit of weight on the Bibbulmun Track, where our daily food weight was 1.523kg. Haven't checked what the nutrition ratios were, but our food has upped to 1.82kg with a ratio of 13:37:46.
- Smaller breakfast / greater fat
- Instead of getting just any old 200g muesli, we've gone with the most kj, added full cream milk and added freeze dried yoghurt from BackCountry (which we didn't have for the Bibbulmun) and reduced it to 100g/serve. Doesn't fill you up at all, but we start eating almost straight away on the track, so you don't get hungry at all.
- 30gm carbohydrate per hour
- Brenda L Braaten has a great page on Snacking, which we've tried to adopt: it makes a lot of sense – you care about the fuel you put in your car and make sure there's enough for the journey… but eating 30g of carbohydrates / hour does make you feel like you're eating all day. Maybe the biggest thing we've noticed on the training walks is that we don't limp into our meal stops (morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea if needed) desperate to eat: which in itself makes the walking more relaxed (apart from any other benefit).
Other Stuff and Repairs
- FUSE Panels
- After modifying our stock standard Voltaic 4W FUSE with a new 6W panel, we had to sort out a way to attach it onto our new Aarn Packs which has taken a couple of goes to get right: especially with the Aarn WaterWizzard that we're testing. After the Bibbulmun we'd determined that we needed to increase the charging ability by 2.5 times – The new 10W FUSE has performed well on the training walks, and we're very hopeful that our energy needs will be met by the FUSE (without mains topping up).
- Montbell Sleeping bags
- During our Kosciuszko Hut Tour, we discovered our sleeping bags were not all they used to be, even after washing and treating them thoroughly. So we've ended up with brand new Montbell bags.
- Thermarest NeoAir Trekker
- The little rubberised covering to the valve end came off both our sleeping mats. It seems a small thing, but it made blowing them up really difficult. Thermarest sent a couple of replacement kits and now they're as good as new!
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