Everest Returns

Everest

The slopes of Mt Everest are stirring.

It’s been more than two years since the world’s highest mountain has been climbed from the southern side. The 2014 climbing season was cancelled after the deaths of 16 Sherpas in an avalanche. Last year saw the climbing season called off again following Nepal’s devastating earthquake. You have to think that the mountain, at least, is probably the better for the break. Continue reading

International Mountain Day 2015

It’s bigger than Christmas, Easter, St Pat’s Day and birthdays (well, yours not mine, of course…).

Today is International Mountain Day, a celebration of those big pointy things that cover around 20% of the Earth’s land and, once loved, are never far from your heart. Here’s a little photographic ode to some of the mountains that I consider family…

Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

 

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Possibly my favourite mountain range in the world, inhabited by the likes of gelada baboons and Ethiopian wolves and with escarpments that drop up to 2000 metres into the heat-hazed lowlands below. Spectacular at every step.

The Eiger, Switzerland

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It pretty much spawned the term ‘North Face’ for the epic wall that rises above the Grindelwald valley. I’ve told my kids that if we get a dog we should call it Eiger… they seem less sold on the idea than me.

Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

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I’m a sucker for a good volcano, and Ngauruhoe sure fits the bill. The central volcano of a trio across the Central Plateau of New Zealand’s North Island, it’s as classically volcanic as it gets… and a little bit Mordor, as the Lord of the Rings films proved.

Torres del Paine, Chile

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Pretty much the prototype for rugged mountains the world over. The trio of towers – the Torres – is just a taster of the greater massif and its cuernos (horns), glaciers and narrow valleys.

Frenchmans Cap, Australia

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One of Tasmania’s most prominent mountains, Frenchmans Cap really is like family, after I climbed it with my then 10-year-old daughter a couple of years back. There’s something very special about a shared time like that.

Ama Dablam, Nepal

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If I get to climb just one 6000-metre-plus peak in life, I want it to be Ama Dablam, the thumb-shaped mountain that you pass on the way to Everest. It actually makes Everest look a little passé, really.

Guangzi, China

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They’re not high and nobody is scrambling to attain epic first ascents here, but the limestone peaks that angle out from the banks of the Li River are really quite the lookers.

El Capitan & Half Dome, USA

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Rock stars in every sense, El Cap and Half Dome dominate everything around the Yosemite Valley and half the world’s climbing stories. If I had the climbing skills, I’d happily call Camp 4 home.

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Top 10 Cycle Tours: (#7) Camino de Santiago

If your idea of a pilgrim is someone in a robe and sandals carrying a staff and a Jesus beard, think again. The modern pilgrim might just as easily be wearing Lycra and SPD shoes.

For centuries, Christian pilgrims have been shuffling across Spain, walking the Camino de Santiago towards the supposed remains of St James, Christendom’s first martyr, beneath the cathedral in the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela. In recent years, they’re being overtaken – literally and figuratively – by bikes, with statistics suggesting suggest that up to 20% of all Camino pilgrimages are now made by cyclists. I’ve been one of them, and it’s a ride so good I’ve lost all desire to ever walk the Camino. Continue reading

A Trio of New Australian Walking Trails

Like a gift to the person who’s walked everywhere, Australia is on the cusp of launching three new long-distance hiking trails. Before the end of next year, bushwalkers will be able to hike not just the old faithfuls – the Overland Track, the Larapinta Trail, the Prom – but also the following new trails in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. Continue reading

Top 10 Cycle Tours: (#8) Central Vietnam

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A select few places in the world are synonymous with cycling. Vietnam is one of them. Think of this country and you might invariably picture a worker in a conical hat pedalling across rice levees, or girls in ao dan dress riding rigid old fixies to school.

The appeal of the place on a bike has spread across borders. Vietnam is one of the best-selling – if not the best-selling – cycling destinations for cycling tour operators in Australia. For many, bike travel in Vietnam is very much a when-in-Rome (or Hanoi) experience. Continue reading

The Blooming Himalayas

Across the foothills of the Annapurna massif, the forest is changing colour. The greens are turning red and pink, stretching into bands of bright colour that cast a blush across the dense forest. From afar they look like autumnal tones – New England or Kyoto in fall – except that it’s spring in Nepal and these are flowers.

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Continue reading

Top 10 Cycle Tours: (#9) Luberon

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This post has been a while coming, but then it’s a long ride from the last entry in this list – New Zealand – to the foothills of the French Alps…

I came to the Luberon pretty much by accident. Partway through a five-month cycle trip across Europe, I was riding from France’s Mediterranean coast, angling towards Burgundy. But as I was crawling north, the mistral was blasting south. This great bastard of a wind is one of the most maddening in Europe – some suggest it was the nuisance of the mistral that caused Vincent van Gogh to lop off his own ear. Fittingly, as I reached the foot of the Luberon, after days of being lashed by the mistral, I was almost in spitting distance of the asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence where van Gogh was incarcerated. Continue reading

Top 10 Cycle Tours: (#10) Otago Rail Trail

Last year I posted my top 10 mountain treks across the world. Now there’s a sequel – my favourite 10 cycle journeys.

Over the past 15 years I’ve toured long distances on four continents, from the highest roads in the world to long stretches at sea level, from open highways to some of the roughest tracks in existence. It’s taken me across tens of thousands of kilometres of roads and tracks, which also means there are millions of roads still out there. It is inevitably, then, a limited and biased list. But hey, ain’t they all. Continue reading

The Caped Crusaders

South Cape2 You know a hike is going well when a nine-year-old boy turns to you in camp in the evening and announces, “I just realised, I haven’t complained once today.” Last weekend I took my two children for an overnight hike to South Cape Rivulet on Tasmania’s south coast. Near to the southernmost tip of Tasmania – and thus Australia – it’s part of the famed South Coast Track, though we were only walking the equivalent of the first or last day of that track. The longer version – a challenging 86-kilometre mud and beach slog – is something I’ve told them they might be ready for when they’re about 15 years of age. For now, we were just getting a taster. It was to be our first overnight hike together – the three of us – which is my way of saying, the first time I was prepared to carry two tents, and food for three, on my back. We drove to the southernmost road end in the country – Cockle Creek – and continued south on foot. Continue reading

The New Publishing Sensation…

My favourite young adventurer – aka my daughter – has made her first mark on the publishing world.

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Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service has just produced a walking guide for children on the Overland Track, titled ‘My Overland Track Journey! For Young Adventurers’. It’s filled with track facts (poo and paw type stuff), field-guide material, challenges, diary pages and quizzes. It’s designed for kids to carry on the track, filling it out as the days roll out through the Tasmanian mountains.

Part of the research for the booklet was done by my then-nine-year-old daughter when we hiked the Overland Track together last year. At the end of each walking day, she’d pull her notebook from her backpack – like father, like daughter – and jot down ideas and thoughts for the booklet. She’d sit quietly in the huts or in our tent – stopping only to count the number of leeches crawling over the tent fly – and scribble suggestions she thought might appeal to other young walkers.

Her favourite moment...

Her favourite moment…

She proudly now has her own copy of the booklet, her ideas solidified in print, and is part-horrified, part-chuffed that it’s filled with photos of her along the track. In her own way, she’s left her indelible mark on the outdoors experience along Tasmania’s most famous walking trail.

And in a neat twist, one of the first kids who’ll get to sample her work is her younger brother, when he and I hike the Overland Track together this coming summer. This booklet, and her work, may just have made my life easier for a week.