Preparing a hike by grabbing a drink bottle and a muesli bar and walking out of the house has certain advantages over arduous preparations. It takes advantage of the current weather, for instance. It means accepting the available resources, rather than painstakingly weighing up (often literally) possible items of gear or nutrients. And it quite often means not spending money on transport, or – gloriously – the possibility of sleeping in.
Notwithstanding, my family, partner and I have been planning to hike Tasmania’s Overland Track for a week in midwinter. In rather stark contrast to the advantages of short impromptu hikes, it involves a 4am bus this coming Sunday morning, and hours of cooking and dehydrating foods over the last several weeks in preparation.
My mother, brother and I completed the trail (including all sidetrips) in February 2013. I’d always planned to walk it in winter, thus avoiding the crowds and the fee, and my mother’s photographic instinct was compelled by the prospect. (For her excellent and local award-winning photos, see her blog of travelling around New Zealand.)
As relatively experienced hikers, we all had most of the gear, and knew generally what we were doing. (Except for my younger brother, who has an abiding dislike of cold, and snow, and most outdoor pursuits, including hiking. His willingness to attend this trip was largely driven by nothing else to do in the university holidays. Still, in a family with parents who met in a bushwalking club, and a sister who leads hikes for a living, we’re all pleasantly surprised at the prospect of his company.)
A highlight in preparing for this trip has been the decision to upgrade from my loyal, decade old, 60lt Mountain Designs single compartment canvas pack… to a 65lt Mont single compartment canvas pack! The Flyte line is likely to disappear soon, since Mont has a brilliant Kiwi pack designer who is systematically improving their range, which meant that a new pack was within my student budget at the Mont Clearance Sale here in Canberra. Another bold move is experimenting with both Grower’s Cup outdoor coffee and a travel plunger, rather than relying on chocolate coated coffee beans or instant coffee.
Food has been prepared simultaneously and independently by my mother in Victoria and my partner here in Canberra. The latter had a lot of practice devising menus for our 23 day consecutive hike through south-west Tasmania two summers ago, and was effortlessly able to prepare dehydrated bolognese, chilli con carne, risotto and laksa, not to mention hommus and baba ghanosh.
What we’ve been less able to predict is the weather.
A month ago, I was lamenting the complete absence of snow from the ground and the radar. The snow season opened in Australia without natural snowfall. Even a week ago the peaks were bare.
We’ve had what news.com.au are calling a megablizzard, and local tweeters were trending #canbrrrr in response to a midday apparent temperature of -4. Even more dramatically, the forecast is for another snowstorm over the weekend.
While Tasmania may not have received the same dump as the mainland, the weather is still looking exciting, and fingers are crossed for snow on the peaks. But, knowing Tassie, we’re just as likely to have sleet and mud the whole trip, and it is impossible to know in advance.
That’s the challenge of planning winter hikes in advance!