Tag Archives: Australia

A cave with a view

Red wine, fire and cave

Out doing caveman stuff: friends, red wine, fire and cave (Click on the image for a larger version)

I spent the last weekend sleeping out in a cave. We went out hiking and decided to go ultralight. I ditched the tent and anything else that weighed me down. I packed a 35 litre rucksack with bare essentials. I even managed to leave my camera behind! It was a mistake. I took this panorama on my phone camera. After a bit of exploring we found this lovely cave with  perfect flat sandy base and a fantastic view. It provided excellent shelter from the howling wind that blew in that evening and we had a grand view over the plains below.

I took a freeze dried meal of Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner. It was a packet left over from a Himalayan expedition I did back in 2007 and had a use by date of 2009. I ate it anyway, and have survived so far. After some of the stuff I have eaten on my trips away my stomach can deal with pretty much anything.

Cave camp

We stared into the fire till late into the night

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Mountain Ash in the mist

Mountain Ash

Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) on a misty winter evening

I took this shot on a hike up Mt Juliet on a misty wet winter’s evening. The hike up to Mt Juliet is a great walk if you are looking for a good training hike; it gains 900 metres in altitude in four kilometres. It’s steep, muddy and hard. I wouldn’t do this track for pleasure unless you are a into self flagellation. I did this walk during my training for my upcoming expedition to the volcanos of Kamchatka.

 

Mountain Ash

The woods are lovely, dark and deep……..

Eucalyptus Regnans, also known as Giant Ash, Mountain Ash, Victorian ash, is the tallest flowering plant in the world and can grow up to 120m tall.

Taken with my Sony RX100.

 

 

 

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Expedition Fitness

Amar in the Himalayas

Fully loaded in the Himalayas

 “What our training really does is respect the mountain.” Jordan Smothermon, Mountain Athlete

Here is a 12 week program I have used to get fit for my expedition to climb volcanos in Kamchatka in the Russian Far East. I am going to be carrying heavy rucksack, approximately 30kgs, over long distances and up steep slopes so I need to be very fit. Here are the specs for the trek:

  • Length: 170km of trekking
  • Duration: 16 days
  • Pack weight 30kgs
  • Total altitude gain: 8000m approx
  • Total altitude loss: 8000m approx
  • Max altitude: 4750m

The aim of this fitness program is to increase:

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Cardiovascular performance

I have over 25 years of experience in the mountains and a good fitness foundation with about 20 years of training in the gym. My aim was to use compound exercises that would best replicate the physical movements I am going to experience on the expedition. I avoided doing any isolated exercise for single muscle groups. Each session was designed to be done in less than an hour. The program was designed to be short, intense and simple.

Bezymianny volcano Kamchatka

Climbing Bezymianny volcano with Zimina and Udina in the background. Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

4 weeks – Dan John’s 10000 Kettlebell Swings, x5 a week

I started out by doing Dan John’s 10000 kettlebell swing program. I used a 24kg kettlebell and did 500 kettlebell swings a day, five days a week for four weeks. This is a very simple but taxing program which produced amazing results. If you haven’t used kettlebells before then just do as many as you can and build up; 20, 50, 100 whatever you can do in a day. Recommended starting weight for women in 8kg and men is 16kg kettlebells.  At the end of this program I felt a very marked improvement in my overall strength, cardiovascular performance and dropped some body fat. I would highly recommend this program for anyone looking to get into shape, burst through a plateau or just looking for a challenge. Details about the program can be found on the T Nation website.

 

Trekking in Kamchatka

Crossing the Shmita Glacier below the north face of Kamen volcano. Kamchatka, Russia

4 Weeks – Strength Training

Day 1

  • Squats 5×5
  • Walking lunges holding dumbbells 3xmax
  • Dips 3×10
  • Pullups 3xmax
  • Rowing machine: 1000m and 2000m sprints

Day 2

  • Rest

Day 3

  • Deadlifts 5×5
  • Rowing machine: 1000m and 2000m sprints

Day 4

  • Rest

Day 5

  • Squats 5×5 x2 a week
  • Walking lunges holding dumbbells 3xmax
  • Dips 3×10
  • Pullups 3xmax
  • Rowing machine: 1000m and 2000m sprints

Day 6 and 7

  • 20km plus day hike or overnight hike or  500 step ups or box steps – Continuous for time. Add 10-15kg backpack to make it more challenging

I then moved on to this program for the next four weeks to focus on strength training and hit my lungs hard with some solid sessions on the rowing machine. I hate running so I use the rowing machine. Personally I find this the hardest and most brutal exercise in the gym. I am left wheezing and almost puking after a session on the rower. I used a combination of 1000m and 2000m sprints for time.

During these four weeks I got very strong with my Deadlifts and Squats doing the 5×5 sets. The only thing to note was that I started to get some significant muscle growth in my legs and started experiencing painful chafing in my inner thighs while on my training hikes on weekends. As a result for the next four weeks I dropped doing squats and kept doing the walking lunges.

Trekking in Kamchatka

Making our way down from Volcanologists Pass (3300m) between Kamen and Klyuchevskaya volcanos. Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

4 Weeks – Strength and Endurance Training

Day 1

  • Walking lunges  holding dumbbells 3xmax
  • Dips 3×10
  • Pullups 3xmax
  • Rowing machine: 1000m and 2000m sprints
  • 500 step ups or box steps – Continuous for time. Add 10-15kg backpack to make it more challenging

Day 2

  • Rest

Day 3

  • Deadlifts 5×5
  • Rowing machine: 1000m and 2000m sprints
  • 500 step ups or box steps – Continuous for time. Add 10-15kg backpack to make it more challenging

Day 4

  • Rest

Day 5

  • Walking lunges  holding dumbbells 3xMax
  • Dips 3×10
  • Pullups 3xMax
  • Rowing machine: 1000m and 2000m sprints
  • 500 step ups or box steps – Continuous for time. Add 10-15kg backpack to make it more challenging

Day 6

  • 500 step ups or box steps – Continuous for time. Add 10-15kg backpack to make it more challenging

In the next four weeks I continued focusing on strength with my Deadlifts but then changed to endurance with the rest of my exercises. I discovered a great session on the Mountain Athlete website, a fantastic resource for anyone looking for advice on training specifically for mountain sports. It was a session where an endurance athlete was put through the paces doing 500 step ups or box steps, continuously for time. They added 10-15kg in a backpack to make it more challenging. I often did this wearing my trekking boots to break them in and to get my feet used to the weight and the feel of the boots. This was a great help in making adjustment to the inner soles and socks to make sure my footwear was comfortable. The 500 steps program is a fantastic way to replicate what I am going to be faced with on this demanding expedition I am about to embark on.

Multi day and weekend hikes

Nothing can replace actually going trekking to get fit for trekking in the mountains. During these three months I continued to go on 20km plus day hikes nearly every weekend and did one 50km two day hike. Ideally I would have done a couple more multiday hikes but that’s all I found time and company for.

Is this program effective? Well, I’ll soon find out. I leave for Kamchatka in two days. I will write a follow up report when I get back. Till then I hope this information helps anyone else looking to get fit for a trek or an expedition.

Absorb what is useful. Reject what is useless. Add what is essentially your own. – Bruce Lee

Trekking in Kamchatka

Loaded with 16 days worth of food, fuel and gear, my pack weighed in excess of 30kgs. Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

Update

I have recently returned home from the expedition and have to say this program worked brilliantly. I felt rock solid during the expedition. We did a lot of trekking with very heavy loads on some challenging terrain and I felt fine. On the first day, I climbed Avachinsky volcano 2741m, starting from an altitude of 600m. I climbed (unloaded) over 2000m of vertical height in just over three hours. Both my legs and lungs felt very good. Despite a total lack of acclimatisation, I only began feeling the effects of climbing at altitude at around 2200m. Once on the summit, I felt very strong and knew the training had paid off. I was confident that I was going to be fine for the rest of the trip.

On the main expedition we carried 30kg packs and did some long and hard days on the trail. On one particular day we ascended 2000m in height and put in 11 hours of trekking. Yes, I was tired at the end of the day but the next day I woke up ready to shoulder my pack and get back on the trail. The training had hardened me up and I was well prepared for what the terrain had in store for me.

At then end of the trip, I came away with out any aches and pains (apart from a hangover after a serious vodka session), no sprains or pulled muscles and not a single blister on my feet. Many on the trip weren’t so lucky. A couple of the guys were on a steady diet of painkillers from injuries to their knees.

I will definitely be using this program to prepare for future expeditions. I might change or add a few of the supplementary exercises but the core will remain the same. I hope this helps you prepare for your next challenge.

And oh, I nearly forgot, don’t forget to pack that all important teaspoon of concrete when you really need to dig deep!

 

 

 

 

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Sea kayaking to Snake Island

We set out in our sea kayaks from Port Albert, east of Wilson’s Promontory National Park, and kayaked 22km to Snake Island. We set up camp on the beach, cracked a couple of beers and soon had a roaring driftwood fire. We had a great view of the final sunset of the southern summer. Daylight savings ended the next day and we begin the slow inexorable slide into the winter. We celebrated the end of the warm season with this fine adventure, circumnavigating Sunday Island and ending up back at Port Albert after a 33 km round trip.

Loading up the kayaks

Loading up the kayaks and making final adjustments in the car park at Port Albert

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

We had to navigate carefully using the tides and keeping to the channels to avoid getting beached on the sandbanks

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

The local crabs were fascinated by Chris

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

We landed at Snake Island after an easy 22km paddle

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

Kayaking is just an elaborate ruse to find a new place to drink beer

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

We settled down on the beach by a roaring driftwood fire to take in the sights

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

A great campsite amoung the dunes

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

Next morning the tide was out so we had a long drag down to the water

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

The crew returning for the second kayak

 

Sea kayaking to Snake Island

We had a great weekend adventure away from it all

 Map of our route

Posted in Australia, Photography, travel Also tagged , |

Last sunset of the southern summer

Sunset from Snake Island

Sunset from Snake Island, Australia

We set out in our sea kayaks from Port Albert, east of Wilson’s Promontory National Park, and kayaked 22km to Snake Island. We set up camp on the beach, cracked a couple of beers and soon had a roaring driftwood fire. We had a great view of the final sunset of the southern summer. Daylight savings ended the next day and we begin the slow inexorable slide into the winter. We celebrated the end of the warm season with this fine adventure circumnavigating Sunday Island and ending up back at Port Albert after a 33 km round trip.

 Map of our route

 

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Stars over the Grampians

The Milky Way from the Grampians

The Milky Way from the summit of Mt Stapylton, Grampians

Scott and I bivouacked on the summit of Mt Stapylton to photograph the stars. We scrambled up the Hollow Mountain – Mt Stapylton route late in the evening. Luckily I had done part of the route before so when it got dark I was able to navigate with ease. It was a warm and balmy night but the moon was up; so conditions weren’t fantastic for star photography. The moon was going to set at 2.45am. We had a few beers and took in the silence and view. At around midnight we went to sleep and set an alarm for 3am.

We woke at 3am to a pitch black night with an amazing view of the heavens. We could see the lights of Horsham and Ararat in the distance. The headlights of vehicles made their lonely way down the thread of the Western Highway. I set up my camera on a tripod to take an hour-long time lapse and got back into my sleeping bag. I will process that and post it soon.

 

 

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My blog got published on PetaPixel

PetaPixel

To Hell with blown highlights

I published a post yesterday and posted it on Reddit, the people from PetaPixel picked it up and wanted to publish it on their website and here it is.

It also got published at Imaging Resource and this blog

 

 

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Going aloft

Kabir going aloft on The Blizzard

Kabir going aloft on The Blizzard

Kabir going aloft aboard The Blizzard the  during our sailing adventure from Sydney to Melbourne with Jono from Alinthia Adventures. It was my first blue water sailing experience and had a fantastic time. I took lots of seasickness pills as I really didn’t want to spend the trip throwing up over the side.

Taking photographs aboard a yacht is an extremely difficult assignments as you have so much working against you. For starters the yacht is being thrown around in the waves and composing a shot under those conditions is very hard. My hands were covered in greasy sunscreen, one fingerprint on the lens and that would be it. The boom swings around and if you are not careful you can end up getting hurt so you have to be very aware of what’s going on around you. The moisture and spray from the waves, the salt water, not dropping your gear overboard, not throwing up from seasickness, etc etc etc You get the idea. Not the best environment to be shooting in.

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I am glad I had my weather sealed Nikon D700 with me on this trip and I managed to get some great shots. Here is the full gallery of images from that trip.

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