Tackling The Australian Alpine Wilderness Track with Jerry Bliss
This coming November, Mike Gates will support long-time client & friend Jerry Bliss, to tackle the toughest track in Australia, The Alpine Wilderness Track.
This 550 kilometre track is generally all up and downs following ridge peaks and plateaus. However, some parts of the track are barely visible and require precise navigation to ensure walkers stay safe through some of the highest and roughest country in Australia.
Mike (57) will be assisting Jerry (73) to overcome several major health conditions to complete the track. Upon completion, both will officially have another accomplishment ticked off their bucket lists. Jerry’s previous two attempts, one accompanied and one solo, both resulted in non-completes. With Mike by his side for the entirety of their November/December adventure on the Wilderness Track, he is confident that the third time will be the charm.
Playing a supportive role to Jerry’s third attempt on this track, Mike has trained and conditioned both Jerry & himself over the better half of this year preparing for this 6 week walking challenge.
See Jerry’s recap’s below:
Attempt 1: If you would like to read Jerry’s first attempt, please email us through our contact page.
Attempt 2: AAWT Report Nov.2017
Contrary to what people believe to be a simple hiking trip among friends, the Alpine Wilderness Track will be a test for Mike and Jerry both physically and mentally. To give you a comparison, upon completion of the track, these bushwalking enthusiasts will have walked in elevation the equal distance of summiting Mt Everest 3 times.
An adventure like this takes months of careful planning, and training. All worst case scenarios must be considered in the event of an emergency. Weather, safety and climbing equipment, illness, clothing and shelter are all things to take into consideration.
“Safety & Success is based on your preparation.” – Mike Gates.
The Initial Planning
Planning a hike such as The Alpine Wilderness Track, takes extensive research into the terrain and what they will be facing each day. This will allow Mike and Jerry to estimate how many kilometres they can realistically travel each day.
See Jerry’s and Mike’s full itinerary here: AAWT Detailed Schedule November 2018
Weight & Training
It is crucial to be in the best shape possible to ensure completion of this journey. The boys have been preparing themselves mentally and physically for the past six months. They have focused on reducing their body weight and enhancing their physical endurance with cross training, hike n’fit training on walking poles and weight sessions plus stretch & yoga sessions.
On Jerry’s previous attempt he was sitting at over 100kg. This time, their goal is to be under 90 kilograms. This is to ensure that the weight of their 25kg packs does not dramatically affect the distance they can travel each day and the fatigue they feel.
On Jerry’s previous attempts, he had a close friend meet him at parts of the track to deliver him food top ups when he was running low. This time will be all up to Mike and Jerry.
Again, careful planning has to go into food preparation. Calorie & protein intake per day, food dehydration, and how much space and weight can be allocated to food in the carry packs. Most importantly, you have to determine how many days of food you will carry until another food drop can be collected.
Around 2 weeks prior to the trip start, Mike & Jerry sent food drops to the Hotham & Thredbo Post Offices. These will be picked up along the track on days 7 and 23 of their hike.
Other food boxes will be hidden along the track. As Mike and Jerry have estimated the kilometres they will travel each day they have been able to determine where they will be on the track at the time of needing a food top up. This has allowed them to pack and hide simple storage containers from Bunnings, sealed with cable ties.
Obviously, there are some risks to this… Other campers may find and eat the food, wild animals could get in or they cannot find the food box among the thick scrub. In the
event that the food gets disrupted or lost, the guys will have no choice but to cut their trip short.
The boys will start their trip with a full pack and enough food to last them7 days out in the wilderness.
To keep fatigue to a minimum Jerry and Mike will consume a total of 590 grams of food per day with 90 plus grams of that being protein.
The scary thing about entering a track like this that if you forget something, it could literally be a life or death situation.
Some major items include:
- Fuel stove and fuel for cooking
- First aid kit
- Repair kit
- Cleaning equipment including body wash
- Good quality tent (with floor and poles)
• Hand trowel for burying toilet waste
- Compass and map (at least 1:50000 scale)
See full equipment list here: AAWT Equip.List Mar.2018
& Clothing list here: AAWT Clothes Mar.2018
The number one risk is dehydration. Mike and Jerry will start the trip with around 4 litres of water as supplies can be scarce along some sections of the track, especially in the hotter weather. They will be making sure to camp near available water and then ensure they carry enough with them for at least two days in between. Water tanks are provided for walkers in some areas so its crucial for Mike and Jerry to memorise their stop points along the way. Water will also need to be boiled or filtered at other locations along the track to remove any nasty bacteria that might be lurking within.
Weather conditions on the track are colder, wetter and very unpredictable compared to those at lower altitudes. As Mike and Jerry are setting off in the warmer months, they will also likely endure harsh winds and thunder storms. This unpredictable weather can be life threatening, especially when hiking along the ridge line. They will need to be well equipped for all conditions and they must familiarise themselves with the symptoms and treatment of dangerous hypothermia and hyperthermia as they deal with extreme hot and cold weather situations.
Prolonged exposure to the outdoors has possible detrimental effects on a persons health. The boys will need to be on a constant lookout for symptoms that something is wrong all while trying to protect themselves from the elements. They’re at most risk from bacteria in the water supply, infection, hypothermia and hyperthermia as they battle their way through the great outdoors.
Among the risks involved from hiking through the wilderness is the local wildlife. They will need to be careful not to disturb habitats and also be on the lookout for animals that pose a danger to themselves. These include brumbies, snakes, dingoes, leeches and ticks. They will need to carry the appropriate information and medical supplies to deal with any situation they may encounter.
Navigating through the wilderness
Navigating safe travels through the wilderness requires a knowledge of how to use a Global Positioning System (GPS) and correctly read a map.
Jerry’s previous attempts on the track have taught him that more time spent reading and navigating correct paths will save him ending up in the wrong area and having to backtrack through thick scrub to find the correct path. With Mike assisting him on his third attempt Jerry is confident that between the two of them they can determine correct pathways and travel effectively.
Staying in touch
A hike of this duration can cause some concern for family members. Mike and Jerry will be using a Garmin ‘inReach’ device to stay connected
This device provides global messaging and interactive by satellite. It can pair with a smartphone or tablet through bluetooth connection and will allow hikers to stay in touch with their families or in worst case scenarios, allow them to call for help. Also for a serious emergency they will carry a PLB (Personal Locating Beacon).
As their November hike approaches, Mike’s own preparation as well as overseeing Jerry’s preparation has come to an end and the epic hiking adventure is truly about to start. Stay tuned to the blog and to the Walkabout Active Facebook page for trip updates from Mike and Jerry. Follow them as they venture out on what is sure to be their toughest adventure yet.