Pain and pleasure: The two drivers of humanity and dual masters of us all.
A traverse across the Western Arthurs brings these two elements together in perfect symmetry:
The pain of scratched limbs and burning legs; the pain of agonisingly slow sections of the trail; the extreme weather that ranges from laser beamed 35 degree sunlight straight into your eyes without a puff of breeze to a bitter, witch-titty cold with driving winds that cut through your thermals like a Ginsu knife.
Then the pleasure. Oh the pleasure. Divine landscapes both day and night: Gazing out to the ocean across stacked ranges clothed in creeping shadows as the sun lazily sets; Scores of lakes ranging from inky blue/black to turquoise to tannin twisted gold.
Majestic crags and boiled, twisted rocks, bent and cracked, pierce the ridge like giant’s needles, 50 shades of grey off set against the harsh greens of the weary trees and brush.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. Without a doubt, one of the most spectacular hikes I have ever done. Did I hate parts of it? Yes I will admit that I did! Stumbling over tangled slippery roots and branches, climbing near vertical walls of muddy earth and ass sliding down moist quartzite chutes for hours at a time only moving a handful of metres per hour. Scratched up, knees howling, backpack vicegripping my shoulders, yes at times it was not pleasant.
But then you get to a high point and get 360 degrees of pure mother earth or at the end of the day you setup camp by a magnificent lake, boil up some tea and sit under a trillion stars. The sky is so clear the Milky Way is a huge column of star dust and awe inspiring. It is worth sleeping under this amazing canopy for a couple of hours until your extremities start to lose feeling.
And waking up to a rolling mist, curling its way over the lake and hugging the rugged peaks and then watching it clear in front of your eyes to reveal a brilliant azure sky shifting the lake from silver grey to aqua blue.
Yes it is spectacular, yes it is arduous, and yes you need to do it.
- Plan to have some time at High Moor for sunset. If you have enough daylight go down to the campsite and setup. Then put your woolens on and head back up to the high moor and bring your camera. The sunsets lasts for about an hour in summer and it is light until after 9pm. Take your stove and whip up some soup or tea and soak it in.
- Pack and wrap securely ALL of your food and scraps before retiring to bed and carefully stash wrapped food. Why? There are rats at the campsites and they are not shy. I had a hungry pair that raided my tent, ate a mini snickers and then chewed the zipper off my backpack pouch that contained trail mix. They had come in through a small gap in the zipper of the tent. However once I got them out because they knew the prize they chewed a hole in my brand new tent! Not happy. So beware!
- I know it sounds obvious but pack as light as you can. Especially with food – you can get by on less than you think. Even a couple of hundred grams saved here and there is major when you are scrambling with a heavy pack.
- Avoid “The Outdoor Gourmet Company” Green Curry and Rice. It is basically inedible. After a twelve hour day and getting to camp absolutely starving we couldn’t eat it.
- Do buy “Back country cuisine” roast chicken and mashed potato. This was possibly the finest meal I have ever eaten. The hunger, exhaustion and cold was like a natural hit of MSG and it was amazing. The gravy is the bomb!
- Give yourself plenty of time. Suggested trail times are on the money if not a little optimistic. Days are long so give yourself plenty of daylight to ensure you have enough breaks through the day to smell the roses.
- Always have one water proof stuff sacks with a spare sets of dry clothes so you always have one toasty outfit to sleep in otherwise its miserable!
- Manage your water especially after high Moor. Take big swigs at camp before you set off and carry as much as you can as there is a long time between drinks on the next stretch.
- Don’t take too many pics – rather enjoy and soak it in with your own eyes rather than behind a view finder. Take memories of what you saw rather than memories of taking photos.
These awesome guys who did it in Winter!