During the first week of the April school holidays, a group 15 Year 10-12 Duke of Edinburgh students and 3 staff undertook a journey through the High plains of Victoria. The group was blessed with the most magnificent weather and spectacular scenery. The hike included crossing the Razorback to Mt Feathertop and the Mt Hotham to Falls Creek Alpine Crossing. As part of the Duke of Edinburgh program, all students are required to write a reflection about their experiences on their Adventurous journeys. Karly Rosenbrock from Year 12 writes the following:
Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing – Reflection by Karly Rosenbrock
Looking back at the DOE hike through the high plains, I am so proud of myself. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and contributed to my newfound love for hiking. Through this hike, I have really consolidated my love for the outdoors, and discovered hiking to be one of the best ways to experience the beauty of nature first hand.
The 13 students who participated in the hike were Phoebe Bridgford, Niamh Lewin, Joel Williams, Mitchell Wooller, Jimmy Cox, Stefan Bennett, Belinda Rees, Ada Chen, Abi Baker (The Knox School), Piper Blake (Yarra Valley Grammar), Gemma Bettess, Emily Evans and myself. We began with 2 other Year 10 students who, unfortunately, were unable to complete the hike due to injury.
The accompanying teachers for the entire hike were Ms Bortolussi and Ms Ord, as well as Jannick Koop who is a university student studying Outdoor Education. Ms Constable drove us to the first campsite, stayed the first night with us, then, when we set off for our hike, drove the bus to Falls Creek where we would finish on the Friday.
Day 1: Monday, 3 April 2017
We met down at the farm on Monday morning at 7.30am. We did final checks for group gear, introduced everyone and loaded our packs into the trailer.
From the beginning of the bus ride, I knew I was going to have a good time. Everyone was in such a good mood, and got along really well. Students that I would not usually speak to introduced themselves and we had a good laugh on the way. We drove stopping only for toilet breaks and a slightly longer lunch break. As a group, we navigated for Ms Constable, giving her directions for when she would need to turn etc.
We arrived at Harrietville Caravan Park around 2.30pm. We set up the tents, and then gathered together for group discussion. We discussed different safety hazards, weather conditions and what would be required of us in the coming days. After some time relaxing, we began preparation for a group barbeque. Everyone collaborated to cook the meat and prepare the vegetables. This was a good initial group activity as it made us work together, encouraging conversation and collaboration between people who might not usually socialise. Although we didn’t hike on the first day, we were still quite tired. We had some funny conversations at the campfire, mainly led by Phoebe, who has the best sense of humour! Then we all headed to bed, in preparation for the big day we knew would be coming for us the following morning.
Day 2: Tuesday, 4 April 2017
We had an early rise to a very cold morning. It was quite relaxed this morning and we were not too rushed. We packed up our tent and packs. It was slightly annoying that the tent was wet even though there was no rain due to condensation. However, Ms Bortolussi had very intelligently bought plastic bags which we could put the outer cover in, so that our inner tent did not get wet when we packed it up. The 3-man tent was not very difficult to set up or take down, which made each morning and night much easier for our group. We worked together efficiently to deal with the tent, meaning that we had more time each night and morning to relax.
Ms Constable drove us to the starting point of our hike near the summit of Mt Hotham, and off we went across the Razorback to Mt Hotham. Within the first 400m I face planted! I think this was just because I was not used to the weight of my pack and had not packed it in the most effective way. I did cut my knee, but Ms Ord helped to bandage it up, and stop the bleeding. It was only a small cut, and didn’t affect me for the rest of the hike. The fall was just a bit of a shock!
Not long after, one of the group members seriously rolled her ankle. She decided that she could not complete the hike, so we took a very long break for her to walk back to the bus and be taken home. Although this was frustrating for the rest of the group, we were grateful that the injury occurred close to the beginning of the hike, as it made transportation back to the bus fairly easy. The long break also gave me a chance to re-pack my pack. With the help of Abi, Ms B and Jannick, my pack was adjusted and it felt much better for the rest of the hike!
The loss of time from the long break, motivated the group to move quickly through the rest of the hike. We moved quite efficiently, tackling hills and steep downhills by encouraging each other and concentrating closely on our footing. The first day hike was challenging for me, as I was still getting used to hiking. Additionally, I was carrying all my food for the week and 2L of water, which made my pack very heavy!! However, I pushed through and tried my best to encourage others when they were struggling. Sometimes it was frustrating when people would fall behind and we had to wait for them, when all I wanted to do was get to the campsite. However, over the course of the camp I learned to build tolerance, and change my negative energy to positive energy of encouragement and motivation for others who may have been struggling with the physical aspects of the hike. It was often easy to forget that perhaps I had a fitness level different to others. I had to remember to continuously remind myself of this, to ensure that I did not expect too much of others, and stayed humble.
We arrived at Federation Hut at approximately 3.30pm, setting our tents up quickly. We needed to walk for 45 minutes to collect water, as the tank at the hut was empty. There were other campers that had set up in the hut with all of their supplies. Jannick alerted us to the fact that this was not actually allowed as the hut was to be used in emergencies only. So we walked in there confidently to use the fire, and watched as they slowly moved out the cabin. This was quite funny, as we made clear conversations between us about the purpose of the hut, emphasising loudly so they would hear that you were not actually allowed to camp in there unless it was an emergency.
Day 3: Wednesday, 5 April 2017
On the Wednesday, some of the group got up extra early so we could hike Mt Feathertop to see the sunrise. I am so glad I did this as it was one of the most beautiful views of my entire life, and I loved the freedom of hiking up the mountain without a pack! Although it was absolutely freezing and a steep hike up, I would, 100% do it again if I got the opportunity to, and would strongly recommend it to anyone else. Following this morning expedition, we came back to camp for breakfast.
We were all quite nervous, as this day was built up to be the most difficult day of hiking. However, over the course of the day, with regular breaks, I managed to make it through alive! The most challenging part of that day was the very steep downhill, as it was very taxing on the knees and ankles. This was also the day, where the other Year 10 student hurt his ankle and decided he could not go on. This caused a delay in our trip, but luckily, the situation was made a lot easier when some electricity workers came by in their car, and were able to drive him back to Mt Beauty where he could be picked up.
Due to this delay, we had to pump out the last kilometers very quickly in order to reach Dibbins Hut campsite in time. This was very hard for us as the track was very steep. We were all dripping in sweat and struggling to finish, however, with lots of encouragement, we all managed to make it. I made another satisfying and warming dinner, and after a group meeting around the campfire, we all went to bed, absolutely exhausted.
Day 4: Thursday, 6 April 2017
We all woke up at around 7am this morning, so had a bit of a sleep in! We woke up to Easter eggs that the teachers had put around the campsite. We were all very appreciative, especially considering that they had been carrying an extra 2kg of chocolate around with them since the beginning of the hike. Today was also Niamh’s birthday so it was obviously going to be a good day.
The biggest challenge for me was dealing with the cold. This morning was the coldest I had ever been in my entire life, and no matter how many layers I put on, I felt chilled to the bone. However I forced myself to deal with it, and kept on moving to try and distract myself. This morning, one of the group members fainted. This was very shocking to all of us but being the tough cookie she is, she just got up and got ready to go again!
We set off for that day’s hike across the high plains towards Falls Creek and Cope Hut. Although the beginning was quite steep and we had to take many breaks, I loved the challenge! Through this hike I noticed how much I really do love the difficult parts of the hike, as I love to feel the burn in my legs, and push through the pain!! Once we reached the top of the mountain, it was all very flat. The views were amazing and the surrounding plains stretched as far as the eye could see. This was very different to the mountains we had been hiking through the previous day, so it was nice to change it up! We also saw a herd of wild brumbies in the distance.
At lunchtime, we all sang happy birthday to Niamh, and surprised her with a cake. It was great to see her so happy, and I think this was a bonding moment for the entire group, as we came together in celebration.
The campsite for Thursday night, Cope Hut, was my favourite of all the campsites. It had incredible views and allowed us to hike up a mountain to watch the sunset. That night was my favourite night of all. We gathered by the fire in the hut, and Ms Bortolussi surprised us with sparklers. That night was filled with so many laughs, and I really felt like I got to know everyone in the group much better.
Day 5: Friday, 7 April 2017
The final day of hiking! We all got up at 5am to leave at 6am, as we knew we had 16km to cover, before getting back to the bus (parked at the dam wall at Falls Creek) and driving to lunch in Myrtleford at Lupos Kiln Café. We had a small snack in the morning before heading off, so that we could have breakfast a bit further on into the walk. The walk was long, but easy, and no one really struggled with it. I had some great chats with people I would not usually talk to, and we all enjoyed reflecting on what an incredible week it had been.
By the time we reached the bus at 11am, we were all exhausted but so proud to have finally completed the hike. After changing into some fresh clothes and comfy shoes, I felt refreshed and my feet were finally free of hiking boots! We were all thankful for the long bus ride to lunch, as it gave us a chance to rest our legs. I was proud to have selected the lunch location, as it was a huge success and everyone loved the food.
After lunch, it was a 4-hour ride until we finally got back to Tintern. The bus ride was a mixture of fun and sleep, which is usually the case on the way back from camps. We got back to school at around 7pm, and all collaborated to pack away the group gear, clean tranjias and hang up the tents. I was very excited to get back home that night to my shower and my bed, however will never forget the incredible week I had!
The camp was one of the best experiences of my life, and I would highly recommend it to others in the future. I got to know new people and built up my own self-confidence and belief in my ability. I also developed my tolerance and learned to accept others weaknesses, transforming negative energy to positive energy of encouragement.
I can now confidently say that I would be able to organise and go on my own hike independently of the teachers. Through my practice and qualifying journeys, I have very much improved my abilities to deal with challenges that may come up. I have also learned many tips and tricks, which are very useful when hiking.
by Karly Rosenbrock, Year 12