Post Successful Mount Kosciuszko Summit

Summit Photo with CTSS Lead Guide & Founder Mike Hamill

Four summits in one year and one month, pretty damn lucky I know. Mount Elbrus Russia, Europe’s highest peak in June 2019, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania, Africa’s highest peak in July 2019, Aconcagua Argentina, South America’s highest peak in February 2020 and now Mount Kosciuszko Australia, Australia’s highest peak in July 2020. Getting to the top of Mount Kosciuszko is a little sad really, it marks the halfway mark of my seven summit journey and an end to the “beginner” peaks. The remainder of the seven summits are far more technical, dangerous and committing. Denali with it’s renowned brutal Alaskan weather conditions and heavy loads, Vinson Massif with it’s freezing arctic temperatures and extreme isolation, Carstensz Pyramid which requires some real technical rock-climbing skill and Mount Everest with it’s extreme altitude and epic two month acclimatisation process.

The journey to the top of Australia’s highest point was a little different due to a “little thing” called COVID-19. I booked the winter ascent of Mount Kosciuszko with an additional Australian Alpine Academy trip with Climbing the Seven Summits (CTSS) back in April 2020, with the naive hope that COVID-19 would have settled down in Australia by then (Mid July 2020). By mid June cases had indeed settled and the trip was a go however by the end of June COVID-19 cases started to increase once again. In particular cases started to increase in my home state of Victoria (VIC), and before we knew it we had a second outbreak on our hands two weeks before the trip. Talk about the border closing between Victoria and Mount Kosciuszko’s home state New South Wales (NSW) started to murmur in the background, and I prepared myself. As the situation in Victoria worsened I told myself that if needed I’d leave for NSW early before the border did close, I was going to get myself to these trips. These trips were particularly important to me because they focused on technical mountaineering skill, an area I really lacked in and Mike Hamill a hero of mine was running them. As predicted an announcement was made that the VIC/NSW border was indeed closing. A huge surge of anxiety swept over me when I heard this announcement because I knew what I had to do. I was going to have to drop and outsource my work, pack my gear, get in the car and drive across the border before it closed which meant I’d be leaving…… That night! And that’s when this epic journey began.

I left Monday the 6th of July 2020 at approx 5pm with the goal of getting across the NSW/VIC border before the end of the night. It was closing the following night and it was said they were starting the process of closing that night so I wanted to get across as soon as possible. The drive from where I live (Mount Martha) to the closest NSW town (Albury) was a 4-5 hour drive so it was going to be a late night. I made some last minute calls for work, apologising for leaving unexpectedly and finally said goodbye to my family, something that never gets easier. Before I knew it I was in my mums car, nervous as hell, blasting a mix of rap music from Logic to Eminem to NF to Pop Smoke. Why was I in my mums car? Because we were concerned my car wouldn’t be able to make the journey since its a dinosaur from 1996 that’s slowly breaking down. Hours went past as I struggled to manage the manual Toyota Corolla, I’d become accustomed to automatic cars and manual cars felt foreign so driving 400km in my mums manual Toyota Corolla was a challenge within itself. However by approx. 9:30pm I’d arrived in Albury, NSW, I made it, I crossed the border and was surprised to find no sign of police setting up a border closure.

Leg 1: Mount Martha, VIC – Albury, NSW – 06/07/20

Even though I wasn’t doing anything illegal at the time because the border closed the following day I did feel guilty for crossing. I was certain there was no chance of me having obtained COVID-19 because I wasn’t from a hotspot and am an introvert so don’t socialise much with others. But the whole purpose of closing the VIC/NSW border was to keep us Victorians out and stop the spread of COVID-19 amongst Australia, and here I was selfishly making my way across the border from Victoria. I justified it to myself because I wasn’t from a hotspot and largely kept to myself so in my mind the chances of me actually having it were tiny, but I suppose that’s what everyone thinks before they discover they have it and spread it to numerous people causing a new outbreak. I kept to myself as much as possible just in case, and with the suggestion of CTSS’s General Manager; Caroline I got tested a couple days later in Katoomba (more on that later). Anyway I was across the border, got a hotel at Albury, NSW and started planning what I was going to do for the next couple weeks. The first course with CTSS was to take place on the 17th of July 2020 – 20th of July 2020, the second course and the winter ascent of Mount Kosciuszko was taking place on the 23rd of July 2020 – 26th of July 2020. So I had 11 days to fill in. I made the decision I wanted to get away from the border as far as possible, just to be sure. This meant I had to head north, once I decided I was heading north I knew where I wanted to go, The Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains is every trail runners dream, awe-aspiring trails with spectacular scenery and breath-taking views. In addition theres plenty of elevation gain to be had with a lot of mountains to climb. However I didn’t want to drive straight there, I had 11 days to kill so why not explore NSW as whole? So with that in mind I broke down the 550km drive from Albury to Katoomba (One of the towns in the Blue Mountains). From Albury I’d drive to Wagga Wagga (128km from Albury) where I’d find a trail to run on and stay the night, from Wagga Wagga I’d drive to Goulburn (264km away from Wagga Wagga) and do the same. Then the following day I’d make the drive from Goulburn to Katoomba (237km away from Goulburn). That was the plan.

On July the 7th I left Albury and started making my way to Wagga Wagga, to be honest I was still anxious about being a Victorian in NSW. Even though I wasn’t dong anything illegal I still felt guilty for crossing the border. I felt like I was an illegal immigrant in foreign land. Was I being part of the problem and not the solution? Nonetheless my determined, tunnel visioned selfishness kept me moving forward. The drive to Wagga Wagga was a peaceful one, driving along the country roads with hardly any other cars, passing through rustic rural towns whilst blasting Eminem’s recently released Music to Be Murdered By album. After a couple hours and a quick stop at a petrol station where to my amazement someone filled up the tank for me I was at Wagga Wagga. I booked a hotel through on my iPhone, check in time was 2pm it was around 10am so I had 4 hours to kill. My two priorities before checking in? Getting in a decent trail run and buying food. Getting the run in came first so I flicked out my phone and started googling some local Wagga Wagga trails to run on. As a keen ultra and trail runner I saw these extra days in NSW as an opportunity to discover some new trails. The goal was to get in a solid trail run in every town I stopped at. Wiradjuri Reserve seemed to the place to be for Wagga Wagga, easy to access, well marked trails and only a couple km’s from the towns centre. Keep in mind Wagga Wagga is a rural town so although it’s only a couples km’s away from the town centre Wiradjuri Reserve was still pretty “all natural” and largely untouched, minus the path itself. It was a beautiful day, sun out, blue skies and not too cold for winter. The trail was well established and offered great scenery of green grasses and gumtrees as I ran alongside Murrumbidgee River. Following the river the trail eventually took me to Marrambidya Wetlands. Here there was a nice 3-4km circuit which had me running circles around the wetlands. After completing 3 loops I turned around and started heading back. Once back at the car I logged the 15km run and started making plans to go buy some food before checking in to the hotel.

After messing around at the shops buying some roast chicken, wholegrain rolls and salad for lunch I settled down and got to the hotel. Once at the hotel I made some work related emails, called the parents to let them know my plans, got in a solid push-up, chin-up and ab workout, figured out my plans for the next day and last but not least let myself relax a little. For some reason I wanted to watch Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone so I did that, made dinner and went to bed.

Leg 2: Albury, NSW – Wagga Wagga, NSW – 07/07/20

July the 8th 2020, I woke up in Wagga Wagga anxious to get going, todays goals? Drive to Goulburn, find another decent trail to run on, get in my daily push-up and ab workout and check in to a hotel. Pretty straight forward. After packing up the hotel and triple checking I got everything I was out by 7am and starting the 3 hour drive to Goulburn. Still listening to Pop Smokes Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon album and Eminems Music to be Murdered By album the drive to Goulburn went by quickly, and before I knew it I was once again looking for a trail to run on. There wasn’t much trails in and around Goulburn, and I was still finding my feet so I didn’t want to travel to far out of town to find a trail. So for this reason I settled on a more “urban trail”. Coincidently the urban trail was also the towns parkrun (a park run is a local 5km course/event which welcomes all locals every Saturday morning) which was good because it gave me a good idea of the distance. Just like the run in Wagga Wagga the run in Goulburn had me running alongside a river, except this river was called the Wollondilly River. Although it was an urban trail and I was running on pavement I still enjoyed the scenery. The Goulburn Malwaree Council has done a great job of creating a path that merges well with the environment. Eventually the path ended and led to a train line and by that stage I’d only run 5km or so, so I kept going and decided to run along the train-line. This eventually led me to another trail however this one wasn’t pavement, gravel was used instead. Although it only lasted a couple km’s this trail was much closer to an actual trail run rather than an urban trail run, the path was surrounded by tall trees, there wasn’t much facilities and I couldn’t see any roads. This did eventually end though as I was greeted by a carpark and a road at the end of the trail. At that stage I’d ran around 7-8km so turned around and went back. I ran back the way I came, along the train-line and along the Wollondilly River and after 15km I was back at the car, run done.

After the run it was time to get to the hotel and do the daily food shop; microwave meals, mixed nuts, fruit, small tubs of Chobani yoghurt and cartons of milk. I couldn’t buy anything cold in bulk as I had no where to store cold food for prolonged amounts of time, this made everything a little more expensive. To that point the cost of hotels, essentials, fuel, etc made me anxious at times. I’d just worked my a** off to recover my savings after being in debt after the Aconcagua trip back in February (I know privileged problems). I’d been working 10+ hour days consistently to increase my bank balance, so seeing the bank account slowly diminish hurt a little, I wouldn’t of changed a thing though, completely worth it. Anyway once checked in at the hotel and after I went food shopping I got in my daily bodyweight training session, went for a relaxed walk around the town of Goulburn which had a real old-school, historic, rural vibe and watched Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

Leg 3: Wagga Wagga, NSW – Goulburn, NSW – 08/07/20
The Big Merino “Rambo”, Goulburn, NSW

July the 9th 2020, another early morning start with another long drive. I really couldn’t be bothered driving any longer than an hour as I was getting pretty tired, but the plan was to get to the Blue Mountains so I sucked up my first world problems, packed up, checked out and hit the road. Before I left the town though I had to stop by at The Big Merino, a massive statue of a ram nicknamed “Rambo”. It was kind of a big deal so I heard? Another thing about the today was it was the day I stopped being completely selfish and went and got tested for COVID-19. As I mentioned above I had no symptoms but I was from Victoria so wanted to be safe. So with the recommendation of CTTS’s General Manager Caroline I decided the least I could do was go get tested and continue to isolate myself the best I could. So with that being said the plan was to drive to Katoomba, Blue Mountains, go for a run, get tested, go shopping and lastly check-in and plan what I wanted to do in the Blue Mountains. Before continuing I want to mention that in hindsight the fact that I didn’t completely self isolate after getting tested was more than just selfish and was completely unacceptable. I’m not justifying my actions but I was stupidly still very ignorant and blasé about COVID-19, I suppose it was because it hadn’t affected me personally which again is not a good excuse. The drive to Katoomba took me about 3 hours, most of the drive was along Sydney’s major motorways and Freeways but once off and within the Blue Mountains I really enjoyed the drive. Theres something special about just being in and around the mountains, I got to Katoomba at around 11am. Honestly I was pretty naive about the Blue Mountains, the trails around the area and the landmarks so like most people my age I used my best friend, Google to find good trails to run on, and what landmarks are considered “the must see’s”. I quickly discovered The Three Sisters, Echo Point & Scenic World seemed to be “the places to be”, I also discovered the infamous Ultra-Trail Australia (UTA100) was run along the trails in and around these landmarks. So with that in mind I thought it’d be a good idea to drive to one of these landmarks and find whatever trail I could. After some more research it sounded like Echo Point was a good place to start, so that’s where I went, time for a good run around Echo Point.

Lookout along The Prince Henry Cliff
Walking Track
(Around my turnaround point)

When I arrived at Echo Point I was surprised to see how busy it was, I didn’t realise how much of tourist attraction it was. In hindsight it made sense, I mean after all the view from Echo Point does offer arguably the best view of The Three Sisters and the valley of The Blue Mountains. I had very little knowledge of the trails other than that some where closed, and if I went west I’d be making my way to Scenic World which I didn’t want to do just yet. So with that in mind heading east along a trail called the Prince Henry Cliff Walk Track seemed to be the only option. I knew at some stage I’d be forced to turn around due to trail closures so the plan was to run east along the Prince Henry Cliff Walking Walk Track until I was forced to turn around. I’d hoped I could get at least a 10km run in. So starting at Echo Point I began the run, at first I was concerned I’d be stuck amongst all the tourists walking along the track and this was the case for the first kilometre, however the further I got from Echo Point the more desolate the trail became which was fantastic. Something I can say is the views the whole time where spectacular, to the point where it was detrimental to the run. I kept wanting to stop and take photos or film the run, by the end I felt I did a good job of being a runner and a tourist by getting in a decent run but also getting in some good photos.

Quick Selfie at one of
waterfalls on the Prince
Henry Cliff Walking Track

It was just awe-inspiring from the valley to the cliffs, the trail itself hardly had any flat ground it was either up or down. At one moment you’d be up high taking in the views of the valley and only 30 seconds later you’d be running downwards amongst waterfalls in what felt like a rainforest environment, it was pretty remarkable. After about 4km of running up and down along the cliffs I was stopped by a trail closure. Coincidently it was also at one of the lookouts looking down on the valley, perfect for a photo. Luckily there was a couple who I asked to take a photo of me with the valley in the background. After they agreed and took the photo I thanked them and turned around. To get to my 10km goal I ran up and down some of the offspring trails on the way back which offered different exit/entry points to the main trail. After just over an hour and 400m of accumulative ascent I was back at Echo Point. Run done and time to go get my COVID-19 test, however before heading to one of Katoomba’s hospitals to get tested I took some quick photos of the Three Sisters and went through a quick cool down. Once I completed the cool down I went straight to the hospital to get myself tested. It was a quick process and I never had to leave the car. A few swabs up the nose and down the throat and it was done. From there I went straight to my hotel to check-in. I did the best I could whilst travelling to isolate, only interacting with the hotel staff and going out to go shopping or to run (in hindsight it was irresponsible of me to ask for that photo). I had no symptoms but again I was from VIC so the risk of me having it was higher than those in NSW. Once at the hotel I went shopping, ate dinner, watched Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban and went to bed. Oh yeah I should mention I decided the following day I’d tackle the so-called “hardest marathon in Australia” The Six Foot Track.

Leg 4: Goulburn, NSW – Katoomba, NSW – 09/07/20

I woke up at 4:30am to the buzzing of my watch alarm, time to go get it. Today I was going to run the infamous Six Foot Track, apparently it was supposed to be one of the hardest marathons in Australia. Starting at The Explorers Tree in Katoomba the trail takes you through the Blue Mountain National Park all the way to the Jenolan Caves. Before leaving I realised I hadn’t figured out how I was going to get back to Katoomba after the run. So whilst eating breakfast I looked up my options, turns out there wasn’t any. The usual shuttle bus that takes visitors to and from the Jenolan Caves wasn’t operating due to the caves being closed due to a combination of fires, floods and landslides. I couldn’t pre-book any Ubers or Taxi’s either. S**t how was I going to get back? Was I going to have to run an out and back (90km) instead of the one-way (45km). If this trail is as hard as everyone makes it out to be that was kind of scary but I was dead set on doing this run, I was too stubborn to change my mind. The cafe and restaurant at the Jenolan Caves was still open so in my mind there had to be a way of getting back, I was going to take the gamble and just run the trail and worry about getting back once I’m done. Time to go, I’d eaten breakfast, accepted it may be an uphill struggle to get back and packed my gear, it was go time.

Start of the Six Foot Track at
The Explorers Tree

I started the run at around 7am, leaving the carpark with no one in-site, it was a perfect morning for running; cool and the sun was already up. The first 10-20km was pretty easy, a decent amount of descent, flat trail and nothing really technical. You start off running through some temperate rainforest, before reaching some dirt road fire trails, then across some creek crossings and eventually you make your way through farmland. The terrain was diverse which kept it interesting and some of the views you got were pretty breathtaking, I was really enjoying the landscape and terrain. As I said I was feeling great at this stage, I was taking the run pretty easy, stopping for photos and even filming different parts of the run. I hadn’t even touched any of my snacks yet.

Eventually I made my way to the side-banks of Coxs River which offered numerous awesome photo opportunities of Coxs River itself, as well as the mountains above. After running some km’s along the banks I finally got to actually cross the river via Bowtells Swing Bridge, an infamous swing bridge. From here on the trail started to get real, I didn’t know at the time but I was about to tackle some pretty steep climbs. When I was half-way up the first major climb along the fire trail I decided I was hungry and opened up the first of my snacks, walking to eat them; a banana and a protein bar. Why I brought a protein bar on a trail run is something I’m still asking myself today. Im not going to lie the climb wasn’t easy, and after 30 minutes – 1 hour of solid climbing I was starting to feel it. At this point I’m guessing I was around 30-35km in. I will say though the views from some of the highest points where pretty damn stunning. Eventually the climbs ended and I was greeted to flatter ground and before I knew it I was at the 40km mark, “I can’t believe I’m nearly done” that wasn’t that hard, don’t get me wrong I was feeling pretty tired but “the hardest marathon in Australia”, I don’t think so. I continued running and with about 3km left I found myself at a junction, continue on The Six Foot Track or run up to the summit of Mount George, come back down and then continue on along The Six Foot Track? F**k it why not tag Mount George whilst I’m here, turns out even though it was all up-hill to the summit it only added an extra 5 minutes to the run so I was happy to include the extra add-on there. From there it was all downhill to Jenolan Caves and that was that, once I finished I was tired but again I was expecting something much more difficult. I took it easy, took lots of photos and videos and still managed to finish 3 minutes after 5 and a half hours.

Once at Jenolan Caves I went straight to the cafe and got an ice-cream, a Coke Zero and a glass of milk, yeah I asked for a glass of cold milk instead of a coffee. At this stage of the day it had become overcast and quickly I started getting cold, luckily I packed a jumper in my trail running pack. I felt a real sense of accomplishment finishing The Six Foot Track even though it was easier than expected. Once I settled down, caught my breath and called the family to see how they were all going I decided I should probably figure out how I was going to get back to Katoomba.

Jenolan Caves House

It was an 100km drive back, which according to google maps was estimated to take 1 and a half hours, it was also around 1-2pm in the afternoon at this stage so I needed to figure this out soon before it got to late. Running back the way I came at this stage would’ve been pretty dangerous as I had no snacks left, no headlamp for when it got dark and I was pretty exhausted so running back would’ve been the perfect recipe for something to go wrong. I asked the workers at the cafe on how I’d be able to get back to Katoomba and they recommended me to ask the receptionists next door at the Jenolan Caves House (A Historic Hotel located at Jenolan Caves). When I asked the girls at the reception they said the only option was a taxi and if I wanted to ensure I got one I should ring as soon as possible. They gave me the taxis number and I called right away; luckily there was one taxi available however I’d have to wait 3 hours and it’d cost $220. Ouch! It hurt but I had no choice but to say yes, there was literally no other way back to Katoomba besides on my two feet, this was going to be an expensive run. I was also getting pretty cold at this stage, the combination of a fatigued body, only having one small jumper and it starting to lightly rain whilst getting increasingly colder made the 3 hour wait quite chilly.

Blue Lake at Jenolan Caves

I ended up going for a walk around the parts of the Jenolan Caves that were open. The parts of the caves that were still open was still pretty remarkable, especially Blue Lake. The turquoise like coloured lake was awe-inspiring, it’s breathtaking the beauties nature can bring. Once I got back from the walk I only had to wait 30 more minutes or so before the taxi arrived. When it did it was around 4:30-5pm and was starting to get dark, I got in and off we went.

The driver was a lady in her mid 40s and had quite a sense of humour. It was great chatting to her for the 1 and a half hour drive back, it made the drive go by quite quickly and before I knew it I was back at my car at The Explorers Tree in complete darkness, it was around 6-6:30pm. The quick 5 minute drive back to the hotel from the Explorers Tree was a glorious one, I’d done it, it cost me $220 and my whole day but I’d managed to run The Six Foot Track and get back to my hotel without any real problems. With that I decided I felt pretty content with the two runs I’d done in Katoomba, so after this night I’d leave Katoomba and head to the coast of Sydney. I wanted to make the most of the trip and explore New South Wales as much as possible. Even though there was so many more trails to run on in Katoomba and The Blue Mountains (The heart of trail running in Australia) I wanted to explore some different terrain. I would however get one more trail run in Katoomba before leaving tomorrow morning and driving to Cronulla.

July the 11th, I woke up quite tired from the previous days run, my legs quite stiff and my mind exhausted. The plan though was to get in one last run before leaving The Blue Mountains, I wasn’t sure when I’d have the chance to come back so I wanted to make the most of the time I had. I ate breakfast, got myself together, packed up all my gear and checked-out of the hotel. I decided I was going to run the Grand Canyon Track, a 5 km loop located in the Blackheath area of the Blue Mountains. It was supposed to be one of the must do trails in the Blue Mountains with lots of waterfalls and creeks, it was also supposed to be quite difficult for a 5km track. This was definitely true. It was a rainy morning and quite cold to start but once I started the body temperature quickly increased and before I knew it I forgot about the weather. The trail did indeed prove to be pretty impressive, at times you got to run through some waterfalls and tunnels which was pretty cool. The first half was nearly all downhill as I made my way down into the canyon. Once down it was flat for a while as you make numerous creek crossings, then eventually I started to make my way back up. At this point it was all uphill and at times it got very steep. I was also filming a lot of this run which became pretty difficult as I struggled to push my tired legs up the never ending hill. After around 40 mins I got to the top of the canyon and the end of the trail, not the end of the run though. The last 500m or so which completed the loop would be run across the dirt road that connected both entrances to the trail. And with that I was done, last run in the Blue Mountains done! It was time to say goodbye to Katoomba and head to the coast, Cronulla here we come!

Selfie along The Cronulla Beach Walk

I arrived at Cronulla at around 1pm, I booked two nights at a hotel near the Cronulla train station but couldn’t check in until 2pm, so I decided I’d go for a walk along The Cronulla Beach Walk in the meantime. The walk offered pretty stunning views of the surf beaches along with the high-rise buildings in the background. I really enjoyed the vibes, it made me feel calm and relaxed. I walked an out and back for about 5-6km but started to feel pretty exhausted, this was strange as I don’t usually feel that fatigued from walking. I put it down as not eating enough in conjunction with the previous days run so once I got back from the walk I went straight to the hotel, unpacked and went food shopping. This is where I should mention a couple things, first thing; the reason I chose Cronulla out of all the places I could travel to in NSW. CTSS’s general manager Caroline recommended I give The Royal National Park: The Coast Track a go. The track spans 27km across The NSW coast, starting at Bundeena and ending at Otford. Usually being done in one long day of hiking or two smaller days of hiking the track offers spectacular views of the exposed coastal cliffs as you actually get to hike/run along them. The way people do the track is by either parking at Otford Station (Otford Station is approx. 1km from start of track), walking/running the track, once they’ve completed the track they then take the ferry to Cronulla Train Station (the Ferry wharf is a 500m-1km walk from Cronulla Station) and then they take the train back to Otford Station or they do it in reverse. I didn’t want to leave my car at any train station, so I chose to book a hotel for two nights at a hotel that was close to Cronulla train station. This way I could leave my car at the hotel, walk to the Cronulla Ferry Wharf, take the ferry to Bundeena, start the run, finish the run at Otford Train Station and then take the train back to Cronulla Station and lastly walk back to the hotel. Good plan? I thought so. Second thing, I was doing this the following day. I was still pretty tight from the marathon on The Six Foot Track from the day before but time was of the essence and as a wise man once said “she’ll be right”.

Leg 5: Katoomba, NSW – Cronulla, NSW – 11/07/20

12th of July, I woke up early Sunday morning to get ready for the run. The earliest ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena left at 8:30am which was late by my standards. Also due to COVID-19 only 60 passengers were allowed on so I wanted to get there first to be guaranteed a spot, I was aiming for 7:30am. It was a beautiful day, sunny and the temperature was perfectly mild. After a solid breakfast and once I got my gear in order I left the hotel and started the 20 minute walk to the ferry wharf near Cronulla Train Station. I arrived 10 minutes before 7:30am and was happy to see I was first, sweet I thought to myself I’m guaranteed to be getting on the 8:30am ferry. As the hour past more and more people starting gathering and waiting at the wharf, by 8:30am there was at least 30 or so people but no where near 60. “Well I just wasted an hour waiting for no reason”, oh well I thought Im here now, and before I knew it the ferry captain was calling us to hop on the ferry.

Ferry Wharf at Cronulla

It was only a short 20 minute ferry ride, so short that you could actually see Bundeena in some detail from the wharf in Cronulla. Once I arrived at the wharf in Bundeena it took me a little to get my bearings and actually find the start of the trail. Eventually after making my way through some residential streets I found the trail-head. It was go time. Off the bat the trail was exhilarating, running along the coastal cliffs then heading inwards along the trail before making your way back to the cliffs. The cliffs were breathtaking, it actually got frustrating because my OCD wanted me to stop at every cliff to take a picture because I felt like I was missing out if I didn’t. I got a lot of pictures but had to fight the urge to take more because otherwise I wouldn’t be calling this a run, it’d be more of an active photoshoot. I was also filming just as I did with the Six Foot Track which at times became a bit of a burden, but in hindsight I’m happy I did it. Otherwise I wouldn’t of allowed myself to relax a little bit and actually enjoy the run, I struggle to not be pushing myself all the time, filming and taking photos allowed me to relax a little. Anyway the first half of the run was pretty easy, most of the run was just running along the flat cliffs with a few beach crossings which was good because running across sand made things a little more difficult. The trail was pretty crowded around the cliff viewpoints but for the most part I had the trail to myself, which was nice. At around the halfway mark when I reached Wattamolla Beach, a popular picnic area and home to Wattamolla Falls the track became increasingly more difficult. The trail was steeper and the hills longer, there was also more beach crossings with soft sand and the terrain became more technical. This is when I quickly started to feel my energy levels drop. I also pulled my inner thigh muscle which was pretty tight from all the running I’d done over the past week. This made the second half of the run a bit of a struggle and eventually I started to not be so interested in the views and more focused on getting the run over with. Up and down I ran for a good couple hours, I’m not going lie I wasn’t exactly having fun. However just like how all good things come to an end, so do bad things, and eventually as the trail became more like a tropical rainforest the end was close. Then before I knew it there was no more trail to run on, I was pretty sore and exhausted but the run was done…..well so I thought. There was still a kilometre or so to go before I got to Otford train station, so off I went dragging my tired legs another kilometer to the train station. Man it felt good once I got on that train, Cronulla here we come. Another awesome adventure complete.

After an approx. hour and a half I arrived back at Cronulla and head straight back to the hotel to get something to eat. All I’d eaten was breakfast and a couple protein bars and it was 4pm, I’d run a good 26km with nearly 1,000m elevation gain so I had a few calories to catch up on. Once I ate a solid meal I chilled out. The rest of the afternoon and night wasn’t very exciting and by 9pm I was watching Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire before heading to bed.

Looking Down at the waves at
Kamay Botany Bay National Park

13th of July, I was getting pretty fatigued at this stage, the combination of an 100km running week plus all the travelling and accumulative elevation gain was definitely making me feel a little tired. I couldn’t run either due to the groin strain I got hit with during the The Coast Track run. So with that in mind this day I decided I’d drive down to Botany Bay, go for a walk along Kamay Botany Bay National Park and then leave Cronulla and head down to Canberra. I should mention here I was getting close to the CTSS Alpine Academy trip so it was time I start heading south and make my way to Jindabyne, I only had 3 more nights before the team gear checks. So leaving the hotel in Cronulla I made my way to Kamay Botany Bay National Park, the landing place of Captain Cook back on the 29th of April, 1770. To my surprise the National Park offered numerous trails for runners and hikers alike. NSW continued to stun me with how many beautiful trails they had near residential houses. I was quickly disappointed I couldn’t run because that was my first instinct when I arrived. Settling for a walk I made sure to make my way to Captain Cooks landing point landmark via the Monument Track, I was surprised with how low-key it was. It was very basic for something as significant as the landing point of Captain Cook. Once I took a few photos of the landmark I continued walking along the Monument Track, the track ended up being a loop which took me back to the car. It only took me 30 minutes or so and that was way to short for a decent walk, so once I got back to the car I made my way along another trail called the Yena Track. This one took me to costal cliffs on the Congwong Bay side of the National Park. There was very few people on this trail, the only people I came across was a group of hikers, other than that it was completely desolate which made the walk very peaceful. However as soon as I got to the coastal cliffs around Cape Solander there was far more people. People where walking right along the cliffs, some just taking in the views, others whale watching. Following suit I made my way to Cape Solander whilst walking along the cliffs. Just like the previous days run the views from and across the cliffs was awe-inspiring, walking to the edge and looking down gave me a nice jolt of adrenaline as I looked down on the crashing waves. I continued on walking along the cliffs until I reached Cape Solander Lookout before turning around and heading back the way I came. All up I got in a good 2 and a half hour walk amongst some awesome trails and clifftops around Kamay Botany Bay National Park. Time to start the 3 hour drive to Canberra.

3 hours later I arrived in Canberra, the first thing that stunned me was how close the mountains where to the city itself. It was almost like the city was purposely build to incorporate the mountains which was pretty cool. Once at the hotel I got in my daily push up and sit up workout and went shopping. Once I returned from shopping I cooked dinner and planned the following days run whilst watching Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. I made the decision I was going to run one of the local ultramarathon routes, The Stromlo Running Festival 50km. I was keen to get in a run around the local mountains and running up Mount Stromlo seemed like a good idea. So with the following days run planned I finished watching Harry Potter and went to bed, ready for an early start.

Leg 6: Cronulla, NSW – Canberra, ACT 13/07/20
Selfie with Justin during
Stromlo Forest Park Run

14th of July, I woke up early at around 4am, ate breakfast, packed my trail running gear and made my way out the door. Canberra was noticeably colder in comparison to Cronulla or Katoomba, I reckon it was around 3-5 degree Celsius. I got out of the car at Stromlo Forest Park at around 6:30am and started running. Straight from the get go I knew this run wasn’t going to go as planned, the route I downloaded to my watch was confusing to follow and stupidly I hadn’t had a good look at the route prior to the run. Although the run started on a running track I struggled to follow the route and quickly made a few wrong turns, this is not looking good I thought to myself. Meanwhile I was running past groups of kangaroos which was pretty cool and then out of nowhere two runners ran past, one called out my name. Who’s that I thought to myself and how do they know my name? I’m 758km away from my hometown so the chances that I’d came across someone that knew me was too small to comprehend. Anyway I yelled back to be polite just before they where out of site, that was weird I thought. Forgetting about it my focus turned back to trying to get back on course, but then 3-5 minutes later the same runner that yelled out my name was running towards me. Then I realised, no way, it can’t be the chances of this are probably 1 in a million, it was a runner I’ve communicated with on instagram and met during my first 100 mile ultramarathon, the Great Southern Endurance Run (GSER100), Justin. I couldn’t believe it, and before I knew it I forgot about running the Stromlo Running Festival 50km and decided to run with Justin. To make the situation even crazier he was starting his goal of running a marathon every week on the same day and time that I was in Canberra and also had the intention to be running a long distance. It was perfect, I’d run with Justin and we’d feed off each others positive energy to get through our runs. He had around 20km left so I’d run with him until he finished and then head off, run to the top of Mount Stromlo and then came back and keep running until I’d ran the marathon distance. I’d never really had the chance to chat with Justin before because the only time we met in person was when we crossed paths whilst I was running the 100 miler at the GSER100, and he was running the 50 miler. So it was great to be able to talk to Justin and find out more about his ultramarathon journey ad what made him tick. Justin had such a positive aura about him, instantly you could tell he was a good bloke. As we continuously ran around the same winding running track that you’d think would make you go crazy due to it’s repetitiveness, I noticed the km’s were flying by. As we chatted about how we started ultra running and specific race memories time seemed to accelerate, eventually I’d run over 25km and Justin had almost finished his marathon. We were making decent time too, especially when you consider we were talking most of the time. Not long after I realised I’d ran 25km Justin finished his marathon, and before parting ways we took a few selfies and continued discussing how stunned we were with meeting each-other whilst out running this day. That lucky bast**d, I still had a little while to go. Mount Stromlo’s summit was only 5-10km from where we’d been running, all uphill but hey, that’s why they call it Mount Stromlo, not just Stromlo. Running up the mountain was like running through a maze, it was covered in Mountain Bike switch-back tracks, even though it was obvious where the summit was it was tricky taking the right paths to the top. After 20 or so minutes I was practically at the top of Mount Stromlo, whilst running up I decided I’d get off the mountain bike tracks and take a more direct off track route which was steeper but shorter. The top of Mount Stromlo offered spectacular views of Canberra, there was mountains and houses everywhere. Again I was so impressed with how the mountains where integrated into the city’s landscape. Quick selfie and I was running back down the mountain, I ran all the way back to where Justin and I ran earlier that morning but still had another 2-3km before reaching that marathon milestone. So I was back running around the winding running track. It wasn’t that bad though and before I knew it I’d reached 42.2km, marathon done. I really enjoyed running with Justin and was happy I was still able to incorporate the summit of Mount Stromlo in the run. The rest of the day was pretty boring; shopping, eating and walking.

15th of July, the plan was to run again today but my groin that I strained during the The Coast Track run said no, I really shouldn’t of run that marathon the previous day. It continued to get worse the more I ran but I was just too psyched to be running with Justin. I decided I’d go for a good walk instead. The plan? Walk up Mount Ainsley via the Kokoda Steps which is right next to the Australia War Memorial and then head over to Mount Majura which is right next to Mount Ainsley. The two mountains where connected via walking/mountain bike tracks. The 15th of July was also a special day, my little brothers birthday! So before doing anything I made sure to give him a call, I felt pretty guilty not being there for his birthday but it was what it was, I was here now.

The walk up the Kokoda steps to reach the summit of Mount Ainsley was pretty cool, they’ve put little markers with some information about the real Kokoda Track which is a nice touch. Once at the top the view of Canberra is super cool, your directly facing both the Old Parliament House, the New Parliament House and the War Memorial. They’ve all been perfectly lined up after each-other, again super impressed with the design of Canberra! Once I got another selfie for the collection I made my way down and walked around the Australian War Memorial, so many well made statues paying respect to our amazing Australian Soldiers. I got back to the car and decided I wasn’t going to walk from Mount Ainsley to Majura, instead I’d drive closer to Mount Majura before making my way up the summit. I was fatigued and really didn’t feel walking an extra 5km to connect the two mountains was necessary, I did however still want to reach the summit of Mount Majura so thats what I did. From the carpark it was a good 1-2 hour round trip to the summit. It was way less established compared to Mount Ainsley and Mount Stromlo which was nice, felt more like a bush walk instead of a walk/run along mountain bike tracks. The view from Mount Majura was nothing to rave about, the trees blocked a lot of the view and Mount Ainsley was in the way of much of the city of Canberra, still though a selfie was required. After the walk it was time to leave Canberra and start driving to Cooma, we were getting really close to Mount Kosciuszko now! The drive was only around 1 hour and 20 minutes and a highway connected Canberra to Cooma so it was a direct drive which is always favourable. I arrived at Cooma mid-afternoon and went through the usual routine. The town of Cooma was nice, definitely reminded me of the stereotypical old country towns which made sense because it was an old country town. On a funny note I was greeted by the hotel manager as a Mexican (please don’t take offence, he had no ill will against Mexicans) because I crossed the VIC/NSW before it closed and was now in NSW as an “illegal” Victorian immigrant. I’m not going to lie I felt a little like a criminal even though I crossed the border before it closed. On this note I also want to add by this point I received my COVID-19 test results and unsurprisingly was found negative. These results where given to me before entering Canberra. That night in Cooma I did my sit-up and push-up routine and watched Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince.

Leg 7: Canberra, ACT – Cooma, NSW 15/07/20
Lake Jindabyne

16th of July, finally! Today I’d finally be heading to Jindabyne before meeting the group in the afternoon for the first CTSS trip, The official CTSS Alpine Academy. The first trip would be purely a skill based course in Kosciuszko National Park hence the name “Australian Alpine Academy”, I wouldn’t be tagging Mount Kosciuszko itself until the second trip. Each trip would last 4 days/3 nights. I checked out of my hotel in Cooma mid-morning and began the drive to Jindabyne. I arrived in Jindabyne at around lunchtime and had some time to kill before team gear checks/meet up. It was too early to check-in and I couldn’t get in a run due to my groin/thigh strain so I decided I’d go food shopping and then follow that up with a walk around Lake Jindabyne, which also happened to be the team gear check/meet up location. You could argue the lake was like the heart of Jindabyne, it was opposite the towns shopping centre and residential area, it was like the whole structure of the town was built around the geographical location of this huge, beautiful lake. In addition to that there was numerous historical statues sprawled out next to the waking track on the outskirts of the lake. Time went by pretty quickly and after a good couple hours of walking around that walking track it was 3pm, which meant time for the team gear check/meet up. I’m not going to lie I was pretty anxious for the team gear check/meet up, this was largely due to the opportunity to meet Mike Hamill; the guide and founder of CTSS. I was anxious to meet Mike because he’s one of my heroes, not only has he summited all of the seven summits 6 times but he’s done so as a guide. Mike is one of the most respected guides in the business and theres a reason for that, you can tell Mike genuinely cares about his clients and he has integrated this value into his company. Mike and the staff at CTSS will do whatever they can to get their clients to the summit during expeditions, however they will not compromise anyones safety to do so. If they deem it unsafe to keep going forward you’re not going forward. I think this is super important for people like myself who will run themselves into the ground before turning around, which is not good because it could result in putting myself and/or others at risk. But again with that being said Mike and CTSS do everything in their power and knowledge to get you to the top, I experienced this on Aconcagua. Our head guide Josh Tapp did an amazing job getting 6 of us to the top on a disastrous day. Other than this I’ve listened to podcasts with Mike and he just seemed like a really humble, kind guy who also happened to be a badass on and off the mountains. Anyway when I met Mike I was happy to discover he was just as awesome as I thought he was. Once I said hello to Mike the other group members rocked up, there was 6 of us in total including myself and Mike. Going though gear checks I got to have a brief chat with everyone and my first impression was we had a good bunch of people, I was looking forward to the next 4 days. Crampons, ice-axes, packs, mountaineering boots, headlamp, we went through all the gear to make sure we all had the right equipment. Once we all got the ok from Mike he gave us a quick briefing on sleds. To simulate hauling sleds like you do on Vinson Massif in Antarctica or Denali in Alaska Mike was going to get us all to haul sleds to and from basecamp. The briefing on the sleds didn’t last long, quick fact, Mike recommends you store most of the weight in your packs and keep the sleds as light as comfortably possible. Anyway once we went over the sleds our group gear was handed out and we went our seperate ways. I went straight to the hotel to get ready for the next day, the plan was to meet at Guthega carpark within Kosciuszko National Park at 9am.

Leg 8: Cooma, NSWJindabyne, NSW 16/07/20

17th of July, being my typical self I got up unnecessarily early to make sure I could triple check everything. I was up at 4am, driving to Guthega would only take me an hour which meant I was giving myself 4 hours to get ready, probably a little to keen! The funny thing was even though I gave myself 4 hours to get ready somehow I only had 1 hour to spare. The winding drive through Kosciuszko National Park would’ve made those susceptible to being car sick, car sick. Winding around the mountains, left, right, left right, getting higher and higher. I arrived at Guthega carpark at around 8am, I was the first one there, which wasn’t surprising because I was an hour early. The sad thing was even though I got there an hour early and woke up earlier than needed to triple check everything I still forgot something, I never bought the essential overnight National Park pass, man I’m an idiot. You need one of these passes to have permission to enter the National Park, and a special one to leave your car at the carpark overnight. To buy one now I’d have to drive back the way I came for a good 40 minutes. Being 8:30 it was now too late for that, I’d have to cop the fine. Luckily when the other group members arrived one informed me I could buy an annual pass online, so I whipped out the phone and bought an annual pass, problem solved. So yeah it was now 9am and everyone had arrived, time to get underway. Leaving our cars parked in the overnight carpark we all head off to together with our packs on and sleds attached. We started making our way along a trail called The Illawong Walking Track, a popular summer walking track which was now unaccessible for walkers because it’s covered in snow and ice. I’d never hauled a sled before and actually really enjoyed it until we started encountering some problems. The trail become quite narrow and had us walking along the side of a respectably small but steep mountain. The angle the trail had us walking along would cause the sled to flip upside down, fall off the trail and start pulling us down the hill. We’d then have to stop, flip the sled back over, put it back on the trail and start walking again before the sled would then again flip over and we’d have to repeat the process. The sled would also get tangled around Australia’s rugged backcountry trees. We also did all this without our snowshoes on, or crampons and as a result I fell over quite a few times on the icy/snowy trail which added to the frustration. It wasn’t like this all the time though, there was some stretches were the sleds worked really well and I really got to take in the beauty of the Australian rugged alpine backcountry. After a couple hours of walking along the trail the snow finally started to deepen and become softer, this meant we could finally put on our snowshoes which solved the falling over problem. On a different note this was the first trip where I hung back at the back of the group, usually I’d feel the urge to stay behind the guide at the front. However with Mike being the only guide I felt it more sensible to hang back at the back of the group, this way I could help any team members that started to struggle a little bit. I’m not sure why I felt this way, it was just an instinct. Maybe it was because I was more focused on learning as much as I could about mountaineering on this trip and it wasn’t about physically pushing myself or trying to tag a difficult summit. In other words I let go of my ego and discovered I liked being at the back and helping others.

Before I knew we reached our first major landmark, a suspension bridge that marks the end of the Illowong Walk and has you crossing the infamous Snowy River. Which by the way we’d been walking alongside the whole time thus far. It was around 12pm by this point, time flew by, as it does when your having fun. We took a break after crossing the suspension bridge and grabbed some food. We were all starting to gel well as a group too, everyone was getting along and getting to know eachother. We all had different paces but were all patient, offering help and support to eachother. I believe this was largely due to the atmosphere Mike created, an important trait of a guide. After having our break and crossing the suspension bridge we said goodbye to The Trail we’d been walking along, and really made our way into the mountains. The sleds still gave us some trouble but overall the snowshoe after the suspension bridge was really enjoyable, such a beautiful environment. Being surrounded by white snow, snow gums and creeks whilst getting to know some pretty cool people is pretty special. Before I knew it, it was around 3pm and we arrived at our camp site to be. The camp site was an empty space in-between some trees and offered awesome views of the surrounding snow capped mountains. Once we arrived it was straight into setting up camp. Mike taught us how to dig snow platforms for the tents and the most productive way to set up the tents as a team, he also taught us the kitchen tent and latrine set-up. By the time we had the site set up it was starting to get dark and once we packed our gear into our tents it was dark, dinner time. Mike didn’t mess around with dinner, his cooking set up was remarkable. That night we had pan fried salmon and sweet potato chips, it was cooked well too. Dinner time is always one of the best times on these trips, having a laugh with team members and getting to know other peoples stories always fascinates me, this group was no different. In our group there were two Queenslanders who came onto the trip together, there was one bloke from Canberra and a lady from New South Wales. The two blokes from Queensland had hardly seen snow, the lady from New South Wales had never done any kind of mountaineering trip and the guy from Canberra was a photographer with a significant amount of outdoors experience, it was a uniquely diverse group. Once we ate our 5 star meals it was time to hit the tents and go to sleep.

18th of July, something I didn’t mention before was the day before was beautifully sunny and clear which made it really nice during the day but freezing at night. As a result the Queenslanders who were used to warm, tropical weather really didn’t have a fun night, they froze their a** off. I on the other hand had a great night, slept like a baby. The lady from NSW however really struggled, she was extremely sore from the snowshoe into camp from the previous day. She couldn’t sleep due to muscle pain and when it was time to get out of our tents for breakfast she was nowhere to be found. We ended up bringing her breakfast in bed; scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon, she wasn’t even able to eat much. When someone can’t eat a breakfast like that you know something is definitely wrong. After we finished breakfast she was still upset and not wanting to get out of the tent so Mike had to change the days plan. The original plan was to snowshoe to Blue Lake (about a 2 hour snowshoe away) and train but since we only had one guide and she wasn’t able to leave camp Mike decided we’d conduct our training on a slope nearby. The plan was to learn and practice; fixed rope glacier travel, self-arrest techniques, climbing efficiency techniques & crampon techniques which all could be done on a nearby slope. So after our failed attempts to try and get our tired and sore crew member moving, Mike decided that the nearby slope was the only option. By the time we ate breakfast and got ready as a group it was around 9am and we got to the slope by around 9:30am. First thing we’d be learning was crampon techniques and climbing efficiency, this included pressure breathing, the rest step, how to put the crampons on, the duck walk and the crossover step. I already knew these techniques but was stoked to practice, fine-tune and improve upon them. Mike also went over some finer points by which I didn’t know about so I was still learning some new things altogether. It was a good day, beautifully sunny morning however the wind and clouds did start to role in and by the time it was 1-2pm, it was getting cloudy and a little cold, the wind started picking up too. After practising and going over crampon techniques and climbing efficiency techniques all morning we had a break. After our break we went straight into self-arrest and fixed line glacier travel. Before we knew it, it was around 1pm and we were now practising self-arrest, sliding down the snowy snow slopes, trying to stop ourselves with our ice-axes. At first it was difficult due to the snow conditions, we couldn’t gain any momentum due to the snow being too soft, we’d sink into the snow instead of sliding down. However eventually we found a good pitch of snow and were able to start sliding down and properly practise our self arrest. We slid down in all positions; on our backs feet first, on our back head first and like penguins on our stomach head first, we had to adjust the self arrest technique with each variation of sliding down. By the time we finished I’d slid down nearly 20 times and had a whole heap of snow under my waterproof gear, which was great (not). By this time the clouds had completely consumed the sun and the wind had really picked up, I started getting cold. We weren’t finished yet either, after practising self arrest we started learning fixed line rope glacier travel. I was really looking forward to this one for a few reason. Reason One, I hadn’t really done much fixed line roped travel. The only time I’d used fixed ropes was up Mount Elbrus’ western summit. Reason Two, my dream job is to be a guide so learning and practising the basics such as fixed line roped travel was essential. And lastly Reason 3, I’d need to be efficient with fixed line glacier travel for the rest of the seven summits; Denali, Vinson Massif and Mount Everest. What better way than to learn from the man himself Mike Hamill. The guy who created, owns and guides for CTSS, the company I plan to climb the rest of the seven summits with. It’s a little poetic, meeting and learning from one of my mountaineering heroes halfway through my seven summit journey. Then on my next trip actually tagging one of the seven summits with him and then finishing off the rest with his company, it’s pretty amazing. Anyway back to fixed rope glacier travel, Mike went over the basics eg. the lingo such as when to yell out “Climbing! & Anchor!”, he also went over clipping in and out of anchors, the importance of teamwork when connected to a fix line and just how to operate as team whilst connected to the fixed line, so pretty much all the basics. By the time we went over fixed line glacier travel and practised moving as a team on a fixed line it was around 5pm, it was time to get back to basecamp. It was getting dark and the wind was getting pretty strong, I was also getting a little cold so was looking forward to getting warm and eating dinner. When we got back to basecamp the group member who was struggling in the morning was now walking around basecamp. This was good to see, when we talked she was still sore and tired but was in much better spirits. After checking in with her we all head into the kitchen tent for dinner. Mediterranean pasta, that was the menu for tonight; olives, feta cheese, salami, olive oil, pine nuts, pasta and I think we even had some sun-dried tomato in there, it was bloody delicious. Mike was making all this himself too, its crazy how good the food can be you cook in the mountains, no need for freeze dried meals. Mike made a lot of pasta, and by a lot I mean too much and there was still plenty to go round when everyone was full. As a result Mike and I were forced to try and fit it all in so it wouldn’t go to waste, it was so much food afterwards I felt like a bloody balloon. Being that full triggered my anorexia to be 100% honest but I told myself to relax, stay in the moment and enjoy this time with Mike and the rest of the crew, its one meal. Anyway at around 8:30pm we’d all eaten and one by one everyone went to their tent except for Mike who slept in the kitchen tent.

19th of July, another night of great sleep, I always get the best sleep when I’m in the mountains and the past two nights had been no exception. Once up like every other day I went straight into my routine; I organise and tidy the inside of my tent, organise my pack for the day and lastly brush my teeth, once thats done I head into the kitchen tent for breakfast. Breakfast this morning was crepes with berries and Nutella, I don’t eat Nutella though so just had berries, but once again Mike was shooting three’s. Once we all ate breakfast we head off to Blue Lake, one of the only four cirque lakes in mainland Australia and a popular training ground for both ice-climbing and general mountaineering. This was also supposed to be our training location for the previous day however as I mentioned earlier, circumstances out of our control led to a change in plans. So it was nice we were getting to train there today, on another note the weather this day was the coldest and windiest it’d been thus far. From our basecamp it took about 2 hours to get to Blue Lake, I was really looking forward to give ice-climbing a go as I’ve never had the opportunity to try it before. Blue Lake is one of the only places in Australia to ice-climb so I was a little disappointed when we arrived to discover there wasn’t much ice. No ice-climbing for us, it was a little disappointing but there was a lot of other things to learn so I wasn’t too disappointed. Instead of ice-climbing we started with learning and practising snow anchors. The snow was horrible for snow anchors because it was powdery and brittle due to the ice crystals not fusing together, which caused the snow anchors to just break apart. This wasn’t too much of a problem though as we were just learning how to make them, we weren’t going to actually climb with them. Mike taught us a few different snow anchors; first he taught us the vertical picket and how to plant it, then he taught us the T-Trench or “Deadman” and lastly we learnt about the Bollard. We spent a good amount of time practising and setting up each anchor. Mike also went into when it was best to use each one and what circumstances you’d use each one for. We spent a good 2-3 hours on snow anchors, having the opportunity to plant/create each one 3-4 times. Once we finished with snow anchors we had a quick break and went straight into fixed line ascension with an ascender. Mike first went over the fundamentals of fixed line ascension, what to do, what not to do, where you’d find situations where fixed line ascension was used and the safety tips which could save your life as well as other climbers around you whilst ascending/descending on a fixed line. By the time we went over all this and Mike demonstrated how to use the ascender we actually ran out of time to practice it ourselves, we’d have to wait until tomorrow. It was crazy, time flew by and before we knew it, it was around 4pm, it was getting bloody cold too. So at around 4pm we started making our way back, it was getting dark as we snowshoed through the snow. I was enjoying the snowshoe back, watching the sunset behind the rugged mountain landscape whilst the wind pounded in my face. However life decided I was having too much fun when out of nowhere my snowshoe decided it’d break, the strap which held the snowshoe together snapped. We were about 30 mins away from camp. Great, looks like I’ll be walking in thigh deep snow back to camp. To make things even better Mike was in a rush to get back to camp before dark for obvious safety reasons, so trusting me he asked if it’d be alright if they went ahead whilst I made my own way back. “Of course” I responded, it felt good that he’d trust me to get myself back. Surprisingly walking back to camp by myself with no snowshoes was actually really enjoyable and not that slow, the peace and quiet of being out in snowy backcountry by myself was rejuvenating, it was so silent. All I could hear was my own movements and the crunching of snow as I sank through the snow with each step, and the howling wind which had continued to get stronger all day. I didn’t end up that far behind the group either (probably around 10 minutes), so before I knew it I was back at basecamp with the rest of the group. It was around 6pm by the time I got back which meant dinner time! Whilst Mike started boiling the water for drinking water and hot drinks he went over knots and hitches in the kitchen tent with us. We went over numerous knots and hitches such as the figure 8 knot, fisherman’s knot, bowline knot, klemheist hitch, clove hitch and a whole heap more. I’m not going to lie I struggled to learn and get the hang of most of these, so the plan was to keep practising them once the trip was finished. Once we finished knots dinner was almost ready and to no surprise Mike pulled out another great one, quesadillas! To be honest I don’t remember what was in them exactly but they were bloody good. I just can’t get over the fact that I was eating better tasting food out in the mountains versus what I would eat at home or on the road. After filling up on quesadillas and chatting away it was eventually time to go to sleep, so at around 9pm we all went to our tents for the last time. Tomorrow we’d practice fixed line ascension with the ascender before getting into crevasse rescue training. We’d be practising this at basecamp before making our way back to our cars in Guthega which would mark the end of the trip.

20th of July, I didn’t sleep very well this night for some reason I couldn’t keep my feet warm. Even though they were dry in my sleeping bag they felt moist and cold all night, I was happy it was time to get up. Before breakfast I started packing up my gear so when it was time to take down basecamp I wouldn’t have to worry about it, and instead could help with the group gear straight away. Once that was all sorted it was breakfast time!! Bagels with cream cheese and bacon, Mike you’ve done it again. I was so hungry, I wasn’t sure why as we hadn’t been doing a whole heap of exercise and I never felt taxed. We also weren’t at a significant altitude and I’d been eating a big breakfast and dinner, so I was surprised how hungry I was, good thing Mike always had plenty of food for us. Once I downed three bagels it was time to practice fixed line ascension and get into crevasse rescue. Due to time constraints we were just going to practice at basecamp. First we went into fixed line ascension with an ascender, this was pretty simple, clipping and unclipping from one fixed line to another whilst making sure we clipped and unclipped our safety carabiners in proper order. Once we’d all had a good practice of fixed line ascension we went into crevasse rescue. As Mike taught us I began to realise that crevasse rescue was like a culmination of everything we learnt on the course; from the knots and hitches, to anchors and even self-arrest. I really liked this it was like the final test. With that being said crevasse rescue was very difficult to remember and trying to get the whole process right was nearly impossible, I felt like a lost ghost when it was my turn to give it a go. Stumbling to do the right knots and anchors and to do the process in the correct order. By the time we’d gone over crevasse rescue and fixed line ascension it was 11am and we needed to hurry up and break apart camp. Mike quickly ran us through the best method of taking down camp and the idea of leaving no trace. Once the tents were taken down and packed away we flattened our snow platforms which we dug for the tents, the latrine, etc and divided out the group gear. Once everything was all packed up and basecamp was destroyed Mike decided we’d cache some of the gear and the tents. Mike and myself would be coming back for the second trip in a couple days so carrying out the tents and gear was unnecessary, this included some of our personal gear such as Mikes and my own sleeping bags and sleeping mats. To cache our gear we dug a deep whole and chucked the gear in; this included the sleds too which meant we wouldn’t need to walk out hauling those annoying things. Once all the gear was in the whole we buried it, marking it with Mikes GPS and bamboo wands. Once this was done it was time to set off, at this point is was around 1pm. We walked back the same way we came however we were much faster due to having lighter loads and no sleds. My pack though was actually heavier because I took some of the gear off one of our group members who was struggling with her heavy backpack. Walking back she really started to struggle, she was tired and her muscles were fatigued which was to be expected when you weren’t used to this type of exercise. However as we got closer to Guthega she really started to slow down and also started to get emotional. She kept stumbling and falling over which made her frustrated, she also felt bad because she was slowing the group down. She was a tough cookie though, refusing to give up, battling through her fatigue and exhaustion. I want to quickly mention here that we managed to temporarily fix my snowshoes from a couple days back with a zip tie, the walk out would’ve been quite a struggle for myself without the zip-tie. We trudged on, eventually getting back to the bridge which had us crossing part of the infamous Snowy River and made our way back onto The Illawong Walking Track. It started to get dark about an hour after crossing the bridge but luckily we managed to get back to Guthega carpark at around 5:30pm, just before it went completely dark. Once back at the carpark we all got back to our cars and said our goodbyes. The two guys from Queensland were driving to Canberra that night and the girl from NSW was completely exhausted and heading straight to her hotel in Jindabyne which meant we’d never see them again. Mike, the member from Canberra and myself however decided we’d go out to the pub for dinner. So we said our goodbyes to the rest of the group before driving to the pub for some food and drinks. Trip 1 done, we ate some good food at the pub, had some good conversations and then went back to our hotels. I learnt so much from trip 1, met some great people and had a good time but I was tired and looking forward to a bed and some sleep.

21st of July, I woke up in a bed for the first time in 3 nights which was nice, I was motivated to train and work on the skills I learnt on the trip. The first thing I did besides breakfast was work on my rope tying skills. Tying and retying the Fishermans knot, the figure 8 and numerous others. The place I was staying at was more like a ski lodge rather than a hotel. Very simplistic and everyone else who booked accommodation left early to go skiing and/or snowboarding so I had the whole lodge to myself. This would’ve been great if I was one to chill-out and relax but I had s**t to do. First thing after knot tying was find a laundromat to wash my disgusting clothes from the mountain, I never changed once not even my socks so it wasn’t good. Finding the laundromat wasn’t that difficult or expensive which was nice. Once I dropped off the clothes I went for a relaxing walk along Lake Jindabyne and assessed how I felt and if I should go for a run. The answer was yes so after stopping by at the shops to grab some food I made my way back to the hotel where I quickly chucked on my running gear and drove back down to Lake Jindabyne. It turns out I shouldn’t of went for that run. The 12km run felt horrible, my stained groin and now sore hip gave me pain with every step and because of this I couldn’t push the pace I wanted. Luckily like all things the run came to an end. Before getting back in the car and heading back to the hotel I took some photos of Lake Jindabyne. It was such a beautiful place and a perfectly clear and warm day. You could see out across the lake, next to it thousands of trees surrounding the sandy shore. The rest of the day was pretty standard, eat, organise/clean my gear from the previous trip, pick up the clothes from the laundromat, go shopping and get in my push up/pull up routine which I was able to do at one of the fitness stations which was located along the path that I ran on earlier. Before I knew it, it was 7pm and I was watching, you guessed it Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. I’m not sure if I mentioned this above but the reason I’ve been watching Harry Potter the whole trip is because it relaxes me, it’s like a familiar comfort food. I think Harry Potter relaxes me because of the memories I have of watching it home when I was a kid. These were time before I started getting older and became overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and depression.

22nd of July, after a rest day the previous day I was getting ready to start the process all over again. Today I’d be meeting up with the new team for the second trips team gear check. We’d be meeting at the same place along Lake Jindabyne, as always I was excited to meet new people. The last group was fantastic so hopefully the new group would be no different. Trip 2 would be similar to trip 1, we’d be meeting at Guthega tomorrow morning and walk in along the Illawong Walking Track before crossing the bridge and making our way into the mountains. However this time instead of only learning and practising new skills we’d also be tagging Mount Kosciuszko, which would give me seven summit #4. It’s crazy to think this time last year I was in Tanzania on Mount Kilimanjaro attempting my second of the seven summits. Two months prior to that I was in Russia on my first of the seven summits, Mount Elbrus and two months prior to that I didn’t even know what the concept of the seven summits was!! How quickly things can change, it goes to show that anythings possible if you have the courage to dream and then chase that dream. The people I’d met, the cultures I’d experienced, the lessons I’ve learnt , I’ve been so lucky. Anyway where was I? Mount Kosciuszko, in summary this trip was a combination of the Australian Alpine Academy (trip #1) and a winter summit attempt of Mount Kosciuszko.

At 3pm I met the team for gear checks, we didn’t go through mine as Mike knew I had the appropriate gear, and some of it was buried in our cache anyway. This new group was bigger than the other group, all up there was 7 of us including Mike, one person was missing and we’d meet them at Guthega the following day. The group was also more experienced in comparison to the other group. We had a photographer who worked for North Face Australia and had spent a good amount of time in the mountains. Another team member worked in Antarctica during the climbing season and although didn’t do a lot of climbing himself he knew his s**t and was pretty damn fit, 2 members had summited Mount Kilimanjaro and another one had spent a significant amount of time in the Himalayas. So overall we were a pretty intermediate level group. This was neither bad or good just an observation. The best news was everyone seemed to be people I’d enjoy climbing with, on first observation they all seemed humble and kind so I was once again excited for the trip ahead. Once the gear check was over I made my way back to the hotel before watching the last of the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Coincidently this would also be my last night in a hotel, the epic journey was coming to an end. It had been over two weeks since I left Victoria, I’d been all over NSW living out of the car and running on awesome trails. When I left I was anxious about the uncertainty of it all, with COVID-19, with having to spend all of my money on hotels and just leaving home on such short notice. All for two trips with CTSS; The Alpine Academy (trip #1) and The Alpine Academy/Mount Kosciuszko summit (trip #2). However the trip had become bigger than those two trips, I had to learn how to be more flexible, how to relax in uncomfortable scenarios and how to adapt to situations I hadn’t had to deal with before. I learnt how to plan whilst on the road and whilst at it I got to run on some of Australia’s best trails.

23rd of July, getting up early I packed up my gear and made the drive for the second time to Guthega. This time I had a the necessary National Park pass and I also didn’t arrive so early, I was still the first to arrive though. Around 20 minutes later everyone else started arriving. First to arrive was the group member who was absent from gear checks the previous afternoon. He was a writer for We Are Explorers, a media company which focuses on spreading their love for the outdoors. I’m not going to lie, before even looking at this bloke I wrongly judged him as arrogant because in my mind I thought he thought he was too good or important to come to the gear checks the previous afternoon. When I first started speaking to him it didn’t help that he came across as very confident, talkative and high energy. Lucky I’m not a complete a**hole because only a couple hours later I decided he was a good bloke after all. Turns out he was actually a really nice bloke who worked really hard and although was confident, was not arrogant in any way. We’d actually end up having some pretty deep and meaningful conversations as the trip went on. So take note of that, don’t judge someone you haven’t even met yet!! Before I knew it everyone had arrived and Mike, like all of us was keen to get going because it was to be a long day. The plan was snowshoe in to the previous trips basecamp, dig up the cache and collect our buried gear, rig up our sleds and then continue on as far as we could towards Mount Kosciuszko. It was going to be a big day, we needed to get as close to Mount Kosciuszko as possible. The reason for this was it would make summit day shorter.

As mentioned above this trip was a combination trip of training and a summit attempt of Mount Kosciuszko. So the 4 day outline was as follows; Day 1: get as close to Mount Kosciuszko as possible before setting up camp, which would be our camp for the remainder of the trip, Day 2: Training day around the slopes of basecamp, Day 3: summit day and Day 4: tear down basecamp, train and then head back to our cars at Guthega.

It was nice to not have to walk in with the sleds this time, it was a sunny day and like usual I was getting along well with everyone in the group. Making our way through the snow we chatted away eagerly anticipating what was to come for the rest of the trip. Hours past as we walked along the same Illawong Walking Track we used on the first trip. Before we knew it we were across the bridge and at our previous trips basecamp. We went straight into digging up our cache, we were 2 hours faster to get to this spot compared to the previous trip. Once the gear was dug up and the sleds pulled out we started rigging them up. Learning from last time I made sure my sled was as centred as possible and as low to centre of gravity as possible. The extra time spent properly rigging up the sled would save me the aggravating hassle of having to repeatedly stop and turn the sled the right way up because of it flipping over like the last trip. I tried warning the group members of this but I don’t think they understood how much of a pain in the a** this would be. I don’t think they understood my concerns because a few sleds that looked a little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Before I keep going I want to mention that I only had one ski-pole at this stage, I’d lended one to one of the group members who only brought one which ended up breaking. I’m mentioning this because it was aggravating, Mike told us all to bring two snow poles each at team gear checks and now because he decided not to listen everyone was suffering. It’s very hard to navigate in the snow without a ski pole and as a result he became very, very slow which held up the group. Not having a ski-pole to help you keep balance whilst walking on the uneven, collapsing snow is not fun. So because of this in my mind I had no choice but to give him one of mine. Without it not only would he be having a sh**ty time but the whole group would be too, waiting for him to catch up would’ve drove us all crazy. Anyway enough ranting, the point was listen to the guide and I only had one ski-pole which makes rigging up the sled properly even more important. Once we evenly divvied out the dug up group gear we took off 5-10kgs heavier. Not long after peoples sleds were flipping over, making my concerns a reality, “here we go again” I thought to myself. Mine was fine because of the extra attention I put in to rig it as perfectly as I could, so at least I had that going for me. Not having mine flip over allowed me to help others with their sleds. As a whole though it didn’t end up being too bad, I thought it wouldve been worse. The trail after the previous trips basecamp was flatter in comparison to the trail walking into that bascemp so the sleds weren’t flipping over as much. As we walked through the snow I once again had to take a mental note of how beautiful the alpine environment was in the Australian backcountry. It was a privilege to be snowshoeing through Kosciuszko National Park with Mike Hamill, CTSS and a great group of people. Littered with snow gums and snow capped mountains, the National Park was so unique, I love how each of the seven summits has brought me such unique environments from Aconcagua in the Andes to Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountain Ranges to Mount Kilimanjaro and all its five climate zones. Anyway enough reminiscing at around 4-5pm we arrived at an open space that was suitable to be our campsite. I’m not gonna lie it felt good to dump my pack and sled, I reckon my pack weighed around 25kg and my sled around 10kg so it was a fair load. Quickly under Mikes direction we dug platforms for our tents, the kitchen tent and the latrine. Then we set up our tents, gear and sleeping quarters. Setting up a camp is a team effort and you can tell who the team players are by seeing who continues to help or try to help throughout the whole process. The good news was everyone in the group (with the exception of one) was keen to help set up the whole time and as a result we got it done quickly. I was now certain I was with a group of good people, once we set up the campsite it was dinner time. And of course Mike came with the goods once again, it was deja vü, night one was salmon and sweet potato fries again!! As I mentioned before with the first trip the conversations you have with different people at dinner time is one of the best parts of mountaineering and this trip was no different. I got to hear about life during a season in Antarctica, the harshness of climbing Denali and what’s it like hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania during winter. Once dinner was finished and our conversations came to an end we all left the kitchen tent out into the cold but fresh air under the clear star covered sky and went into our warm tents. I went to sleep appreciating how beautiful the alpine environment is.

24th of July, it was a beautiful morning, clear skies and an extraordinary sunrise. I was first up but was quickly greeted by Mike, not long after the rest of the group had risen and we all head into the kitchen tent for breakfast. Just like the last trip the first mornings breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns, happy days. Once breakfast was finished Mike got us straight into it, teaching us how to build snow walls for camp. Snow walls are used to protect camp and prevent tents from being damaged or even blown away during times of strong winds. Learning how to properly make snow walls is essential for those who like myself want to attempt to tag a serious mountain like Denali, where conditions can be violently cold and windy. The process is quite simple; using a snow saw cut a large grid in the snow, then using a shovel dig out each individual block/square from the grid and place the block in a position where you can stack numerous blocks together to build a wall. The snow blocks then fuse together, creating a wall that breaks the wind, preventing your tent from getting damaged or blown away. We built walls as a team; some cutting the grid, others shovelling the blocks and rest of us carrying and placing the blocks in position. It took a little over an hour, it was a good team effort, once this was complete we made the short snowshoe to a steep slope where we’d be training. We went over crampon techniques, self-arrest techniques, fixed line glacier travel and mountaineering efficiency techniques. Although I just went over these techniques on the previous trip I was stoked to go over them again to really cement them in my head. I enjoyed self-arrest in particular on this trip, there was a few team members who enjoyed launching themselves down the slope, as a result we kept trying to one up each other, going higher up the slope to gain more speed, this inevitably led to a few laughs and close calls. I really enjoyed roped glacier travel too, largely because I got to work with Mike. I’m not gonna lie I felt a little like a fanboy around Mike, I respected him and what he had to say, anytime I got to work with him was an absolute privilege and that included practising roped glacier travel. Before I knew it, it was getting dark and it was time to head back to camp. Once at camp it was straight into dinner, Mediterranean pasta once again! So good! From there it was pretty much straight to our tents for sleep, tomorrow would be our summit attempt of Mount Kosciuszko, my fourth seven summit!!

25th of July, a much more relaxed summit day morning. Usually I’d be up at 1-2am stressing about making sure I have all my gear in order for the actual time of getting up at around 3-4am, and that’s if I managed to sleep at all. However this morning I was up at 6:30am before getting ready to meet everyone at the kitchen tent for a solid breakfast at 7am. Breakfast was also very different instead of oatmeal and tea it was bagels with cream cheese and bacon and a good coffee. Quite different, I wasn’t complaining though. Once we ate breakfast we left camp ASAP, although the route to the summit was an easy 7.5km snowshoe from camp Mike still wanted to make sure we were back before dark. Mike set a good pace, it wasn’t too slow or too fast, it was a pace were I could turn off my brain and go at all day. It allowed me to have a lot of good conversations with many of the group members. As we walked through the snow on another seemingly sunny day the sun beat down on us and was only intensified by the reflection of the white snow. I started working up quite a sweat and looked forward to our first break so I could take off some layers. The sun pounded on the surrounding snow slopes that seemingly transported us to another world, it was just snow covered hills as far as I could see. It made me feel like we were much further away from civilisation than what we actually were, it was if you could get lost by walking 1km in one direction, never to be found again forever lost in Kosciuszko National Park, it was stunningly beautiful. Thankfully we stopped for our first break after around 2 hours, I wasn’t lying when I said I was sweating. When I took off 2 of my three layers leaving me with just my base layer you could see how much I’d been sweating. My base layer was completely soaked right through. We stopped for a good 10 minutes before taking off, I should also mention here that once again my snowshoe had broken, the exact same problem as the last trip, the strap broke off. However unlike last time we didn’t have a zip tie to fix it so this meant I was going to have to break trail, walking through the snow with my crampons. If it was a serious mountain I’d be forced to turn around at this point so although it was frustrating I was just happy I could keep going. I’d always wished Mount Kosciuszko would be a harder climb and here was my opportunity to make it harder, be careful what you ask for. I was still able to keep pace with the rest of the group but it definitely wasn’t as enjoyable as it was with a working snowshoe. Maintaining a conversation when your breathing pretty heavily isn’t the best way to have a conversation. I was pretty much talking the whole way to the summit. From our first break we walked a good 1 hour before having a quick break, after that we made our way to the summit. It was pretty uneventful and straight forward which is good because it meant everything ran smoothly but when writing a post summit blog it’s not very exciting. There was no epic struggle to get to the top or any real adversity with the exception of my snowshoes. At approx. 2:20pm we all got to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. When we got to the top I noticed the weather had deteriorated, the sun gone, wind picking up and I was getting cold. After taking a few summit photos, I chucked on some layers to keep warm. We stayed on the summit for a good 30 minutes, I took some more summit photos however this time with Mike which was a complete privilege. The photo with Mike would have to be one of my favourite photos I have now, its like taking a selfie with your hero x10 because its on top of one of the seven summits. Making it even more significant was it marked the halfway mark of my seven summit journey and the end of the “easy” seven summits. By that I mean the rest require significant technical skills and are significantly more dangerous, so what better way to symbolise my next step of the journey than by having a summit photo with my teacher who taught me the basic fundamentals that I’ll need for the rest of my journey. 30 minutes went by and we left the summit just as it started snowing. It was nearly 3pm at this point and Mikes goal of getting back to camp before dark wasn’t looking to good. You could tell he knew this because his pace increased and it wasn’t until we were 2 thirds of the way back before we took a break. I wasn’t complaining though I was keen to get back as soon as possible. Not only was I getting frustrated of breaking trail with my crampons but I really had to take a s**t, I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it. When we did eventually take our first break I was quite nervous because I was really struggling to hold on and did not want to stop. But mountaineering is a team effort and when the team stops, so do I. Luckily it wasn’t long before we took off for the last stretch back to camp. It started to get dark and it wasn’t long before we put on our headlamps, I love walking through the mountains in the dark. It was only short-lived though because it was only around 30 minutes before we reached camp, and on another note I didn’t s**t myself. Besides the toilet we all went straight to the kitchen tent for the last of Mikes amazing dinners, quesadillas!!

26th of July, we woke up to rain!! The previous day marked the end of the sunny days and we were now encountering some not so beautiful weather. We had that classical sideways rain that everyone warns everyone about when it comes to the Australian alpine backcountry. To make things even better we had to take down basecamp in these conditions as this was our last day. Some of us went straight into the kitchen tent when waking up because of the rain, others including myself wanted to take down our tents ASAP to get it over and done with. So there was about 3 of us who helped each other take down each others tents before getting stuck into breakfast. Thank god it was the last day because I didn’t have to stress about keeping all of my gear dry. As I emptied the tent and stuffed everything into my pack it was all getting soaked, I was getting soaked too and my hands where going numb, I wasn’t the only one though. After around 30 mins 3 of us had managed to pack up our gear and take down our tents before heading into the kitchen tent for breakfast. Pancakes, the breakfast for champions!! Definitely a good meal to finish this epic journey. Once we had breakfast the group made the decision not to go over crevasse rescue due to the conditions, no one except myself wanted to stand out in the freezing rain to go over crevasse rescue. Instead we’d head straight for the carpark at Guthega and get to our warm and dry cars. I’m not gonna lie I was a little happy to skip crevasse rescue and head back straight away because I don’t like shivering my a** off like most people. So we packed up camp and head off, it was pretty miserable, it was rainy, cloudy and windy but I was happy to get these conditions because it adds to the experience. I’d already had quite a few sunny days so having some diversity in the weather was welcomed. To me the bigger problem was everyones sleds, it was an absolute disaster! No one took the time to rig the sled well because of the cold and rainy conditions, everyone was in too much of a rush. I was hating life, I always stayed at the back so I could help anyone who fell behind whether that be with taking some weight from their pack or to help with their sled. There was one person in our group that just couldn’t keep pace and kept falling ridiculously far behind and as a result I fell ridiculously far behind because I made sure to wait for him. My patience was running out. The whole way back no significant conversations were had and the guy being slow was also very stubborn which made it hard for me to help him. So pretty much the whole time back I was getting frustrated with this guy in front of me whilst being soaked by the rain, blown by the wind and I still had a broken snowshoe. I also ended up carrying some extra gear which added around 5-10kg, so my pack was around 30kg and sled 10kg but I’m not complaining about that because that was self-inflicted and I enjoy challenging myself. We walked and we walked and eventually at around 5-6pm just before dark we got back to the carpark. Trip #2 finished!

I did it, I couldn’t believe it. I escaped Victoria before the border closed, ran some of NSW most renowned trails, came across some awesome people and successfully completed both CTSS trips. I felt proud of my determination and resilience, I’d worked hard to get here. I also should mention after coming back from Aconcagua in February my bank account balance was in the negative but since then I’d managed to save enough to afford both of these CTSS trips as well as travelling around NSW for two weeks and I still had a decent amount of money left. Anyway to top it all off one of my favourite artists, Logic had released a new album called No Pressure so I got to listen on the drive back to Jindabyne. Great album by the way. The plan fo me was to drive back home tonight and pull an all nighter, it had been a great couple weeks but I was keen to get home and relax a little so I wanted to get home as soon as possible. Before heading home though I went out for dinner with Mike and the rest of the crew. Like always I absorbed every word Mike had to say and had some great conversations with everyone else. Someone also bought me dinner because I lended him my ski pole so that was a bonus, thanks mate!! When dinner was over it was sad to say goodbye, I’d really enjoyed these trips and the people in them. But all things have to come to an end and at around 9pm I said my goodbyes to Mike and the rest of the group. The journey home began. It was going to be an odd transition, this night I was out at a restaurant eating dinner with mates but once I got home I’d have to where a mask, not leave the house unless it was for exercising, work/study, shopping or to give care. I’d also be going straight back to work so no time to relax like I hoped. Not complaining though I always appreciate any work that comes my way. So at around 9pm I made the long journey driving right through the night. I’m not gonna lie the 8 hour drive wasn’t the funnest thing I’d ever done. Luckily keeping my eyes open didn’t become a problem until I had about 2 hours left. It’s kind of spooky driving by yourself through the night along country roads and freeways, there was hardly any cars in site the whole time. I only stopped twice both times for a monster energy drink to keep me awake. The fun part however was blasting that new Logic album practically the whole time, so that made the trip pretty fun at times. Before I knew it, it was around 6am and I arrived home, only 12 hours ago I was amongst the snow and mountains at Kosciuszko National Park and now I’m home. It was an epic journey and I was absolutely dead, I was extremely tired however things weren’t done yet. After breakfast it was straight back to work delivering pamphlets for real estate and doing property scans for online inspections.

Leg 9: Jindabyne, NSW – Mount Martha, VIC 26-27/07/20

And thats a wrap, my epic three week journey across NSW. From the crazy coronavirus situation in Victoria, to running on The Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains to running along The Coast Track in The Royal National Park to running marathons with friends in Canberra to summiting seven summit number 4 with a hero, to driving home for 8 hours right through the night with no sleep. It was such a great experience that continuously took me out of my comfort zone, I leant so much about life and myself. I’d go as far as to call it a life changing experience

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