At the beginning of April I set off on an end-to-end hike along the Bibbulmun Track, a long distance walk trail here in Western Australia. This track runs from Kalamunda on the eastern outskirts of the Perth metro area, to Albany, a large town on the South coast of Western Australia, covering a distance of about 970km (each source of info seems to have a different distance!). The track is divided into sections an easy days walk apart, usually a max. of about 20km with a three sided shelter with a water tank and long drop (toilet) at each site. The trail is marked by distinctive triangular yellow signs with what looks to be a black snake on them. This snake is actually a representation of the Waugal, a dreamtime creature responsible for the creation of the waterways in the south west of WA.
Bibbulmun Track marker
I was doing the hike with my brother-in-law and although we both have considerable outdoor experience it had been quite some time since either of us had done more than an overnight hike. Due to time constraints and a small window of opportunity when we could both get the time off work to do the walk we didn’t have much chance to do any training. I therefore undertook the ‘she’ll be right’ training regime which consisted of … well nothing, except for an overnighter covering all of a whopping 10k’s. Obviously this wasn’t ideal as I had some new gear to try out, the most important being a new ULA Catalyst backpack. I’d decided to order this pack as although I have a perfectly good Macpac Cascade pack that has served me well, I thought reducing my weight for such a long trip would be a good thing.
Temperatures in the early part of the trip were quite warm (mid 30's) making water our number one priority for this part of the trip. We were both drinking in excess of 7l of water a day during this period, but despite this the BIL still started to suffer from heat exhaustion at one point.
View through the Perth hills
The first nights accommodation
Resupply at a bush food drop. Notice the blue foam mat I took in case I had to go to ground. Thankfully it didn't happen.
A view from the Monadnocks
Sunrise on Mt Cooke
Sunrise on Mt Cooke
Crossing Long Gully Bridge
The BIL had to pull out of the trip at Collie due to bad blisters on his feet but rejoined me at Donnelly River 6 days later.
The Collie River
A misty morning south of Balingup
Typical hut water
The section of track between Balingup and the Brockman Hwy was supposedly closed but others seemed to be getting through so I decided to give it a go. I was thwarted at one point as the route I need to go went through an area affected by bushfire that was being harvested for timber so I had to back-track and find another way through.
The next obstacle was crossing the Blackwood river as the main crossing, Southampton bridge, had been destroyed by a bushfire. Thankfully there was a ford across the river 1km upstream where I managed to get across.
As I was on my own I decided to 'double hut' it this day doing almost 40km. This meant I got to Donnelly River a day early. i was meeting my family here and resulted in me having an extra day with the family and an extra rest day. The BIL rejoined me for the remainder of the trip and all went as planned. We had a few wet days south of Pemberton but all in all the weather was pretty good.
A bibbulmun hut
The wettest day of the walk near the tree top walk
Sunrise on the Pingurup plains
South coast view
We eventually reached Albany on the 16th May, 42 days after setting out averaging just over 24km per day. I also managed to lose about 9kg in weight during this time! Everyone we met seemed to see a lot of snakes, we only saw 3 big-uns (tigers) and a handfull of babies. It was a fantastic, rewarding exerience but glad to be home now spending time with the family.
The finish at Albany
I was pretty pleased with most of the equipment I took. My Warbonnet Blackbird hammock was used every night on the track and my Hammock Gear quilts kept me nice and toasty at night. I'd upgraded to quilts rated to lower temps for the trip and opted for a full length underquilt as I've never quite been satisfied with a 3/4 quilt. My hammock was the number one gear talking point on the trip with only one other person I met having had any experience with them. I had my Hammock Forums sticker on my water bottle and a few people jotted down the URL to look it up when they finished their trips. I think I may have converted a few people.
At the start of the trip I was setting up outside the huts but as the trip progressed I tended to set up inside the huts.
I'd been a bit nervous about my ULA Catalyst pack as it didn't seem as robust as the packs I've previously used. I was using the pack at the limits of what it was designed for when carrying a full load of food and water and proved adequate for the task. Unfortunately the belt pouches on the pack both developed numerous holes along the stitching which I managed to fix with a bit of sewing using dental floss.
The circuit falling apart
When I reported this to ULA upon my return they mentioned that they'd had a sub-standard batch of belts made and I'd got one. To their credit they sent me a replacement but this wasn't much use on the track. All-in-all a good pack for track walking but I don't think it would stand up to well to the rigors of off track walking here in WA.
I took a Spot tracker so that friends and family could keep track of our progress and so that we could report in each day. The tracker comes with a pouch that you can use to attach it to your pack. The original started falling apart after only one day on my practice hike. I had received a replacement pouch that was falling apart out of the packet so I ended up making a zing-it tether so if the pouch failed I wouldn't lose the tracker all together. I then used a couple of pieces of bicycle tube to hold it firmly in the pouch. This seemed to do the trick.
Spot tracker on pack
After my trip I was disappointed to find that the Spot website only keeps your track data for 30 days - I thought this meant the data for a whole trip not a given data point - which meant I only had 30 days of a 42 day trip. Obviously you're not meant to go too far without a computer and internet connection! A nice novelty item to have taken but not something i'd want to rely on in an emergency (the BIL had a PLB if we did have an emergency).
My cooking setup was a small titanium kovea gas stove and a Snowpeak 900ml pot for which I'd made a cosie ala the Shugmeister's instructions using a car sunshade. This cosie and my hammock were the main gear talking points of the trip.
My footwear was a pair of Garmont T8's which I wear for work in summer here. They served me well and although they resulted in instant wet feet when wading through water they dried quickly and i prefer this to the sweatiness of waterproof lined boots. I used Smartwool PhD socks which were super comfy but I did wear out a couple of pairs on the trip.
All-in-all a fantastic trip made all the better for having had my hammock with me - not one uncomfortable nights sleep for the whole trip