Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking, Long-Distance Walking
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The Shorncliffe Shuffle: Countdown to the Great Ocean Walk

It’s cold. For Brisbane, anyway. In fact, a couple of days ago was the city’s coldest in 11 years, with a maximum of 12 and a half degrees Celsius. It was also, apparently, the coldest June day here since 1916, when an 11.3C maximum was recorded.

Probably a good time to head somewhere tropical and sunny. Not this idiot. Tomorrow morning at 6:55am I get on a plane south, to freezing, windy, coastal Victoria, for a hundred kilometres of solo trudging along the coast south-west of Melbourne. Wonder why I can’t get people to come hiking with me.

Rounding the headland, Shorncliffe

I am, however, perversely excited, and not just at the prospect of a week off work. I’ve been planning my thru-hike of the Great Ocean Walk for over a month, and I am determined to have a great time. I will not let the prospect of hypothermia interfere with this goal. Although no fan of extreme cold, I’ve survived much colder, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have most of that lonesome stretch of coastline to myself.

Clothing -- carried

One corner of my base camp

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in what I’m packing. I don’t talk about gear much on TGTW, but it’s time I dragged my gear fetish out of the dusty storage closet and into the cleansing light for your perusal.

I took some great pictures today as I “trained” my way towards a delicious cafe latte, but they’ll keep till I get back from Victoria. Since I’ll be walking along rocky coastline, it suddenly hit me yesterday that I should lug my fully loaded pack along some rocky coastline to see how it feels. I’m clever like that.

Yesterday I started late — a good walk, crappy light for pictures. Today I got up around 5:00 and had a fabulous couple of hours playing amateur naturalist as murky dawn spilled over the edge of the Pacific.

We’re blessed with a lovely headland at nearby Shorncliffe and I had a ball rock-hopping around it with the iPhone on shuffle after the tide had receded, with frequent stops to squat down with my camera over rock, plant, mollusc or puddle to take advantage of the superb post-dawn light (the squatting down is easy; it’s the standing up again that kills the knees).

Here’s a haphazard run-down of my Gear for the G.O.W.:

Gear for the G.O.W.

I’m taking my Virga backpack. It’s meant for lightweight trips, but this time I’m walking a thin line weight-wise. I’ve decided that this is one trip I won’t skimp on grams at the expense of night-time comfort, and I’m packing my big, beautiful but long-neglected Mont down bag. I haven’t used it for years as I was trying to be ultralight on the PCT and elsewhere, and consequently being ultra-cold a lot.

The bivy sack

I’m a cold sleeper; hell, even typing this, my feet are cold…so I s’pose I’m also a cold typer. The sleeping bag, a Glacier 750, isn’t even made anymore. It is a ‘Boxfoot’ design, meaning extra feathers at the foot end. My feet are just icicles with toes.

I was going to lug a tent, but loading up the Virga, I chickened out and decided to stick with my trusty PCT-tested handmade Ray Jardine tarp. But I ordered a lightweight bivy sack from Titanium Goat (no relation) in Utah, USA, for extra rain protection and insulation if it is wet down south. I’ve never used a bivy so this will be an experiment. In the picture above, it’s the tiny black bag on the upper left next to the little fuel (soda) bottle.

The Wisp wind-shirt

What else? A single new Black Diamond pole (usually use two but I killed them on the PCT and times are tight). Beer-can stove, P.O.E. inflatable mat, and I’m gambling on Marmot rain-pants, an ultralight Snow Peak umbrella and Go-Lite ‘Wisp’ wind-shirt as rain/wind protection. Patagonia down vest, Mont Bell beanie and Skins long underwear will be my ‘jamies.

I’ll be hiking in a wicking T-shirt, my favourite Buff bandana-thing, long Lowe Alpine pants, thin socks and Asics ‘Blackhawk’ jogging shoes. I’ll be wearing a North Face fleece neck gaiter, chuckling maniacally at my good fortune, and singing songs from a broad range of alternative-folk, dark-country and the Complete Works of Hank Williams Snr.

Since taking that gear photo, I’ve downsized the water bottles, and replaced the fleece and the Marmot wind-shirt with my Mountain Hardwear ‘Monkey Man’ jacket. That’s it I’m wearing on the beach at the very top. It’s bulky, but I’ll be wearing it mostly, I reckon, and it’s very warm. The Outdoor Research mitts look extreme but I suffer from cold hands.

Here’s my kitchen:

'Master Chef' it ain't

And the contents of my food sack. Doesn’t look like much but there’s a ton of chocolate and snacks in there. I’ll be doing the walk fast — there’s food there for four long days:

The larder

With all that food and a few litres of H2O, I’m scraping in at around 30lb/14kg, not too bad for a winter trip.

Finally, here’s my trusty tarp, a few days ago after re-seam-sealing and testing its efficacy with a hose:

The tarp

The hose test

That’s it. Time for bed — gotta get up in five hours to make that flight. Oh, I will also be taking my phone and attempting, signal permitting, to blog a couple of times from the trail. The blog, my journal, and my ancient copy of Conrad’s aptly nautical Lord Jim will be my entertainment — if I need any on what should be a spectacular journey.

See you when I see you.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Renee Subacius says

    Good luck on your walk, I wish I was going. Let us know if your doing anything worthy of a story in the Bayside and Northern Suburbs Star (your local newspaper if you live in Shorncliffe). Just drop us an email
    Have fun,
    Renee Subacius

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