Survival weekend

 28-29 April 2012

 Are you prepared? NO? Read on to find out!

 Mike, Dianna and I set out from Hawdon Shelter in cool overcast conditions on a day trip to the East Hawdon Biv, theoretically we were carrying only what we would normally carry for a day and then planned to stay the night and see how well we coped. 

 The walk went well, we avoided crossing the Hawdon by sticking to the true left all the way to the East Branch which turned out to be a good easy route and we made good time reaching the junction in about an hour. The East Hawdon route was not difficult to find and after 2 hours enjoying this beautiful valley and it’s charming little bush clad gorge, lunch was taken at the near new and well kept 2 bunk shelter.

After lunch we returned down the valley. About half way down we saw what appeared to be a huge cloud of smoke hanging in the valley ahead of us but were unable to determine its cause immediately. A short time later while passing across the bottom of a large scree filled gully we found the rocks splashed with water for 10 metres or more from the river, deep scars in the rocks and a boulder the size of a car nestled in the bushes on the far side of the river. Needless to say we did not sit around waiting for any more to come down but proceeded downstream where soon after we met up with Sergey who had driven up after work to join us for the night out.

 By the time we reached the junction of the Hawdon again, the afternoon was waning so a campsite was selected nestled amongst the trees in a dry grassy hollow and preparations were made. I had brought a large fly sheet so this was slung between trees supported by walking poles as a shelter, a large pile of wood was collected and Dianna lit the fire with her piece of rubber inner tube. All the food was pooled and meals planned and the fearless 4 settled down for a night under the stars. With the thermometer reading a balmy 11 degrees and a cool Nor’west breeze blowing we turned off the MP3 player and went to bed but we could not get warm all night.

 The next morning camp was struck and a quick hour brought us back to the car and on to Springfield for a well earned all day breakfast and a recap of what had been learned.

  •  CONSIDER CARRYING FULL OVERNIGHT GEAR ON ALL BACK COUNTRY TRIPS: At the very least you will get fitter and if it all goes wrong you at least will be comfortable.
  •  SHELTER: Make your shelter fully enclosed to trap body heat and exclude the wind even with all my clothing and wet weather gear on I was shivering in the wind. Make it small enough so everyone is huddled, the only bit of me that was warm at any stage was the bit touching my neighbour.
  •  GROUND INSULATION: Get anything you can between you and the ground, it just sucks heat out of you like a sponge. Next time I will try sleeping on my empty pack but maybe grass or leafy branches might work.
  •  FIRE: Was great while you were next to it but 2 metres away in the shelter it gave no warmth except to those who got up and fed it in the night. If you are carrying fire lighting gear put it in a little billy with some tea bags or cuppa soup. A hot drink can make a huge difference to feelings of well being.
  •  SURVIVAL BAGS: I started by slipping into my pack liner, it barely came to my waist and did nothing to keep the wind off my torso or insulate me from the ground. Later I borrowed a full length plastic bivvy bag from Dianna. This was very effective against the wind but not for ground insulation.
  •  SURVIVAL BLANKETS: Difficult to get to cover you and block the wind and inadequate for ground insulation. Better off with the bivvy bag but would be OK to treat an injured patient as you could “tuck them in”. (Ed comment: Foil survival 12 “blankets” are available as a sack which you can get into. More effective than a just a blanket)
  •  FOOD: When all the food was pooled there was enough for everyone to be well fed for at least another 24 hours or meagrely fed for several days. In a real life situation you would have to weigh up your rescue options and plan food immediately because it would be too late to start rationing a day later.

 Would you survive a night out with just your day gear? If the weather stayed within normal parameters you would be uncomfortable but OK, in really cold, wet or high wind situations you would struggle and probably huddling would be your only hope. Which means if you became separated from your group or tramped alone your risks would immediately become hugely increased.