I first donned a backpack and climbed the Major Mitchell Plateau in September 1985, I’ve climbed it a total of 4 maybe 5 times now, including the latest hike in 2016.
A lot has changed in our world since then, firstly the medium of recording the story. I can’t find my log book for 1985 or I simply didn’t have one. However, my second hike in 1986, dubbed the “Comet Hike” was written in my log book that was a foolscap Collins Minute book. Written after the event. Not long after that I started recording in a smaller log book that I carried with me and wrote every chance I had. These days my rough notes become a word press blog and I share the story with lots of other people! In the 80’s I would use my log books and diary to record daily life and then record letter tapes for my friends.
The invention of word processing on a typewriter and then computer also means that my spelling is checked. I also have Michael who proof-reads for me!
Other changes. Get a load of the car, it’s an HQ Belmont station wagon, not a Kingswood and the rear door has a roll down window and drop tray! Click on the image, Marcelle and I both have mullets and we’re both wearing our scout uniform. For whatever reason we thought these heavy cotton shirts were the go for hiking in. In the other photo we’re dressed in special hiking gear, our shirts have special wicking abilities, we have decent boots and Goretex raincoats. Marcelle’s backpack is the same one that Michael is carrying, however, check out my old one. It has an external frame and you can see the aluminium hoop at the top. That bloody thing use to snag on every low hanging branch I passed under. You can still buy the sleeping mats, a single piece of pressed material, nowadays you wouldn’t use them as a yoga mat. We travelled with lightweight self-inflating mattresses. However, mine had a seam explosion so I would have been better off with nothing more than a sleeping mat.
We spent hours packing in the 80’s trying hard to get the packs as light as possible, these packs had about 16kg. I carried 18kg this hike, so a little more but a lot less time to pack.
In the days before colour photo copiers we carried two A2 paper maps that were very detailed. If we wanted to check where we were we needed to triangulate our position, so needed 3 landmarks within sight, and using a compass, rotate the map, draw 3 lines and basically have a guess. The information on the maps was already 10 years old when we bought them. In 2016 we downloaded an app onto our phones, paid $9 for 3 maps that has information that is regularly updated. The app even puts a little blue dot to show us where we were along with the full longitude and latitude. There’s no need for wi-fi or mobile reception, just the trusty satellites overhead. We could zoom-in for a closer look, or out for a wider look and drop a pin, here’s where we had lunch and where we camped. We printed the maps out in colour to carry a paper copy and gave a copy to various people in case we got lost!
Cooking has changed too. Here we are with a fire and a billy hanging over it on a structure we’ve fashioned out of sticks, compare that to our lightweight cooking pan sitting on a tripod above the flame. No need to search for dry wood. Still, once the matches got wet, even though they were waterproof, no fire was possible! The menu in 1986 consisted of fresh hamburgers, dried peas and Deb potatoes, sandwiches and pikelets. In 2016 we had fresh fruit, freeze-dried chicken and potatoes, along with packaged rice and salmon. Luckily the taste of freeze-dried food is much better!
And then our sleeping accommodation. In 1986 we wanted to go as lightweight as possible, so slept only under a tent fly. In 2016 we carried a lightweight 2kg tent, including attached groundsheet and fly. Lucky for us it didn’t rain back in the 80’s. Ever.
In 1986 my log entry says:
As we descended we watched the mist blowing straight up from the bottom of the mountain. About half way down the mountain we watched as the plateau revealed itself to us, the mist started to clear up before our eyes
This hike was the reverse, the weather was quite nice as we headed down Mt William, however, half-way up the other side we watched as the mist hid the mountains.
The significant event in 1986 was Halley’s comet, hence the black and white photos. Marcelle lugged her big camera and tripod to the top of the mountain. We took photos of the night sky. I don’t have any of those images. Michael and I took our phones and snapped many photos of the bush, the flowers and each other. No need to have a film developed, instant delete, and much easier to manage.
The one thing that hasn’t changed in 30 years is my sheer delight and enjoyment with walking and hiking in the Grampians and sharing that with people who I love.