Today I went hiking on Mount Wellington. My poor decisions meant it was an idiotic little adventure from the start.
Today's the 3rd day that rain was forecast for Hobart. Having experienced what it calls 'rain' during the weekend (it was a strong drizzle at best) I thought nothing of it. I should have remembered that the higher up a mountain you go the more likely the presence of rain. Lots of it too. It rarely stopped raining up there. The upper part of me was nicely protected since I decided to wear my soft shell and my rain coat on the outside-I wore both of my waterproofs basically. The problem was with my hiking boots. I've been aware for some time that they are no longer watertight, meaning there's nothing to stop moisture coming in except for my thick socks. I'm not surprised really. I bought them just over 2 years ago for a measily €20, they were never made to endure extreme weather conditions (and during my final year at Uni I put them through many).
Now that alone is a bit daft and a potential safety hazard. But I also broke 2 of the 4 golden rules of hiking: (1) Bring a map (2) Bring a compass (3) Bring water and provisions (4) Never wear jeans or unsuitable footwear eg. flip flops. Guess which 2 I broke? The first 2. So I could have very easily wandered aimlessly and lost for hours. (I could just hear Uncle Alex berating me.)
My thinking was: this is a very accessible mountain for walkers, plenty of tourists and locals go there, so the paths must be well signposted and maintained, plus I'll see lots of people. I hardly saw anyone in actual fact; I was often walking along forests and trails by myself. I only saw people at Fern Tree, in the beginning, and at The Springs, the rest area and parking lot for many walkers. (Called so because it's a water catchment area for Hobart.) But at least I got to see wildlife, like wallabies and possums.
At the beginning (which wasn't very obvious) there was a noticeboard giving advice (bring a map and compass) and pointing out the various available routes. After an amount of deliberation I picked a route named 'Fern Glade' and walking in the appropriate direction. Now while the paths were clear, they weren't always signposted, so I often came across other paths and bridges offering no indication of where they headed. This happened the most towards the bottom of the mountain. Along the earlier Fern Glade path my decision was simple: I'm heading towards some waterfalls, so I'll just stick to the path that follows upriver. To my delight I found my logical deduction had been correct when I came across a major junction with signposts.
From that point on I found it easier to pick a path and stick to it. Eventually, soon after 12, I came across a wide spacious area with information boards, toilets and the obligatory shelter. I took this as my cue to sit down and eat my sandwich. I wasn't willing to use the toilets though, since toilets provided for hikers are intended for emergency use, not comfort (meaning they're not necessarily clean, lit, or properly soap-supplied). I've used them, but I stress, only when I really had to pee.
It was there that I was faced with another decision. Did I dare continue upwards towards the 'pinnacle', where I could possibly find a great view of Hobart? The paths were clear, but it was warned they were tricky. Normally I can do tricky, normally 'cos I'm following the directions given by someone who actually has a map. Also, it's normally dry. But this time I had other concerns: I had no map, no compass and no first aid kit. It was still raining and my feet were drenched in water by this time. Also, I have no gloves with me in Australia so my hands were wet and exposed. And another thing: my thermal leggings were doing their job in keeping my legs warm, so well were they performing in fact that until I sat down for lunch I had truly no idea how drenched they were.
What it came down to was that should anything happen to me, I was screwed, with little prospect for help. And the longer I stayed up/out there in my state, the more likely my chances of getting hypothermia. (This is why first aid training is useful.) I definitely did not want that happening. I could also see that in the distance there was only...white. The cloud obviously. Point is, the pinnacle would not promise a staggering view today. My decision was made. I made my descent.
Shortly after resuming my walk my hands began to freeze and redden. I agreed with myself I'd made the right decision.
Also, how fortunate that when I got back to Fern Tree the next bus arrived in just 3 minutes. Oh sweet warmth!