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Bushwalking in Extreme Weather

Extreme Heat

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Bushwalking in hot and humid weather interferes with the normal body cooling process of evaporation from the lungs and skin and may lead to heat exhaustion. If this state is not recognized and treated promptly it may progress to the more serious and potentially fatal condition of heat stroke in which the body temperature rises due to failure of the heat-regulating center in the brain.

Prevention

  • When walking in hot weather, drink plenty of water
  • Avoid activity in the hottest part of the day by planning to rise early, take a midday siesta or reduce the distance to be covered during the day
  • Plan mid-summer trips near watercourses and do not overextend the party
  • Wear a hat and avoid sunburn
  • Drink plenty of water before commencing the day's walking

Recognition

Early symptoms are thirst, muscle cramps, and weakness, headache, feeling hot, faint, giddy and nauseous. The victim develops rapid pulse and breathing accompanied by excessive sweating. As the dehydration becomes more severe, the skin becomes hot and dry, with headache, nausea, vomiting and mental disturbance common prior to collapse and unconsciousness.

Treatment

  • Assist the victim to rest in a cool and shaded area.
  • Remove unnecessary clothing, sponge with cool water and fan the victim.
  • Give frequent cool drinks.
  • Gently stretch any cramped muscles.
  • In extreme cases immerse the victim in water or if this is not possible, cover with a wet sheet or tent.
  • Where Heat Exhaustion has developed into Heat Stroke, the condition is potentially fatal, and the first aider must act urgently to call emergency services.

Extreme Cold

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The gradual onset of the effect of exposure to extreme cold may be overlooked in the early stages. When the body loses heat faster than it can create it and the core temperature is lowered, the condition is known as hypothermia. It is responsible for several deaths each year in Australia.

Prevention

  • Carry and wear suitable clothing to ensure you always have adequate protection from the cold particularly when combined with wet and windy conditions (ref clothing)
  • Ensure a regular intake of food (high calorie) and drink. Do not drink alcohol which accelerates heat loss.
  • On overnight walks be self-sufficient and do not rely on reaching mountain huts for shelter.
  • Avoid physical exhaustion by walking within your party's capabilities.
  • Take particular care when walking with more susceptible people, such as young children, slightly built, weak or less fit individuals.
  • Take into account that long stops or immobilisation due to injury increase susceptibility.
  • Be aware of the early signs of hypothermia.

Recognition

The early warning signs of tiredness, shivering and lagging behind and stumbling are a signal to assess the situation and take preventative action with respect to clothing, food, drink and rest. Difficulty unwrapping a sweet such as a barley sugar is a simple test for loss of usual co-ordination.
 
As body temperature continues to fall, mental and physical performance declines rapidly, often unbeknown to the victim. The danger signs requiring prompt action to prevent a potential fatality are uncontrollable shivering or cessation of shivering, pain in the limbs, unusual or irrational behaviour, poor judgment, apathy, lack of coordination, exhaustion, confusion, hallucinations, slurred speech, and blurred vision. The victim will feel cold to touch and is usually pale. Untreated they will collapse, pass into a stupor, unconsciousness, and death.

Treatment

The basic principles of first aid and resuscitation apply, in addition to the following measures to prevent further body cooling.

  • STOP IMMEDIATELY
  • Protect the victim from the cold environment by finding a nearby or improvised shelter from the wind and the wet, and insulating the body from the ground.
  • Put on extra layers of clothing and a sleeping bag if available, remembering to cover the head.
  • Enclose in a waterproof layer, such as a large plastic garbage bag pack liner, bivvy bag, ground sheet or safety blanket.
  • Huddle together to warm the victim by body heat from other party members.
  • DO NOT attempt to restore body heat by massage, warming beside a fire or hot water bottles. External heating that is too rapid may actually cause the core temperature of the victim to drop.
  • Give warm sweet drinks and easily digestible food if conscious.DO NOT give victim alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, tea or hot drinks.
  • Ensure other party members are adequately clothed and not in similar danger.

Electrical Storms

Prevention

Check weather conditions with the Bureau of Meteorology before commencing your walk. Wherever possible, do not go out when thunderstorms are predicted.

Take Action

Avoid high ground, isolated objects such as a tree in a clearing, overhanging cliffs or caves. If possible, insulate yourself from the ground by sitting on your pack. Members of a party may sit together but should not be in contact. 

Celebrating Women Bushwalkers

International Women's Day focus on women-only bushwalking clubs

2018 05 09 FB Susie Hale The Pacific Crest Trail USA2 

We have three member clubs who are women-only bushwalking clubs and many women are members of our other 59 member clubs as well and we are celebrating each one of you today!

The main photo is of Suzie Hale, president of The Victorian Mountain Tramping Club (VMTC) who did a solo trip of the 4,280km Pacific Crest Trail which she completed in 153 days last year. Other major accomplishments on her impressive walking CV include leading a VMTC group who completed the Australian Alpine Walking Track in 42 days.

 

Escaping your Comfort Zone

 
The first women-only bushwalking club we would like to introduce you to is Escaping Your Comfort Zone. Not only are they trailblazers in many ways, they have just won a Victorian Sports Award for the Outdoor/Active Recreation Initiative of the year!
 
 
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Loey Matthews, Volunteer Walk Leader for Escaping Your Comfort Zone, shared this about their club:

If you’ve never been on one of our hikes before, you might wonder what makes Escaping Your Comfort Zone (EYCZ) different from other bushwalking clubs, and what “body positive” hiking is all about anyway? Let's break down what drives us, and what you can expect at a body positive hike that’s different from other hiking groups.

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What is body positivity?

Body positivity is a tricky concept to define, but there are some things that we can all agree on.

We live in a society where there is immense pressure to conform to a certain size, shape, and have other physical characteristics that are considered “good looking”. When people don’t fit that size or shape, it is expected that we should diet and exercise, and use makeup, hair product and even surgery until we do fit that expectation.

Body positivity comes out of the fat acceptance movement, and aims to help people overcome dissatisfaction with their bodies, so they can lead happier and more productive lives. At Escaping Your Comfort Zone, we are all about accepting that our bodies are unique and realistic, and furthermore, they are amazing and powerful just the way they are.

We want to throw out the guilt of “good” and “bad” food, throw diet talk in the bin, and take away any obligation that you might feel from “having” to get active.

We want our members, and everyone else, to know that we are not broken, our bodies are enough. They are whole, and powerful and capable of amazing things. We are not a project to be fixed. We accept you all as you are.

The outdoors doesn’t care what you look like, and neither do we!

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So what is different about body positive hiking?

We aim to be an open group for every woman and gender diverse person who wants to get outdoors but doesn’t know where to start. Many groups are fantastic places for people who are already hiking or having outdoor adventures regularly to meet each other, but we aim to be a starting point.

The majority of our hikes are beginner friendly, and usually take between 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours to complete. We don’t focus on how many kilometres you’ve done, because more often than not, our hikers are capable of much more than they think!

We always go at the pace of the slowest hiker, and there is never any rush to the finish on one of our hikes. We expect and plan for lots of stops along the way, to take selfies and point out the mushrooms and animals we meet along the trail. I’ve heard from some of our members that when they’ve been on  hikes with other groups, the hike was promoted with the expectation that they would support the slowest hiker, but found themselves rushed along.  At EYCZ we take the need to support everyone at their own pace really seriously – you’ll find a leader at the rear of each of our hikes, chatting to the person who is taking their time.

We enjoy the experience of being outdoors, caring for our physical and mental health through reconnecting with the natural world. It means we build friendships with people we would never have met otherwise – one of the things I cherish most is the diversity of age in our group, and the ability to connect with people way outside my normal social ‘bubble’.

Escaping Your Comfort Zone hikes want you to feel that no matter your size, skin colour, where you were born, your religion, your favourite song to dance to, who you’re attracted to, your disability or anything else, your body will never be seen by us as a problem to solve, but rather as an individual person who is on your own journey and wants to have adventures along the way.

They hike multiple times a week all over Melbourne, Geelong and beyond, and also have groups in Gippsland, Canberra and Sydney.   You can get all the details at www.escapingyourcomfortzone.com.  Or find them on Facebook @escapingyourcomfortzone or Instagram @escapingyorucomfortzone

 

Melbourne Womens Walking Club

The Melbourne Women's Walking Club was founded in 1922 and still going strong! You can listen to the story of how they started here
 
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The Melbourne Women's Walking Club is an active club for women walkers of all ages and includes both metropolitan and country members. Their program covers a wide range of activities, however the club's primary focus is bushwalking with walks of various types, gradings and distances frequently scheduled.
 
These activities include daywalks, backpacking, base camping and accommodation trips. Members can also participate in urban walks, cycling, canoeing and conservation work. They have regular social gatherings throughout the year and a training program in bushwalking skills.
 
You are welcome to join the club as a guest on one of their walks if you would like to give bushwalking a go!  Contact Jane Matthews This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
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Bushranger's Women's Walking Club

Fed Walk 2018 Bushranger Bay to Fingal Beach 6
 

The idea for the women only club was mooted at a large Girl Guide Camp. Many of the leaders were bemoaning the fact that they had no like-minded women to walk with. Consequently the club was formed, a walk planned and a cake made! Many of their foundation members are active in the Girl Guides but membership extends to all women who love walking, talking, laughing and dare we say it, eating!

Members come from all over Victoria, communicate and plan by email only and meet for the Annual General Meeting each June. At this meeting, walks are decided, leaders volunteer their services and decisions are generally decided by consensus.

Their annual itinerary of walks includes monthly walks, which often are walks from a weekend base. Twilight walks, pack carries, interstate and overseas walking trips are also included throughout the year. Each year a ballot is conducted for the best walk of the year and 'Ned', a replica of their mascot is awarded to the leader of this walk. Ned hitches a ride on each walk.

Overseas trips have included trekking in Sapa, Vietnam, and hiking from the source of the Thames to the sea along the Thames Path. This was not as everyone suggested a lengthy pub crawl, but an historical and educational ramble! The Bushrangers Womens' Walking Club Inc goes from strength to strength each year with a growing membership of women who love the bush. The can be contacted This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

BTAC team helps out on the McMillans Walking Track

A weekend in the life of a BTAC volunteer

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I am Joe van Beek, President of the Ben Cruachan Walking Club, committee member and a volunteer with the Bushwalking Tracks and Conservation (BTAC) team, a standing committee of Bushwalking Victoria. 

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In 1864 Angus McMillan was commissioned by the state government to establish a track to link the various gold fields in Gippsland. The track stretches some 220km from Omeo westward to Woods Point through the Gippsland high country. A few years after the Ben Cruachan Walking Club was formed in 1965, members of the Club investigated, documented and marked what they thought was an accurate re-creation of the  'McMillan's Track' and began maintaining it.

Our most recent track maintenance was over a very hot Australia Day weekend to assist with track maintenance on the McMillans Walking Track. I was the project leader, and was joined by John Kellas from Ben Cruachan Walking  Club and 13 other BTAC volunteers from various bushwalking clubs,  individual members of Bushwalking Victoria and two visitors.

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This ambitious track maintenance activity on behalf of DELWP was scheduled to start on Friday 25 January but as that day was a Total Fire Ban,  the start was postponed untill the Saturday after a front had cooled the air. Concerns remained as a dry lightning storm accompanied the front and set several wild fires in the bush not so far from the work area. Some of these subsequently joined and became the Thomson Jordon Divide Road fire of more than 6,000 hectares. A number of discussions were held with DELWP on the risks and wisdom of going into the bush at that time. The safety, communication and contingency plans were reviewed and escape routes verified.

The section from Lazarini Spur Track down to the Black River is one of the more picturesque and historically significant sections of McMillans Walking Track but is also one of the more difficult to maintain. There is only ready access from one end, it is 6km in length and has an approximate 700m descent which means a 700m climb back to the start. The first 2km is a permanently closed 4WD track but has been used as such in recent times but DELWP desired it be maintained as a walking track only. This meant all access was by foot.

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On the Saturday morning we established a camp, 4km from the start of the work site, at the intersection of the Jamieson-Licola Road and Lazarini Spur Track as various members of the work party gathered. After lunch two teams of 5 started work after a further consideration of the risks and safety issues. Four more joined later in the afternoon. Large plumbs of smoke were observed and not knowing the source of the smoke we evacuated back to our vehicles and camp.

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DELWP kindly provided us with food for two BBQ meals. It was a communal task to prepare and cook the food. It proved to be a generous quantity as many of us enjoyed the leftovers for lunches. That evening, some explored the nearby Crows Hut and as there were some keen mountain runners among the volunteers, there was much discussion about the nature of the McMillans Walking Track and how long it may take to run given that the total climb and therefore descent is almost 9,000 metres, the height of Mt Everest.

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That night there was some rain and the temperatures were cooler so we were much more at ease going into the bush on Sunday morning. The conditions were perfect for some serious track clearing; over cast sky, slight breeze and temperatures in the low 20s. Great progress was made by the three teams; a chainsaw team and two "tunnelling" teams consisting of a brush cutter followed by two track clearers, a further brush cutter and two hedge trimmers and finally a crew of track clearers and groomers. When the "tunnelling" teams met up, it was decided to call it a day. All 17 participants put in over 8 hours of work.

Monday was to be the big day, a concerted effort to get down to the river. As numbers were down to 12,  we formed two teams. A chainsaw team who continued from where they left off and an enlarged "tunnelling" team. Great progress was made but it became evident that we would not finish that day. A call to knock off and proceed to the river for refreshment was made a bit before 3pm. Several took the opportunity to bath in the Black River while others took in the atmosphere of this isolated spot in the bush and rested up for the 700m climb back to the top of the track. Equipment and fuel not needed the following day was carried out. We reached camp at 7pm, almost 11 hours after leaving.

Conditions were still fine for working on Tuesday. A team of 4, all wishing to leave around mid day or just do a half days work, did some tidy up of a section of track near the beginning that had been skipped over previously. The other four set off down the track to complete the track clearing left undone the previous day. The last of the chain sawing was completed. We also cleared a little way up on the other side of the river crossing and cleared a couple of spots that could be used for a tent site just downstream from the crossing and opposite a lovely swimming hole. Some benching was done where most urgently required and to protect the most significant example of the dry stone walling constructed by McMillan's gang in 1864 when the track was originally formed.

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We got back to camp at 17:30 and the remianing four of us had a relaxing time before an early retirement to our tents. The morning John and I packed up camp, stowed the trailer and tidied up as the storm clouds built. We hadn't finished when heavy showers started. We were at Heyfield before noon and dropped off the DELWP supplied equipment.

Thank you to DELWP for facilitating the track maintenance and providing food for the volunteers. Thanks to BTAC for coordinating the event and providing the volunteers and much of the tools and equipment. A very satisfying feeling knowing that the job was achieved to a high and uniform standard. Happy walking everyone, this section of the track should be good for some years.

If you would like to become a BTAC volunteer, you can find more information here as well as the track maintenance schedule for 2019. 

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