Train hard, train smart … again


Several months out from the last hike I blogged on this topic (you may want to look back on that one). This year I’m introducing it much earlier in the campaign as training is something which is a high priority in our hike preparation. Everyone is talking about it anyway, so let’s get specific!

Last time around, we introduced the concept of training hard but training smart. Generally I find, particularly at the start of the process, most of us don’t need too much encouragement to do the first part. If you’re part of a competitive, encouraging group like this one, the motivation to train is usually quite prevalent. Therefore, I want to focus on the “train smart” part of the equation.

To quickly recap information given previously, there are five main variables involved in your training. These are;

  • The frequency of training
  • The intensity or effort put in
  • The distance of the hike
  • The terrain you are covering (eg hills, steps, sand)
  • The weight of your pack

There is an understandable tendency to focus heavily on the weight being carried. I want to put to you, however, that this is far from the most important variable.

At this early stage of training, frequency is the most important thing. We are targeting twice a week and looking to establish a routine in this regard. In this way, we gradually build a hike fitness base. You can’t do that by having an exhausting training session then taking two weeks to recover until you can train again. Train at your capacity. Don’t bash yourself up if you have a week where the training goes out the window. That will happen to all of us occasionally. Just get back on the horse.

Since frequency is the focus, it is important to think about where you will train. People often make the assumption that it’s all about Mt Lofty. Don’t get me wrong. Mt Lofty is a great training ground. But training exclusively there in the early stages makes it difficult to allow sufficient recovery between sessions to keep your momentum. It’s also extremely crowded, particularly on Saturday mornings. Consider other options.

I regularly use a variety of training venues including Brown Hill, Aldinga Scrub, Willunga Hill and Hallett Cove boardwalk. I do little to no training on Mt Lofty until much later in the campaign.

 Is Paul training hard or smart?

As you get further in to your training regime, variables such as intensity, distance and especially terrain become more important. For that reason, from December onward, I will be encouraging everyone to climb hills whenever possible. Think about the time you are investing in each training walk and consider how you can maximise the climbing involved. For example, in the second half of the campaign, doing multiples on the steep section of Brownhill may be more beneficial than doing it once with flatter terrain either side.

Throughout all this, there must obviously be a gradual increase in the weight being carried. This is where we must be careful. If a given amount of weight is beneficial for resistance training (such as carrying a pack), then more must be better, right? Not necessarily.

The key word when we are talking about increasing the pack weight is gradual. Training at a given weight for an extended period then making a small increase is much more beneficial (and safer) than loading up quickly and trying to stay at a heavy weight over a long period of time. Here are some suggested targets for the weight of your pack as we go through the training process.

Now                              8kg minimum

Start of November         12kg minimum

Start of January             15kg minimum

Mid February                 20kg minimum

Start of March               25kg

1-2 weeks prior to hike- nothing!

The complication here of course is that many of us have done this before! The temptation for those people is to load up and get to the heavier weights much more quickly. This results in carrying heavy weight for an extended period of time, increasing the risk of burn out, extreme fatigue or injury. Train smart! For those who haven’t trained before, or those who may have struggled with training in the past, it is highly recommended that you stick to the minimum weights along the way. Do not succumb to pressure to keep up with someone else. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

In conclusion, here are some reality checks to consider.

  • All of us who are involved in the hike are past our physical prime. Sorry if that shatters anyone! We need to be realistic about training.
  • Those who have done this before are now a year older than last time.
  • The hike is still a long way off.
  • Most, if not all of us, have probably started training earlier than in the past so the time frame involved is longer.
  • The aim is to be at our peak at the end of March, not at Christmas.

Enjoy the training. Train hard, train smart!



Train hard, train smart … again2019-07-19T05:51:28+00:00

The Official Video Record – 2019


These videos were compiled using media captured by various people during the trek. Together, the videos provide a reasonable insight into what happened during the 2019 Seeds Trek.

Craig’s Team

Jonathan’s Team

Google Earth Flyover from Bogong Village to Harrietville

The Official Video Record – 20192019-06-29T12:26:10+00:00

Sneak Peek at Peak Freaks’ Week


Thirteen hikers formed a team

headed off to live the dream

undeterred, though it would seem

this would test our self-esteem


All our hopes had built for weeks

waiting on the God who speaks

through the things a hiker seeks

… ice-cold streams and mountain peaks


Full of hope, we hit the trail

searched the start to no avail

once on track, we would not fail

looking for our Holy Grail


Fallen trees along the tracks

water scarce at Bogong Jack’s

dodgy knees from heavy packs

resting eased our aching backs


Pressing on to higher ground

past the tree-line, summit-bound

cairns and trig points soon were found

prompting us to look around


Fainter’s views inspired the soul

Feathertop a distant goal

pushing hard was now our role

this was sure no pleasure stroll


Big name peaks were soon far-flung

cruising through the wombat dung

jokes were told and songs were sung

focus turned to Jaithmathang (Yate-ma-tung)


Made it to Tawonga Huts

stunning place – no ifs, no buts

snacked on chocolate, cake and nuts

three-peak days require some guts


Spending time around the fire

speaking of our hearts’ desire

we laughed and prayed to now inspire

joy of which we’d never tire


Up again, we met first light

left behind a rainy night

Pretty Valley came in sight

after that, we took a right


Half way through a third day loop

took us to the other group

climbed Mt Cope and earned a scoop

all together – what a troop!


Moving on, we had to scout

Weston Hut was crowded out

pretty soon we turned about

Blair’s was better … not a doubt


Now no option to defer

Knew the challenge must occur

slogged up Diamantina Spur

looking back on where we were


Challenged by the other mob

(lest they try to title rob!)

even summited ‘Big Knob’

keen to now complete the job


Big days’ work had left us wacked

Federation Hut was packed

thinking of the summits racked

there was now but one we lacked


This was not the time to stop

up at dawn to reach the top

marvelled at the massive drop

views that weren’t too hard to cop


Summiting was such a thrill

backed it up with Mollie’s Hill

running out of time to kill

next stop would be Harrietville


Brenton, Hugo, Paul, JD

Peters two and Michaels three

Marcus, Nathan, Ian and me

all convinced there’s more to see




Sneak Peek at Peak Freaks’ Week2019-04-11T00:43:51+00:00

Made for Adventure


Around 3,000 years ago, an intimidating Hebrew warrior called Benaiah, right-hand-man of King David and one of my ultimate biblical heroes, performed what the Bible calls “great exploits” (2 Samuel 23:20 & 1 Chronicles 11:22). One of these was that he “went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.” This feat, along with others in Benaiah’s resume (listed in the verses immediately after those quoted above), is not explained in any detail, although someone with a vivid imagination graphically described the scene in the 2017 novel, Succession Plan.

We may well ask why the Bible contains records of such events. Perhaps it’s because, like all good writers, those who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to record such things knew their readers. Assuming that roughly 50% of Bible readers are men suggests that action as well as fact is required in the narrative.

Benaiah’s life can be understood more completely by undertaking a study of the times in which he lived. David (particularly in his years as a fugitive) and his men were known to hang out at places like the cave of Adullam, the Crags of the Wild Goats and the Desert of Maon. These were men who knew how to survive and thrive in the wilderness for extended periods. In fact, it’s a common theme right through the Bible – men being summoned to the mountains or wild places in order to hear from God. Moses didn’t receive the Ten Commandments whilst sunbaking around the pool at a desert resort. He was called to Mount Sinai and ended up staying there for forty days and nights. He later sent some of his trusted men to check out Canaan for the same time period (that didn’t end so well in the short term). Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal took place on Mount Carmel. Later, being pursued to the death, Elijah withdrew to a cave on a mountain where he would hear from God. Interestingly, it was quite possibly the same mountain (Sinai) for the same time frame (forty days) as that frequented by Moses.

Jesus, of course, spent forty days in the wilderness where he was tempted to abandon his mission. Scripture tells us that he regularly retreated to the mountains or wilderness to spend time with his father. An event which clearly had a profound influence on Peter, James and John as witnesses was Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9 & 2 Peter 1:16-18). At this time, Jesus led them up a “high mountain” – probably Mount Hermon, an imposing snow clad peak near the border of Israel and Lebanon and roughly 1.5 times the elevation of Mount Bogong!

It seems there has always been an intriguing connection between wilderness experiences, men and their Creator. I wonder what God will do amongst a group of 13 men for 5 days on the spectacular Bogong High Plains?




Made for Adventure2019-03-25T05:16:24+00:00

Our Live Tracker


Our live tracker updates every 5 minutes during the days of our trek. We usually turn it on when we wake up and turn it off when we get to our campsite for the night. Due to variable conditions, sometimes the trackers signal doesn’t connect straight away so sometimes if you are looking, you may need to be patient. This tracker is going with Craig’s team, which leaves from Bogong Village. The tracker only shows the previous seven days data so if there is no data, the page might look like it isn’t working, again, be patient.

Click here and the tracker page should open in a new window.

Our Live Tracker2019-03-24T10:33:47+00:00

BHP Hike Clothing


You may have heard the expression “The weather on the Bogong High Plains has its own agenda” (Those who went on last year’s hike are probably rolling their eyes as they read this). The reason this quote keeps popping up is because it is so true. Consequently, the environment we will be hiking through demands that serious attention be paid to clothing needs.

Essentially, being adequately clothed for a high country adventure requires three types of layers for the upper body. Next to the skin is the base or thermal layer. Merino or wool blend products are ideal for this. They insulate against both cold and heat and do not retain body odour like many other products (particularly polypropylene!) Many of us have found that a short sleeve merino T-shirt for hiking and a long sleeve version for night time use is ideal.

Next is the insulation layer(s). Again, this can be merino, or some sort of fleece/wind stopper fabric. The number of layers of insulation required depends on the type of garment(s). Two lighter layers will give you more adaptability than one warm, bulky layer. Another option is a lightweight down vest or jumper.

The final, outer layer is the shell. This consists of a waterproof jacket, and is arguably the most important article of clothing in your kit for a hike such as ours. Warning: if you were thinking of saving money by purchasing a cheap jacket of inferior quality, forget it. This hike demands a high quality jacket.

Serious bushwalking rainwear has a number of specific features. Above all, make sure the garment is made from quality fabric and that it is seam sealed. Look at the inside to check that all the seams are taped securely; without this (or with an inferior version) the garment will likely leak badly in severe weather.

As well as being waterproof, it needs to be breathable (at least to some degree), otherwise the slightest bit of exertion whilst wearing the jacket will bath you in sweat. The more breathable it is, the more you will pay for it!

Typically, traditional bushwalking rain jackets are long both in body and arm length, to cover hips and hands when the weather is at its worst. They have a generous, adjustable hood and wrist cuffs, velcro closures to cover the zipper, a draw string waist to trap body heat when required and some extensive external pockets. Expect to pay at least $250 to get something of suitable quality. As a general rule, the further north you go from this price range, the greater the degree of breathability.

A selection of waterproof jackets (on some high quality models!)

Below the waist, layers are less numerous but still important. Many find walking in shorts is generally quite comfortable in autumn on the High Plains, with lightweight long pants for night time. “Zip-off” type hike pants are ideal – walk in shorts and zip the legs on when it gets cold. The real debate centres around the need for waterproof over-pants. While perhaps not essential, I would place them in the “highly desirable” category. In extremes of weather (cold, wet or windy), you will be glad you packed them. They do not need to be as expensive or high tech as the jacket in order to be effective. Some people ponder the need for thermals under the long pants. My advice would be to forget thermals and get a lightweight pair of over-pants to do the same job with more versatility. You might also have to factor in the quality of the hike pants. Whichever way you go, think twice before leaving the over-pants behind when heading to the Bogong High Plains. If you do go without them, make sure your hike pants are quick-drying.

There are some other articles of clothing to consider. Make sure your undergarments are suitable and comfortable. Wear one pair of good quality hiking socks (Aldi merino?) and take one spare pair. Wear a sun hat/cap for hiking and have a lightweight beanie or similar to keep you warm at night. Gloves, also not essential, are worth thinking about. A lightweight, close fitting pair is probably more practical than bulky ski type gloves.

My final pitch would be to try not to take more clothing than is necessary. But make sure the clothing you do take is up to the job. After all, “The weather on the Bogong …” – well … you know what I mean!




BHP Hike Clothing2019-03-02T01:48:23+00:00

The Prototype


Just for something different, I want to tell you all about my mate Rob. He is someone who I consider has all the necessary attributes of an outdoor adventurer (remembering that, in a previous blog, we’ve already established humility as the most important).

Those of you who went on last years’ hike have met Rob. He and his wife, Wendy, provided us with some great support with our transport needs. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that he is highly regarded in his local community. He is a man of faith, known for his service to others along with his humility, generosity, humour, work ethic and adventurous spirit.

Rob is one of those people who is just fun to be with. That’s not to say he’s not annoying in some ways. He looks twenty years younger than he is and, like Paul, he can blitz you in carrying a pack up a mountain even when you think you might have the edge on him in training. He’s lean, strong, determined and fearless. He’s always up for a challenge. Invariably, he will have weekend plans for some sort of adventure, even though he’s toiled on the job (as a builder) all week.

As a long-time local resident, Rob is intimately familiar with the Bogong High Plains. His knowledge and experience of the place is as good as there is. He’s probably forgotten more about this iconic location than what I’ve ever known. He lives and breathes this environment, hiking it in summer, skiing it in winter, four wheel driving or mountain biking it whenever there’s a chance. He does not, however, merely utilize the high country for his own purposes. He respects it. He understands the challenges, the impact of the terrain and weather, as well as the allure it holds for visitors. More than most, he is aware of how quickly plans can go astray. It is for this reason that he has a long history as a highly sought after (and successful) search and rescue volunteer.

Rob has been involved in numerous such operations over the years. Though not all have ended well, many have bordered on legendary status. In the winter of 2004, an advance rescue party led by Rob pulled off a heroic rescue of three men trapped in a ferocious blizzard near the summit of Mt Bogong. Those three would almost certainly have perished if not for the team’s intervention. Appropriately, the rescuers were later recognised with a National Bravery Award. In 2014, Rob was instrumental in locating the bodies of two back country snowboarders tragically killed in an avalanche in one of Bogong’s remote gullies. Rob, of course, would never draw any attention to such exploits. If it did come up in conversation, he would merely deflect credit to others.

That is why, apart from being a friend and peer, I also regard him as a hero.

The high country is not just a nice place to go and visit. It’s a place where men can have experiences beyond the everyday, friendships can be deepened, respect can be earned and God can be encountered; particularly if it is approached with an attitude like Rob’s. If you are interested, you can read a short story called “The Rescue” – an account of Rob’s amazing rescue event – in a book called “A Chicken can make a Difference”. I have a copy. I also have an interesting newspaper article written about the event.



The Prototype2019-02-02T10:55:59+00:00

Train hard, train smart!


If someone were to ask you “Are you training hard in preparation for the hike?” your answer may well be a resounding yes!

What if the question was “Are you training smart?”

With less than three months to go, we’re probably moving into a different phase in terms of stepping up our training. Which makes that second question all the more important.

Training for a multi-day hike involves five variables. These are:

  1. The regularity of training.
  2. The intensity, or effort put in during the session.
  3. The distance of the hike.
  4. The terrain (eg hills).
  5. The weight in the pack.

In regard to regularity, our target has been twice a week. Given that we are not professional athletes, it is probably unrealistic to expect much beyond this. The other four can, and should, be increased over an extended period of time. This is where the “train smart” aspect needs to be applied.

It has been my observation that there has been a very significant emphasis on the “weight” component during this current hike campaign. We must remember that the purpose of training is to peak at the right time. There is no doubt that we need to train with heavy packs, up to 25kg as per the guidelines. But it is all about timing.

If you are superman, you might be able to train year round with 20+ kg in your pack. Otherwise, you will need to consider the timing of your training. Carrying a heavy weight on your back is an unnatural action for a human. You must build up to it slowly and be careful about how long you remain in this rarefied air. It has been our position all along that preparing for this hike is an eight month process. Loading up with extreme weight throughout this time carries three risks.

The first is injury. Carrying extreme weight places stress on the body, particularly if insufficient build-up time has been allowed. The more you load up and the earlier you do it, the greater the risk.

The second risk is burn-out. This happens when extreme weight is applied too early and is carried for too long. The result is, in peaking too early, the participant is therefore on a downward trend by the time the hike finally comes around.

In terms of the above list, there is a third risk; that being that too much weight too early leaves the participant battling to maintain their training and therefore unable to effectively increase things like intensity or taking on more challenging terrain. This means that the capacity to train harder as the hike approaches is actually diminished due to the challenge of simply maintaining the heavy weight.

Paul, flat out training

For these reasons, I submit that the “weight” variable may actually be the least important of the five (assuming that a minimum level is being adhered to and increased appropriately over time).

If you’ve been battling with carrying extreme weight, now might be a good time to ask yourself some questions like:

  • “How does my body really feel at this point in the process?”
  • “Am I feeling fresh and ready to increase the intensity, or am I battling to hold my ground?”
  • “Are there any niggling injuries evident?”
  • “Is the training resulting in noticeable improvement?”
  • “Am I training differently to what I was three months ago?” (Too much weight often results in an inability to increase the intensity).

If you feel you’ve overdone the “weight” component, there’s no shame in backing off for a time to work on the others. If you’re on track, you should be well positioned now to step up other components. More hills, more intensity!

While we’re talking about pack weight and training smart, let’s talk about the method of loading your pack. This requires some thought. If you merely open your pack and throw in bags of rice until it reaches the desired weight, you do your body no favours. Carrying the bulk of the weight at the bottom of the pack places more stress on the lower body, increasing wear and tear. You need to position it higher. Place lightweight material at the bottom and put the weight further up to ease the strain on your body. Likewise, try to get the packs centre of gravity as close to you as possible. Use the tension straps to pull the load in against your back, allowing you to walk in a more natural, upright position.

Our first compulsory training hike is only a couple of weeks away. Here’s a heads up; the emphasis on that day will be on getting up Mt lofty as quickly as possible. It is not a competition to see who can carry the most weight. The minimum pack weight required for the day is 17kg. Go above that at your discretion, but be warned – the only thing of interest to Jonathan and I that day is how quickly we can all get up (and down) the hill.

Train hard, train smart!



Train hard, train smart!2019-01-05T03:59:03+00:00

5 Things to Consider Doing Before the Hike


As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. Most of the time, they become a rod for our backs and cause us to feel guilty when we don’t stick to them. However, given that the New Year will mark three months until our hike, it might be a good time to evaluate how our preparation is going. It also probably coincides with the need to focus more on team rather than just individual. Here are some ideas which you might not have considered. They are not meant to be prescriptive, just possibilities worth exploring. They might also prompt some other thoughts …

  1. Set yourself a target body weight to begin the hike at. Something which is achievable and realistic. Of course, it will require some commitment. What body weight do you think you need to be to carry the pack with maximum comfort? What will you need to do to get there? Will you tell anyone else about your goal as a way to keep yourself accountable?
  2. Make a sacrifice. Perhaps you could give something up for a time, in order to be better prepared. It might involve a change in diet, or a change to your weekly routine to allow more time for training. You could make a personal commitment toward specific training venues or targets.
  3. Contribute something to the group – something which has benefit beyond that which you gain yourself. Take the lead on arranging a group training exercise or an overnight camp out. Put your hand up to help organise group requirements like the hike menu, first aid or transport arrangements. Put something on the website or run a social media campaign.
  4. Search the Bible for passages which speak of God’s creation and how we experience him in the wilderness. Scripture is full of examples of people who went into the wild places to be met by God. Compile a list. Share it. Gain inspiration. Here’s a favourite of mine to get you started – Amos 4:13.
  5. Commit to prayer. This is something we are often flippant about. Consider getting serious. Maybe you could liaise with a prayer partner or team. Consult other team members in regard to specific prayer needs. Prayer is potentially a powerful tool to enhance our preparation.

So there you have it. Don’t feel pressure to have to do specific things, just be open to possibilities. Often we have to be intentional in order to get the best results.

5 Things to Consider Doing Before the Hike2018-12-16T04:54:34+00:00