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So I was planning a little trip up to the Blue Mountains on Saturday... managed to wake up at 3PM (and it takes 2 hours by train out there, on top of the half hour bus ride and subway to get to the longhaul trains.) I originally planned to leave here by 10AM or so, have a nice day's hike, camp, hike back, etc. Well, of course, I'm not quite sane, and those of you who've hiked with me know I always seem to end up hiking in the dark anyways, so I didn't see any reason to cancel my plans. :) Got to Katoomba a bit after 9PM; I hiked from the city down to the area I wanted to be in, then worked my way around... got lost a few times (wasted an hour climbing down and back up a really steep landslide that I was just supposed to go across; oops!) Then it took me quite a while going up some major climbing-heavy zones that I needed both hands for (in the dark... Need a helmet mount for my flashlight if I do that again! Holding it between my teeth isn't quite so comfortable.) And got lost some for another hour up top! I guess that's why there were repeated signs that only experienced bushwalkers should proceed further, with at least one skilled navigator in the "group." (Guess I forgot the group part this time. They probably would strongly advise against night climbs too, silly Australians. But I guess I'm a real "bushwalker" now! At least there aren't any large unfriendly animals in that part of the country; just tons of poisionous spiders and snakes to watch for.) Fortunately, I'd picked up a topo map of the area, and brought a regular compass along to supplement the GPS, so I managed to work out my course with all the navigation aids. Between two flashlights, a backup mini led light, two cellphones, GPS, compass, 4 sets of AA batteries, 5 extra flashlight batteries, topo map, camping gear, some spare clothes, basic first aid, 3L of Gatorade, and ~1500 Calories of energy bars, I was pretty well prepared I think!

Anyways, I FINALLY got to my destination, Mt. Solitary (quite aptly named for a solo camping trip!), around 7:15AM. 10+ hours of hiking. Took me a good bit to find an appropriately flat, non-overgrown campsite, and finally fell asleep around 8:30... Started back down at 2:45PM Sunday! Going back down was quite a bit quicker starting in the light (also my pack went from 11kg to 8kg from having consumed all of my food and most of my liquids), but sadly it got dark before I saw some of the stuff I wanted to see. I got to the bottom of the climbing-heavy section just as it was getting dark, so that made the trip much quicker since that was the hardest part in the dark; the steep, rocky trails after that were easy enough with flashlight in hand. Still got a lot of amazing views though! And the lack of light pollution was awesome; I saw tons of stars and unfamiliar constellations (I can identify the Southern Cross now, but that's it down here!) The Milky Way was nice and clear across the middle of the sky, a sure sign that you're properly removed from civilization.

So yeah, I'm a bit crazy, but I got one more thing done that I would've been sad leaving without doing! I'm still working out the distances (GPS reception was really spotty in the lower areas, so my track data is intermittent and the odometer not useful; but I have all the segment times and resting times written down so I can go back and figure it all out.) I think I did approx 24km on Saturday and 15km on Sunday. There was TONS of crazy up and down, and a huge section of sheer rock after sheer rock to climb. I think there was around 800m total elevation change in each direction. I camped out at 950m (after starting at 930m at the trailhead, descending to 750m via stairs, bottoming out at 650m or so, and peaking at 990m.) It was freezing up there too; around -3 or -4°C up top, but I was actually TOO warm (I didn't even have enough space to stick the layers I needed to remove while hiking!) Woke up sweating wearing just jeans and a short sleeve shirt in my sleeping bag; guess I know now that I can go way colder than I did if I'm fully layered! I had to abort the full return route Sunday as I wasn't going to make the 8:25PM train otherwise; I ended up taking an alternate route up and getting a cab back to the Katoomba train station to make it in time (next train was at 10:55, and getting from Sydney to where I'm staying in Seaforth at 1AM on a Sunday night would have been a huge pain via public transit or very expensive via cab.) Oh yeah, silly sign, the Golden Stairs only take 25 minutes to climb, not 60! (I'm not sure how I did that at the end of my long trip with my aching shoulders and decently heavy pack. I was about to fall over and die as I reached the top of the ridiculously tall and steep "stairs"; fortunately the cab company knew exactly where the Golden Stairs were, and they got there right after I got to the top! Made it to the train station with 10 minutes to spare.) Got back to Seaforth just before midnight; 30 hours for quite a memorable little trip, not bad at all.

And half my toes hurt like hell. Ow. Apparently I need new insoles for my hiking boots. I'm surprised I'm actually not more sore; I feel like going for a run or something right now! No knee pain either, yay. Now, time to get back to more diving! (And I found a scuba-diving travel bug in the one geocache I bothered to find on my hike, amusingly enough.)