Forty days, 715km of walking and 26.74km of ascent after setting out from Yarragon, Campbell Gome arrived in Yaouk near the NSW/ACT border.
It’s a remarkable achievement that Campbell combined with a fundraising target of $1,000 for the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Climb It For Climate initiative.
Having missed a chance to undertake a similar trek overseas with the onset of COVID-19, Campbell instead turned his sights closer to home.
Hiking the length of the Australian Alps Walking Trail with friends, Campbell faced a range of challenges, not just the daily physical exertion of the exercise, but navigating Australia’s wilderness, equipment damage and route diversions due to the extremes of highland weather.
But these were easily compensated for by the daily rewards of discovering new parts of Australia’s alpine regions.
“Each day of the walk brought its own discoveries, delights and wonders,” Campbell said.
“The days I enjoyed most were those without a clear track when we had to chart our own course... the days from Mt Howitt to the Viking, Bogong High Plains and Kosciusko to Jugungal were particularly memorable and spectacular.
“But more than that, the privilege of so much time out on country and in the fresh air allowed [hiking partner] Marc and me to learn, think, listen, laugh, share, sing, reflect, plan, dream and meditate about matters far deeper and wider than we'd imagined.”
But while the hike was full of inspiring sights and moments, there was plenty to confront Campbell and his company as they made their way towards Canberra.
The sight of forests devastated by logging and the catastrophic bushfires from two summers past was enough to give Campbell pause to reflect on the changing dynamics of Australia’s ecology.
It’s part of the reason he aligned his adventure with Climb It For Climate — for it gave friends and family at home a chance to contribute to positive environmental action through his trek.
“Walking through country that was burnt in the 2019–2020 fires was particularly tough,” Campbell said.
“In one memorable section north of the main range and heading into Kiandra, we walked for nearly three days through a scorched graveyard of Snow Gums. It
was still, silent and lifeless.
“At least elsewhere we'd seen some burnt Snow Gums that were resprouting and seemed to be holding off the longicorn beetles that are also an increasing threat with rising temperatures.
“But we saw a convoy of trucks hauling what the timber industry calls 'salvage logging' out of Mountain Ash forest that had burnt twice in recent years… [Mountain Ash] forest needs 20 years between fires in order to reach maturity and the ability to reseed, so those forests are gone and won't come back unless we replant them.”
Marc and Campbell enjoying their trek through the Australian Alps. Photo: Campbell Gome.
With his Alpine adventure complete, Campbell’s focus naturally turns to recuperation and self-regeneration.
But he hopes to take his hiking boots to remote locations in the future — from the Kimberley in Australia’s north-west to across the seas to New Zealand and Tasmania and to the discovery of at-risk natural spaces around the country.
“I do love the Kimberley where I spent my childhood, and am always keen to get back up that way, but Tassie and NZ are possibilities too,” he said.
“I also need to catch up on the news of things like the logging of the Errinundra Plateau in East Gippsland and the latest manoeuvring to try and take water out of the Fitzroy River, because there might be ways I can support the campaigns to protect those places.”
As for his advice for Climb It For Climate participants approaching the ‘summit’ of their goals as May draws to a close?
“Enjoy and observe the internal journey and experience as well as the external,” he said.
“Don't get too obsessed with the technology and stats [and] be realistic.
“If you're setting out to increase your daily distance, elevation gain, etc, consider small and sustainable increments and build in regular rest days.”
Header photo: Supplied, Campbell Gome.