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Trailblazing at 70

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Emily Waite
Emily Waitehttps://ncreview.com.au/
Emily Waite has been the Editor of the North Central Review since late April, 2024. With a particular focus on delivering community driven stories, Emily has been responsible for implementing the new 'Words of wisdom' segment, and regularly reaches out to residents both young and old to share their stories with the paper. Emily graduated with high distinctions in a Bachelor of Music from JMC Academy in 2022, and graduated with a Graduate Diploma in Writing and Literature from Deakin University in 2023.

Seventy-year-old Mary Adams is a force to be reckoned with.

A keen hiker of 30 plus years, the local woman is taking on the Australian Alps Walking Track solo, a 680-kilometre stretch of track that winds through the high country of Victoria, New South Wales, and the ACT.

Armed with her trusty guide, the Alpine Walking Track, Ms Adams is navigating the track in three parts. Her first part of the track began on April 4 at Walhalla, and lasted just over two weeks.

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“The Victorian sections are much more rugged, so you start quite difficult,” Ms Adams said.

But it wasn’t just the terrain that proved difficult, with Ms Adams noting that the first part of the trek saw many a difficult moment due to the weather and unforeseen circumstances.

“[At one point], the little maps that I carry had come out my pocket … so I didn’t have a map, a physical map, and my phone had died because unfortunately, the torch had come on without me realising. I was really, really upset, and all my clothes were wet,” she said.

“I didn’t realise the amount of cloud cover, and being in April, I was getting a lot more cloud cover than what I would have if I’d been there in November [so I couldn’t charge my phone with the solar charger].

“I thought, well, I don’t know where I am. There was a little bit of water in puddles that would have got me out of trouble, with filtering – there was cow manure around. Oh, you know, there were a lot of hygiene issues.”

But Ms Adams kept on, determined to reach Mount Hotham. As the sun came out further north, her spirits lifted, and after roughly 220 kilometres of walking, she arrived at the base of the mountain on April 21 – her first leg of the journey completed.

Ms Adams then travelled to Canberra to celebrate ANZAC day with her sisters – a 10-year anniversary trip that they had planned together – and afford herself a five-day interlude before beginning the second, and longer – but easier – part of her journey: the 310-kilometre trek from Kiandra back to Mount Hotham.

“You can’t be off the track too long, otherwise you start to get lazy. So, it’s better just to keep going while you’re in the groove,” she said.

“And the New South Wales side is much flatter. You’re up on the High Plains. It is really quite beautiful – they’ve got some spectacular old huts from the mining days and also from the cattlemen.”

The huts, Ms Adams notes, are available for hikers to seek refuge and rest in, with some even having a fireplace to keep warm. They are managed by the Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA), a voluntary organisation formed in 1971 to assist with the conservation, management, and reconstruction of huts. When huts burn down – such as the Four Mile Hut that was tragically lost in the 2019-20 Australian bushfires – the group is responsible for rebuilding them to their former state.

“It’s fantastic, they go to a lot of effort [to rebuild them],” Ms Adams said.

“But once you hit the Victorian border, you’re back to the tough stuff again, and you don’t see a hut until you get to Mount Wills … the land is not forgiving for huts.”

Ms Adams reached Mount Hotham on May 19, completing the two sections of the Australian Alps Walking Track in 38 days – an impressive feat for even the most experienced of hikers.

Ms Adams hopes to finish the third leg of the Australian Alps Walking Track in November, accompanied this time by members of the Mitchell Bushwalking group. The group will begin in Kiandra and finish at Tharwa, a 105-kilometre trek that will take about a week.

Impressively, the Australian Alps Walking Track is not the longest track Ms Adams has taken on, nor is she a lifelong hiker – only taking up the activity in her 40s.

“I did the Heysen Trail, which is 1200 kilometres long,” she said.

“I was just always fascinated how people could come out of the Grampians, because I lived up around the Horsham area, and they weren’t on a track, you know, they weren’t on a tourist track,” she said.

“I started thinking, ‘how have you done that?’. And then one day, I saw a little ad for a bushwalking group – they were going up to the Grampian’s Asses Ears and I thought, ‘oh, wow’.

“I was very nervous to go, that first time. You know, I didn’t want to hold them up.”

But that first trip had Ms Adams hooked, and now as a regular member of the Mitchell Bushwalking group, she hopes others interested in the activity will ‘give it a go’. The group’s next walk is planned for Sunday, July 28, at the Wombat State Forest for the Tunnel Point Loop.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Ms Adams said.

“[It’s] a beautiful forest area, tall timber, and plenty of bird life. If anyone is interested, [call 03 5784 1970].

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