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Like most people, my journey into the mountains started with the basic tourist trails. The ones with plenty of signposts, well-worn tracks and man-made steps. It was great to be out there in nature, feeling truly alive in the mountains and experiencing the exhilaration of the climb and the spectacular views from the top. My partner (Annica) and I were soon thirsty for more adventure and started to look for more places to go and maybe find some people that could show us the way.
We often met other hikers on the trails and exchanged the usual banter. “Almost there mate”… “Not far now, and there’s free beer at the top”... ”It’s a lot easier coming down, eh?”. It occurred to us that there were so many lovely people on the trails, but we’d likely never see them again. So, we decided to put a call out on social media to see if anyone was interested in starting a challenge to see how many peaks we could climb in a year. We hoped to find 10 friends to hike with.
What happened next was off the charts! We attracted over 2,000 members to our Facebook group in the first 5 weeks! By November 2021 we had over 3,100 members. Our pastime quickly turned into a passion and we were totally hooked. Climbing with friends was even more fun, and we learned so much from each other’s experiences and useful tips and this just made it even better.
We started small, with our first 5 hikes. Easy enough routes that weren’t too long or high or technical. And we started to get to know phone apps that could help with finding and navigating new routes safely. Most of our initial trails were less than 10km and under 500m in elevation and had other hikers that we could talk to along the way to ask for advice if we needed to. As we started to gain more experience and confidence, we began climbing bigger peaks, and longer routes with some more technical aspects like rock scrambling, but nothing too scary.
We learned that less is more and that it was best to pack all the absolute essentials but leave the rest in the car or at home. This helps to reduce weight and fatigue on longer hikes. Also in a group, not everybody needs to bring one of everything, so you can share the load on things like first aid kits, sunscreen and bug repellent and other equipment.
I’d say the top five essentials are;
1. Water – drink as much as you can to hydrate BEFORE the hike, leave another bottle in the car for when you return, and take sufficient water for the hike, taking into consideration the duration, elevation and weather conditions.
2. Food – same as with the water make sure you have all the right healthy foods the night before and a good breakfast to give you the fuel you need for the climb. Take fruit, vegetables, nuts, eggs, protein bars or whatever you like to top up your fuel along the way. And make sure you have more in the car for when you get back. Remember you still have the drive home.
3. First Aid Kit – Mountains can be dangerous places, it’s easy to trip and fall, or get scraped, poked, stung or bitten by a multitude of flora and fauna and other hazards. ALWAYS make sure at least ONE person in your group has a decent first aid kit.
4. Phone – Most people would think to take their phone to capture some awesome summit photos but it is also essential for navigation and communication. Download an app that has offline maps and GPS functionality and you have a much better chance of not getting lost. If you do still lose your way you’ll need to try to find a signal so that you can text or call for help. And your phone torch may be the one thing that saves you if you twist an ankle and have to find your way out in the dark. Although if you know you may start or finish in the dark, I’d highly recommend you take a headtorch to save having to use your phone battery.
5. Protection – Always research your route and weather conditions before you hike. There are often thorns, stinging plants and insects, and sometimes leeches and ticks, so make sure you have protective arm and leg cover for those trails. Also depending on the weather conditions and temperature you may need a hat and a light long-sleeved shirt to protect you from the sun and to prevent excessive sweating and dehydration. Or if it is cold, windy, or potentially rainy, you’ll need a jacket to help keep you dry and warm.
When done right, hiking and climbing are highly addictive. Our passion has become more of an obsession and over the last 12 months, we’ve climbed well over 70 peaks. We found our tribe and made friendships for life in the mountains and had such an incredible year, we decided to continue our quest into 2023 and beyond.
To make it easier for more people to get out there and share these amazing experiences we researched and collated hundreds of peaks and trails all across Australia and New Zealand and made them available to members of our 52 Peaks Challenge. We created 4 stages for the challenge so anyone can join no matter their level of fitness or experience.
The positive impact this challenge has created for people is incredible and the feedback we are getting just blows me away every time. It does make a real difference in people’s lives.
If you are interested in fun, friendship and adventure and would like to access these resources, head over to the ‘52 Peaks Challenge’ website to find out more and get ready for possibly the best year of your life! Find out more and register for the challenge at: www.52peakschallenge.com.au
Has all this talk of getting into hiking got you looking for the right gear? Check out the website for the latest and greatest hiking boots, bags and technical clothing. Don’t forget to share your adventures with us on Instagram at @wildearthaustralia and use the hashtag #MyWildEarth to be featured.
About the Contributor:
Paul and Annica love nothing more than to escape the city and just be in nature, surrounded by beautiful flora, fauna and incredible views. It’s their sanctuary, their bliss and a place where they can just BE… They decided to share their love for adventure and personal challenge by creating 52 Peaks Challenge, a fantastic, supportive, fun-loving community that created magical moments together as they climb, scramble and summit some of the most spectacular peaks in Australia and New Zealand. Find out more at: www.52peakschallenge.com.au