Hacing some fun on the 6 Foot Track in the Blue Mountains
Crossing the Bowtells Swing Bridge on the 6 Foot Track

STORY BY: Mark Henderson

The weekend I trekked the 6 Foot Track

The 6 Foot Track is not too far from Sydney in the Blue Mountains, but, often, when we consider the word adventure, we think of far off places; places yet to be explored or discovered. Rarely, do we consider that we, in Australia, live in one of the most beautiful and unique places on the planet and we have access to some amazing adventures.

However, Australia offers many opportunities for adventure. We have oceans, desert, rainforests, and vast landscapes, often untouched by people.

Recently, I was privileged to join an adventure, here in our own backyard.

The adventure dubbed the 6 Foot Track, runs for 45 kilometres from the Jenolan Caves, through to Katoomba, took place in the historic Blue Mountain’s, located one and a half hours from Sydney CBD, which makes it fairly accessible to anyone interested in tackling it.

Let by experienced guides, Shane Pophfer and Darren Wise of Peak Potential Adventures, the 6 Foot Track Trek took myself and a small group of adventurers along a trail blazed by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson, and William Charles Wentworth in 1813, as part of their journey across the Blue Mountains.

The trail itself was beautiful. There was lush scenery, as we carved our way up the mountains, and down into valleys, travelling from the magnificent Jenolan Caves right through to Katoomba. We saw little rivers and were captivated by the wildlife, with birds, wallabies and even wild cows making their homes in the mountains.

Despite the beauty, 45 kilometres is a tough ol’ slog, even across two days.

Carlotta Arch near Jenolan Caves on the 6 Foot Track in the Blue Mountains

Day 1 – Jenolan Caves to Coxs River

On day one, myself and five other wannabe adventurers arrived at Katoomba to meet our guides and the team. We were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, despite arriving at Katoomba for 6am.

From Katoomba, we drove across to the beginning of the 6 Foot Track at the Jenolan Caves. Arriving at Jenolan, I was in awe of the place. The natural land formations and the way the morning light broke through and lit up inside of the caves was fairly breath-taking, as was the beginning of our hike, albeit in a very different way.

We started on the trek, leaving from Jenolan Caves at around 7:45–8:00 AM on Saturday morning, getting on our way to the 6 Foot Track Eco Lodge overnight rest stop at Coxs River, about 30 kilometres away.

Day one was intriguing. We got to see so much, and everyone chatted away, happy to be out on an adventure.

Like every adventure though, the trek had its challenges. It wasn’t quite a stroll in the park, as, at points along the trail, we were forced to walk up hills, and then down again into valleys. Early on in the piece, it was nice when the downhill sections came up.

They’d give you a chance to catch your breath and to enjoy some of the scenery. However, as the journey continued and the aches and pains began to set in, I started to detest the downhill parts. However, I pushed through, and I’m glad I did.

Trekking towards Black Range Camp ground on the 6 Foot Track

On, that first day, we worked hard, pushing ourselves close to our limits, until at one point, around 20 kilometres into the trek, we came upon what our expedition leaders called Heartbreak Hill.

It was a series of steep hills, that never seemed to have an end. We just walked up, and then up, and then up, and it truly did break your heart.

However, upon reaching the peak of heartbreak hill, the views were glorious, and I was awash with an overwhelming feeling of achievement. It was brilliant.

From Heartbreak Hill, we continued, mostly downhill, until we came to the Six Foot Track Eco Lodge at Coxs River at around 4:00 PM, and I tell you what, the Eco Lodge was certainly a sight for sore eyes.

There are bunk beds with all blankets and pillows provided, and believe me after a 30-kilometre hike through the mountains, a bed is a very welcome sight. There is also a pit toilet, and after having to hold on all day, unless you were some of our team, who were happy to dig a hole while on the trek, a pit toilet (despite the smell) is an absolute luxury.

Near the Eco Lodge, there were a few private pools, and being the nice guy that I am, and being part of a nice team of adventurers, the young couple who run the lodge took us down to a secret spot, and allowed us the opportunity to relax and clean the dirt and pain from the day off. The rocks, made of a naturally occurring granite also trap some of the heat from the sun, so we were able to relax, and take full advantage of a sneaky, naturally occurring hot rock treatment, which was really well received.

After day one, resting at the 6 Foot Track Eco Lodge helped heal and relax the body, bringing me back to life and after a great night sleep, I was ready for day two.

The front view of the 6 Foot Track Eco Lodge

Day 2 – Coxs River to Katoomba

We were up early on day two and hit the trek at around 8:00 AM, with the knowledge that there was only around 15 kilometres left.

About one kilometre or so into day two, we came to our first real challenge of the day, The Bowtells Swing Bridge, which was situated around 15-20metres above the flowing water beneath.

Personally, I’m fine with heights and was keen to tackle the bridge. In fact, it was one of my favourite parts of the trek. It bounced and swung ever so slightly, and for the avid photographers on the team, it made for some great pictures.

However, not everyone was quite as okay with heights as I was, and we had a few worried faces crossing over. For some of the team, the bridge was one of the realest challenges on the 6 Foot Track

From there, we moved on, eventually coming into the beautiful Megalong Valley. Now, if you ever travel to the Blue Mountains, I vigorously recommend acquainting yourself with the Megalong Valley – it is mesmerising. An open valley among mountains, littered with gorgeous fields and open spaces, as well as naturally occurring small creeks and river systems, it is a wonderful place.

As the name might suggest, Megalong, is just that, “mega long” and we trekked through it for quite some time on day two. In fact, after Megalong, we only had a few kilometres until our final destination and Katoomba.

As with many challenges, the hardest part of the journey is right at the end, and the 6 Foot Track trek was no exception.

Walking along the 6 Foot Track towards Alum Creek hill in the Blue Mountains

Darren and Shane had both warned me throughout the journey about “Dummy Spit Hill”, which basically made up the last kilometre of the trek.

The name is a little deceptive, as “Dummy Spit Hill” is not really a hill, but rather a ridiculously steep set of stairs that climbs up the side of a mountain. It was by far the hardest part of the trek.

My legs wanted to give up, and I must have drunk close to three litres of water making my way up that staircase. It was tough.

However, I don’t often get to feel the sort of elation I was thrilled to experience once I reached the top of those stairs, and made my way to the end of the trek.

It was a fantastic feeling.

The 6 Foot Track Trek was definitely a challenge that pushed me. I felt uncomfortable and worn out along the journey, but I also felt excitement and life. It was an awesome adventure and something that I will remember for a long time yet, and it was in my own backyard, which is really just an added bonus.

Next time, you feel as though you need an adventure, but need something close, and attainable, I would highly recommend pushing yourself and tackling the full 6 Foot Track, right here in Australia’s beautiful Blue Mountains.

Walking through Alum Creek on the 6 Foot Track

The team hiking in Tasmania on The Overland Track

STORY BY: Tracey Jordan

Winter hiking in Tasmania is an unforgettable adventure experience

Hiking in Tasmania during winter is such an amazing and special experience and one week after our adventure began I still cannot believe I did The Overland Track in winter. When my friend Michael invited me to go hiking in Tasmania and take on The Overland Track Winter Trek, also known as The “Tassie Tuff'”, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. With much trepidation, I packed my backpack and sleeping bag (both borrowed) as I didn’t own such things and off I went to Launceston for two days of preparation with the Peak Potential Adventures team. After their careful analysis of the contents of my backpack (I can’t believe they made me take out my coffee machine and makeup bag), my pack weighed in at 15 kilos and armed with everything I needed for 6 days in the wilderness – rehydrated mince sachets; baby wipes; sunscreen; 2 minutes noodles and about 3 kilos of chocolate. I was ready to go. We met the other members of our group before we left and bonded over a beer and a burger on the eve of our departure.

The Tasmanian adventure starts

Up bright and early on Sunday morning, Darren Wise and Shane Pophfer (Peak Potential Adventure guides and former Paratroopers) myself and 4 strong fit men boarded the bus to begin The Overland Track adventure. I cannot lie, I had moments of reflection on my decision wondering how I was ever going to keep up because I’ve never done much hiking before, let alone hiking in Tasmania during the winter period. I knew this was going to be the challenge of a lifetime but there was no turning back now.

And then the magic began. After a short ferry ride and with absolutely no expectations of what lay ahead, we headed off to reach the first cabin (about a 4-hour walk). The terrain on The Overland Track was a combination of mud, snow and slippery tree stumps (not for the faint-hearted I thought). At a cracking pace, we made it just before nightfall and I can’t believe how much I was looking forward to rehydrated mince and freeze-dried peas.

The team getting a photo out the front of Kia Ora hut on the Overland Track

Day 1 was tough and hiking in Tasmania in winter has its challenges, but it was all incredibly new and a bit daunting. Day 2 we were up early and on our way for another full day of climbing. This was a tough day but Darren and Shane made sure we had frequent stops to rehydrate and take in the view. It was spectacular. Day 3 we got our groove on and things really started to fall into place. The scenery was breathtaking. Each day threw up new challenges, Day 3 was 6 hours of walking through knee-deep snow and ankle-deep mud, but the enchanted rain forests and the incredible mountains we were passing kept us awe-inspired and motivated. The rest day at Pelion Hut was much appreciated as we had additional food bought in and the fruit cake and custard Shane and Darren organised was like all our Christmases had come at once.

I couldn’t help but think they were sweetening us up for what was yet to come and I may have been right but as we got used to the terrain and the weight of the backpacks we all seemed to take each day’s new challenge as it presented itself. The good humour of the group also went a long way to get us through.

Cooking dinner in the huts on the Overland Track in Tasmania

On our last day after 17kms of more snow, steep inclines, mud and rocks (and even more spectacular scenery) we finally made it. We had conquered The Overland Track in winter and I could not have been more proud of myself and my team. Hiking in Tasmania is some of the best in the world because of the pristine national parks and given that the Overland Track is A World Heritage Protected Area. Many people trek The Overland Track during the normal season, but for me, the winter trek brought out the essence and the real beauty of The Overland Track and best of all, it was quiet with very few trekkers on the track. This is definitely one of the best hikes in Tasmania, and perhaps even Australia.

A Tasmanian wilderness adventure of a lifetime

There is no way I could have done this without the incredible support of Darren and Shane. Shane for his incredible kindness; patience; sincerity and calm soulful demeanour (and his incredibly funny and entertaining stories) and Darren for his professionalism and unconditional focus and commitment on the comfort, safety and wellness of each member of the team. Micky, Conrad, Matthew and Chris were all amazing team members whose sense of humour, kindness and protection of me helped to get me through. It was a tough challenge but I am so glad I did it and I will be looking at doing some more hiking in Tasmania on some other adventure that the Peak Potential Adventures team are putting together like the Three Capes trek. These fond memories will stay with me forever.  Thank you, Shane and Darren. You amazed me every day and I cannot wait for the next adventure we can do together.

Almost finsihed The Overland Track with a photo in from of Kitcheners Hut on the Cradle Mountain Plateau

 

 

Luke standing on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with a photo of his best mate Scotty

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to Honour a Mate

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is definitely a bucket list adventure, and as the saying goes, “It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves” – French author and Nobel Prize winner, Andre Gide

“When you get there and see all the hustle and bustle, you know that you’re done. You’re completely exhausted. Your nose, skin and lips are all cracked but there is an indescribable feeling that comes over you, as you know you’ve made it and successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro”. – Luke Blundell-Pophfer

In October 2014, Luke Blundell-Pophfer embarked on the adventure of a lifetime to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

After months of training, Luke joined a small team of Aussies to climb all 5,895 metres (19,341ft) of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

Prepared for the physical and mental challenge of the climb, Luke had more reason than most to take on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

His fiancé, Solitaire, was seven months pregnant with their first child when Luke met the mountain. On top of this, he had some unfinished business that overcoming a feat as insurmountable as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro would give him the opportunity to complete.

In his pack, Luke carried the ashes of his dear friend, Scott, who had experienced a brain hemorrhage several years prior, and when he reached the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, Luke planned to set his friend free.

A photo of Scott on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

Reasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

“I decided to go to Africa and climb Mount Kilimanjaro for a few reasons,” Luke said.

“I wanted to become a better person, a bigger person and to do bigger things. I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps (he has climbed Kilimanjaro three times). I wanted to make my family proud; make my friends proud and wanted to be part of a good cause – we raised money for the Make a Wish Foundation  – that means a lot to me and a lot to Peak Potential Adventures.

“I also really wanted to take Scotty on an adventure too – I think that’s what he would have wanted, and it’s what we used to do when we were kids. We always went on little adventures together, so I thought why not go on a big adventure together – let’s go climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.”

Embarking on this adventure, Luke was not alone. In fact, he was with a team of seven including his father Shane Pophfer who is Managing Director of Peak Potential Adventures. Their business offers people the chance to experience extreme mountain climbing adventures, such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp, Overland Track, Three Capes Track or the Six Foot Track while being supported by professional adventurers and the opportunity to raise funds for The Make a Wish Foundation or the team member’s favourite charity cause.

“Peak Potential Adventures won’t take on someone who doesn’t have the capacity to complete a climb,” said Luke.

“Both dad and his best mate Darren are tough, and really good guys. They’ll teach people how to train for a climb and support them through the whole process.

“They are professional adventurers, so it’s a real privilege to watch and learn from them both,” Luke said.

From the moment he arrived in Africa, Luke’s entire worldview was challenged.

Simple things that he took for granted, like travelling in a car or grabbing a bite to eat became small adventures on their own.

The team arriving in Moshi with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background

Arriving in Tanzania, Africa

“Arriving in Africa, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before,” he said.

“The air was different, all the plants and trees, even the roads were so different to what I was used to [in Australia].

“And the poverty was overwhelming to me. I’d never really seen real poverty like what we saw in Africa.”

“Kids would come up to you and just ask for money. In all honesty, I can’t understand how some of the most poor people survive there.

Arriving at their accommodation in Moshi, Luke and the team spent their last night relaxing and preparing for the climb.

At the resort, Luke was introduced to tour guides, Godlisten (Goddy), Yesse and Mandey who would lead them up the mountain.

“I was so impressed with the real friendship I saw between the local guides, dad and Darren. They all really trusted each other, and it made it really easy for me to trust them,” said Luke.

After a final “triple-check” of their gear, Luke and the team headed to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, readied for the amazing adventure that the next seven days had in store for them.

“Looking back, I think I was prepared for an adventure. Dad and Darren had told me their stories, and I was ready, but words can never really describe the actual adventure – it’s something you have to feel,” Luke explained.

Taking the Machame Route, Luke and the Peak Potential Adventures team, along with their local guides began to climb the mountain.

“When we got to the start of the route, we made sure we were ready and had everything we needed, and then we started.

“We started the climb at around 1,500 metres, and even at that height, you could already feel the air was thinner than on the ground.

“It was then that it really sunk in for me. I was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro the tallest free-standing mountain in the world,” Luke said.

Luke Pophfer sizing up Mount Kilimanjaro

Day one of the adventure

On day one the team made their way to the Machame Camp, which sits at elevation 3,000 metres above sea level.

Recalling the first day, Luke remembers hearing the guides continually saying “poley, poley” or “slowly, slowly”. Arriving at the Machame Camp ahead of schedule, Luke soon found out why it was so important for them to take it “slowly, slowly.” when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

“On the first day, we all went a bit too fast. We got to 3,000 metres fairly quickly, because we were so keen, and everyone on the team was super fit,” Luke said.

“I didn’t drink enough water on the first day – water is an extremely important thing!”

With the fast pace and lack of water, Luke took ill the first night on the mountain. Spinning out, Luke struggled to adjust to the altitude and was in a bad way when it came time to rest.

“I was really lucky that day as dad saw the state I was in, and he was prepared,” Luke said.

“He made sure I was really warm and hydrated during the night and gave me an aspirin to help thin my blood. He also gave me some warm water to drink to help bring on my appetite and made sure I did eat that night.”

The next morning, Luke felt “a million bucks” and with a renewed awareness of how important it was to take your time climbing to an increased altitude and to keep hydrated, Luke and the team set off on day two of the climb.

What will day two of the climb bring?

“On day two, we climbed from around 3,000 metres to 3,900 metres, and it was a steep climb and required us to take big steps, almost like lunges the whole way up,” Luke said.

“It was a tough part of the climb, and a lot of the team really struggled with it. For me, this was my favourite part of the climb as I was feeling better, and we took it a lot slower.

“The training I had done back home was suited to this part of the climb, so I did okay on the second day,” said Luke.

Describing the second day, Luke said, “There were a couple of parts on that day where we really saw the dangers of the mountain. If you fell, you could have definitely died.

“I remember at one point, my mate, Mitch who was on our team, had to grip tight and pull himself up with his walking poles – it was hectic.”

While Luke suffered from illness on the first night, it was after day two of the climb that sickness really took the team, with a combination of a stomach bug and altitude sickness causing some members of the group to experience chest pains and diarrhoea.

As the night drew on, exhaustion overtook even those feeling most ill, and they slept.

“Even though people did get ill, I remember it being so easy getting to sleep that second night as we were all just completely worn out and exhausted from the climb,” Luke said.

Day three the landscape changes

On the third morning, Luke began to notice how strange the environment had become, with a lot of nothingness, dirt and jagged, frightening rocks.

“It’s like being on Mars or the moon up there,” said Luke.

“There’s just lots of nothingness but rocks and dirt.”

Day three demanded a different sort of discipline from the team, as it required them to make their way to 4,300 metres, and then return to 3,900 metres to allow their bodies to adjust to the heightened altitude.

“We went up to 4,600 metres before coming back down to 3,900 metres and camping at the Barranco Wall,” said Luke.

“On any summit, it’s really important to acclimatise. If you aren’t properly acclimatised the altitude and air pressure will get you.”

While making their way to 4,600 metres, the Peak Potential Adventures team found themselves caught in heavy rain, which only added to the difficulty of the climb.

“I’d just taken my skins and my shorts, and had one of those really cheap two-dollar rain-poncho’s with me, which I had to use just to make it through the day.

“It was a high incline climb to 4,600 metres, and when we did arrive, we couldn’t stay up there too long because of the rain. We might have stayed up there for around half an hour,” said Luke.

“It was just rainy and miserable, and that’s the last thing you want on a climb. There are no showers at the end of the day, and once your boots get wet, they take forever to dry, so it makes the rest of the climb that bit more uncomfortable.”

Returning to their camp at 3,900 metres, Luke along with the rest of the team turned in for the night feeling fairly miserable.

Waking up to the beautiful mountain views

Waking up the next morning, Luke recalls looking down on the “fluffy” clouds.

“In the morning, all the clouds were settled. I woke up just above all these beautiful clouds, and I remember exclaiming, “Wow, I’m above the clouds.” It’s awesome,” said Luke.

The morning of day four was warm, with sunlight replacing the rain from the previous day. The team spent an extra hour at camp in the morning, while they left their gear in the sun to dry out and to soak up the view above the clouds.

Soon, they were prepared and packed to go with renewed energy.

Day four saw Luke and the Peak Potential Adventures team tackle the most difficult part of the climb of Mount Kilimanjaro so far. It was on day four that they would climb the Barranco Wall.

“Barranco Wall is pretty hectic,” Luke explained.

“Before we started, we looked up at the wall and we could see a porter from another team climbing alone. He looked tiny against the massive wall, like a little dot. It was breathtaking to see.

“Climbing the wall, there are parts that were really challenging. This is a part of the climb, where it’s not just a trek. You have to get your hands in there and cling to the wall. To stay safe you hold yourself tightly against the wall as you climb,” said Luke.

Reaching the top of Barranco Wall, which sits at around 4,400 metres, the team continued their climb, as the mountain opened up into a valley.

“You go down through this massive valley, which is gorgeous. There are ancient trees up there too, which are over 100,000 years old and there is one special flower, the Kilimanjaro Impatiens, which you only see when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro,” Luke said.

“We camped that night at Karanga Valley which is at an elevation of just over 3,900 metres. It was beautiful up there.

“Before you go to sleep, it’s pitch black – there’s not a cloud in the sky, you can see all the stars in the sky, and if you look down you can see all the lights of Moshi.”

We prepare for our summit push 

The next morning, Luke and the team gathered themselves for the beginning of the final stint of their climb, as the ascent to the peak began.

“At this stage, we were so close,” said Luke.

“After waking up, we got our stuff together and did a quick climb from our campsite, up to Barafu Hut, which sits at around 4,600 metres elevation.

“4,600 metres is really high and if you are going to get altitude sickness on the climb, it’s there,” Luke said.

After the four-hour hike, the team arrived at Barafu Hut around 7:30 pm and bunkered down for a few hours of rest.

“When we got to Barafu, we settled down fairly quickly and got to sleep. We slept until around 11:30 pm, and then we had to get up for the final leg of our hike to the summit of Kilimanjaro,” Luke said.

Having been braced by the guides and the guys from Peak Potential Adventures, Luke knew that the final leg of the climb was going to take the most effort of the climb.

“It is cold up there,” said Luke.

Holding the Make A Wish banner on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

Starting our night climb towards the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

“After waking up around 11:30 pm, we got on our way around midnight.

“Starting at 4,600 metres, you get higher and higher. The altitude and the cold really put you to the test,” Luke said.

“The temperature started below zero Celcius, and at points, it dropped as low as minus 10 or minus 20.”

At this stage, Luke was exhausted physically and mentally. He was grubby and felt unclean, and looked forward to a good meal when it was all over, but he knew they were close and the drive to reach the top pushed him forward.

“It really became a mental thing at that point. I was exhausted, but I was so close,” Luke said.

“The human body is an amazing thing in that it will just keep on going, but keeping focused and telling yourself to push on becomes really hard.”

After hours of pushing, the team marched on in silence. As they neared the top, they were met by heat from the sun, which Luke described as one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen.

“When the sun came up that morning, we’d been going for so long and the cold had been tough, it was just an amazing sight and feeling,” he said.

“Everyone got this ‘gold look’ on their faces. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a beautiful thing to see.”

When the sun came up, it also gave the team their first glimpse of Stellar Point, which meant they were close to the top.

“Seeing Stellar Point helped us all to push on. I remember looking at my mate Mitch, and thinking about all of the goals he was here to achieve, all the people he wanted to make proud, and then looking around at the team. We were all there for some reason or goal, and we were close,” said Luke.

Continuing to trudge, the team made their way slowly to Stellar Point.

“A lot of people who climb Kilimanjaro only get as far as Stellar Point before turning back,” Luke said.

“I understand why because at that point your body is in a serious hurt locker, and Uhuru Peak, the highest summit on Kilimanjaro is still at least a one hour hike beyond Stellar Point.”

Continuing on past Stellar Point, Luke and the team battled with their minds, just pushing through to reach their goal.

Luke standing on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with Shane Pophfer

The last hour of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

“The last hour of the journey is indescribable,” said Luke.

“I knew I had to do it. I had Scott’s ashes with me, a baby on the way at home, and a little rock my dad had collected from the top of Kilimanjaro from when he first climbed it, that I had to return.”

It was those little motivations that helped Luke to push through that final hour to the summit at Uhuru Peak.

Luke spreading Scott’s ashes on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

“When we made it to the top, the actual summit at Uhuru Peak, all emotions kicked in. Everyone on the team had made it.

“People were crying, laughing and just overcome with real emotion. We’d done it. We had reached the top.”

Uhuru Peak is located 5,895 metres above sea level. Due to the height, the team was restricted in how long they could remain at the summit.

“We got the banner for ‘Make a Wish’ out and took a team photo for the charity,” Luke said.

Time to let Scotty go on the summit

“After we’d done that, I took out Scott’s ashes. We’d made it through our last big adventure together. I said a prayer and looked at a photo I’d brought up of him, and then I took him to a special point on the top and I let him go.

“The emotion I felt setting his ashes free was something deep. I can’t really explain it even now. I saw my dad, who is a really tough man tear up when I let Scotty go. I think he was proud of it, proud that I am his son, and proud that he was able to show me the peak of Kilimanjaro,” said Luke.

Making a tribute for Scott, Luke admired all of the tributes that had been left at the peak, making sure to watch his step, as there was an honour in the air.

Following the farewell to his friend, Luke took a picture holding up a sign telling his fiancé, Solitaire and his nearly born child that he loved them.

After 40 minutes at the peak, the team started the journey down the mountain and home.

After a day-and-a-half, the team made it to the bottom, and their climb of Mount Kilimanjaro was completed.

 

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an adventure of a lifetime

Peak Potential Adventures founder, Shane invites anyone interested in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or taking an adventure to contact them through the Peak Potential Adventures website www.peakpotential.net.au or social media, as they believe that with the right motivation and training, almost anyone can beat the mountain.

“I think most people have the capability of doing it, but it just depends on their preparation,” Shane said.

“We can train people to do it. We’ll give you advice, training and help you the whole way.

“I won’t sugar coat it, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the most physical and difficult things you will ever do. Every day is a massive challenge, and for most people, every day is outside of your comfort zone, but that’s all part of the adventure,” Shane said.

“When you achieve something like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the feeling is completely indescribable. I wish we could bottle it, but it’s the truest sense of achievement – we get a real kick out of seeing that in people.”

Luke enjoying some time in Moshi at the end of his Mount Kilimanjaro climb

The Everest Base Camp sign
84 year old at Base Camp Everest

STORY BY: Ainslee Dennis

Trekking to Base Camp Everest at 84 years of age

Today while patiently waiting to see an orthopedic surgeon, a fledgling Peak Potential ‘Adventuress’ dipped into the pile of magazines stacked on a side table.  The July 2013 edition of Prevention captured her attention with its claim to be ‘The Energy Issue’.

A quick flick and the above photo caught her eye. It was a picture of Christine Northrup MD with her mum at Base Camp Everest in 2010. Her mum was 84 years old.

Following is an extract of the article about Christine and her perspective on health and ageing.

You are never too old for adventure

“One thing I’ve learnt from my mother is that you don’t have to become feeble as you age. In 2010, when my mum was 84, she trekked to Base Camp Everest. The following year she drove her campervan across the country with her best friend, who was 87. Now she’s planning a trip to Alaska. The lesson? There are two kinds of age: chronological and biological. The first you can’t do anything about, but the second is largely under your control. Eating right and staying fit are important, but our attitude matters every bit as much. If we believe we’re going to slow down with age, we do. If we believe that aches and pains are inevitable, then we have them. Believing that you can maintain good health as you age is the secret to making it a reality.”

Yaks heading to Base Camp Everest

Be inspired by Christine’s mum – our fledgling ‘Adventuress’ loved that she found this article as she was seeking advice about her two less-than-perfect knees. The news wasn’t great but she is determined to visit Base Camp Everest before the age of 84 years!

If you’re also inspired and would like to go to Base Camp Everest join us for the Peak Potential Adventures Everest Base Camp Dawn Service Trek in April. It will be ‘An Adventure to Remember’ and the journey will embody the qualities that make-up the Anzac Spirit. Stand at Base Camp Everest on April 25 to honour the ANZAC Centenary with a team of people with whom you have shared days of trekking and during that time experienced the qualities that make-up the Anzac spirit – endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour and mateship.

If you’d like more information on our Base Camp Everest adventure, register your interest by sending an email to [email protected]

Sherpa prayer flags at Base Camp Everest

Shane Pophfer on the Overland Track in Tasmania

Hartnett Falls on the Overland Track Tasmanian Adventure

The Definition of a Tasmanian Adventure

We’ve been thinking about our new awesome Tasmanian adventure. That’s not new but what is new is that we want to find out what adventure means to you.

We want your take on adventure and if you’re just beginning an adventurous journey – what do you want those choices to bring to your life?

The push is for more than a definition, we are looking for meaning, and yes, there is a difference. Today I reached for my 1979 edition Collins English Dictionary, (yep it’s old) to learn that adventure is:

  1. risky undertaking of unknown outcome.
  2. an exciting or unexpected event or course of events and
  3. a hazardous financial operation or course of events.

Yeah, that’s not how we define it. We want to get you thinking and talking about adventure to inspire you to make choices that will see treks and expeditions become part of your life story.

Peak Potential Adventures is offering three very different adventure experiences in 2015 and building momentum on the development of more treks and adventures. The Overland Track Winter Trek is our newest trek and over the Christmas/New Year period we reflected on what we took from the trek and considered what the adventure could add to your life.

Du Cane Hut on the Overland Track in Tasmania

A real Tasmanian adventure during winter

The Overland Track is a real Tasmanian adventure if you complete it during the winter period and would be considered a tough adventure challenge; you have got to work for it. It’s designed to be a back-to-basics wilderness trek which means you carry everything, cook everything, clean everything and contribute to a team environment. It’s an adventure that offers the opportunity to learn how to operate effectively in the Tasmanian wilderness and is 70km of mental and physical challenges in a wilderness environment of remarkable beauty and diverse weather conditions. Big adventure!

Our experience of The Overland Track and our Tasmanian adventure involved a really big push from the Nicholls Hut through to Cynthia Bay. It was around 27 kilometres and we had too much weight in our packs. That daily distance is not on the cards for the or Tasmanian adventure, what the adventure gave us in the wake of the challenges of that final day was this: life’s damn good and we are so lucky.

That feeling, that meaning, came as we sat in The Cynthia Bay Resort Cafe and ate a hamburger that was just magic, we thought it was the best hamburger we had ever eaten – now it probably wasn’t – but at that moment, after our six days on The Overland Track, it was magic. Every sense was heightened and our appreciation of the simple things was so much greater. We had clarity of thought, we felt that life’s damn good and we are so lucky.

The experience of pushing yourself in challenging environments will make you see the world differently and appreciate the good in your life – even when times are tough. That is a little of what adventure adds to our lives and our take from our Overland Track winter Tasmanian adventure.

So we’ve shared – now let’s hear from you!

Please contact the Peak Potential Adventures team at [email protected] if you would like to receive a full information brochure on this amazing Tasmanian Adventure.

Peak Potential Adventures is an authorised operator on the Overland Track Track issued a licence by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.

Shane Pophfer hold up a sheet of ice on our Tasmanian Adventure through the Overland Track

Kilimanajro Shira Camp Sunset

Mt Kilimanjaro – Reasons to Climb

Mt Kilimanjaro stands in isolation and dominates the horizon near Moshi in Tanzania with its snow-capped peak pressing high into blue sky.

The desire to discover its majestic beauty drives more than 40,000 people every year to climb 5895 metres to the roof of the African continent.

It is a beacon that represents freedom to the people of Tanzania and nurtures an economy that is fuelled by the desire of men and women to summit the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

Mt Kilimanjaro delivers physical and emotional challenges in an environment of beauty. It rises from coastal scrubland and with every step gives its climbers an adventurous experience that includes lush montane forest, heather studded with giant lobelias, the chance to sight elephant, leopard, buffalo and primates during the ascent into an alpine desert of ice and snow that leads to the summit, Uhuru Peak.

The drive to summit Mt Kilimanjaro is individual but the Peak Potential Adventures team has learned of numerous reasons why people climb as they have guided its family of clients to Uhuru Peak. We want to reveal the experience of Mt Kilimanjaro to you and believe the stories of our climbers will inspire you to say ‘yes’ to an adventure with us.

We are proud to begin with Russ Holland. Take a moment to watch the video, ‘Defining Moment’ to gain an insight into the power of the Mt Kilimanjaro experience.

Peak Potential Adventures runs the Mt Kilimanjaro Charity Challenge to raise money for Make-A-Wish Australia to assist it to grant the wishes of seriously ill children. It is vital support and it is what compels many people to successfully summit Mt Kilimanjaro. So far we have given $108,000 and look forward to donating a great deal more in the coming years.

The strongest motivator for the journey to Mt Kilimanjaro is that it inspires life changes and transformation. The choice to say ‘yes’ to the climb is a catalyst and it delivers experiences that enlivens people. However, there are many other motivators for climbing Mt Kilimanjaro; fundraising, the need to mark a personal milestone such as graduation, retirement, marriage or divorce, and to celebrate and commemorate a life. In 2014 Peak Potential Adventures team member, Luke spread the ashes of his good friend, Scotty, who died on the summit in April 2009. Luke and Scotty’s story will also be one that we will share with you in the coming months.

The summit of Mt Kilimanjaro is a place for reflection, inspiration, and potentially a new beginning in life. Generally, people see the world in a different way after the experience. The famous saying by David McCullough Jr. is one we like to apply to the experience of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

The beauty of Mt Kilimanjaro is revealed to so many people each year because technically, it is one of the easiest of the Seven Summits to climb and is considered a trek more than a mountain climb. You don’t need ropes or technical climbing gear on Mt Kilimanjaro, which makes the climb accessible to anyone with little or no mountaineering experience. However, it is important to note that the easy accessibility of Mt Kilimanjaro also makes it dangerous. On average there are around 10 deaths on the mountain each year and of the 40,000 people who climb, only about 60 per cent make it to Uhuru Peak. Significantly, 100 per cent of Peak Potential Adventures climbers have stood at Uhuru Peak to experience the euphoria of summiting the mountain.

Mt Kilimanjaro will challenge you physically and mentally but the adventure will reward you with memories and experiences that will transform your perception of life.

As the famous song by Juluka goes:

I’m sittin’ on the top of Mt Kilimanjaro

All my heart is yearning
Like a candle burning in the night
Seasons keep on turning
Sometimes hard to keep up the fight
I will climb the ancient mountain
I will find the last flicker of the light

Chorus:
I’m sittin’ on the top of Kilimanjaro
I can see a new tomorrow
I’m sittin’ on the top of Kilimanjaro
I cast aways all my sorrows
What a strange strange freedom
Only free to choose my chains
So hard not to weaken-
Just give up and walk away
I will climb the ancient mountain
I will find the last flicker of the light
Chorus:
I’m sittin’ on the top of Kilimanjaro
I can see a new tomorrow (oh follow me up)
I’m sittin’ on the top of Kilimanjaro
I cast away all my sorrows (oh follow me up)
I’m sittin’ on the top of Kilimanjaro
It thrills me right down to the marrow (oh follow me up)
I’m sittin’ on the top of Kilimanjaro
I can see a new tomorrow
Um ho um
Chorus:
I’m sittin’ on the top of Kilimanjaro
I can see a new tomorrow.
I’ve reached the sun.

So what are you waiting for? Say ‘yes’ to Mt Kilimanjaro and become part of our family of climbers.

(Editorial: Ainslee Dennis of Write Adventures; Images: Russ Holland of Russty Dutchman Photography)

Kristen Forbes
Kristen Forbes

Kristen Forbes, Mt Kilimanjaro

Charity Adventure – One less thing on the bucket list.

Story by: Kristen Forbes.

It’s midnight, it’s below zero degrees, and I’m about to trek for several hours towards the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world for a charity adventure. Why? Why not!

I’m on my way to the “Roof of Africa” for this Mt Kilimanjaro charity adventure. For a week I have slept on the ground, once with a rock digging straight into my back. I’ve been trekking with six other teammates, one of which is my close friend who asked me to join her for this charity adventure in support of Make-A-Wish Australia.

I’m looking good – I haven’t brushed my hair for a week, my face is burnt, I have dirt under my fingernails that I’m pretty sure will have to be removed at the doctors and deodorant is no longer hiding the smell.

Before I went to bed I put on four pairs of pants, four shirts, three jackets, a beanie, a buff, two pairs of gloves and three pairs of socks.

Am I comfortable?  Not even close. Physically the altitude has sucked all my energy and as we make our way up the mountain I feel like I have nothing to give. Mentally I’m battling; all I can allow myself to think is left foot, pause, right foot, pause, left foot, pause, right foot, pause. The slowest I have ever moved yet we are moving way to fast.

We have exceptional guides. They know when to stop and check on us, when it’s time to drink, when it’s time to eat and they know when it’s ok to push that little bit harder. They even realise when the team needs a boost, my story will always include the moment a song and dance was busted out on the side of a mountain in Africa.

As we gradually make our way up the steep terrain, (something that wasn’t in the brochure I definitely signed up for a more gradual rise), my head is pounding and waves of nausea hit me.

This is the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro and I would want it any other way!

I’m one of the lucky ones, I made it to the top with feeling in my fingers and toes, although coming down is a totally different story and there may have been tears.

When people use the cliché “a trip of a lifetime” their absolutely right, and I was able to experience the trip with the ‘A team’. Our motto “Failure is not an option” guided us through some tough times but thankfully it didn’t really need to be said too often.

Shane Pophfer and Darren Wise from Peak Potential Adventures gave us an all hands on deck approach before the trip and were just a phone call away when we needed advice.

On the mountain, Shane lead the way or yelled encouragement from the back of the pack.

Our trip was well organised and I felt spoilt on the mountain, with popcorn and afternoon tea waiting for us when trekking wrapped up each day. And the best surprise was having our very own toilet. It’s all about the simple things.

The guys at Peak Potential Adventures really know how to organise an adventure, all bases were covered and it was evident on the mountain when comparing ourselves to other teams.

I’m proud to say I reached the “Roof of Africa” and Peak Potential Adventures helped me get there to compete this charity adventure and tick another awesome experience off my bucket list.

Mitchell Morley running on a treadmill to raise money for charity

Mitchell Morley running on a treadmill to raise money for charity

Mitchell Morley making wishes come true.

Mitchell Morley brought it home strongly with an awesome effort of walking 12 hours on a treadmill to fundraise for Make-A-Wish Australia and to also make his wishes come true. Mitch is part of the 2014 Mt Kilimanjaro Charity Challenge Team. The fundraising event was held on the 23rd September 2014 at the Doylo RSL Club on the Central Coast and was well supported by the Doylo staff as well as the local community. It was a long event, and to walk on a treadmill for 12 hours is no easy feat, but Mitch hung in there the whole day and even managed to sprint home the last 30 seconds. There is no doubt that this was also great training for Mitch as he gears up for his climb of Mt Kilimanjaro in the coming weeks. Staff members and the patrons of the Doylo RSL Club were generous throughout the day which was absolutely fantastic. Mitch was getting pretty tired towards the end of his “Wishes Through Walking” challenge, but Shane Pophfer who is the Managing Director of Peak Potential Adventures and who is also leading this year’s Mt Kilimanjaro Charity Challenge said “climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is much easier if you get comfortable with being uncomfortable” which is one of Shane’s favourite motivational sayings.

Days before leaving on his adventure of a lifetime, Mitch had raised $11,273 for Make-Wish Australia, which is an outstanding effort. The funds he raised will go a long way in making the wishes come true for the children who need it most.

We wish Mitchell Morley all the best of luck on his climb and will be following the team’s progress closely over the 7 days as they make their way up the Machame Route of Mt Kilimanjaro. We are confident with all the pre-training we have done with Mitch and the team; we will follow on with our 100% summit success rate that we achieved with the 2013 Mt Kilimanjaro Charity Challenge. With only a 60% summit success rate on Mt Kilimanjaro, we would be over the moon if we achieved 100% success on the 2014 climb.

Mitchell Morley – Wishes Through Walking

Emma Harrison standing in front of the Kilimanjaro summit sign on the Peak Potential Adventures Kilimanajro trek

It was mental strength, rather than physicality that Emma Harrison gained from scaling a mountain.

This is a wonderful story from Emma Harrison who was a team member on the inaugural 2013 Peak Potential Adventures Mt Kilimanjaro Charity Challenge in support of Make-A-Wish Australia. Feeling very unwell at 4,600m just as we were about to head off on summit night, Emma overcome the odds to successfully summit Mt Kilimanjaro using raw courage and determination and along the way, learnt some mega life lessons that she shares below.

Mega Life Lessons.

Spending seven days sleeping in a tent in sub-zero temperatures, without showers. Relentlessly climbing in the same dirty and dusty clothes every day. Using a bucket as a toilet or squatting behind a rock. When climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, I found a resilience I honestly didn’t know I had. With decreasing oxygen causing headaches, nausea, vomiting and delirium, I realised pretty quickly that this charity-climb isn’t for the faint-hearted. Or for the well-manicured (it wasn’t going to be pretty). But here’s what I learnt.

“I get by with a little help from my friends”  John Lennon

I started the mountain with 16 strangers.  We had no phones, laptops, TV’s or distractions of the western world so we talked, laughed, cried and shared our stories as we slowly made our way up the mountain. United in an experience that tested our endurance, strength, and will power, we formed a bond that I think has surprised us all.

As the days passed we became a true team, all looking out for each other. From sharing water when I ran out, lacing up my boots when I couldn’t, giving me those all-important words of encouragement when I faltered, these guys had my back and the value of this was priceless. It hits me as I climb this feeling of being so blessed in my life with friends and family. I vow never to underestimate their value again.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Climbing this mountain becomes a metaphor of how we live our life and on Kilimanjaro that manifested as a reminder: STOP HURRYING! Our guides constantly remind us to take things ‘pole, pole’ – slowly, slowly. On average, 40% of people who start the climb don’t make the summit of Kilimanjaro with altitude sickness being the biggest factor. A slow walk allows the blood more time to acclimatise to the increase in altitude and more chance of success, but it also allowed more time to look around, appreciate, and just to be present in the moment. Reaching the summit was the goal, but the challenge and the journey is what it’s all about. We all know this, but I never thought I’d be living it quite so literally.

“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”  Sir Edmund Hilary

Four hours before we were leaving base camp on our final climb to the summit, Kilimanjaro brought me to my knees. I was so sick I couldn’t keep water down. Failure loomed, and I did what I had to do. I talked to God. No, I am not bringing religion into my darkest hour: God was the rather apt name of our head guide. He’d seen all this before and told me with brutal honesty and much kindness that my chance of reaching the summit did not look good. As my team made their final preparations I sat in my tent and cried big fat silent tears, coming to terms with impending failure. And then I made a decision. I was not going to give up. I put my boots on. And then I shuffled into my jacket. And then I stepped outside. And under the light of the full moon, I put one foot in front of the other and I walked through the pain and beyond. I found an inner strength. Who knew? There was exhaustion and freezing cold (despite six layers of clothes). There was breathlessness because the air was so thin. There was the pain of trying to find energy just to swallow much-needed food and sips of water. And focus, so I wouldn’t fall asleep between steps. It was punishing on every level and exceeding every limit I had. And then, after eight gruelling hours the sun rose, and with frozen tears rolling down my face I took the final steps to the top of the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. Shaking with disbelief and pride and oxygen deprivation, I took in the jaw-dropping beauty all around me.  I still feel emotional when I remember that life-changing moment.

I overcame – well, everything – to reach the summit that night. Including my self-doubts and fears, which if I’m honest, I think I have carried with me for the last 37 years. And somehow I have left them there on that mountain. Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro has opened my eyes to a whole new reality where anything is possible.  I am a better, stronger version of myself and there is no going back.

“It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full, be thankful that you have a glass and grateful there is something in it.” – Unknown

While we complained about the cold in our new fleeces and fancy Gortex jackets, about the weight of our backpacks  and our sore feet in reassuringly expensive boots, our Tanzanian porters and guides raced without complaint up the mountain ahead of us, carrying our water, food, tents and equipment, as well as their own minimal amount. Many wore shoes that were clearly not designed to climb a mountain (Ugg boots anyone?) and single layers of clothes. They pushed themselves to the limit daily, risking their own lives (for as little as $10 per day) so that we could have this experience. They also suffer from the altitude and the cold, and yet they line up to do it over and over again week after week. They have families to feed and this is their livelihood. Humbling does not begin to describe it. Whilst we were celebrating our summit success we heard the terrible news that two porters had died on Kilimanjaro that day. The mountain takes no prisoners and the reality of this is brutal.

And here I am – back in my comfortable life, with my comfortable bed, a wardrobe spilling with clothes, and shelves brimming with beauty products. Everything I thought I could want or need, I have at my fingertips. And yet somehow it’s lost some of its appeal and shine. I think daily about the porters who have probably climbed the mountain five times since I was there last month. And I am eternally grateful for everything I have in my life.