WOW What a Total Waste of Time!

Corin

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In the early 1990’s I had an adventure that started me on course that has influenced my whole life. I had just turned 15 and, I with three other students my age attempted to climb Mount Moruben in Yengo National Park. For three days we pushed through thick scrub tearing our flesh on blackthorn and native holly. The weather was unseasonably hot and all the creeks were dry. We struggled to find water. There were no tracks, and we had to rely entirely on our ability to use a map and compass, not only to get where we were going but also to not become hopelessly lost! We laughed and we cursed and we pushed on.
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On Mount Moruben we found the cairn and visitors book on a giant ant’s nest. We filled it in and headed for home.
We really felt like we had accomplished something. We really had. How many 15-year-olds had done what we had done? Heck more people summit Everest on a big day than have summitted mount Moruben in the last 100 years. Trust me, if Everest was covered in native holly and blackthorn and had absolutely no view, nobody would bother climbing it either.
I remember so much about that trip and every trip that led up to it. I was participating in a school program run by a man named Adrian Ellison. He was universally known as “Bro”. He was passionate about bushwalking and teaching youth leadership through adventure. From year 7 we started learning how to navigate, how to work as a group, how to lead. We walked day and night, in rain and in heat. We collected drinking water from creeks and learned to abseil and rock climb. We learned how to cross fast flowing rivers. We slept in caves, under the stars and under old tent flies. We cooked our own food looked after ourselves, carrying on our backs everything we needed. We even camped solo, overnight, alone. We walked through rivers and quicksand and up mountains and explored remote valleys. We had opportunities that todays risk assessments would never allow.
The trip to climb Mount Moruben was for our “Green Badge” assessment. A three-day hike completely off track, without adult supervision. The highest attainable was for the white badge which if I recall correctly was 4-5 days with three named mountains sumitted.
I changed schools and never went on to get the “White Badge” but I did set myself on a course of outdoor exploration and leadership. I traveled to Europe after school and in Germany learned about the wonders of the folding Kayak. I bought a folding kayak taking it to New Zealand I kayaked sections of the coast of New Zealand and several lakes over 3 months, following that up with going back to TAFE to achieve my Advanced Certificate in Outdoor Guiding.
I started volunteering with National Parks and Wildlife Service and a group called Willows out of Wollemi. We would helicopter and walk into remote areas of Wollemi National Park, often with white-water rafts and map and poison invasive weeds that were infiltrating the park.
As my kids got older, I joined the scouts as a leader and over 10 years of service, I was the region commissioner for Adventurous Activities for the Hume Region (South Western Sydney).
Looking back that trip to Mount Moruben was a turning point in my life. I had lost my log books and notes I had kept on the trip and without them I could not be sure what route we took or even what year I did the walk. The feeling of nostalgia was strong and I wanted to get out to the mountain again and re visit the places where I had learned so many skills and indeed life lessons.
Today I manage an international business and I still use leadership skills I learned in the bush as a child.
Late in 2019 I saw Yengo National Park in the news. Over several weeks I watched as the Gospers mountain bushfire, the biggest bushfire in recorded history spread over Yengo National Park and I thought of that old book, sitting in a metal box on a cairn on an ant’s nest surrounded by scrub. I knew there was not much chance that it survived. After the fires came the floods and then I knew it would be finished off. Going looking for it would be a total waste of time.

I KNEW IT WAS A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME but after a few bushwalks with Wentworth I decided it was something worth wasting time on. To retrace my steps as best I could, planning a new route that allowed us to get out there from close enough to where I had started nearly 30 years before. On Thursday night after a wonderful Nav experience in the rain and pitch darkness Wentworth and I arrived at our first campsite. A really great cave.
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The following day we started early and cut across the ridges and valleys to Yengo Creek from the Boree valley looking in on cockatoo creek and cogee creeks and a wonderful crater valley that is un named and unmarked before heading up the Yengo creek camping at the base of one of the spurs that lead to Moruben ridge. On the way we met "Steve"
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On the second day we pushed up the spur through the thick scrub which in places was just as I remembered it, but towards the top had been all but totally destroyed by fire.

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My heart was sinking the closer we got to the top. I knew going for the book would be a total waste of time. The heat of the fire was so intense in places there was virtually nothing left of the undergrowth and even the sandstone rocks had been discoloured and broken in the intense heat.
We arrived at the summit on the 12th September 2020 just as the mists parted to a wonderful sunny day and started looking around for the cairn. It was not where I thought it would be at first and as I walked in ever expanding circles from the highest point, I eventually found it, collapsed. Still on an ant’s nest. The tin that had once held the visitors’ book was there also. Lying in the dirt and leaves some distance away. Totally exposed to the elements.
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Lifting the box, it had some weight to it…. A good sign. The underside was badly corroded from years lying on the ground. The lid slipped off easily revealing a soaking wet mass of paper inside. A few taps and the book slid out. The top and cover and first several pages were badly burned and deteriorated beyond recognition, but it was clear that entries from around 1986 had actually survived.
I flicked through looking for my entry and pretty soon I found it.
It was not at all what I was expecting.
Dated: 12/10/1991 I had just turned 15
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Wentworth had been struggling with a headache and nausea and was a total champ making it to the top but once we were done we pushed for home arriving at the car after dark. A great walk!
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I have started a group on Facebook and I encourage people with similar memories to come and join: Adrian "Bro" Ellison's Wilderness Lifestyle and Duke of Edinburgh walkers
 

Mozzie

Richard Proenneke
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WOW Corin, thoroughly enjoyed your narration of a past hike in your younger days and now to revisit after all those years, im pretty chuffed that the cairn and tin box was still there for you and managed to survive and even better you got to read what you had written so many years ago.

Yeah its pretty devo what the fires have done, the only up side for your hike was less scrub to navigate I guess, our aussie bush is tuff it will come back.

Thanks for sharing your trip report Corin.

.... and good on ya Aris, bit of a bugga feeling crappy, but knowing you, you would have still enjoyed the trip.

Cheers Mozz
 

Aussie123

Never Alone In The Bush
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A great adventure re-visited.
How amazing to find the notebook after almost 30 years !

WOW !
 

Boogers

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Great story, that's really cool that Adrian had an impact on you and your friends even into adulthood.
 

pap11y

Richard Proenneke
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Thanks for sharing mate. I enjoyed it. Great to see Wentworth out there with you too.
 
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