Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Great Expectations: Mount Anne Circuit, Part V

All Those Expectations

Thinking about this trip later, it seemed to me the crux of the matter was how slowly we were walking the final 12 kilometres out to the road. We had expected to walk at our usual pace which varies between 3 and 5 kilometres per hour yet found ourselves managing to average somewhat under 2 kilometres per hour on the worst section of track. I wondered if we had not expected to encounter the "maintained" Lake Judd track, or had any expectation of walking at our normal pace, perhaps the last day of the walk would not have felt so tedious. While much of the final days walk is in thick timber where you can see nothing, along the button grass plains beside the Anne River you are actually walking along under a broad and open sky with the looming Schnells Ridge above. The "track," however, is so poor that it is impossible to look at anything other than your feet which certainly diminishes ones walking experience. 

There was, of course, all the other expectations. Our expectations that walking from the High Camp Memorial Hut to Lonely Tarns via Mount Anne might take ten hours or more (using the longer end of the track notes guide - three hours to Shelf Camp, two hours to summit Mount Anne, and six hours to walk to Lonely Tarns), when it actually took us only eight hours total (including our stops). Had I known that I would cruise in to camp feeling fresh at 4.00 pm, I would have spent a half hour on the summit of Mount Anne instead of about three minutes. 

 Descending to Lonely Tarns,
Doug B. photo

The expectations of others also surprised me. The women we shared the hut with, who, upon reflection (perhaps even at the time) were overly optimistic (or overly confident in their abilities) and thought they would walk from High Camp Memorial Hut to Lonely Tarns in six hours, and ended up taking almost double that time. 

And finally, the expectations others seemed to have of me. That somehow, simply because of my chronological age I would be slow and incompetent, when in fact, we were faster than people thirty years younger than us. Some of our speed is due to fitness (although in the scheme of things there are many people faster than us), but a good chunk of our speed is due to experience. We have simply been plugging away in the mountains for multiple decades and have learnt how to travel quickly and efficiently. We carry only what we need (not the five or six nested pots I watched the women extract from their packs which was made more bizarre by the fact that their dinner involved pouring boiling water into a bag - surely one pot would suffice) and nothing more. We keep moving and/or take only short breaks, and we have 20 years of climbing experience behind us. 

 Lightening Ridge and the Lonely Tarns,
Doug B. photo

But I too have expectations about others based on their appearance. Certainly, when I see the grey nomads waddling around with their large insulin resistant bellies travelling a metre in front of the rest of their frames, I think "too many pies." I know too that when I see walkers whose gear is all shiny and new (or are wearing white shirts - how does anyone manage to keep a shirt white in Tasmania?), carry superfluous gear, apply deodorant (you're going to sweat, embrace it), or do any of the other trade mark things that identify the novice walker, I recognise their inexperience immediately. I hope, however, that I do not let that colour my entire opinion of the person. I remember well my own early days. I returned from my first overnight walk in Tasmania looking as if I had been bull-whipped with barbed wire. I had no gaitors or long pants and the route (this was a route not a track) I traversed covered about 20 km of dense prickly bush that ripped my legs to shreds. A classic rookie mistake I was never to make again. 

In the end, it's impossible not to have some expectations: about how hard the walk/climb/paddle will be, how well our abilities will match the difficulties, and, being human, we will even make judgements about the abilities of other people we meet. We must have some confidence that we can complete our objective, but not so much hubris that we fail to adequately prepare for the difficulties ahead. Most importantly, we must not let the expectations others have of us, undermine our own confidence because, those expectations might just be wrong. 
 A bit thinner, a bit dirtier, but happy enough

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