I was keen to join the walking group on the first stage of their walk on the Main Range (Snowy Mountains/Mt Kosciusko region) starting from Round Mountain Thursday April 3 and trekking for 6 days ending up at Guthega Alpine Inn Tuesday night April 8. I needed to leave my car at Guthega Power Station as I was to return home on the Wednesday April 9. The plan was to meet the other walkers at Khancoban on their way to start the walk at Round Mountain Thursday around 2 pm April 3 with my pack and walking legs ready to go.
In order to increase the adventure and to get the cars and gear and body in the right places, the logistics were hatched.
Tuesday April 2. Travel Anglesea to Khancoban and leave pack at Caravan Park Tuesday (with the plan of staying there Wednesday night). Next, I wanted to consult with Khancoban Parks Office re logistics and track condition, before continuing journey to Jindabyne to spend the night in a cabin. Managed to slip out for 1.5 hour ride on Copper track at Jindabyne. Lots of great single track to explore.
Wednesday April 3. From Jindabyne to Guthega Power Station leave car, and travel around 70ks to Khancoban by mountain bike via Schlincks Track and Pass (up to 1870 metres) down to Geehi Dam, about 25ks, from Geehi Dam down the Dam Rd to Alpine Way, about 22ks, and back to Khancoban via Geehi Walls 4wd track another 23ks. I was to stay at Khancoban that night recover pack, deposit bike and meet the group Thursday 2pm for a lift to Round Mountain to start walk.
The first 2 sections were a sensational ride in beautiful country on solid tracks and gravel road. At around 5ks along the Geehi Walls Track, there was some steep downhill country on a track with loose gravel and rocks. At around 2 pm I face planted and body slammed the road, circumstances unknown. I came around after what I think was about 30mins later, covered in blood.
The selfie was taken to try and figure where the blood was still coming from. I spent some time laying on the ground removing head scarf to use as packing over wound to try and stem the bleeding. I remembered a clearing and bridge couple of hundred metres down the hill.
Standing and walking was very difficult after a heavy whack on the left hip, so I tried to mount the bike to roll down the hill. When the left leg went out to support me at the bottom of the hill, it promptly collapsed sending me to the ground on the injured side. I just lay there for a long time – maybe a few hours – assessing the injuries, slowing the bleeding, and thinking about my options.
I was conscious that I would not be missed till Thursday, that nobody had been along the track and nobody was likely to come along the track, being fairly remote, and of course no phone reception. With significant blood loss already, I was keen to rest and recover while blood loss slowed and the body was going into repair mode. Pushing it to walk out Wednesday evening would probably generate more pain, bleeding and shock. If I did the wrong thing here, things could go terribly.
A Night Out:
I was in a clearing and left my bike in the middle, visible from any direction and overhead in case of a chopper overhead in the next day or 2. I checked the river but just couldn’t climb the 2 metres to water’s edge to get water and clean up a bit. I had enough in the Camelbak to keep me going overnight. I crawled/limped along the clearing to some grassed area under a tree, put on my rain jacket and lay down to rest/sleep the night. Light was fading but it was no later than 7pm Wednesday. I awoke in light drizzle about 2am and worried about hypothermia with the rain. It took 30 mins to stand and walk 2 paces thinking it would be good to light a fire. Only then I thought – I have no matches – no paper – no wood and wasn’t really cold anyway. Didn’t take long to lay down and resume sleep.
Thursday April 3: Action Needed:
I woke on Thursday morning and had some of the leftover salad wrap from the day before and half a muesli bar. Using bike and stick for support, I checked a clearing (for horse camps using the track as part of the Bicentennial Trail) in case there was some shelter – but no luck. I returned to the clearing and took an hour or so to get water and wash out the head scarf/bandage etc. Very slow and proppy after a big whack on the hip. I consulted my map and figured I was around 17 klms from Khancoban along the track or 5ks back to the Alpine Way, a fairly busy tourist route. I also remembered there were a number of off track huts heading back that way. I wasn’t going to be missed till later Thursday so chances were I might be spending another night out.
And then more solid rain started to fall.
I would definitely need shelter in a hut or get to the road if I were to spend another night out. Another night out was possible but not desirable. I still had another muesli bar and a couple of gels, so I could manage if I got to shelter.
I set off up the hill towards the Alpine Way and it took a couple of hours to get 1km along the track to Old Geehi hut Track corner. The hut on the map was listed as “good condition” and didn’t look too far off track. A painful and laborious walk down the hill was in store and I left the bike on the trail in case people came along the trail they would realise I had headed for the hut.
It was a long way down to the river flat where the hut was and a fork at the bottom of the hill. Of course I went left for another 400m before turning around when I got to the river without sighting the hut. I had heard chainsaw noise from somewhere along the river valley but there was no telling where from. Back to the fork and try the right track along the river flat. I rounded the bend to loud chainsaw noise and around 50 metres was Andy and Jo, 2 Parks staff working on a fence at the hut. As I stumbled toward them, they were putting stuff in the Ute and I was hoping it wasn’t for a quick exit! I gave out a yelp/cooee and Andy turned around, “Jesus, look at you”. A helping hand, a blanket, a spot in front of the fire in the hut and a cup of hot tea has never tasted as good.
We discussed ambulance/ chopper but over cast sky and rough conditions meant it would be hours waiting and they were packing ready to head back to parks office in Khancoban anyway.
Andy radioed into the Parks office to let them know they had found an injured mtb nut and the Parks worker replied to say they had a family/walking group arrived at the office asking if they knew anything of an overdue mtb nut. We had a connection.
My brother Floss and his partner Liz and the group had been to the caravan park to find that Trevor had not arrived Wednesday night as planned, and looked around town before going to the Parks office. I had left a good trip plan via text with Lynne and they were reviewing information when we connected.
Andy and Jo packed me up and we picked up the bike on the way back to Khancoban. On arrival at the Parks office the walkers were a bit shocked by my appearance. One of the party, a GP, ordered me straight to Corryong Hospital.
Already my saviours had become legends and my family and the walkers were fantastic in their care and organisation.
Day 2: 24hours after the stack. At Khancoban. Rescued.
Floss and Liz and Jim from the party took me to Corryong Hospital for assessment. When you arrive looking like this, a wheel chair materialises and there is no waiting or ramping. At Corryong Hospital, the staff pretty quickly figured I needed to go to Albury Hospital by ambulance for more definitive care
. I wasn’t in too much pain and quite conscious and alert when I arrived in Albury Thursday night. My walking buddies resumed a wet advance on the walk as planned, knowing I was in good hands.
The emergency section at Albury Base Hospital works best when you look unwell and arrive by ambulance. I figure my appearance would have made others feel unwell. So a bit of cleaning up, x-rays, CT scan, and a fair bit of poking and prodding and lots of repeats of the story of misadventure followed for the evening.
The damage included a fractured eye socket, decent cut over the eye, bruising and lacerations to shoulder hip and knee and the face looked like I had been clawed by a yeti or grizzly. The CT scan revealed 2 small bleeds on the brain consistent with concussion. They initially found a fracture to front of pelvis but this was later found to be a false finding and they found fractured ribs 8 and 9 but that was from more than 10 years ago. A massive corky on the thigh/hip is the source of most grief.
A series of discussions and consultations with cranial/facial surgeons, neuro surgeons, and the surgical registrar at the hospital followed. Onto a drip for fluids and IV antibiotics for the next 4 days while discussion followed. Options discussed included immediate transfer to the Alfred Hospital, insert a plate in head, surgery for bleeds if they worsened, general anaesthetic for face fix up.
All the while I was supporting the ultimate treatment: a quiet single room, IV therapy, monitor condition, stitch up, and follow up CT scan Sunday. I was a project/case management job with visits from lots of trades. After a few days the IV line was kinking and an alarm was going off regularly through the night. Sleep was difficult and uncomfortable anyway but this torture would have done the CIA proud. Fantastic care however was the order of the day from a skilled and compassionate staff team.
As I got better, I ventured with the walking frame down the corridors to test out a few bits. As I limped along at my pathetic best, I met a chap with similar left side mongrelled face, stitched and scabbed up, bruised and proppy, and a fractured vertebrae as well. Kevin from Mt Beauty came in around the same time after a drop off onto rocks riding his local tracks at Mt Beauty. It was clear that mountain biking was not enjoying favourite pastime status at Albury Base Hospital. Kevin and I swapped stories of adventures and injuries and incidents aplenty over the next few days.
Getting out is harder than getting in:
Sunday and the repeat CT scan to check progress of the brain bleed included the metal dye through the IV complete with hot flush, and bad taste in the mouth. A bit late for staff to review so the Sunday escape was not an option.
Later that Sunday evening all test were ok and departure Monday was approved. Lynne spent another night in motel and more Albury shopping ready for Monday depart. Lynne had travelled up to support me first thing Friday and accessed terrific digs supplied for regional visiting families directly across the road from the Hospital.
I got myself up, showered dressed, got my stuff together, received paperwork for discharge and we finally shot the bolt around 11 am.
I still have some follow up to go but well on the road to recovery