Three volcanic plugs and a whole lot of forest (Glasshouse Mountains, Qld, Australia)

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One of the many benefits of being home again is that I can join TriAdventure on one their regular bushland epics. Today the Aunties (as our coaches are often referred to) have invited us all to join them out on an exploration of the Glasshouse Mountains. The Glasshouse Mountains are a series of volcanic peaks just north of Brisbane. They are so named by because Captain Cook thought they looked like glasshouses when he was sailing past the coast over two centuries ago. But long before that, this was a place the Aboriginal people knew by traditional names.

We start our adventure in the tiny Glasshouse Mountains village. Mountain bike carrying cars arrive one by one and exclamations of “hello how have you been” are shared amongst the family of adventure racers who come together to train with the Aunties. Before long we are receiving our briefing and ready to set off. Today we will ride some trails and climb three volcanic plugs: Tibberoowucum, the eastern twin of Tunbubudla and Ngungun.

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It’s fantastic to be back out on the trails on my fat bike (photo credit to Jan from TriAdventure). I’ve lost quite a bit of weight this past month (8kg / 17.6lbs) so am feeling much lighter on the bike. There’s less of me to carry around and I notice it up the gentle climbs that we roll over.

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The path up Tibberoowucum starts behind the mountain. It’s quite well defined but not signed. We stash our bikes in the forest out of sight of passers by and set off on foot to find our first stunning view of the day. Upwards we hike to the first summit of the mountain. The views are lovely but the best is yet to come. The Aunties have been here before and point is onwards to a rocky outcrop ahead. This requires some rock scrambling up a steep section that is probably not good for people with vertigo. But at the top there are 360′ views of the Glasshouse Mountains all the way to the sea.

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See those two peaks. That’s our next target: Tunbubudla. We’re going to climb the east (larger more rounded) peak.

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We ride a mix of clay and sand trails on our way to Tunbubudla (photo credit to Kim from TriAdventure). The fat bike handles it quite well and I manage to keep up with the group for the first time since joining TriAdventure last year. We take a long route around the mountains rather than the direct route along the power lines. It gives us a chance to explore some more of the landscape out here and take in the quiet of the pine forests.

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We approach the east peak of Tunbubudla from a spur running down it’s northern side. After stashing our bikes it’s a long steep off-track hike up to the top of the mountain. Navigation is fairly easy: just keep going up on the spur.

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The best views are from a rock slab about half-way up the mountain. We can see Tibberoowucum (where we came from ) and Ngungun (where we are going to) as well as other mountains in the Glasshouse family. But we’re not at the top yet so keep on hiking.

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The top of the peak is shrouded in trees so there’s not much of a view. But it’s still a fantastic place to visit with it’s peaceful calm atmosphere. Someone has put up orange tape down the western slope of the mountain leading down to the saddle. It is inevitable that this is the next leg of our exploration of the park. The descent to the saddle is crazy steep and it’s a good thing we have the tape to follow because it helps us avoid a cliff that drops away below us. Once in the saddle, though, there is a clear path down off the mountain and back to the bike.

It’s not that simple though because now it is bucketing down raining. We saw the rain approaching during the descent and now it is here. The clay trails turn to a quagmire and, before long first our running shoes and then our bike tyres are coated in a thick red lining that makes movement slippery at best.

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It doesn’t stop us though because we still have one mountain to climb: Ngungun. So we ride through the rain and out the other side back into sunshine to bag our final peak. I’m very familiar with Ngungun, having been there often with the outdoor recreation course I was doing (the less said about that particular course the better). We stash the bikes agai and begin our ascent, some 5 or 6 hours after starting this adventure. The views from the summit are as glorious as ever and we take some time to enjoy them before running down the mountain (no we did not run up it).

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All that’s left to do is make the quick 10 minute cycle back to Glasshouse Mountains village where we all change into clean dry clothes and hit the local cafe for some lunch. It was a fantastic day and I discovered some new places in my own backyard that I would otherwise not have known to go and explore.

Navigation training with TriAdventure (Sunshine Coast, Australia)

I joined the Tri Adventure group before I went to Indonesia. The club is an adventure racing and multisport training group organised and coordinated by two experienced and friendly adventure racers and multisport athletes. I joined because I need to get fit again and also because I have friends in the group who always look to be enjoying the training sessions and atmosphere of the club. Today the planets aligned and I was able to attend my first training session with the club.
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It’s a 120km (80 miles) drive to Noosa where the training session was being held. A 1.5 hour drive is a long way to go for training but it was so worth it. We met at the marina where the view across a short jetty over the water was a beautiful calm sight. I felt excited just being in this location.
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There were about ten of us out training today. We set off on an almost two hour bike ride along roads, fire trails and single track to the start of the navigation section of the session. I had no idea what to expect: struggling up the long 3km road climb but loving the long muddy sections of fire trail we followed. It starts to rain but at least it’s not cold today. Spring is definitely in the air and the annoyance of wet weather is tempered by the way the water darkens the tree trunks, accentuates the patterns on the scribbly gums and brightens the greens.

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At the transition from bike to navigation we receive our rogaining maps. There are two disciplines we need to complete: bike and trek. It’s up to use to decide which route we want to take and which checkpoints we want to collect. I am paired up with PE who is an experienced adventure racer and navigator. He encourages me to navigate and pushes me a little to help me learn how to speed up on the course. This isn’t an aggressive push but a calm and gentle encouragement not to stop too long to discuss navigation decisions and to run the trek leg. He shared lots of small tips to help me navigate more accurately and to save time in a race situation. I appreciated this because it was like having a private two hour lesson with someone experienced who is way more advanced than me.

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We bashed and crashed our way along the overgrown trails. There’s lantana to push through, resulting in scratched legs that are the mark of a Queensland-based rogainer or adventure racer. We got caught in the inevitable wait-a-while, which grabbed at our packs, shirts and skin to hold us in place. It’s a reality up here around South East Queensland and all you can do is try not to get frustrated or stand still while your team mate detaches the hooked plant fronds to free you.

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The challenging flora is the price we pay for playing in this fantastic landscape and climate. There’s moss-covered fallen trees with iridescent soft green coverings. Swampy creeks cut through the dense bush. The checkpoints are hidden in interesting spots like creek junctions and just off the track between the various timbers: tall old and thick, and thin and tight.

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It’s wonderful fun to be out exploring and improving my outdoor skills with this group. The Aunties (as the coaches are affectionately called) are welcoming, patient and I never feel like my current lack of fitness is a problem. On the long ride home I bonk and struggle a lot. I fall behind the group and have to walk up some relatively easy hills (I must bring better food with me next time to refuel). But always one of the Aunties waits with me and encourages me. I feel a huge sense of achievement when we return to the car park after about 6.5 hours out on the course.

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My bike and I are covered in mud – something that is always a sign of fun times that have passed. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to join the guys from Tri Adventure for another session. It was fun and even in this one session I learned ways to improve my skills.