Know your limits

Well after finally getting this blog up and running again like i’d like, regular posts and images- i’ve then gone and disappeared for a couple of weeks sorry. For those of you who read my last post, you would have picked up on my absolute excitement about getting back down to the Stirling Ranges. A place I love so much. I was beside myself with excitement, as I was tackling the ridge walk. No tourist walk here- this is the real deal. I’ve done it a number of times myself in the past, and while always a challenge, and respect always needed to be given to the mountains, i’ve been able to do it well within my limits. Unfortunately this was not to be my time….. so what went wrong…..

Now I just want to make a note that i’m not doing this post for sympathy. As a matter of fact I hate the constant bombardment by people especially with things like Facebook etc these days where attention is seeked. I’m not putting this stuff out there to brag about what I can do either, just simply stating what I am capable of so you can see how easily things can go wrong. There is a valid reason for me with this post- and I hope the right reasons are picked up in it. If you read the entire post I hope you’ll understand that.

In the past i’ve done the overnight walk, with aprox 27kg in my pack- very possibly a couple of kg over what I should carry. But it’s something i’m capable of dealing with, so I take it. Water is often an issue with me, I go through a lot. So for 2 days in this region where no reliable water is to be found. I take 10-12L (kg’s)

I’ve done day trips, of the same mountainous area. All over 30km’s for the day, carrying aprox 15kg of gear. Some of these trips have been on days where the temps are in the 30’s also. So once again while tough, it’s well within my reach. One thing i’ve always taken pride in for myself is that I can go in the red zone all day, push through the walls so to speak. So once again, what went wrong this time…..

The lead up. Now this was certainly not ideal. I headed down from Newman on the Saturday. 13hr drive, headlong into my mates bucks night. Which was a 12hr drinking session haha. Somehow survived, and slept pretty damn well the Sunday night. I had things to do on the Monday, so didn’t get to head away until late Monday night. Arriving at the Stirling’s about 1am. So once again not really ideal, but i’ll still do it. I was dead set on that! So what went wrong…..

I got dropped out at the Eastern end of the ridge by my good friend who is a caretaker at the caravan park. And off I set. Due to not being as fit as i’d have liked- I cut back my pack slightly. So was carrying about 24kg. The first 6km is a long straight walk along the fence line that borders the national park. So pacing myself, got along that quite nicely. I was feeling great, excitement was building. In 8 hours time i’ll be bedding down in my cave with the best view in WA. So what went wrong…..

From the Northern boundary you head to the foothills, aprox 4km in through bush. Following what track there is. I was making good time, still feeling good. But then hit the hill. Now this isn’t even the first peak you climb, this is the small hill that is at the foot of that, a small hill that stretches maybe half the height of Ellen’s Peak. Now when I hit the hill, I hit the wall….. wow did I hit it. I’d actually never felt it like that before, which was quite weird….. Was my dream going to end right here?

No of course not. Pushing on I drove myself to keep going. Push through that wall, and get your butt up the damn hill! Pretty simple goal, so do it. So I pushed on, but literally could only get 2min up the hill before I needed rest. And not my usual rest where I normally would just pause for a minute before continuing. The rest I was needing was 10min, for 2min of walking…. What’s going on!??

So I continued, expecting to break through and then i’ll be fine. But just could not get a consistent go at it, and never made it through that wall. At one stage I sat down, totally exhausted, to the point where I actually laid down and went to sleep, for a good half hour. Now when this happened I knew something was just not right. Then comes the hard decision…. continue up the hill, and along the ridge as planned. Or make the most painful decision i’ve made and turn round…..

Now with the ridge, once you’re up there- there is no coming off. Not easily anyway. There are a number of narrow ledges, and everything is a big drop too. The cliffs are well over 400m straight down in sections. So in my semi delirious stage I knew I had to turn round. It simply was not worth it. The cruel thing was that to get out, was first of all the 4km back to the Northern track, but then another 15odd km’s West, back to the caravan park.

So off I set, by this stage I was seriously not well, and was having to rest every km despite being on the flats. Once again this was extremely foreign to me as I usually wouldn’t rest on the flats. So I plodded along, barely managing to get anywhere, probably averaging aprox 3km an hour. I had to lay down and nap again a couple of times too. Lucky for me I was able to get picked up with about 2km left, which I was extremely grateful for. In hindsight now, and knowing the reason for my struggling I would have organised to be picked up much earlier. Instead of trying to be stubborn and get myself out of it. So i’ve still not told you what went wrong…..

It’s 2 weeks later now, I still literally feel like i’ve been hit by a truck. I’m requiring 8-9hrs of sleep a night, quite often napping after work too. Yet I am still needing more. So finally realising it was a bit more then simple fatigue, I got some tests as to which came back yesterday thank god. Turns out I managed to get an uncommon viral bug, which causes pneumonia. Straight out without a flu, cold or any onset. This is why I went from feeling great to absolutely nothing in no time. So now finally with some antibiotics i’ll hopefully start to get back to feeling myself.

Now as I said at the start- there was a valid reason for me making this post, not milking for sympathy, not bragging or ego boosting or anything like that. But that reason is of course to know your limits. Not just your limits, but your limits on each particular day. Because for various reasons, you will not be anywhere near your peak performance on everyday. This particular day I don’t think I was anywhere near 50%, so I had to throw away every limit I was accustomed to. It only takes one day not knowing your limits to get yourself in big trouble. And I know for myself definitely, but also for other landscape photographers out there we do push the limits in many, many ways. So watch yourselves, because I now know all too well how simple it is for it to all come undone. And it could have been a lot worse too…..

I hope to start posting a bit more frequently again. First of all need to get out and take photos, but that will all come back to me soon 😀 Sorry for it being a while, but i’ve simply not been able to think enough. It’s been hard enough checking out a few blogs of fellow photographers, which I think I must be well behind on also haha.


14 responses to “Know your limits

  1. Stephen, thanks for sharing. And take care of yourself. I’ve seen healthy people get altitude sickness on mountains, while I stood there perfectly fine and much less fit than they were. It does seem to be up to a random set of variables as to how the body reacts on a particular day.

    I’m pleased you have a diagnosis and are on the ment.

    • Hi Belinda, thanks for tuning into the blog.
      Yes i’ve quite often heard of the effects of altitude sickness- it’ll probably get me when I eventually get to the Himalaya’s for some trecking too haha. And I definitely learned how the body can react if things aren’t right haha.

      Was just going through the Canon5 images- unlucky you didn’t get through! Good luck next year 🙂

  2. Good blog Stephen. Very descriptive.
    It is amazing how stuff can creep up like you say. That happened to me in 2008.

    • Thanks Craig. I was tempted after my premature talking it up in my previous post, to simply remove it and pretend it never happened haha. But decided explaining it, and especially how the body can turn for the worst in very quick time was a more productive way to go.

      Even now I can’t believe how quick it all went down lol

  3. Ahh, you high-speed, low-drag aerobic types and that ‘pushing through walls’ madness! Glad you recognized that ‘John Wayne’ was not the way to go, and that you recognized it in time. Get well. Dave

    • Haha, it’s the only way to go Dave! Personal satisfaction 10 fold as you know you also worked your butt off for the shot. May as well do it when i’m young….. before too long i’ll be an old Sasquatch like yourself 😛 haha

  4. Thanks for sharing. That’s pretty scary stuff. V glad you’re ok and hope you kick that bug in the guts soon.

    The same thing happens to me on Bluff Knoll too (walk 2 mins, sit down 5), but I think in my case it’s cause my officechairinitus 😉

    • yeah it was a worry for a while there, mainly now I look back and can see that I actually wasn’t thinking too clearly. so very easily could have made the wrong choice. but we’re getting there and will be back to full posting glory soon. I still have a 365 project I want to try and get up and running lol.

      and your “officechairinitus” scares and worries me even more then what I had lol. I hope to never have that ruthless diagnosis! although I do now spend 90-95% of my days in a chair…. 😦 that’s why I make the most of it when I can! 🙂

  5. Shit mate thats no good at all. hope you are on the mend and all is well.
    hope to see some more of your photos soon.

  6. Crazy stuff but at least you had the mental strenght and apptitude to say turn around.

  7. Glad you made the decision to turn back mate. The Stirlings will be a waiting for you next time!

    Love Charlene’s officechairinitus commet!


    • Yeah that’s the thing. They’ve been around for many many millions of years and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Damn furious still, and determined to get up there though haha. Not as easy getting there from Newman as it is from Perth though. lol. So not sure when it will be though. But it will happen 🙂

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