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Archive | Bushwalking safety

Walking in Declared Wilderness Areas – Is There a Party Limit?

Walking in Declared Wilderness Areas – Is There a Party Limit?

Yes, there is. Its 8.

Many members will be aware that in NSW there are places declared as Wilderness Areas under the Wilderness Act 1987. Wilderness areas are large, natural and mostly intact areas of land that form part of our national park system. When an area is declared wilderness, it is protected under the Act and must be managed to protect its wilderness values with a minimum of human interference. Many wilderness areas are remote and inaccessible to vehicles and access is usually only by foot.

You can find out where Wilderness Areas are either by accessing up to date mapping, the Plan of Management for the national park concerned or by contacting your local national park office. Plans of Management can be found here.

What about party limits in national park areas that are not declared wilderness? Well, that can vary. For parks like the Blue Mountains and Kosciuszko, walking groups bigger than 20 require prior approval from NPWS. In the Budawangs it is even lower. There is a limit of 12 for overnight groups and the recommended limit for day walks is 12. For other parks the Plan of Management doesn’t specify a limit.

In any case when planning a walk always consider party size in relation to the Bushwalkers Code.

Again, if in doubt consult the relevant Plan of Management or contact your local national park office.

Blue Mountains Kanangra-Boyd National Parks – Planning Workshop Outcomes

NSW NATIONAL PARKS & WILDLIFE SERVICE

Summary of workshop outcomes June 2021,

Blue Mountains National Park & Kanangra-Boyd National Park Draft Plan of Management

Background

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is developing a new plan of management for Blue Mountains National Park and Kanangra-Boyd National Park to set long term directions for the management of these national parks.

NPWS facilitated 4 workshops between 4 and 6 June 2021 to elicit stakeholder views and feedback on a range of matters, including:
• management of adventure recreation activities, including abseiling, canyoning, rock
climbing and slacklining
• management of recreation in wilderness areas
• management of key visitor sites.

Feedback on each of these discussion themes and other issues is summarised below. In this document, NPWS has endeavoured to reflect the feedback provided by workshop participants as accurately as possible. The points listed below do not necessarily reflect the views of all workshop participants.
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Adventure recreation
General
• NPWS should use existing user groups to reach out and educate new users – e.g.
climbing gyms, outdoor clubs, university clubs, education groups.
• Visitors to the parks value the experience of being in the park and are concerned about
their own safety.
• Environmental sustainability and visitor safety are often compromised when large
groups are involved in adventure recreational activities.
• The focus of management should be on proper risk management and auditing, rather
than exclusively on limiting group size.
• The Australian Adventure Activity Standards (AASs) represent significant work and
thought by industry professionals. As such, NPWS group size limits should align with
these as much possible. Activity-specific Good Practice Guides (GPG) provide
recommendations about group sizes.
• One organisation represented at the workshop highlighted that compulsory adoption of
AAS standards and the GPG was not supported.
• Clubs are generally well managed and concerned about risk. They rely on selfregulation because they are not sufficiently resourced to adopt additional responsibilities
for the management of their members.
• A participant described the group size limits set by NPWS as generous.
• One business highlighted that they may use smaller groups than allowed.
• Improved communication methods are required to disseminate information about the
rules for each activity (e.g. a broader range of social media platforms, different
languages etc.).
Abseiling
• Maintaining a group size limit of 8 participants (and one guide) was appropriate.
• For multi-pitch abseiling, a reduced group size limit of 4 participants (and one guide)
was more appropriate.
• Larger group sizes were generally not appropriate but could be feasible at specific sites.
Canyoning
• The ‘canyoning community’ is working on a best practice document that addresses
environmental risk, cultural risk, and safety risks. This document can be provided to
NPWS.
• Maintaining group size limits was necessary to maintain individual and group safety and
to minimise any environmental impacts.
• Social media is motivating participants with insufficient skills to undertake the activity.
There may be opportunities to utilise social media to promote safety messages.
• Some people are attempting canyoning with limited experience and without the support
of a club.
• Group size limits should be conservative and appropriate for the canyon. A group size
of 10-12 was considered too high.
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• Use of a booking system was supported at popular sites.
• Group size limits should apply to both commercial and non-commercial groups. Guides
help to reduce impacts and therefore should be allowed as an addition to the group size
limit.
• There should be a cap on total group numbers (commercial and non-commercial) per
canyon, per day, to manage current and future use.
• NPWS should consider adopting management strategies like those used by the US
National Parks Service.
• Education providers could benefit if they were licensed as commercial tour operators.
This would enable them to access improved operating arrangements including use of
the DigiRez booking system.
Rock climbing
• Top-rope climbing should have the same group size limit as applies to abseiling.
• A group size limit should be 4 or 5 participants per roped party.
• Bolting in the parks is an ongoing issue of concern. It was suggested that an updated
bolting policy and/or further discussion with NPWS is required. It was recommended that
the QLD Government’s approach to management should be considered.
• There have been some changes in group behaviours in recent years (for example,
visitors playing music when out in the parks).
• Group size limits should apply to both commercial and non-commercial groups. As
guides help to reduce impacts, they should be allowed as an addition to the group size
limit.
• The current approach to managing bolting/anchor points is not working. Further
engagement is needed to increase self-regulation, minimise impacts and maximise
safety.
• It was acknowledged that risk management was a complex issue and beyond the scope
of the plan of management to resolve.
• Australian Climbing Association has a climbing database (The Crag) that could be
utilised to improve communication with climbers about specific sites.
• Rock climbers should not be a source of revenue.
• Any plans to apply zoning for different types of climbing will require further consultation
with climbers.
• Education is needed for rock climbers on how to manage their waste.
Slacklining
• Slacklining was defined as the temporary use of trees in disturbed areas such as visitor
precincts (camping areas or day use areas where there isn’t high visitor traffic)
• Highlining was defined as the temporary use of cliff features and existing anchors/bolts
(rock climbing) for traversing on a safety line across airspace.
• There is interest in both recreational-based slacklining and event-based slacklining.
• The Australian Slacklining Association has established a code of conduct, fixed anchors
guidelines and guidelines regarding airspace safety. There is also an Adventure Activity
Standard in place.
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• Slacklining is an emerging, legitimate adventure activity both in Australia and
internationally and it is therefore appropriate that NPWS makes provision for the activity
in the plan of management.
• Issues include impact on ecologically sensitive sites, the potential for noise pollution
(from webbing), air space /aviation safety, impact on scenic values and damage to
trees.
• Limits should apply on the duration of slacklines (e.g. 1 day).
• Variations of the activity include water-lining, yoga-lining, and trick-lining. Parks are not
a major focus for these activities.
• The strategies used by NPWS to manage other adventure recreational activities should
be sufficient to provide for the safe and sustainable authorisation of slacklining.
Recreation in wilderness
General
• A group size limit of 8 should be retained.
• Guides actively manage group behaviour. For this reason, the allowance of 2 guides for
commercial tour operators should be extended to educational groups.
• There is a need for active management in response to degradation around Burra Korain,
Dex Creek and Mobbs Swamp camping areas.
• Divergent views were expressed about the introduction of toilets and other infrastructure
to manage impacts. Most participants were supportive of the establishment of minimalist
and carefully designed infrastructure (including toilets), provided this was part of a more
holistic strategy which sought to avoid infrastructure development wherever possible.
Several participants highlighted the need for sound evidence before infrastructure
development in Wilderness areas is considered.
• The requirement to book all camping areas limits the freedom of individual choice and
requires all camping to become a pre-planned activity (rather than a spontaneous one).
• Designation of campsites and access via a booking system may be necessary.
However, the designation of campsites should not restrict options for walkers that still
wanted to enjoy dispersed bush camping.
• Information and education should be retained as the primary strategies for preserving
wilderness values.
• Information for walkers about wilderness boundaries should be improved as many
visitors don’t know when they were entering a wilderness area.
• The risk of exceeding the carrying capacity of wilderness areas was a major theme of
discussion. It was highlighted that social media and the promotion of wilderness
experiences (especially during peak visitation periods) presented a risk to wilderness
values.
• Marketing should avoid promotion of wilderness experiences during periods of peak
visitation.
• The parks are significant for the preservation of wilderness values, and the unique
experiences that these wilderness areas provide.
• The plan of management should include strategies to retain opportunities for people to
enjoy true wilderness experiences in the long-term and that these strategies should
seek to prevent the application of more interventionist strategies (e.g. toilets) in the long
term.
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• More active wilderness preservation strategies (e.g. toilets) would be more appropriate
in areas that were of lower wilderness quality such as the Grose Valley.
• There is a concern that people may become lost following incorrect trails that have
developed through use. Remedial work, consistent with the retention of wilderness
values (including vegetation management and track works) was supported.
Visitor facilities
General
• The current event application process is overly onerous for small smaller organisations
conducting small scale events.
• The factors involved in providing a sound rationale for visitor facility investment (and
disinvestment) should include visitor demographics and demand.
• There are opportunities to work cooperatively with Blue Mountains City Council and
private sector partners, across tenure and on private property to address visitor facility
needs.
• Facilities (including campsites) need to cater for a broad range of abilities and
experiences. There should be areas designated for caravans, walkers, and car-based
visitors.
• Visitors are also looking for shorter walks and picnics in natural settings.
• Strategies to address carrying capacity and spread visitation onto other areas (and to
undertake other activities) need to be developed.
• Degradation of some camping areas was noted. Some should remain undeveloped and
unregulated while it may be appropriate at others to manage impacts and level of use
through improved facilities and bookings.
• The scale-up and scale-down of campsites were raised as an option to facilitate
recovery of impacted sites.
• Consider a classification system for campsites to ensure that visitors have clear
expectations about levels of service.
• Some climbers would appreciate having access to climber-only camping sites.
• Some campgrounds are currently used by caravaners and camper-trailer campers (e.g.
Dunphy’s, Green Gully & Boyd River).
• The facilities required for caravan and camper-trailer camping (electricity supply, areas
for generators, waste dump points etc.) were discussed. Concerns were raised about
the impact of these facilities on the park experience.
• Participants opposed caravans and camper-trailers being used in the park as there are
sufficient alternatives for these styles of camping outside the park.
• The use of camping areas by commercial operators needs to be appropriately managed
to ensure access by other visitors is not compromised.
• Permanent camping should not be allowed.
• Visitor safety, access and environmental protection should be considered during
detailed design for visitor sites.
• Some improvements are required to facilities that are causing adverse impacts on
environmental values (sedimentation from trails, roads and carparks, toilets etc.).
• Improvements are required to soft infrastructure (online information, maps etc.).
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• The role of site design in managing visitor expectations and in offering a range of high
quality experiences was a focus of discussion.
Access to visitor sites
• Private tourism developments within the parks including luxury lodges and glamping
within existing campsites was opposed.
• There are not enough places to provide accessible adventure activities for people living
with disability. Modified gates to provide access could be utilised. An accessible ‘great
walk’ could be considered.
• Arrangements for access to the park through private property (and access to private
inholdings) requires clarification in the plan. Private landholders often do not allow
access across their land to the parks because they are concerned about public liability.
• Providing access could create camping opportunities at sites including Kedumba Valley
(larger groups), Pack Saddles (small groups) and Canyon Colliery.
• Opportunities for camping at Green Gully should be considered during development of
the precinct plan for that site.
• There is demand for campsites that cater for larger groups. This may take pressure off
smaller sites.
• Access at Dunphy’s requires resolution.
• Yerranderie and Wolongambe have opportunities for camping but access issues would
require resolution. Ingar also has great opportunities for camping however restrictions
with access would require resolution.
• Cross-tenure arrangements need to be considered at Ingar to allow access to NPWS
assets.
• Perry’s Lookdown does not offer a quality camping experience. This requires resolution.
• There was a recommendation that the Blue Labyrinth should be managed as a remote
natural area. The last plan of management recommended sealing the road to Nepean
Lookout. This is not appropriate for tradition and history reasons.
Online booking
• The pros and cons of bookings systems were discussed. There are challenges
associated with booking groups however a booking system can help to change
behaviour, cap numbers, and generate improved experiences.
• Bookings need to be easy, flexible for groups, allow for spontaneity, and consider safety
and park management needs. The system needs regular review to ensure functionality
and effectiveness.
• Maintaining records of trip intentions is another way of monitoring visitor numbers.
• Sydney people are getting used to online booking for campsites. This system could be
expanded to encompass booking for day trip experiences.
• There is support for bookings and revenue collection where revenue can be reinvested
into the park.
• There have been instances where people have booked campsites and have then not
utilised their booking. This is a problem with the online booking system because it has
potential to restrict access for campers and could encourage larger groups and illegal
party’s that could impact on other campers.
• Booking platform (Digirez) needs to recognise a diversity of sites to match the type of
experiences and people that are booking. Currently it is too restrictive.
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• To plan their camping trip, people need to access information about campsite sizes and
numbers group sizes before they access the Digirez platform.
Potential improvements to visitor sites
• Schools use the parks for multi day walks (with self-sufficient camping) and school
camps. School camps require larger campgrounds, toilets, and vehicle access. Sites like
Mount Wilson and Newnes are important. There may also be opportunities at Euroka
and Green Gully.
• Green Gully Cabins are currently under-utilised, and consideration should be given to
better manage the site and its future use.
• It was suggested that camp hosts could be better utilised.
• Hanging Rock needs implementation of a site management plan.
• NPWS maintenance and upgrades of existing tracks (including Grand Canyon) were
commended. Providing good quality tracks in popular areas attracts novice bush
walkers and leaves more difficult walks for those with more experience.
• Govetts Leap upgrades were discussed. It was acknowledged that, while improvements
seemed logical, residents may have strong views about things that affect them directly.
• The following areas within and outside the parks could be considered for improved
access and facilities: Narrow Neck, Wolgan, Victoria Falls Road, Evans Lookout,
Kedumba, Greens Gully, Mt Banks, Wolongambe, Bells Line Road, Acacia Flat
campground, Wentworth Falls, Conservation hut, Copeland Pass and Yerranderie.
• Upgrade is required for the Copeland Pass Track.
• The K2K walk experience should be supported.
• Upgrades are required at trail heads to provide toilet facilities and improved information.
• Facilities at popular climbing areas should be upgraded to include toilet facilities.
• A walking loop from Turras Ladders east to Kedumba River, K2K to Solitary was
suggested. Catchment restrictions were acknowledged.
Other issues
Information
• Online communication about park access requires improvement. Alerts are not updated
often enough.
• Visitors need better information from utilities when they close tracks to undertake work.
It is hard to determine if whole or part of a track is closed and whether you can walk
around the closure.
• Strategies are required to communicate the boundaries between the parks and council
land.
• Bushwalking NSW are seeking more engagement with NPWS on matters of mutual
interest.
• Recreational organisations provide opportunities for improved communication about
park management (e.g. Bushwalking NSW newsletter).
• Communication to visitors could be improved through the application of consistent
signage across tenures.
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Visitor management
• Increased visitation (and the resultant pressures on the park and the visitor experience)
is an issue that needs to be addressed at a strategic infrastructure planning level, and
through marketing and information.
• The lack of park entry fees was questioned, with some support for fees in areas with
facilities. The application of fees within wilderness areas was not supported.
• Increased visitation is restricting carparks for some residents. It was suggested that
NPWS should cooperate more with local government to improve carparking adjacent to
the parks.
• Strategies for the management of visitors and tourists should be consistent.
Plan of management
• The plan should integrate with other relevant planning documents including special
areas plans for catchments, world heritage plans, indigenous land use agreements,
heritage plans, tourism plans, plans for adjacent parks and precinct plans.
• Some people would like to see what actions have been completed in the current plan of
management.
• NPWS needs to allow adequate time for groups/stakeholder to consider information
when consulting.
• Climate change impacts on park values, use and management (including park closures,
fire, water, pest management and changing visitor use patterns) need to be addressed
in the plan.
• Plan needs to provide scope to respond to unforeseen or emerging issues (e.g.
birdwatchers following honeyeater migration, changed flight paths with the new airport
and dam development proposals).
• Pest plant and animal management should be a focus for the plan of management.
• The plan of management should seek to improve the interpretation of Aboriginal cultural
heritage and non-Aboriginal cultural heritage within the parks.
• The plan of management should provide scope for the application of Aboriginal names
in the parks.
Fire management
• Increased burning in wilderness areas should not be to be used to achieve prescribed
burns targets.
• Fire management should be ecologically based– with specific assets targeted for fire
protection.
World heritage
• A consistent approach to management and improved communication about the World
Heritage Area is required.
• The World Heritage Working Group should engage more broadly with the community.
Drones
• Drones are now common within the escarpment including at lookouts.
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• Concerns were raised about the safety of drones and disturbance to visitors.
• Support was expressed to exclude drones from the parks

Canberra Bushwalking Club – Safe River Crossings Training

River Safety Training, Cotter River, February 2021, Canberra Bushwalking Club

At the start of 2021 Canberra Bushwalking Club held a challenging and interesting activity for members – a river-crossing training exercise. Held in the clear waters of the Cotter River, 26 club members attended keen to learn how to cross rivers safely.

The training was recommended for leaders and anyone contemplating walking in New Zealand or Tasmania. The course covered teaching participants how to assess a river, identify the safest crossing place and solo and team crossing techniques. Participants practiced these techniques in water up to thigh deep and also had the opportunity to practice swimming with a pack.

The day was highly successful with all participants agreeing that the course helped them to learn these essential life-saving skills. Watch more here to learn more about river safety.

Our Club of the Month: Canberra Bushwalking Club

Canberra Bushwalking Club was founded in 1961 and currently has over 400 members. While the Club’s main activity is bushwalking it also offers canoeing, canyoning, caving, conservation work parties, cross-country skiing, cycling, geocaching, liloing and social activities. Check out the Club’s Facebook page to see more.

Features of the Canberra Bushwalking Club include:

  • A range of activities – from easy urban rambles and walks suitable for families with toddlers, to multi-day expeditions in rough and remote areas
  • Training programs in navigation and other topics
  • Strong emphasis on safety
  • Modest annual membership fees (currently $40)
  • Non-members welcome on activities, with agreement of walk leader (up to 3 activities)
  • Participants covered by public liability insurance
  • Monthly meetings with guest speakers

St John Ambulance First Aid Course Updates

Volunteer St John Ambulance trainer, Belinda Keir, has been instructing First Aid at Senior level since before 2000. Belinda’s practical teaching methods have helped to raise the level of First Aid knowledge within bushwalking clubs. Belinda was recently awarded the Bushwalking NSW 2020 Chardon Award.

St John Ambulance first aid courses have recently changed so it is recommended that Clubs check course codes on the Bushwalking NSW First Aid Training page. The course code for Provide First Aid is now HLTAID011 instead of HLTAID003 and for Provide First Aid in a Remote or Isolated Situation is now HLTAID013 instead of HLTAID005. The change in course codes mean that all class ID numbers have been revised. You will need to quote the correct class ID to book any course. As our next Remote course is only a few weeks away, we would be grateful if this could be done as soon as possible.

People who have a less than 12 months old HLTAID003 or HLTAID011 Provide First Aid certificate can request a credit transfer for Provide First Aid in a Remote or Isolated Situation. This gets a discount in time (you don’t need to attend day one) but not a price discount. Credit transfers can take time to arrange and need to be organised well before the course. Please request a credit transfer form when you enrol and return it with evidence of your current HLTAID003 or HLTAID011 certificate. This will be verified by St John and if a credit transfer is granted it will be attached to the class roll.

Please note that while class size limits are currently 18, this could change due to COVID. While the two remote courses are put on our calendar for bushwalkers, there is usually space in other Provide First Aid courses which are offered to members of Scouts NSW.

In 2022 it is anticipated that Provide First Aid in a Remote or Isolated Situation HLTAID013 courses for bushwalkers and Scouts will run at Barra Brui (St Ives) over two weekends in February, July and November.

Keith Maxwell has stated:

“I have always thought that an important role for Search and Rescue/Bushwalking NSW was to encourage the spread of First Aid knowledge throughout the bushwalking clubs. For example, the Bush Club runs its own stream of First Aid training. Training for their Club walks leaders is fully subsidised by the club”.

Kirsten Mayer, Executive Officer of Bushwalking NSW Inc said:

“First Aid training is important for our clubs and we are so grateful to the entire team of Scouts and St John Ambulance volunteers who facilitate and deliver this training. All of this volunteer effort keeps the price very low for our bushwalkers. We encourage our club members to undertake this training. We also encourage our clubs to consider subsidising First Aid training for walks’ leaders.”

Paddle NSW Training

Paddle NSW is currently offering Flatwater Leadership skills training with reduced prices for successful applicants!

The Paddle NSW Flatwater Leadership Course is being held on March 28-29 at Lake Parramatta, Sydney and on 4 April in Dubbo Central Western NSW. This two day training course is sufficient for a teacher or Sport & Recreation leader to take kids out on flat water so extensive.

The Dubbo course is heavily subsidised and costs only $150 per participant!

Click here to register for both courses.

Paddle NSW can also design tailored courses for 6 to 8 people in locations across NSW to upskill club members in basic whitewater skills or to upskill club paddle leaders. Contact Paddle NSW here for more information.

Contacting Emergency Services

with the Emergency+ smart phone app

Some advice to consider regarding contacting Emergency Services from an experienced bushwalker and engineer.

The Emergency+ app is highly recommended for bushwalkers. It lists all the important emergency phone numbers – 000 (triple zero) of course; but also, the SES, Police assistance line, poisons information and many others. It also has a simple clear display of your location as a latitude/longitude which can identify your position anywhere in the world, which is of course important for bushwalkers as the usual “street and nearest cross street” location is not useful in the bush.

But there are some limitations and misconceptions about the Emergency+ app you should be aware of.​

​Firstly, in an emergency, if you dial 000 (triple zero) using the Emergency+ app it is no different to dialling 000 from a normal phone. It does not send any special information and it does not send your position to the 000 operator. You will still have to tell the operator your position, and that can be the GPS coordinates from the Emergency+ app if that is the best way to do it. On the Emergency+ app it gives your GPS coordinates in a box titled “Tell the operator your location” – you have to tell the operator your position as the operator cannot read it from the phone directly.​

​Secondly, the Emergency+ app uses the GPS (or GNSS system to be more precise) in your phone to get your position. If the GPS is having difficulty in getting a position – maybe you are in a damp area, under a thick tree canopy or near cliffs – then the GPS will return the last position it got a fix on the position until a new fix is determined. This old fix could be anywhere you have been recently; maybe at home before you left, maybe on the drive to the start of your walk; but this fix will be displayed until a new fix is determined. The old fix could be wrong by kilometres, or even in the wrong country if you have just done an international flight!​

​To make sure the location fix it is displaying is a current fix and not an old fix there are two things to look at. The simplest is the little map next to the position. Check the maps shown is correct for where you are. But as this is a street map it is not very helpful in remote areas as there might not be any streets nearby so nothing will be shown.

Page 2 or “+” page of app

A better way to check your fix is a current one is to go to the second page of the Emergency+ app (the “+” with a circle around it on the top or bottom bar) and in the red box at the bottom it says “GPS COORDINATES (Address updated XX secs ago)”. Make sure your address has been updated in the time you have been at your current location, and preferably only a few seconds ago. If it shows that your address has only been updated hours or days ago you should be cautious that the position it will display will be an old position which could be miles away.

 

Finally, remember that the position displayed on the Emergency+ app is just one way to give your position. If you know your position as a grid reference from a map, another GPS, a street address or even some nearby landmark then feel free to use that to give your position to the 000 operator. Speak slowly but remember that all calls to 000 are recorded. Any position reference is acceptable, just make sure it is accurate.

Get the Emergency+ App here now

Adapting to climate change

Our changing climate is bringing new risks which bushwalkers and outdoor adventure enthusiasts should keep in mind whenever planning trips, and whenever we head out on our adventures.

This page gives a quick summary of what to consider. Click through to the relevant authority for detailed information, alerts and to subscribe to alerts and news from each authority.

Extreme weather

The consequences of our changing weather are:

  • More National Park/State Forest/etc closures + more track closures – due to:
    • Threat of fire
    • Damage from fire/flood making tracks unsafe and/or impassable
  • Dehydration & heat stroke of greater concern in hot summer days
  • Increased chance of flooding
  • Poor air quality making prolonged exercise inadvisable (see below)
  • A new Fire Danger Rating

That is why it is important for you to check conditions before you head out. Also monitor conditions for rapid changes. For example, on high fire danger periods/days, or during extreme rainfall, etc.

Avoid remote areas during bushfire conditions. Look at the forward forecast fire ratings and weather before multi-day trips and err on the side of caution.

National Parks closed and damaged by fire

Air quality & health

Air pollutants, including smoke from bush fires, can be harmful to our health and so check air quality forecasts before you head out.

NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment states that we should all reduce heavy or prolonged exercise when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is >150.

However, The Climate and Health Alliance have now declared: “There is no safe level of air pollution. The higher the level of pollution, the more hazardous the risks to health. Bushfire smoke is particularly hazardous because of the high levels of tiny particles (PM2.5).”

You can check the current and forecast air quality here: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/aqi.htm

And find out what the AQI colours mean for your activity here:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/aqi.aspx

Leaders should cancel activities to areas likely to be affected by poor air quality.

Fire Ratings

Note that a new Bush Fire Danger Rating exists called “Catastrophic”. If a Catastrophic warning is issued when and where you are planing to be in the bush, you should cancel your planned activities and move to a place of safety.

A “Catastrophic” rating may be issued in advance so always check the forecast if you are planning/heading out to a multi-day activity.

The current RFS advice for what you should do if the Bush Fire Danger Rating is “Catastrophic” is:

  • For your survival, leaving [the area to be affected] early is the only option.
  • Leave bush fire prone areas the night before or early in the day – do not just wait and see what happens.
  • Make a decision about when you will leave, where you will go, how you will get there and when you will return.
  • Homes are not designed to withstand fires in catastrophic conditions so you should leave early.

See the RFS for full details of Bush Fire Danger Ratings including “Catastrophic”: http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fdr-and-tobans?a=1421

Learn more about Bush Fire Danger Ratings and Total Fire Bans here: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fdr-and-tobans

Fire damage

Every time you head out – check:

To manage these hazards always check before you head out:

Hot Spots

These new tools may indicate fire activity, however the site creators say they are “not to be used for safety of life decisions. For local updates and alerts, please refer to your state emergency or fire service.”

Always remember, that this information is only as updated when a satellite passes over the location you are viewing. IE: not that often.

https://firewatch-pro.landgate.wa.gov.au/ (seems to be more current just from our casual observation)

https://hotspots.dea.ga.gov.au/

Alerts

  • Bushwalking NSW does not pass on alerts. Instead, we recommend you sign up for alerts directly with the relevant authority
  • Bushwalking NSW periodically remind our newsletter subscribers that people and clubs should check for alerts:
    • In anticipation for activities
    • Before they head out
  • Sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page and here

Subscribe to updates

  • We encourage all people engaged in outdoor adventure to sign up to receive alerts from the relevant authorities.

Clubs

  • We suggest clubs consider how they are communicating with their members when conditions become hazardous or extreme.

 

We hope this brief guide helps you all to continue to enjoy safe and successful outdoor adventure in our beautiful natural places!

A bushwalker’s two day crawl before rescue

In kindly and candidly sharing a very painful and harrowing ordeal, a club leader has given us some important points to reflect upon. Every time we head out.

In mid-September, Neil Parker (54), an experienced leader for Brisbane Bushwalkers, was conducting a solo recce (reconnaissance walk) of Cabbage Tree Creek near Brisbane, Queensland.

While alone, Neil fell down a 6-metre waterfall, fracturing both his leg and wrist. He then crawled for two days, to reach a clearing, in the hope of a search team finding him. Excruciating.

He did not have a PLB*, and did not leave trip intentions.

It is rare, but sometimes things go wrong.

This article describes the incident: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-18/mt-nebo-bushwalker-crawls-to-safety-after-fracturing-leg-wrist/11522794

Neil’s personal account is well worth a listen:

https://www.facebook.com/ABCSunshineCoast/videos/2434513696831834/

We encourage you to reflect on Neil’s experiences.

 

Some of our reflections are:

  • Take a PLB*, especially when going solo. Even for short walks. Register it with AMSA.
  • Always Leave Trip Intentions with a reliable person.
    • That means telling someone your detailed trip plans, and when you are due to return. Plus it means that person calling the police if you haven’t returned at the time you said you would. Always call your responsible person on your safe return.
  • Neil is saying the right things in his interview so he is clearly very knowledgeable and experienced. This helped him save himself. So:
    • Join a bushwalking club to learn a wealth of invaluable knowledge and experience in all kinds of adventure. For a very low cost! Have a great time discovering new places. and new types of adventure activities.
  • Neil didn’t panic and had a good first aid kit.
    • He could have also included a sam splint in his kit – it is a much better for dealing with a fracture than walking poles or tree branches.
  • Neil demonstrates how important it is to take first aid kits seriously and keep them well-stocked. Even for a short, familiar walk.
  • Neil took warm clothes and a space blanket on a short, local walk, in a warm climate. And needed them.
    • Consider also a cashmere beanie – superb warmth-to-weight ratio.
    • The space blanket kept him warm and could help rescuers see him.
    • Regularly replace your space blanket – they can de-laminate over time.
  • Neil also took a head torch, his mobile phone and energy-packed snacks. He needed all of these too.

 

If you haven’t watched it yet, do watch Neil’s personal account:

https://www.facebook.com/ABCSunshineCoast/videos/2434513696831834/

Pass it on

All outdoor adventures can benefit from Neil Parker’s experience, so please pass this onto them.

For Clubs

We’d also recommend that club committees devote some time to discussing Neil Parker’s experience and insights, and the implications for each club’s risk management.

We advise all club members to put all exploratory (recce) trips on their activities program. This is the minimum requirement for an activity to be covered by our Bushwalking Australia Insurance.

We also recommend all clubs have: (1) a way of recording trip intentions for all activities, (2) a way of checking that all participants have returned from their activities when they said they would, and (3) a person who will call the police if a person/party haven’t returned when they said they would.

 

We wish you all the best out there. And we wish Neil Parker a rapid and full recovery.

 

*PLB = Personal Locator Beacon

Change in search and rescue over time

The history of Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR) shows how remote area search and rescue in NSW has changed since 1936 when it was established as the “Search and Rescue Section of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs” (S&R).  In 1936 a team of bushwalkers informally assisted NSW Police in the search for four young men missing in the Grose Valley.  After this search Paddy Pallin, among others, approached NSW Police to formalise arrangements to assist NSW Police in the future.

The model of BSAR has always been to use bushwalkers skilled in remote area navigation to travel independently in National Park type country to aid NSW Police as required.  Mostly, BSAR has been involved in searching for missing persons.

The first “Director” of S&R was Paddy Pallin (founder of the well-known bushwalking shop).

In these early days a telephone tree was used to contact bushwalkers as required.  The S&R Committee would contact a particular “Club Phone Contact” to ‘callout’ club members.  In the very early days search teams would travel by train to an incident.

Sgt Ray Tyson of NSW Police Rescue Squad would often rely on S&R Secretary, Heather White (1959 – 1975) who he thought had an uncanny knowledge of the Blue Mountains.

The “Field Officer” is in control of S&R field operations.  Ninian Melville was appointed as S&R Field Officer in 1961 and replaced Paddy as Director in 1970.  Also, in May 1970 S&R joined the  Volunteer Rescue Association of NSW (VRA) at their first Mid-Year Conference.

HF radio was introduced to S&R by Bob Mead during the 1960’s.  Dick Smith, then a member of Sydney Bush Walkers, assisted in the purchase of the first generation of AM field radios.  In 1979 the second generation of field radios moved to FM SSB.  The ‘QMac’ fourth generation of field radio has given outstanding service for many years as smaller, lighter and more powerful than all previous radios.  BSAR now uses a mix of VHF / UHF radios with these HF radios.

Robert Pallin, son of Paddy took over as Director in October 1971 when Ninian stood down.  Vertical rescue for S&R at this time was done by members of the Sydney Rock Climbing Club (SRC) with Fergus Bell was the “Rock Rescue Officer”.

Fergus Bell worked closely with Robert until he became Director in September 1980. Later, in July 1984 the author moved from Field Officer to Director.

NavShield was set up in 1989 by Secretary, John Tonitto (1987 – 2012) so 2018 was the 30th NavShield.

A major change occurred in 2001 when S&R became a fixed membership squad since it was no longer acceptable to ‘just’ callout club bushwalkers.  S&R incorporated as “Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad” (BWRS – later to become BSAR) to formalise its training and member skills through CBT (Competency Based Training).  BWRS separated from “Federation” with the author its first President.

Overtime, remote area search and rescue has changed further.  In 2018, after much consideration, BSAR reluctantly left the VRA and moved to NSW SES (from 1 May) as a better place to fulfil this role.

Within SES the most senior person in SES BSAR now is its Controller, currently Paul Campbell-Allen.

Since 1936 BSAR has been involved in many incidents occasionally multiday.  Some high profile searches have included an injured person below Narrow Neck, near Katoomba (1949), schoolgirls Monica Schofield (1963) & Vicki Barton (1969), Scout Leader lost in the flooded Shoalhaven River (1977), Trudie Adams (1978 – see 2018 ABC TV investigation), three young men lost in Kangaroo Valley (1987), lost plane and pilots at Kanangra Walls (1993), lost plane in Barrington Tops (1981; an ongoing mystery), David Iredale, near Mt Solitary of the Blue Mtns (2006), deceased person on Mt Cloudmaker (2007 – see VRA Journal Volume 2.3) and Sevak Simonian at Kanangra Walls (2014)

Technology has improved outdoors safety.  The latest field radios can give continuous GPS location of BSAR search teams.  Mobile phones now have better coverage and distress beacons (PLB and EPIRB) can send an emergency signal far more quickly for a person in distress.  However, many people don’t have access to these devices which are yet to be 100% effective.   Experienced ground searchers like SES BSAR are still essential.

Further history of BSAR can be found in a Google drive folder at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cSOMp9zsdYCFG7qbtHrrSQ2-i36U64Pz

Keith Maxwell

President BSAR

Battery Testing for torches

Should a small battery tester be considered an essential item of bushwalking equipment?  Modern LED torches just keep getting better and better.  Battery technology has also gone forward in leaps and bounds with various types that seem to last forever and ever – “best before 20xx”.

My first bushwalking torches used incandescent light bulbs that were miniature versions of house light globes.  Like house globes, torch globes had a limited life span so the folklore was always to carry a spare globe.  But LED lights are so much brighter from a lamp with an almost infinite life span plus they keep getting better and better.  A little while ago the switch on a 100 Lumen head torch failed.  The replacement torch under warranty was 160 Lumens.  Same model just a few months apart.

Our early torch batteries were the ‘red’ carbon batteries.  The Zinc case formed part of the electrical reaction.  They would self-discharge in a short time (go flat) often leaving a corrosive mess.  The batteries were not very powerful so torches had to be big to hold “C” or “D” (large batteries).  Now, alkaline “AA” and “AAA” batteries can be purchased in multi packs.  Even better types of battery are available or your choice of rechargeable battery.

Thus, it is easy to keep a light, compact, bright headlight torch that uses small “AAA” batteries at the bottom of the day pack ‘just in case’ – no wandering in the dark from an unexpected delay.

However, since batteries last so long it is easy to forget to check them.  Most LED torches have a system of still giving out light as the batteries progressively fail.  Corrosion can still eventually happen.  So, you turn on your torch in a bright room and you have light but how good is it really?

Such a torch let us down recently at a disused, open access railway tunnel at Helensburgh.  This amazing long single-track tunnel was brick lined for reinforcement.  The current double track railway through the mountainous terrain has by passed this tunnel.  It was dark enough to have impressive glow worms.

Fortunately, a dud torch was not a problem as our group had all taken spare torches.  Later at home, I found corrosion had started on one battery.  My battery tester indicated that the other batteries were also on the way out.

When did you last properly check your emergency torch?  Importantly, when will be your next check?  Over time I have seen a range of different battery testers with one thing in common.  They were all cheap.  There is no reason not to have a battery tester so you can be sure your emergency torch won’t let you down.

Keith Maxwell.