Hiking error – yet another calamitous mistake from yours truly (see others here)

Yes, I know – the photo below hardly looks like a horror path. And you’re right. This spot on Tasmania’s glorious South Coast Track – the top of the Ironbound Range with views over Prion Beach – is absolutely idyllic. But, believe me, the way down from this point is horrific, even for the most alert and focused hiker.

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Looking out over Prion Beach on the South Coast Track

I walked it in March last year and, no lie, it was a nightmare of a track – a seemingly never-ending maze of a million slippery tree roots, each one determined to trip you up or twist your ankle. Every few metres I splashed through puddles, slid in mud, ducked and dived under fallen trees and struggled with the knee-shatteringly steep descent. My destination was Little Deadmans Bay campsite – a suitable name, as I felt utterly dead on arrival. I looked like I’d had a fight with a swamp. And lost. But I was relieved it was over. I’d conquered that section of the track and could look forward, not back.

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Overgrown horror path

Or could I? I glanced at my giant rucksack and immediately had that empty feeling in my stomach. Where is my waterproof? Oh, please God, where is my waterproof? It was definitely missing. Slowly the realisation kicked in…a) my waterproof jacket, which I tied to my backpack, must have fallen off on the way down (oh, for f**k’s sake); b) I couldn’t carry on for four days in the notoriously stormy Tasmanian wilderness without it (I hate my life); and c) I was going to have to go back for it (I think I’m going to cry). The muddy labyrinth of a million slippery tree roots was sucking me back in.

I woke up the following day at 6.30am to re-trace my steps. It was painful to be going backwards and I feared it could all be in vain. What if I didn’t find it? Would I get through a Tasmanian storm without my waterproof top later in the week? Up and up and up I continued, at a pathetically slow pace. Mud was plastered over my body while my mind was slipping into a jungle-induced state of insanity, transforming me into a primal, deranged beast. Less human, more animal. But my jacket was nowhere to be seen. I almost gave up hope and then – after 900m of ascent to the very top of the mountain pass again – I suddenly saw a flash of red on the path. My Berghaus jacket. My beautiful, lovely, life-saving Berghaus jacket. Fist-pumping the air like I’d scored a goal, I turned around and, smiling, got back to heading in the right direction.

The moral of the story? Don’t tie stuff to your backpack. Or, if you do, make sure it doesn’t fall off at the top of a horror path.