Wollemi Caching (Part 2): Caching

(Written by myself. Edited by Owen)

Party: Owen Minstler, Michael Blair, Nhân (Grace) Thái and I
Photos: Taken by a mix of everyone

Some Notes on Caching:

Prior to our caching trip I contacted the club using the SUBW mailing list for some tips on caching. I got many more responses and information than I’d expected. Here is a summary that might help others… I’m basically going to steal the structure from the email sent to me by Norm Kelk…

In summary:

  • Apart from tin foods, most people recommended using a plastic container (plastic box/Tupperware, canyon/canoe/kayak keg, paint tin, protein powder barrels) to seal the food. Others have had success with garbage bags and in one case even a cardboard box out in the open!
  • Its difficult to dig a hole in the Australian bush. Several people recommended tools.
  • Smell was a common theme. Avoid opening packaging. Reusing things like wine bladders also introduces added scents.

Now, looking at some concerns in more detail:

1.       Keeping it dry (Packaging)
2.       Keeping it from animals (Packaging/Placement)
3.       Keeping it cool (Depth)
4.       Preventing contamination from fuel etc.
5.       Rubbish

Point 1 & 2: Keeping it Dry (Packaging) & Keeping it from Animals (Packaging/Placement)

I guess making sure that the plastic bags are well sealed would be the main issue. (Are there some specialist plastic bags you can get for this purpose? Very heavy gauge plastic? Plastic bags that can be heat sealed? I did use sealable plastic tubing which made excellent plastic bags for putting in food dumps.)

plastic box and we ran a bead of silicone around the edge before putting the lid on so it was waterproof.
if it was me I’d use something like a canyon keg that is animal-proof and leave it on the surface or hung from a tree.

seal lid with tape

The food stores in those cardboard barrels in the shed at Gospers had lasted well.

Tins are ok if inside plastic to waterproof them, otherwise left in soil you have 2-12 months (weather dependent) till they rust through. You need at least 4mm thick of plastic or rats will eat through your containers. So the lightest option is cans (short term) or 4 mm hard plastic (eg a kayaking plastic tub)

Carol Isaacs

1) animals must not be able to smell the food. 2) don’t leave caches in places where animals are used to humans 3) minimise packaging as much as possible while at the same time keeping the packages smell proof. Burning as much packaging as possible is OK as long as you don’t leave foil or any other debris. Of course everything needs to be waterproof. Intact packaging, inside plastic bags, inside strong garbage bags works. For ease of handling and carrying you might want to use poly bags, supermarket shopping bags or dry bags. Dry bags have the advantage that they can be easily hung but they are heavier for carrying out. I’ve never seen a dry bag cache fail. I’ve never buried a cache.
We cached food for a few weeks when we did a N – S Wollemi traverse some years ago. Some caches were simply in cardboard boxes left on ledges in dry sandstone overhangs, and they were fine, despite there being little footprints all around.

You don’t say where this is to be done. I am assuming that you are talking about Australia. We have no really super digging animals here in Australia except wombats, so unless you are burying it in a place which has masses of wombats I think you should be ok. The literature on burying human faeces suggests that you should bury it about 9 inches below the surface. I assume that this is in part to stop animals digging it up as a food source. So I guess that if you are able to bury your food at least that far below the surface it is likely to be protected from animals. You could also cover it with a layer of rocks immediately above the food as this would make it difficult for an animal to get most of it out.

Mice ate throuhg my mum’s water cache on Donkey Mtn.

Point 2: Keeping it Cool (Depth)
There is some data on the temperatures of the surface layer of soil in various parts of the world, which I am not familiar with. I imagine that you would have to bury it deeper in a hot desert area. But if the food is very dehydrated it will probably be ok at most surface temperatures. It might be difficult to stop chocolate melting in a hot area of Australia (although I don’t carry chocolate on bushwalks any more). To get the food completely out of the influence of surface temperature changes I expect you would have to bury it quite deeply maybe 500 mm which I presume would be impractical for your purposes.

Point 4: Keeping Fuel from Food
I would recommend burying fuel separately from the food. Although you are probably using gas as a fuel now, not liquid fuels so they won’t so easily contaminate food.

Don’t store shellite in the food canoe barrel, otherwise you burp up shellite with the muesli!

Point 5: Rubbish

Kshitij Sahni:
What they did was store their food in 40-50 lt paint drums along the way (maybe hidden at first). And left their rubbish in them and placed them close to trail heads. They had sharpied their phone number and that they would be coming back to pick them up after they’re done. But if some was kind enough to take it out to the tip, they could text them so they won’t need to come back for that particular one. We took out a couple for them.

Pro Tips:

Carol Isaacs:

PS Extra tip – depending on how long the cache is to be left, you can leave fruit such as a hard avocado, oranges, even shrink wrapped cucumber in food caches, so long as they can breathe and are not inside the plastic bags or any waterproofing. The avocado will ripen while you are away. I’ve left them in a lightweight plastic box with holes punched in the lid, stuck in a tree. Beer in lightweight aluminium cans is a treat; doesn’t need waterproofing and the cans aren’t too much to carry out.  

What we did:

Credits to the following people:
Norm Kelk, Paul Griffiths, IC, Sven Delaney, Rick and Robyn, Adrian Sprag, Peter Ridgeway, Carol Isaacs, Mick Trent, Kshitij Sahni, and SJ


Part 1: Saving Grace Canyon (separate post)
—– Day 0 : Shopping (separate post)
—– Day 1 : Saving Grace Canyon (separate post)
Part 2: Caching
—– Day 2: Cache 1
—– Day 3: Cache 2

Day 2 :Cache 1

Our impromptu camp after yesterday’s canyon exploration turned out to be quite sheltered. It was a warm night, though Owen’s sleeping bag was a little underrated and he had been on the cold side.

Welcome sun soon touched us…

We dropped steeply down, leaving gear at our camp to collect on the way back out of the valley. Following wallaby tracks which inevitably led down into the scrubby creek we made one attempt to stay high but were pulled almost unknowingly back into the shrubbery. Eventually we made the conscious decision to abandon these lush nettle invested networks, glad to emerge onto the open ridge.

We made better time down the ridge and soon found ourselves in a pretty flowery meadow. Deciding it was probably as good a camp as we’d likely find, we didn’t explore further.

Probing a couple of spots, we found the ground quite turned to clay quite quickly. The pick attachment on Michael’s shovel came in handy at loosening up the ground, but didn’t last very long before it broke. Shovel in hoe-mode seemed to be the answer!
After many rotations, we had a hole that seemed to be sufficient. Dropping in our multi layered garbage bags, we filled the hole back in, added a layer of large rocks, and then added more dirt to top it off. On the large rock on top, Owen placed a die he’d moulded from the clay. Hopefully it would still be here when we made it back… along with the food!

Grabbing some water from the creek we took the ridge the entire way this time. We paused many times for breathers and to enjoy the views and other oddities including a wedge tail being harassed by a bell minor. 

We followed the cliff back to our camp for lunch.

We decided to follow the creek back up. There was a nice overhang with some speleothems, a fan shaped mini waterfall and then we turned up Sideways Exploding Jellyfish Creek. Progress was quite good, though Grace’s pack was a little too high, making it harder for her to maneuver through the scrub.

There was one large boulder to bypass. But we didn’t have too much difficulty climbing around it. The Loose spruce, not for a Bruce the goose, moose noose deuce ruse… was more difficult to say and remember… and even further up (when we’d almost breached the topmost of the cliff defenses), Owen forged ahead through the worst vines yet. How did he get through? I tried a slight variation encountering lawyer vine and some stinging nettle for my efforts.

A final crux climb/scramble saw us up through the final cliffline. It was only a short way to firetrail, but it encompassed an obvious change in vegetation. We used the wombat gate to cut through the farmland.

We were treated to a truly spectacular view as we made our way across the paddocks, unintentionally herding a sizable group of cows ahead of us.
After startling them though one last gate, they stopped and turned to take us in from a respectable distance. Briefly encouraged by some ‘moooo’-ing from Owen and I, they held their ground… for a time. Then just as suddenly they stampeded away, leaving only a few curious cows to ponder us before they too bucked off to rejoin the herd.

 Our tired bodies welcomed the sight of the car. We wasted no time shedding our packs and loading them in, and with the day nearing its end, quickly made the decision to camp nearby in the state forest. We headed back down the road we’d entered on and soon found a suitable spot to set up camp. It was a much colder night, and despite waking up around midnight to don a warm jacket, I didn’t sleep well overall.

Day 3 :Cache 2

We were much further behind schedule. The elevation change had been a killer. We were up after 6am accompanied by the birds: butcher, lyre, kookaburra, magpie morning song, and many more including the rare Owen bamblootie.

On the road around 7am. Grabbed some fuel and snacks. Stopped by the check engine light, but couldn’t find anything wrong. We were just down from our road caching spot… that’s when the Curse of the Cows struck (I don’t know why the cows got blamed…). The bag I was pulling on released, the shovel colliding with my face. Car and lip with signs they needed repair, we pressed on regardless, caching tinned food amongst the Farmers Friends just up the road.

It was a nice drive and I was again surprised by Michael’s knowledge of inner NSW.
At Jerrys Plains, we passed briefly through private lands and onto the Commission Rd. There were a couple of gates but the chains hadn’t been locked. The guy in the tractor didn’t seem to care even when we tried to catch his attention.

Turned off at King’s Cross. I thought we’d have to walk from here, but being able to drive a little further was very welcome. Parking, we sorted gear and headed along the pleasant ridge, eventually dropping down towards ***** Ck. It was to be my turn to carry the water bladder down, but the curse of the Cows was rife and I slipped, twisting my ankle. We were close and I pressed on regardless.

Michael started on the hole. It was much easier digging than the previous day and we quickly had a hole over 1m deep.

I held the others up on the way back, hobbling along with my makeshift crutches. We made it to the Putty Road before dark, nice pink oranges lighting up the sky as the last light faded from the day.

Grace and I caught the train from Richmond. Serendipitously, Owen lived really close to Michael and got a lift almost home! I changed trains at Blacktown and then Mt Vic. Mum collected me from Lithgow, getting me home a little before midnight.

Thanks everyone for a great weekend, and a special thanks to Michael for driving!

Fuel Calculations:

243344 km
Δ=511 km
@ 10km/L
= 51.1 L
@ 129.9c/L
/4 ~= $16.60
~= $20 each?

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