2016 was an exciting year for Mont staff and ambassadors. Adventures ranged from weekend jaunts to month long expeditions, from local climbing crags and ski fields to the ends of the earth (well, the North and South poles at least). Mont has a long history of supporting a love of the outdoors, and in it’s 35th year, Mont’s staff and ambassadors continued to chase adventure…
Making your commute to work look easy is Dr Kate Leeming. Off the back of her first Breaking the Cycle Expediton – a 10 month, 22,040km journey through Africa, her Great Australian Cycle Expedition (25,000km), and her 13,400km Trans-Siberian Cycle Expedition, Kate took on Greenland in 2016. In preparation for an expedition to the South Pole in 2017, Kate used her time in Greenland for extensive testing of her gear and systems.
Kate Leeming testing her All Wheel Drive Bicycle in Svalbard, Greenland. ©Phil Coates
Expecting temperatures between -5 and -20C, warm spring conditions proved challenging for Kate and her team with eight days of blizzard conditions delaying the expedition’s start. Warmer temperatures meant soft snow and slush – a modified route was selected to make best use of time, and Kate spent seven demanding days on the bike. With variable weather conditions, Kate often rode into howling headwinds, at times having to push her bike through soft, unconsolidated snow that even her all wheel drive bike couldn’t conquer. The fourth day of the expedition brought better conditions, “the sun shone, the wind died down and I was treated to sweeping vistas as I pedalled for 50km…”.
“the sun shone, the wind died down and I was treated to sweeping vistas as I pedalled for 50km…”.
Kate finished off at Uunarteq (Kap Tobin), an abandoned settlement on the East coast of Greenland. Kate reports that she is feeling confident for her upcoming Antarctic expedition, with a good idea of how she will fine tune her bike, clothing, and physical fitness to ensure she has the best chance of success.
A young crusher from Canberra, and Mont Junior Ambassador, Lis Andres embodies the spirit of climbing. Always keen and pushing herself to the limit, Lis was the 2016 Youth D Boulder Champion, maintaining this position from 2015. Lis competed in many competitions in 2016, taking first place in her category at a Tour de Corde, Queensland, ACT, NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania State Boulder Championships, and to top it off, the Australian Bouldering Championships. Lis also pulled out podium finishes at Lead Climbing nationals, and Sydney Bouldering Series, and was invited to compete in the Youth A’s Boulder division at a state level. When she’s not climbing, you’ll find Lis canyoning, mountain biking, or training…for climbing!
“taking first place in her category at a Tour de Corde, Queensland, ACT, NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania State Boulder Championships, and to top it off, the Australian Bouldering Championships.”.
Lis is looking forward to another successful year in 2017, having already topped the podium in the Youth C’s division. Mont is proud to sponsor Lis, and wishes her good luck for her competitions in 2017. Keep crushing!
Mont Adventure Racing Team
In July 2016, Mont joined forces with a local Canberra adventure racing team, to bring to life Mont Adventure Racing. Making up the team is Lee Rice, Dane Roberts, Paul Cuthbert, Thorlene Egerton, Aaron Coles and Tom Brazier – all active outdoors enthusiasts and experienced adventure racers. The 2016 Adventure Racing World Championship was held in the Shoalhaven area of NSW, and the team trained hard throughout the year to prove themselves on home turf. Mont Adventure Racing entered four pairs at the 2016 World Rogaining Championships, held at Ross River, NT – Paul’s pair came in at 6th overall, Lee’s pair at 56th, Thorlene’s pair at 67th, and Dane and Aaron at 82nd.
Internationally, Lee and Thorlene represented Mont Adventure Racing at the XTrail Expedition China, the first Adventure Racing World Series event to be held in Asia. Racing with former members of the team, Lee and Thorlene brought home 17th position, doing well to keep up with highly competitive international teams.
A seasoned bushwalker and professional photographer, Geoff Murray captures stunning images from every one of his adventures.
Geoff and a team of kayakers made their way to Lake Fjord, a remote and spectacular area of Greenland visited only 4 times by kayak in the last 84 years. Their destination was the 1932 basecamp of explorer Gino Watkins. Watkins was surveying the possibility of landing Trans Atlantic flights in East Greenland. He died at this location whilst seal hunting from his kayak.
Eric Philips (North and South Pole)
Eric Phillips is a polar explorer, and has been a polar guide since 1993. In April 2016, Eric took the lead for the 13th North Pole season for his company Icetrek. Eric teamed up with another Mont ambassador, Jade Hameister and Jade’s father, Paul Hameister. Like all good expeditions, this one started with a delay – cracks in the ice runway of Barneo Camp caused a 10 day long hold before Eric, Jade and Paul could get onto the ice and organise airdrops at their resupply points. Arriving at Barneo Camp at three in the morning, April 14, the polar trio helicoptered to their starting location, 150km from the North Pole, and managed 10km after no sleep before setting up camp. Steady progress came over the next few days, with reasonable, if cold, conditions. 25th April, the final day of the expedition – conditions continued to allow (relatively) smooth progress for the team with only a large pool and some heavy cracking of the ice slowing them down. 90 degrees North came as 4PM ticked over, and the team celebrated as a joy flight passed low overhead.
Reminiscent of his first Transantarctic glacier traverse in 1998, Eric switched hemispheres for the second half of 2016 to take on the South Pole via the Reedy Glacier. The Reedy Glacier has a steady 1600m altitude loss over its 200km length, which provides a generally crevasse free surface in the lower sections. Large sections of exposed ice make travel easier than on most glaciers, but these factors don’t reduce the Reedy Glacier traverse to a walk in the park! 6th December, Eric’s team flew to Union Glacier Camp, where they were delayed a day due to poor visibility before they were dropped at their starting point on the Ross Ice Shelf. Moving steadily on the icy surface, Eric’s team were surrounded by unclimbed peaks as they crossed onto the Reedy Glacier on the 12th of December. Winds were high most mornings, petering out around lunchtime as the sun heated up and the pressure differential between the glacier and the shelf below mediated.
"Eric’s team were surrounded by unclimbed peaks as they crossed onto the Reedy Glacier"
Less than a week in and localised high winds slowed the team down, making tent pitching difficult and travel towards the South a serious challenge, forcing an early rest day. 19th December, “Crux Day” went without too much resistance for the Philips team. Following on and off wind, the wind returned and the team dealt with heavy crevassing, at one point with all three members on the one 60m long snow bridge. Having pioneered the traverse of the Reedy Glacier, the team pushed on to the pole, with 386km to go. A blizzard that came and went battered the team leading up to Christmas Day, which then gave way to blue skies and high spirits at the halfway mark. As the New Year came round, Eric battled with altitude sickness and low moral – their team reaching nearly 3000m elevation. Reaching the pole just 10 days into the New Year, Eric’s team were triumphant in forging a new route across challenging terrain.
Inspired by the likes of Lydia Bradley and other pioneering female adventurers, Jade Hameister is a 15 year old from Melbourne looking to complete the “Polar Hat Trick”. Jade’s Polar Quest “started” in April 2016 when she joined Eric Philips for a North Pole Expedition. The real start though was months of training leading up to the first expedition – weightlifting, cardio, and a lot of dragging tires around on the beach. Jade is extremely driven in pursuing her goals, and proved her commitment and dedication on her North Pole Expedition. Kitted out in a bright pink Mont expedition suit, Jade skied to the pole with Eric and her father, followed by a cinematographer as they battled windy and weathered ice.
"This expedition made Jade the youngest person to ski to the North Pole from outside the last degree of latitude, being just 14 years old at the time."
Jade has delivered an inspiring TED Talk, and her Polar Quest has developed an extensive media following around Australia. We are continually inspired by Jade, and wish her the best of luck for her 2017 expeditions to round out the Hat Trick. In April 2017 she will be heading to Greenland, hoping to be the youngest woman to traverse coast to coast, and then an 1170km push to the South Pole in December 2017. Mont is proud to be supporting young adventurers and wishes Jade all the best with her goals for 2017.
In 2016, Mont sponsored local Canberra runner and former elite cyclist, Etienne Blumstein-Jones. Etienne was showing strong form at the start of the year, pulling out top ten finishes in his first four races – 2nd at the Buffalo Stampede, 2nd in the Mt Buller Skyrun, 3rd in the Vertical Kilometre Buffalo Stampede, and 9th in the Roller Coaster Run held at Mt Dandenong. This consistent high performance proved the value of Etienne focussing on his running technique and working to build on his strengths. Backing up this performance early in the year, Etienne continued to show his strength, with 4th place in the Sydney Tower Stair Challenge, and 8th in the Bush Capital Half Marathon.
"Mt Buller Skyrun – placing second overall with back to back wins on consecutive days for stage 2 and 3"
Of particular note is Etienne’s performance at the Mt Buller Skyrun – placing second overall with back to back wins on consecutive days for stage 2 and 3, 3rd place for stage 4 and 8th place in the first stage. Etienne continues to perform at a high level and in 2017 is building up to a good performance at the Australian Mountain Running Nationals in April. Etienne is also looking forward to taking his racing overseas, set to represent Mont at the Matterhon Ultraks held in Zermatt, and the Mt Difficulty Race (aptly named) in Cromwell, New Zealand.
Only 6 weeks after starting at the Mont Shop, staff member Gail was cheeky enough to sneak off for 8 weeks of leave, with plans to walk the 650km Australian Alps Walking Track. The track starts from Baw Baw National Park in Victoria and takes a meandering route through the Victorian high country, into Kosciuszko National Park, eventually finishing in Canberra. The weather had other ideas with repeated snowfalls, walking tracks becoming surprisingly large creeks, and creeks becoming flooded rivers. With peak snow depth hitting the mountains just as Gail was attempting her walk, well after ski season, re-evaluation of her plan was needed. Snow shoes were donned, extra thermal layers were procured and end-to-end plans became a series of week long missions through the high country.
"After 31 days out bush, 3kg of salami and nearly 50 cup-a-soups later, Gail walked back into Canberra"
After 31 days out bush, 3kg of salami and nearly 50 cup-a-soups later, Gail walked back into Canberra and straight into the madness of the November Factory Sale. She is now in love with Mont’s Odyssey and Moondog Jackets, and has spent the summer quietly regrowing her toenails and fantasising about the next bushwalking adventure.
Mont Staff in the Snowies
While Gail planned around the somewhat unexpected snow conditions, other Mont staff members revelled in what made for perfect spring skiing conditions. Sarah and Nick completed an AST 1 Avalanche Skills Training Course, and managed to sneak in many backcountry jaunts between work. Multiple summits of a snow covered Mt Kosciuszko were made, many sunrises watched from snow caves and bivy bags, and a whole lot of lines cut through untracked slopes.
Jennie Milton, a professional snow kiting guide in both Australia and Canada made time to catch up with Andrew and Michael, and Sarah and Nick for 2 days out to North Ramshead, and Leann, Michelle, Sarah and Nick spent a weekend out skiing on the Ramshead Range, testing out prototypes for Mont gear coming in 2017.