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Conquering the Castle

November 13, 2018 2 min read

Conquering the Castle

By ioMerino Outsider Ben.


"Blue skies can be deceptive. What looked like a beautiful day for a leisurely bushwalk was actually a battle with gale force winter winds up the side of ‘The Castle’ in the Budawang National Park. Perfect. We needed all the training we could get to prepare for our next family holiday.


Hang on - aren’t family holidays all about backyard barbecues and talking politics with weird Uncle Mike? Not if you’re lucky enough to be married to a Kiwi from a very outdoorsy family (is there any other kind?). Our last catch-up on the rugged west coast of New Zealand’s South Island involved a few days tramping through the backcountry, followed by a surprise white water rafting trip back to the car.


This year, my father-in-law Peter is leading us (myself, Alice and her three brothers) on the “trip of a lifetime”. Back to the South Island, we’ll be hiking up and over the Barrier Range, crossing the Olivine Ice Plateau - the perfect family bonding opportunity.


The only problem: how to prepare for New Zealand mountains when we live in flat and sunny Sydney? For the next few months, we’ll be seeking out as many steep, rugged and cold hikes as we can. From the contours on the map, The Castle certainly ticked the first box, and with a serendipitous choice of weekends, we also ticked the second.



Having only staggered through this area at night in a sleep-deprived haze during the2016 Adventure Racing World Championships, I was keen to come back in daylight and check out one of NSW’s best bushwalks at a more relaxed pace. Although describing the climb to the summit as a ‘bushwalk’ is probably a stretch.


The day started mellow, winding our way through lush rainforest in the sheltered bowl of the valley. All too soon we started to climb up...and up...and up, exposing us to the icy winds blowing in straight from Antarctica (lucky I was layered up in my ioMerino!). After squeezing through a narrow rock gap at the saddle, we found ourselves gazing up at a near-sheer face with a fixed rope - it was time to dust off our rock climbing skills.


Not for the faint-hearted at the best of times, the winds added an extra challenge to the exposed route to the top. But the view from the summit was worth it. It felt like the whole world was spread out at our feet.

Shivering, we couldn’t stop to admire it for long, quickly downing some snacks and bouncing a photo to the family WhatsApp chat to show we were taking our training seriously, before getting moving back down the mountain.

Ben is wearing our Chaser Gloves, they're lightweight, natural, breathable, soft, warm and comfortable! 

Next up we’ll be learning to survive in the proper cold again, as we head down to the snowy mountains backcountry skiing and snow camping. Watch this space!"


Ben's gear list:


Chaser Gloves

Neck Tube

Ultra Tee