What footwear to wear on the Overland Track? - one near disaster

Which boots to wear hiking?
What is the best footwear to wear on a long trek?
Should I buy new boots for a multi day hiking trip?

Graeme Perkins' wishes he had thought through these questions before he hiked the Overland Track......

The following is an article that appeared in The Burnie Advocate in Tasmania on 22nd May.

Written by Ben Wild, it is a great reminder that checking your gear before you leave on any multi day walk in Tasmania is very prudent advice.

FLIP-flop. Flip-flop. Flip- flop.

The offending boots

That noise, coming from Graeme Perkins' right boot heel on Saturday morning, was the sound of trouble approaching.

Mr Perkins, 55, was around the halfway mark on the Overland Track in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park when the heel came loose. Not long after the noise began, the entire sole came off.

"Within an hour, the second one did the same," Mr Perkins said yesterday.

"At the time I bought them, they were top of line."

But that was 25 years ago. They had cushioned Mr Perkins' footfalls through a trek in the South-West of Tasmania in the 1980s and on numerous walks in the Victorian highlands.

Just one more walk was too much and when the last of the glue gave out and the three screws at the toe of each boot pulled free, Mr Perkins was walking on inner soles.

He walked on. It took him 11 or 12 hours to make it to the next hut, a stretch that was supposed to be behind him in five to seven hours.

"I must have gone down a dozen times on that first day. It was debilitating, exhausting."

The next morning he continued on, planning to make his way slowly to the top of Lake St Clair and catch the ferry from there.

But he never made it to the next hut, Kia Ora.

With no grip, he continued to slip and fall, eventually doing himself some harm.

"I slipped in a forested area and head-butted a snow gum. I was dazed for a minute or two."

Coming to, he noticed his glasses had been damaged but decided to walk on.

"But the Kia Ora Hut just never eventuated. Every corner I turned, I expected to be there, but it just was never there."

Darkness fell, and Mr Perkins ended up spending the night perched by the track on his self-inflating thermal mattress, dressed in thermal underwear, thermal hiking gear and waterproof outer clothing.

He shivered the whole night through, setting out again at dawn.

"You guys wouldn't happen to have an EPIRB would you?" he asked without preamble when he came across a group of walkers.

After this introduction, the story quickly came out and the party of walkers sprang into action, shouldering Mr Perkins' full pack and helping him back to the Pelion Hut.

Once there, he met up with eight walkers from Melbourne on their third annual walking pilgrimage to Tasmania.

They gave him food and convinced him to walk out with them the next morning along the Arm River Track.

Some of the party walked out ahead to notify police, others remained behind - one to carry his pack, another to catch him as he fell.

It was a relief to make it out, Mr Perkins said, and to be told he was OK.

He had safety messages to pass on. Check your gear thoroughly, he said, and walk with a friend and an EPIRB at all times.

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