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  • Jeannette McGill

Mountaineering Moments #6 . . . Terra Roam

One windy Saturday in late 2019 I visited an outdoor expo in Melbourne. It was small and suburban. I had taken 4 minutes to scan the room and was about to leave. Upfront a speaker was being introduced to the motley audience. Something about that she had gone on foot around Australia. I stopped and listened some more; then something clicked and I quickly scanned my socials. Yes, Terra and I were in fact connected. I stood riveted at the back of the room listening to her genuine, funny, tender yet tough story-telling about her expedition. The gobsmacked audience, I think, found her to be beyond ambitious. When she announced her Climb8 initiative I knew immediately how I would be spending part of my winter.❄️

Terra is the first woman to walk solo and unsupported 17,000 kilometres around Australia. She is a seasoned global adventurer, environmental activist, volunteer & collector of life experiences. She is supported by the Australian Geographic Society. Terra is passionate about sharing challenging and life changing insights about minimalism, human powered travel, women's solo international travel, cultural etiquette, ethical and sustainable adventure, the power of the mind and embracing solitude.

Favourite Mountain Expedition to Date: A solo Annapurna monsoon pilgrimage to 6,000m with Gurung families. Within 2 hrs 2 young women from Ghandruk, living in Pokhara, began walking with me. Throughout the morning they introduced me to their brother, mother, grandmother, aunties and cousins. By lunch I had met about 20 relatives and they invited me to eat with them. After we ate, they asked me to join their pilgrimage to the family temple on a holy lake. It took 4 days to trek up to the 5,400m high lake on the side on Annapurna, including a 6,200m pass. All the way I was being taught rites and rituals that must be performed for good luck and blessings from the Goddess of the mountain. I was the first person ever allowed to photograph the pilgrimage and ceremony; the second foreigner ever invited on pilgrimage. It was the most incredible experience of my life.

Top 2 gear must haves: A warm and comfortable sleeping system. Reliable shelter. Sleep is so important for strength, stamina and clear decision making.

Hardest Lesson: I learnt a few important lessons last winter while camping the entire season on the snow. Don't stay behind a tor (small koppie) in a blizzard. It is great shelter from wind but when a blizzard hits all the snow dumps in the leeward side and can quickly bury the tent under 1.5m of snow. Every 4hrs I had to dig my tent out. At 6am I woke because it was too quiet. Now within 2hrs the snow had completely buried me under once again. I had to dig a hole from the tent door to the surface. I was already hypothermic after the previous 4am dig. I quickly deteriorated while I attempted to walk 3kms to the closest lodge at Perisher Valley through 2m of fresh snow without snowshoes (they were also buried). I was nearly falling asleep in snowdrifts. I had an EPIRB and an expedition sleeping bag but hypothermia had already scrambled my brain. I was lucky to be rescued by park rangers after using the last of my conscious awareness to phone for help. Wilderness first aid training saved my life. If I didn't recognise the warning signs at 4am I would have died.

Music or Audiobooks: Paper books, I usually carry a small library of old pocket-sized Penguin classics in my pack.

Shewee or Squat: Squat but always carry out solid waste when trekking through alpine ecosystems

Sunrise or Sunset: Midnight star blankets and auroras

First project post-Covid: Expedition Climb8! This winter I am leading a team of women 800kms across the Australian Alps for climate action and citizen science. Whether we start as planned in June if lockdowns are lifted early or wait until August it will begin in Namadgi NP and finish in Baw Baw NP visiting 8 ski resorts and attempting 38 peaks. This is an Australian Geographic Society sponsored quest.

Edit: And Today 5 July 2020 Terra and the team departed for the Climb8 winter project!!

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