Pack rafting is the sport of hiking and rafting using a portable raft carried on one’s back. Pack rafts are designed to be light enough to be carried long distances. It is a relatively obscure recreation here in Australia, although growing in popularity.

Combining pack rafting and paragliding on the Central Plateau in lutruwita/ Tasmania is probably even more obscure. But it makes for a good adventure.

Jason MacLeod reports on a recent walking/ pack rafting/ paragliding adventure intended to mark his 50thbirthday.

Roman Dail calls it vol-boat, the crazy idea of combining packrafting and paragliding. That was the plan anyhow. And celebrating my 50th in wild solitude.

My chosen route was the Higgs-Ritter Track across the Central Plateau, through the Walls to Junction Lake then down into Lake St Clair via Lakes Artemis, Payanna and Riengeena, walking and packrafting, with side trips to fly my paraglider whenever possible.

Yason 2The first day I arrived at Ironstone Hut around 2pm. The river near Snake Lake was high and the track impassable by a torrent of water. At this point it was such a delightful feeling to inflate the boat and paddle to the hut, turning an obstacle into another means to continue the journey. I was hoping to fly Mt Ironstone or Forty Lakes Peak. By late afternoon the white caps on Lake Nameless had disappeared, replaced with wind lines that looked liked they were easing. But after a quick climb up to the top it was blowing a gale. Fortunately the sky was clear and I had a view to the Walls to the south.

Day 2 was wet, cold and windy. I lost the path early on and repeatedly had to back track to find a route across the endless maze of tarns and lakes. At times I felt like Frodo and Sam crossing the Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings. Except there was only one of me and I wasn’t being pursued by Black Riders. Oh…that and the fact that there weren’t dead people in the water either. Nor was it a marsh. But it did feel epic.

In the bleak, the Plateau had a special quality of loneliness to it. I got the raft out three times to cross lakes or small channels too far to jump with the 35kg dead weight on my back. I was hoping to make it to Lake Tyre but by midday it was clear that plan was wildly optimistic! I ended up calling it a day around 4:30pm, cold and wet, somewhere south of Long Tarns.

Yason 4

Day 3 dawned clear and beautiful. Boots frozen. Ice on the tent. A morning made perfect by a cup of tea.

Yason 5By midday I had reached Zion Gate and after lunch had set up camp. The weather was looking perfect for a fly off Jerusalem. With nil wind I had to forward launch. The wing came up and I was off until I tripped on some scoparia, face planting spikes while the wing sailed over my head. Two more attempts, two snapped lines, and a torn wing. I decided to call it a day. Then it hailed.

Yason 1That night was more hail, followed by rain, snow, and all night hand-to-hand combat with possums.

Unfortunately, one weakness in my gear – aside from my failed food bag hanging system that saw me loose three breakfasts before sleeping one eye open with my food- was my sleeping bag. The down had started to clump together. It resembled more of a fishnet stocking than sleeping bag, made bearable only by wearing all my clothes. With more bad weather predicted, and knowing that I didn’t quite have enough time up my sleeve to make it to Cynthia Bay before needing to work, I decided to pull the pin and walk out of the Walls the following day.

Day 4. As John McLaine reminded me shortly before heading off ‘be progressive in politics but conservative in adventure’. It’s good advice. A quick exchange on my InReach and I gratefully accepted my partner’s kind offer to pick me up.

Despite cutting it short it was a wonderful trip. And while the whole vol-boat thing was a little contrived it definitely now feels more possible (a handful of folks in Alaska and Aotearoa are paving the way). Perhaps with less time farting around with the paraglider i would have completed the whole trip as planned. But those little forays have fired up my imagination for more multi-sport mayhem. They broke the trip up and made it more interesting. And now I’ve got my gear a little more dialled too. With Spring in the air, combing eddies and thermals might just be possible.

You can find Jason via facebook.