Back for the Leatherman

If you have been reading my blogs so far you may remember that during my last outing I mentioned that just short of the vehicles on the return trip from Narra Narra I tripped over and when I got back to the vehicle I realised that I had lost my Leatherman. For those not familiar with the tool, its like a Swiss Army Knife and very handy. This particular Leatherman (I have two) was my retirement gift and so has a lot of sentimental value. So, as you can imagine, I was keen to return to try to find it and the sooner the better. Not only did I lose the Leatherman but I also lost the rubber cap off the top of the Squid pole (portable fibreglass mast).  The following Sunday (May 24th) seemed ideal to return and search.

Back home during the intervening week, I downloaded the track from my little Etrex GPS and loaded that into some excellent navigation software called Ozi Explorer. Using the software I could identify the exact place I fell over by both the rough position and that there was a distinct point in the track list where we clearly stopped for around a minute or so – that had to be the spot. I saved the newly edited track so it could be re-loaded back to the E-trex for use when I returned. I also to activate Mt Jergyle (VK2/RI-004), the summit we had run out of time on the weekend before as we had to cross it to get back to Mt Narra Narra..

Asking around during that week, I found that both Jeff and Bernard weren’t available so I invited Mike VK2DAI to join me. I told him he wouldn’t have to do any hill climbing and he would only need to follow me in around some 250 metres so it wouldn’t be a very physical trip. How wrong I was! The plan suited Mike right down to the ground and with the added promise of coffee and cake at Holbrook he was in!

The proposed Sunday’s weather forecast looked perfect for both another activation and to return and try to find both lost items. The cap though was insignificant in as much as I could replace it from Bunnings at all of $5 – I wanted the Leatherman back.

I had also asked James VK2NKJ to join in but to bring his 4WD as well. Its not that I didn’t want to tackle the area with only one 4WD but my vehicle only seats 2 and I felt I could use an extra pair of eyes, but, at the last minute, James had to pull out as he needed to do a rush trip to Brisbane. So that was it – just the two of us and we left Wagga around 8.30am on the Sunday morning. Weather was great and we were soon enjoying a coffee and some food at – you guessed it – the Holbrook Bakery.

Stomachs full and coffee fix had we were soon underway to Womargama and then on to the national park and Mt Jergyle, which as I mentioned, we had to cross to get to the Leatherman site. Once on the summit, Mike was out to take some photos from the lookout while I threw the antenna up on a nearby tree and quickly assembled the station. I managed the first contact at a minute before 11am (0100 UTC) and went on to work 26 stations in the next 40 minutes. Then it was a quick pack up and then off to the foot of Narra Narra.

With GPS and the track loaded, Mike and I set off on foot through the bush and were soon at the site of the fall. A thorough look around revealed the cap off the squid pole, not the Leatherman and so we headed back to the car for some lunch with a view to returning after lunch for another look. My guess is that the Leatherman fell off somewhere between the fall site and the road and that the fall managed to open my belt buckle. It was one of those plastic ones that you push on to release. I wouldn’t have noticed because my backpack is also around my hips and secured with a belt. Now as the undergrowth is quite thick in places it may take a lot of looking before we find it.

Again, we retraced our footsteps and again we were not rewarded with any success. After a lot of looking Mike asked whether I had it still with me on the summit. Perhaps it came off before the fall. He suggested we look back further and so off we set. Before I knew it we were again climbing, all the while searching. The track we were now retracing though was the track Bernard and I had used the weekend before. Instead of following the ridge line back down, Bernard and I had decided to follow the old road which we did until we lost it. This old road went almost straight down from the summit and would have been quite a challenging drive back when it was put in let alone today with a modern a modern vehicle where it would have still been a challenging drive. But now, Mike and I were retracing that route and it was getting very steep. After numerous stops to catch our breath we found ourselves close to the summit. I was out in front by some 30 or more metres when I heard a yell. “Are you alright?” I called. Mike had grabbed a small sapling to pull himself up when it came right out of the ground which in turn sent him rolling back down the slope by about another 20metres. At this stage there were various thoughts flashing through my mind like, I have no radio, a phone that might or might not have any signal, no water or first aid kit let alone any shelter. Hell, I hope he is OK. I went back to him and he was back on his feet but complaining of sore ribs. Back in September the year before, Mike had fallen from a ladder and had broken ribs and collar bone so it was likely he had again broken a rib. We were now close to the top and level ground so with some difficulty we finished the climb. In the back of my mind, I am still thinking about Medivac. However, Mike assured me all was OK and he could make it back down. My mind now turned to the reason for climbing and I set about searching where I had been the weekend before but again, to no avail. The afternoon was now slipping away fast and we needed to get back to the vehicle so with Mike nursing some sore ribs we set off – this time taking the gentler ridge line route until we could again swing back to the fall site for one last look. Again, no success. It seems the Leatherman is destined to remain hidden for at least the rest of winter as some of the Womargama trails will be dodgy to say the least after prolonged wet weather.

Well the day was not wasted with one activation and the retrieval of the squid pole top so all not lost and of course it will be an excuse to return in spring, with a few more eyes and perhaps the metal detector. Who knows, I might yet find it. As I write this some 6 weeks later Mike seems to have recovered. Whether he will return with me or not remains to be seen. I suppose I can promise that other than a short walk into the bush, we most definitely wont be doing the climb again. I will leave that to the next time I activate that summit.



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