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Lake Lillian – Gargarus Saddle, 25 October 2009

Well, Gargarus Saddle was the intention for this easy-moderate trip, but the day took a sudden and distressing turn.

After meeting Nicole and Ton at West Melton, we had fifteen people for the picturesque drive up the Harper road above Lake Coleridge, to the Harper diversion canal; definitely pleasant in the spring.

We parked the cars at the locked gate by the diversion structure and by 10am were walking up the vehicle track up the Harper. On a fine, clear day, we were soon being sheltered from a moderate norwester by the bulk of Gargarus. Turning off before point 690m, we climbed up to the rolling downs area and headed toward Lake Lillian. The lake is tucked in below the south side of Mt Fitzwilliam, the easily identified, perfectly conical peak that the lower Avoca bends around.

Descending toward the lake, we picked the shelter of a few manuka trees just above a tussock terrace, although any wind dropped further and our spot became rather warm.

Starting of at 1pm, after lunch, Glenda and I had sidled up the stony clay bank above us, only about 30m, when ?????????, on her first trip with our club, rolled her angle on a stone and went down in extreme pain.

Initially it took a little time for our large party to start ‘structuring’ itself. Ken, Gary and Gavin had first to get me to accept that ????????????? injury should be treated as a broken leg. Once they had, things then started to take shape. The main party was moved away ten metres. Walking poles, closed-cell foam and bandages were collected for strapping and panadol provided for ?????????, who over the first hour was suffering from both the pain of any movement, plus shock. Water, rather than ice, applied early, did help with some immediate relief. Yvette was our ‘water runner’ dropping the 50m to the lake to restock bottles. Sorry about the bandages, Ken. The hospital threw them out.

Having completed immediate treatment, our situation was then:

The club 406 beacon was rightly on the labour weekend trip on The Coast

We were way out of cell phone range

There was some 4WD drive movement up the Harper. As well as potentially providing transport, 4WDs have citizen band radios

The weather was fine and warm. ????????? was able to lie on the clay bank in her T shirt for the first two hours.

We had fourteen people available.

We needed two fast walkers to walk out to a phone

We knew that the farmers at Glenthorne were out, so going over Gargarus Saddle to get help wasn’t an option

At 1.30pm Gary and Hank set out to walk back to the cars. We had taken two hours up there, so out in one hour plus, was hoped for. We also hoped to find someone in the Harper Village, rather than have to drive another 25minutes down to Ryton Station. Unfortunately, the latter proved the case. Gary and Hank were at the Ryton at 3.00pm

Meanwhile back at the lake, we had been working on Plan B and C. The main group had moved to the terrace above the clay bank. Gavin organised the building of a stretcher. Haven’t times changed. With fifteen people, we had a plentiful supply of aluminium walking poles, both for the splints on ????????? leg and for overlapping down the sides of the stretcher. Three packs long and two poles per side. The stretcher was quickly completed and tried, with Nicole as the “patient”, I think.

Margot then lead a group of four back out to the cars, leaving an eight person stretcher party.

Over the first two hours, I had watched ??????? progressively recover from the initial shock. At 3.15pm we moved our stretcher down the hill and without much pain to ????????, managed to straighten her and move her onto the stretcher. In hindsight, she felt we could have done so earlier. As part of plans A, B and C, we then carried her down to our original terrace and from there, further east, through a shallow depression and onto a smaller flat terrace. This spot was potentially accessible by 4WD. We had checked the approach from a track not too far away on the downs.

At 4pm, to the relief of everyone and obviously none more so than ??????, the Westpac helicopter slid over the hill behind us and looped around over the lake. Silly mistake, Merv. We should have stayed in the depression and left the ‘landing pad’ clear. But no trouble to a helicopter pilot. He simply plocked down on the lip of the depression. After a quick look, the immediate comments were ‘that looks pretty well trussed up’ and ‘is that ALL the Panadol you have had’ concluding with ‘well we had better get our stretcher and swap you over’. So within not much more than fifteen minutes, ??????? was in the chopper and gone.

At 4.35pm it was still a nice day and a pleasant walk out for the remaining eight, although our thoughts were mostly with ????????. We meet Gary and Hank down-valley and were back to the others and the cars at 6.05pm. How more-difficult might things have been had the weather been unkind or the party smaller. The input and management from all of our party was good to experience, particularly that from Gavin Chalk, Ken Rapson and Gary Huish

Later Glenda and I arrived home to a quizzical voice-mail message from John Borner. “About your trip to Lake Lillian today. Any problems at all, Merv?” John had seen a comment on the net.

???????? injury proved to be a compound fracture, with an unknown break below the knee plus a break and a spiral fracture above the ankle. An operation a few days later to pin the spiral fracture went well, but it no-doubt will be some considerable time before ??????? can contemplate returning to the hills. All of our party wish her the best possible recovery. It was good to hear the support she had from her friends, Lois and John.

The fifteen : Ken R, Helen H, Hilary M, Evelyn B, Margot B, Gary H, Yvette S, Hank B, Joy S, Gavin C, Nicole & Ton B, Glenda & Merv Meredith (leader) P MM