Hiker's stark warning after running out of water on 'impenetrable' route

Andy says the terrain on the Blue Mountains walk was much harder than what he anticipated after seeing the safety alert.

An experienced hiker is urging others to reconsider taking on a walk in one of Australia's most popular national parks after the terrain, impacted by bushfire regrowth and damaged by floods, left him lost in the bush with kidney failure.

Pastor and Katoomba local Andy Collins has been hiking through "similar conditions" for over 30 years, so when planning his solo Kanangra to Katoomba walk, known as K2K, in the Blue Mountains, he felt confident in his abilities. "I went on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) website and they were saying it is overgrown following the fires and heavy rainfall, but they weren't saying don't do it," Andy told Yahoo News Australia.

NPWS's current alert states that in some places along the 47km walk, "tracks are no longer visible and are not easy to navigate" and there are "limited to zero water sources available along routes", so those walking should ensure "you have an appropriate level of experience, navigation skills and equipment".

Image of hiker Andy Collins on one of his bushwalks, and left, an image shows the Blue Mountains terrain.
Andy Collins is an experienced hiker and was confident of taking on the K2K walk in the Blue Mountains. Source: Facebook/Supplied

Local hiker sets out on Blue Mountains K2K walk

With this in mind, the seasoned hiker read other trip reports, packed all the recommended supplies — including a personal locator beacon, a map and a compass — and left early on Tuesday, February 27.

Andy recalls how easy the first day was and how much further he got than he first expected, but the second day is when things took a turn. "I had about 3.5 litres of water and started walking," he said.

"As I got further and further down it just got so much thicker. I had my map and a compass, I was trying to keep on a bearing but you'd find the path, then without really realising it you’d leave the path because animals had made pads going off down the hill, so I'd constantly have to recorrect."

Andy was walking downhill, heading for the Coxs River where he would be able to finally restock on water, but as night came and he continued to lose track due to the "horrible, thick vines", he realised he wasn't getting any closer to the river and had to stop and make camp at 8.30pm. "I had fallen over and I just thought, I’ll just stay here the night."

Left: An image of the PolAir helicopter that found Andy. Right Andy is sitting on Coxs River with emergency services assisting him.
A helicopter found Andy and transported him to Katoomba Hospital. Source: Facebook

No water left by nightfall on day two

By this stage, despite trying to ration his water and take slow sips, Andy's water stash had run out. He put containers out overnight to attempt to catch some rain but "didn't get much" so, after a "fitful" sleep he set off early on Thursday, February 29 towards the river he knew was somewhere below him.

"I wasn't really scared. I thought, I've just got to get to the river and once I have a drink I'll be fine," Andy shared.

Despite taking "hours" to wade through the vines that were almost "impossible" to walk through, Andy finally made it to the Coxs River later in the day, where he was able to have a drink and restock his water supply — but it was too late for his kidneys.

Call for help after body 'seized up'

"All of a sudden my body rejected the water, it started cramping really bad," he said. "It turns out my kidneys had failed so my whole body seized up — soon I [realised] I couldn't get out of there."

After having "no other choice", Andy pulled out his personal locator beacon to alert emergency services of his situation, who quickly came by helicopter. PolAir arrived first before realising Andy was "in a pretty bad way" and required airlifting from TOLL Ambulance Rescue, who took him to Katoomba Hospital, where Andy remained for five days recovering from his kidney failure.

Andy says it is believed his kidneys "dried out" due to lack of water and minerals had "calcified" inside causing his kidney to be "full of stones".

Left is an image of a Toll Ambulance helicopter flying over Australian terrain. Right image of Andy in hospital.
Andy remained in hospital for five days after they found his kidneys had failed and were full of stones. Source: Facebook/Supplied

Hiker warns others: 'I underestimated how tough it would be'

Andy has shared his ordeal with others in the bushwalking community, hoping to help prevent this from happening to anyone else. "I was able to convince a nurse who was heading out on the K2K next week after a recent knee surgery to reconsider," he said. "Hopefully this info will help others considering heading out there any time soon."

He says that while he is ready to get back out into the bush again soon, until officials clear the overgrowth he will not be returning to do the K2K walk anytime soon. "It is impenetrable."

Yahoo has reached out to the NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water for comment.

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