With overnight lows forecast of -5°C it wasn’t surprising there was quite a lot of ice about when I walked the Porters Pass – Colliers Causeway – Centennial Glen Creek track!
With overnight lows forecast of -5°C it wasn’t surprising there was quite a lot of ice about when I walked the Porters Pass – Colliers Causeway – Centennial Glen Creek track!
The day dawned cold and still which was a relief compared to the 60km/h winds that lashed the area on the previous weekend. It was so cold that the surface of Megalong Creek at the Old Ford Reserve was sheets of ice when we drove past! The sun was out and provided warming comfort as we did a round of names at Dunphys Campground.
We set off with a steep climb up the Bellbird Ridge Firetrail. It wasn’t long before we reached the spur leading up to Glenraphael Head. A few layers came off and then we were off into the bush. The initial spur is easy off-track walking but once we’d got to the steep section below the cliffline we were thrust into a whole new world of scrub. The scrub combined with loose rocks underfoot slowed our progress but eventually we made our way round to the gully containing our pass. Morning tea was taken in a beautiful, if shady, tree-fern lined gully so that we were fortified for the scrambling to come. Conveniently I don’t have any photos of the scrub bashing leading up to this point so it can’t be proven
Not having done the pass before I was not entirely sure what to expect. I’d reviewed some photos from other trips but they didn’t quite line up with what I’d imagined. I scrambled up first with the intention of setting a tape but the rock was so friable I couldn’t find anything to anchor it on. Tom then attempted a body belay but in the end most of the party scrambled up without any assistance and the remainder took the lower ledge route around.
With the tricky bit done we were then treated to lovely views out into the Megalong Valley as we traversed around on half-way ledges. It is only after reviewing the photos back home I realised we didn’t sign the log book! (though Tom tells me he did briefly look for it and didn’t see it)
There was a last section of bush-bashing to come to get out of the final gully and around Glenraphael Swamp to the fire trail. Some wombat-style crawling got us under the banksia on to the tops and then Tom managed to pick up an old pad which made things slightly easier. We had lunch at Clear Hill savouring the magnificent views over Lake Burragorang and beyond.
After lunch we descended via Tarros Ladders. Tom went off to explore the Wallaby Track (successfully) so he got to do Tarros Ladders twice. The rest of us enjoyed the bush track over Mt Debert in the mid-afternoon sun.
From Medlow Gap we just had a 9km firetrail walk back to the cars which went very quickly, probably due to the number of animated conversations. We got back to the cars at 4:30pm just in time to see the stunning blazes of colour on the cliffs as the sun was on its way to setting.
Back in Blackheath half of us enjoyed some hot chips and a beverage at the Gardners Inn. A wonderful winter’s day in the bush with a great group.
We got the new financial year off to a good start with a fine adventure off Narrowneck. Probably a bit more excitement and bush-bashing than originally expected. Tom had previously attempted Rockpile Pass and failed, so he was hoping to knock it off this time.
Supposedly the hard bit was after the rockpile but we didn’t manage to locate the rockpile to start with and ended up traversing around into the next gully (with plenty of delightful banksia bashing). Once below that set of cliff lines we were soon back around at the rockpile which we’d missed coming down to – very obvious from the bottom!
After morning tea we found the rest of the pass (where Tom had got turned around previously). There were some fixed lines in place which made it pretty obvious where to go. Much to the horror of the rest of as the last person in our party was descending there was a noise you never want to hear. We were round the corner out of site (and out of danger of rockfall) so didn’t know what had happened except it sounded bad. The fixed line had completely severed sending Jon flying. Fortunately asides from some bruising and a heavy landing on his ankle he was ok. We still had a second drop to negotiate but we were much more circumspect about using the rope that was there (and is no longer).
After getting through the pass we followed along the upper cliff line, over a series of obstacles, until we got to a drop we could get past. Oops. So we had to reverse everything we’d done for the last half hour or so. Then we had a decent chunk of off track under the cliff lines, broken by lunch, around to Mitchells Creek.
Mitchells Pass is an interesting pass! There are a series of giant spikes in a tree. The spikes are not in particularly convenient positions and the higher you get the more awkward it gets. We all negotiated it with no issues fortunately.
From there we had some quite unpleasant bush bashing up Mitchells Creek. Eventually Alex pioneered a route out of the creek which got us on the tops quite nicely.
Once we attained the ridge it was only a couple of hundred metres back to the firetrail. We managed to time our return to the cars right on sunset. An interesting and challenging day out. There was mutterings of needing 10 years for the memory to dull and think of a repeat trip!
It had been 13 years since we’d last done Boars Head and with a still, sunny winter’s day upon us it was a perfect opportunity to revisit. My memory of the previous visit was a windy precarious position which I didn’t enjoy very much – it was pretty early in my outdoor adventuring days though. The track work leading out to Boars Head is pretty impressive – presumably the efforts of the local climbers.
As I was preparing to abseil a couple of climbers arrive. After exchanging hellos one of the guys thanked us for efforts with the website and how much he’d used it over the years. I was a little taken aback – not that I don’t get recognised from Tom’s photos – but it normally takes more than a few seconds! I guess I was in the position I’m likely most photographed in – going over the edge of the abseil, with my helmet complete with name tag on!
We had a bit of an explore above Devil’s Hole before enjoying a late leisurely lunch in the sun. A beautiful day in the mountains.
While we haven’t been doing a much walking as we usually do we have managed to knock off quick a few shorter walks around the mountains across May and June. A selection of photos from the various adventures below.
Bottleneck Pass – 26 May
Perrys Lookdown – Blue Gum Forest – Govetts Leap – 2 June
Popes Glen – Evans Lookout – Rodriguez Pass – Perrys Lookdown – 10 June
Ross Cave – 11 June
Hyde Park Reserve – 11 June
Browne’s Path – 23 June
We hadn’t done a road trip in our own car since 2005. After winning the bidding at a charity fundraiser for a couple of nights accommodation on Kangaroo Island we had some planning to do. Discarding thoughts of flying we realised we’d be able to go to our favourite wine region in Australia – Rutherglen, visit the best climbing in Australia – Arapiles, and get to a not-easy to access wine region – Coonawarra. Add in visiting friends in Adelaide and the plan had legs.
We started off with a night in the nation’s capital visiting Laina & Ross. This conveniently broke up the drive to Rutherglen. We hadn’t been to Rutherglen since our Sydney-Perth road trip in 2005. There had been a lot of talk about getting back here but with it being just a bit far for a weekend from Sydney it hadn’t happened. Needless to say we were pretty excited to be here!
We started off at Morris, then took advantage of Chambers being walking distance from our accommodation to squeeze in a tasting before closing time. Chambers hasn’t changed much over the years and is the only cellar door I’ve ever been to where you self-serve.
The following day I insisted we hire bikes to cycle around the wineries. I was acutely aware that unlike most of our holidays exercise was not front and centre – we needed to do it when we could otherwise we were going to come back lard balls! So we hired bikes and set off to Anderson Winery. Then we came back into town and joined the Murray to the Mountains rail trail. Rutherglen is very flat so the cycling was easy – which was just as well because the hire bikes were not very comfortable!
Second stop was All Saints, followed by a platter next to their lake in the lovely autumn sunshine.
Last, and furthest away, was St Leonards next to the Murray River. After tasting we did a short walk down to the Murray behind the cellar door. From there we just needed to ride back into town – around 10km. Normally this would be pretty easy but not being quite the right fit for the bikes we had two different approaches – Tom’s was to ride as fast as possible to minimise the amount of time on the bike, mine was to amble along to avoid putting too much stress on my various body parts. Given this it was unfortunate we turned too early and ended up adding another 2km to the route home! On the plus side the weather was gorgeous all day and we were treated to a lovely sunset as we rolled into Rutherglen.
The next morning we decided one last winery was in order on our way out of town so we spent a couple of hours at Campbells which was excellent. Despite Arapiles being a key part in our planning process it became apparent it wasn’t the best destination for us. We’d been climbing regularly in the lead-up and I was excited to see if I would enjoy this visit more than our short-lived one in 2005. However with strained fingers, sore wrist and slipped rib between us we concluded going to Araps would sadly be a waste of time. Instead we headed to the Northern section of the Grampians. We arrived on dark so didn’t get a chance to do any activities the day we arrived.
The next day we were able to do a great bushwalk up Mt Stapylton. The signage has said it was a difficult walk and I was questioning the grading, but the final section to the summit did involve route-finding and scrambling.
After our jaunt up Mt Stapylton we did a short walk to an Aboriginal art site – Gulgurn Manja for lunch. Tom as always wanted to go exploring, mainly to find out where all the climbers must be from the cars in the car park. And so we found ourselves in Summerday Valley. This would been the perfect crag for us, or even for me to do some top-roping, but mentally I was already on the road to the Coonawarra so we didn’t stick around. Hopefully we’ll return another time as the Northern Grampians looks like somewhere you could potter around for a few days. Soon we were driving through Horsham when the car didn’t feel right. I pulled over only to find that the back tyre was completely flat. Well… if you’re going to get a flat tyre then the middle of Horsham mid-afternoon, almost over the road from a tyre place is probably the best you could ask for.
The tyre got fixed but then a small bulge was noticed (I’m sure there was a technical term for it) that was a weakening in the tyre wall and too dangerous to drive on… so we had to buy a new tyre. And that all took longer than it should of because the guys at the repair place couldn’t read my writing so couldn’t call us to tell us what was going on! Eventually we were on the road to Coonawarra resigned to not getting any wine tasting in… until we realised that with the time change from going between Vic and SA made it 4:30pm and not 5pm! Bonus. A quick stop at Rymill was excellent. The weather set in over night with heavy rain and wind making us very glad we weren’t camping!
The next day was all about wine-tasting. We didn’t think we’d get through more than 3 after our Rutherglen experience but the wine lists were generally much shorter, and we weren’t trying 12 different fortifieds at each winery, so we ended up making it to 5: Balnaves, Majella, Wynns, Patrick, Katnook. My favourite was Majella.
The wild weather continued as we headed out of town the following day. The car was battered by the wind, with occasional bouts of hail and fairly constant rain. Arguably a good day to mainly be driving? Other than the unpleasant driving conditions…
Having missed out on the Primo tasting in Sydney this year Tom insisted we detour via the Primo cellar door in Mclaren Vale. We were cutting it fine arriving not that long before they closed but we managed to get the premium tasting in, as well as their fortified (The Fronti) with an espresso. Fortunately for me Tom was on driving duties through to Adelaide, where we stayed with Nic for the night.
Eventually, more than half way through the trip, we made it to Kangaroo Island. The crossing was a bit choppy but I’m sure a lot better than the previous day! We started our KI adventure with the Ironstone Hill Hike. We saw plenty of Tamar Wallabies but sadly no dolphins as promised by the signboard. After driving around a bit trying to find a nice place to eat lunch we conceded defeat to the weather and headed to the cottage we’d hired for the night at Cape Willoughby.
Cape Willougby is the Eastern most tip of Kangaroo Island and it was super windy. We did the Heritage Walk not long before sunset. Saw some Kangaroo Island kangaroos and then I swiftly retreated inside out of the wind.
The next day had an action packed agenda so we got an early start. Our first stop was the Bald Hill Hike. This was a massive climb of approximately 25m to a small rise overlooking the Murray Lagoon. There were lots of birds around. We continued some of the way around on the Curley Creek hike before backtracking to the car as we needed to get to our next stop; the Raptor Domain. This had come highly recommended to us and it didn’t disappoint. We attended the bird show and reptile show. Both were very interactive – Tom has some much better photos from his fancy camera. The bird show opened with a magpie that had been taught to pick up rubbish and only got better.
We hadn’t sated our wildlife appetite for the day so the next stop was Seal Bay. Here we did the guided walk down onto the beach to see the Sea Lions.
We had toyed with trying to fit in a wine tasting but decided we were out of time and headed for our accommodation at Vivonne Bay instead. Shortly after we arrived one of the other guests spotted a koala in a tree in the car park which was pretty good. But then the next morning there was a koala in a tree basically right next to the buildings. Tom was fortunate to see this guy out of the tree, having a drink and then wandering off to wherever koalas go…
Kangaroo Island gets most of its rain over winter. So when there was a “Winter Waterfall Walk” I figured the waterfall wasn’t likely to be giving us much action in late autumn. Despite this our first activity of the morning was this walk. We saw a couple of the rare Glossy Black cockatoos as well as plenty of other birds and of course Tamar Wallabies.
What got us really excited was that the wind has stopped and there was sunshine!
After checking into our cottage at the Cape Borda Lighthouse we headed out on what seemed to be one of the more challenging bushwalk on KI; the Ravine des Casoars. Or the Valley of the Dwarf Emus.. or something like that. Much easier to talk about dwarf emus – which were extinct on KI before permanent white settlement apparently. This was a pleasant walk. Tom got quite excited as there was a Cape Barren Goose on the beach, but it flew off before he got any decent photos.
Not content with two walks under our belt, we did the Clifftop hike just before sunset. We just couldn’t get enough of the pleasant weather!
It was a lovely sunset, and we had views from the kitchen window.
The highlight of the trip was playing Scrabble that night. I don’t play Scrabble very often because I’m not very good at it. I opened with OVARIES, and later on Tom very conveniently put down FOYER allowing me to create BEAUTIFY. I’m not sure I’ve ever cleared my rack before so to do it twice was exciting. The cherry on the cake was that I beat Tom
The next day we were back to the grey weather we were used to, but at least there was no wind. We started off visiting Scotts Cove Lookout.
Then we did the Harveys Return Hike – definitely the biggest hill of the island.
The road through to the Flinders Chase National Park office was the worst of the dirt roads we drove on, with a lose surface and lots of corrugations. After getting our Parks Pass we headed out to Remarkable Rocks which were indeed remarkable.
The Admirals Arch Walk next to the Cape du Coedic lighthouse is next to the a Long-nosed Fur Seal colony. The boardwalk around to the Admirals Arch got us quite close to the seal pups (see Tom’s photos). They were good fun to watch. We spent two hours watching them before heading to our accommodation at May’s Cottage (our third heritage accom). We pulled into the driveway for May’s Cottage and there was a Cape Barren Goose so Tom thrust the camera at me and I’m trying to take photos from the passenger seat. It wanders off so we give up and drive in. Only to find there are hundreds of them on the lawn outside the cottage… so that lost Tom for the rest of the afternoon.
I probably should have pulled Tom away from the geese earlier as the sun was already setting when we set off on the Platypus Waterholes Walk. Despite being dusk and there not being a lot of water in most of the waterholes we didn’t see any platypus. It was well and truly dark by the time we made our way back to the cottage. Fortunately we had taken our torches but the myriad geese, kangaroos and wallabies that were scattered across our route were less than impressed with being disturbed!
The next morning we did a repeat of the Platypus Waterholes walk – this time not marching to beat the dark. Sadly the only platypus we saw was the one in the picture below.
We spent the last couple of days eating, drinking and relaxing as a result of our charity auction accommodation.
We did manage to do a section of the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail between Cape Younghusband and Hanson Bay.
We snuck in a visit to The Islander tasting room before our ferry. The return trip was much calmer than the way over which was nice.
We had a great time catching up with Nic & Craig in Adelaide that night. The rain was coming down when we left the next day, but stopped not far out of town. We had morning tea in Murray Bridge, lunch in Renmark, before eventually making our way to Mildura where we’d been lucky enough to score free accommodation (thanks Chris’ Mum!).
Once we’d headed inland we enjoyed having some sun and blue skies after what felt like a very grey week on KI. After ticking off Jaycee Park Markets, Lock 11 and coffee in Mildura we didn’t end up getting to Mungo National Park until almost midday. No time to waste we almost immediately set off on the 70km self-drive loop of the park.
Emus were a bit of a novelty for us and there were plenty in the area.
The stars were excellent as you’d expect. The following day we finished reading all of the information boards at the Zanci Woolshed and the Visitors Centre before heading to Balranald. We had lunch in Yanga National Park and then visited another historic woolshed. Then we visited Yanga Lake for a walk and some bird spotting. We spent the night in Hay. Both of us were awake at 5:30am (despite an intended 7am alarm) so we ended up hitting the road in the dark. Breakfast in West Wyalong at 8am seemed quite reasonable, followed by coffee in Cowra at 11am, then lunch in Bathurst (with a visit to Gaby). We had dinner in Blackheath before eventually getting back to Sydney about 9pm. A big day of driving.
|Northern Grampians||Penola (Coonawarra)||228||1440|
|Penola (Coonawarra)||Penola (Coonawarra)||45||1485|
|Cape Willoughby||Vivonne Bay||130||2269|
|Vivonne Bay||Cape Borda||120||2389|
|Cape Borda||Flinders Chase National Park||80||2469|
|Flinders Chase National Park||Hanson Bay||20||2489|
|Hanson Bay||Hanson Bay||0||2489|
|Mildura||Mungo National Park||193||3358|
|Mungo National Park||Hay||308||3666|
Most expensive petrol – Vivonne Bay 182.9c/l
A lovely walk out along Burra Korain Ridge gave us speccy views of the Grose Valley in several directions.
After morning tea we retraced some of our steps and the headed west towards Victoria Creek.
We had lunch on the cliffs above Victoria Creek.
After lunch we left Tom to head back the way we came and the rest of us headed steeply down into the creek.
After we got to the creek then it was up the other side. The vegetation was fairly challenging.
Before we made it to the base of the cliff line which we followed round until a break.
And I finally got to Odin Head the way I had planned to go a couple of years ago. We met a couple of other bushwalkers there who we had a good chat with.
And luckily for us when we got to Victoria Falls Road they offered us a life back to our cars (Tom was meant to pick us up but had gone adventuring on his way out so was running a little late).
We may not have had a particularly active Easter this year (by our standards) but it was a lot more active than the last 3 Easters where I think we managed one day walk across all three long weekends!
We met up with Andy on Friday and after much deliberation while we crawled in traffic up the mountains eventually settled on Mt Piddington for our climbing. Andy’s climbing skills are far superior to Tom & mine, but he graciously humoured us by leading some easy/moderate graded climbs.
Somehow with our late start, 3 people climbing, and no particular deadlines we managed to get to late afternoon having only climbed SSCC1 and Hocus Pocus.
On Saturday we did the Grand Canyon Loop bushwalk with Andy, Chris & Liz and family. The car park was pretty insane but despite that the walk didn’t feel too crowded. It was the first time I’d actually done the full loop – even though I’ve walked the section from the bottom of Jugglers Canyon to the Grand Canyon abseil at least half a dozen times.
Sunday post-Easter Egg hunt was adventure time for Mala! Mt York the venue for her first abseiling experience (incidentally the same place Tom taught me to abseil some 14 years ago).
After that Andy and Tom set up a couple of top-ropes. Liz & I warmed up on Lishenback (** 10) then eventually both made it up Birds Nest (15). We farewelled Liz & Chris & fam then escaped the beating sun at New York.
Andy led up Spoonbender (15) for me. Then I had a go at following him up Illusory (19) but eventually conceded defeat.
I watched with interest as he climbed a couple of routes which looked pretty impossible (to me).
With the daylight savings change it was almost dark when we got back to the cars and were most surprised to have to crawl back to Blackheath in the heavy traffic!
An most enjoyable weekend with great friends.
We needed to back in Sydney for a social engagement in the evening so this walk in Mount Alexandra Reserve near Mittagong was the perfect length. After a fair bit of rain in the preceding weeks the creeks were flowing, the tracks were slippery and the leeches were out in force.
It’s always nice to explore a new area – no one on the trip had been into this area of Morton National Park before. The first challenge was finding the Sassafras entrance and driving along the road.
That successfully negotiated we then had a long and fairly boring fire trail bash, though Dee and Alex did manage to have a ‘swim’ in a small creek we passed along the way. Things started getting more interesting when we got nearer to The Vines and the vegetation changed from low heath to rainforest.
It was nice to be on a track rather than fire trail as we headed down to the Hidden Valley turnoff.
Five of us headed into Hidden Valley, visiting Dark Brothers Cave and scrambling up onto Sturgiss Mountain where we enjoyed wonderful views.
Returning to our packs at the Hidden Valley turnoff we headed to Styles Creek where I was hoping we’d find a campsite. Fortunately there was – quite a luxurious one at that! Having been in Eucalypt forest for much of the walk it was great to come out onto the flats where there were great views of the surrounding features.
The temperatures indicated we’d tipped into Autumn with most of us slightly under done on the warmth front overnight. There was a lot of dew but my borrowed bivvy bag did a good job of keeping me dry.
The second day we just had a retrace of our route (minus the Hidden Valley excursion) from Saturday.
It was a long, hot walk back along the fire trail.
We were all very happy to get to the pub in Nowra for a beer and dinner!
A great walk to get a feel for the area and start planning some further walks.