Ettrema (18-19 Feb 2023)
Ah the joys of putting walks on the club program 3 months in advance… and watching and waiting the weather forecast. I guess 36°C is better than a shedload of rain!? A mini-heatwave over NSW was due to peak on Saturday, with possible severe thunderstorms before a slightly cooler (mid-20s) Sunday. Fortunately our Saturday schedule involved lots of swimming opportunities so I wasn’t too worried about the heat – but Sunday would be a different story.
We had a leisurely 10am start (which just meant leaving home at 6am, rather than something starting with 5). Some largely vertical scrub welcomed us to the area but it didn’t pose too much difficulty and it wasn’t long before we were in the upper reaches of Myall Creek.
Jon’s hat was an early casualty – obscured somewhere in the depths of one of the pools he jumped into. In return the creek offered a couple of drink bottles which had presumably fallen out of previous travellers bags. Jon’s attempts to fashion a replacement head covering kept us amused through lunch.
Everyone waltzed across the exposed traverse with no concerns (and probably wondered why I’d made such a big deal about it in the pre-trip vetting). It seems less threatening from the top I think?
Kosta was the only one who braved the high jump, but plenty of lower jumps kept us cool. The hot wind blowing up the creek when we finally headed off reminded us of the heatwave conditions.
The thunder started rumbling as we had (yet another) swim half way to camp. Only a few hundred metres out from camp the roar of (literal?) impending doom rushed towards us. It sounded like a wave of water, but in fact was an immensely strong rush of wind down the gorge. Fortunately we had the audible warning so we could brace ourselves, as it was strong enough to knock an unsuspecting person over.
As we got to camp it started spitting so shelters were quickly erected and retreated into. Or not so quickly in the case of the tent which had arrived without its poles 🙁 I kept expecting it to blow through as these sort of storms generally do, but it persisted for a while. Eventually the rain eased off enough to come out and get a fire going. Then the rain returned. Eventually I called “happy hour” even though it was still drizzling. It was an excellent combination of contributions, even if the ‘rats’ may had made a serious dent in the chips while we were huddled in our tents. The storm eventually retreated for good and we had a pleasant evening around the campfire.
The next morning we were away just after 8am. While the forecast was a lot cooler than the previous day, it was still a lot warmer than I would have liked for the big climb we had up Transportation Spur. So the earlier we could get climbing the better.
We made good time on the rock-hopping down Ettrema Creek. After filling up water at Gallows Gully and having a pre-cooling swim at morning tea we started the climb. Well, we almost started the climb – I almost walked over a large red-bellied black snake so that waylaid us with photo-taking – but then we started the climb. Sadly in Belinda’s case without gloves as they had gone AWOL sometime between leaving camp in the morning and morning tea.
The initial rocky section of ridge was quite pleasant but it soon led to scrub. Fortunately someone had done a lot of hard work before us and we could use their tunnelling efforts. Unfortunately I lost their pad part way up so things got a bit tougher (for me at least) after that.
We had a well-earned break on the first significant knoll where there were good views to enjoy while we recovered. The highlight of the break was Belinda finding her gloves in her pack… A proliferation of very keen march flies had me getting us moving again, as I was sick of being bitten on my legs.
The next section was also scrubby but not as thick as what we had come through. It is interesting to observe the different vegetation bands as you go up the ridge.
The wind somewhat kept the march flies at bay, but there were still voracious – biting through clothing and causing welts to form on some of our more sensitive bodies.
We’d been hoping the remainder of the walk across the tops wouldn’t be too scrubby. We did pick up a few rock bands to walk along, but also had a couple of quite slow sections in the headwaters of creeks. It was with great relief to almost everyone when we finally spilled out onto the road. The remaining couple of kilometres on the road passed in the a flash as our speed may have tripled!
We finished off a great weekend with dinner in Nowra before the long drive home.
The storm on Saturday night must have been very severe elsewhere as a number of party members had concerned messages from loved ones hoping we’d got through it ok!