Three Mates Bluff (11 Mar 2023)

This was advertised as “almost entirely off-track exploration” but was also “aiming for a mid-afternoon finish”. Well we definitely had an entirely off-track exploration, but we did not achieve a mid-afternoon finish. Being back at the cars about 5:15pm was hardly a late day but when you’re trying to get back for the Club’s annual reunion weekend it wasn’t ideal. It also wasn’t ideal that it was a 32°C day in mid-March. I’ve been so used to worrying about rain I didn’t really focus much on the temperature forecast leading into the trip.

Negotiating the dissected ridge on the way in

The first few hundred metres we picked up an old fire trail, and when that ended the going was initially quite good as the soil seemed too poor to support much regrowth. We got to an interesting section of dissected ridge which was slower but fun to negotiate and gave us some good views.

We “just” need to get past those two knolls…

More dissected ridge line

Once we got through the dissected ridge line we really slowed down getting out to the first knoll. It was scrubby, not the worst I’ve been in, just quite a lot of vines, which made it very slow. And somehow all up that the first 5km out to Three Mates Bluff took us 3 hours.

Views from Three Mates Bluff

Fortunately Tom and I had studied the slope maps the night before so were pretty confident we would be able to find a down to the river from the bluff. I’m not sure the rest of the party was so confident as Tom headed off to scout a route down. It wasn’t long before we got the call to follow him down. I do love a direct route and this one was a goody – though maybe a bit more exposure than I had advertised to the participants.

The start of direct descent to the river

Heading down

Tim scrambling

After we’d got through a series of scrambles Tom thought we’d just be able to walk down from there. But then we hit an interesting conglomerate cliff line, but I was able to find a way around it on the left and then the rest of the slope was straight-forward. By amazing coincidence at the same time we got to the river there were 4 kayakers managing their kayaks through the rapids. I did not take long to get in the water – it had been a hard morning’s work but at least we now had the ability to cool down and recharge with lunch.

We reach the Shoalhaven at the same time as these paddlers

After lunch we headed upstream, criss-crossing the river at rapids (picked out from the aerials) to avoid bluffs/scrubby sections. The section of the Shoalhaven we walked up had some very attractive cliffs, which was fortunate as they could distract us from the swathes of Cobblers Pegs we were walking through. My shorts resembled a carpet of them for most of the time we were walking the banks.

An early river crossing

Fourth (and last) river crossing

We had another much needed swim before ascending from the southern end of Apple Tree Flat to the Brooks Plateau Trail. We enjoyed some shade and views from a convenient cave just before getting to the very top.

Views from the shady cave just before topping out on Brooks Plateau

Tom enjoying the views

I think everyone was very happy to hit the Brooks Plateau fire trail and have 2.5km of easy walking to finish the day.

A much tougher trip than planned, and would have been more enjoyable if the temperature had 10°C dropped off it!

Everyone headed to the Club Reunion afterwards where we enjoyed another swim in the Kangaroo River before settling in for an enjoyable, social evening.