Mt Werong exploration (6-7 July 2024)

I’d been tipped off that the the south-western side of the Mount Werong road had not burnt in the 2019 fires. The SEED fire intensity map showed the road had been a clear barrier to the burn. When so many other places are somewhat unpleasant to walk in I find myself increasingly seeking out unburnt regions. This weekend definitely delivered.

A few us arrived on Friday night after yet another soggy week. Everything was saturated, and while we had dry wood in the car, it was all large pieces to go on an established blaze. The firelighters which had previously lived in the firewood bag were no longer there. Subsequently Tom and I spent over an hour bullying the fire into getting going. Our forearms were pumped, as if we’d been climbing, after an hour of fanning oxygen into the reluctant kindling. But eventually we succeeded and had a pleasant night around the fire.

The next morning we were joined by two others before heading off to Mt Werong. I had planned to drop a car along the fire trail at the end but with only one AWD and a very muddy section (due to needing to avoid a tree across the road) we only managed to knock off a kilometre or so instead of four.

We had our first climb immediately – the goal Mount Werong. Never was there an easier peak or trig to bag. Less than 20 minutes into the walk, having ascended 40m (maybe 50), we had achieved that goal. From there we had several kilometres of very gentle descent along a delightful ridge line. To my surprise there was even a pad most of the way. Tom’s theory was that it had been created by trailbike riders but if so it didn’t look like it had much recent use.

Tom has conquered Mt Werong (Werong Trig)

So happy with the walking conditions he’s doing a jig

The first real difficultly we encountered (excluding the boggy road) was crossing a pumping creek. It was clearly up and a dry feet crossing was looking unlikely until Tom with his long legs and long poles managed to get across. The rest of managed to follow suit keeping largely dry.

Katie crossing the raging creek

Climbing out of the creek – for once a symmetrical line!

Beautiful ridge walking

Anyone would think it’s a little chilly at lunch

We hit a rocky band above Parliament Creek. Tom was sure he could hear cascades so he went hunting them. Crossing the creek proved a little tricky – though with 5 people we managed 4 different methods to get across the creek.

Some of us headed down to the base of the waterfall which was quite impressive. I doubt that was the normal flow level though. Tom and Jon wanted to explore further as they thought there might be more cascades but with time getting away from us I said no. We’ll have to go back and explore more another time.

Tom at a rocky knoll

Looking for a way through the cliffs

Now how do I get to that side?

Waterfall in Parliament Creek

Tom and Jon on the way back from waterfall-viewing

Heading up the ridge

As it turned out the locked gate on the map, where I’d planned to leave the car, didn’t even exist. So had we got past the boggy section we would have been able to avoid walking the entire fire trail. Since we didn’t know exactly where we left the car it was a bit of a mystery. Both Jon & I kept expecting it would be ’round the next bend’, ‘over the next crest’, but were generally disappointed.

Yep, fire trail

Almost back at the car??

When we eventually got back to the car we put some effort into clearing the fallen tree that was blocking the road. It was a pretty big tree but with 3 of us putting some serious grunt into breaking off the branches we managed to clear enough of it that I was confident we could get further down the road the next day. We had a solid 8 hours out walking and so were only back at the campground at 4:30pm. Fortunately the fire was much easier to get going and we had a pleasant evening in relatively mild (4°C rather than 0) conditions.

Getting ready to settle in

We lost a couple from the previous day to sickness so that left 3 of us for Sunday’s activities.

Confident we could get further down the fire trail after our efforts the day before we set off with cautious optimism. I was hoping to get 7km down the trail and all it takes is one obstacle to put a spanner in the plan. Unfortunately less than 500m after we’d turned onto Little River F/T we came to a 20m puddle that didn’t look passable. So onto Plan B. Except I didn’t really have a Plan B.

In low cloud, in an area that had burnt, there was perhaps a little less enthusiasm for heading off compared to the day before. But I led us through wet regrowth which opened up after a couple of hundred metres. The ridge we were following is the boundary between Kanangra-Boyd National Park and the Blue Mountains National Park. The park boundary on the map obscures the narrow ridge line very effectively. It was only on the map Tom had created from the DEMS using QGIS that we could see the distinct ridge with its series of knolls.

Great views early on…

Wattle and burnt trees make a striking contrast

In my efforts to ensure we ended up on that narrow ridge and not the more obvious one on the topo I led us through a less pleasant section of wattle regrowth. It was as we popped out of that Roger realised he no longer had his phone. But he didn’t know when he last had it other than the car. Rather than go back and look, when it could have been anywhere, we kept going. The scrub eased off and we found ourselves on a typical rocky Kanangra ridge with dramatic views falling away on each side.

Tom checking out the views off Mt Moona Loombah

After morning tea on Mount Moona Loombah, we had lunch on the ‘other ridge’, perched on a cliff edge, with great views down the Kowmung. Then it was time to go phone-hunting!

Lunch views down the Kowmung

That doesn’t look that comfortable!?

Life on the edge

I was quite disappointed we had needed to go back into the wattle regrowth – it had been apparent that section had been unnecessary and we could have just stuck to the relatively clear ridge. But nevertheless if we were going to make a serious effort to find the phone we needed to retrace the whole route. I think it was to all of our amazement Tom managed to locate Roger’s phone in the midst of the wattle regrowth. Roger was very happy!

Is that a phone you’ve found!?

It was relatively short day but completed a most satisfying weekend away. A place to revisit again soon.