Category Archives: Bushwalking

Light to Light & South Coast (15-16 Feb 2022)

From Harrietville we drove to Eden. My research on cafes & bakeries to stop at was thwarted by cafe-owners going on holiday, or not being open on a Monday, or things simply not existing where google said they were! Tom did get a very good beesting at the Swifters Creek Bakery, but otherwise our trip to Cape Conran Coastal Park had little to note. We did the Nature Trail at Cape Conran Coastal Park before the final leg through to Eden.

Our evening meal (very tasty chinese) in Eden was shared with numerous Valentine’s Day diners. Post-dinner we went for a walk out to the Rotary Park lookout. An almost full moon had just risen and it was a beautiful evening.

Another early start – we had to meet our transfer at 7am at Boyd’s Tower – which was around half an hour’s drive away. Steve from Light to Light Transfers drove us to Green Cape Lighthouse. Eden was forecast to get to the high 20s – apparently fairly unusual – so I was particularly glad we’d chosen to get the early start. By the time we got to Green Cape, and walked out to the Lighthouse it wasn’t much before 8am when we started walking.

The Light to Light walk was part of the area affected by the Black Summer Bushfires just two summers earlier. We had seen the previous day at Cape Conran the impact of the fires there and weren’t sure that was going to mean for us for shade for the next 31km.

The Southern end – Green Cape Lighthouse

The start

One of several pleasant creek crossings

We didn’t know it at the time but the section between Green Cape and Bittangabee Bay appeared to be the least fire-affected. In places there was re-growth but in many parts it felt like it has been a low intensity burn and the larger trees were relatively unaffected.

A relatively unburnt section

We started bumping into day walkers from Bittangabee Bay (drive-in) camping area as we got closer. One of them was gamely carrying a fishing rod in case he could cast somewhere – the disappointment on his face when I informed him this section of the track didn’t go anywhere near the coast was quite comical.

Open grasslands and scorched trees

One of the surprisingly few coastal sections

Another creek crossing

We made it into Saltwater Creek (another drive-in camping area) for a late lunch. We were pretty knackered by the time we got there – 18.5km [17.5km from the sign-board, plus 1km to get to the lighthouse & back] before lunch with packs – not something we’d been doing much of recently! So we found some shade next to the day parking area and collapsed. The plan was to spend most of the afternoon at Saltwater Creek in the shade before pushing on to Mowarry Point to camp later in the afternoon. Once we’d had lunch and a hot drink our mental capacity was up to doing a cryptic crossword. This has become one of our essentials to take on long bushwalking trips as something to fill time – weighs nothing, and provides hours of entertainment.

About 4:30pm I decided it was time we moved on. Back on the beach we had to cross the lagoon to continue north. It seemed we were going to have to wade across. But I foolishly decided to take on a high-risk rock-hopping route. It was only 2 rocks to get across but they were covered in black-green algae. My first tentative steps told me they were extremely slippery. However, I decided to pursue my route rather than the small inconvenience of taking off my shoes to wade. I was lucky my decision just ended up with me losing my sunglasses and laying in a series of bruises down my right leg, oh, and losing all dignity as I slipped off the rocks in front of a dozen beach-goers. The sunglasses were washed out to sea, and at the time I thought I was unhurt, but the deep black bruises on my thigh and shin which still persist a week later tell another story.

With that indignity behind me, and Tom crossing by wading, we were on our way again. As we approached a rocky outcrop we spied another group with overnight packs. Initially it seemed they were going north like us, until they passed us going south. I was delighted as I hoped that meant we’d have Mowarry Point to ourselves.

The section from Saltwater Bay to Mowarry Point appeared to have been scorched in the fires. There was significant regrowth – similar to what we’d seen in Morton National Park – it looks ‘weedy’ but most of it is native. But I daresay the Light to Light was a more attractive walk pre-fires. The regrowth made it feel like we were walking through a sauna as it was densely packed with little airflow. Fortunately we had 3 or 4 gnarly crossword clues still to work out, and we managed to solve them while we were walking through this section. The map case around my neck was not for navigating but so I could double-check the clues’ wordings!

The further north we got the clearer the impact of the fires

Somewhat surprisingly the Mowarry Point remote camping area is not really at Mowarry Point (as it’s marked on the map). It’s somewhat past the point. Tom was getting a little nervous that the big grassy headland he’d seen on the aerials had been taken over by vines and we were going to have to fight to find a place to camp. Fortunately it was just a bit further along the route and we were pleased to get there and have it to ourselves, and be able to camp near the edge with a nice view.

Our campsite at Mowarry Point

Another group arrived just after we did – but they were heading for Saltwater Creek – they still had plenty of daylight but weren’t going to be getting there before 7pm. We had a swim at the beach below the headland and found we weren’t alone. There was quite a large group – but they had camped on the northern headland – with 3 or 4 tents almost on top of each other on what looked like a fairly uncomfortable slope.

The campsite wasn’t perfect – we had been hoping for good views of the full moon rising and/or a speccy sunset – but we were facing North rather than West and the light didn’t come to the party. Regardless camping on the tussocky grass is a pretty comfortable experience and we both slept well – particularly given the distance we’d covered.

Sadly sunrise was as uninspiring as sunset, and we were on our way by 9am. There was no great hurry since we just had 7km to cover for the day. Leatherjacket Bay was a very attractive spot, but only an hour into our walking we had no real reason for a break.

Sitting down on the job at Leatherjacket Bay

Red rocks & mandatory rock-hopping

Eventually we started seeing some views of Boyd’s Tower. It was quite the contrast to Green Cape Lighthouse which we’d been able to see for much of the previous day’s walk. There were lots of day visitors at Boyd’s Tower, probably wondering why we were fully kitted out in our overnight gear to walk the 200m from the car park to the tower.

Those are thick walls!

Boyds Tower (Folly)

Later that day we went to the Killer Whale Museum in Eden where I saw some photos of the Tower pre-fires. It was surrounded by trees which were at a similar height to the lone one which features in this photo above. It would have been a very different feeling!

We had our final few days of the trip based in Merimbula. On one of the days we did the 9km Kangarutha Track in Bournda National Park. It’s a one-way track, so the simplest way for Tom & I to walk was to go in opposite directions. I dropped Tom off at the southern end and then drove to the northern end. We met about half-way through, passed over the car key, and continued on our way. It appeared to have avoided the fires and had quite a different feel to the Light to Light. Perhaps what the Light to Light would have been like before it burnt?

I realised early on that I had stuffed up the logistical arrangements. The southern end of the walk is in the National Park, nowhere near anything, whereas the northern end is on the outskirts of Tathra. We should have swapped the arrangements – since I walk faster and faff less than Tom so was likely to finish quicker (and did). If we’d swapped it up I would have been able to find a coffee in Tathra before picking him up!

The Razorback & Bungalow Spur (13 Feb 2022)

After our trip out of Falls Creek we had a a few nights based in Harrietville. We had been unsure about whether to stay in Mt Hotham or Dinner Plain or Harrietville – but we were glad with our choice. Harrietville has a lovely village ambiance. The day after our arrival from Falls Creek was meant to be a rest day. But that had been on the premise we had descended from Mt Bogong the day before rather than our relatively flat stroll back to the car from High Plains Creek. So we decided to walk the section of Bon Accord Track as far as Washington Creek.

Fortunately I had been doing my research on bakeries and cafes in Harrietville the night before and concluded we needed to visit the bakery before we went walking. We timed it well – the vanilla slices had just come out, and so with two (not the one Tom had suggested we share!?!) of them tucked into the pack we set off on our walk.

Not long in I convinced Tom we really should have morning tea and eat them. He kept talking about eating half of one now and saving one for later. Amateur. They were amazing. And it would have been impossible to cut them in half without making a complete mess even if you’d wanted to.

Washington Creek itself was a bit disappointing. The sign boards said it was a great place for a picnic, I think that was overstating it. After being ejected from our initial lunch spot by some ants (I didn’t want a repeat of the previous day where half my thigh swelled up from a bite), we crossed the creek and used the camping flat. We did have a dip in the icy creek as well – but there wasn’t really anywhere more than thigh-deep. Back in Harrietville we enjoyed a coffee and a relaxed afternoon.

The alarm went off at 5am. Groan. The winding road to Mt Hotham starts immediately after Harrietville. I drove past the warning signs about the deer/kangaroos/wombats which were going to litter the road. Tom was about to make a joke about looking out for deer, when we rounded a corner to find one standing on our side of the road. After a bit of face-off it decided it might move.

The sky had lightened considerably by the time we got to Diamantina Hut. Ideally I think we would have got there 15-20 minutes earlier. As it was we started walking about 6:30am – sunrise at 6:42am. The light was magic. There’s no better place to be then on a magnificent ridge pre-dawn when it’s a still clear morning. There were plenty of stops for photos as the light changed and sun met us.

Tom in the early morning light

The Razorback awaits

We were glad to let a large group pass us on the way out. They were pretty boisterous and the noise carries when it’s so still. Otherwise we didn’t see anyone until we met the crowds who had been camped at Federation Hut overnight. It seemed they had all set the same alarm time. We passed something like 8 groups all in a row on their way back out. It was in a section where we had to stand off the track and every time we thought it was safe to move on another group would pop round the corner!

We made it to the Federation Hut/Feathertop junction shortly after 9am. Unfortunately the cloud was gathering around Feathertop despite it having been clear all of our way in. Nevertheless we of course headed up into the cloud. The large group from earlier were flying a drone on the summit so we decided to make do with a spot slightly short of the summit for morning tea. It was really quite pleasant once you dropped a metre off the ridge out of the wind.

Morning tea on the lee side of the Feathertop summit ridge

Once the summit was a bit more peaceful we headed across, willing the clouds to part, which they did sporadically. You didn’t have to descend far to get out of the cloud and at Federation Hut it was a lovely, sunny day.

Looking back the way we came

Weather was much nicer at Federation Hut!

Tom had offered me the option of continuing down to Harrietville via Bungalow Spur – he would go back the way we came and drive the car back. I happily took him up on the offer – though a little apprehensive on how steep it might be. As it turned out Bungalow Spur is a fairly gentle grade. I had been expecting something like Strongleg!!

Part of the reason for Tom’s offer was due to the bakery opening hours. The only way to visit the bakery again during our visit was to get there before 2pm – and that was only going to happen via Bungalow Spur. Tom reckoned I would be running to get there at the bottom. I don’t think he realises how much dawdling gets eliminated when I’m walking by myself 🙂 I made it to the bakery by 1:30pm… only to find the lady in front of me had bought the last vanilla slice 🙁 I had to settle for some other goodies. I suddenly felt the exhaustion having knocked off 22km and 1300m descent, and gratefully sunk into a chair at our accommodation to wait for Tom’s return.

The next day we headed to the south coast.

Jaithmathangs & High Plains Creek (9-11 Feb 2022)

Our original plan had been a 4 day / 3 night circuit around Mt Bogong. It became clear after our 2 days of walking at Mt Buffalo that we probably weren’t fit enough to enjoy what we’d planned. So on our additional night in Mount Beauty we glared at the maps… daring them to strike us with inspiration for something more aligned to our current capabilities.

I was getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of options until I had a look at the Fainters. We had originally intended to avoid going to Falls Creek so that we didn’t have to drive the windy road. Having driven up & down Mt Buffalo, and come across Tawonga Gap we’d already done a bunch of windy roads – what was another one to add to the collection!? If we started from Falls Creek then we could reduce any climbing and so a plan started to come together. Thank goodness.

We did better than Mt Buffalo and were walking before 9:30am. There was one other walker at the carpark who came over to tell his he was heading Mt Jaithmathang as a day walk so we’d probably see him on the track. When he did overtake us a couple of kilometres in I mentioned it was our first time (ever) in the Alpine National Park. He was somewhat incredulous; “you’ve picked a very obscure walk as your first one”.

Tom looking not quite looking happy at the prospect of 3 days out

Cloud looking menacing as we approach Tawonga Huts

We had morning tea at Tawonga Huts under heavy grey cloud cover, then continued on the Fainter Fire Track towards Little Plain. I had originally thought we might make it out to the Fainters, but by the time we’d fought our way along a fairly muddy section of track (hoof prints well in evidence) I was ready for lunch above Little Plain.

Are we back in Tassie!?

Neither of us had any inclination to extend our short day and so after lunch we went off-track along the Jaithmathangs ridge to Mt Jaithmathang. Some sections were absolutely delightful, others required a bit more effort. The closer we got to the summit the stronger a footpad became – but there wasn’t any real evidence of a pad for most of the route.

Beautiful sections of grass & flowers

Some not quite so pleasant sections

Views!

We found a campsite near the summit and got ourselves sorted. Water never felt like it was going to be an issue and we didn’t have to go far to find a small stream. Finding a place to fill up from was perhaps the most challenging bit (much of it flowing under boulders).

Our cooking spot just below camp

After a bit of weather blew through we were treated to a double rainbow (the second one not so obvious in the photo)

The light on the summit in the hour or so before sunset was just magical and Tom hopefully got lots of good photos with his fancy camera. I could spot a couple of tents being set up down at Tawonga Huts so we wouldn’t have had it to ourselves.

Back up on Mt Jaithmathang for sunset photos

Given I’d only spotted 2 tents I was surprised to meet a school group of around 25 as we headed down the main track to Tawonga Huts the next day. It was incredible to see all the tents at the bottom – and very glad we’d had our high camp!

Back at Tawonga Huts the next morning

walking the Bogong Hill Plains towards Mt Jim

Pole 333

Ascending Mt Jim

From Mt Jim we went looking for old snowgums that one of the teachers in the school group had mentioned. I don’t think we found them, and it certainly made our descent to the Cope West Aquaduct track take longer than it might of. We spotted our second mob of brumbies for the trip as we descended.

Not your every day obstacle on a bushwalk…

I didn’t know much about High Plains Creek – except Vivien & Emmanuelle had mentioned good camping. And Vivien had said there would be a track. Turned out the track was on Open Street Maps (and so on Tom’s GPS) and we were glad we continued along till we hit it rather than going off-track towards our goal. I’m not sure if it’s because you can see so far ahead, or if it’s because we were using a 1:50k map (rather than 1:25k we’re used to) but everything seemed to take longer than I expected. I was so ready for a swim when we arrived at the first falls on High Plains Creek. Having not done any research I was particularly delighted to find such a nice swimming hole. Not that I stayed in for very long – the water was brisk.

Swim time

We’d just finished an afternoon cuppa when some (unforecast) rain arrived. It blew through after 15 minutes so I sheltered under a very small overhang and Tom just hung out in the rain. The granite boulders were all wet but once it stopped we scrambled, with some difficulty, down to the second set of falls. Probably only something to be recommended to those who really like rock-hopping/bush-bashing.

The lower falls on High Plains Creek

We decided to camp up out of the creek valley in a spot with lovely views towards Mt Cope. It was so warm we were hiding in the shade into the early evening.

But the expansive views meant we could see the cloud drop over Mt Cope and slowly edge its way towards us. By the time we’d finished dinner we were well and truly enveloped in cloud.

Beaut campsite with views to Mt Cope

Except then the weather came in

It was a very still night, so the cloud remained well-entrenched when we woke up the next morning. Given the weather we took Cope West Aquaduct track to Cope Saddle and then the Cope Saddle Track through to Pretty Valley Hut and down the road to the car.

Walking out in the cloud on day 3

By the time we got back to the car the cloud had lifted and it looked like a pleasant afternoon would follow on – but we opted for a delicious lunch at the cafe in Falls Creek, and a walk to Fainter Falls on our way to Harrietville. Not a bad outing for something pulled together the day before we started!!

Mount Buffalo & Mount Beauty (6-8 Feb 2022)

After taking a couple of days to get ourselves from Sydney to Mt Buffalo it was time for some bushwalking!

Turns out Sunday morning is not the best time to be driving up the mountain – plenty of cyclists and blind corners to contend with. Despite good intentions of getting to Mt Buffalo by 9am it was after 10am when we left the car.

Our first day loop was about as unprepared as we’d ever been for a walk. Armed with the Parks map and a route I found from someone’s blog off we went. Not having a topo map we didn’t know how much up & down was in the route, or even how long our intended plan was. Our lack of fitness became apparent quickly – though I choose to blame the altitude… I wasn’t complaining about the altitude with respect to the temperature though – a nice change from the steamy humidity we’d had in Sydney for most of summer.

Tom emerges from the bush at Eagle Point

Lunch views from Eagle Point

Caution!

Alpine scenery

Speccy views from Mt Dunn

Emerging back at the car – Cathedral back right

The GPS put our loop for the day at 21km. The most we’ve done in a day in… I’m not sure how long. I was very happy to make use of the hot showers at Lake Catani campground (make sure you book ahead) and get into warm clothes. The evening was fairly chilly.

Camping at Lake Catani campground

The next day we walked from the campground to the Chalwell Galleries – which is just a 50m section of ‘canyon’. Given how little canyoning we’ve been able to do this summer we enjoyed it – even if granite doesn’t given you the same kind of grip that sandstone does.

Granite canyoning 🙂

This seems to have a few modifications

Returning to camp via a circuit of Lake Catani we packed up, drove the car to the day use area and then walked to the Gorge area of the park. Had we hung around there for another hour we would have been able to watch 60+ paragliders launch – as it was we saw them taking to the skies from View Point.

Lake Catani from View Point

A very large caterpillar (or “faterpillar” as we christened it). Unfortunately nothing in the picture really gives the scale

We stopped at Eurobin Falls in our way our and walked up to the Upper Falls. The crowds had departed from Lady Bath Falls by the time we returned so Tom managed to get a couple of photos.

Finally we headed to Mount Beauty for the night. The next day we had an easy day and did the Mount Beauty Gorge Walk – though I suspect we went a bit further up the gorge compared to most people!

Tom in the Mount Beauty Gorge

The next part of our trip was out of Falls Creek – read about it here.

Ettrema New Year (28 Dec 2021 – 1 Jan 2022)

With just one overnight walk (and it was only a half-day each day at that!) under our belts in the last six months, the obvious next step was a 4-day trip in the Ettrema Wilderness. So for the first time in many months the alarm went off at 5:30am and we were on the road.

We were somewhat bemused to get flagged down on Tolwong Road by a guy carrying jumper leads. He was parked 3km further along the road and had a flat battery. I’m not sure what he would have done if we hadn’t come along – a bit more difficult to convince someone from the main road to come and give him a jump start – whereas it wasn’t out of our way at all. With his car started, we left him to drive drive out and sort out his battery, and continued on to where we would leave the car while we were walking.

We took a new route (for us) into Ettrema Gorge. The regrowth wasn’t too bad and after a couple of hours we were having a rather bracing dip in Ettrema Creek.

We found a trig!

Walking in fields of wildflowers

Some slightly less pleasant vegetation to walk through

Pre-lunch swim

After lunch we started our ascent out of the other side of the gorge. We managed to negotiate our way up a side creek for someway, before being forced out and up some loose scree slopes to avoid a large waterfall (or two).

We’re going up there… somehow?

Found a way!

Don’t think we’re climbing up that

Eventually we made it to the tops where we we had a mix of pleasant walking through fields of wildflowers, combined with some less pleasant sections.

On the tops some of the vegetation was a little challenging

Views over Jones Creek

Late afternoon swim in Jones Creek

I had been trying to convince Tom that we should just camp on the plateau we were crossing rather than drop down into Jones Creek and then out again. I didn’t have particularly good memories of the end of the Pauls Pass Walking Track from my visit the previous year. Fortunately, I let Tom have his way. We found some excellent views and a passable (if not completely flat) campsite. I realised in retrospect I had only visited the West/South-West side, rather than the North-West – which actually had a view of Tingha Falls. Plus the day I was there it was so windy I could barely get near the edge for fear of being blown of! Fortunately the weather was far more agreeable this time round.

The end of the Jones Creek Walking Track

Happy hour views

Tom in his happy place

Camp with a view

The next day we returned to Jones Creek and explored up stream until I insisted we turned round, since Tom had been talking up how long a day we might have. Reunited with our packs we then headed downstream. There were so many lovely cascades and pools – I haven’t included many photos so they probably don’t do it justice. At times it was hard going up and around large boulders, so don’t be deceived into thinking it was just a cruisy romp!

Exploring Jones Creek

Descending Jones Creek

Eventually we found ourselves at the start of the main drop (Tinga or Tingha Falls? Not actually sure where Tom got that name from…). We managed to scramble down the first few levels until we came to the main sheer drop. No going down directly so we examined the traverse required to get around it. I estimated at least an hour – and was spot on! It was “easier” than I anticipated – which is to say I didn’t feel like I was one small slip from catastrophe for much of it. A swim and late lunch at the bottom was lovely.

Upper Tingha Falls

The main Tingha Falls

Tom had been to the bottom of the Falls back in 2005. Looking at the topo Jones Creek only dropped a further 120m from there to the junction with Ettrema. Tom assured me there was no other major difficulties in the rest of the creek. I was a little surprised when we had a bit more serious scrambling to do, and as we approached some of the drops they seemed unlikely to go. But as had been the case for much of the day the terrain gave way…. until it didn’t. Not long after leaving the base of the main falls we found ourselves at the top of a 4m drop with no obvious way down. Tom scrambled up on the true left to see if we could climb around but came back without finding a way. Anything which was wet in the creek was very slippery and the ‘obvious’ route down would have required negotiating a fair bit of wet rock. We had a handline but there was a paucity of rigging options. It seemed clear back in 2005, at the height of the Millennium Drought that scrambling up would have been straight-forward, but in our current La Niña weather pattern that wasn’t the case.

We were left with 3 options; 1) jump into a pool of unknown depth, with what seemed to be a relatively narrow landing zone, but looked “ok” 2) try and negotiate the wet waterfall where slipping was likely to have a nasty fall onto sharp rocks or 3) reverse back up Jones Creek and try and find an alternative way down. Option 3 was unpalatable – we’d already been going for 6 hours, and it was a hot day. Reversing would take many, many more hours. After a fair bit more prevaricating I volunteered to jump first since I was lighter – though if it had gone wrong we would have been up the proverbial without a paddle. Fortunately the pool proved fairly deep and we chose our landing spot well. Having had a bit more excitement then we’d wanted we continued on.

Tom jumping

The other risk with jumping was that we had committed ourselves to going forward. What if there were more drops which had been negotiable in drier conditions which now weren’t? We did encounter a couple more which required climbing out of the creek and around bluffs to get down – but those seemed to be regular routes and we negotiated them without issue. As we got closer to the junction we started seeing footprints that were only a day or two old. I didn’t really want to think about what we’d have to do if the campsite was already occupied. It has been a tough couple of days – especially given our current fitness levels. Relief all round when there was no one in sight at camp!

We made it to camp!

Originally we had thought to make our way up to Myall Creek the following day, but we concluded for the effort of moving camp, for all of an hours walking, we may as well just stay put. We rose late, had a leisurely breakfast, did some crosswords, had some swims. I spent time with Catherine and Heathcliff (smallest unread book on the book shelf!). The day passed very quickly – the laziest day either of us could remember having in the bush. We made it to bushwalkers midnight (and therefore New Year) before retiring to bed.

A day of R&R

The next day we set out by 8am. Almost immediately it looked like we were going to need to wade – Tom couldn’t be bothered with the scrambling I managed to keep my feet dry. I thought back to my first time walking Ettrema Gorge – also during the Millenium Drought – where we struggled to find pools of water (downstream of Jones Creek) let along be stymied by it across the entire gorge!

Early morning on Ettrema Creek

About an hour later we found ourselves at Myall Creek and with our only human encounter of the trip (excluding flat battery guy). A couple were camped on the rocks at the junction – they had got in late the night before having had a hard time of coming down Jingles Pass. Tom had a look around for the “usual” campsite at the junction – concluding the lower one had been destroyed in the floods, and the upper ones while still there were likely to be taken over by regrowth if they didn’t get a decent amount of use in the near future.

We headed up Myall Creek. When we had ascended in 2019 I had largely forgotten all the scrambling, despite it being my third time through. This time my memory was fresh and I knew was what was coming. It’s fairly relentless in it’s climbing and I felt like I was doing sets of stairs after morning tea!

Ascending Myall Creek

Another lovely waterfall on Myall Creek

Morning tea swim

At the top of last main waterfall in Myall Creek

It took us around 2 hours to get up the creek. Being so early in the day we decided to exit via Churinga Head for lunch.

From there it was a relatively straight-forward bush bash back to the road – though I’m not sure how long the bush will be relatively pleasant to negotiate! For some reason so many trips seems to end with firetrail bashes – this was no exception – despite less than an hour of the road we were over it by the time we reached the car!

Lunch views from Churinga Head

Hot walking back to the car

Taking the Coast Road home we were pleasantly surprised to find the Albion Rail Bypass has been completed – making it a much clearer run back to Sydney. A great few days in a wonderful part of the world.

41st

Last year – 40th party got Covid’d. Was I going to do anything to make up for my lack of big party last year? Nah, not interested, had been my response to anyone who asked.

But then I went to Nationals this year. Didn’t play. But hung out with lots of friends and remembered why frisbee has been such a big part of my life for over 20 years. The AirBnB trawling started almost as soon as I got home from Nationals. When I found the Goulburn Railway Barracks I knew something had to happen. A tournament without any frisbee was the vibe I was going for.

Unfortunately in the days leading up to the party Sydney had the start of another Covid cluster. Melbourne was on its way out of a lockdown which was causing uncertainty as well. Lost a couple in the week before.

Then lost a couple more on Friday 🙁 I don’t think we appreciate how much peace of mind it gives us NSW residents to travel when we know Gladys will always let us back in.

Friday night – we cracked a magnum of 1995 Penfolds 389 and waited for the guests to arrive. The wine was ok, nothing too amazing – you could argue we were lucky it was drinkable! The Friday night arrivals trickled in, glad to be out of the wild weather most of them had driven down in.

A long time coming for this magnum

There was incomprehension from some about why anyone would want to do parkrun. But with an 8am start (unlike 7am for my local one) why not? The course was along the beautiful Wollondilly River Walkway – a chilly, but still and sunny morning for the 4 of us who braved it. Ant ran there because, you know, 5km isn’t enough. I had claimed I would be walking it, but got about 5 seconds in and informed Annie I was going to jog. And jog I did the entire way – first run without calf issues since the calf tear from February which put me out of Nationals.

Annie & I ran together for the first 3km. Mark passed us on his way back. I yelled out “what time is it?” …..

Somewhat confused look from Mark, while fumbling with his watch.

“Fakultime!”

Oh. Confused look replaced with amusement.

Ant on the brutal uphill finish to the Goulburn parkrun

I would like you to think that since I was taking photos of Ant finishing that I had finished before him. However, for full disclosure after his 20:35 run, he went out for a second (partial) lap. More parkrun photos on the Goulburn parkrun facebook page.

Annie almost finished

parkrunners

After picking up our post-run coffees, it was time for the Quiz. There was hope for a perfect score.

Good Weekend Quiz – 19 June

But today was not our day. We missed questions 8, 11 (though there as a large amount of time spend on remembering the only JM Coetzee title our collective group could think of… only for it not to be the right answer!), 14, 25. Had Disey arrived earlier she would have nailed 25 for us, so maybe we can advance the score from 21 to 22???

Quizzers – 21/25

Post-quiz was herding cats time. Eventually everyone was in a car on the way to Bungonia National Park for a bushwalk. We meandered our way around the Green Track, stopping for lunch at the Adam’s Lookout picnic area where James & Naomi managed to join us. Tom has photos from the bushwalk.

Party people at random lookout over Bungonia Gorge

Back at the Barracks it time for some photo board viewing, and a look at the 41 Questions About Rachel.

There was almost a mutiny as I declared there was no drinking until you were in your costume. However, put the right incentives in front of people and they soon do the right thing.

1980 – 2006 photo pages

2007 – 2021 photo pages

Costumes were duly donned. Drinking licenses were granted.

I think I can say a good time was had by all. It was a sad moment when AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long came on the play list. This song has a special place in the early Wildcarders hearts and in particular takes us to thinking of Nic Footer. We did our best to belt out the Wildcard lyrical variant, and do it justice in Nic’s absence.

The dancers went hard for 2 hours but had to call soft time-cap at midnight, with hard time-cap following after the classic I Will Survive. Some of the non-dancers pushed on well into the wee hours.

Tom has photos on his website of the party.  Though I have nicked the one below to illustrate this post.

Rachel & Tom the party

Tom and his band of kitchen helpers had a production line of ham & cheese croissants and waffles produced for Sunday breakfast. We enjoyed another sunny, still morning in Goulburn (BTW it was miserable in Sydney all weekend), before eventually hitting the road home.

Top weekend had – thanks everyone for coming and getting into the spirit of things.

And for the record the top 5 scores for the 41 Questions:

Crossie 9
Gamble 7
Rosalie 7
Laina 5
Chris 4

The Island and Parr West (12-14 June 2021)

Warring thoughts led into this weekend. I was tired and had lots to do – if it was a normal weekend there would be no question I’d be staying at home. But it was a long weekend – you can’t stay home on a long weekend! Initial discussions were for a 4 day trip, or a 3 day trip (Fri-Sun) to miss the traffic. But with the wet weather hanging around in some areas until Friday we ended up making Friday a life admin day. I was much more comfortable with going away by Friday afternoon having put a serious dent in my to do list during the day.

We still didn’t have an actual plan for the weekend though!

Friday evening is a good time to come up with a plan for a three day trip, leaving the next morning, right? Tom ran me through his idea – it sounded good. Might be a bit of a bludge trip he says. No worries.

The plan was predicated on us getting the car along a fire trail we’d never driven. If that failed, Plan B was nearby – but involved swimming the Colo. I was pretty happy when the fire trail did not provide any real obstacles!

So with a little bit of a navigational challenge to start – working out exactly where we’d parked the car – we set off down our ridge. It was reminiscent of another trip in the same area – pleasant enough day, if you could ignore the cold wind. There’d been rain in the preceding days – both of us nervous after having incidents with large chunks of sandstone breaking off with little force applied.

Tom descending our first ridge

On the way down I quizzed Tom about the various passes in the plan. “They should all be straight-forward.. for Colo passes”. “Do you have a tape?” “Yes, but I’m not expecting to use it on the main route”.

We made it into the creek we were aiming for. “Does this creek have a name?” “Creeky Creek” “Uh, thanks”.

Colour in nature

The creek was fun, as we scrambled our way through a series of tiered cascades. I had more fun than Tom as I was wearing my canyoning shoes which seemed to be handling the slightly damp rocks better than his bushwalking shoes.

First waterfall in our creek

The last waterfall involved some slightly sketchy scrambling on my part – prompting Tom to find an alternative route, but we eventually both made it to the bottom without incident.

Last waterfall in our creek

From there it was a relatively straightforward descent to the junction with the Colo. We could have headed up onto The Island ascent ridge much earlier, but then we wouldn’t have completed Pass 29a. And how can you do a 3-day Colo trip without actually getting to the Colo?

Just to prove we did make it to the Colo during the weekend!

After lunch, loaded up with water to take us through to tomorrow lunch time, we took Pass 28 up to the Island. The initial ascent was fairly continuous scrambling – nothing difficult, but lots of use of hands. We stopped for a breather at a nice lookout part way up.

Views of the Colo from part-way to The Island

Tom looking at views (will become a theme)

The Island summit views were pretty good. And there were some spots where we could have scraped together an acceptable campsite.

Tom at The Island summit

Tom was keen to see if we could find a better cliff-edge/camping combo for his photography so we headed down the north-west ridge. And what do you know? A nice cliff edge next to a relatively flat spot. So then we had to climb back up to the summit to retrieve our packs. So how’s that bludge trip going? 400m descent, 0.5km of slippery creek to negotiate, a 500m ascent, plus that extra descent/ascent/descent at the end of the day – yep, sounds like an easy day 🙂

Tom photographing sunset

Tom taking a short break from photographing to pose

Of course, since Tom had carried in 3kg of camera gear, he was out of bed early to photograph sunrise. Not that getting up for sunrise in winter is particularly taxing.

Small fire for our morning coffee at sunrise

After breakfast we headed up to The Island summit again and this time dropped off to the north-east ridge.

Tom on an impressive rock platform

Tom had initially thought we might have camped at the end last night – I was glad we were just doing it with day packs. While we did find a couple of vantage points for views to the Colo there wasn’t anything spectacular for the serious landscape photographer.

Looking down to the Colo!

Back at our packs for morning tea we continued north. The ridge quickly narrowed in a fairly dramatic fashion. There was a somewhat pathetic cairn on the ridge. It was unclear what it was trying to indicate – that you’d made it onto the ridge? that you should drop off on the right as it was slightly to that side?

The right looked unlikely so we tried the left. It was difficult to work out how many levels we needed to get down. We made it down a couple of levels, I thought that was the tricky stuff worked through. But then I got to the top of another drop which I couldn’t see an easy way off.

Tom having got through the first couple of cliff lines

It was only a 2m drop that was stymieing us – but 2m is enough. So even with Tom’s fancy DEM generated 5m contour map it doesn’t tell you all the answers. After a fair bit of hunting around I managed to find a way down and around. From there the ridge was lovely walking, and in the second saddle we dropped packs. We needed to pick up water and since Clews Cave was in the vicinity it seemed wrong not to visit it.

Clews Cave (apparently).

Tom had been to Clews Cave previously and told me not to expect too much. I asked if there were any historical artefacts. He didn’t think so, but that there might be a log book. Sadly the wine bottle shards in the fire place were not artefacts dating back to Major Clews – I don’t think Saltram wine existed in the 1930s. I didn’t have anything to carry out broken glass in so unfortunately they are still there. But seriously, if you can carry in a bottle of wine, carry the empty out with you! We couldn’t find any logbook, so Tom may have just made that up.

Having loaded up with water for the rest of the trip we headed part way up the next ridge before we had lunch with filtered views.

Great views of The Island

Tom had the good grace to have a sandstone block break under him at a spot with excellent views. Perhaps it was just a ploy to ensure we got a long break to take them all in? Having some time to recover from his fall, and decide he probably just had a very bruised bottom, and some flesh wounds we continued. I figured the measure of how much he’d actually hurt himself would be how far he was willingly to go for views/find a campsite that night.

We found a lovely camping section, next to a rock platform with ok views part way along the ridge to Parr West. But Tom wasn’t having a bar of it – the goal was to get to Parr West so we pushed on. Sympathy for his injuries immediately turned down.

Once on the Parr West summit we found a flat camping spot, and a nice protruding boulder for views. Sold!

There at 3pm (ok, maybe the bludge factor is coming to the fore now), meant we could have an afternoon cuppa. Then torn between the two lookouts we found, we decided to have two happy hours – one at each. Sunset was speccy.

Camp night 2 on Parr West

Happy hour spot #1

Happy hour spot #2

That night, we concluded that dehydrated bolognaise and pasta, with fresh zucchini was a very poor choice for a high camp. Dinner was a complicated affair, juggling limited amounts of water (yes, starchy pasta water can go back into rehydrating bolognaise), limited cooking receptacles and limited containers full stop. Once it was all cooked it was delicious – and hey, what else would we be doing with our evening.

Similar to happy hour, the next morning we had our hot drinks at one lookout, and progressed to breakfast at the other. It’s a tough life.

Sunrise spot #1

Sunrise spot #2

Post breakfast we headed west off Parr West with day packs to look for cliff edge views. There wasn’t much in the way of clear views, but you never know till you go. Back at camp, we just had a series of twisting ridges to navigate back to the car. Third day – definitely a bludge day. We ate lunch at morning tea so that we didn’t go home with the remains of a manky avocado.

Tom on yet another cliff looking at yet more views

Afternoon tea in Windsor on a sunny winter public holiday was a bit crazy.

However, we finished the day feeling immensely smug at our choice of location. The traffic news had every arterial road into Sydney with traffic issues (including a horse prancing on the road in Canterbury causing havoc!?), and we just cruised home with no issues. A wonderful, if slightly bludgey, weekend in the bush.

Wanganderry Walls (5-6 June 2021)

With three birthdays in four weeks it was a good chance to revisit Wanganderry Walls almost a year to the day since we first visited.

Tom with Bonnum Pic in the background

Easy walking on the rocky tops

Smiffy & Toni through an arch

Yup, this will do for happy hour

More cliffs during the golden hour

Vivien & Tom checking out the views

Happy hour begins – smoked salmon & horseradish sour cream crackers

Happy hour continues – the healthy stuff 🙂

I should point out in case anyone thinks we’ve gone conservative on happy hour that there was a lot more to come (including Thai pork meatballs with dipping sauce as well as an olive bread) – I just didn’t photograph the rest. As usual no dinner was required!

It was a nice sunset

Happy hour

Lingering light

Mt Colong

Cake time!

Walking out the next day

Chewings Range (15-29 May 2021) – Week 2

If you missed Week 1 you can find it here.

Originally Roger had suggested Day 8 could have a late start from Ormiston to enable coffee purchases from the kiosk when it opened at 10am. However with a hot day forecast and most of us feeling the effects of the hot day yesterday we were keen to get moving earlier rather than later.

The signage at the start of the Pound Walk advised a “cold swim” was necessary via the gorge side so by 8am we had started retracing our steps on the eastern section of the Pound Track. This time we followed it until we met Ormiston Creek, then followed Ormiston Creek most of the way to Giles (SW) Spring where we camped. On the one hand this was an easier day as we had a relaxed pace with plenty of breaks. On the other we were fully laden with another 7 days of food, and feeling the cumulative effects of a week of fairly hard walking. While there were plenty of pools in Ormiston Creek most of them were rapidly being overtaken by algae and it was our most problematic drinking water day of the trip.

Heading back to Mt Giles with fully laden packs

Things for day 9 were a little up in the air as a rock Robert stood on split and he landed heavily on his shoulder. Given the difficulty he had in getting his shirt on the next morning he elected to skip a few days of our route and make his way directly to Bowmans Gap. For those continuing on the planned route this was our earliest start of the trip – leaving camp at 7am.

We encountered another group of bushwalkers shortly after leaving camp – at the base of the Mt Giles ridge. They were from the Blue Mountains, and included Andy Macqueen – author of the book Tom had brought to read. After exchanging pleasantries we continued along the undulating foot of the massif to Upper Oasis Springs. Our biggest ascent of the trip awaited us – Roger had allowed three hours but we were all on top in just over two, in time for lunch. I was very glad of the cooling breeze!

Climbing onto the Giles Massif

And then down the other side!

The ascent had mainly been an exercise in fitness, whereas the descent required a few more technical skills. From Termite Saddle we negotiated a scree slope punctuated with spinifex – only one spinifex clump was firmly sat on (not by my bottom!). Once we’d got down that there was a rocky, steep down climb in the creek, including a section where most passed packs. A relatively large rock was dislodged by items attached to the outside of one of the packs but fortunately no one was directly in its path.

From there Pat’s Canyon creek turned more canyon-y before we were stymied by a (expected) waterfall. The climb out and subsequent descent on the ridge to camp was highly concentration-demanding and quite draining after a fairly long day. The ridge was steep, loose but also covered in spinifex – so the challenge was to keep your footing while not getting pricked by more spinifex than you could help. It was with great relief we all made it into camp without any particular incidents – though the tweezers were justifying their inclusion!

The down was slightly more tricky than the up

But also had more interesting features

Tom above the final descent to camp

We made it!

I think most of us had been hanging on to the idea of getting to the Canyon of Defiance campsite as the plan was to stay here for 3 nights. The prospect of not having to carry a full pack – and indeed not having to go anywhere if you didn’t want to – was a relief after 9 days in beautiful but rough terrain. Raf specifically requested that our start time on day 10 would be late enough that we didn’t have to get up in the dark! Fortunately Roger had already decided on an 8am start and since we didn’t need to pack up a 7am wake-up to coincide with sunrise was perfect.

Everyone headed up the ridge with the intention of visiting “Alexa’s Reach” in the Canyon of Defiance. As far as Roger knew this was only the second time bushwalkers had entered this section of the canyon. Stephen decided by the time we’d picked our way up the loose slopes that a rest day was looking a better option so he headed back to camp. The rest of us descended the steep gully Roger had found after many hours of searching on his previous trip. We followed Alexa’s Reach upstream and managed to negotiate a couple of obstacles, including one which had stymied Roger previously. Surprisingly we had a bit of rain during the day – it evaporated so quickly it wasn’t much of an issue, except for making the rocks more slippery on our return trip down the canyon!

We decided getting down the two drops between Alexa’s Reach and Meg’s Reach was beyond the gear we had. And so we climbed out and dropped into a different gully to access Meg’s Reach. First we headed upstream to the spot we could see from Alexa’s Reach and then downstream – hopeful of finding a way to continue all the way through to camp. Alan found a wriggle under a large chockstone which allowed us to do exactly that which was very satisfying.

Canyon of Defiance – the bottom end of “Alexa’s Reach” looking into “Meg’s Reach”

Tom & Raf taking different routes over the water

Tom & Roger taking different routes up a chockstone block-up

The Balcony

Views into the Canyon of Defiance

Raf & Tom taking in the views

Alan & Roger taking different routes around another pool

Tom at the upper end of “Meg’s Reach” looking up to “Alexa’s Reach”

Tom bridging while Roger & Raf look on

The connecting link allowing us to exit “Meg’s Reach” and continue downstream to camp

Down climb below the gap

The weather changed that evening – the previous night had been very warm, but a cool change and gusty wind gave most of us a very unpleasant night. At one point during the night when Tom got up to I was wondering whether my weight would be sufficient to stop the tent from blowing away! The weather put paid to our plans to stay another day in the same spot. Instead we headed round to Pat’s Canyon to see if we could find the rock arch and how far we could climb up it (not very), and then we packed up and headed across the plains.

In the end the walking was pretty straight-forward so we hit the waterhole on the creek Roger was aiming for after about an hour. So, it was still a rest day of sorts – the weather wasn’t conducive for doing much except hiding in the tent. I wasn’t the only one who had an afternoon nap to make up for lack of sleep the night before. The evening (or at least our campspot) was fairly calm so we had a nice evening – though the lunar eclipse was by and large obscured by a thick layer of clouds. What are your chances? In the best place in the world to watch a lunar eclipse and the only night in 13 where there is thick cloud…

Rock arch in Pat’s Canyon

Some days are crossword days

A more protected campsite than the Canyon of Defiance one (we hoped!)

Possibly Acacia tetragonophylla?

Roger & Raf hoping the clouds will clear so we can watch the lunar eclipse

Most of us had the best night’s sleep we’d had in days! Feeling refreshed we continued along the creek eventually making our way onto the north west ridge leading to the Red Wall. It was very windy on top but we found a somewhat sheltered area for morning tea and enjoyed the views (all the cloud was gone – of course). I thought the day might be a bit of a drag doing a high traverse in the wind, but after we dropped onto the Red Wall proper we seemed to be in the lee of it and the day was quite pleasant.

By mid-afternoon we were looking over the edge of a large waterfall at the top of 13 Pools Creek. This appeared to be something of a budgie highway as squadrons of budgies regularly came racing up the fall and along the creek narrowly missing our heads. It was quite exhilarating to watch them (if impossible to photograph).

The traverse around the top of the creek was impressive and, as we had come to expect, a steep ridge descent amidst spinifex to get to camp. We were pleased to find Robert and Alan waiting for us at Bowmans Gap and have the party reunited. Unfortunately the windy conditions persisted so it was an early night for everyone.

Tom on the north-west corner of the Red Wall

Roger leading the way to the Red Wall

What are they looking at?

An impressive drop in 13 Pools Creek

Yet another steep ridge descent to get to camp

Camp in Bowmans Gap

Tucked into a depression to try and get out of the wind

We were effectively a day ahead of schedule which gave us the luxury of two nights in the same place. That meant our penultimate day only involved day packs – firstly exploring 13 Pools Creek from the bottom, and then in the afternoon a visiting an “attractive little gorge” Robert had found while recuperating and waiting for us to turn up. Additionally Roger, Tom & I hopped over into the next creek upstream which had some interesting scrambling in it and made for a good afternoon of adventuring.

Some of the pools in 13 Pools Creek

At the base of the large waterfalls in 13 Pools Creek

Exploring some small creeks near camp

Somehow we’d made to day 14. For a few days Tom had been promoting the idea of doing the “cold swim” in Ormiston Gorge, rather than walking the same section of the Pound Track for a third time. I was pleasantly surprised to find my packliner appeared to be waterproof so I packed with the intention of swimming as well. Despite Raf’s aversion to cold water it didn’t take much convincing for him to bring his pack on our foray into Ormiston Gorge in case the swim looked doable. The others left their packs at the track junction.

Roger, at least, was disappointed when we found that the “swim” was in fact a chest deep wade. It was a pretty full-on reintroduction to society as we caught up with 2 x 20+ tour groups just before we got to the gorge crossing. They set up a pack passing line and got everyone across – including Raf – though he didn’t manage to slip his overnight pack into their overhead passing line! Tom & I on the other hand decided to wait until the chaos had cleared and cross by ourselves – that didn’t stop the tour leader giving me lots of helpful (and unwanted) tips as I was doing it.

The start of the final day

A rude reintroduction to society – two large tour groups

Once they’ve cleared the gorge we can pretend we’re by ourselves again!

Interesting to contrast the water levels with those from Smiffy & Toni’s trip in 2016.

Beautiful Ormiston Gorge

So Tom, Raf & I had an easy saunter into Ormiston Gorge for lunch, and the others arrived a couple of hours later. A great trip through rough country – Roger’s knowledge and preparation meant we got to see all the good stuff!

Chewings Range (15-29 May 2021) – Week 1

In May 2021 we joined Roger Browne and a few others on a SBW trip to the Chewings Range. It was the first time we’d been in the West MacDonnells since we did the Larapinta Trail way back in 2007. We managed to lose a party member (bad back) before we even got on the bus out of Alice Springs so that wasn’t a great start. 2021 had been unusually wet in the red centre, with considerable rainfall in January, which meant there were plenty of grasses, flowers, butterflies and birds – as well as water – to delight us.

Our first day started from the Ochre Pits and was designed to get us to the Chewings Range as quickly as possible. With full packs, it was a relatively long day. The highlight was Pioneer Pass – where we encountered an over waist-deep pool pretty early on. Roger gamely went in to check just how deep it was but we hadn’t come with packs waterproofed so there wasn’t much enthusiasm for going through the pool. Fortunately Tom found a relatively straightforward bypass on the right which kept us dry.

Starting off through a field of purple flowers

An unexpected deep pool in Pioneer Pass

Tom finds a nifty route around the pool

After a long day of walking with heavy packs we are glad to make camp

On day 2 we did a bit of exploring of the nearby gorges. The main goal was to identify the spot where the photo on page 48 from Henry Gold & Frank Rigby’s book “The MacDonnell Ranges” was taken.

Exploring some nearby gorges the next morning

Roger & the spot from p48 of the book

We’d left our tents up as surprisingly there was a fair bit of condensation on the tents overnight. So after we’d packed up we followed the base of the range (not as flat as you might think) around to a creek junction with good water. Unfortunately the campsites weren’t great but we were coming to realise that the bar for a campsite in Central Australia is somewhat lower than in other areas we walk regularly.

Setting out with full packs after our morning of exploring

I don’t think barbed wire was in the hazards list!

Tom & I score the plumb campsite on night 2!

there were lots of birds & butterflies about thanks to the rain earlier in the year

Day 3 had us ascending Diagonal Gorge. The lower section was full of prickly acacia but it soon gave way to an attractive middle section with numerous dryfalls and lots of scrambling. By lunchtime we were at the saddle where we planned to camp – a surprisingly good campsite. Though at least two party members had experienced close encounters with the spinifex on the ascent so the tweezers got a bit of a workout.

Early morning reflections & Tom

A gully full of evil acacia

The creek gets rocky and so no more acacia (for the day at least)

Diagonal Gorge had some very attractive sections

The team scrambling around a pool

Our campsite in the saddle between Diagonal Gorge & Portals Gorge

After lunch most of us went to explore the upper section of Portals Gorge. There was a lovely section of canyon before we got to the top of a 10m drop (it was definitely 10m as we used our tape, and a walking pole to measure it!). The keener people then climbed out and around to drop in further down and managed to work our way back up to below another drop – so maybe 70m of the gorge that we couldn’t access. Then we headed downstream till we were stopped by another drop – though this one we could probably have got around if there’d been a real need to. As it was it was time to head back to camp.

Exploring upper Portals Gorge

Tom below a couple of drops we can’t get through directly

The iconic ghost gum of Portals Canyon

Everyone else was sufficiently worn out so Tom & I didn’t get any takers to climb up the hill next to camp to watch sunset. It was a pretty good one!

Sunset

Tom & sunset

The wind had come up overnight so packing up on day 4 was fraught with danger – much care needed to ensure nothing blew away. Unfortunately the wind persisted through the morning so we weren’t able to truly appreciate the views as we wandered along the range. After morning tea we had a challenging loose, steep descent to wind our way eventually to Portals Canyon.

Day 4 we head up on to the range. Unfortunately it’s very windy.

The views are pretty spectacular though!

We took a fairly steep, loose route down from the tops

Tom at camp outside Portals Gorge

With the threats of freezing swims only Roger, Tom & I braved Portals Canyon. Roger had specifically carried in a wetsuit & his KT26s, while Tom & I had brought our canyoning shoes and opted for our usual the-less-clothing-is-warmer approach. Portals Canyon was spectacular – though we kept waiting for the swims to materialise. I managed to bridge over one deep wade, and wasn’t that disappointed to find there was only one compulsory swim of about 6m high in the lower section. We guessed that debris had washed into the lower pools turning them into wades – for the moment at least!

Now this is what we’re here for!

Tom in Portals (Freezing) Canyon/Gorge

Not sure that method of stashing a camera dry bag is going to catch on…

Ascending Portals Canyon

Our single swim

We made it as far as the point where we’d got to the previous afternoon, and spent a bit of time looking at the options for forcing our way up. Apparently some parties are so cold having gone through the canyon they can’t bear the thought of the return journey and climb out and down the ridge. None of us had any desire to do the ridge again and were more than happy to enjoy the return journey through the canyon – I appreciate we probably had warmer conditions than normal.

Ascending to just below the Ghost Gum we visited the day before

While we’d been exploring Portals the others had been around to False Gorge. Raf mentioned they’d been stopped by a pool – which was like waving a red rag at a bull. Despite it being 4pm I immediately suggested to Tom we should go visit since we’d be happy to go through the pool. I was somewhat disappointed to find that it was not just a pool that stopped them – but a 20m waterfall on the other side of the pool!

False Gorge

The main camp at Portals

Sun on the Portals ridges

By day 5 the packs were feeling lighter as we set off around the base of the Portals Massif in some of the easiest walking conditions we had. We climbed across the low point of the ridge, descended to then immediately ascend a different ridge and find ourselves at Upper Giles Yard Spring. There were lots of pools of somewhat questionable quality just above the main drop, and better quality further up. Tom & I went for an explore further up the creek in the afternoon – and enjoyed finding a shady gorge to relax in. There wasn’t a lot of shade as most of the trees had burnt in the fires a couple of years earlier.

Some easy cross country the next morning

Termite mounds & funky clouds

Upper Giles Yard Spring

Exploring Upper Giles Yard Spring

The luxury of a (not very warm) wash

Our sixth day was one of the best traverses I have done. It was a fairly hard day with quite a lot of up and down on the rocky ridge, with some interesting scrambling along knife-edge sections. The views were great, the walking was interesting, and we found the lone surviving tree so that we had shade at lunchtime.

Starting a spectacular traverse the next morning

One of the narrower sections of the traverse of the Giles Massif

Tom & Raf

Morning tea exposure

Raf at the top of the chute

Roger looking on as Robert & Tom ascend the chute

One of many flowers

The only tree (& therefore shade) on the whole traverse. Great spot for lunch!

We made it to Mt Giles by early afternoon. Robert & Alan decided to head down and camp at the bottom which left the rest of us to draw straws for the camp sites. I got lucky and got first choice so Tom & I had the prime campsite. The sunset was one of the best I think I’ve seen… All in all it was a great day.

Mt Giles

We draw the long straw and got the prime campsite

This is the life

Room with a view

Sunset was spectacular

It was amazing

We had a fairly long day into Ormiston on day 7. Roger was keen for an early start, so the alarm was set for 5:10am. Eek! Tom & I stuck round a bit longer than the others at the top to wait for the sun to actually rise (and take photos!) before joining everyone at the bottom by 8:30am. After filling up water at Giles (SW) Spring we then had a fast march towards the Pound Track. It was the hottest day to date and we were all glad of some shade at lunchtime. It was a pretty hot, weary party that eventually made it into Ormiston – though the motivation to keep up the pace was definitely there since the kiosk closed at 4pm. It was a very quiet group as we sat round inhaling ice creams and iced coffees.

Sunrise wasn’t bad either

Mt Giles in the early morning light

Once was spinifex

At the end of a long, hot day on the Pound Walk into Ormiston to resupply

Mentally it felt like this should be a chance for a rest – but it wasn’t – there was the opportunity for a shower but then it was time to sort through our food drops, eat 5 avocados (if that’s what you’d packed in your drop!?) and get to bed since it was going to be another hot day tomorrow.

Week 2 is here.

1 2 3 4 11