Monday, December 31, 2012

Western Arthurs, South West Tasmania

SUMMARY - Western Arthurs, Tasmania
From Port Davey Track carpark to Junction Creek, Alpha Morraine, Western Arthurs and Kappa Morraine.
Duration 6 days
Location South West Tasmania
National Park South West National Park (note there is no mention of Western Arthurs on their website)
Start Port Davey trailhead carpark, just south of Scotts Peak Dam
Day 1 Carpark to Junction Creek (3h). Recommended time: 2-3 hours

Junction Creek to Lake Cygnus (4h30m, total 8h15m). Recommended time: 3h30m-5h
Day 2 Lake Cygnus to Lake Oberon (4hrs). Recommended time: 2-3 hours
Day 3 Lake Oberon to High Moor (8h). Recommended time: 5-7 hours
Day 4 High Moor to Haven Lake (8h20m). Recommended time: 4-6 hours
Day 5 Haven Lake to Two Mile Creek, via Kappa Morraine and McKays Track (2h45m to Kappa Morraine junction. Recommended time 1h30m-2h30m. Total time 8h30m)
Day 6 Two Mile Creek to Carpark trailhead, via Junction Creek (4h)
If before I had set out on a trek along the Western Arthurs, someone had asked me a simple question, "Do you like rock climbing?", I might have thought more about tackling this difficult hike. The answer, you see, to that question, would be "no".

I don't mind rock climbing, but I certainly don't love it (or even like it?). I didn't hate the hike - it was exhilarating - more a case that I didn't realise just how much rock climbing there was. Of course I knew there were difficult sections involving scrambling, and possibly ropes, I had read enough guidebooks, articles and blogs to know that, but I underestimated just how much rock climbing there was. A solid two days of the six contained this, and a lot of it.

During the most dreadful weather, a bit of me wanted to get off that mountain range, and quickly. No wait, I lie, all of me wanted to get off asap, we were in the most exposed campsite - at High Moor, and it was a difficult day's hike either backward or forward to reach an exit off the range. By dreadful weather I mean some kinda squall. We had 3G service earlier that day and had checked the weather forecast: light winds and some showers. That forecast was soon questioned though when we saw a solid block of cloud approaching at speed in the valley well beneath us, indeed, we could see over the top of the cloud formation. It looked pretty solid, and visibility soon dropped as the cloud ramped up over the range enveloping it. Soon the rains began, turning to fierce horizontal rain. Not pleasant for hiking in, but even less pleasant for camping in. It was a true test for each of our hiking tents, and one I'm afraid neither stood up too well in. Fierce horizontal rain has a way of working its way into a tent, these single pole tents just didn't have enough defences.

Regardless, we were safe: warm and dry. The leaks in each tent could be contained. When we reached camp we hurriedly set up our tents and crawled in, drenched to the bone. In lulls in the wind we shouted out to each other, "Tim, are you in dry clothes?", "Tim, are you warm?", "Tim, is your tent holding up?". Next time I tackle a hike in South West Tasmania it will be in better tent: something with three poles, a fly that sits lower to the ground (that gap was the source of the water leaks), and probably a shared tent, something like 2.5-3.5kg I suspect (not the 1.5kg tents we each had).

The hiking was difficult, the first day showed us that. Accustomed to being fast hikers, we were alarmed to do the first section at the upper limit of the recommeded time. Two to three hours was the recommended time, we did it in three hours. This pattern continued - even alarmingly, got worse - we completed some days in longer than the recommended maximum time - 8.5 hours for one 4 to 6 hour section. Others we met hiking were doing similar times. I had read of others doing similar times too, but in all those cases I figured they were fat (oh really), not so fit, or weighed down by two litre bottles of coke.

The rock climbing was a real challenge. Scaling wet rock walls, climbing down rocky chutes. Tree roots were a real life saver. They're not the wisest thing to stake your safety and weight on, they can easily break or pull out, any read of a guidebook for the South West will warn you of that. But they were well used, and without them the climbs up and down would be impossible. Of course it paid to be extra careful not to step onto them, a foothold sure, but they could be slippery. I couple of times I resorted to getting my rope out, tying my pack to it, and dropping it down beneath me. It scratched my pack and its contents up a lot, but it was well worth it. Without my pack on, I had no trouble with the rock climbing. Carrying a 19kg pack on your back does somewhat dent your rock climbing confidence!

Despite it being a challenge, Tim and I are level-headed chaps, so it was all good. Tim lead on the climbing, but I took heart from a memory of the two of us working on a rooftop of the shed at Biggs Flat. We'd climbed atop, and I remember turning around to see him sitting straddling the ridge, with me wandering up and down on foot. Give me a structure I understand, I'm happy wandering around at height. Not so for Tim, but give him a cliff or a tree, no worries. Each day's hike was rewarding, I'm just not sure I'm ready just yet to again tackle the two days between Lake Oberon and High Moor, and the Beggary Bumps between High Moor and Haven Lake.

The Beggary Bumps had us scared. The day before, from Lake Oberon to High Moor, was the first of the very difficult days, with lots of rock climbing. It barely rated a mention in the guidebooks in comparison to the ominous Beggary Bumps, how impossibly hard was that going to make the following day on the Bumps?!? Alas, our fearful impression put us in good stead for the Bumps, it was no more difficult than that Lake Oberon to High Moor section, but just as rewarding.

We sometimes got a little lost. John Chapman's guidebook, South West Tasmania, easily had the best track notes. But the guidebook, although in it's fifth edition, is still well out of date. It frequently refers to track conditions that seem very different to what we saw. We were surprised by how much track work has been done by the Parks & Wildlife Service, especially outside the Lake Oberon to Haven Lake section. In areas across the moors there is either boardwalk or laid stones, avoiding what would have once been a very muddy track. Each campsite had timber tent platforms, and fly-in fly-out toilet capsules. Near Haven Lake we noticed that the rock had been cut away to form perfect footholds, making scrambling dead easy. Marker arrows made other areas easy to follow. John Chapman's guidebook makes no mention of these, it warns of hard to follow routes where there is now a clear track, and multiple false leads where there are none, just a clear track. There are still false leads, we sometimes went down routes which looked well trodden, to find they went no-where at the bottom, or top, and so we had to return back to the main track. My advice would be to always examine the track, to assess how walked on it was. If too few feet seemed to have passed along it, almost certainly it is a false lead and not the actual track - so return right then and find the actual track, it's often quite obvious where you went wrong as you backtrack.

Apart from one afternoon, night and short morning of mental weather, we had excellent weather. Some cloudy, some sunny, always changing, as the weather on mountain tops is wont to do.

Our bodies were hurting, the weather and our tents spooked us, so we elected to get off the Western Arthurs range at Kappa Morraine. It would save us one further day on the range, and two further days of hiking. My arms were pretty sore on this hike, and I suffered numerous supersized blue and black bruises from falls.

We ate well, this being the first trip I had dehydrated all the meals for. We had plenty of Indian (Saag Lamb is a real winner), and spaghetti bolognase and chilli con carne. For lunch pesto was delicious spread on crackers. Gotta get more into this dehydrating thing, sweet meals, easy as, and quick to cook on the trail.

Would I do the hike again? At the time, during those two difficult days between Lake Oberon and Haven Lake, I definitely thought not. This was easily the hardest hike I had ever done. I've done remote, and long, and with water challenges, difficult to navigate, but never this degree of rock climbing. But having said that, and that I don't really enjoy rock climbing, each day was still rewarding, I didn't need to wait to the end of the hike to appreciate that. I'd like to explore some more of the Western Arthurs, and indeed the South West National Park, perhaps a Southern Ranges Traverse, an almost circuit via Lune River, Mt La Perouse, Hidden Waterfall, New River, Precipitous Bluff, the South Coast Track and Cockle Creek.

View photo album in Google Plus (47 photos).

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Download GPS files

Hike along the Western Arthurs from Alpha Morraine to Kappa Morraine.
Available as GPX files (for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit) and KML files (for viewing in Google Earth).
  • Carpark trailhead to Junction Creek: GPX | KML
  • Junction Creek to Lake Cygnus, via Alpha Morraine: GPX | KML
  • Lake Cygnus to Lake Oberon: GPX | KML
  • Lake Oberon to High Moor: GPX | KML
  • High Moor to Haven Lake: GPX | KML
  • Haven Lake to Kappa Morraine Junction: GPX | KML
  • Kappa Morraine Junction to carpark, via McKays Track and Junction Creek: GPX | KML

Monday, September 17, 2012

Black Magic on Wilpena Pound's Peaks

A bushfire back in January cleared the way for us to tackle some of Wilpena Pound's peaks - this time Mt Karawarra, Point Bonney and Tumburru Peak. Previously the vegetation was so dense it was a difficult 1km/h, but now that fire had blackened the landscape we could get in.
SUMMARY - Wilpena Pound peaks
Duration3 days
Start/endWilpena Pound Resort/General Store
FridayWilpena to Hills Homestead for water, on to base (1h45m). Base to Mt Karawarra (1109m) and return 4 hours
SaturdayBase camp to Point Bonney (1133m) 2 hrs, along ridge to Tumburru Peak 1hr, return to base camp via deep gorge 4 hrs
National ParkFlinders Ranges National Park

We weren't certain how much had been burnt, despite the fire maps we had, or how clear the vegetation now was. Numerous previous trips had shown that the vegetation on the Pound walls, including on this southern side, meant walking was slowed to 1km/h and was tough going.

From the pound floor it took 90 minutes to reach the summmit of Mt Karawarra, despite the burnt vegetation not being as extensive as the fire map detailed. It wasn't until the following day, when looking at Mt Karawarra from Point Bonney, did we really appreciate just how steep Mt Karawarra really was.

We base camped on the pound floor, enjoying each other's company each night. We shared stories around our small fire, and exchanged gear talk (a favourite of hiker's everywhere). Tim mixed and baked a carrot cake on his wood burning emberlit, promising a self-saucing chocolate cake next time! We shared wine, crackers and blue cheese. Inadvertently we later shared the blue cheese with an inquisitive wallaby or goat, but they showed no interest in our rocket and basil dip.

On the second day we climbed up Point Bonney, skipping past Iluka Hill, saving it for another day. Simon and Vicki had previously climbed it, it was a relatively easy climb from the outside. It's true, I had been up it twice before, and failed in both attempts due to time constraints, but this time it was better left for later. At the summit of Point Bonney we found the logbook, with just 32 entries over 20 years. One entry from this year, one from 2010, one from 2008, 2006 and 2003. That dense vegetation kept people away.

The rock slab cliffs beneath the peak were enormous and dramatic, and a stark contrast to the gentler slopes inside the pound. We lunched at Tumburru Peak overlooking the cliffs.

Walking down from Tumburru Peak we descended quickly to a creek below, pushing our way through the burnt out sticks of the vegetation. It's hard to imagine getting through this vegetation at all prior to the fire. We dropped into a deep gorge we had been eyeing off for a while. It had escaped the fire, was shielded by high rock walls and filled with boulders and rock pools. Kate nearly stepped on a colourful long snake, which wasn't particularly aggressive, and later identification from parks staff confirmed it as a carpet snake.

On Sunday we walked back out from our base camp, partaking in more than one icecream on our journey home, spending an pleasant hour in the courtyard of the Cradock Hotel for lunch.

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Download GPX file of the Mt Karawarra, Point Bonney and Tumburru Peak hike - for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit
Download KML file of the Mt Karawarra, Point Bonney and Tumburru Peak hike - view in Google Earth

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

25 hours hiking? Why not!

A 25-hour hiking race? Why not! We'd done a 12-hour and 6-hour rogaine, so now a 25-hour challenge. Rogaining is a team sport which involves cross country navigation and strategy. This time it was up in the forest and scrub of Wirrabara and Kate joined our team, bringing along her navigation prowess.
Rogaine, Wirrabara Forest

Our route marked with a red line (we travelled clockwise).
View larger map
While studying the map and planning our route in the hours before the rogaine, I made the comment that the scrub near the ridge line was, from memory, pretty thick. A big bushfire had burnt through much of the area in May, so we were hoping this would have cleared some of the dense ridge. It had, leaving a loose, sandy and rocky surface that was still hard to climb. Not all was clear though, through the untouched native scrub we managed about 1km/h, and gained lots of scratches for our efforts. We were pretty relieved when we finally made the ridge with its road!

On our way through the scrub, we spied a girl waiting on a distant hill, apparently for the rest of her team. But not so, over the other side some ten minutes later, we found a single person – this is a team sport btw – asking whether we might have seen a girl in a blue top! We had of course, but on the other side of the hill. A wee bit silly that they got separated, we met up with them later that night and they had spent an hour and a half finding each other.

We tackled the higher ridge and scrub in the daylight first, returning after dark via the lower forest with its gentle hills, open forest and easy to navigate service tracks.

A couple of the controls (point markers) were over the other side of the ridge, which meant climbing back up to the ridge again afterwards. That was a bit tough! At one control, number 71, we spent some time discussing where we thought we were, and each of our interpretations of the topographic map. Down we went, but we certainly weren’t coming back up the same way, pleasantly open that it was, we skirted across the side of the ridge to another track.

Seven hours into the rogaine we watched the sun set from the ridgeline, exchanging tips with teams coming the other way.

In the darkness we descended off the ridge and back into the forest, armed with our head torches of various brightnesses, and the full moon. At the furthest point from the Hash House – the base of the rogaine – we sat down at a picnic table on the summit of Mt Ellen and had a moonlit picnic. From here we trundled back to the Hash House, thinking of the enormity of our plan which still required a three-hour walk back to the Hash House base when we were dead tired.

At 2am we sat down for some hot food and in front of the warm fire at the Hash House in Wirrabara’s old schoolhouse.

Armed with four hours sleep, and with the warm sun up, we returned to our rogaining. This time we planned a shorter route, with more options to return early - and most of all - an easy walking route. We were back at ten past 11 in the morning, with 50 minutes to spare. We weren’t keen to climb a nearby scrub hill to fill our last 50 minutes, we were all limping in one form or another.

We scored 1760 points, covering 63km, and came 7th overall, and 4th in the mixed category. We spent 15 hours on Saturday, 11am to 2am (49km), and 3 hours out on Sunday morning (14km).

View all results on the SA Rogaining website.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Nakun Kungun Trail, Coorong

Looking. Listening. These are the catchcry words of the Nakun Kungun Trail, a 27km hiking trail through the Coorong.
SUMMARY - Nakun Kungun Trail, Coorong (sometimes spelt Nukan Kungun) - a two day weekend hike with the Adelaide Bushwalkers (ABW)
TrailheadsSalt Creek in the north, 42 Mile Crossing picnic area/campsite in the south
Friday night campsiteCampsites at the northern end of Loop Road, 1km from Salt Creek
SaturdayCampsite (near northern end of Loop Road) to free-camp near the southern end of Loop Road - 13km/5hrs
SundayLoop Road to 42 Mile Crossing picnic area, with sidetrip further out to Coorong beach (9.5km/2.5hrs + 3.2km)
National ParkCoorong National Park
Nearest townSalt Creek, consisting of petrol station
CampsitesOfficial campsite near Salt Creek (toilet in picnic area) and 42 Mile Crossing (toilets in picnic area). Free camping permitted along trail.

Saturday morning our walk leader, Kate, spotted a Mallee Fowl, or possibly, as she conceded, “a wild chicken”. It seemed most likely to be the Mallee Fowl, endemic to this area, there were plenty of interpretive signs about them. Tellingly perhaps, no-one else saw the encounter. Kate was, as a birdwatching expert, her own downfall. On the drive home she spotted a similar creature scurrying near the roadside, and upon consulting her bird book deemed it to be hen of some sort (she did know the sort, I just don’t recall it).

Invitations to explore one of the many large wombat holes to find their happy inhabitants were quietly declined. No matter, eventually we came across a shy wombat, who had curiously made its burrow under some timber decking at an historic site. It would seem not many people passed this way, despite this particular area being signposted from the bitumen road.

Later we spotted an echidna, who shyly crawled under a bush and curled into a ball.

We saw many birds, including hooded red robins playing on fences, but not being on the shore, few pelicans.

So our looking and listening did pay off.

What we didn’t see was much of the Coorong. Although the trail follows the Coorong it does so at a quiet distance, only at its very southern end does it venture near the sand dunes or the shore line. There it also makes its passage over the water via the 42 Mile Crossing.

On Saturday, after setting up our campsite near the southern end of Loop Road, we set off bush bashing to find the illusive Coorong shore. In windy conditions we found the body of water choppy, and far too wide to attempt to cross.

On Sunday, beyond the picnic area at 42 Mile Crossing we battled the wind and brief driving rain to cross the seemingly endless dunes to reach the coast. The waves were being lashed by the wind and the strong waves were eroding the beach. It was, as this beach often is, spectacular.

We were disappointed that following the trail meant we infrequently visited or caught glimpses of the Coorong and its distant sand dunes, but the looking and listening was rewarded with some great wildlife sightings. For the most part the trail passes between the main bitumen highway and the dirt Loop Road, with the Coroong water and iconic Younghusband Peninsula further west. Only infrequently did we hear or catch glimpses of the roads. The trail passes beside many shallow lakes, which are separate from the main Coorong water body. During drier times these would be dry salt pans.

The trail is reasonably well maintained, and is signposted, but isn’t well travelled, so occasionally we did loose sight of the trail. Doing so wasn’t unpleasant, the areas were often covered with fine green grass. Often when we misplaced the trail we followed the tyre prints from a recent ATV vehicle, presumably from a maintenance ranger. Without that I think we would have spent much more time wandering the scrub.

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Download GPX file of the Nakun Kungun Trail (corrected) - for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit
Download KML file of the Nakun Kungun Trail (corrected) - view in Google Earth

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finishing off the Larapinta Trail

Two years ago I had to pull out of completing the 233km Larapinta Trail though the West MacDonnell Ranges, west of Alice Springs. I returned mid last year to finish off the eastern half, but wildfires closed the trail, so we occupied ourselves with other hikes. Now, for a third - and successful - attempt, I tackled the more challenging section of the Larapinta Trail.
SUMMARY - Larapinta Trail, Ellery Creek to Alice Springs Telegraph Station (Sections 6 to 1)
Previous trip Redbank Gorge to Ellery Creek (Sections 12-7), 2010
National Park West MacDonnell National Park
Location West MacDonnell Ranges, west of Alice Springs
Start Ellery Creek (Section 6/7 Trailhead)
End Alice Springs Telegraph Station (Section 1 Trailhead)
Time 6 days
Distance 138km
Day 1 Ellery Creek to Rocky Gully (Section 6), 4h20m 15.2km
Day 2 Rocky Gully to Fringe Lily (Section 6/5), 7h40m 23.6km
Day 3 Fringe Lily to Brinkley Bluff (Section 5/4), 8h5m 17.0km
Day 4 Brinkley Bluff to Jay Creek (Section 3/2), 9h15m 23.4km
Day 5 Jay Creek to Simpsons Gap (just west of) (Section 2), 6h15m 27km
Day 6 Simpsons Gap to Alice Springs Telegraph Station (Section 1) to nearby caravan pak, 6h15m 27.2km

When you've done half a trail, you think you've got a good feel for it. I'm not sure I had with this one, it held more surprises than I imagined. My week was filled with tough climbs, glorious views, cool breezes on hot days, pregnant rain drops on hot climbs, good company at campsites, plenty of other hikers on the trail, and, as with any Central Australia walk, rocks, and plenty of them.

This time, I'm telling most of my story through photos, and their captions.

View photos on Google+.

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Download GPX file of entire Larapinta Trail - for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit
Download KML file of entire Larapinta Trail - view in Google Earth

Monday, July 9, 2012

Mt Zeil - NT's highest peak (The State 8)

Last year we'd tried to climb Mt Zeil, but with the summit cairn in sight, had to give up. We had hiked in from Redbank Gorge on a three day hike. This time we had permission from the NT Parks and the local pastoral station.
State 8 Northern Territory's highest peak
Location West MacDonnell Ranges, west of Alice Springs
Access Glen Helen Station and West MacDonnell National Park
  1. Gary Weir,

    Deputy Chief Ranger, West MacDonnell National Park

    (08) 8951 8273

    0405 603 152

    Fax (08) 8951 8290
  2. Ian Morton,

    Glen Helen Station - pastoral property (not to be confused with Glen Helen Resort)

    (08) 08 8956 8548

    or (08) 8952 3063
  1. 1:50 000 topographic Special map - contact Rangers at West MacDonnell National Park to obtain.
  2. 1:250 000 SF53-13 Hermannsburg (this map is not sufficient alone, use in combination with 1:50 000 map available from rangers)
Time 4 hours up
Route Follow long western spur
Start elevation 650m
Peak elevation 1531m

We drove the three hours in from Alice Springs, along the Tanami Track, Gary Junction Road (Papunya Road), then on station tracks through Glen Helen Station to the base of the western spur of Mt Zeil.

With the pre-dawn moon, we hiked across the plains to the base of the spur. As day broke, we climbed up to the plateau some 380 above the plains (at 1070m). There are various routes to choose from to access the grassy plateau. From here we tried following the official route provided by Parks NT, which is to skirt around the ridge peaks. We found this to be tricky: it was harder to navigate, psychologically harder, harder to walk on a constant side incline, and having to dodge obstacles such as patches of rocks or denser vegetation. Soon, we instead followed the ridge, it was much easier. It was easier to navigate, and the ridgeline was clearer of rocks and vegetation.

Reaching the summit in four hours, and whilst filling in the logbook, updated my Facebook status - yes, there was Telstra NextG coverage.

This summitting was my second attempt, I had tried last year to come in from Redbank Gorge as a three day trip, but did not quite reach the summit.

This was part of Ricky, Paul and my State 8 challenge - to hike the highest summit in each of Australia's eight states and territories. For all of us, this was Number Six, although we differ in which ones remain.

Thanks to my traveling companions, Ricky and Paul, and some of their photos are included below.

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PERMISSION IS REQUIRED, and highly recommended, to access and climb this peak. Detailed maps and advice will also be provided when permission is granted.
Download GPX file of Mt Zeil climb - for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit
Download KML file of Mt Zeil climb - view in Google Earth


Mt Zeil
Up Down
Distance 10.3km 10.1km
Start Time 6.08am 11.52am
End Time 11.04am 3.14pm
Moving Duration 3h17m 2h52m
Total Time 4h47m 3h22m
Moving Average 3.1km/h 3.5km/h
Overall Average 2.1m/h 3.0km/h

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dibber Dobber Dabber

Well no-one dibber dobbed, but we did finish off our three day trek hiking up Mt Dib and Mt Dab, and um, Dob, and a little of Deb. Leaving our campsite, we started our summit attempt on Mt Dab, until it became clear it was Deb, or at least not Dib or Dab. Progressing across the saddle to Mt Dab, then onto Mt Dib, which was most certainly Mt Dab... oops. Every time we reached a summmit we saw another, readjusting our minds to exactly which ones were Mt Dib and Mt Dab.

SUMMARY - Aroona Valley to Blinman Pools, return via Wild Dog Creek
Start Aroona Valley Campsite
End Aroona Valley Campsite
First Night The Cascades
Second Night Pigeon Bore
Time 3 days
Distance 57km
It wasn't the only navigational challenge we experienced, but our uncertainty added minimal distance to our three day trek. Navigation across the landscape is an element that makes a trek so good, opening up the possibilities of where we could go. Camping at The Cascades, a cross-country hike to Blinman Pools, hiking through the Wild Dog Creek canyon and summiting Mt Dib and Dab were the highlights of the weekend.

When we reached the Cascades mid-afternoon on Saturday, it was clear, even without a vote, that no-one was keen to continue on that afternoon to Blinman Pools. The Cascades were beautiful, it was clear, flowing water, the first water we had seen in a creek. Even more amazing, just a few hundred metres upstream, the creek was dry. The source was a spring - the water was warm, and there was plenty of it. We enjoyed our early camp with a camp fire and salmon and soft cheese crackers. Following the previous night's late arrival by bus, and our day's 20km hike, we retired early, to our already icy tents.

Sunday morning was cold, very cold, minus three. In the cold we set off with our daypacks, armed with Kate's 1:33 333 map and landscape familiarity from a recent rogaine, crossing the countryside to Blinman Pools. There was plenty of water in the pools, a stark contrast to what I saw when I was last here in the drought during 2007 - no horizon pool back then. The large, deep pool was irrestible, Ros and I jumped in for a swim - maybe the wrong verb, it was very cold, an instant brain freeze, so we scrambled out pretty quick.

We returned to our now dry tents, grabbing our packs and trying our hand at some creek navigation, always difficult in the Flinders Ranges. We lunched in a creek bed, each of us with varying degrees of lunch envy, before walking through Wild Dog Creek and onto the Heysen Trail, wandering south to Pigeon Bore. We made it in late, just after sunset, just managing to set up our tents before seeking out our torches.

We joined two other ABW groups around the fire, sharing our last rations of alcohol and chocolate.

Early on Monday, five dedicated walkers of the 12 strong group tackled Dib and Dab. We were rewarded with spectacular views of the Heysen Range, Wilpena Pound, and the landscape east all the way to Patawarta, all soaked in the early morning sun.

Maybe some more photos to come soon...

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Download GPX file - for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

Download KML file - view in Google Earth


Aroona Valley to Blinman Pools and return via Wild Dog Creek
Saturday Sunday Sunday Monday
09/06/2012 10/06/2012 10/06/2012 11/06/2012
Aroona Valley campsite to the Cascades The Cascades to Blinman Pools and return The Cascades to Pigeon Bore Pigeon Bore to Mt Dib and Mt Dab, return to Pigeon Bore then to Aroona Valley campsite
Distance 19.9km 8.33km 18.93km (total 27.26km Sun) 9.51km
Start Time 8.43am 8.08am 11.33am 10.04am
End Time 2.37pm 10.45am 5.33pm 11.05am
Moving Duration 4h04m 2h0m 4h19m 2h31m
Stationary Duration 1h34m 1h01m 2h09m 36m
Moving Average 4.9km/h 4.4km/h 3.8km/h
Overall Average 3.4km/h 3.1km/h 3.1km/h
Oodometer 19.9km 28.23km 47.2km 56.9km

TRACK NOTES - Aroona Valley to Blinman Pools and return via Wild Dog Creek
Download larger version of track notes

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mt Crawford Forest

A wander through Mt Crawford Forest with the under 40s group from Adelaide Bushwalkers. Hot potatoes on the campfire and warm mushie bananas with infused chocolate, Kate set a high benchmark for our first hike.

SUMMARY - Mt Crawford

with ABW u40s group
Start Hale Conservation Park
End Lucky Hit Farm
Time 2 days
Distance 27km
Oh, it's true, she cheated with the potatoes and bananas. No-one, well no sane person, would carry 12 potatoes and 12 bananas in their pack into the campsite of the first night for our two day hike. She smuggled them there with her car, caching them away behind a tree. We all approved of her cunning though, smart move.

There were 12 in our group, after the usual formalities of the car shuffle, we hiked our way through the southern end of Hale Conservation Park, somewhere I have never quite seen due to a too-deep river crossing last time I was there. A bit of scrub, a deep valley, a snack and rest on a ridgetop spur looking over the rolling farmland and forest - all very nice. Some of Warren Conservation Park - great scrub and views - then some country laneways, and eerie forest (forest is always good eerie, as the wind gently blows through the pine needles.) It's true, some of the intruders amongst us complained when bits of trail were overgrown, that every plant in Australia was sharp, overly pointy and liable to kill by a slow death of infection or annoyance (who can argue), but we all managed with it.

We camped overnight on the Heysen Trail's Scotts Camp. A nice shelter with water tank, fancy pants toilet (no pants required?), a sweet pine-needled forest floor for a soft mattress beneath the tents, and a nicely set up picnic table and circle of stones for a campfire.

We put the campfire to good use, as the wind came and went, and soft rain fell. The usual alcohol rations were pooled and divied up - no cheating there, it was all carried in. Some served at outside temperature (what's room temperature when you are camping?) and some warmed up, nice work Mark! I barely needed to eat my dinner with baked potatoes from the coals, and our cheese snacks - thanks for supplying the dual use cheese platter board hut-maintaining-people!

We sat around laughing, poking fun at each other and talking the shit, as one-by-one people slid off to their tents, as weary hikers are wont to do. A couple of newbies in our midst - new to hiking in Australia anyway - won the peoples' choice award for both lunch and dinner: fresh salad baguettes, steak on the campfire coals and freshly cooked vegies (who's jealous?).

Sunday morning, after a bit of rousing, we trundled out down the lane, following roads and fire tracks through forest, farmland and into the very nice Cromer Conservation Park. Yes, there were more fence crossings then promised, but it did not dimish from Kate's perfectly scored walk leading.

Not many photos for this one...

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mawson Plateau traverse

A remote wilderness area in the Northern Flinders Ranges, the Mawson Plateau is almost untouched by people and their activities. There are no roads or tracks, no buildings or fences, and unlike much of the Northern Flinders Ranges, no history of mining.
Mawson Plateau, Northern Flinders Ranges

SUMMARY - Mawson Plateau traverse
Start Mt Shanahan - northern tip of plateau where Granite Creek meets Hamilton Creek. Dropped off by heli-charter from Arkaroola.
End Arkaroola
Time 6 days
Distance 90km
Mountain Ranges Mawson Plateau and broader Northern Flinders Ranges
Topographic maps 1:250 000 scale Frome SH54-10; 1:50 000 scale Yudnamutana 6737-1; 1:50 000 scale Wooltana 6737-2
Pastoral Stations Mt Freeling Station; Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary
La Nina, one of the weather phenomenons that so drastically affect Australia's weather patterns, brought the gift - as she is wont to do - of a huge downpour of rain to the deserts back in early March. Over five days 247mm fell at Arkaroola. It brought the rain we needed to make this hike possible. There are no rain gauges on the Mawson Plateau, which is a couple days walk north of Arkaroola Village, but it is thought that rainfall on the plateau is similar to the Gammon Ranges, both being of higher elevation than Arkaroola Village, so more rain falls.

Almost all the dirt roads across outback SA were closed in the days after the March deluge, and many had to be graded to be reopened. This kept grader operators busy, so the runway at Moolowatana Station, the first station and servicable runway north of the Mawson Plateau, was still damaged. So like last year, we had to charter a helicopter to drop us out. More expensive, but being able to drop us almost anywhere it saved us two days walking in from Moolowatana Station.

The plateau spans an area seven kilometres wide and 30 kilometres long. The area is littered with large areas of exposed granite, capturing water in numerous rockholes. Granite Creek and its many tributaries drain the plateau, flowing to the north to meet Hamilton Creek before making their way out to Lake Callabonna - one of the many large salt lakes that form a horseshoe around the Northern Flinders Ranges. Its highest point is Freeling Heights, a bluff on the south-western corner of the plateau. Originally the plateau was named Freeling Heights, but was later renamed in honour of Douglas Mawson.

The plateau is largely untouched, it's quite hard to find any sign of human impact. There are no roads or tracks, no buildings or fences, quite possibly no weeds (I've heard tell, I'm no expert), and little impact from feral animals, even goats (which are rampant in the Gammon Ranges to the south.) We found a couple of stardropper stakes in a clearing on our way up to Freeling Heights, marking the site of a government photo survey of vegetation. On stardroppers, one of the waterholes on upper Granite Creek is called Star Dropper Waterhole, so named after the single stardropper there that marks a corner boundary of the Arkaroola and Mount Freeling pastoral leases. We knew of this waterhole, we had seen photos, but did not know its exact location as the pastoral lease boundaries are not usually shown on the topographic maps. We did, unbeknownst to us at the time, see the waterhole on our return from the summit of Freeling Heights. In the back corner of a photo of the waterhole the star dropper can clearly be seen!

A single old track makes a small incursion on the plateau just south west of Mt Shanahan, an old mining track, the type such as litters the Northern Flinders Ranges. Without maintenance these tracks suffer from washaways and soon become undriveable. This one stretched a few hundred metres onto the plateau. It's unusual to hike in the Flinders Ranges somewhere that no 4WD could possibly travel, or has ever travelled.

There were are few other signs of human impact. Behind a rock above the Tee Junction Waterhole, one of the few permanent waterholes on the plateau (after decent rains it is thought to last ten years or so) we found an emergency cache of food and essential items. You know the essential things one might need: coffee, chocolate, cigarettes, toilet paper. From the logbook it seems to have been first placed there by Reg Sprigg in 1987, and has been well stocked since, very little was out of date. As the permanent waterhole, and one of the few named ones, it is a popular spot with hikers to camp at. That said, there were few entries in the logbook, but that may be due to hikers, such as us, not knowing the cache was there; we stumbled upon it on our second night there.

A couple of old stone cairns built by surveyors mark summits, there is one on Mt Shanahan, a summit which seems remarkably insignificant, and on Freeling Heights. Towering drystone structures, they never cease to amaze me in how well the surveryors of old constructed them. The Freeling Heights one, like all good summit cairns, is complete with a logbook of sorts, in this case loose paper in an old jar. Of all the notes in there, and there were not many - it seems there was only one, sometimes two, visits each year. Some year had no visits. Tafe was a common visiting party - the outdoor education course - they also featured quite well in the cache at Tee Junction Waterhole. Up at the Freeling Heights summit there were several cleared campsites, perhaps most clearly noticable by the large slabs of stone that had been carefully positioned to form chairs and even side tables.

The March rains filled all the rockholes, even after seeing so many waterholes we did not grow tired of them. It's hard to imagine what hiking here might look like in drier times. The waterholes were often an obstruction, a few times we had to scramble around them, many times over and around them. There were upsides to this though, by lunchtime on the first day we were already swimming in a vast waterhole. Every day on the plateau featured a good swim.

On our second day we decided to leave Granite Creek, with its many obstructing waterholes. We followed a spurline for two kilometres up to the escarpment edge, from here we had dramatic views over the eastern plains and Lake Frome. Following the escarpment to the south west, the escarpment grew increasingly dramatic. We crossed back across the plateau, which was no easy navigation task, to Granite Creek and its rockholes.

The views from Freeling Heights were also dramatic, we had a very clear day, one of the clearest I have seen up there. We could easily see Mt Painter, which we climbed in 2011, and further south Benbonyathe Hill (2010), Mt McKinlay, Patawarta Hill (2009) - 110km away - and Rawnsley Bluff on Wilpena Pound - 180km away.

On the fourth day we hiked to the escarpment, dropping off 400 metres in elevation down a long spur line to a creek. From here we followed it downstream to the hot springs at Paralana. The days were all hot, and most sunny, and we often sought out the shade of trees, no matter how small. A Paralana Hot Springs we sat in the cool reeds beside the hot flowing spring water. It was here we saw our first people since leaving Arkaroola, a couple visiting the springs in their 4WD. An offer of a cold beer would have been nice. Alas, unrefreshed we hiked on in the hot sun.

We camped beside a waterhole every night, and it was only one night where we forewent a swim, in that case to preserve the water from contamination for drinking. Our last night was possibly the best swim, in Bararranna Waterhole. Here the creek was flowing and the waterhole large, it reminded me of some of the rocky vegetationless gorge waterholes in the Kimberley, it was enormous.

On the sixth day we sidled into Arkaroola, and showers, cool drinks, food and chairs. Ah the things you miss hey.

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TRACK NOTES - Mawson Plateau traverse
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Label Location Grid Ref Time Note
Sunday 15/04/12
Start NE of Mt Shanahan GR 559 770 8.20am drop-off (15min flight from Arkaroola) on hill NE of where Granite Creek meets Hamilton Creek. Hike along Granite Creek.
1 waterhole on Granite Creek GR 542 747 12.01/1.05pm Lunch + swim
2 Break GR 535 731 2.05pm
3 Turn around - too far GR 533 726 2.50pm Gorge narrowing, gorge exit missed
4/Campsite Campsite day 1 GR 535 731 3.10pm. Day's hike was 9.2km/6hr walk Camp beside creek on sandy area beside large shallow waterhole
Monday 16/04/12
4 Campsite day 1 GR 535 731 7am Leave camp, hike up spur to escarpment (5)
5 Escarpment GR 547 717 7.56am Follow escarpment to pt 7
6 Break GR 538 700 8.50/9.18am
7 Leave escarpment edge GR 520 686 10.35/10.55am Begin to cross plateau from escarpment edge back to Granite Creek
8 Break GR 513 682 11.45/11.57am
9 Lunch at head of creek GR 505 282 12.25/12.55pm
10 Rockholes on Granite Creek GR 498 681 1.19pm Lots of rockholes here, continue up creek to point 11
11/Campsite day 2 Tee Junction Waterhole GR 489 678 2.15pm. Day's hike was 13km & 7h15m Explored further to tee junction, waterhole a few hundred metres downstream from junction.
Tuesday 17/04/12
11/Campsite day 2 Tee Junction Waterhole GR 489 678 6.50am Leave camp with daypacks for hike up to Freeling Heights summit and return to camp here again
12 GR 8.36am Proceed up southern arm of Granite Creek, contour around to more open flatter area to west. Yes got a little sidetracked turning too far north when cross-country.
13 Clearing GR 458 665 8.50am Break in open clearing. Proceed across clearing, then following creek lines to vicinity of 449 655. Proceed up spur to flatter ridge near summit
14 Freeling Heights summit GR 448 643 10.30/11.10am Summmit marked by stone surveyors cairn in SW corner of ridge. Numerous campsites near summit, some shady.
15 Clearing GR 457 664 12.35pm Lunch. Follow creek lines across clearing and open country. Easiest way is to continue following creeks into major Granite Creek. Last 1.5km into Tee Junction difficult due to waterholes.
11/Campsite day 2 & 3 Tee Junction Waterhole GR 489 678 2.15pm. Day's hike 16.9km, 5.5hr moving, 7.5hr total Camp here again for a second night.
Wednesday 18/04/12
11/Campsite day 2 & 3 Tee Junction Waterhole GR 489 678 7.10am Leave camp. Proceed up SW branch of Granite Creek to waterfall
12 (oops duplicated) Waterfall GR 479 667 8.07am Contour around hills beside creek, hills clearer than creek here
13 (oops duplicated) Break, clearing and stand of trees GR 473 655 9.09/9.27am Clearing in creek
13 (oops duplicated again) Escarpment edge GR 473 650 9.50am Proceed down long spurline
14 (oops duplicated) Start of steep spur GR 478 642 10.28am Continue down spur, this section is very steep
15 (oops duplicated) Hot Springs/Paralana Creek GR 484 630 11.40am/12.20pm Lunch in creek at base of long spur. Proceed downstream along creek to Paralana Hot Springs.
16 Paralana Hot Springs GR 499 607 1.45/2.15pm
17 Exit Yudnamatana Creek GR 483 588 3pm Proceed up Nicolls Spring Creek, go right at major creek junction after a narrow gorge
18/Campsite day 4 Camp north of Nicholls Spring GR 482 578 4pm. Day's hike was 17km, 5.5hr moving, 9h overall Camped beside two-step waterfall, pools of water under each, pink granite rock
Thursday 19/04/12
18/Campsite day 4 Camp north of Nicholls Spring GR 482 578 7.07am Proceed up creek
19 Nicholls Spring GR 477 573 Marginal spring, spent sometime verifying location
20 8am Spring found, returned to packs, continue following creekline up
21 Head of creek 8.45am Break. Proceed up to saddle and ridge, skirt around 450m peak, proceed down long spur to East Painter Creek
22 East Painter Creek GR 457 5444 10.30/10.45am Break. Follow East Painter Creek downstream to East Painter Bore and tank.
23 Old Mine Track An easier start to tackling Humanity Seat? No, doubt it, track not long enough.
24 11.30am
25 East Painter bore GR 479 521 12.00/12.40pm Bore and tank. Creek enters plains here. Proceed along 4WD track to Paralana Hot Springs road, south past Lady Buxton Mine for 1.25km, turn south-west along an Arkaroola 4WD track past White Ants Mine
26 Top of hill GR 469 492 1.40pm A real bastard this track. Why didn't we navigate around it? Continued down track.
27 Creek/Road T-junction 2.20pm Take south track to Bararranna Waterhole
28/Campsite day 5 Bararranna Waterhole GR 457 479 3pm. Day's hike was 19km, 5.5hr moving, 7.5hr overall. Very large waterhole in gorge. Two waterholes at present. Carpark at end of road, but road looks out of service since March rains.
Friday 20/04/12
28/Campsite day 5 Bararranna Waterhole GR 457 479 6.50am Leave camp, proceed along track back to Arkaroola, track follows creek
29 Echo Camp Waterhole GR 429 497 8.10am
30 Arkaroola Bore 9am Break
31 Arkaroola (reception) GR 400 455 10.15am. Day's hike was 14km, 3h moving, 3.5h overall

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mt Bogong, #5 of the State 8

A 700-metre ascent from a humid, fern-filled valley onto an alpine summit could not be more of a contrast. Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest peak at 1968 metres, lies in the Victiorian Alps near the 50s town of Mt Beauty.

Mt Bogong, the High Country, Victoria

The final of three blog entries for a week spent around Canberra doing three of the State 8 peaks - the highest mountains in each of Australia's eight states and territories.

SUMMARY - Mt Bogong hike
Start Mountain Creek Picnic Area
End Mt Bogong summit, re-trace steps to Mountain Creek Picnic Area
Time 3h15m up, 2h30m down
Distance 7km each way
Elevation gain 1370m
Topographic maps 1:30 000 scale, T8324-1-3-S

The alpine environment of Mt Bogong was quite different from the alpine environment of Mt Kosciuszko. Bogong has quite a lot of prominence, how much it rises above country around it. So the alpine area around the summit is small, contrasting with the large alpine area that surrounds the rather indistinct Kosciuszko.

Mt Bogong was the third peak on the week’s list of the State 8 summits – the highest peak in each of Australia’s eight states and territories.

Starting from Mountain Creek Picnic Area, we hiked up the aptly named Staircase Spur. The most direct route, so the steepest, with a few short sections that taper off the constant ascent. We hiked up in the warm, humid afternoon to the halfway point, Bivouac Hut. The noisy school kids didn’t put us off for long, we set up our tents in the large clearing beside the hut – the hut itself is quite small and designed for emergency use. It does have a wood heater though, and a water tank. We did try and look further afield for some tent spots, but being on a steep spur halfway up a mountain meant there were limited camping options, so we settled down with the teenagers instead. Lightning rolled around us the sun set, but we sat outside cooking dinner as the rain spared us.

The following morning, with the summit shrouded in mist, we set off again to the top. Conditions changed as we got higher, we walked past the treeline into the cool breeze, and then into the mist. Nearing the summit paths led off to the right, but in the mist it may have been certain death, so we continued along the snow poles to the ridge, then walked the short distance to the summit. Marked by a large stone cairn which provided us with shelter from the strong, cold winds, Vicki did her little summit jig. We were thankful we had brought along extra clothes, not needed back near the hut but a life-saver up here. A small blue spot emerged through the clouds in the sky above us, but we soon gave up on waiting for any clearing of the weather, and instead started heading back down.

Finishing back at the cars Mountain Creek Picnic Area, we sniffed out a dozen tents that appeared, absent of people and cars, before enjoying a swim in the freezing waters of the creek.

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Label Grid Ref Location Note
1 225 383 Mountain Creek Picnic Area, carpark lawned area beside creek, picnic tables, carpark, toilet
2 242 383 Base of Staircase Spur 30 mins from carpark
3 263 368 Bivouac Hut Small hut with stove, water tank, nice toilet, camping area. 1h30m from base of spur (1), 2h from carpark (1). 4km from carpark (1).
4 Treeline
5 Memorial
6 Ridge junction Turn west for summmit, east for Eskdale Point
7 273 347 Mt Bogong summit Marked by cairn, 1h15m from Bivouac Hut (3), 2h45m from base of spur (2), 3h15m from carpark (1). 7.1km from carpark (1).