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+.

View in full screen format
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.

View photos on Google+.

View in full screen format
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