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.