Friday, June 23, 2017

East Peak Mount Barney: SE Ridge to S (peasants) Ridge

We had some confusing directions for finding the SE ridge track up Mount Barney that included "log across the track marks start of SE ridge route," and "look for the SE ridge track between campsite 9 and 10," and "tree marked with X," none of which were really correct.

Actually, finding the SE ridge is dead simple. Follow the old fire trail out of the parking lot heading uphill to a walkers gate on a saddle. Ignore the prominent track to the right which goes steeply uphill to Yellow Pinch and pass through the walkers gate and continue through a paddock to a causeway crossing of Logan River. Cross the river and pass some National Park signs. Keep going past campsite 9 and 10, and, about 200 metres beyond campsite 10 take the big eroded track heading uphill on the right. There is an old stump marked with many hieroglyphics including a scratched X and SE.

Mount Barney East Peak

Go up. Now there is some nuance, as the track is occasionally braided and there are some scrambly bits and one slab that may or may not be wet with an old climbing rope hanging off a tree to assist at this section. Some of the scrambly sections have options so if you don't like the track straight ahead look a few metres left or right and you might find a different scrambly section more to your liking. There are one or two short descents, and just before the summit plateau there is a longer scrambly section. But, it is hard to get lost as the track is deep and eroded for most of the way.

You pop out on a plateau after the last steep section with the west peak directly in front of you and the east peak now a short stroll away through rather thick vegetation to the right (northish).

East Peak from the top of the SE Ridge

We went down the south ridge route (Peasants) and found it much more braided all the way to the Rum Jungle campsite in the saddle. It was well nigh impossible to stay on the definitive route although we kept looking for the most prominent track to descend. A lot of the descent can be done on low angle grippy slabs that are nicely dry and clear of vegetation. In fact, you can almost do the entire descent on slabs.

At the bottom of the east face we crossed the creek and found ourselves again in a myriad of disappearing and reappearing tracks. If you aim generally to follow the creek (Barney Gorge) that drains the saddle between east and west peak to the north you'll end up walking slightly uphill to the campsite.

On the SE ridge

Out of the campsite on the left side (roughly east to southeast), there are orange triangles marking the preferred route. Apparently, these have been installed to reduce track braiding and will be removed in a few years. If you are coming from the campsite, the track actually climbs about 80 metres before beginning a serious descent. The track is steep and deeply eroded in parts and has some scrambly sections but the rock is super grippy and there is no exposure.

Gradually, the track gets bigger and bigger until you pass through a bit of rainforest on a tributary of Cronan Creek after which the track switchbacks a little bit and becomes the old road you started on. The south ridge track branches off the fire trail about 200 metres past the SE ridge track.

West peak of Mount Barney


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Walking With Wild Horses: Guy Fawkes River

Chaelundi Campground to Guy Fawkes River:

It is a long and bumpy drive out to Chaelundi Campground where there are two groups of campers sitting miserably around by smoky campfires when we arrive and quickly head off along the escarpment track.

Initially, it is flat and goes through open forest to a lookout near Chaelundi Falls - very broken falls that are barely visible from the viewing area. Ahead we can see Chaelundi Bluff. We pass by the side track to Chaelundi Bluff and continue on the escarpment track which offers scant views to Jordan's Track - a fire trail that runs steeply down ridges to Guy Fawkes River. There is one section of the fire track that is very steep and slippery on hard dirt with loose gravel over the top and we think it will be along way down if it is like this all the way. I pick up a stick to use as a walking stick.

Wild horses

However, it turns out the steep bit is over relatively quickly and the descent gets easier. I carry my stick all the way down but do not need to use it again. We have lunch part way down.

Looking down on Guy Fawkes River valley

At the river, it takes us a little while to find any tracks but eventually after walking about through horrible invasive weeds, we pick up a horse track heading downstream. It takes us a little while to "think like horses" and we don't really get good at it the first day so lose the track a few times. At some point, we cross the river and pick up a good horse track and follow it along to the Aberfoyle River junction. We take our shoes off and wade across the Aberfoyle River some point upstream from the junction with Guy Fawkes and have another snack. Doug has a swim but I am waiting for end of day to swim as I figure I will just get sweaty again.

We decide to walk on for another hour before finding a sandy bank to camp on by the river. It is pleasant walking along the river and there are some lovely big gum trees with wide spreading branches but the extent of the invasive spread is very disturbing. Pretty much the entire river valley is overgrown with blackberry, farmers friend (some friend!), nettles, and other invasive weeds, trees and shrubs.

Guy Fawkes River

Near a small cliff band by Combalo Spur we miss crossing the river and have to push our way down a thicket of nettles and other invasive plants to a steep spot on the river where we manage to wade across with pants off as the water is crotch deep. Once across this I walk past a human shit with toilet paper right on the river gravel!

Nearby is a nice sandy bench to camp on by the river but we deem the sandy spot too close to the excrement so we move along a little to a finger of pebbles that sticks out into the river and camp there. I have a very quick dip as it is now cool and the sun has disappeared behind the ridge.

River valley walking

We have drinks and dinner and enjoy the moon rise over the river. It is not wilderness down here as the invasives have destroyed too much native vegetation but it is nice to think we are far away from other people and there are no roads!

View from camp

Guy Fawkes River to Combalo Track to Chaelundi Campground

I get into my sleeping bag overnight although Doug just lies underneath. It is not too cold but the tent gets quite dewy. We have breakfast and coffee by the river before packing up. We know we have to cross the river many times this morning before we reach the spur where we hope to find the track back up to the escarpment. The Combalo Track is not marked on the topographic map and is marked in two different places on the National Parks sketch maps so it is a little difficult to know where we will find it. Both Doug and I have marked the map where we think we will find it. Mine, about 1 to 1.5 klms further downstream than Doug's.

Morning mist

Now that we have got the hang of thinking like a horse, we follow the track easily. However, we do have to cross the river either 6 or 8 (we can't remember which) times before we start the climb up. The track is good all the way and again through pleasant territory except for the bloody invasives. We come across three large herds of horses which are quite a sight to see and hear as they thunder past us and snort a warning. They all look much fitter, healthier and with glossier coats than horses you see in paddocks.

Brumbies

Travel seems a bit slow as we only manage to walk 300 to 800 metres or so without taking shoes and socks off, crossing the river, and then putting shoes and socks on again. None of the crossings are over knee deep. We pass by Doug's spot to find the track and continue along the river eventually crossing back to the east bank for the last time and thinking that we either find the track or go up anyway.


We have lunch by the river with horses nearby on the other bank and then, a mere minute up the track from the river, I find the trail marker sign. It is a steep grind up about 600 metres with barely a switchback all the way, but we plug away. Once away from the river the invasive weeds are gone and we can put shorts on. It takes about 2 hours to climb from the river to the Escarpment Track and then 10 minutes or so to saunter back to the car.   

Flowers along the river

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park: Salisbury Waters to Mihi Creek

Dangars Falls to Salisbury Waters:

It is cool in the morning starting out and before heading out on our overnight walk, we wander along the short tourist walks that go to a couple of lookouts over Dangars Falls. The falls are spectacular and fall steeply down to a deep canyon with cliffs on either side. A little bit downstream there are a series of jagged spires on a spur ridge that are known as The Pinnacles.

Dangars Falls

Back to the car and we picked up the packs and started out on the walk. There are another couple of view points over the gorge where we spent time viewing the falls and looking for possible descent routes. Heading out along the Salisbury Waters track we took a side track to Rock Wallaby lookout which offers views down the Salisbury Waters gorge.

The Pinnacles

The track continues east along the ridge that separates Salisbury and Mihi Creeks. There are two more lookouts along the way, one at Sarum Hill which looks over Salisbury Waters and one which looks over Mihi Gorge.

Mihi Gorge

The track switchbacks down to Salisbury Waters but, despite the switchbacks, it is still a bit steep in parts. At the bottom, there is a bit of roughly flat ground and we smoothed out a section for a tent pad and put the tent up.

Pool on Salisbury Waters

After tea and lunch, we walked up Salisbury Waters gorge for about 2 km getting almost to McDirtys Creek. The going was easy if slow. Lots of slabs along the river, boulders, rock hopping, crossing from one side of the river to the other. There were many big pools but all passed easily on one side or the other. Also, some short cliffs down by the water but the bigger cliffs are further upstream near Dangars Falls. After about 1.5 hours, we stopped for a break on a big slab overlooking another pool which marked our turn around point.

Night comes early in the gorge

Back at camp we had some hot chocolate, dinner and retired to the tent soon after dark. With our new jumbo sleeping pads we slept well and it was relatively warm and no dew overnight.

Boulders in Salisbury Waters

Salisbury Waters to Mihi Gorge to Dangars Falls:

We are up around 6.30 am after a good sleep and it is a relatively warm morning. We have breakfast. I have some new quinoa flakes which are bland, bland, bland. We pack up and begin walking down Salisbury Waters to the junction with Mihi Creek. Quite soon we come to the "big pool" and a dodgy climb up a little notch to scramble around the pool (river left). I go up first but Doug balks at my route and climbs back down with out doing the last bit. He looks around for another option, but there is none so he comes back up again and I haul his pack up the dodgy step. Past this, it is an easy traverse along ledges above the pool and we are soon at the junction with Mihi Creek.

Reflections on Salisbury Waters

Mihi Gorge is a mini Salisbury, very similar but just slightly easier travel with many fewer pools, smaller boulders - generally - and not as many slabs. The water is much clearer too as the water in Salisbury is green with some kind of algae. Travel is still slow, however as we cross and recross the river and scramble around rocks. About two hours from camp we have a break and note that we have about one kilometre in the gorge to go.

Heading up Mihi Creek

There are two prominent ridges which lead out of the gorge to the south and we have information on the one closest to Mihi Creek so decide to take that one. However, the more southeasterly ridge actually looks better on the map. It is, however, an unknown entity so we decide to go with the one that we know leads out.

So, another 40 minutes of creek hopping taking a turn to the right and then the left and passing the obvious drainage and we are at the bottom of the ascent slope. I have a dip before we head up and put on long pants as I am worried about scratchy grass, nettle and burrowing grass seeds.

Big boulders in Mihi Creek

Initially, all goes well and, although the ridge is steep, we are making reasonable progress, there are no nettles and very little grass seeds. Perhaps 200 metres from the top we run up against the cliffs mentioned in the track notes we found on-line. The instructions are to sidle around left which we do. At first this works very well and we scramble around to the left climbing up to keep to the base of the cliffs. After a bit, we scramble up onto the ridge top which is narrow and bristling with rocky pinnacles. Progress, however, is still possible and is pretty easy just below the ridge crest. We scramble up to the ridge again and find a big pinnacle with sheer walls on all sides and no easy way up.

We have to drop down back the way we came and traverse across steep grass and vertical dirt on the south side of the ridge. All the time we can see the ridge we thought we would go up looking very easy! It is hard not to wish we were there.

Mihi Falls

After traversing 100 to 200 metres we see a spot where we may be able to regain the ridge crest above the big pinnacle however it is impossible to tell if it will work without going right up and sticking our noses against it. There are two tricky sections where we pass the packs and then we scramble up, the terrain getting easier until we are on top of the escarpment with all the difficulties over.

Looking over Mihi Gorge

We have topped out at a good viewpoint by a big granite boulder so we stop for lunch here over looking the steep Mihi Gorge. After lunch, we walk along through light bush until we come to paddock land and begin hopping a series of fences each one harder to get over than the last. At Mihi Creek, we manage to cross without getting our shoes wet by pushing through a thick tangle of fallen trees laced with blackberry bush. On the other side of the creek we meet up with yet another fence which we need to cross to get back onto the National Park. This fence, like all the others is about 5 feet high and the top is laced with rusty barbed wire. We walk along it until we see a big tree which has fallen onto it and manage to climb over the fence by climbing the tree being very careful not to touch the electric wire at the bottom.

Wild dog fences

A short walk across open paddock and we finally reach the parks track. We drop the packs and detour to the viewpoint over Mihi Falls. These falls are quite spectacular falling down in a series of cascade that change direction and drop along fault lines in the steep cliff walls. Another couple of kilometres along the parks track and we are back at the car park, tired, but happy.


Among the boulders of Salisbury Waters

Monday, June 19, 2017

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park: Chandler River, Moona Creek, Apsley River

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is the kind of place you come for a day and stay for a week, all the while hatching plans for when you can next get back. It is a big, wild, sprawling National Park defined by steep and deep river gorges, roaring waterfalls, long untracked river valleys, dry eucaplypt ridges and enclaves of rain forest. Fire roads and walking tracks lead down to the less rugged river valleys, but access to the most dramatic areas of the park - the huge narrow canyons and gorges - is adventurous.

Chandler River Gorge

Wollomombi Falls and The Chandler River

There is a lovely NP campground at Wollomombi Falls from which you can easily walk around the all the tourist tracks in a morning or afternoon, even allowing for all the gawping you'll do at the jaw-dropping views. From the picnic area, a track leads across the top of Wollomombi Falls to Chandler Falls, and, in the other direction, the view from Checks Lookout is simply stunning. The surrounding rolling farmland gives no indication of the steep and rugged nature of these gorges which seem to simply open below your feet.

Wollomombi and Chandler Falls

We scrambled down to the Chandler River from near the campground, a somewhat adventurous descent that required a half length of climbing rope to get all the way to the river 500 metres below. Apart from one small rock slab which required careful downclimbing, travel downstream was relatively easy, scrambling over smooth river boulders past sandy banks and pools crossing the river occasionally when required. We got as far as viewing Church Rock before stopping for lunch on a big boulder in the middle of the river.

Pools along the Chandler River

After lunch, we scramble upstream through a magical landscape of small waterfalls, deep pools, and glistening rock slabs. Red bugs live on fallen leaves, and a carpet of tiny fern leaves floats on a rock pool studded with water droplets. We are dwarfed by the boulders in the river, and everywhere there is water, carving out new pools and chasms and channels. We travel as far as we can without swimming, then find a clean, smooth rock slab for another break and we sit, sip tea from our flasks, and listen to the sibilant hiss of the river as it slides down the river rocks washing them smooth.

There is a reason these are called wild rivers

It is a whole other world down in the bottom of the gorge. There is rock and water, and shifting glimpses of sky far above. It is a misty, rainy kind of day, perfect for exploring this narrow land of rock and water, where the vegetation clings to bare rock faces in a perpetual battle against gravity.

Small falls on the Chandler River
Moona Creek Gorge

The main rivers in Oxley Wild Rivers are the Apsley, Chandler and Macleay Rivers, but dozens of other small rivers and streams run into these larger rivers, and these smaller watercourses have carved yet more dramatic gorges.

Moona Gorge

Not far from the frequently visited Apsley Falls section of the park is Moona Creek and another gorge, this one almost 600 metres deep, improbably carved out by inconsequential Moona Creek. Unlike nearby Apsley Gorge, Moona Creek has no facilities, but it is well worth spending a day walking along the edge of the gorge, crossing over the top of the tiny waterfall that is Moona Creek, and scouting out all the viewpoints along the gorge rim.

Looking down the headwaters of Moona Creek

Apsley Gorge, Budds Mare and The Apsley River

Camping at Apsley Gorge is deservedly popular. The site we had over looked the fabulous Apsley Gorge, which may not be as deep as other gorges, but is every bit as spectacular with two waterfalls, deep pools and narrow rock walls lining the bottom of the gorge. The tourist track along the rim offers spectacular views and we even saw a platypus swimming in one of the pools below.

Apsley Falls

It's worth the trek out to Budds Mare, where the campground is a small enclave among towering eucalpyts perched on a plateau overlooking the Apsley River where it runs deeper and slower. The ridgelines are all dry eucalpyt forest but the gullies harbour moist green rainforest. The starry nights are quiet but for the sound of nocturnal birds and animals, and, in the morning, the valley, far below is draped in mist shifting across the river valley.

The view from Budds Mare down to the Apsley River


A faint, but easily followed track descends 700 metres down a dry eucalpyt ridgeline to the Apsley River where there are deep pools for swimming and gravel banks shaded by she-oaks for camping. We spent the day exploring down river walking along grassy banks, past small rushing rapids, and sluggish deep pools. The river is a corridor for travel, and wild horses roam the valley.


Apsley River and Paradise Rocks

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Badasses on Beerwah

Mount Beerwah is the highest of the Glasshouse Mountains and, as such attracts an inordinate number of walkers. The standard hiking route, climbs up the north side, is heavily eroded, and, if the local press is to be believed, is the site of many hundreds of rescues (likely heavily exaggerated). In order to avoid the yak trak on the standard route, we scrambled up the east face and descended the hiking track.

Crag rates the east face grade 2 (I'd call it YDS class 3), which seems about right. The total elevation gain is only 200 to 300 metres, so the scramble up and down is a quarter day at best. The views, however, are grand, particularly of Coonowrin, which appears to be more or less permanently closed by Queensland Parks.

Glasshouse Mountains from Mary Cairncross

For the east route, you walk back down the road from the parking lot a short distance to a foot pad on the right. This descends to cross a small creek (dry) and is signed down the track with the usual, "You WILL die" Queensland Parks signage. Despite these dire warnings we pressed on.

We crossed a couple of gullies (one wet, one dry) and then started heading straight uphill on the east side of the peak. In about 5 or 10 minutes we reached the base of the slabs. The route is easy to follow as it is worn in (not eroded like the hikers route) and marked with red paint. Basically we rambled up low angle slabs for about vertical 300 metres to reach a little mini ridge near the top. The route weaves a bit left and right and is pretty clean. It is never exposed as the slabs you climb are separated by vegetated ledges. The rock is grippy and clean and progress is fast and easy, except for the fact that we were baking in the sun and felt like we were sweating buckets. Doug was going fast, I was gasping along behind.

Coonowrin and Tibrogargan from Beerwah

Near the top, we reached the "caves." The track traverses around the caves to climbers left and then ascends the final slabs. When we got to the top we were surprised there was no-one there as we had seen quite a few cars in the parking lot. Soon after, an older gentleman arrived. He was quite chatty and told us all about the other peaks you could climb. He headed down before us as he was going to walk up a second time!

After a suitable interlude, we descended down the tourist route which is still quite a scramble and would be challenging for many walkers. Lots of slabs to scramble down and the erosion is terrible. As each track erodes down to the underlying slab, the track spreads out on either side until another slab is uncovered etc., etc.

Not far from where the scrambling starts when coming up, we came across a party of three backpacker types, two guys and a woman, who were basically completely sketched out, sweating like hell and appearing pretty gripped. When the two guys saw Doug and I, they pretended that they were ultra-cool and having a wonderful time but the young woman was really struggling. This, of course, is why so many people need rescuing off Mount Beerwah.

Coonowrin with Beerwah behind

Soon, a third guy comes up. The guy we met on top told us that this guy runs up and down to the Organ Pipes (part way up the peak) very frequently. He was bare chested and covered in tattoo's and obviously thought he was Dan Osmond on Bear's Leap at Lovers Leap the way he was running up the rock. Too bad, he was actually on a class 3 scramble with about 100 metres of total scrambling. He started coaching the young woman up which I thought was a bad idea as getting up is optional, getting down is mandatory and I was sure she would struggle on the way down if she was having trouble coming up.

I said to her "Remember, you have to go down. Don't climb up anything you can't climb down," but she seemed so overcome with fear I don't think she heard or understood. The Dan Osmond groupie was encouraging her up which I thought was irresponsible and threatens access for everyone as apparently Queensland Parks is thinking of shutting the whole thing down. A shame for those who are prepared.


We continued down and soon reached the guy we met on top who was also encouraging up another young guy who had barely started the scrambling section (he had done about 10 metres of the easiest stuff) and was already quaking with fear. Really stupid. Somehow, all these big fish in small ponds see themselves as hero's for scrambling up a 100 metres of grade 2 rock. Anyway, we were down and glad to be away from it all.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Yulludunida Crater: Skyline Traverse

East of Narrabri in northern NSW, Kaputar National Park preserves an eroded volcanic environment. There are deep valleys, steep cliff-lines and ancient volcanoes strewn across a mostly dry eucalpyt forest. A big chunk of the park is now wilderness, but, a sealed road leads all the way to the top of the Nandewar Range, and you can virtually drive to the summit of Mount Kaputar, the highest peak in the park.

Dusk over Kaputar

Not so Mount Yulludunida which is a rocky 1225 metre peak at the western end of the park.  A good but steep staired National Park track leads up to a pass about half a kilometre NE of the top of Mount Yulludunida. The track ends near cracked slabs below the summit ridge and a cairned route continues for a short distance before scrambling up cracked rocks and easy slabs covered with chicken heads and holds to the north-south ridge. Good solid scrambling along the ridge leads to the summit where there is a big cairn and lovely views with scattered old volcanic escarpments around. Continuing on, we scrambled down to a col on the ridge and up to a second summit.

On the Skyline Traverse

A short distance down from the second summit we got to a slightly tricky step that is best tackled by down-climbing steep rock on the west side for a short distance until you can traverse back along slabs to the ridge proper. We passed our packs down this section and some folks might appreciate a rope. The climbing is easy and the rock solid, but it is exposed. A bit further on there was another section where we took packs off to down climb a narrow slot.

A bit more scrambling and we were off the ridge below some more shorter buttresses this time on the east side. We scrambled back up onto two more tops, one separated by the other by a deep chimney that again required taking our packs off.

Kaputar views


Continuing along the ridge there are a lot more little steps to scramble over. We, however, opted to descend from this point and scrambled down into the flats to the east. There are a lot of bare rock slabs in the valley, so it pays to plan out your route back to the trail before you descend. If you pick it right, you can walk back to the access track on open slabs with virtually no bush-bashing.   

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Warrumbungles: Camp Pincham - Goulds Circuit - Grand High Tops - Bluff Mountain - West Spirey Creek

Starting at Pincham Car Park, it is a short walk on a very good track to Camp Pincham, a walk in only campground (probably only a few hundred metres from the car). Inexplicably, a lot of the path up to Grand High Tops is paved with brick!

Crater Bluff

We followed a dry creek for about 1.6 km to Gould's Circuit which climbs up to Febar Tor (50 metre diversion to small rocky bluff) and then onto Macha Tor - good views of Belougery Spire and The Breadknife. Then it is back downhill to rejoin the Pincham Track along dry Spirey Creek. Another short detour leads to a sandstone lookout - Breadknife and Belougery Spire - called Spirey View. Back down to the main track and then a steady climb on wooden stairs, steps, paved track all the way up to Grand High Tops (close to 500 metre climb).

The view from Macha Tor

There are various benches and seats along the way and just before the climb started up steps from paved track, we passed two kids sitting on a bench who, for the next hour, called "MUM" "MUM" "MUM." We have no idea where Mum was - possibly doing a circuit around Dagda Short Cut and Grand High Tops, we never saw her, but eventually the kids did stop shouting.

The Breadknife

The view gets better and better and the track crests the ridge not that far from Belougery Spire. A good view down on to the Breadknife and over to Crater Bluff. We had lunch on the rocks looking out over Crater Bluff and Belougery Spire before a big gaggle of people came along from the other direction.

Belougery Spire

Downhill again to Dagda Gap and then some up and down through the bush to Dows Camp (dry, like all the camps here). At Dows Camp we turned off and did another 250 metre climb on a reasonable but rocky track up to Bluff Mountain which has a gradual south side and a precipitous north face.

Bluff Mountain


We had a snack and some tea on top. Not nearly enough food or water as we were short of both and then back down to Dows Camp. There is a fairly painful 200 metre descent down to Point Wilderness (view of Mt Exmouth) and Ogma Gap and then another tedious 200 metre descent down dry West Spirey Creek and eventually we stumbled over a bridge and rejoined the mornings track. We drank the last of our water and shared a small bite of energy bar.