Section 12 of the long distance Larapinta Track that runs from Redbank Gorge east to Alice Springs is a day walk up Mount Sonder near the western end of the West MacDonnell National Park. The well maintained track does not actually go to the top of Mount Sonder but to a slightly lower (perhaps 10 or 15 metres) sub-summit about half a kilometre to the southwest. Back in my Canadian peak bagging days, I would have felt compelled to walk the extra kilometre and 200 metres (elevation gain) to tag the summit, but, the scratchy, stinging spinifex that blankets the ground around the red centre made the prospect unappealing.
Mount Giles, Ormiston Pound, Bowmans Gap from Mount Sonder
We started out along the track about 8.15 am in a brisk wind and under cloudy skies. Initially, the track descends a short distance and crosses dry Redbank Creek. Section 11 of the Larapinta Track (Redbank Gorge to Glen Helen) branches off and starts heading east below the south ridge of Mount Sonder, while the Mount Sonder track climbs easily up to the west ridge and tops out after 2.5 km on a saddle at about 900 metres. The next 5.5 kilometres is easy and scenic walking along the west ridge climbing gradually with only a couple of short descents in between. We had breakfast on the "summit" at about 10.30 am as the clouds were clearing and were treated to wonderful views east to Ormiston Pound, Mount Giles and Glen Helen and west to Mount Razorback (a very dull razor) and Mt Zeil (the highest peak in the Northern Territory).
On the way up, we passed a long straggling line of walkers with "Larapinta Treks" who had apparently been roused from warm beds at 2.00 am to walk to the top to watch the sun rise. As it was quite a cloudy day, the sunrise may have been less spectacular than advertised. However, although some walkers looked a bit tired, they all seemed happy.
Doug on the very scenic west ridge of Mount Sonder
Once back down at Redbank Creek we wandered up the short track that leads to Redbank Gorge. This is pretty country, a sandy river bed with big ghost gums lining both banks, and red rock walls on either side that gradually grow in size and narrow in distance until you are standing beside a deep pool looking up into a narrow red defile.
Glowing red walls of Redbank Gorge
Walking with a day pack was so much more enjoyable than lumbering along under an overnight pack and the trails in this part of the Northern Territory so much better than those at the "top end" that we immediately planned to walk Section 11 of the Larapinta Track as a one day walk instead of an overnight walk.