Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Great South West Walk - western half

The Glenelg River in Victoria is gorgeous, a wide river meandering it's way through a gorge, limestone cliffs, surrounded by dense eucalypt forest and pine forest - and - barely a building or road in sight. It's here that we spent the Easter, walking the western half of the Great South West Walk.

Great South West Walk, Lower Glenelg National Park and Discovery Bay Conservation Park

Click on small map to view Google Map of the Great South West Walk hiking trailUPDATE January 2012

I've now completed the whole Great South West Walk hiking trail. Read the second blog entry about the eastern half from Mt Richmond to Portland and back to the Glenelg River.

I've paddled down the river three times before, I never imagined that dense eucalypt forest also held a walking trail and walker's campsites.

We walked from Moleside Picnic Area down to Murrells walk-in campsite, up, down, and along the meandering trail. The following day we pushed out the kilometres to reach Simsons walk-in campsite - not quite the isolated campsite that Moleside was, this one is only three kilometres from Nelson. People wandered past walking their dogs, a few 4WDs drove past on the dirt track. Dissapointingly - because I thought I had seen this campsite whilst paddling down the river before - there was no river view for this campsite.

The following day we divided into two groups, Graham and myself pushing out along the beach - after a stopover at the Nelson General Store - to Mo M Beong Lake campsite (also spent Mombeong, or Monibeong). Steve and Krystyna took a more leisurely pace, camping at a campsite midway along the beach. The beach walking was long but beautiful. The guidebook described the sand as "pleasurably hard" which sounds somewhat erotic - I can assure you it wasnt, erotic that is. We took the inland route into Mo M Beong Lake and the campsite, we really enjoyed that route and coming up to the lake. A swim was prevented by the lack of appropriate underwear or all the other car campers around (ok so that hiking underwear went in the bin after this walk).

We made the fourth day our final. We sat eating lunch at Swan Lake campsite, beside the lake, well we think, the location of the actual hike-in campsite was ambiguous, certainly of the campsites we had seen this one had the poorest facilities - all the others we had seen were very good. The nearby car based campsite and surrounding sand dunes were trashed by the tyres of dune buggies. Never have I seen this kinda of wanton damage to a national park from vehicles. We walked on, towards Mt Richmond. We were to camp somewhere ad hoc, to balance the days a little. As we decided to focus on the hours left to walk to the car at Mt Richmond, rather than the kilometres left, we were easily able to make it back to the car by around 4pm, and make that drive into Portland for a pub meal.

Someone asked how it compared with the Great Ocean Walk, well, it may not be a fair comparison. They are different environments. The Great Ocean Road didn't get that name by accident. I love the Glenelg River, but this walk comprises maybe four elements: river; beach; coastal cliffs; forest. In the western half of the trail we did, we walked the river and beach sections. The Great Ocean Walk passes through a more diverse range range of ecosystems, but Great South West Walk is still worth doing, perhaps just not something to rage about. It is much easier walking as the terrain is generally flatter. Despite being on my "To Do List" for a long time, we were only doing this walk now because we couldn't access Wilsons Promontory due to flooding. We met and camped with other walkers, they had intended to do some of the Grampians over Easter, but likewise, couldn't due to flooding. We will get back to finish the eastern half, but being so close to Adelaide I'm not sure when, Christmas maybe (being so close to home it isn't hard to organise a trip there, so I would prefer to use annual leave on trails further away.)

View in full screen format
Download GPX file - for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit
Download KML file - view in Google Earth


Great South West Walk - western half
Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
22/04/2011 23/04/2011 24/04/2011 25/04/2011
Moleside Creek Picnic Area to Murrells Hike-In Campsite Murrells Hike-In Campsite to Simsons Hike-In Campsite Simsons Hike-In Campsite to Lake Mo M Beong Campsite Lake Mo M Beong Campsite to Mt Richmond
Distance 25.15km 27.01km 25.62km 32.1km*
Start Time 9.16am 7.52am 7.43am 7.49am
End Time 3.52pm 2.55pm 2.53pm 4.13pm
Moving Duration 4h38m 5h10m 4h52m 6h08m
Stationary Duration 1h24m 1h22m 1h48m 1h52m
Moving Average 5.4km/h 5.3km/h 5.3km/h 5.2km/h
Overall Average 4.2km/h 4.1km/h 3.8km/h 4.0km/h
Oodometer 25.1km 52.2km 77.8km 109.9km*
*About 600m longer than actual trail, meadering around Swan Lake campsite looking for water

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beyond the Heysen: Stage 3, Mt Hopeless to Arkaroola

Like last year, the La Nina weather effect transformed this hike - flowing creeks, full waterholes, green vegetation.

Mt Hopeless to Arkaroola, 7 days - 2/4/11 to 8/4/11

The average rainfall for Arkaroola for January through to March is 99mm, 375mm fell in that same period this year, and that on top of high rainfalls late last year, and a wet season the year before. Rain falls in this area during the summer months, the weather the left-overs of the wet season from the northern tropics of the continent.

This was a difficult walk, walking across gibber plain, along creeks, bush bashing along steep hills, hard to follow tracks and several summit climbs - difficult but all good.

The start point was Mt Hopeless, so named not due to it's diminitive size, but because the explorer Eyre declared it a hopeless situation. A giant horseshoe shaped lake surrounded the northern Flinders Ranges, blocking access to the north of the contintent. He was wrong, but it was a good while before anyone discovered that. It was not a continuous lake stretching for many hundreds of kilometres, but a series of lakes, which would have allowed Eyre to travel through them to the north of the continent. Alas, perhaps the mirage of a hot day tricked him. He had named Mt Hopeless before he even climbed it, it rises just 50 odd metres above the surrounding gibber plain, the last bastion of the Flinders Ranges. Arguably, it could be Mt Babbage to the south, I'm no geologist expert on these matters.

Access to Mt Hopeless was difficult, it is not that far off the Strzelecki Track, but due to the recent heavy rains it was only partially open. We had planned to charter a plane from Arkaroola to Moolawatana Station, just a day's hike south of Mt Hopeless, but their runway was rain damaged. A tourist helicopter service has just resumed it's season up at Arkaroola a couple of weeks ago, so we chartered that to fly us out to Mt Hopeless, which also saved a day, albeit at a greater cost - in part due to the two trips required, it was only a four seater, there were four of us and the pilot of course. We could have walked from Arkaroola north to Mt Hopeless, this finishing our six year adventure at the northernmost point of the Flinders Ranges, but it would be difficult for the helicopter to find us out there on the open gibber plain.

From 2006 through to 2008 I walked the entire Heysen Trail from Cape Jervis, south of Adelaide, to the start of the Flinders Ranges in Crystal Brook, through to the end of the trail at Parachilna Gorge. A week in 2009 we walked from Parachilna Gorge to Angepena Station, a week the following year we walked to Arkaroola, and now, we have completed that walk all the way to Mt Hopeless, a distance of some 1,500 kilometres.

The first three days walking was on a 1:250,000 scale map. It took some used to getting used the map reading, the map being five times smaller than the regular 1:50,000 most of the southern and more populated part of the state is mapped out in. The contours are only shown at 50 metre increments, I tell you, at that separation mountain peaks can hide in between those contours lines. The 1:50,000 map has 10 metre contour increments. It took us a day and a bit to reach the real mountains of the Flinders Ranges, those easily discernable from the gibber plains. Mt Babbbage, once suggested as the northern trailhead of the Heysen Trail - it was far too remote for that - was hidden between some of these contour lines. We realised this when we summited a false summit, which we knew to be a false summit, to see not one but two possibilities before us that might be the actual Mt Babbage summit, only one clearly shown on the map.

Mt Hopeless and Mt Babbage both had stone cairns on them, but both had collapsed. Photos from the 1960s showed the Mt Hopeless cairn as being taller than a man, now it was just a collapsed heap of loose stones. The logbooks for both, of which we know Mt Hopeless certainly had one, lay buried deep under the fallen stones. Dissapointing for us not to be able to write such an important entry into them. Later in the week we climbed the Armchair and Mt Painter, both had logbooks, although interestingly no-one had written in the Armchair logbook since 2006, indeed there were only three entries - all from 2005 or 2006, and no-one had written in the Mt Painter logbook at all last year, and we were the first for 2011. There were pens in the logbook box, so no excuse for someone who summited not to sign it.

The Armchair was a challenging hike, from the base it was difficult to establish how we would reach the summit at the top of the large bell-top that was the top of the mountain. Getting to the ridge a hundred metres from the summit seemed possible, if it were not for knowing that other people had climbed it I'm not sure I would have been keen to even try. When we reached the ridge, the base of the bell-top, we could zigzag up the bell-top, slowly spiralling around to the very top.

Hamilton Creek, which we walked along for three days, was flowing, a real treat that made our hike logistically easy. Not just that, but also very enjoyable, we swam in the cold, rock bounded waters of Terrapinna Springs, camping and swimming beside a waterhole. In Yudnamutana Gorge we camped beside a waterfall, the water flowing strong well above our heads. Each night, and often during the day's hike, we could easily find good water to refill our water stocks with. Others who have undertaken this hike before have had to rely on bores and either driven or flown in water drops.

We walked into Arkaroola after seven days, having seen no-one, not even footprints, no cars, just a single plane. The first person we saw, just as we walked in with our large packs, asked us if an old lady like herself could undertake a hike like we just did. I rather suspect she thought we had spent a couple of hours wandering out to the nearby Arkaroola waterhole, and not 130 kilometres from Mt Hopeless.

View in full screen format
Download GPX file - for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit
Download KML file - view in Google Earth

Download our walking route drawn onto topographic maps.


Northern Flinders Ranges
Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri
2/4/11 3/4/11 4/4/11 5/4/11 6/4/11 7/4/11 8/4/11
Mt Hopeless to Twelfth Station Creek Twelfth Station Creek to Brindana Springs Brindana Springs to Mt Shanahan Mt Shanahan to Greenhill Well Greenhill Well to Clean Chaps Waterfall Clean Chaps Waterfall to Mt Gee/Mt Painter Mt Gee/Mt Painter to Arkaroola
Distance 19.53km 20.19km 17.16km 21.94km 18.67km 12.42km 18.71km
Start Time 8.30am 7.19am 7.37am 8.01am 8.02am 7.43am 7.48am
End Time 5.02pm 4.10pm 3.15pm 4.47pm 3.46pm 4.41pm 3.37pm
Moving Duration 4h31m 4h51m 4h34m 5h33m 4h44m 4h45m 4h59m
Stationary Duration 2h25m 3h58m 3h03m 3h08m 2h56m 4h11m 2h59m
Moving Average 4.3km/h 4.2km/h 3.8km/h 3.9km/h 3.9km/h 2.6km/h 3.8km/h
Overall Average 2.8km/h 2.3km/h 2.2km/h 2.5km/h 2.4km/h 1.4km/h 2.4km/h
Oodometer 20.2km 40.4km 57.5km 79.5km 98.2km 110.6km 129.3km
Temperature 21.7 21.8 22.4 25.4 26.9 27.8 28.9