typical Budawangs scenery.
The Budawang Ranges are in the southern part of Morton National Park in NSW. They lie east of the Great Dividing Range between the Shoalhaven and Clyde Rivers on the edge of the escarpment which falls to the coastal plain. They are a wonderful wilderness of sandstone outcrops, deep valleys and mesas surrounded by sandstone cliffs. They are not very high, mostly under 900 metres, but very rugged. (See my earlier posts and photos)
GILBERTS GAP area, Morton National Park, NSW, near Nerriga
30 October 2016
What a great day this was!
The walk was on the Brindabella Walking Club (Canberra, A.C.T.) program and I had been intending to attend as it is in the wonderful Budawang Ranges and I had not been to this particular place.. When the leader thought he would be unable to go due to an injury and asked me if I would lead it I jumped at the chance. Also, I have been helping a good friend of mine, Terrylea, to develop off-track navigation and leader skills so took the opportunity to ask her to be co-leader : I would be there as leader making sure that nothing went wrong, but she would do all the work. Two people who had not been there before. The blind leading the blind?
Terrylea and I met before the walk to go over the maps, talk about the issues, and plan a route based on the experiences of other local bushwalkers, John E and Max. S.
4 of us, myself, Terrylea, Janet and Peter, met up at Queanbeyan and drove through Tarago, across Oallen Ford, (still called that but the ford has been replaced by a bridge) to almost Nerriga, where we turned into Endrick River Road, where Paul was waiting for us, and then proceeded to the locked gate at the end of Meangora Road. A long drive from Queanbeyan , almost 2 hours, but the Budawangs are a wonderful area.
We started walking at 10.40 am, too late in my view. Whilst the walk can be done in the time available, as we did, my personal view is that it is far better to leave Queanbeyan at 7.30 am and have time in hand in case of any problems. Besides, an earlier start places one in better positions for morning tea and lunch and also gives more time for some exploration. As it was, time on this trip was always bearing down on us. Also, Terrylea and I had no idea how long it would take us to find, in the scrub and jumble of rocks at the top and bottom of the cliffs, the hidden, narrow slots of passes we needed for the ascent and descent. However, we were locked into meeting at 8,30 am as that was what had been stated in the program.
Initially we walked along the Red Ground Trail, which turned out to be a most pleasant trail through relatively open forest. Many wild flowers were out, including acacia (wattles) stackhousia, grevillea, mountain pink bells, mauve kunzia, yellow isopogons and an incredible patch of many sun orchids.
Soon we reached the Endrick River which we crossed at a most delightful spot. Although the river was fairly shallow, we changed into crocs for the wade across, leaving the crocs in the bushes to await our return.
Slowly, our peak , immediately to the east of Gilberts Gap, began to show itself through the trees. Eventually we reached the spot where we needed to leave the track, and here we had a 15 minute tea break. ( GDA, 56H 0241822 e, UTM 6108193 n) Morning tea was far too late, at 11.30 am, but given the late departure from Queanbeyan Terrylea’s timing and place were the best in the circumstances. Then it was a case of on with gaiters and scrub gloves (gardening gloves) and off into the forest and scrub, climbing up to the cliff line. (at 0241715e, 6108443,n) Having taken a compass bearing to give the general direction to the hidden cliffs , Terrylea chose an excellent line through the scrub and also the large boulders which started to appear as we gained height and we came out exactly where we had intended. Once at the base of the cliffs we were more or less clear of scrub, but the way was no less easy as the bases of these cliffs are , as is usually the case, littered with huge rocks. At other times, though, we were walking easily underneath massive overhangs. We turned the corner, to find ourselves in a relatively narrow ravine with towering cliffs above us and across the ravine from us. On our left the base of the cliffs had become very broken, with massive rocks and numerous very narrow slots leading who knows where. However, Terrylea and I managed to find the bottom of the pass we needed. We were, in the beginning, unsure if it was the one we needed, but we worked our way up this narrow gully and then became sure that we right. The steepening and narrowing gully, with cliffs on either side, led us to the very narrow and steep slot through the cliffs that earlier walkers had called Maxwells Ladder. ( 0241724e, 6108720n) Eventually the slot ended on some steeply-sloping granite slabs. From there, it was a short walk to the summit. Terrylea had an awful job here, bashing a way through very dense scrub and weaving her way around obstacles, to the summit slabs where we stopped for lunch at 1.30 pm.
After 30 minutes we were on our way again. The summit of this mountain is typical Budawangs country. It is very rough and broken, with huge rocks, slabs and gullies, mostly covered in sparse trees and very dense, tall scrub. We had to make for an unseen, narrow saddle, almost a bridge, between two higher points north and south and two cliff-lined gullies cutting in from east and west. Terrylea led us competently to this bridge through the maze of granite outcrops and dense scrub, from where we climbed up the northern slope. We had heard that there was a cairn somewhere along the way, but would we find it? We did! Despite all the weaving and also the scrub, we “hit it” almost head on. (0241852e, 6109063n) From this cairn we took a compass bearing to the pass (0241619e, 6109242n) that would take us down. It is not easy to find the pass in the jumble of gullies and slabs, boulders and thick scrub. However, we didn’t take too long to find what seemed to be the right pass. We started the descent not being absolutely sure, but soon it became clear that we were on the right track and came to a narrow slot that took us easily down to the base of the cliffs. Maxwell’s Ladder is quite something, but this pass we now descended is most spectacular, going down between massive cliffs, those on our left a bright red from, I assume, lichens. Terrylea, as with all the walk, led us competently down, then through a lovely forest of tall, straight gum trees and then, unfortunately but unavoidably, through quite thick, tough Banksia scrub, to the Red Ground Track and so back to the cars where we arrived at 4.05 pm. Both Terrylea and I were a little surprised when we suddenly stepped out of the scrub onto the trail, but we will say no more about this!
Incidentally, in crossing the Endrick River on the way back Paul picked up a leech. None of us had any salt (the best way to remove a leech) but I tried staminade and it worked a treat.
Back at the cars at 4.05 pm we sat for a while enjoying some cake and tea/coffee, before heading back to Canberra after a fantastic day walking and exploring.
(NB Please do not use my GPS co-ordinates unless you first verify them)
Setting off along the Red Ground Track
A spray of Sun Orchid flowers
Crossing the Endrick River
continuing along the Red Ground Trail
walking along the base of the cliffs, under the overhangs. Terrylea in the lead
Getting up into Maxwell’s Ladder
At the top of Maxwell’s Ladder looking down. It is much steeper
than it looks. From this point we moved out onto the slab on the right
which took us clear of the pass
Clearing Maxwell’s Ladder, which finishes about where the
black-trunk tree is on the left.
Ah! that elusive cairn! Terrylea, dauntless leader, adds another stone
The beginning of the pass taking us down
Coming down. Looking back to the top of the pass.
Yours truly in the foreground trying to keep up with our
fearless leader who is having so much fun in exploring the route on this
going down! At this point we were still unsure that we were in the right
place. We didn’t follow the slot on the left, but turned right, around the
bottom of the boulder in the immediate foreground. past the blackened tree.
Only then did Terrylea and I know that we were in the right place and the
slot would take us safely down
About to go down a steep and narrow slot, almost a slide! The view is foreshortened
and the steepness is not too apparent, nor the distance of the “slide” which takes one
right down to the bottom
C’mon Guys, if I can do it so can you. Just slide!
Back at the Endrick River, Paul catches a leech
Caught, immersed in the beauty of our fragile world
What a great day! What fun! And oh! but this water
feels great! Recrossing the Endrick River.