SENTRY BOX – A WONDERFUL WINTER WALK.
What an incredible winter’s day. But then, these are the sort of days one expects in winter in the Canberra area.
6 of us gathered at the meeting place, Kambah Village shops, Canberra, at 7.15 am ,for an early departure (7.30 am) . How I hate these early morning starts. The alarm goes off when it is still dark, and it is cold. Making matters even worse was the thick fog this morning. But then at the meeting place ones spirits lift as the others arrive, happy, smiling, eager and with plenty of repartee. We were leaving early as the start of the walk is an hour and a half drive away, mainly along a slow dirt road , made even slower by the kangaroos often along the verges and always ready to jump in front of the cars. We commenced walking at 9.45 am and returned to the cars at 3.45 pm
Sentry Box Mountain is a massive, free-standing peak right on the ACT/NSW border in a truly beautiful area. Across the Yaouk valley , or perhaps more strictly accurate, across Bradleys Creek, is the massif of Yaouk Peak. Flanked by grasslands, Yaouk Road leads one on, winding through fantastic mountain scenery, the summits, ridges, and gullies in many shades of blue depending on the light, distance and time of day. Sentry Box Mountain has Sentry Box Rock at its northern end, from where the long summit ridge runs in a southwards direction to a prominent saddle before curving in a long arc, first to the east, then north-east, and rising to the summit at 1727m. Because of its height, isolation, nearness to the snow country and rugged terrain, it is not a mountain to be taken lightly, especially in winter. I have been up there in bad winter conditions, when a high wind was driving snow and bitter cold and the summit slabs were covered in ice making further travel to Sentry Box Rock impossible.
Terrylea and I were jointly leading this walk, although most of the work and decision-making would be done by Terrylea. I was there as a “consultant” if needed. She has been keen to learn off-track navigation which is much more than just being able to use a map and compass or a gps. It calls for bushcraft, usually when the topography is hidden by forest and scrub. So she and I have been doing recces together and then jointly leading club walks, usually in rugged country . She is doing very well.
Despite the fog at Kambah, we ran out of it by the time we were passing Lanyon Homestead. It was a stunning, picture-perfect morning with mist rising from the summit of Mt. Tennent and shining as long lakes in the valleys. Driving along Boboyan Road, winding through the mountains, through Namadgi National Park, the forest and hills were sparkling in the early morning light, as was the heavy frost. What a wonderful, beautiful world we live in, and what a superb mountain wilderness we have right on the very edge of the National Capital. However, we had to keep our eyes open and senses keen as at this time, and again in the late afternoon, it is hard to see the kangaroos beside the road which have a habit of bounding across the road right in front of one without warning.
Eventually, we passed Brayshaws Hut, crossed the border into New South Wales, noticed the gate on our left that is covered in old boots, and turned right into Yaouk (as in kayak) Road at Shannons Flat. All in brilliant sunshine and a heavy frost. But what a beautiful day. But then we went over a rise and were back in thick fog. Oh, oh! Where was our mountain? A little bit further on and we were back in sunshine and Sentry Box Mountain could be seen in the distance. The blue mountains, rising above gleaming fog into the sunshine looked magnificent. Then the fog closed in again. Now I was in trouble! Where do we park the cars? In the past I have always found this from a position against the mountain. When I thought we were close I had to resort to the GPS – yes, 300 metres further on.
A quick compass bearing and off we went into the pea soup. Terrylea led us expertly across the paddocks (one does need permission to walk across these paddocks as they are private land) down to the small homemade bridge across Bradley’s Creek and then across two more creeks in the bush to the gully we needed to ascend up to a saddle before the final climb to a ridge which leads directly to Sentry Box Rock. By now the fog had cleared. It was cold, and the sunlight was for some time merely tantalizing us in the distance. Terrylea chose an excellent way up the true right side of the creek, through beautiful, gleaming tall forest, threading our way through large, moss-covered boulders, and over and around fallen trees, avoiding any thick scrub. As we gained height and were approaching the saddle I suggested that she might like to deviate from our planned route and take us up through huge boulders on the other side of the valley. She changed course with alacrity. Now we were in full sun and the understory which had never been much, all but disappeared. We threaded our way up, over and around immense granite boulders over very steep ground, once again, Terrylea choosing an excellent line up onto the ridge. Suddenly the view opened up to the south west and what a stunning view it was: mighty Jagungal and the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains in incredible shades of blue, topped with shining white snow, against a deep blue cloudless sky. Finally we came out on the lovely ridge, covered in moss-covered granite slabs, open Snow Gum forest and Snow Grass leading to the summit ridge and Sentry Box Rock. From one high, level slab we had a magnificent view of Sentry Box Rock towering above the trees. Soon we were on the summit slabs and, after passing that very suggestive rock, were having lunch next to Sentry Box Rock from where we had magnificent views across to the Scabby Range, Mt Gudgenby, the Tinderry Range, and of course Yaouk Peak and the Snowy Mountains beyond. Whilst the air temperature was only about 4*c, there was not a breath of wind and jackets were unnecessary at lunch time. However, your scribe was nearly killed while enjoying his lunch. Jonathon had perched himself on the small top of a high rock nearby to enjoy his lunch when his pack toppled over and landed with a crash.
After lunch, Terrylea led us south along the summit ridge, taking a great line through the boulders and sometimes thick scrub, past spot height 1696m to the most picturesque, broad and level saddle of Snow Grass and Snowgums. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the ACT/NSW border marker on the way. From the saddle, we took the long, steep and rugged gully leading down in a south-westerly direction. From the saddle, for quite a long way down, we were in snow, making for an even more careful descent than usual. Eventually we climbed out of the gully and onto the true right ridge of the gully from where we continued our descent, easing over to our right, and continuing down to where the slope eased right back. From here we changed direction, heading about 3200m . It was then easy walking through open forest to the saddle at about 698e, 335n (Yaouk topo map 1:25000) . From there, it was an easy saunter north-west along the low ridge to join our outward track and so back to the cars on a truly beautiful late afternoon, the paddocks pale amber in the late sun and the mountains surrounding us standing out in shades of blue. And so ended another perfect winter’s day in the mountains with great companions. Well led Terrylea.
this photo of Sentry Box Mt. was taken from Yaouk Peak on an earlier walk. Sentry Box Rock is on the summit ridge on the far left. Spot Height 1696 is on the far right and obscures the actual summit. We ascended the gully on the extreme left , then ascended to the ridge to the right of SB Rock. The gully we came down lies behind the ridge descending diagonally down from SH 1696.
Another view of Sentry Box from Yaouk Pk. On the left, we came out on the shallow saddle and then followed the skyline ridge leading to SB Rock. SH1696 is in the centre of the photo, with our descent gully immediately to its right. The actual summit is on the right.
Sentry Box Rock, SH1692, our descent gully, and the summit.
Suddenly, threading our way through the massive boulders, the view opened up to reveal Jagungal Mtn with part of the Main Range to its left.
Approaching Sentry Box Rock
Lunch and Sentry Box Rock
Lunch and view across to Mt. Gudgenby
Mt Gudgenby to right of centre
Jagungal Mtn (centre) and the Main Range, Snowy Mountains, NSW, from near Sentry Box Rock
From near Sentry Box Rock, looking south along the summit ridge to SH1696. The saddle at the head of our descent gully can be seen to the left of SH1696
the illusive ACT/NSW border marker, on an earlier walk from about half way between Sentry Box rock, seen in the distance, and SH1696. The two “arms” of the marker indicate the direction of the border, and, buried beneath the midpoint of the line of rocks is the actual survey marker.
At the end of our long descent, the ground levels out and we are in beautiful tall, open forest.
late afternoon light on SH1696
Looking back as we cross the grasslands on the way back to the cars
Late afternoon. Nearly back at the cars. Yaouk Peak across the valley
Looking back at Sentry Box and the moon. The approach gully on the left, then the skyline ridge going diagonally to the right. SBR lies hidden. SH1696 on the right.
Approaching the last small knoll immediately beyond which is the small bridge over Bradleys Creek.