Flag Retrieval - Part One
Map:- Endrick 1:25000 3rd edition
Mark D, Dug F
I drove down to Hornsby, trained into and out from Sydney, to pick up the new pouches that fit on the front of my Aarn backpack; from Active8 outdoors store. In Kent Street on the opposite side from Paddy Pallin. Then I drove on to pick up Mark at Rydalmere, just after lunch.
The trip to Morton National Park near Nerriga, via the Hume highway, Bungonia and O’Allen ford was smooth as usual. I was helped along by an early tea at the Marulan Truck Stop 31. We camped on the fire trail 300m south past the NP gate at the same spot we used during course setting. The big tarp was set up to keep everything dry just in case, but it didn’t rain the whole time. It was a pleasant enough night for mid winter, not all that cold and no rain. The forecast was for cold weather with gale force winds and the chance of a shower or two, particularly over the next two of days.
A pleasant start to the day, entertained by lyre birds nearby, well into their mating calls display. We were away walking by 07:30, the first task for the day, for Mark to find CP23(old) on a spur above an unnamed creek, just 450m from camp. Level walking with a couple of moderately thick hakea scrub patches and some rocky ground on the way but overall quite reasonable. The wind was starting to get up giving us a clear wind chill factor and spinning the flag about.
I didn’t use this checkpoint for navshield, because the vetters thought it was in the wrong location. Also I believed the map should have shown a small watercourse and spur, but didn’t. This would have made things confusing for teams using the event for training, especially as it was so close to the base site. I had originally set this cp on a small spur 100 m further north, but I felt it was too close to my start point and the gps agreed. On a second try I found what I believe was the correct spur and reset the cp there (the gps agreed). The vetters wanted to put the CP in my original position. Anyway today Mark walked straight to the CP and we recovered the flag. This doesn’t unequivocally prove me right (because I would approach from a different start point to prove the location), however it does increase my confidence.
We then walked south and east cross country to collect CP 64 on a saddle on the ridge above Gallaghars Creek, no problems here. The scrub overall quite easy and we walked straight to the correct location. Views south and west over the farming land with the mountains around Canberra the distant skyline. From here our course was parallel to Gallaghars Creek and up to CP 47 on a broad spur, this time moderate scrub in places but overall not too bad and we walked straight to the point. As usual many things of interest to see, like:- the white coral fungus, the golden spider web glistening in the early morning sun, or the delightful play of sunlight through the trees.
A compass bearing took us to the creek junction just south of CP 35 in the gully on creek bank right. From here our course was sw up the spur to the road. Pleasant enough walking sheltered from the worst of the wind. It was just a step down the road to drop off and collect CP36(old) on a spur, very straight forward.
Next target was CP44(old) an easy enough rout cross country to within a couple hundred meters of the CP but the next 200m was a mess of thick mongrel scrub and we took a few minutes to find the right place (and an alternative location marked by Keith and Rose). I’m glad I dropped this CP from the course. Getting to it was not pleasant and while it was on a watercourse junction, it could have been anywhere up to 50m away because it was so indeterminate. CP36(old) was dropped because it was off the course without CP44(old). The thick scrub had one blessing, we were out of the now hurricane force wind and the sunshine even made it pleasant a temperature for lunch, sitting on a fallen log
Then on to CP 45 on the spur west of the 794 spot hight. Because the scrub was so thick in the creeks and Keith reported a horror story about thick scrub coming on a direct compass bearing from CP 45 to Cp44(old), we went ne across the creeks before going east up the obvious spur to the CP. This proved easy, pleasantly lightly wooded. As we ascended the wind did become more apparent. We had passed several freshly fallen tree limbs, and both of us glad we were not there when they crashed down. Because of this slight danger we tended one to keep 10m – 20m behind the one in front (hopefully we wouldn't both be clobbered).
Just past here Mark and I separated. Mark to collect CP 46 on a knoll via an easy ridge system, and I to CP 80 on Barneys Hill via an equally easy ridge system, under tall trees and therefore only light scrub. Our plan to rejoin each other at CP 90 on Crafts Crown, we both encountered thick scrub after collecting our respective CP. I in particular had about 1km of mongrel hakea and tea tree scrub to bash and struggle through. In the more open places the wind strong enough to knock one down. At various places around the horizon you could see rain showers but we remained dry despite dark threatening clouds overhead every now and then. In fact not all that much sunshine today.
We reunited in a beaut overhang at the base of the cliff, on the eastern side of Crafts Crown, flat floor, fire wood and sheltered from the hurricane force west winds, but no obvious nearby water. We debated stopping here as the time was 16:30 but decided to move on to Hoddles Castle as both Paul and Geoff had reported a good overhang on the ne corner. Also we need water to cook with.
The ridge se was good going to the creek, (where we filled with water for a camp), but the broad ridge ese towards CP 56 proved to be 500m of button grass swamp, not notably easy to walk through. I was getting quite tired now so we were decidedly slower and it wasn’t till 19:30 that we stopped in an overhang to cook tea and camp the night. This proved to have a relatively rough floor and was subject to bouts of blustery wind, still we needed to stop and made a good home of it.
We had picked up CP 44 "the saddle" on the way but missed CP 56 because it was on an exposed ledge part way up the cliff face, in the strong wind. Would you believe we found a pool of water at the base of the cliff a few meters round from the saddle, so we slogged up hill with 4kg extra for nothing, probably better tasting water there too.
A pleasant enough night with the stars and Ľ moon brightening the skies above the silhouetted trees and cliffs, occasionally when the cloud cleared in the storm. The roar of the wind and swish of the trees our background symphony to help lull us to sleep.
We arose with the sun in the morning, still a howling wind from the west. Away about 07:40 we quickly retraced our steps to pick up CP 56 and back. We then followed the base of the cliff to the eastern corner of Hoddles Castle (the excellent overhang here mentioned before, was buffeted by the gale force wind, so our choice last night, proved the right one), then down and up the steep saddle to the knoll where we picked up CP 72. Beautiful views to the north east and south. Open heath land leading up to tall cliffs of the Budawangs, Mount Houghton, Sturgiss Mountain, Mount Elliot, Quiltys Mountain, Round Mountain, Fosters Mountain, each with its own aura and presence in the early morning sunshine. A rather special place to awaken in and walk through.
Our course took us east to the foot track shown on the map then along the track north and west to pick up CP 71 perched on a rocky outcrop, a few 100m north of the track. This few 100m was not pleasant, thick mongrel hakea scrub. One small blessing was that we found a place to cross the creek with dry boots, rather than wade the waist deep pools of mighty cool water. The magnificent scenery rewarding us for the effort through the scrub. Behind a giant whales head, formed from the cliffs of the high point nw of Hoddles Castle. A totally cloudless sky but the cold blustery wind with a very significant chill factor encouraged us to keep our thermals and coats on. If anything a stronger gale than yesterday, every now and then a gust would cause us to stagger. We were in the open in the lea of high ground so, not as much fear of falling tree limbs.
We followed the foot track on to the southern end of Fosters Mountain where we crossed Sallee Creek, with dry feet, before taking the ridge to the base of the cliff line. We followed the base of the cliffs around to where, I continue on to pickup CP 42 (and water for tonight’s camp). While Mark headed down to pick up CP 43 then on west to CP 48. I continue around the base of the cliff and down the spur to pick up CP 41, then back up to the cliff line to abeam the saddle between Fosters Mountain and Square Top Mountain. Where I got a radio call from Mark who was in the middle of the saddle, he decided to go on to collected CP 54 on Square Top Mountain. While I walked on to check out the camping cave Keith and Geoff, told me about just a couple of 100m north.
This is magnificent country to walk and there are numerous, access routs to the top of the mountain, camping caves, water spots, abundant food sources, broad and narrow leaf geebungs, native currents all fruiting but mostly not tasty yet. At the saddle I found a magnificent camping cave with two axe grove and several ochre grinding pits, unluckily today too windy to use as a camp.
The camping cave further on turns out to be a great spot, obviously well used in recent years and would you believe it, an excellent water source nearby in the cliff line. In fact there is a small stream with pools of water right here beside the camp cave but I would be less likely to use this unless boiled. Still carrying 4 or 5 kg of extra water for several hours, is character building, isn't it?
I had hoped to collect the other two CP’s on Fosters Mountain and the other nearby tonight, and then walk on, to camp at Round Mountain. But I have been slower than expected today possibly because of the long day yesterday and late finish last night. Anyway we have done enough and this really is a great place to camp at 16:30.
The strong wind of the last two days seemed to be abating as forecast, but there was still a breeze through this cave. Still we have a good camp and cook great meals. During the night the wind dropped completely and I found it very cold despite having two inner sheets, (between them they are supposed to add 11 degrees to the warmth rating of the sleeping bag). I don’t know how they measure that, but the temperature defiantly wasn’t -6°, (marks thermometer says 1°). Wearing a pair of over-pants and my coat in the sleeping bag made things warm enough to sleep well.
A sunny start to the day with no wind, both of us stay in the sack longer than usual partly because of the cold and partly because we are on the western side and the sun took a while to reach us. Away about 08:10, we find the pass to the top nearby and quickly scramble up to collect the flag of CP 75. Great views and clear skies.
No wonder it was cold last night there is frost on the ground up here, even in the bright sunshine and all the many puddles are completely toped with ice about 3mm thick. The scenery is magnificent with views every where to the west, south through to north, a place people are meant to be. We walk along the rock ledges on the tops to CP 52 at the northern end of the mountain. Interesting rock formations all the way along. We pass several places where it seems possible to get down, had we wished. The views from CP 52 are magnificent, to the north, with Round Mountain, Flat Top Mountain, Quiltys Mountain and a number of high points with cliff sides and flat tops.
We easily find the pass down, and cross the saddle to the nearby pinnacle to the west to collect CP 31. A lovely walk with tall trees and little under scrub. Our path is then west to the service trail, we follow this south to the ridge and “a knoll” that is out attack point for CP 74 on a side creek. Navigation is easier than expected and the walking quite pleasant. A bit away from the track I found an old type vacuum "radio valve", just to prove we are a wilderness search squad.
Out next target is CP 32 on a spur just about due south. Again this proves better than expected walking and I nearly overshoot looking for the ridge to narrow, fortunately Mark is on the ball and we start looking just at the right time. We continue up the spur sw to the road and walk back towards the car. Mark drops down to collect CP 55 while I walk ahead to pack up the tarp ready to head home. Mark arrives just as I complete my task. We wash and change clothes to try and change our smell and are off about 15:40.
The drive back is uneventful, via a good early tea for me at Marulan Truck Stop 31. A great walk in magnificent scenery, good camps, and great company. I can highly recommend this as a great walking area, and you could make it as easy or hard as you wished. Thank you Mark and a Job well done to us both. Till next time. © Dug Floyd July 2008.