Wollangambe Adventures

Wollangambe Crater – 26 – 27 November 2016
A walk to Wollangambe Crater wouldn’t usually be blog-worthy but, as with many of my trips, not everything went according to plan.  MSS member Mark posted on FB that he wouldn’t mind doing an overnight walk to the Crater and asked if anyone wanted to go along.  Having done the trip more times than I’d like to remember, and knowing that MSS isn’t really into overnight walks, I volunteered to go with him, and to add a bit of a challenge, to do some off track and give him some navigating pointers.

As Steve R and Jeff B came along, all I really had to do was wander along in the background, Jeff took charge of the navigation training and Steve did his usual sterling job of route finding.  Mark’s two kids Kai and Hugo joined us.

At the car park, we met up with some UBMBC members and their leader Ruth who I’d spoken with in the lead up as I knew they were going to the Crater too.  Ruth is a kindred spirit and I hope to go on some adventures with her in the future.

An hour into the walk you arrive at The Big Pagoda, every person who goes to Wollangambe Crater stops here to climb the pagoda and admire the rugged scenery.

Everything started out well, although it was a very hot day and the flies were atrocious.

The flannel flowers provided a magnificent display for most of the walk (Mark in front, Kai and Hugo), big packs for 10 and 12 year olds but I think they were light.

We hit the high point we were aiming for about 3/4 of the way along the track and then headed down a spur to Wollangambe River, so far so good.  We veered a little too far to the right and encountered a cliff-line at the river, Jeff and Steve looked around for a way down and it was all about 30m of air.  This is when I usually start berating myself … what was I thinking bringing three beginners (2 of them children), into unknown country? …  even though it was only 1k of off track I should know better … and although the contour lines did indicate a promising route down to the river, what if we didn’t find a way down?

We backtracked a little and got onto the nose of the spur which is where we should have been all along and (I am truly blessed) we had a clean route down to the river.

Our first small climb down, easily negotiated without a pack.

Steve, out in front offered us two routes down, one with a “step” which I later found out was 2m and the other a ramp, which we took, only a small amount of rock scrambling and we were on the river.

We were all hot and bothered by this time and were really pleased to get to the water and cool off.

The junction of our spur and the river, a nice sandy spot, unfortunately not enough room to camp, the route in the distance was our way down through the cliff-line.

I had indicated that it was an “easy” one hour downstream, I’d done this section twice before once about 6 years ago and more recently in January 2015 and that’s how long it had taken us both times.  And although I had said that there shouldn’t be any deep pools, I did say to waterproof packs “just in case”.

Well, that was before a combination of (a) the fires of 2013, (b) the April 2015 wind event and (c) a couple of massive flooding events in 2015 and 2016 … now the river is chocked up with huge dead trees, and there were a few sections where I was up to my chest in water (the depth sounder), the others found a way of not getting that wet.  It took us an hour and a half to walk the 750m downstream, a lot of which was climbing over dead trees.

The creek started out ok, a lot of dead stuff on the sides, you can see the gum trees still trying to recover after the fires, even after 3 years.

And then it got harder, this block up of burned trees involved a little manoeuvring as there was a deep pool in front and at the side of us.

Whilst the boys had their sleeping bags in dry bags, they were still cautious about totally immersing their packs, so tried to keep them out of the water most of the time. Water doesn’t look deep does it?

The canyon then started to close in with some lovely sections of cliff on either side.

Nice section of creek

Hugo in the creek

Almost at the campsite and there’s another bounder block up, Hugo and I took to the rocks which were quite slippery, the others battled the scrub on the side of the creek.

One last big pool before we climbed out to the side.

We made it to the overhang (our campsite for the night) by 3.30, which all things considered, wasn’t too bad and I think after the day’s walk, that everyone was happy, pleased to be in camp, but none of them looked like they’d never walk with me again (well, it goes without saying that Jeff and Steve will, I think they’d pretty much follow me to hell and back provided I sugar coated it and sold the walk to them).

Day 2 was to be a walk around from the overhang to the campsite that most people use.  Again, the fires had changed the vegetation completely, gone was the nice footpad that I have followed in the past and we had about a k of battling through scrub.  Eventually we got to the campsite and caught up with Ruth and her group again.  We then dropped our packs and had a lovely walk up to the Crater (not really a crater but more like a big swamp).

Here is our campsite – see the overhang in the back ground. These two giant trees used to be standing on the bank, the fires, massive flooding a couple of years in a row and a wind event after that caused both trees to topple over, however, they make a good bridge to the other side (Kai on the left, Hugo on the right).  When it floods, the water is as high as the overhang.

The campsite at the Crater, freezing cold in winter, very hot in summer and not much firewood (and surely lots of snakes). (Photo:  Mark H)

The boys running across the log on the return trip from the Crater, my heart was in my mouth (please don’t fall). (Photo:  Mark H)

We returned to our packs and started up on the tourist track which I had said would take us all the way back to the cars, no more off track adventures, and we’d be at the cars by about 12.30.  Again, since the fires the tourist track in some places isn’t as distinct as it used to be.  We were probably half way along the track when those upfront discovered that it had “disappeared”.  Instead of backtracking or getting out the GPS, we blundered around in the bush looking for it and eventually ended up on a small outcrop where we could see exactly where we’d made our error.  We spotted a nice “route” that would save the effort of backtracking and headed for a saddle in the distance.  As far as off track routes go, it was a good one, although by this time some of us were quite tired and hot and bothered, so it was a slow trip.  Never the less, we were eventually back on the track having had a little 45minute detour.

Our 2nd off track adventure, the terrain was lumpy but the vegetation wasn’t untidy so it wasn’t too bad at all and there was only 50m or so of scrub until we hit the tourist track.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, although it was bloody hot.  We arrived back to the cars to find a note from Ruth that all their vehicles had sustained “damage”, someone had visited the parked cars during the weekend and had jimmied open all the fuel access doors and syphoned off petrol, Mark lost a full tank, Jeff’s had been opened but the “diesel only” sign deterred them.  We’re going to have to park our cars elsewhere in the future.

The stats are impressive … Distance – 20.01k (about right for an overnight walk with me); Ascent – 851m (felt more like 2,000m); Moving Time – 6.07 hrs (doesn’t sound like much does it?); Stopped time – 5.36 hrs (we took a lot of breaks due to the heat); Average moving time – 3.3k per hour, considering that we were only doing 1k/hr in the river, that’s pretty impressive!  Thanks for the stats Jeff (he’s found new things that his GPS can do, we can look forward to more stats on future walks!).

So, will Mark and the boys ever walk with me again?  the jury’s out there … Kai and Hugo, you did a great job this weekend, you were both good company and didn’t complain about the hardships, lovely kids Mark!  All I can say is thank goodness that I just didn’t post to Mark on FB that “there’s a tourist track all the way – just go for it!”  I certainly wouldn’t send a novice bushwalker out on that track at the moment, it’s too indistinct in places!  Thanks everyone for spending the weekend out in the bush with me.

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2 Responses to Wollangambe Adventures

  1. Jenny Hughes says:

    Sounds like it was an amazing trip! Wish I had been there!

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