WOLLEMI WILDERNESS – 29 & 30 June 2019
Putty Road > Kooroo Creek > Tinda Creek > Culoul Creek > Culoul Range Fire Trail
I’ve always admired those early bushwalkers who explored the Colo/Wollemi Wilderness without a GPS to back them up – just using a map and compass. It only takes one small thing all expectations of where you are on the trip can be wrong, why we don’t hear stories of huge errors on their trips is surprising. This was one of those trips, not that it involved us getting lost, but my expectation of where we were did add a further 4 hours onto our trip on Sunday. But, more about that later …
This was a trip that I’d planned last August, we ended up only doing a part of the walk as, only 2 hours from the car, I was knocked over by a falling rock and we decided to call it a day and go home. I’d always intended going back and doing the full trip, Jeff agreed to navigate it for me and Trish M (who’d been with me when I’d taken the fall), Heather (who’ll go anywhere with me), Brad and Bill (Mule), joined me. At 9am, we started from Putty road after setting in place a vehicle at the end (thanks Peter T for giving us the Prado).
At the saddle, we were about 1.5k from our destination, but I looked at the map and the thought of climbing up another bloody 100m up a hill, just to go down the other side to our campsite wasn’t appealing, so I looked at the map and suggested to Jeff that we contour around from the saddle we were in and avoid the 100m climb, this contour (about a k) would take us to a spur and then down to the junction of Tinda and Wollemi Creeks.
Neither Jeff nor I like to use the GPS on trips, we take one, but prefer old school map and compass work, so that we wont lose those skills. I did however, get Jeff to check where we were on the GPS, it was getting late in the day and I didn’t want us to waste any time.
Whilst the idea to contour around the hill was a good one, it didn’t quite turn out that way. Anyway, we started contouring, but also started dropping quicker than we realised, I wasn’t paying attention to how far we had gone, or how quickly we had dropped to a cliff-line, if I had been paying attention, I would have realised that we weren’t far enough along. Anyway, we found a cliff-line, then we found a way down through the cliff-line and dropped into the creek
We walked about 300m downstream and came to a creek junction (what I expected to be the junction of Tinda & Wollemi Creeks). This looked like a good campsite, and from the map I knew there was a pool of water (as the campsite was dry), upstream in Wollemi creek, about 100m. We walked upstream and there was a pool of water, not as deep as I was expecting, but a big pool where we picked up water for the night and the next day.
All of this was what I had expected, I didn’t even consider that we might not be where I thought we were.
We were all pretty tired, but managed to collect a good supply of (wet) firewood, and then settled around for dinner. Once the wine/brandy/butterscotch schnapps & vodka and lemon juice was exhausted, most of us went to bed to get a good night’s sleep.
With our assumption of where we were, we looked at our alternatives for getting up onto the ridge we wanted, initially we’d thought about going downstream for a k (in the “Wollemi”), but then Jeff had found what looked like a good ramp up the spur behind our campsite.
It was at this point that Trish looked at her GPS watch and said, the car’s that way South West (pointing to the spur to the right of our campsite), no, no says I, we’re going South West (pointing to the spur to the left of our campsite). I was so sure of our position that we didn’t take the time to double check.
It was at this point that I asked Jeff to check the elevation and I asked for a GR of where we were. Jeff’s GR didn’t put us where I thought we were so I asked Trish to check hers too, as from my map, it looked like we were 1k to the East of where I expected we should be.
It turns out that we had camped on the intersection of Tinda Creek & Culoul Creek. Everything was as it should have been and as I’d expected it to be, except we were 1k upstream of where we were supposed to be on the intersection of Wollemi Creek. We’d dropped down too quickly and had not travelled far enough along the contour on the previous afternoon – would I have picked this up if I’d been paying attention? Would old timer bushwalkers have picked this up? Probably. As it turned out, this was a fortuitous error, as if we’d followed the original route, we would have been going down the spur to the Wollemi/Tinda junction in the dark!
And my “bad” for not looking at the map and getting a GR off Trish when she’d said we should be going South West while we were still in camp.
So, if we kept along this ridge, eventually there’d be a creek crossing and we’d end up about 2k from our vehicles on the fire trail. We decided to do the creek crossing earlier and get back onto our original route. All we had to do was to get above a cliff-line and we’d be home and hosed as they say.
We climbed up another 150m and came to a cliff-line, Jeff took a quick look to the left and I went looking along to the right for a way up. I said there was an ok way and everyone came towards me, in hindsight, we should have gone the way Jeff wanted to go.
Eventually we were in Culoul Creek and ready to head up the other side to our target ridge. We were lucky to find a relatively easy route up.
So, we arrived at the car at 4pm, I figure our 2.5k detour up the wrong spur and then over to the right one, cost us about 4 hours but then again, who knows what obstacles we would have encountered if we’d taken the spur to the South West rather than the one to the South East. At least now we know that that’s a viable route, not that I ever intend going back to that campsite again (lol).
Lessons and things I learned on the trip … I’m not an old-timer bushwalker, check the GPS when you make camp (lol) and don’t make assumptions. Culoul and Tinda creeks are both dry and sandy, so it’s highly unlikely that you could rely on water in either of these creeks, except for the pool that we found 100m+ downsteam on Tinda from the Culoul/Tinda junction. Tinda Creek is very rocky and because it doesn’t get much sun, the rocks are incredibly slippery. During June/July (shortest daylight hours) 10k off track is too much, I should only expect to be able to travel 7k at the most, and even during longer daylight hours, 10k is the most I’d want to do now, I was stuffed when we got into camp.
Will I go back to the area? The jury’s out on that, I do like the area, I love negotiating through cliff-lines, and the ridges were nice and open. Would I be able to convince anyone else to go back, well, maybe Heather and Bill but I seriously doubt the others would be up for another trip!
Thanks everyone for coming with me, ticked another trip off the wish list!