ETTREMA PLATEAU – 4 – 6 July 2020
I think the last time I did the walk to/from Tilly Ann Gap, I swore that it was the last time, but all it needed was Louise saying that we’d go out and look for a lost cave and check on Monkey Ropes Creek and there I was on that bloody 16k of fire trail again!
Our plan was to walk out to the Gap, check out the creek and look for the cave, but it morphed into much more than that, all in preparation for an IYDM (In Your Dreams M) trip planned for the middle of the month – an epic descent of Monkey Ropes Creek (watch this space).
The trip didn’t start all that well for me. I had to drive 4.5 hours to get to the track-head. So, I planned to stop at Nerriga Pub for a toasted ham & cheese sandwich and a glass of wine in front of their open fire reading my book before driving the final 20 minutes to the track-head. I got to the pub at 5.30 only to find that it was effectively closed, except for takeaway alcohol. So, I bought a packet of chips and a bottle of Corang Shiraz, and that was my dinner, thankfully I’d had a big lunch (only had one mug of wine before I decided it was too cold to sit up drinking wine!)
The obligatory death selfie (to prove we were having a good time).
Louise arrived and we were on the track at 8am. Now you would think that it would be horrible walking through a scorched earth landscape, but for the 16k walk in, the fire had made it a whole lot easier, no bushes to brush aside, no sticks on the ground to trip on. This is the year to walk in Ettrema!
One of the many rock slabs, the fire burned really hot in some areas, trees have no green on them, they will not survive and in years to come will fall over and it will be a real pain to walk here.
This is the head waters of Jones Creek, ordinarily you wouldn’t be able to see the water because of the scrub, it has helped that the major rain event in February has filled all the creeks and streams, water which can be a real problem will be assured for the next few months.
There were many areas where the water had settled after the rain event, and hadn’t seeped away fast enough, then these mossy areas had formed, the brightest green. None of these trees will survive.
We made really good time, took us around 4.5 hours to do the 16k, we got to Tilly Ann’s Gap, couldn’t recognise where we’d camped in the past, just a mass of ferns. We dropped packs and headed up to pick up water, lots of water in the creek.
We then set off to look for a cave that reputably was in the area. We found this nice cosy cave, quite sheltered only space for two people, but could have been a problem for us as it was like a tunnel and the wind would have howled through (and it was really windy).
Found this impressive overhang, not good enough to camp under (too high up), but this is good example of the hard crust of (possibly) Ordovician metamorphic rock, rock that is much harder than the underlying sandstone. One of the things I love about Ettrema are the big slabby creeks (harder rock than sandstone), they’re usually in the upper reaches and I suspect this rock is the same as the top of this overhang. (photo: Louise)
We did however find this overhang which we are calling Lost Cave, there’s room for 2 or 3 people so we decided to use this as our base. (Photo: Louise)
Louise spoils me rotten on these trips, bringing in a chair for me, and this time sparkling wine, camembert and tacos for dinner (plus a hot cocktail and chocolate!). PLUS, we watched movies on Louise’s I-Pad on both nights, Movies in the Bush, how decadent is that!
The first night the wind was really bad, and the fire wasn’t good because it wasn’t protected, so I built a fire place for the future, the second night it was nice and toasty, mind you, there was no wind the second night.
Next morning we headed over to Monkey Ropes Creek to see how it was in preparation for our trip in two weekends time. Really easy walking ordinarily this would have been a creek of sword grass.
We then headed out of the creek having seen as much as we needed to see, the rain in February definitely helped the ferns recover.
Once our of the creek, we headed over to Lyre Bird’s Leap, a spot that Louise often visits, great view, close to water and camping spots which would be convenient for our Monkey Ropes Creek epic trip.
On the cliff-line at Lyre Bird’s Leap, the water seeps over the edge and below there are pot holes which usually have water in them (even when we’re in a dry spell).
The creek above, you can see the harder rock at the top of the waterfall.
And looking upstream, again, harder rock here than lower down.
The view from Lyre Bird Leap (photo: Louise).
Zoomed – the spur in the distance would ordinarily be covered in vegetation, looks like a moon scape now.
Next we headed over to check out Pass Point which we’d use to get back to camp after Monkey Ropes Creek. We weren’t sure what we’d find at the pass, this looked like a good slot, but too narrow and a couple of hard climbs, cool slot though. We eventually found it, Louise went down to check it out, definitely doable and an easy route out (yaaa!).
A dragon – the top of a burned out stump of a tree.
After a good day of exploration, we made our way back to camp, picked up more water and then settled in for a relaxed evening of movies. We had the best of intentions to get up at 6.30am and be on the track at 7.30, but it was totally dark at 6.30 and absolutely freezing so we stayed in our sleeping bags longer than planned. Eventually we couldn’t procrastinate any longer, so packed up and headed out with the intention of checking out another area where I’d been advised “there’s a camp cave”, although I didn’t know what the grid reference was. We had plenty of time though!
We found a series of overhangs which we are calling the Honeymoon Suits (Louise thinks that you could have a wedding reception there is so much space). They don’t look like they’ve been used before (photo: Louise).
More of the Honeymoon Suite of caves, Louise liked this one as it had a ledge for the I-Pad for movies with a fire underneath, so you could sit in front of the fire and watch the movies (Photo: Louise).
No more likely spots for overhangs so we headed off to our next destination, exploration of another creek. (Photo: Louise).
This creek is another example of the harder rock (harder than sandstone), looks like granite but isn’t, at this contour all over Ettrema the creeks seem to have this slabby base, really cool. We’ve determined to come back and do a big trip downstream.
Heading upstream back to our packs, we came across some canyon-like sections, all you’d need is this same rock on the other side and you’d have a full-on canyon (photo: Louise).
New growth, which was bright orange, photo doesn’t do it justice.
And on the walk out I found this lovely native daisy.
Was a big day, didn’t get back to the cars until 3.30pm, wasn’t looking forward to the long drive home, but I’ve discovered that if you get a Maccas small chocolate milkshake and a “short black” coffee and mix them together, it’s a good hit of caffeine and you don’t burn your tongue. David S very kindly made me a cup of coffee at Pennant Hills though so I had a good break there, back home by 9pm.
Big thanks to Louise for organising this weekend, and bringing in all the luxuries for me, she is truly a Legend and knows Ettrema like the back of her hand!
Banner: scorched earth Thumbnail: scorched Jones Creek
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