30-31/07/2016 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Sara Ladd, Skye O'Donnell, Jon Bell, Matthew Dickerson, Darren Lyons, Fionnuala Baynes, Alex Allchin, Stephen Ellis, Denis Quigley
Boyd River Campground always seems to me to be pretty much the coldest place on earth. This time was no change, with ice on the inside of my fly, and the poles glued to the base of my tent by the frozen ground in the morning.
Alex was curled up in foetal position under a tree on his frosted tarp, and looked less than impressed when I woke him up in time for breakfast. Probably because he wasn't planning on having any.
Most of the party had camped on the Friday night. Matthew drove up from Sydney in the morning and arrived with plenty of time. With all 9 of the group there, I did the briefing at Boyd River before piling into cars for the short drive out to Kanangra Walls. I was quite surprised when Denis met us there - I hadn't heard from him since I gave him the details, so was not expecting him.
So the the then 10 of us headed out first to the Walls Lookout. I go there at least once on every trip to the Walls, and the view never gets boring. The sweeping views of the cliffs of Kanangra Walls, the incredible drop into Kanangra Deep, and the sawtooth ridge up to Cloudmaker never fail to impress.
It was an easy walk out to morning tea at Cottage Rock, where someone had kindly constructed a more stable pile of stones to climb on to the rock. Cottage Rock offers great vistas to the east and west, all the way to Mt Colong and the Blue Breaks, though someone has inconveniently let a tree block the views to the south!
Past Cottage Rock, the Gingra Range track was obscured in a number of places with fallen trees brought down by recent storms. Even where the track was not blocked, it was covered with debris, and not easy to spot.
It was a similar story once we turned off on to Brumby Ridge. Nevertheless it was still easier going on the faint track rather than off, and we managed to largely follow it down to the Kowmung, other than a couple of short sections.
Sara started getting some knee pain on the descent, which I dubiously diagnosed as ITB friction syndrome. Luckily that's what it turned out to be. Once she made it to the river, it didn't cause her much of an issue for the remainder of the weekend.
There were a couple of tents up at Orange Bluff when we arrived. Obviously fisherpeople from their gear, but no-one was in sight. We settled down for lunch on the grassy banks. Alex managed to fire up his twig stove and boil some water for I think the only time the whole weekend. He was also the only one brave or foolish enough for a dip.
I looked somewhat nervously at the crossing of the Kowmung, which was considerably deeper than the last time I had been here, and flowing swiftly. With the aid of a couple of sticks, I got across upstream of the rapids, with the water just under waist deep (for me!) and icy cold. I had been contemplating whether to do multiple crossings or whether to stay on the one bank for the walk downriver, so the temperature of the crossing helped decide that for pretty much everyone. Except perhaps Skye, who had managed to fit two extra pairs of shoes, including river crossing shoes, into her fairly small pack!
The walk down the river is a mixed bag. Some lovely open grass clearings, such as the massive campsite at Rainbow Bluff. Some rocky slabs, some steep loose slopes and some thick forest. Overall it's a pretty nice walk though, and easy enough going. There were unfortunately a lot of signs of pigs. At one point we could see a couple of people struggling across the river in the distance. Presumably the fisherpeople, as we came across their carelessly-left still-smouldering fire with rubbish, which we stopped to clean up.
By late afternoon we were at my campsite, a massive grassy clearing that I had spotted on the aerial photos, just short of Ferny Flat. I had visions of something like Hatchers Hollow, though the reality was a bit short of that. Still, we found a large grassy area down by the river, which was nice and flat, if still a little damp.
The general dampness made getting a fire going rather challenging, and I don't think anyone will be getting their Scout badge for that!
Everyone had enthusiastically embraced Happy Hour, meaning I didn't need half of my dinner, and I picked up some extra things for morning tea the next day to boot!
On the entire 5km walk down the Kowmung, I had been amazed just how much water there was in the river. I'd also been somewhat concerned that we hadn't seen any obvious crossing points. That worry gave me a rather restless night's sleep.
The best crossing points appeared to be just upstream from the rapids, as the river shallowed and sped up. Jon had suggested a possible crossing downstream, and I could hear another rapid upstream. I went scouting up and down after breakfast. I decided on the downstream one, and advised everyone to get two good sticks for balance. It was a similar depth, but somewhat faster than the day before, making the sticks hard to manage. Stephen lost one stick, and almost his balance, in the first couple of metres, but made it across. There were a few other nervous moments, but no incidents, and we were all safely across.
It was only a short walk from there to the bottom of Hughes Ridge, though it did look for a short while like we might get bluffed out - which would have been a bit of a disaster!
Alex was advocating for a first morning tea, but I decided we'd get some of the climbing out of the way first. Instead we had morning tea on top of Mt Hughes, where Alex tried to get his twig stove going again. It spewed smoke everywhere, forcing Stephen to move, but didn't really want to burn, and a disgruntled Alex eventually gave up.
Hughes Ridge is typically of the ridges on the Gingra Range. A steep lower section with occasional patches of scrub leads to an open woodland higher up. Very pleasant walking.
With regular stops to regroup, we turned on to the Gingra Range, and again had occasional difficulty picking up the track. I promised a (late) lunch with a view back at Cottage Rock, where Alex had one last unsuccessful crack at getting the twig stove going.
With a bit of time to spare once we reached the Plateau, we were able to enjoy several of the lookouts as we ambled back to the cars. So much so that no-one was interested in a second visit to the Walls Lookout!
An excellent walk in great company.