30/09-03/10/2016 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Andrew "Smiffy" Smith, Antoniya Bachvarova, Alex Allchin, Nicole Mealing
With the nearest village being the remote silver mining ghost town of Yerranderie, the Blue Breaks are one of the least visited parts of the Blue Mountains National Park. Yerranderie itself is some 5 hours drive from Sydney, though Google Maps seems to reckon you can drive through the Sydney Catchment Area, saving yourself a couple of hours, despite my best efforts to tell them otherwise!
Rachel, Nicole and I left Sydney on the Thursday night of the long weekend, and overnighted at a freezing cold Mt Werong campground. It didn't snow like last time I was there, but I hardly slept for the second half of the night as my toes froze over. They were still cold to touch for most of the drive the next morning into Yerranderie!
I was dubious about my ability to complete a 4-day off track walk in some of the roughest country around. My knee had gotten progressively sorer over Wednesday, going down stairs in particular, and by the end of the day, I was unable to walk on it without hobbling. Nevertheless, I had had similar issues leading into most of the last few multi-day walks I had gone on, and managed, so I figured I'd just take the same approach and press on regardless. I was hopeful that if it was going to flare up, it would do so on the walk down to the Tonalli River, or up to Tonalli Pass, and I could limp back from there to Yerranderie without inconveniencing the rest of the party.
At Yerranderie we had a debate about whether we should move to daylight savings at the start or or at the end. I voted for the end, but was overruled, and every timekeeping device had to be moved forward an hour to Official Trip Time (OTT).
The wind was a feature of the weekend. Every day bar the Sunday was gusty and unpleasant, which made for less than enjoyable conditions on the cliff tops. At least the wind was mostly blowing us on to the cliff tops rather than off! I spent a fair bit of time near the cliff edge carrying my hat to stop it being launched from my head.
Alex pulled out his twig stove for the first time at the Tonalli River for morning tea on the first day. After lots of huffing and puffing, he managed to get his cup of tea, but not without copious quantities of smoke. It was a similar story on the other days.
There was rain forecast for the first day or two, so our first night's camp was in a known cave a short distance from Terni Head. Tonalli Pass went fairly easily, and we were at camp by late afternoon, with time to go out to a windy Terni Head for views. We tried for happy hour on an outcrop near camp, but got blown back to our more sheltered cave.
For our second night we headed across the tops of Lacys Tableland to where there looked to be an obvious pass, and found a bit of a clearing to camp in near the cliff edge. We had found some camp caves in a nearby creek system, but the forecast was for the wind to die down overnight, so we decided to take our chances in the open. The creek system also had a little canyon in it, and we got water from another branch of it not far from camp. On the way across the tops, we sheltered for lunch under an overhang, and Alex spotted a few rocks blocking a hole. Inside was a time capsule, a glass bottle with what looked like excerpts of poems, from 2003. The lid was glued on, so we replaced it for someone else to find in another 20 or 30 years.
The next morning we set off for the pass, which went easily, though it was pretty scrubby in places. Worse was the scrub in and near Green Wattle Creek, which was very slow going in places, though it could have been worse still!
Alex was very disappointed to discover that he had lost his laminated maps somewhere between the pass and Green Wattle Creek. There is something to be said for a pack with a tight lid!
After lunch, we climbed up and over the scenic Green Wattle Mountain, and then back down to Green Wattle Creek to a reasonable campsite under Blue Gums. We considered pressing on for another kilometre to what was supposed to be an excellent campsite, but decided against it being late in the day. A good choice, since it took us an hour and a half the next morning, through some awful scrub, and the campsite we found was fairly poor (there might have been something better nearby, but we never saw it).
It was Nicole's birthday, and she had carried in oranges, and eggs and other ingredients to make chocolate cakes in orange shells on the fire. These were a stellar success, both in taste, and also in finally reducing Nicole's pack weight!
The next morning, after our bash up the creek, we set off up to Vengeance Peninsula. With the wind back to its strongest again, I was increasingly worried about the "Thin Bit" that we needed to cross between Mt Ruthless and Mt Remorseless. I had envisaged massive drop offs on both sides, and the wind was strong enough to make walking in a straight line difficult, let along edging across a knife-edge ridge. As it turned out, the worst of the drop is on one side, and the only compulsory exposed section is the short scramble down on to the Thin Bit from the east.
There's still a fair bit of scrambling to get back to the road at Byrnes Gap. On and off Bull Island, on to the Axeheads, and at quite a few spots along the Axeheads. Towards the end the wind picked up even further, and we were quite glad to get into the gully that leads off Gander Head, and back to the comparative shelter of the road.
Another hour or so's walk got us back to the cars, and a quick turnaround had us at the Hampton Halfway House a bit after 8pm, with the kitchen still open.