01-03/01/2000 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Jonathan Potts, Fiona Macrae, Sacha Vidler, Sarah Wentworth, Martin Laird, Colin Wagstaff, Fadi Ayoub, Nicole Shepherd
If you are looking for a relaxing walk on well-marked tracks, then try something else. This is a difficult walk that involves a certain amount of bush navigation, good map-reading, some basic rock climbing skills and a lot of wading through rocky-bottomed creeks. However, the effort is more than compensated for by the fantastic gorge and cliff views, the feeling of near isolation, and the sense of accomplishment on finishing the walk.
I would suggest that before you think about doing this walk, your group has a high level of general fitness, some bouldering experience and skill at navigation in the bush with no tracks. Also, a relatively early start is advised on all days unless you are happy to have limited stops and get into camp near dusk (mid summer).
We followed the track notes from Wild Magazine's Ten Best Gorge Walks by John Chapman. However, there may be better alternative routes out on the third day.
We drove in on New Year's Eve and camped at a great little campsite a few kilometres before Greta's Rd. We didn't get much (any) sleep and set off bright and early the next morning only to reach a boggy patch that the 2wd cars were unable to negotiate. Luckily the nine of us were able to pile into the one 4wd vehicle and proceed to the start of the walk. I believe that someone was legal to drive...
Day One - Quiera Clearing - Myall Creek Junction (5km, 450m descent)
Walk across the north edge of the clearing and cross the small creek bed on the other side. Climb up on to the ridge and follow it to the east until you reach Myall Ck as it heads south. There should be a low cliffline on the eastern side of the creek. Drop down into the creek bed and follow it south. There is an intermittent track here but it crosses the creek from time to time and occasionally disappears completely. As a result the going is quite slow and we had the odd accident with the creek as people tried to cross back and forth.
After about a kilometre the creek widens, becoming steeper, and the low ferns and scrub give way to larger trees. For a while the walking gets easier, as it is mostly jumping from rock to rock.
Several hundred metres further on, the narrow gorge begins to open out and become rockier. This makes progress a little easier, although there is now no path - just jumping/climbing from rock to rock. We passed several waterholes and small waterfalls, and as it was pretty warm we stopped for lunch at one of them. The water was absolutely freezing! No-one lasted more than a couple of minutes at a time in the water. We refilled our water bottles from the stream, although we decided it was safer to filter the water as the catchment area for the creek includes the Quiera Clearing which has cattle running in it.
A few hundred metres downstream from lunch we reached the first of the larger waterfalls. A length of strong cord would be very handy here for lowering packs down the small cliff. As it was we had to pass the packs from ledge to ledge, and climb down without them.
The next couple of hours are more of the same, although the climbing can be done with packs. There are about eight or nine waterfalls that need to be negotiated, with a fair amount of rock-hopping in between. None are particularly difficult, but they take a fair bit of time to climb safely as they would result in a nasty fall if you slipped.
The gorge flattens out and progress is easy for a while, until the last cascade is reached. This must be passed by climbing along a narrow ledge on the left hand side of the falls. The rest of the day is relatively straighforward, more rock-hopping until you reach the junction of Myall Creek and Ettrema Creek. The campsite is quite a nice one, up in the bushes to the left of Myall Creek. Beware of the bull ants at the campsite - they're numerous and vicious.
Day 2 - Myall Creek Junction - Sentry Box Canyon - Tullyangela Creek Junction (17km, 150m descent)
This is a day where you probably want to wear Tevas (sandals) rather than boots or shoes, as they are likely to get wet. Admittedly, we think the creek was fairly high after a week of showers. However, wading through the creek is much less of a time waster than trying to avoid getting your feet wet.
We left the packs at the campsite and headed upstream for a couple of kilometres to Sentry Box Canyon (Touga 433235). This was mostly easy going with a few small climbs/clambers (or you could swim!). While the gorge is beautiful up here, it is not so different from further downstream that it is a must see, and you could comfortably skip it for a more leisurely day. There is a very nice swimming hole at the canyon itself, however.
Returning back to the campsite, we retrieved our packs and headed downstream. It is about 13km from the campsite to the Tullyangela Creek junction. The next two hours were slow going, mostly crossing the river from side to side, clambering over rocks and wading through the stream. We covered about 4km before we stopped for lunch at a small beach. Note that the beaches on the topo map are generally nothing of the sort - a bit of sand, but mostly pebbles and rocks.
The going continued to be fairly slow for the next couple of hours as well. The walking is not difficult, but you need to continue to make creek crossings and occasionally backtrack, even with sandals.
Luckily, the last few kilometres were pretty easy. The creek has lots of sharp bends, and keeping to the inside bank wherever possible means you can travel pretty quickly. The campsite is on the north side of the junction between Tullyangela Creek and Ettrema Creek. There are a few different places that look like they have been used, and we took one about 80m upstream along Tullyangelo Creek. Again beware of the bull ants. They seem to be endemic in this bit of Morton National Park.
Day 3 - Tullyangela Creek - Barrons Crown - Howards Pass - Tullyangela Creek - Tullyangela Clearing (9km, 550m ascent)
After a quick dip in the pool at the creek junction, we headed back across the creek and up the spur to Barrons Crown. You pass a secondary knoll with nice views of the canyon, before passing the crown itself on the north side and down into the saddle behind. Another ridge leading up to the main cliff line is ahead and you want to keep to the right of it. You can climb up a steep creek bed just next to it, and just to the south side of the creek bed is Howards Pass, which leads up to the top of the cliffs. The map appears to be misleading about the location of Howards Pass. About 200m to the north is a lookout, which has fantastic views back along the route you have just walked, and the canyon as a whole.
We stopped for lunch before heading off on the bush bash to get to Tullyangela Creek. The Wild Guide says to take a bearing of 280 degrees magnetic and follow for 4km. Easy to say! The bush is extremely dense, and you are lucky to be able to walk for 10m in the same direction without turning. After nearly four hours of struggle, with everybody's legs raw with numerous cuts and bruises, we reached what we thought was Tullyangela Creek and headed upstream. Major mistake. It took us a while of walking and taking compass readings until we realised that it was just a tributary. The second mistake was to try and go cross-country to meet back with Tullyangela Creek - keeping to the wider creek beds gives you a much less overgrown route. We should have just retraced our steps. Instead we bush bashed for a further hour to finally reach the creek we were looking for.
Putting Tevas back on we headed up the middle of the creek, and the walking from there was pretty easy. I stepped on a nest of bull ants along the way and only narrowly avoided getting several nasty bites.
Once you reach the road it is a good 8-9km back to the car, along the road. You can either walk it if you have time, or send a couple of people to run back without packs and collect the vehicle. We opted for the latter, so the rest of us were able to sit around playing cards for a bit over an hour before the long drive back to civilisation (which, despite the Y2K bug, was still there when we got back!)