16-17/07/2011 - report - photos

Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Melinda Turner, David Trinder, Andrew Smiffy, Scott Kirby, Huw ap Rees

When I first thought of putting on this walk across the Grose, I envisaged going from Mt Hay to the Grose River via Shaw Gully (Byles Pass), and then up Zobel Gully and along the fire trail to Mt Banks. But after reading about Garrad Gulch in Andy Macqueen's Back from the Brink, the opportunity to link up with three historic SBW ladies seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

The weather forecast for the weekend was a little grim, though the weather bureau did have a cute picture of the sun poking out from behind the clouds, which in turn were dripping with rain. A shower or two, as they quaintly described it. Possibly they forgot about the more continuous drizzle that fell all the way up the mountains. Getting an accurate forecast from the weather bureau is like getting a straight answer from a politician.

I contemplated the wet bush, the lack of views, the probability of a crap campsite and considered calling it all off. But having organised all of the logistics, and got everyone there, piking just didn't seem right.

I had never even been out to Mt Hay before. Neither had anyone else. So it was convenient that there was a track of sorts to the western Boorong Crag. We had morning tea on the top in the mizzle, admiring the panoramic views of the cloud that surrounded us on all sides. Navigation to the head of Shaw Gully was straightforward, and we dived off into the creek, pushing through thick scrub and enjoying our first encounters with the lawyer vine.

A handy overhang above the gully provided a sheltered spot for lunch, with a decent waterfall below us looking like the first challenge of the afternoon. The mist cleared, and the only real obstacle in the gully turned out to be the drop through the cliffs above the Grose. We set up a couple of short tapes for what would probably be an easy scramble in the dry.

Some big boulders and more scrub brought us down to the Grose late in the afternoon, where we searched for a while for campsites. Good ones were thin on the ground. The best was at the downstream side of the Shaw Gully junction, cramped and a bit vegetated, with a limited supply of wood. Thankfully the skies cleared and we were able to enjoy dinner and a fire without the indignity of huddling under our tents and flies. Our fire was on a slope, which caused Melinda a few difficulties, losing first her newspaper, and then her cup down the hill and into the river!

The pitter-patter of rain on the tent at 7am the next day didn't help with an 8am departure. The weather was like a bad TV rerun - more mist and drizzle. It was 8:30am when we headed off to wade across the freezing Grose River. Huw and Smiffy tried to run across in the hope that their feet would get less wet, demonstrating ingenuity, but no improvement in dryness.

We made our way along the Grose and up the beautiful rainforest gully of Garrad Gulch, variously scrambling up boulders in the flowing creek, or climbing the steep slopes on either side. At one point we climbed high above the creek around a waterfall, only to be unable to regain the creek level. Rachel scouted out a traverse on a higher narrow ledge and we were back in business. Eventually the creek forked and we pushed on to the saddle, and scrambled up on the eastern ridge of Mt Strzelecki for lunch. The clouds parted briefly, and we were tantalised with views from the spectacular knife-edge ridge.

Things slowed down when we hit the top of Mt Strzelecki, the lawyer vine taking over the small basalt area on top of the peak. I was not looking forward to Mt Caley, knowing that it had a larger basalt cap, and with good reason. I'd suggest waiting til after the next fire to visit, or alternatively wait another hundred thousand years or so for the rest of the basalt cap to erode. Mt Caley is purgatory for bushwalkers. You know you're in a bad, bad place when the lawyer vine is not the baddest plant in the bush. The Kangaroo Thorn (Acacia paradoxa) won this battle of the baddest, with its hundreds of long sharp spines just itching to break off in your skin. Rachel bravely led the charge, forging a path through the worst of the worst. It seemed an eternity, though it did take us nearly three hours to cover not much more than two kilometres across the tops, and down to the end of the fire trail near Zobel Gully just before 4pm.

At this point we were back in control, though still nearly 10km from the cars. We picked up the pace, stopping briefly for cloud-shrouded views on the eastern slopes of the peak. At the Mt Banks turnoff I figured I needed to complete the walk as described - up and over the summit. Leaders have been lynched before for "breach of program". Gotta keep the party happy. Though actually most of the party was more happy to keep wandering the fire trail back to the cars. Smiffy, Huw and I headed up to the summit in the dark to bag Mt Banks.

Finally we drove around to Leura and Smiffy, Huw and I did the car retrieval from the Mt Hay car park, before joining the rest for dinner at the Grand View. An interesting weekend in the footsteps of history.