|29 March 2008
|Tidbinbilla Range Traverse
|Map: Tidbinbilla 8627-2S 1:25000
This walk was organised and led by Mike B and me and co-hosted as a CBC/NPA walk:
(Saturday 29 March – Tidbinbilla Range Traverse - L/R (NPA Grade 4/A/D/E). A joint CBC/NPA walk. Follow the Tidbinbilla skyline to the W of Canberra through Black Spring Mountain, Pierce Hill, Camels Hump, Johns Peak, Tidbinbilla Peak, The Pimple, Tidbinbilla Mountain, Snowy Corner, Mt Domain and Fishing Gap. Classic Tidbinbilla walking! Around 24km, mostly off track through regrowth, and 1200m total climb. Strenuous walking for a fit and experienced party. Map: Tidbinbilla 1:25000. Limit of 8. Leaders: John E – email@example.com, (h) 6288 7235 and Mike B. Transport: ~$7. Further details at http://jevans.pcug.org.au.).
We put a car in at Fishing Gap car park on Friday. 6 of us drove (courtesy of Peter's large and excellent van) via Laurel Camp Road into the Pierces Creek Pine Forest area.
We will leave town at 6.00am and start at the N end of Tidbinbilla Range Road, so not have to wait until the TNR gates are open. Let's hope we're finished before the gates close! On 15 Jan 08 it took 2.5hr to cover the 8km from the start to down off the S side of Camels Hump. So, say, 6.30-9am. The alternative is 7.30am entry to TNR and walk the Camel Back fire trail to the S side of Camels Hump, 5.7km in 1.3hr (eg. from 5 Dec 06) and, say, 0.3hr and 0.5km for up and down Camels Hump. So 6.2km and 1.6hr, making 7.45-9.05am. Much of a muchness.
Don't be mistaken - the aim of this walk is to cover at least Camels Hump to Mt Domain, because someone told me it couldn't be done. But scheduled on a Saturday and co-hosted with NPA, hoping that some legends will come to hold my hand.
Route is: We plan to start at first light (civil sunrise is 0648) from Pierces Creek Pine Forest area (GR73128458 GDA94) and come along the Tidbinbilla Range Road through Black Spring Mountain, Pierce Hill and Camels Hump. We should be at the top of the Camel Back Fire Trail by 9.30am. Then through SH1322, Johns Peak, SH1491, Tidbinbilla Peak, SH1556, SH1555, The Pimple, Tidbinbilla Mountain, Snowy Corner, SH1431, Mt Domain, SH1402, Fishing Gap, Fishing Gap Road to the car we put in on Friday evening. Once we're heading towards Mt Domain we're really committed. Our one prior exit route (apart from Camel Back FT) will be from the cairn south of Snowy Corner (GR69787522 GDA94) down the spur to the old Lyrebird Trail. If we're puffing early on we can always forego The Pimple.
Civil twilight: 0648 - 1928
Everyone arrived on time so we were away by 6am and out near our start point by 6.20am. Things went rapidly downhill from there, with me missing a forestry track in the dark (even with a torch) and we began heading west well below the Tidbinbilla Range Road. With the mouth of Pierces Creek beginning to open up I bit the bullet, admitted my error and we headed up a spur. Initially through burnt pines lying like giant pick-up-sticks all over the hillside, then scrubby cover as we climbed higher. Now, I was extremely embarrassed (being in the company of not only living legends but also super heroes), but not sufficiently so to explain the way I felt. I had to sit down and the lads said I looked a bit ashen; must've been something I'd eaten. I'd already decided to leave the party at the top of the Camel Back fire trail.
We finally gained the gate at the sharp bend in the road and settled in to a steady pace. I was grateful for Peter's conversation to take my mind off how I felt. Through Black Spring Mountain (most insignificant) at 7.25am, covering the 2.7km to here in 1 hour. Next came SH1136 and the trudge S towards Pierce Hill - it was all a bit of a blur to me. We took in the view from Pierce Hill at 8.20am. Always a pleasant view down into the top of Oakey Creek (which features as Site of Significance in the ACT PT4 - Wet Gully - Oakey Creek and deserves a closer inspection). Down S off the hill back to the road and so to a convenient point to don gaiters and head up through the scrub (fairly open if you keep as far to the E as you can without falling off the little cliffs) to Camels Hump. We reached the top at 9.00am (7.8km in 2.5hrs so far). Fabulous views, as always, accentuated by the relatively early light. To the E the cloud blanketed much of the Paddys River valley. To the S were the ragged features of our next several objectives (see pic 1).
Down at the top of the Camel Back fire trail I felt a little better, so decided to press on to the next exit point from Tidbinbilla Peak. We were soon off the main fire trail and on one, much more overgrown than on my last visit, leading to the old radio transmitter mast. Through SH1322 we commenced the climb to John Peak. Scrubby regrowth on this leg. Excellent views W down the North arm of Burkes Creek and to the rivers of scree flowing near the 83r metre cliffs just NW of Johns Peak. At Johns Peak by 10am (9.7km in 3.5hrs to here). The view back along the ridge to Camels Hump, with steep sides dropping away to the W, was quite impressive. The next leg, particularly to SH1491, introduced us to the first of the tight regrowth. Quite a change since my first visit to this area on 13 Sep 04. We reached Tidbinbilla Peak at 10.40am and again were rewarded with fabulous views all round. We focused particularly to the S and W, where Tidbinbilla Mountain at 1615m stood against the sky and the spectacular white walls of The Pimple contrasted against the patchy green of recovering eucalypts and the distant blue of the Brindabella Range. By this stage we'd covered 10.7km in 4hrs 15mins and were 15mins ahead of the planned route card timings (see above). It seemed reasonable then, to take some morning tea as I'd not specifically set aside munch time.
Down at the cairn at SH1556 I had a decision to make. This was the next exit point, but since I was feeling better as the day went on and not wanting to miss the full walk, I decided to press on. We headed from there over the relatively open and rocky ups and downs to SH1555, around 1km away. Here the decision for us all was whether to visit The Pimple. We all said yes, so plunged down the 130m to the saddle and 60m up to the top of the feature. Arrived, via a very rocky and scrubby route up the NE side of the back of The Pimple, at 12noon. Fabulous views to nearby cliffs and down the South arm of Burkes Creek to the Cotter (see pic 2). To the NE were the razor ridges running up to Camels Hump (did this one on 27 Oct 07) and Johns Peak (this one looks a bit of a challenge). So 12.7km in 5.5hrs to here (30mins ahead of schedule). Probably time for lunch but I suggested we'd have a better idea of completion time if we pushed on to Tidbinbilla Mountain before the break. I also had another little concern - leg cramps which I'm suffering more and more from and they stayed with me for 2 hours today, each step pretty painful. Mike led us down a little to the SW of our up route and it was much more acceptible.
We reached Tidbinbilla Mountain at 1.10pm and lay about out of the energy-sapping breeze on the open top for a 20 minute lunch. Huge views all round, both NE back along the path we'd come, E down to the TNR, W across the dead tree tops of the uniform slope of the Mountain to the Cotter River valley and S along the large bumps and dips of the way ahead to Mt Domain. It was a little comforting to know that we still had 6 hours of walking time and less than 6km of bush (plus 3 odd km of fire trail) to go.
But the way off Tidbinbilla Mountain towards Snowy Corner is steep, rocky and slow. A brief respite in the open patch at Snowy Corner, then S breast stroking through the vigorous regrowth. We touched at the cairn marking the top of the last exit spur down off the range, but by this stage we were either too weary to make a decision or too close to achieving all the objectives of the walk to consider taking it.
Continuing S we lost height going down into the saddle above the top of Ashbrook Creek, skirted the blackberry barrier and began the climb back up towards Mt Domain. Thankfully, easier than I anticipated as my leg cramps did not return. But I think we were all starting to run a little low on energy. We walked through the little shale outcrop above the 44r cliffs N of Mt Domain - how pretty it must have been before the fires, the burnt snow gum not releasing its rooted grip in the rock. The final pinch up to Mt Domain, arriving at 4.30pm (17.7km and 10hrs to here). A grand view back along our twisting ridge line wander (see pic 3) and a chance to check out the spur rising up from Bendora Dam to just N of Mt Domain, which we'll tackle on 3 May.
The regrowth hasn't improved coming off Mt Domain and along the ridge containing SH1402. Mike took us the best route he knew, supposedly avoiding the worst of it. In places you couldn't see the person 2 metres from you. We began the final drop to Fishing Gap at 5.20pm, with the sun westering and the temperature dropping. Fishing Gap was a sight for sore eyes (and legs) at 6.15pm. I could only shake the hands of my companions - at the beginning of the day I really had little idea whether we would make it all the way through.
We made some plans and the two drivers and owner of the GPS which would tell us where the drop off van was left at a brisk pace. We rang the after hours Ranger. A slight change of plans saw Mike drop Peter and myself at the TNR gates and go back to pick up the second carload, as we didn't want to muck the Rangers around by being about after 8pm. A drive up the Paddy Rivers Road past the Tidbinbilla Tracking Station, a pretty site with a dish lit up and other lights on in the compound. We avoided the 'roos and a wombat crossing the road. Back to the TNR gates to regroup and home by just after 9pm.
A long, but satisfying day. I may not return.
Thanks to super legends and companions Brian, Dick, Henry, Mike and Peter.
Distance: 23.3km Climb: 1300m. Time: 6.25am - 7.05pm (call it 12.5hrs), with 40mins of stops.
KMZ file for Google Earth/Maps: Tidbinbilla Range Traverse
|Click on a thumbnail below to see the full sized picture
|1 The way ahead from Camels Hump - Johns Peak, Tidbinbilla Peak, The Pimple and Tidbinbilla Mountain
|2 View from The Pimple - cliffs with rivers of scree, Burkes Creek down to the wild Cotter River
|3 The way we came from Mt Domain - Tidbinbilla Mountain, Tidbinbilla Peak, Camels Hump, Pierce Trig