|7-8 June 2008
|Mt Scabby, Upper Cotter River and Yaouk Trail
|Maps: Yaouk and Rendezvous Creek 1:25000
This walk was organised and led by me as a private overnight walk:
Saturday-Sunday 7-8 June 2008 - Upper Cotter River and Yaouk Trail - L/M-R,X. From the Old Yaouk property, climb 600m to Mt Scabby then follow the Cotter River down through Top Flats, Upper Cotter Falls, Rolleys Flats, Upper Cotter Flats, Cotter Hut to Cotter Flats to camp (if we make it that far on day 1). Return via Yaouk Trail. There are several ACT sites of significance. Around 30km and 800m total climb. Leave Canberra 6am; late return. Demanding walking for a fit and experienced party. Route not fully known to leader. Maps: Yaouk and Rendezvous Creek. Limit of 4. Leader: John Evans – firstname.lastname@example.org, (h) 6288 7235. Transport: ~$20. Further details at http://jevans.pcug.org.au.
With short notice that I could get away, it was too late to advertise this as a CBC walk. So I circulated the Tuesday walks list and 3 others booked on, to make a comfortable car load. Steve arrived at my place at 6am and we picked up Max and Mike on the way. Road good, day a little cloudy and misty when we arrived at 'Old Yaouk' and said g'day to the Manager. Drove to Rowleys Hut.
Civil twilight: 0638/0639 - 1726. I have a camping permit for the Cotter Catchment area of NNP. I have permission from the owner of 'Old Yaouk' to cross their land to enter the NNP.
Day 1 - We will need to leave Canberra at 6am. It's a two and a quarter hour drive to 'Old Yaouk', provided the weather and road is good. The climb up Mt Scabby was a bit testing with day packs on 15 Apr 08, so will be a bit more so with an over night bag full of warm clothes and other goodies. That's even if I choose a better approach than last time. The Mt Scabby tops are sub-alpine and clear, but the Cotter River soon drops down into timber and it was quite tight going when we crossed it just 2km down from the source. After that I have absolutely no idea of how the going will be.
We follow the Cotter River from its source (Site of Significance in the ACT UC33 Mt Scabby and Upper Cotter Basin) down through Top Flats, the Upper Cotter Falls (SoS UC25), Rolleys Flats (SoS UC24) and Upper Cotter Flats (SoS UC17) - might be views to the blockstreams on the Mt Kelly Spur from here. Then on to Cotter Hut and camp away from it on Cotter Flats (SoS UC16). I bet there's plenty of scrub between all those flats! Around 18-20km on day 1.
Day 2 - Check out the site of the Oldfield Homestead on the Cotter Flats terrace. Back over the Cotter River ford to the W side to again try to find the Yards marked on the 2nd edn map. Follow Licking Hole Creek up to the Licking Hole Creek Quartz Ridge (SoS UC19). Return via Yaouk Trail. It will probably be a late arrival back in Canberra. Around 14-16km on day 2.
Contingency plans include camping where we can if daylight begins to desert us; exiting early via Yaouk Trail anywhere from Rolleys Flats down; doing Mt Morgan via the Lone Pine Trail and an easier approach from the NE, if it's too snowy or wet; changing the days to fit in with the weather (that we did); wimping and staying home.
Participants are encouraged to bring something to share for pre-dinner drinks and nibbles. Red wine and bikkies and cheese seems to be agreed on.
The top of Mt Scabby could not be seen as we set off from Rowleys Hut just before 8.30am. Prior knowledge is very useful, so we used the gate and headed down the track towards the creek flats, rather than along the fence and through the tussocks as last time. Wandered over to see the rustic shelter, then back up along the fence to the gate into NNP. Signage here indicated that this was the Maurice Luton Trail. Mike, extremely cleverly and quickly found this on our return via the NSW NP&WS Scabby Range Nature Reserve Draft Fire Operations Map 2007.
From here we took a sometimes circuitous route up. In usual starting fashion, it seems it takes some time for my reasonable navigation to kick in. At one stage around the 1250m contour we were heading pretty much 180° away from Mt Scabby. Mike casually made a comment and, with my glasses on this time, I correctly set my compass. The scrub was very wet from recent rain and the morning's mist and cloud and we were soon pretty wet. However, even with overnight packs, the way up seemed easier than last time. Just before the 1700m contour we came out of the cloud into brilliant sunshine from a cloudless sky. To the west, Mt Morgan reared out of a sea of cloud and above us we could imaging that we were close to the sub-alpine tops. We gathered breath for a moment, then climbed the final few hundred metres to the open tops. We stopped at the 1750m contour, a bit to the NW of the NW Scabby top. Absolutely magnificent views, particularly to the N down the Cotter River valley (see pic 1). The mist was just reaching SH1665, but E of that was perfect - the upper Cotter River valley, down to Mt Kelly and the Kelly Spur, with Coronet Peak in the distance. It had taken nearly 2.5hrs to haul our packs the 3.7km and 570m up to here.
I was anxious that the daylight would run out quickly and, with no idea what the going would be like, we decided to skip a visit S to the SW (named) top of the Mt Scabby area. Instead we headed down towards the Cotter through a little regrowth and found a rock slab in the sun, out of the cool breeze, for morning tea. This little leg of 0.25km in 8mins. A quick 10min break.
We finished the down through the scrub and came out onto a most beautiful Cotter River flat (see pic 2). This area is Site of Significance in the ACT UC33 - Mt Scabby and Upper Cotter Basin. It extended for around 500m and then came to an abrupt end - a little hanging flat. I reckon Max made the correct call, after stopping later at the map marked Top Flats which was just scrub, that this lovely flat was Top Flats and the map marking was a little out (like Elsies Falls on the E side of Camels Hump). The terrain now changed from sub-alpine and flats to timbered as the Cotter River fell 200m down to Top Flats. We contoured along the W bank of the river, keeping a respectable distance up from the water. We crossed our track from the last visit. Reasonably easy going, with great views up to the Scabby Range as it bent towards Mt Kelly. We reached the map-marked Top Flats at 12.30pm and decided, even though it was just an area of bush, to have lunch. This leg from morning tea to lunch 3km in 1hr 20mins. 30mins for lunch.
Around 500m downstream from lunch we came across a run of mini-cascades. Very pretty. We stayed on the W bank until we reached the Upper Cotter Falls, swapping to the E bank just above them. This leg from lunch to the falls was 1.6km in 50mins. The falls are Site of Significance in the ACT UC25 - Upper Cotter Falls, and very nice at that (see pic 3). The W bank fell away significantly below the falls and there was some beautiful timber there. Our E bank dropped more gently. There were glimpses of Rolleys Flats further downstream.
We left the falls at 2pm on the E bank of the Cotter. The terrain dropped another 60m onto the S end of Rolleys Flats. Lovely country and easy walking (dry flats, not too tussocky). Wonderful views to the E up onto the Kelly Spur (see pic 4), much of it timbered but, in places, magnificent granite areas. Much evidence of feral pig control on the flats. We learned from Mike (and I ran into Bernard M, a top flight Ranger, two days later out at Honeysuckle Creek camping ground) that the pink and blue flags map out areas where evidence (eg. scats) of pigs is gathered. There are huge areas and a relatively few wild pigs. Once the pigs' presence has been confirmed they then provide grain for feeding and, after inspecting that and ensuring that it's pigs, lay the poison 'sausage'. Much work has been done on all the flats down the river. Upper Cotter Falls to Rolleys Flats was 2.6km and took 1 hour. We crossed and re-crossed the Cotter River as it meandered around near where Porcupine Creek joins it.
We knew quite early in the day that we'd not make Cotter Flats to camp, but we also knew that from this point on provided suitable contingency arrangements. We decided to push on the extra bit to Upper Cotter Flats, then take our time setting up camp. Rolleys Flats to Upper Cotter Flats was 1.5km and took 40mins, arriving at 3.30pm.
Plenty of time to set up our tents, collect water and have a cuppa. The band of light on the Kelly Spur from the setting sun was magnificent. The pre-dinner nibbles and wine came out and was enjoyed by all. Dinner cooked and plenty of good conversation. The dogs/dingos howled a couple of times and the night sky, with a new, low and setting moon, was a huge, starry expanse. Even the jets going over couldn't spoil it. Mike reported about -1°C as we went to bed and the tent glistened with frost. My gear copes very well and it must have clouded over during the night, as the temperature did not drop further. My companions said that I did not snore.
We had agreed on an 8.30am leave, as Mike had previously travelled the Yaouk Trail and reported it quick and easy. Breakfast in bed for me as usual, pack and away at 8.20am (ah, I love pre-prompt companions!). We continued to head N down the Upper Cotter Flats to near where Little Bimberi Creek joins the Cotter River, then NE through the saddle between the foot of the Kelly Spur and the feature containing SH1124. Easy walking through open timber. We hit Licking Hole Creek at 9.15am, the leg from camp to here 2.5km. Excellent views opened up to Coronet Peak and the granite tors on its S ridge.
Licking Hole Creek is the most delightful little creek (well, at least here near its termination and where it rises in Rotten Swamp). See pic 5. Swift flowing over lovely river stones. A future wander down its course is a must. I'd purposefully aimed off upstream of the Licking Hole Creek Quartz Ridge (SoS UC19) so we wandered downstream. Plenty of granite seams crossing the creek, but no obvious quartz seam. Still, I'll claim a bag! We did find a milled wooden marker picket in the ground, a gauging station, a flying fox line and a fresh water yabbie claw- I wonder if they count? We crossed the creek to the N bank and followed it down to where Licking Hole Creek joins the Cotter River. This leg 1.1km in 35mins.
Thanks to Chris L who later emailed me:
"I have seen the Licking Hole creek quartz. It is not very obvious, just being a little terrace of about 30cm high and in scrub as I recall. Its not bright shiny white quartz but rather dull and blotchy mixed with granite - actually a quartz rich granite rather than pure quartz."
Here where the waters meet is another delightful area. Generally open terrain and vegetation, each stream is flowing well and cleanly, each carrying about the same amount of water at the moment. Each is perhaps two metres wide. Very pretty. Well worth the walk up from the Cotter Hut area the next time you are there.
We continued along the E bank of the Cotter, passed yet another steel cable across the river. Cotter Hut soon came into view on the other bank. Out into the familiar open of the S end of the Cotter Flats. We made a B-line towards the poplar tree on the terrace and immediately found granite flagging, granite rubble from the fire place and possible post holes associated with the Oldfield Homestead mentioned in the Sites of Significance in the ACT UC16 Cotter Flats description (see pic 6). This is exactly what this reference does for me - I'd been here a few times before, but never known the significance of the area. As we were leaving keen-eyed Mike realised that the scrubby thicket nearby was indeed the remains of a small orchard and, on closer inspection, the fruit trees were obvious. A piece or two of tin lying on the ground too.
We headed down to the Cotter River ford, crossed in the manner of choice and settled on the opposite bank for morning tea. The leg from Licking Hole Creek to here of 1km took 25mins.
Whilst Max kindly boiled the billy for us all, I took the opportunity to have yet another search for the Yards marked on the 2nd edn Rendezvous Creek map, around 400m NW of Cotter Hut. I eventually spied a wombat hole with fencing wire garnish, then a burnt out timber post and, nearby, star pickets and fencing wire. Got you!
After a lazy morning tea, we set off at 11am, S along the Yaouk Trail past Cotter Hut, scorning the Murray Gap Trail, up the W side of Porcupine Creek to Yaouk Gap. A fire trail plod, with lovely patches of white trunked, unburnt gums around Drag Creek. This leg to Yaouk Gap 9km in 2hrs, so we didn't waste time.
Lunch at Yaouk Gap by the 'Noonameena' hut. Cold when stopped on this overcast day. The hut, so oracle Mike informed us, is used by horse riders. It's locked. Max discovered a bag - containing ice! - by the door.
Yaouk Gap to the car was 3.1km, dispatched in 35mins. We met a mountain biker.
We called by to meet the owner of 'Old Yaouk', with whom I'd phoned and exchanged emails. We were shown around 'The Kennels' - accommodation available for hire. It would be a great and comfortable soft base for a couple of day walks, including to Mt Morgan. Thanks to Steve's question, we learned the derivation of Yaouk and the source of its pronunciation. The area is named after Yiak in Scotland and somewhere along the line the spelling has been changed.
Not a bad little wander, if I do say so myself. New places to go, new things to see. I was able to complete a bit more of the Cotter River follow and visit some Sites of Significance in the ACT. Of course, good company (and good biscuits and cheeses, wine and conversation) make it all the more enjoyable. I wouldn't try this walk by myself. Many thanks Max, Mike and Steve.
Distance: 29.5km Climb: 1000m. Time: Day 1 - 8.25am - 3.30pm (call it 7hrs), with 40mins of stops. Day 2 - 8.20am - 2.00pm (call it 5.5hrs), with 65mins of stops.
KMZ file for Google Earth/Maps: Mt Scabby, Upper Cotter River and Yaouk Trail
|Click on a thumbnail below to see the full sized picture
|1 Mt Kelly and Kelly Spur to Coronet Peak from the NW peak of Mt Scabby
|2 Is this Top Flats
|3 Upper Cotter Falls
|4 Kelly Spur over the S end of Rolleys Flats
|5 Licking Hole Creek
|6 Site of Oldfield Homestead on terrace above Cotter Flats