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Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Sun 01 Sep, 2019 12:41 pm

Here we are at the top of Mt Giles, on a stinking hot day. Trip report will eventually follow.
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Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Fri 13 Sep, 2019 11:25 pm

Looking forward to the trip report and photos guys, it's a great little adventure. Glad I'm not the only one who climbed it on a stinking hot day :wink:

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Tue 17 Sep, 2019 11:20 am

As with most of my trips - it was a case of reworking the plans on the run.

Ribuck has spent a lot of time in the area and it was under his excellent guidance that I was able to get to the top of Mt Giles.
That was day 2 of a 9 day plan - but with plus 30 degree temps during the day, the drain due to lots of sweat and muscle fatigue led me to parting ways after day 3.
So when this report is finished, it will be of 2 divergent tales.
My tale is of a 5 day trip with a rest day, followed by a 3 day trip.

Lots of photos to work on yet - but this will be a start.
We met up the day I flew in, and checking the time I suggested a quick run up the local exercise route at Mt Gillen - a short distance out of Alice Springs.
Sunset from Mt Gillen

Next day was a drive out to Ormiston Gorge to start the walk.
This first 5 day walk involved passing through a lot of burnt out country - and the start of the popular Pound walk was very black.
A bit desolate at the start

We took a very direct route to the base of Mt Giles - which meant some scrub bashing up a winding valley and then climbing to a high ridgeline.
Direct route is up the valley

This then drops through an easy wide open valley which had also been burnt recently.
Valley to Giles

I was feeling the conditions and needed to have rests, so we settled with camping near the first waterhole off the Giles massif.
Despite incredibly dry conditions [there were more places holding water when I went through late Aug in 2013], this consisted of a number of pools leading back to a waterfall pool and then more in the gully above that.
Pool above waterfall

I cramped that night as the body relaxed, but that had happened on a few of my more recent trips after a hard first day. So I was hoping to bounce back on day 2.
Sunrise on Ormiston Gorge

The plan was to go over the top of Giles with full packs to camp at a canyon some distance east along the northern edge of the range.
The day was warming quickly and I could feel the strain of the climb and decided it would be best to rethink the plan.
It was decided to drop packs but finish the climb of Giles and then return and continue to Giles Yard Springs.
So with light day packs we continued up the relentless very rocky climb to the top and enjoyed the vast vista on offer.
Sonder and Zeil from Mt Giles

The top of Giles has little level ground - but people have produced small clearances at various levels to allow overnight bivouacs.
And all the approaches to it are steep.
Mt Giles summit

Looking east along the Chewings Range

The crux of the descent - and this is the easy ridge up Giles

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Tue 17 Sep, 2019 12:01 pm

We took lunch at a lovely waterhole in the gully adjacent the climbing ridge
Lunchtime waterhole next to climbing ridge

We then made off in the heat aiming for Giles Yard Springs.
It was getting quite late and I was really struggling, so when we arrived at Oasis waterhole we had to camp.
It had a delightful pool but not much clear ground for camping.
Upstream was a constricted gorge that hid a large basin with several creeks leading up the sides of the range. We did not try a wade to see beyond.
Camping near Oasis Waterhole

That night I had severe cramping in both quads of the upper legs. This was a new spot for me and a bit disturbing.
I had been taking magnesium, staminade drinks and straight salt, but still suffered on these first 2 days.
Ribuck was happy to go with a rest day - which for him was providential - as he accomplished his great goal of getting into the upper Canyon of Defiance on this day as a solo walk over the top of the range and then dropping down. A task which in retrospect he thought was probably best done from exactly where we camped.
I slept till 11 am [it was getting very hot in the tent] and then took a day walk to Giles Yard Springs and explored around.
The high level route along the southern edge of the Giles massif was burnt and is quite bare. It also crosses a lot of saddles before working along some valleys.
Following bare valleys to Giles Yard Springs

But Giles Yard Springs was exceptional with lots of pools connected by flowing water.
Camping is not allowed in the main spring area, but the flowing water and pools extended past the fence line and the burnt out sign that marks the boundary. This is where people camp.
Pool adjacent the camping area.

Heading upstream to the main spring, the gully becomes more lush despite the fires that went through and after a series of rocky pools ends in a large pool below a waterfall.
Giles Yard Spring fall and pool

The afternoon light was on the fascinating upper reaches above Oasis on my return
Canyons above Oasis

More to follow.....

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Tue 24 Sep, 2019 2:15 pm

Ribuck returned late afternoon.
It was a very peasant spot apart from some windy gusts over our time and given the area had been burnt out - a lot of fine black soot got into my tent and gear.

Next day I decided I was not confident I would not cause more trouble if I went to a point 3 days from the car.
So with Mt Giles under the belt, we decided to part company. Ribuck went on to explore his canyon in more detail and I retreated for a days break.
We planned to meet again at Bowmans Gap - Ribuck would be traversing the Redwall ridge over 2 days.

I retraced my GPS back along the face of Giles
Looking south to the Heavitree Range - the Larapinta follows this section of the Range here.

The bare and rocky run along the face of Giles

Given a relaxed schedule, I decided to explore up 2 of the streams coming off Giles. In each case, they begin with a small gorge which opens out into some valleys behind before heading steeply up the slopes.
The first one led to a series of 4 dry waterfalls which I climbed.
Climbing a series of 4 waterfalls

Exit from the first stream

The second led to a dry fall which became impassable with a large boulder to skirt before ending under a large chockstone bridge.
This stream also had some flowing water in it - as well as a deep worn rock basin with water in it at the entrance gorge.
Looking back from under the chockstone

Rock face with the Chockstone and boulder - I did not try to climb around it.

"Chockstone" stream exit which has some deep basins
Last edited by eggs on Tue 24 Sep, 2019 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Tue 24 Sep, 2019 2:32 pm

I then proceeded more directly to the day 1 Giles campsite - passing the climbing ridge on the way.

Main creek off the largest basin on Giles - I did not explore this.

The climbing ridge is marked by this isolated boulder clearly visible on the saddle

My plan was to take an hours rest at the waterholes here and stock up with water before using the last light of the day to head out into Ormiston Creek East branch to camp.
Was pleased to meet NNW here. She had been exploring extensively and was planning on using the waterhole gully to climb Giles probably the next day.
Said my farewells and headed off towards the Pound.

The detached peak in Ormiston Pound called Mt Elephant - due to its eye, trunk and tusks. You can see the fire edge in this shot.

In Ormiston Creek - Heavitree Range behind

Campsite with my new Dan Durston X-mid on its maiden trip - I need to work on a tighter setup on sand.

Panorama over Ormiston Creek near sunset - the dark ridge on the LHS is called the Redwall, Giles is prominent and the Heavitree Range is on the RHS. [Click on image for larger view]

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Tue 24 Sep, 2019 3:16 pm

Next day was another warm one and I made my way along Ormiston Creek to Ormiston Gorge.
Early on I picked a straighter path a little higher on the northern bank through a flat section of spinifex.
Dropping back down into the creek I found ribuck's "where is this" waterhole - now very dry and sandy.

7232Giles Morning.jpg
Looking back to Giles over the spinifex

Mt Elephant above Ormiston Creek - eye is visible

Redwall above Ormiston Creek

Ormiston Creek has a lot of up and down as it alternates between sand [which is like walking in molasses] and very rocky outcrops.
I found 2 spots with water prior to reaching the junction of the East and West branches as they combine to flow through Ormiston Gorge.
Almost dry waterhole

Largest waterhole along this stretch

I cut through some spinifex just before the junction of the 2 arms, dropped into the creek for awhile and then climbed out before intercepting the official Pound Track.
I then began to meet day walkers in the area. The pools in Ormiston were dry or very low.
Entering Ormiston Gorge

The walk out had been in good time, but the heat had still taken a toll and I was happy to take things a bit slower and relax.
It is possible to get a shower at Ormiston and I made use of that.
Drove the 130km back to Alice and booked 2 nights.
Next day was my rest day - but after a slow morning I did a tourist run dropping in on Simpsons Gap and Glen Helen Gorge.
It was fascinating to see a swarm of Zebra Finches at Simpsons Gap [I saw another lot drinking at Ellery next day]
[I saw a number of different birds while in the area - NT has more diversity of birds than any other state than SA.]
Zebra Finches pausing before dropping down to drink at Simpsons Gap

From the lookout near Glen Helen - looking at a distant Mt Giles over the Finke River

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Tue 24 Sep, 2019 3:52 pm

I had not decided exactly what to do the next day - but started with more tourist activities - Ellery Big Hole and Serpentine Gorge.
Ellery Big Hole

Serpentine Gorge demonstrates a tremendous amount of folding in the strata. Here as in many places such folding indicates a plastic condition in the rock which results in no cracking.
This would be consistent with the whole stack of layers being contorted while they have still not solidified into hard rock.
The view from the upper lookout is into a valley with 3 major ridgelines.
Access is currently restricted into the inner gorge, but the 2nd ridgeline is highly constricted.
Along with places like Redbank Gorge, these water gaps [where the stream runs through a mountain range rather than flowing around it] look very young. A slow carving out over millions of years would not leave such steep vertical walls.

Close up of the Serpentine Gorge constriction

I was feeling pretty good by the time I got back to Ormiston [I did the 130km drive 6 times over the 11 days] and decided to go for Bowmans Gap in the late afternoon.
I had already greatly reduced my pack weight based on lessons from the first hike and knowing from ribuck that Bowmans Gap had good water.
There had been a change in weather and the max for the day was forecast as 24C - much cooler.
I once again chose to go through Ormiston Gorge but starting with a high level route past the Ghost Gun lookout which drops down mid gorge.
After stumbling and almost breaking the camera [again??] - I took off my graduated prescription dark glasses. I rarely used them on this walk - but this stumble emphasised how they distort the view of your feet.
The official pamphlet shows an unmarked track over the hilly shoulders rather than following the creek.
This route was initially quite good, though it is full of spinifex - but it does come to a very rocky and steep section which slowed me down.
Ormiston Pound from the route to Bowmans Gap

Having spotted a lone walker I dropped down to ensure they were ok.
It was a lady who was local and very well prepared - carrying 9L of water.
We passed 2 waterholes on the way there, but it was certainly much drier than my trip at a similar time of year in 2013.
Waterhole with Redwall behind

There are 2 waterholes in Bowmans Gap itself - the first is very large but not flowing.
First waterhole in Bowmans Gap

We parted here as I wanted to go on to the 2nd waterhole at the other end of the Gap.
This one appears to be a spring out the cliff face and while shallower is extensive and flowing in parts.
It was my camping spot for the next 2 nights.
Late afternoon in Bowmans Gap

Spring near the northern end of Bowmans Gap

More to follow

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Wed 02 Oct, 2019 4:04 pm

Last light in Bowmans Gap

The next day I wanted to get the early sun on Mt Sonder.
Assuming the northern slopes would get me a view, I was early climbing. Big mistake was to have left the gaiters off.
These slopes are covered in spinifex, so it was a careful climb.
I also discovered that west of Bowmans Gap is a quite high area, meaning I had to go a fair way up to see Mt Sonder.
Early light looking towards Mt Sonder

Climbing above Bowmans gap

Having gone that far - I decided to carefully press on to the very top and from there I decided to push all the way along the ridge to the top of the big waterfall about 1.5 km distant.
On the top ridge - looking into Ormiston Pound

Top gully as it narrows into the waterfall

This is a complex and difficult place to get views.
I tried a few exposed spots from the very top before getting into the gully itself.
Climbing down this, I was reluctant to go the the very lip of the fall, as the rock was polished and very steep. Taking a line across the slope to a higher point on the edge, it was clear an unobstructed view was not available.
Lip of the top drop

On the return leg, I managed to very carefully work to a spot more directly above it - and with camera suspended over the void got a shot with most of the waterfall in it.
It is a 4 drop waterfall - the first drop lining up with the valley into a good pool, then it turns 90 degrees to go over a small drop to a small rock pool before going over a larger drop to a bigger pool. It then angles around to again follow the valley line over a rocky drop that can be climbed from the bottom.
Looking straight down the falls - photo is brightened to make the details clearer.

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Wed 02 Oct, 2019 5:15 pm

I retraced my steps on the return journey - most things now in good light.
Breakfast was still waiting.
Ridgeline leading back to Bowmans Gap

The views back along Waterfall Valley were great.
Waterfall Valley and the back of the Redwall ridge - Ormiston Pound behind.

Bowmans Gap Spring

After brekky, I decided to checkout a waterhole I had seen from up top.
Apparently named Whistling Kite Waterhole, it is a bit over a km upstream from Bowmans Gap.
Whistling Kite Waterhole which had a Cormorant and a Duck in residence.

Ribuck wandered into camp around lunchtime.
We used the afternoon to explore up Waterfall Valley from the bottom.
It was my second time up this valley, and it is a scary place. After working up a broad creek valley, it rapidly narrows and forms a very sharp V.
A large cliff face towers over the left hand side, while a very steep and broken rock shelf slopes in on the right.
The degree of slope can vary, but looking up - at various places there are line after line of thick rock slabs just perched waiting to break off and slide down to crush anything in its way as it hits the cliff face on the left.
If this had been eroded slowly over time, there should have been a substantial pile of debris lining the bottom in various states of wear.
There is clearly some debris in the slot, but some sections have none at all, and where it does lie, it is very thin.
The valley looks like it was eroded very cleanly so that almost all of the rock removed was swept a long way away leaving quite a pristine rock surface. And the time since then has seen only a small amount of debris building up by normal erosion rates.
The V slot valley

Early in this section, you need to get past a number of rock pools. Last time I had to work up the sloping rock shelves to get around, but this time the levels were low enough to get past all but the last one.
We gave up the attempt to climb through it. But the slope we then climbed was steep indeed. And coming back down it was a careful exercise as well.
Amongst the rock pools

We had to climb the slope to get around the last pool

I had previously stopped just above this last pool, but this time we followed an easy line of cracks in the sloping rock and got the waterfall proper.
The first face of the 4 drops can be climbed a couple of ways and leads to some large rock slabs and some gravel with a plunge pool.
You cannot see the top 2 drops from here, but it is hard to get photos to give a true impression of the place.
Curiously - using my phone to take a vertical panorama shot was about the best I could do.

At the base of the waterfall - we climbed up this first face

Phone panorama of the 2nd face

Looking back along the V slot from the waterfall

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Wed 02 Oct, 2019 5:42 pm

I took to the slopes on the way back to see if I could get a vantage point in the late afternoon.
Waterfall Valley and Ormiston Pound in the late afternoon

Next day was an easy walk out - this time sticking to the creek bed up to meeting the Pound Track.

Morning light on Ormiston Hill

A drying waterhole in Ormiston Creek

After we had cleaned up at Ormiston Gorge, we had a relaxed drive back to Alice.
We also dropped in on Standley Chasm on the way for an icecream and to check out the Chasm in comparison with what ribuck had seen in the Canyon of Defiance.
But this is the end of my part of the tale.
A tough, but rewarding expedition.

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Fri 18 Oct, 2019 4:03 am

Let me rewind to the third day. Eggs needed an easier day, so we decided to spend a second night at Oasis Spring. Eggs explored the local attractions, while I found a likely-looking ridge and scrambled up to the skyline.

My aim for this trip was to find a way into the unexplored upper reach of Canyon of Defiance. I had been planning to push upstream from the north side of the Chewings Range, but given the circumstances it made more sense to to climb from the south of the range, and attempt to enter the canyon from the top.

From previous reconnaissance (and aerial photos) I favoured trying the vegetated eastern tributary for access. As you can see from the following photo, it's extremely steep:

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I found a viable line by staying high on the true right (below the cliffs) as long as possible, then dropping down through scrub and spinifex into the creek bed. Here the going became easier, and after an hour and a half of getting scratched I suddenly found myself at the rim of a 20m dry waterfall. A thick band of rock formed the rim, and as I peered over the edge it reminded me of looking over a balcony, so I refer to this as Balcony Waterfall, and this reach as Balcony Reach.

Here's the view from the top. The "balcony" runs across the bottom-right corner of the photo. Notice the "hanging bath" half-way down the unclimbable waterfall, and exciting terrain below:

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I climbed 20 metres up the right bank looking for a bypass, but all I found was the top of a knife-edge ridge. Looking over it gave the following view. You can't see the canyon floor, which runs at least 30 metres below anything in this photo:

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Resigned to failure, I prepared to return to camp. For one last photo, I climbed the uninteresting-looking left bank when, much to my astonishment, I saw a way down through a series of scrubby steps which amazingly were all within my scrambling ability, and I got myself to the base of the waterfall. In this photo of the waterfall from below, you can see the "hanging bath" highlighted by a shadow half way up:

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Heading downstream, I passed through a section of narrow slot:

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The slot then broadened and the sun lit up the canyon:

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I continued downstream. The canyon floor alternated between being smooth and covered in pebbles, to having patches with trees and shrubs and blockups where I had to scramble down boulders.

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Suddenly I found myself at the top of a boulder blockup which was too high and too steep to climb down. I was disappointed, until I gradually recognised it as the Turnaround Blockup from my earlier exploration from below, where I had been unable to proceed further. Beyond it I could see the pebbly and level canyon which characterises the two middle reaches. I had achieved the goal of this trip!

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All that was left now was to make my way wearily back up the canyon, back up around the waterfall, back up the east tributary, then down from the skyline to camp. I arrived by torchlight. I think eggs was beginning to wonder whether he'd see me back at camp for the night.

The exploration of Defiance Amphitheatre is by no means complete. For example, the south tributary forms a chasm through a big red rock. It's steeper than the way I came down, yet it looks as if it just might be navigable. But that's for another year...

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Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Wed 23 Oct, 2019 11:07 am

Thanks ribuck
Love the photos.
Was there any usable water in these upper Sections?

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Wed 23 Oct, 2019 12:49 pm

eggs wrote:Thanks ribuck
Love the photos.
Was there any usable water in these upper Sections?

Thanks to both of you for these wonderful images of an amazing place. And of course for the explanatory descriptions of your walks.

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Wed 23 Oct, 2019 1:45 pm

peregrinator wrote:
eggs wrote:Thanks ribuck
Love the photos.
Was there any usable water in these upper Sections?

Thanks to both of you for these wonderful images of an amazing place. And of course for the explanatory descriptions of your walks.
Plus +1 from me too.

Looks like a fabulous adventure.

Re: Eggs and Ribuck in the West Macs

Thu 24 Oct, 2019 12:11 am

Thanks GregR and peregrinator for your kind comments.

eggs wrote:Was there any usable water in these upper Sections?

From top to bottom, the water situation is as follows:

Balcony Reach: I found a little puddle at the base of the Balcony Waterfall, but just a few litres. Alexa's Reach: Completely dry. Meg's Reach: Dry except at the top end where it cuts through the "big red bulge", where there was a pool about 10 metres long that needs to be straddled. I took water from this pool and filtered it. Main Reach: A spring flows out from the bottom of the gorge onto the plains, where it immediately disappears into the ground. I camped there in May, August and September, and each time the water was trickling. It's beautiful sweet water, and I didn't feel the need to treat it.

The springs in the Chewings Range are amazing. This winter was the driest for ten years, yet most of the springs were trickling. Of course, in the desert you always need a "Plan B" because an expected water source could be full of dead animals, or a rockfall could have put the water source underground.
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the-spring-main-reach.jpeg (283.37 KiB) Viewed 4841 times
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