Section 11 of the Larapinta Track runs from Redbank Gorge to the Finke River. The total distance is roughly 28 km if you walk out to the highway at the Mount Sonder Lookout/Glen Helen, so easily accomplished by reasonably fit hikers with a day pack. On a decidedly Canadian morning, dark and cold (3 degrees Celsius) we got up early, made a coffee and headed off the walk this section with day packs.
Doug dropped me at Mount Sonder lookout and went on to Redbank Gorge. He would walk east, I west, and we would cross paths somewhere around Rocky Bar Gap. The section out to the main Larapinta Track was familiar to me from the day before, and soon enough I had reached the main Larapinta Track on the west side of the Finke River. For the first 1.5 hours I strolled across the flat lands with Mount Sonder tinted red by the rising sun to the west. A waterhole on Davenport Creek required the removal of shoes and socks to cross, and then some pleasant walking through light trees followed.
Red cliff from hilltop lookout
Soon after crossing Davenport Creek the track trends north towards a long ridge east of Rocky Bar Gap and a very well constructed track with decorative rock work switchbacks gradually up to the top of the ridge. Looking to the north, there is a prominent red cliff that is detached from the main ridge line and beyond the rolling terrain of West MacDonnell National Park. Another half kilometre of easy walking on the ridge top and a campsite and hill-top look-out (one of the many) is reached. I had breakfast here sitting on some stones and gazing at Mount Sonder. It was still cool enough at 10.30 am for long pants, a toque (woolly hat) and a puff jacket.
Rockwork on the track
The track descends steadily on the north side of the ridgeline and, near the bottom, I saw a familiar figure below me. I was about 2 or 3 km from Rocky Bar Gap when I met Doug. We exchanged pleasantries and I carried on. Walking through the small trees to Rocky Bar Gap I saw beautiful green and bright blue birds.
Rocky Bar Gap is a pretty location with a dry creek bed, big ghost gums and small broken cliffs on either side. From Rocky Bar Gap, the track ambles along on the north side of the Mereenie Valley close to the base of the west ridge of Mount Sonder. This is easy and pleasant walking. An hour or so west of Rocky Bar Gap I had a bite of lunch, and soon after met the only other hiker I was to see all day. Just over 7 hours after setting out, I wandered up the final hill to the parking lot, picked up the car, and drove down to collect Doug from Mount Sonder Lookout.