Thursday, August 14, 2014

Larapinta Track, Section 9: Ormiston Gorge to Ochre Pits

The day before, I had walked Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam with the wind at my back, so today it was my turn to walk east from Ormiston Gorge to the Ochre Pits (or Serpentine Chalet Dam if you are not doing this section as a day walk) while Doug got pushed along by the east wind. It was a windy day, and I wore long pants, long sleeved shirt and a toque (woolly hat) for much of the day. Mostly, the wind was not too big a deal, but, as I was returning to the road along the Arrernte Walk and walking perpendicular to the wind on a ridge top, I did feel as if I was about to launch into space a few times.

Open walking up a small narrow valley

For the first 8.5 km the track winds along hills at the base of the Heavitree Range and is easy and pleasant walking. A well built track switchbacks up a south facing spur ridge to ridgeline on the Heavitree Range and the next three kilometres lies along the spine of this scenic ridge. Mt Giles dominates the view to the north with Ormiston Pound to the west. From the eastern end of the ridge, you can just see down to the south and make out the short red cliffs of Waterfall Gorge. Descending down the south side, the track is a little loose and rocky until you reach a narrow valley lined with short red cliffs and river red gums. A short walk east along this valley past a few scattered campsites (dark looking) leads to Waterfall Gorge which is the small narrow gorge to the south that connects this narrow east west valley with the larger broader valley to the south (also aligned east west). The track climbs above Waterfall Gorge on a broken rock bluff and descends on the south side to some more campsites (sunnier looking) and the broader east west valley. There was a small pool of water in Waterfall Gorge but apparently it is not reliable. 

Looking north along the Heavitree Range to Mount Sonder

I enjoyed the walking on the next 8 km as the track gradually climbs up the open valley between high red rock walls to a low pass and then gradually descends down similar terrain on the other side. The wind was fairly brutish through this valley but I did get a little shelter from the wind where the track travels through some light trees. I passed a stream with a few pools of water in it and a couple of sandy campsites. 

Side gorge on the Heavitree Range

The track climbs gradually to another gentle pass below a dramatic red rock spire high on the north side of the valley, and then turns to the south and descends into Inarlanga Pass. Inarlanga Pass is a narrow passage through red rock cliffs above white quartzite slabs in the dry creek bed. Large cycads are packed into the narrow gorge, an unusual sight in the Northern Territory. On the south side of Inarlanga Pass, the main Larapinta track heads east to Serpentine Chalet Dam, while I took the Arrernte Walk south past some ochre pits to the highway.

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