Saturday, December 31, 2016

One Does Not Simply Walk Into The Budawangs: Corang Circuit

Every time I do a walk in the Budawangs, I think of another walk I want to do. So, soon after we climbed The Castle, we were back to the Budawangs, this time entering from Wog Wog in the west. Our plan was to walk Corang Circuit in a day, which really is not a big deal, particularly if you don't misplace the track. Another group was camped at the campground the night before also planning to do the circuit but over two days. We thought they were doing it tough - enduring a hot and fly filled camp at Canowie Brook after carrying a heavy pack half the day - and they thought we were doing it tough - walking the circuit in one day instead of two.

Aptly named Christmas Bells

Before leaving we scanned a couple of personal reports from the internet, made a mental note not to lose the track along the way and, after packing two litres of water each and our bug hats, decided we had done all we needed to prepare for the trip.

Goodsell Basin

The phrase "one does not simply walk into Mordor (substitute the Budawangs)" comes into my head every time I go to the Budawangs as access to and egress from the area commonly seems to include dealing with thick scrubby bush and overgrown or non-existent tracks. But, when you enter the Budawangs from Wog Wog, you do simply walk in ... on a very good track.

Doug overlooks Canowie Brook and Profile Rock Hill

Leaving the campground, there is a short descent down to cross Wog Wog Creek on stones and then a gradual climb up the plateau that culminates in Corang Peak. The track is in very good shape for the first several kilometres and passes a few large conglomerate bluffs that allow views across the surrounding area. As you approach the old Snedden Pass trail (which we once tried to follow) encroachment of the surrounding scrub increases somewhat but never to trouser tearing proportions.

Goodsell  Basin and Corang Peak

As the track skirts Korra Hill, you start to get views down into Goodsell Basin and across to Corang Peak. We had both been up Corang Peak before so this time we took the track to the east that bypasses the summit. The views are actually better from the bypass track as the trees on the track that goes over the peak obscure all views.

Doug descending to Canowie Brook

Corang Peak lies on a rocky plateau and the vista down to Canowie and Burrumbeet Brooks is one of the best in the Budawangs. We had a short lunch stop in the windiest spot we could find as the flies were thick. This is the third time I have been past Corang Arch and the third time I have not found it - one of the hazards of not consulting a guidebook. Apparently, the arch is off the plateau to the west. We may not have seen Corang Arch but we could see a good track in open grassland following Canowie Brook down in the valley below.
Descending the conglomerate slope to the valley, we turned left at the first campsite we came to and followed a good track north along the course of Canowie Brook. The track starts a distance from the creek but as you follow it north the track and the brook converge until you are walking along the left hand shore of the creek. This is a very pretty place and there is another smaller campsite further along where a tributary creek comes in.

Corang Arch from Canowie Brook

My memory of what transpired next is a little hazy as to our exact location on the map so you'd do well to consult a more reliable source. After crossing the tributary creek at the small campsite the track continues along Canowie Brook for a short distance to a track junction amongst burned Banksia. Initially, we took the low track along the brook, but this soon ended, and, having some faint recollection of reading something about a short climb above the creek, we went back to the junction and took the uphill track. This is a cut track through burnt Banksia that follows the course of the creek and shortly arrives at a bigger junction marked by a large cairn.

The track along Canowie Brook

This is right around where Canowie Brook joins the Corang River and the more scenic route lies down hill (right fork) to the river where there are rocky pools and small waterfalls. Not knowing this at the time, we took the left fork which stays high and gives half obscured views of the waterfalls before descending to thick bush along side the Corang River. The two routes meet at this point.

Pool on the Canowie River

From here it is under two kilometres to Corang Lagoon and the Goodsell Track that closes the loop walk and we were striding along confidently, albeit a little disappointed at having missed the rocky pools along the river, on an increasingly well defined track. At this point, the track is again some distance away from the river and if you happen to bash down to the river you will quickly realise why - the area proximal to the river is very thickly vegetated and exceedingly slow, not to mention painful, to travel through.

Overlooking the rocky section we saw only from above

Somewhere around Broula Brook as we were following a good track with paint markers on trees we came to a good sized campsite and completely and utterly lost the track. This was exactly what we wanted to avoid so we scouted very thoroughly and systematically around the last point we had the track but, apart from another arrow painted on a tree pointing toward the river, we found nothing at all.

We had map, compass and GPS but when the track is not marked on the map, none of that stuff is actually very helpful. As the track was mostly away from the river, we attempted to head away from the river to intersect the track but the bush is so dense that we were unable to maintain a consistent bearing. When we just seemed to be thrashing purposelessly through the bush, we decided instead to use the river as a handrail and follow it downstream. An admirable solution but slow as we pushed through dense scrub and flood debris.

Canowie Brook

Progress along the river was clearly going to be excruciatingly slow so I came up with the idea of taking a bearing from where we were to the Goodsell track with the idea that we would intersect it somewhere south of the river. This would mean travelling pretty much due west and would keep us out of the immediate vicinity of the river and thus in thinner bush. Doug thought this was a good idea so we set off following a compass bearing. Away from the river, travel was easier and within about 15 minutes we actually intersected the track we had lost more than an hour ago. Of course, it was very distinct and easy to follow. About 10 minutes further on we were happy to reach Corang Lagoon where the first thing we did was jump into the river to cool off.

At last a swimming hole

We had about 8 kilometres left to walk, about half on the Goodsell track and the remainder on the track we had taken that morning. Although the map shows the track leaving the Corang River and travelling south along a small drainage, the footpad is actually on a small ridge to west of the draw. This section of the walk was a bit tedious at the end of a long hot day as the track descends into and out of innumerable small drainages before intersecting the morning track. It probably took us a full hour to walk this section and only about 45 minutes to cover the final distance to the campground.

There were a few flies about

All up, including stops (two brief breaks) and losing the track (long) we were about 8.5 hours. The section of the walk from Corang Peak to Corang Lagoon is the best but also the shortest and, if you are not careful, you'll miss the best part. After a hot fly filled day, I again thought that "one does not simply walk into the Budawangs."

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Joys Of Opting Out: Wimbie Beach to Mossy Point

After an extended lay-off from sea kayaking due to injuries, a day out on the water with a couple of friends was the best Christmas present a person who opts out of Christmas could have.

Looking out from a sea cave

A few days after Christmas, I left Doug with our two kayaks at Wimbie Beach and drove south to Mossy Point to catch the local bus back. The beaches and roads were packed with locals and holiday makers as it was already about 35 Celsius by 9 am. Mike called just as I was getting on the bus, and, somewhat against his better judgement was convinced to come kayaking instead of getting chores done and drove down from Nelligen to meet us at Wimbie Beach.

Doug and Mike at the incredibly calm Burrewarra Point

Amazingly, it was raining when we left Wimbie Beach, big drops pushed along by squally winds and nearby thunderstorms. We paddled south down the coast past familiar beaches and headlands. The sky behind was dark grey and a brisk off-shore wind was blowing. We quickly passed Mosquito Bay and Pretty Point, and kayak sailed south to Jimmies Island. While the beaches were teaming with people, the ocean was, as usual, empty. Lunch was taken at Guerilla Bay while the wind dropped steadily.


Coming around Burrewarra Point the ocean was glassy with hardly any swell and we paddled our kayaks into all the little sea caves, clefts and passages that line this section of coast. The water was so clear, our kayaks seemed to be floating on glass, and the forests of kelp and seaweed swayed languidly in the gentle swell.
Seaweed Gardens

Landing at Mossy Point after our half day adventure I thought that the best days of our lives are never spent in shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, or cars. The days we remember for ever are those spent out in the wild with good friends, new and old. Opt out when ever you can, you'll never wish you hadn't.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Castle

I think I have wanted to climb The Castle in the Budawangs for at least 30 years. That was the first time we walked into Monolith Valley and scrambled around the Seven Gods Pinnacles. My Mum, who was about 60 at the time, came with us, and we camped at Cooyoyo Creek. The day we walked out we woke up to thick mist and light rain, and my Mum, who somehow thought we would be "pinned down" by the wet weather, blurted out "Who is going to feed Skip (our dog) her tea?" All these years later, Doug and I still find that statement outrageously funny, which just shows you can grow old, without growing up.

Looking to The Castle and Byangee Walls from Pigeon House

The day before we walked up Pigeon House via the standard track from the south. This short jaunt takes only a couple of hours but offers great views of The Castle, Byangee Mountain and the other peaks clustered around Monolith Valley. We camped at Long Gully and had a dip in the swimming hole on the Yadboro River as it was a hot day.

Pigeon House and Byangee Mountain

Next morning, anticipating a long hot day we got away at 6.20 am and followed the track that runs north along Kalianna Ridge. A long time ago, NSW Parks did some work on this track rerouting the final steep section that gains the base of the first layer of cliffs on The Castle, but the track along the base of The Castle is as eroded as ever. It's amazing that some of the trees hang on, but they do.
The track gradually turns to the east and begins climbing up a series of high wooden steps until, perhaps 100 metres below the pass, a junction is reached with TC (The Castle) scratched into a rock.

Byangee Walls and The Castle

Taking the right hand branch, the steep steps continue and then abruptly end just before a short steep climb leads to a narrow passage between the cliffs of Meakins Pass. Sidling (remove pack first) and crawling through this tunnel, you emerge on the east side of The Castle. There is a tatty rope hanging down that I would not trust - there are a plethora of manky ropes on this route that you should not trust - but hand and foot holds are good so it is not really necessary.

Doug squeezing through the tunnel

The route heads south along the base of the east side of The Castle, but you should drop down a little from the exit to the tunnel to pick up a good track not stay high which we did. The high route works, but involves some awkward scrambling along loose ledges. Both routes soon join and head south until a piece of tattered flagging marks the start of the climb up the second and final cliff band.

Looking down on Meakins Pass from The Castle

There are sporadic bits of flagging, arrows carved into the rock, and a reasonable foot pad to mark the route. Mostly, it is pretty obvious if only by the scuffed off lichen free rock. In places there are fixed ropes, almost all of which are very dodgy and should not be trusted. After some scrambling we emerged on the north spine of the Castle where there is a fantastic view down to the rock gendarmes along Meakins Pass.

Doug floats on droplets of eucalpytus oil

A few last scrambly bits and we emerged onto the summit plateau. Considering this is the Budawangs, the summit is surprisingly open. Flat sandstone slabs separated by scrappy bush. There are foot-pads through the bush and it is relatively easy to walk all over the summit plateau. We walked right down to the south end where the view of Byangee Walls is superb and came back via the western cliff line which offers similarly good views of the walls of Mount Owen.

That view, it's priceless

There are small tarns on the summit so you could have a delightful campsite.

After about an hour, we scrambled back down. There are two sections where a short length of rope for a handline is very helpful, but everything else can be down-climbed. We thought about walking back via Cooyoyo Creek campsite, but by the time we got down to Meakins Pass we were too hot for that and simply crawled back through the tunnel and followed the track down. The swimming hole was extra good that afternoon. Our round trip time was about 8 hours, including an hour wandering about the summit. Coming down is not much, if at all, faster than going up.   

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tollgate Islands

Until I get around to a new blog post, check out this video we made recently.