Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park: Salisbury Waters to Mihi Creek

Dangars Falls to Salisbury Waters:

It is cool in the morning starting out and before heading out on our overnight walk, we wander along the short tourist walks that go to a couple of lookouts over Dangars Falls. The falls are spectacular and fall steeply down to a deep canyon with cliffs on either side. A little bit downstream there are a series of jagged spires on a spur ridge that are known as The Pinnacles.

Dangars Falls

Back to the car and we picked up the packs and started out on the walk. There are another couple of view points over the gorge where we spent time viewing the falls and looking for possible descent routes. Heading out along the Salisbury Waters track we took a side track to Rock Wallaby lookout which offers views down the Salisbury Waters gorge.

The Pinnacles

The track continues east along the ridge that separates Salisbury and Mihi Creeks. There are two more lookouts along the way, one at Sarum Hill which looks over Salisbury Waters and one which looks over Mihi Gorge.

Mihi Gorge

The track switchbacks down to Salisbury Waters but, despite the switchbacks, it is still a bit steep in parts. At the bottom, there is a bit of roughly flat ground and we smoothed out a section for a tent pad and put the tent up.

Pool on Salisbury Waters

After tea and lunch, we walked up Salisbury Waters gorge for about 2 km getting almost to McDirtys Creek. The going was easy if slow. Lots of slabs along the river, boulders, rock hopping, crossing from one side of the river to the other. There were many big pools but all passed easily on one side or the other. Also, some short cliffs down by the water but the bigger cliffs are further upstream near Dangars Falls. After about 1.5 hours, we stopped for a break on a big slab overlooking another pool which marked our turn around point.

Night comes early in the gorge

Back at camp we had some hot chocolate, dinner and retired to the tent soon after dark. With our new jumbo sleeping pads we slept well and it was relatively warm and no dew overnight.

Boulders in Salisbury Waters

Salisbury Waters to Mihi Gorge to Dangars Falls:

We are up around 6.30 am after a good sleep and it is a relatively warm morning. We have breakfast. I have some new quinoa flakes which are bland, bland, bland. We pack up and begin walking down Salisbury Waters to the junction with Mihi Creek. Quite soon we come to the "big pool" and a dodgy climb up a little notch to scramble around the pool (river left). I go up first but Doug balks at my route and climbs back down with out doing the last bit. He looks around for another option, but there is none so he comes back up again and I haul his pack up the dodgy step. Past this, it is an easy traverse along ledges above the pool and we are soon at the junction with Mihi Creek.

Reflections on Salisbury Waters

Mihi Gorge is a mini Salisbury, very similar but just slightly easier travel with many fewer pools, smaller boulders - generally - and not as many slabs. The water is much clearer too as the water in Salisbury is green with some kind of algae. Travel is still slow, however as we cross and recross the river and scramble around rocks. About two hours from camp we have a break and note that we have about one kilometre in the gorge to go.

Heading up Mihi Creek

There are two prominent ridges which lead out of the gorge to the south and we have information on the one closest to Mihi Creek so decide to take that one. However, the more southeasterly ridge actually looks better on the map. It is, however, an unknown entity so we decide to go with the one that we know leads out.

So, another 40 minutes of creek hopping taking a turn to the right and then the left and passing the obvious drainage and we are at the bottom of the ascent slope. I have a dip before we head up and put on long pants as I am worried about scratchy grass, nettle and burrowing grass seeds.

Big boulders in Mihi Creek

Initially, all goes well and, although the ridge is steep, we are making reasonable progress, there are no nettles and very little grass seeds. Perhaps 200 metres from the top we run up against the cliffs mentioned in the track notes we found on-line. The instructions are to sidle around left which we do. At first this works very well and we scramble around to the left climbing up to keep to the base of the cliffs. After a bit, we scramble up onto the ridge top which is narrow and bristling with rocky pinnacles. Progress, however, is still possible and is pretty easy just below the ridge crest. We scramble up to the ridge again and find a big pinnacle with sheer walls on all sides and no easy way up.

We have to drop down back the way we came and traverse across steep grass and vertical dirt on the south side of the ridge. All the time we can see the ridge we thought we would go up looking very easy! It is hard not to wish we were there.

Mihi Falls

After traversing 100 to 200 metres we see a spot where we may be able to regain the ridge crest above the big pinnacle however it is impossible to tell if it will work without going right up and sticking our noses against it. There are two tricky sections where we pass the packs and then we scramble up, the terrain getting easier until we are on top of the escarpment with all the difficulties over.

Looking over Mihi Gorge

We have topped out at a good viewpoint by a big granite boulder so we stop for lunch here over looking the steep Mihi Gorge. After lunch, we walk along through light bush until we come to paddock land and begin hopping a series of fences each one harder to get over than the last. At Mihi Creek, we manage to cross without getting our shoes wet by pushing through a thick tangle of fallen trees laced with blackberry bush. On the other side of the creek we meet up with yet another fence which we need to cross to get back onto the National Park. This fence, like all the others is about 5 feet high and the top is laced with rusty barbed wire. We walk along it until we see a big tree which has fallen onto it and manage to climb over the fence by climbing the tree being very careful not to touch the electric wire at the bottom.

Wild dog fences

A short walk across open paddock and we finally reach the parks track. We drop the packs and detour to the viewpoint over Mihi Falls. These falls are quite spectacular falling down in a series of cascade that change direction and drop along fault lines in the steep cliff walls. Another couple of kilometres along the parks track and we are back at the car park, tired, but happy.

Among the boulders of Salisbury Waters

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