TRIP: Currockbilly Mountain, Easter 2-5 Apr 2010
Currockbilly Mountain in the southern part of Morton National Park may be described in a single word: scrub. It can also be described in two words: thick scrub. In three words you’d probably say thick wet scrub. If you want it in more than 3 words (a lot more), well, it goes something like this.
In the small hours of Good Friday morning two cars pulled into the Wog Wog camping area after a late departure from Sydney. Tents went up quickly and a few hours of sleep were snatched before awaiting the dawn. Good Friday dawned clear and mild, it was a beautiful day. After breakfast in the camping area we set off on a good walking trail for a few hours of brisk walking. The track leads to Corang Peak and Monolith Valley but our objective was to turn off this track and bash our way to a locality known as Snedden Pass. Luckily for us, Jo spotted a small cairn which marked the route to Snedden Pass, because in the absence of some kind of track the scrub would have been dense indeed. As it happened we were able to keep to a minor pad which took us out to Snedden Pass, which we descended easily. From here we found our way onto a spur leading to Yadboro River and after an excellent lunch of tea and jaffles in the trees, we descended easily on a rough track to Yadboro River – “the Christys Creek of the Budawangs”.
Rather than camp down here in the damp river valley we decided to make a start on Wirritin Ridge and ascend to dry and sunlit ridge tops to make our first night’s camp. So after wandering downstream to the base of Wirritin Ridge we gathered as much water as we could carry and tackled the ridge in the warm afternoon. We found a small but pleasant campsite high on the ridge with views through the trees to sweeping valleys and spurs.
Next day was Easter Saturday, and the objective of this day’s walking was to follow the undulating ridge system towards its ultimate zenith, the summit of Currockbilly Mountain, whose uppermost slopes were steadfastly defended by scrub. But for the majority of the day the ridge was an open quartzite ridge, “the Bullhead Range of the Budawangs”. We easily reached Wirritin mountain, where the exposed rock offered commanding views of the surrounding spectacular countryside. We decided to have lunch in the open where we could enjoy the great views. As we partook of our luncheon, clouds came over and it began to rain. But these clouds had a silver lining because we were low on water, and by holding my fly by each corner, as if offering a sacrifice to the weather gods, we managed to catch about 5 litres of water! But standing in the rain holding a fly was cold work and once the rain eased off we had to build up the fire and warm ourselves before setting off on the next leg of the trip.
We worked our way further up the Wirritin Range and reached Mt Roberts, and the summit of this peak was damp and misty and rather cold. The ridge had become a little scrubbier, with lots of grass trees, but nothing too serious – yet.
From Mt Roberts we dropped steeply and then began climbing the Currockbilly massif, just as it was getting to around the time to think about finding a spot to camp. But no suitable camp spot was to be found. The ridge narrowed and rose into the mist and out of sight. There was a wall of scrub. It was beginning to get late. The scrub had to be overcome and we had to find somewhere to camp. We pushed on. But the ridge remained narrow, dropping steeply on both sides, visibility was down to less than 100m, and the scrub was borderline impenetrable. How about the next saddle? It was beginning to get dark. It would have to do. I pushed on into the saddle for a look, it was dismal. Not a chance of camping there. “What about that open flat bit back there?” Well it was neither open nor flat but it was perceptibly less impossible than anywhere else. It was our only option.
Ok, so what was our situation? We were wet, cold, stuck in the middle of the scrub unable to move, and it was nearly dark. There was only one option. Beat the scrub into submission. So we stamped and kicked and ripped with our hands and after a while we had cleared a spot big enough for one fire, one tent and about 2 people. But there were 6 of us and 4 tents, so it would be rather cramped. I got a fire going. The tent flies were strung up and we managed to catch some more rainwater, enough to fill all our water bottles. We would survive. We all had a miserable time cooking in the cramped cold and wet surrounds, but good hot meals were eaten anyway. But at least we had plenty of wine and port!
After eating our dinners we sat around the fire, huddled under a fly and the conversation was remarkably jovial considering our discomfort. What was there to talk about? Well one excellent topic was for each of us to recount stories of past experiences that were more miserable than this one! It was telling of our current predicament how few such previous more adverse occasions there were to recall, but those that we could recall were so entertaining and drawn from so far back in the past, and so lubricated and embellished by our remaining alcohol, that this was a very lively and memorable discussion indeed! And it helped to put our current situation in perspective – as one of the more miserable nights in recent memory …
Anyway, we then had to turn our attention to our sleeping arrangements and how we would get through the night in bearable comfort. My fly was re-rigged to change its role from water catching vessel into a shelter from the rain. Tony’s tent was pitched almost on top of the fire. Bjorn and Tom would cower under Tom’s fly. Jo, Danielle and I would make do with steeply sloping but soft and spongy ground under my fly. Our packs were buttressed at the downhill end of our fly so that none of us would slide down the slope into the scrub and rain. And so our sleepless night was had.
Dawn. A pallid grey dawn. I got a fire going. That got Tony up because his tent was so close to the fire. Bjorn was mummified in his sleeping bag, wrapped awkwardly around the stump of a dead grass tree. Where was Tom? I began to suspect that he may have “gone outside for a while”. But there he was, huddled up, a pitiful sight, a wall of scrub on one side and Bjorn on the other. Not comfortable. Nor were any of us for that matter. But the night was over. Ahead stood the ridge. Bastions of scrubby knolls heaved themselves into the clouds ahead of us. That then was our challenge for the day.
The sun came out, suddenly it was warm and there was a tremendous view. At last we set off. We bunched up close together, marching in single file, tackling the scrub, one step at a time.
The sun disappeared, the mist socked in, it was cold and drizzly again. It was very slow going. Bit by bit we moved along the ridge. There was a long saddle, then more appalling scrub as our ridge joined the Budawang Range. Visibility was down to a few metres. Hours passed. Throwing ourselves at the scrub, we didn’t stop. Finally a cairn! A logbook! Currockbilly Mountain! We had made it. We scrawled our names in the logbook and a quick glance revealed that this same logbook dated back to 1970!
Funnily enough, the cairn and logbook were not on the true summit of Currockbilly Mountain. So after a bit of confusion in the poor visibility we pushed up one last scrubby rise towards the true summit, and found the track which led off the north west ridge to safety. At last we were through the scrub and out the other side! We were cold and hungry. Down down down we went, following an improving track, into tall forest and shelter. It was about 3pm, we still hadn’t stopped for lunch. So it was time for a huge fire, tea, and sumptuous hot lunch. At last! Then we walked on for another hour or more and found a fire trail. And we found fresh water. And then we found a beautiful open patch of clear flat ground to camp in, and abundant firewood. Celebration! Tents and flies went up, a roaring fire was lit, all remaining alcohol was consumed, and a great night was had by all. Stars came out, the sky was clear and sprayed with stars, we had great conversation and retired for a good night’s sleep!
Easter Monday was a clear, mild and beautiful day. We followed a fire trail through national park and out into farmland and eventually to the road. We began the long road bash back to Wog Wog but a friendly farmer took pity on us and we all piled onto the back of his ute and were quickly driven all the way back to our waiting cars! The trip concluded in the Marulan pub.
Truly a memorable trip! What an epic! We climbed Currockbilly Mountain via Wirritin Ridge, something to be done – once.
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