Trip Report – Barrington Tops July 16-18.

Party: Bryce, Alex, Fiona, Kosta.

After meeting up at Woy Woy Station we drove in Fiona’s care up the F3 and the Pacific Highway to Nabiac (near Taree), then Gloucester. On the way we stopped at the pretend Ayer’s Rock Roadhouse near Karuah. It was here I realised I had left my sleeping mat behind, so I purchased a little rug as a substitute at the Roadhouse. In fact the Roadhouse had all sorts of oddities for sale, including metre-long strips of candy.

(The lack of a sleeping mat turned out to be a blessing in disguise – read on.)

After Gloucester we headed south down Buckett’s Way for 10km, to the turnoff of the road to Gloucester Tops, pleasantly noting that the bitumen has recently been extended a few km. Then it was across the 6 fords of the Gloucester River to the Gloucester River camping area, arriving about 1am. Tents were quickly pitched and off to sleep. I noticed it a bit cool underneath without a sleeping mat, and in the light of morning the reason became apparent – I had pitched my tent over a naturally damp slight depression!

We were wakened by the noisy Parrots and Lyrebirds, one of which scratched around the entrance to Fiona’s tent. Then it was a quick breakfast and we packed the car with our gear. Then Fiona turned on the ignition – and nothing happened apart from a low grumble from the starter motor. Evidently the battery was low. It appeared that we might have to change our plans, i as a long wait was possible for help. With the help of another camper, however, I managed to clutch-start the car, and then it was off to the start of the walk at the gate of the Link Trail, at 1300m. On the way we were rewarded with a sighting of a Spotted Quoll, a threatened species of marsupial. We set off under a clear sky along the 20km Link Trail to Wombat Creek and on to Carey’s Peak, noting the tall Antarctic Beech trees along the way. Recent snow-melt had created several streams across, and sometimes along, the track. There were also several large fallen trees to negotiate as well. At about 1450m the temperate rainforest abruptly gives way to Snow Gums; within 50 metres it changes from completely one type one to completely the other. We noticed the stump of a dead Snow Gum within the temperate trees, and decided that it must have been attacked by the temperate trees for trespassing.

On reaching Carey’s Hut we dropped our packs and headed for the lookout, for a spectacular view which on a good day stretches to south of Newcastle. This time there were misty cloud forming across the valleys and adjacent mountaintops.

We also noted the remnant bits of snow here and there.

We lit a fire – with considerable difficulty – in Carey’s Hut, which gave shelter from the strong winds which were now blowing in from the west. Most of the wood was still damp from the last recent snowfall. Cooking was thus done with our portable stoves. Everyone had brought along some Port!

Because of my lack of a sleeping mat I pitched my tent over clumps of snow grass to act as insulation from the ground. The result was a very good night’s sleep without any cold, and no sliding off sleeping mats as usually happens. The snow grass was definitely a better option that a sleeping mat for comfort.

Overnight the strong wind roared through the trees sounding like an express train at times, yet by and large did not distrb our sleep.

Sunday morning we awoke before 7am to see the sunrise. I coaxed myself out of my warm sleeping bag cocoon, but it turned out to be well worth the effort, with the valleys all the way to the Coast filled with mist, and the mountains tops gradually glowing as the first rays of the sun hit them. Underfoot the ground was white with frost (and snow remnants), yet at the Hut there was absolutely no dew on either the tents or the ground. This indicated wet weather coming within 24 hours, so we were glad we were leaving that day.

We had breakfast in the hut, which was quite warm despite the sub-zero temperature outside (so the fire must have kept going for a while). We set off along the frost-covered track down to the Corker Track junction, then retraced our walk of the day before 20km back to the car. The weather was fine all the way apart from some occasional cloud patches.

Then it was back to the Buckett’s way, and then to Raymond Terrace for petrol and refreshments. the usual end-of-school holiday traffic jam at Raymond Terrace did not materialise thank goodness.

Then it was on to the F3 and Hexham, I was dropped off home, and the rest continued to Sydney.

This was a great walk in good winter weather in the World Heritage area of Barrington NP, and was enjoyed by all.

Bruce Stafford