by Jim Bradley
(taken from 1973 club log book)
Easter 1973 Friday 20th April – Tuesday 24th April
Those who took part were as follows: Peter Hatherley, Dave Hatherley, Meredith Hatherley, Rosyln Brooks, Joe Mack, John ….., Bill Holliday, Jim Bullen, Jim Bradley.
This, it was rumoured, would be a serious walk, Therefore, dear reader, treat it as such and refrain from joviality throughout.
The route, as executed, lay, and indeed lies, across the map as a tortured and tortuous line from windswept Kanangra Walls, along Bullhead ridge, over the spine of Cambage, into the Kowmung valley, onto Bulga Ridge, up to Scott’s Main Range, along to Butcher’s Creek for the first night; into Byrne’S Gap, up onto Gander Head, along Axehead Mountain into Green Wattle Gap (one of them) for lunch, up onto Bull Island, down and back up onto the Vengeance Peninsula, over Mts. Ruthless, Remorseless and Relentless and down to the junction of Green Wattle and Bull Island creeks for the night; along Green Wattle Creek and up onto Green Wattle Mountain, along this mountain and down into Green Wattle Saddle for lunch, up onto Broken Rock Range proper to camp the night on Broken Rock Mountain (2,506 ft.); along the rest of B.R. range over Black Coola Mountain, down to Butcher’s Creek for a late lunch, up onto Scott’s Main, along the road to Bran Jan and down to the Kowmung for the night; finally up along the Gingra track, counting desperately backwards Erom 6 to arrive once more at the Walls where metal monsters waited patiently for our return, engorged us and carried us back to The City.
Thus lay the route and thus it was that nine members of our beloved university came to spend a cold and blustery night among the many other travellers in the Dance Cave on Holy Thursday even’. Good Friday morn dawned as cold as the chill moonlight of the previous night. The wind buffeted about the plateau like a furied animal. The travellers, indeed, found it difficult to maintain a steady footing and took great care to avoid approaching the precipice lest they be hurled like puppets into the gulf. Some relief from this violent tantrum of nature’s was attained once we had dropped off the plateau to the east, ‘though the ridge itself was hardly more sheltered in places than the higher plateau. Nevertheless, in spite of some early navigational troubles resulting from our haste and the early hour (was it 7:30am E.S.T.?) the Kowmung River saw the party’s arrival around 11:00am. Immediately the crossing had been achieved, a major symbolic action was taken for the revolution. At the instigation of “Mother” Hatherley the big hands of the devices on our wrists were advanced by 360o to create a new temporal reference standard dubbed ‘Kowmung Saving Time’. Never again was the simple question ‘What is the time?’ to receive a simple answer, and never again would weary bodies be permitted to lie in sleep past the rising of the sun.
Lunch was served on the pebbly bank, and once again the strange, almost ritualistic, system af food barter came into practice. Anthropology and Sociology, having come to terms with the behaviour and institutions of other societies must now concern themselves with the peculiar habits into which otherwise normal, self-sufficient whities lapse when faced with primitive environment. Only three members of the band took a bathe in the icy waters, whilst the others laughed.
The afternoon was an initially very steep ascent of 1200 feet along Bulga ridge, past Bulga Cone to the fire-road on Scott’s Main. This was a long and tiring climb, rewarded by some splendid views and a long flat ridge top to the ridge. Once on the road members af the party saw fit to walk at their own pace. Straggling was seen to have its own rewards when a yellow long-wheelbase, 4WD vehicle came bursting over a hill and ground to a stop roaring with laughter. “Climb in”, it said to the four of us, and we did. This procedure was repeated three times, until every available nook and cranny was crammed with baggage or strangely contorted bodies. Sixteen or seventeen persons and eleven packs were carried in that heaving machine till Butcher’s Creek, where many were disgorged. Jim Bullen, whose legs had carried him far in advance of the others of the group and was thus picked up last was seen to sit solemnly tn a corner quietly repeating “I must not get carried away, … I must not …”
The route fram Byrne’s Gap to the first peak of Green Wattle Mountain, which the Gundungura Book and map calls mistakenly, or so it would seem, “The Broken Rock”, is accurately described in the aforementioned volume. It could be noted, however, that the “scramble dawn a gully on the west side” from the second unnamed peak of Axehead Mountain involved some rockclimbing and packhauling and brought looks of grave consternation to the faces of those shorter legged and more imaginattve members of the band. Although this was the most difficult manoeuvre of the journey and took almost an hour (including the six or possibly eight Springwood Bushies who used their good turn with the truck as an excuse to harrass us with their noisy presence for 36 house), it was not the only “rockclimb” or “scramble”.
A carefully planned reinforcement schedule based on the administration of small sugary food pellets was instigated and proved successful. The rate and speed of climbing increased as a fraction of time despite the postulated “weariness effect”. The “reducing load” factor should not be forgotten as a possible source of confusion and it should be noted that other intervening variables remain to be isolated.
Views from the mountains traversed on the second day (i.e. those of the Tonalli Range) were far reaching and exciting. From this aspect, especially that of Vengeance Peninsula, the surrounding landforms, familiar or unfamiliar, are revealed in a new way. The Kanangra Plateau is insignificant when the long flat horizon of the main divide is the backdrop. Yerranderie Peak, Colong, Cloudmaker, Guouogang etc. stand out against the horizon. Great chains of sandstone escarpments form the Burragorang and Wollondilly Walls, the Lacy and Bimlow Tablelands and again spring up to the north near the settled regions. From the heights every contour of the country below falls into place and one can begin to comprehend the vast scale of the interrelationships of these landforms. It is all one. We are all one. One traverses the Vengeance Peninsular flanked by 300 foot cliffs over several miles. As the book says – “Between Mounts Ruthless and Remorseless (the first two peaks on the peninsular there is a spectacular three foot wide saddle precariously perched over a 200 foot cliff”.
Camp was made in a ferny glen just beyond the junction of Green Wattle and Bull Island Creeks. The Springwood people were there first and were indeed a rowdy mob. Swims were swum and washes were washed in the cold little creek pools. The evening stretched on to rum and brandy, cookies and hot cross buns, circling strangely from hand to hand, great quantities were quickly diminished, songs were burst into and a few sad harmonica notes issued forth. For many of us, however as tired as we might be, sleep did not come quickly. The Springwood Amateur Theatrical Ensemble were holding auditions for the role of the fool in their forthcoming production, “Banal and Trite” and the noises created grated harshly on the ears of several to the extent of keeping them from slumber. Towards midnight or shortly thereafter a competition was had for the best imitations. After a series of duckies and things a cry was heard from the vicinity of my tent “Can you imitate a bloody mute?”. Far from having the desired effect this was greeted with raucous laughter and the next imitation was of a mocking bird – “Can you imitate a bloody mute?”. In the morning Joe Mack (famous creator of Mack’s Factor which is of use in all sorts of computations) provided the final word “Can yau imitate a tree and leave?”. Peter finally disbanded the ensemble by killing two birds with one stone and extinguishing their fire.
On the morn of Easter the two females of our band emerged from the nearest telephone booths as rabbits, or rather bunnies, and distributed a welcome assortment of tiny chocolate eggs. Peter executed a devilish scheme whereby the sandshoes of the winner of the previous night’s auditions were left up the creek (which one?) rather wet. We were gone before they were up. Down the creek, then all waterboittes and sundry other containers were filled, for a dry day and a half were expected. The ascent of Green Mattle Mountain was steep but not difficult, and the traverse to the actual summit was easy, with good views. The wind arose again. From the top of G. W. Mountain the ascent of Broken Rock looked difficult and a route was not easy to find. Peter (“Mother”) Hatherly looked concerned and debate was entered into. However, the descent (v. steep) of 1,OOO feet having been made, Green Wattle Saddle crossed (a guided tour of ants nests), and lunch having been taken in a shady clearing, the 1,OOO foot ascent was found to be not too difficult. The route up the obvious ridge was taken, although it looked loose and steep. It wag so, but with care one could hold one’s footing and the small bushes (apart from the Mountain Holly) proved helpful. As we ascended, clouds rolled over and darkened the panorama that was spreading out below us. There was, however, no rain. A pass through the cliff line was easily found, and made in a series of steps. At one stage a strangely weathered rock was encountered. Great veins of rock, varying in size and thickness, but mostly about an inch thick, remained in the scoop gouged by the wind. Joe played a percussion symphony on these rocks and the following repartee issued as we climbed up past this rock – “Put your foot Over there on A FLAT”, “Watch out for B SHARP”, “F MAJOR!” Pauses for taking in the view were made at suitable places, as per usual. Once finally on the plateau the walking was pleasant and easy. Over Fritz’s Hump, a view of Shoebridge Mountain to the east on the plateau and ahead to the north, ever-beckoning, was Broken Rock Mountain. Peter made a navigational error that landed us, surprised and delighted, in Fritz’s Creek, where sat several pools of the milk of life. Peter’s error was excused as a Freudian slip and water-buckets, billies and intestines were filled to supplement the great quantities we had carried to this height from Green Wattle Creek and which by that time skould have been choc-a-bloc with potential energy. This concept is thought to have originated in the fertile think tank of the minds on this walk, and any member of the party would be glad to explain its marvellous implications.
The summit of Broken Rock Mountain, and overnight dwelling place for the travellers. Behind the rock shelf on which the fire was buIlt there is 1,500 feet of nothing. To the west stretches a vast landscape, from Yerranderie in the south to Katoomba etc, and Kings Tableland in the north. The sun moves towards it’s setting behind Cloudmaker. Wisps of “gravity clouds” turn to the last sun. There is a magnificent silence, a great stillness, a vast peace. We begin to cook tea as the light goes gold and the chill comes in. Clouds change shape and hue. An eagle of cloud over Cloudmaker fades, returns as Daffy Duck. One can almost see into the pit of Kanangra. Immediately below is the twisted path, the gentle green downings of Butcher’s Creek. Ti Willa walls up Cloudmaker. Medlow Gap is seen in new perspective to the north. Mt. Solitary hides Katoomba itself, a sentinel looming in the valley. The beginning or end of Lake Burragorang. We, the travellers, together partake of the peace of being in the promised land. We are all happy, we have been where we came to be. With darkness comes a band of lights in the north and a solitary light to the south. The pit below us becomes a void and tempts some of us to walk into it, to fling ourselves of the cliff. The evening ends as we go to our tents.
Morning. Sunrise and an ocean of silver, white mist in the valleys laps at the tableland. Covers the lake. Sunrise on cloudmaker. Mist wisps away, slowly. Further on into the day a way was made along the rest of the plateau, up and down, with great cliffs ever to the left, 500 feet at their greatest, and red grevillea flowers prominent around us. A great cleft in the cliff, with the day moon above. There was some disappointment as to the fact that only glimpses of views to the west were to be had, through gaps in the trees, and that not a great deal of the lake could be seen. It could be expected that a side trip along the plateau to Black Coola Trig would be most rewarding in this respect, as it is perched on the easternmost walls of the range.
The descent to Butcher’s Creek was made directly after the end of the cliff line. That is, the long spur was not followed, partly because our aim was to hit Butcher’s Creek some distance upstream both to facilitate crossing and because it was in our general direction. Thus the descent, of about 1800 feet, was initially very steep and loose, with plenty of holly to help. Peter managed to lead the party across the maze of ridges without becoming disoriented, at times following what all evidence indicated was a horse trail. Butcher’s creek was met for a late lunch and a brave dip for some, while Dr. John attended to Meredith’s ingrown toenail and Bill’s even more interesting right tit. The remaining afternoon was spent climbing about 900 feet over several miles along a very pleasant ridge with a good track, to arrive at Scott’s Main at the Newyards. About six miles along the road, past the ruins of the Bran Jan house near which some time and effort was spent tracking Big Boots who had again disappeared in front, saw us arrive at the Kowmung not long before sunset. The river was crossed at the ford and a very pleasant campsite was found on the grassy bank. That evening, being our last together, saw a change from the usual chemical and physical analysis of the food we would consume and saw an attempt at analysis of the group itself and several other discussions of related nature. Hysterical laughter broke out when Joe obliged by leaving the lid off the third billy of corn to be popped. Strangely formed white projectiles were seen to be loosed in all directions upon the unwary populace.
It was indeed the last night, for on the morrow two parties set off (one several hours ahead of the other) to traverse the length of the Gingra Track. The second party, leaving at 9.OO a.m. (having reverted to G.S,T.) took six hours of fairly leisurely walking to arrive at the car at Kanangra. The earlier party was in more of a hurry, and could be expected to have taken less time.
And now a word about the weather. Good.
And thus it was the nine adventurers came to venture into the wilderness, to spend a night on a rugged and lofty mountain top, and returned to tell their tale.
Dr. J. E. Taylor ….. “From our giddy point of vantage, the arboreal vegetation below looks like velvet pile ….. The rich yellow walls of sandstone precipices on which the sun is shining, gleam with almost dazzling brightness, whilst the corresponding walls of the other side of the valley are plunged in densest gloom. Out of, and beyond the curving and widening valley we are gazing down upon with such awed delight, the vast forest-clad landscape stretches away and breaks up into dark cobalt blue hills, wherein is repeated the same unique scenic character”.
Our Island Continent – A Naturalist’s Holiday in Australia 1886