On the road to recovery

Valleys of Mist8th June, it’s a big weekend for the aussie7summits team – Bridie is taking some big steps in her recovery from glandular fever.  Today the 3 of us are heading out into the Blue Mountains for 3 days of bushwalking. For Bridie this is a milestone event  – it is her first overnight trip since last November and a real indicator of her recovery from glandular fever.

We are making one of our traditionally slow starts to the weekend and its midday before we are at the road end on the Sydney Uni Rover Trail near Kanangra Walls before we are ready to start walking.  There’s the obligatory “whose got the heaviest pack” contest before we start off and then we are underway.

Snack BreakThe plan for the afternoon is to take it easy and let Bridie call the shots on pace and how far we go before stopping to camp.  We also decide to make a bit of a navigation exercise out of the afternoon and rely on map and compass, leaving the GPS in the pack for emergencies only.

Progress has been reasonably good but our attempts to locate the “Shinning Orb” that’s marked on the map have been in vain.   Traversing the rounded knoll that is Mt ?? have been thwarted by the thick scrub that is almost impregnable.  After 45 minutes of virtually throwing ourselves at it to gain a path we decided to back off and find a camp site for the night.

Our final decision for our overnight camp is a camp cave with a southerly aspect and a good supply of water runoff from the cliff walls above us and an endless supply of good dry firewood.   The cave floor is a very fine silt that’s derived from the continual erosion of the cave ceiling.  It’s like icing sugar underfoot and the lack of footprint impressions confirm that there haven’t been any visitors to this site for some significant period of time.

Our plans for the next day are reasonably fluid but it’s likely that Bridie will stay in camp and take a rest day while Hugh and I head down into Christies creek for an explore.

What a viewDay 2 dawns clear and cold with a temperature around 4-5 degrees, it’s hardly conducive to creating a desire to leave the comfort of a warm down sleeping bag.  Consequently it’s around 10am before we are ready to leave camp and by now the plans for the morning have changed as well.  We’ve decided on one more attempt to find the “Shinning Orb”.  I mean how hard can it be?

Very soon we are back attacking the scrub and making slow but definite progress toward the high point that is the summit.  Occasionally the scrub opens out into areas of more open treed space but before long it’s back bush whacking our way forward.  When do do reach the top there’s nothing but more scrub – and nothing Orb like in appearance.  We’re full of theories but the most likely is that the Orb was named before the scrub took hold and now it’s well buried from sight under this tangle of branches and vine.

Anyway the search is abandoned, thankfully our walk back to the camp is much quicker as we are able to follow our inward trial – a virtual path of destruction through the scrub.

To close out the day Hugh and I made the 10 minute trip across from the camp cave to Barraliers Crown – a double column of rock that reaches approx. 30 metres from the ground.  And of course if you take a crock climber to a rock face there’s the obligatory requirement to climb to the top.  We both made the saddle between the two columns but of course Hugh wanted a “summit”.  A climb of grade 15 difficulty but with plenty of exposure (meaning – big hurt if you fall)  put paid to an attempt on the final 5-6 metres.  The saddle provided us some brilliant views across the valleys in all directions.

Food is more importantDay 3, our final day away and there’s an opportunity for some photos of a reddened sky as the sun rises.  What starts out as a trip back to the high point of the cliff line quickly becomes a return trip to Barraliers Crown and the opportunity to see the sun progressively rise over the Blue Mountains and to see the cotton wool mist in the valleys stretching back south toward Katoomba.  Amazing views and ever changing as the sun rose higher during the hour that I sat and watched.  In the end my stay came to an end as thoughts turned toward breakfast and packing for the return trip.

Over breakfast Hugh presented a challenge to us – why not return to the van via an alternate route, navigating by compass (no GPS) and from memory of the map layout.  Of course he’s suggesting this having just spent the past 30 minutes reviewing the amp and memorising each twist and turn (all 3-4 of them).  For Bridie and I this sounds a reasonable challenge and we’re up for it.

It takes us 30 minutes to retrace out tracks back to the turn-off onto new ground for us and we’re reasonably certain of the path we need to follow.  Its about there the plans breaks down.  Bad weather sweeps in from the south and at Bridie’s request we need to make haste so we aren’t caught in the bad weather.  At this point Hugh has the map and the GPS and from here on Bridie and I are lucky to get a glimpse of it.  Now don’t think I’m being unfair here – he did a fantastic job of the navigation and got us back to the Kanangra Walls road almost without incident.   Most of our challenge for the remainder of the morning was in making slow progress through some almost impregnable scrub and bush.  We over shoot 1 ridge line by approx. 100 metres before Hugh quickly picked the error.  In summary it was a superior effort compared to his getting us out of Kanangra Main canyon  (read the previous story on this blog).

Around 1pm we’ve back in the van after a35 minutes of road slog (in heavy rain) and heading back to Leura.  Bridie’s completed her first outdoor trip for quite some time and I’m sure that overall she’s happy with the ways things went.  The road to recovery could be long but first steps are complete.