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The start of the Uni Rover Track.

Wheengy Whungy Swamps.

The Uni Rover Track.

The creek from Hodges Swamp.

The view from Lost Rock. 

Lost Rock.

Gallop Rock.

Controlled burning on the Boyd Range near Mt Goondel.

Wheengy Whungy Falls, viewed from the slope above Johnston Falls.

Looking along Shamash Deep from the slopes above Johnston Falls.

Johnston Falls.

The steep, lower slopes just above Wheengy Whungy Creek, below Johnston Falls.

Thick bush on the steep slopes of Shamash Buttress.

Eucalypt forest growing on Shamash Buttress.

The cliffs below Shamash Point.

Heath above the pass onto Mt Barrallier.

Eucalypt forest on Mt Barrallier.

Sunset over the Kowung, viewed from Bushlanders Point.

Mt Wallarra from the cliffs of Mt Barrallier.

 

Track Notes - Morong Creek Fire Trail to Lost Rock, Gallop Rock Lookout,  Johnston Falls, Mt Barrallier, Bushlander Point and Gogy Ridge

Date:  19/9/2008

Maps:  LPI Kanangra 89303S, LPI Yerranderie 89294N and Dunphy's Kowmung

Route:  Morong Creek Fire Trail to Lost Rock, Gallop Rock Lookout, Mt Goondel, Johnston Falls, Shamash Buttress, Shamash Point, Mt Barrallier, Bushlanders Point, Sunshine Hill and Gogy Ridge.  A long day, mostly off track.  Distance: 20 kilometres.  Ascent: about 950m.  A long, hard day.

Gear:  Daypack, Gaiters, Camera, EPIRB, Maps, Compass, GPS (set to WGS84), 2 litres water.

Party:     Peter Medbury

Notes:

For as long as I can remember I've been interested in the exploits of the early explorers who tried to cross the Blue Mountains.

In 1802, Barrallier almost made it.  He got within a days walk of Kanangra Walls and what was to become the stock route to Oberon.

There is some dispute about just where Barrallier's expedition got to.  Some who have attempted to unravel his journals and maps and retrace his route contend he made it to Barrallier Falls on Christys Creek, others that he actually got to Johnston Falls on Wheengee Whungee Creek.

The accepted view seems to be that Barrallier made it as far as Johnston Falls.  Regardless of just where his expedition turned around, it was an amazing journey.

I've always wondered why Barrallier would turn around when he was so close.

Today I planned to visit Johnston Falls to see what made it all so hard.

My last walk had proved a day walk possible that included Moxley Rock, Mt Wheengee Whungee and Mt Barrallier, exiting over Gogy Ridge.  This walk would be a bit longer but I hoped to pick up some time using the Uni Rover Track.  I also hoped to get to Lost Rock and Gallop Rock Lookout.

As usual I left home about 6:00am and parked on the Morong Fire Trail, a short distance from the start of the Uni Rover Track.  I started walking at 8:00am on a cool, clear sunny day and after a few minutes I was on the Uni Rover Track.

Initially the Uni Rover Track is a fire trail, wide enough for a vehicle.  It quickly degenerates into a track and at times disappears altogether.  It obviously doesn't get the wear and tear or traffic load as some of the other tracks in the area.  There were quite a few 'roos near the track & they didn't move off all that far as I walked by.  Usually you just hear them moving off in the distance.

I could hear the frogs and the water flowing in Wheengee Whungee Swamps as I went pass.  Moss growing on the fallen trees was glowing bright green in the morning sun.  The creek at Hodges Swamp flowing quickly too.  There was obviously still a lot of moisture around after the rain.

It only took an hour to reach Lost Rock.  The maps show Lost Rock to be some distance to the east of the track.  The track went right to Lost Rock.  Too easy.  There was a very good view of Mt Colong, framed by the forest.  That was all though.  Through the trees I could see that the granite outcrop extended for some distance in all directions.  I had a quick look around and then I was back on the track, heading for Gallop Rock.

Shortly after leaving Lost Rock the track heads to the south.  I left the track here and headed west along the ridge.  It dropped off quickly and I had a wide creek to cross.  The creek would usually be dry but today it was about 5 metres wide.  Fallen trees and branches provided the bridge I needed and I was able to keep my feet dry.  Across the creek the forest was very thick with an understory of heath.

I carry a GPS and a compass.  I use the GPS to record my total trip & if necessary to confirm my location on the topo map.  Most times, the compass built into the GPS works pretty well.  It is quite useless when you are constantly changing direction, like negotiating heath.  The compass is fantastic in situations where you have to keep changing you direction and you can't see anything much.  Set your bearing on the compass and use it.  Easy!

I was lucky.  It took a little while to work my way through the heath but it wasn't as bad it looked.

I crossed a rocky outcrop and rock shelf, too small to be called a lookout.  There was lots of thick moss on the rocks.  Through the trees I could just make out a large rock formation.

As I got closer I could see the rock formation was huge, sloping off to the west .  I could see no easy way up from the northern side so I headed to the western end.  It was like a gentle ramp.  I was able to just walk back along to the east, across a couple of rock shelves, a bit like steps.  There was a cairn at the top of Gallop Rock.  There was nothing to indicate its age.  It might have been built yesterday or years ago when Dunphy was preparing his maps.

Gallop Rock was a good spot to stop for morning tea.

Although being shown on the map as a lookout there wasn't all that much to see.  I guess the trees are a lot taller than when the rock was named.  To the south west I could see a line of cliffs running up the side of a mountain.  I'm guessing they are on Moola Mountain.

I climbed down the southern face of Gallop Rock.  It wasn't all that steep but the wet granite was very slippery.  There was a lot of moss and more rock platforms.

I headed south east and up towards Mt Goondel.  In the sheltered gully between gallop Rock and Mt Goondell I disturbed a group of 5 lyrebirds.  They moved back into the undergrowth but didn't go away.  They just watched me.  It is the largest group of lyrebirds I have seen.

As I approached the summit of Mt Goondel I encountered burnt heath.  The whole summit was burnt.  I was rejoining the Uni Rover Track on Mt Goondel.  The fires made it easy to find.

I continued south east along the Boyd Range.  There were more burnt areas, restricted to the ridges.  Only the understory had been burnt.  No trees.  In April the Uni Rover Track .had been closed because of controlled burning.  I was seeing the aftermath.  The burnt areas contonued to the top of Spine Bender Buttress where I turned east.  I presume the entire backbone of the Boyd range had been burnt.

The burnt areas were left behind as I headed down the buttress that ends beside Johnston Falls.

No cliffs were shown on the map but the falls were shown as 26 metres high.  I planned to keep downstream of the falls.  The buttress rapidly dropped away, getting steeper and steeper.  There was little soil, the surface mostly made up of small flakes of rock that slipped under foot.  There wasn't much vegetation either.

At one spot I could see upstream to Wheengee Whungee Falls.  I could see the silver thread of the falls plunging over the cliff.  The topo map shows Wheengee Whungee Falls to be 100 metres relative.  I coudl see the cliffs too.

Soon I found it necessary to stick to animal pads, at times lowering myself from ledge to ledge using the few trees that grew there.  And meanwhile it just got steeper and steeper.  I could see very little below me without leaning over and that wasn't feasible with the lack of support.  At some places I was almost lying against the slope as I sidled from one pad to the next.  It was very slow going and required lots of concentration and effort.

Finally I decided I'd had enough and I was going to back out.  As I started to retrace my steps a bare area I'd just crossed started sliding down the slope.  Underneath the layers of small dry stones that formed the surface it was damp, almost plastic, like wet concrete.  I wasn't going back that way.

There was no choice but to continue down.  Again, using the animal pads I was able to make more progress.  Slowly.  I could see some trees a bit further down.  I gingerly headed for the trees.  The surface material slipped a few more times but I had made sure I had a good grip on the roots and trees wherever possible.

Eventually I made it to the trees.  Once there, the going was easy and it only took a few more minutes to descend the final 10 metres to the creek.  it had taken me almost 2 1/2 hours to descend the buttress and I was very tired.

It would probably have been much easier to descend the buttress to Johnston Falls if there hadn't had all that recent rain and the subsurface had been dry.  A lesson learned.

Wheengee Whungee Creek was racing, obviously still in flood.

I could hear the falls roaring.  I headed upsteam to get a view of them.  It took a bit of careful clambering.  Care was needed because the rocks were so very slippery and the stinging nettles so very tall.  I slipped once and my right arm went into the nettles and immediately the skin went numb.  It stayed numb for several days.  It made me much more careful.

When I reached the falls they were spectacular.  A small horseshoe shaped valley, surrounded by cliffs, not shown on the topo map.  There was no way past the falls without climbing up the way I had just come down.  The water was gushing over the lip of the falls and pounding the rocks at the bottom.

For someone intent on using the creeks as routes, Johnston Falls would prove a formidable barrier.  Climbing the slope and seeing Wheengee Whungee Falls and its 100 metre cliffs would be very discouraging.

Now I can understand now why Johnston Falls could have stopped Barrallier.  I wonder how might history have been different if Barrallier and his party had used the ridges and reached the Boyd Plateau in 1802?

I found a sunny spot on a rock with great views of the creek and stopped for lunch.  I was way behind time but I needed the rest.  Small butterflies were landing beside me on the damp rocks getting the moisture.  It was really a very pretty spot for lunch.

After lunch I had to find a way up onto Shamash Buttress.  The rocks walls beside the creek were pretty steep and in most places the ground was wet underneath and moved when I put weight on it.  I worked my way downstream till I found an animal pad leading up under some small trees.  I was able to pull myself up through the trees and over the rocks till I found some solid ground.

The branches of the trees I was used for support were thickly covered with orchids.  They would have looked incredible had the orchids been in flower. 

The climb up Shamash Buttress is about 500 metres.  It is quite a steep.  Shamash Buttress is covered with open forest.  In some places the air was filled with fragrance.  It took me quite a while to track down the culprit.  The perfume was coming from tiny white flowers on some of the shrubs growing on the slope.

It took me another 2 1/2 hours to reach the bottom of the cliffs at Shamash Point.  I needed to find a way up onto Mt Barrallier.  I had reviewed the Google Earth images of Mt Barrallier.  I hoped some of the re-entrants I could see on the satellite images would 'go' giving me an easy way up.

I walked east along the cliffs exploring each in turn.  Some looked very promising but on investigation I found my way blocked by sheer walls.  I walked almost all the way round to Yalpur Point without success.

I had used a pass just north of Heliolater Point a week ago so I headed back to Shamash Point and north under the cliff line towards Heliolater Point.

A short distance on I found a narrow re-entrant I could climb.  Part way up I noticed scratch marks on the rocks that looked they'd been made with nails.  They looked old.  Someone else had used this pass then.  I kept climbing up the slot.

And found heath!

It was thick, scratchy, almost inpenetrable heath.  I was too tired to climb back down the slot - I had no choice but to push through it.  I could see some eucalypts and headed towards them.  The eucalypts forests on Mt Barrallier usually allow fairly easy passage.  Unfortunately these ones weren't big enough to stop the heath growing and I just had to keep on pushing through.  In the late afternoon light and with no landmarks I had to use my compass to be sure I was heading towards Bushlanders Point.

I reached Bushlanders Point at 17:30, an hour after climbing the pass onto Mt Barrallier and entering the heath.  Usually it only takes about 25 minutes to cross Mt Barrallier.

Bushlanders Point is a rock platform above Barralliers Crown with incredible views across the Kowmung.  It is a great spot for lunch.

This time though I was admiring the sunset as I took a short break.  The fading light made everything look different.  Gullies and ridges, hard to see at during the day, were highlighted by shadows.  I took some quick photos.

I would be finishing this walk in the dark, certainly not a prospect I was looking forward to.  I still had to get across the northern cliffs on Mt Barrallier and I needed to do that before dark. 

The phone signal at Bushlanders Point is good so I made a couple of quick phone calls to let people know where I was.  That way they'd know I ws running late and not be too concerned.

I had planned to walk out to my car along Wallarra Heights.  I hadn't been that way for about 6 months and didn't intend to try it in the dark.  I was pretty familiar with the route out to the Kanangra Road across Gogy Ridge & the back of Dione Top.  I would go that way and accept the long walk back along the road to the car.

Everything done and the route sorted out I started off again.

I was off Mt Barrallier in 15 minutes so the light didn't cause an problems with the cliff edge.  It is easy walking across Wallarra Bay and I reached Wallarra Heights just after 18:00.  The light was fading fast so I got my torches ready.

It was dark by the time I reached Christys Creek.  The water level in the creek was much higher than usual and I couldn't cross at the normal location.  I moved downstream till I found a place where the water wasn't flowing so quickly.  I crossed the easy way by walking into the water and planting my feet firmly on the bottom.  My feet would dry.

Once across I was able to clamber up the slope and onto Gogy Ridge.

It was time to resort to the compass again to ensure I was going the right way.  It would have been difficult otherwise because of all the direction changes dodging the trees and the heath.

Crossing Gogy Ridge was easy.  The back of Dione Top was not.  I moved east a bit early and was quickly snared by the heath.  In the dark it took me a while to find a way out of the heath.  The road was just a few hundred metres past the heath.  I reached the Kanangra Road at 19:45.  It had taken about 15 minutes longer than usual to reach the road from Christys Cree, not bad considering the dark and the heath.

I was back at my car at 20:15, covering the 3 kilometres in half an hour.

In all I'd had a pretty tough day but I was happy with the end result.  The walk hadn't worked out the way I'd planned but luckily there was no harm done.  I had not been prepared for how long it had taken to descend to Wheengee Whungee Creek or how unstable the ground had been - valuable lessons for next time.

 

 

Times, Locations and Grid References
Time Location Grid Reference
08:00 Leave Car on Morong Creek Fire TrailGR 279 347
09:00 Lost Rock GR 271 321
09:50 Gallop Rock Lookout GR 265 319
10:15 Mt Goondel GR 269 316
10:40 Head off Boyd Range along a buttress down to Johnston Falls   GR 283 303
13:00 Arrive at Johnston Falls  GR 291 304
14:30 On Shamash Buttress GR 295 306
16:30 Pass through cliffs onto Mt Barrallier near Shamash Point GR 299 317
17:30 Bushlander Point GR 304 320
18:05 Wallarra Heights GR 300 328
18:20 Christys Creek GR 300 330
18:50 Gogy Ridge GR 301 334
19:45 Reach Kanangra Walls Road GR 280 326
20:15 Back at Car on Moron Creek Fire Trail GR 279 347

 

GPS Track:

 

GPS Track Profile


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