Precipitous Bluff Loop
(Mid December 2009)
Days 4 & 5
|Contact Sheet for Day 1 2 am 2 pm 3 4&5 6 7 8 Slideshow for Day 1 2 am 2 pm 3 4&5 6 7 8|
Tramp Camp to Cavern Camp
Thursday 17 December
7:30 – 18:30
After listening to the rain on and off throughout the night, we slept in for another 30 minutes as the sound of rain was a big disincentive to pack and start the walk. We packed up the wet tent last and were on our way at 7:30am (took 2 hours to get going…not unusual for us).
The walk started with a broad climb and descent on Kameruka Morraine, which Luca and I agree rated in the top 3 of the most unpleasant sections of the walk, as the annoying scrub was interspersed with annoying rock scrambling. We did pass some false leads as well, but found our way through without any trouble. All in all, it was a relief that we didn’t attempt this section at the end of the previous day. The weather continued to drizzle and there were no views – Precipitous Bluff was felt but not seen.
After about an hour the track improved as we reached the highest point on the moraine and the walking became easier. An hour later the track started winding around a bit, with what appeared to be more false leads, and to my surprise, we started climbing in a westerly direction. This seemingly contrasted to the map where from the highest point of the moraine we needed to descend broadly. My concerns were that we may have been on a false lead and I did not want to waste energy climbing in the wrong direction. Possibly, the confusion was caused by the false leads we had come across (but clearly avoided) and the very little visibility didn’t allow us any reference points. We could hazard a guess and say that with good visibility the general direction of the walk would be obvious (given PB’s presumed presence in front of us - although this is a guess). It should be said that despite the few false leads here and there, the track we were on was obvious, and occasionally even had markers. The gloomy threatening weather probably caused more ‘anxiety’ that was strictly necessary!
We checked the GPS and it appeared that we had begun to ascend Precipitous Bluff. It also appeared that we had completely walked past Low Camp, or at least it was higher on the side of Precipitous Bluff than we had anticipated. We scrambled up Precipitous Bluff some more, passing a number of small waterfalls, no doubt flowing particularly well after the rain. It became clear that we had indeed missed Low Camp and that we had well and truly started the ascent to the top of PB. The ascent is impressive, with very minor rock scrambling, spectacular cliff walls, great views east, and, on the whole, an easy way up what seems from below to be impenetrable. Soon after the scrambling we reached what appears to be a beautiful broad gully that effectively gives you a picturesque ramp all the way to the saddle at the top. In this gully there is a botanical gardens-style constructed track!
We soon passed what appeared to be some very wet campsites and some rocky, sloping campsites, so we figured we were at Plateau Camp. We dumped our packs and headed off along the ridge to the summit. Given the weather we obviously wouldn’t be getting any views, but at least it’d give us an opportunity to read the log book. It also gave us a rest from carrying our packs.
As we headed up the ridge crest we noticed that on the right of the ridge there appeared to be a rather precipitous drop – a look over confirmed this, so we stuck to the left side! Not long after we started Luca thought we had reached the summit – as we were on the highest point we could see. I assured him I had seen a higher point earlier so we went and found the summit track and continued on. Through the mist we had some glimpses of very impressive rock walls which did look very precipitous. While the walk to the summit was very easy there certainly is a lot of exposure to heights if you want to get close to some of the edges (or you could steer completely away from them!).
Unfortunately, due to our cameras fogging up in the wet weather we weren’t able to capture much of the views that we had through the mist. At the summit we took a few hurried photos and quickly signed the log book for fear of it getting wet. We were the first people on the summit in about 1 month. There was another canister up there that was wet containing some soggy Chapman notes of the walk. I guess the previous owner didn’t need them to get back?
After getting back to our packs we had a snack and contemplated the 4-6 hours ahead to Cavern Camp. The scrambling off the west side of Precipitous Bluff ended all too soon and we were faced with very annoying sidling of Precipitous Bluff. The scrambling is not particularly difficult, nor overly exposed, but did require some care. The highlight for us occurred when the mist/fog lifted and we got some amazing glimpses of the cliffs of Precipitous Bluff. It’s a very impressive mountain and despite the difficulties getting there (from either side) it is certainly worth it in our opinions! We can only imagine how it would look on a clear day. We were lucky enough at one point that the clouds shifted and we could see glimpses of New River Lagoon. It did look a long way away.
We continued on along the cliffs, seeing some very pretty small waterfalls along the way. We were, however, happy to finally begin the descent. The sidling we had done up to this point was typical sidling, continuous little scrambles up and down, seemingly not making much progress. Although, again, the lack of visibility probably exacerbated this feeling. The descent had lots of colourful markers to follow and it felt like we dropped height pretty quickly. The markers did go missing often enough, however, so we had to concentrate not to lose the track. This was not an easy track to follow (at least on this occasion), as the vegetation is somewhat tropical, very wet and rotten, with uneven muddy and loose terrain underfoot.
At about vertical 250 metres above the lagoon, the track stopped descending so we negotiated a ridge and avoided a number of sinkholes and gullies. Care was certainly required to stay on your feet and not get lost. At one point a massive tree had fallen over the track and it was impossible to see where to go. I climbed over the tree and scouted ahead to find a belated marker. Luca was very impressed, particularly given the precarious tree that required careful negotiating. I was just happy to find the track! Eventually the track started to descend again and the sinkholes made for really soft slippery ground. After spending so long walking, I was anxious to end the day and was rushing everywhere and falling over a lot as a consequence. Luca, on the other hand, was walking like a grandpa by comparison. A lot of trees were rotten and we would grab them as handholds and they would disintegrate in our hands. We were getting very tired and our conversation consisted of what our favourite colour marker was (orange), jokes about turning back when faced with a big climb over a fallen tree and panicked discussions about where the next marker was.
Eventually the altimeter hit zero meters and the track levelled out. We walked some distance through very pretty forest, which under other circumstances, may have been appreciated, before finally reaching the lagoon at Cavern Camp. Due to the rain and wet plants, and climbing over and under the scrub the whole day, we were pretty soaked and happy to be at camp, with our shoes off.
The sky even cleared for some nice lagoon photos. We hadn’t collected water from the creek and, as we were tired, just got water from the lagoon instead which Luca treated with expired purification tablets. I had a drink during the night and decided we had better collect water first thing in the morning from the creek.
Cavern Camp to Prion Beach
Friday 18 December
11:00 – 16:00
Given our exhausting day getting to Cavern Camp we allowed ourselves to sleep in and even contemplated a rest day if the weather was nice, to try to dry our things, knowing that the walk to Prion Beach may have resulted in some of our things getting wet again.
We both woke at around 7:00am and decided that given the intermittent rain, the nice weather obviously wasn’t going to happen today and that we should head on to Prion Beach. After reading and having breakfast we were on our way at 11:00am.
We were both apprehensive and looking forward to walking in the lagoon, as it would probably be very tiring, but at least we would be walking in an open space without fighting plants or with any chance of getting lost. This proved to be the case, as after an hour of solid walking we both had burning leg muscles from walking in knee high water, but were enjoying the otherwise ease of walking in the lagoon. In hindsight, we probably should have made more of an effort to walk closer to the shoreline, where the water would have been shallower. However the tradeoff of shallower water was that closer to the shoreline the ground underneath was rockier and littered with submerged branches/logs.
It continued to rain intermittently with strong winds and occasional glimpses of blue sky. We weren’t able to take many photos in these conditions, which was a shame as some of the lagoon’s edge was very pretty with tiny sand beaches and grass.
As we came to the first couple of creeks that flowed into the lagoon, and were very close to the outlet, the sand became very soft underfoot and the smell of sulphur wafted in the air. In addition, the water level seemed deeper at these points, and coupled with the sinking from the soft sand, we decided it would be safer to walk inland and cross the creeks upstream. The second creek crossing was particularly painful as it required that we walked inland quite a bit and then had to scrub bash on the other side of the creek back to the lagoon. By the time we hit the next creek, rather than walking inland, we took the opposite approach and walked deeper into the lagoon. For this particular creek crossing it worked, as the lagoon’s sandy bottom wasn’t too deep and we did not sink in it as much. The water level did not get past our thighs. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to avoid the scrub bashing inland.
We enjoyed the views of the lagoon shoreline which showed our progress and gave us targets for our walk. Occasionally when we looked back we also got glimpses of some of Precipitous Bluff’s cliffs. By the time we stopped for lunch we could see we were at the last big “bay” before we hit the “home straight”. This was just before the inland crossing of the two big creeks.
Despite our excitement, this last bit, that seemed so close to our final destination for the day, dragged on for two hours. The crossing of the two big creeks was particularly slow as we needed to once again venture inland to safely negotiate these.
By the time we resumed the walking in the lagoon, my thighs were burning and we pushed on to the famous boat crossing on the South Coast Track. I tried walking as much as possible on the shoreline to limit walking in water. Eventually we got to the boat crossing and campsite to discover we were alone. Luca partially fell in the water about 15 minutes from the end – the only fall of the day – which meant that some of the clothes he was wearing weren’t completely dry.
We hung up a lot of our gear on clotheslines around the campsite, optimistic about having seen the last of the rain for the day, then went to collect water, when, predictably, it started to rain again. The water we collected from the usual creek at Prion Beach tasted very odd, somewhat ‘flattish’. We put it down to having something to do with the sulphur we had smelt at times throughout the day.
We continued to attempt drying our gear with limited success due to the intermittent rain. We left our soaked shoes and gaiters out anyway, with our shoes upside down to drain the water.
We were very excited to have reached the South Coast Track and reflected on our the relatively “easy” day we had just had. We also decided to have a short day the following day to give our sore legs further rest.
Day 4 & 5 Walking Map
|Contact Sheet for Day 1 2 am 2 pm 3 4&5 6 7 8 Slideshow for Day 1 2 am 2 pm 3 4&5 6 7 8|
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