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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Vanishing Roots Ridge Trail: Kanangra to Kowmung

Some sons in full training mode decided to walk from the Kanagra walls to the Kowmung river. The plan was to walk down the Hughes Trail, down the river, and back up the Roots Ridge trail.

A lovely day dawned, and after staying overnight at the Caves House at Jenolan and having seen some of the truly impressive caves, we headed up. Some minor car snafus meant that we had to go to Oberon and back, which slowed us down by a couple of hours.

So it was after 10.30 in the morning when we turned on our satellite tracking so that Paul and Lisa could spy on our progress, and headed off.

We started by following the plateau walk and were rewarded by views of the Thurat Spires. Since you can never have too many photos of these, here we go again:
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We then took the turn south and started down the spur leading to Cottage Rock: we passed the amazing coal seam near Coal Seam Cave. In this photo you can see how the rock sticks out and the coal itself has eroded back:

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Soon we were at Cottage Rock: though actually not that soon. The promised cairn was nowhere to be found, and the track notes had no grid reference for the start of the track. After walking along the length of the massif a couple of times, we resorted to figuring out a priori from the terrain where it ought to be. This worked fine; we should have done it earlier. Soon we were at the scramble, and from the top we got an interesting perspective on Mt Cloudmaker and Gangerang Range from the south.

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After a late lunch on the rock, we headed on. Our track notes told us to look out for hard to find junctions at various numbers of kilometres along the track. The GPS function that tells you how far you have travelled as the track winds was invaluable for following instructions like this, that don't have grid references.

Eventually we came to the point where the Gingra track and the Roots Ridge track are supposed to diverge.

Thanks to the late start, we decided to head straight down the Roots Ridge instead of going to the Hughes, for which there wasn't time.

We were sure we were at the right point, since we where at the right point in the terrain, the right number of km from the last turnoff, and there were markings on the tree as described in the notes. But the Roots Ridge trail was nowhere to be found! In fact the markings that were supposed to point to it pointed towards (on a natural reading of them) to the extension of the Gingra. We looked around for a while but to no avail. Pretty clearly the Roots Ridge trail has been overgrown by dense saplings near the turnoff. We later met another party who told us that you need to bash about 40m through the saplings to find the trail. We got at most 30 m through, so no luck.

Having not found the Roots Ridge we decided to continue on the Gingra, and if time permitted take our original route down the Hughes, and hope to find a campsite by the river closer than the recommended one.

The Gingra gets very overgrown after the turnoff, and was pretty much a bush bash down a ridge after a while. When we finally got the area the Hughes was in, there was only an hour and a half left of light. We thought that something close to  a bush bash down 600m followed by a serious river crossing and no guarantee of a campsite that didn't involve three more crossings was not doable in the available time! But we did have the time, if we route marched, to get back to the Coal Seam Cave where there is a potable water supply.

So we headed back at full steam and found the cave. And what a lovely campsite! There was rain predicted, so the security of a cave was great. And the water was delicious: an old plastic drum under a drip where the water is filtered through the sandstone.

Here we both are at the cave:

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We had dinner - imported American freeze dried vegetable pasta. Superb; why can't Australasians do this well? Only 9 mins of soaking, al dente pasta and big chunks of beautiful vegetable you might think was fresh in a nice cheese sauce. We've had worse at restaurants.

The next morning we headed back to the carpark and checked out the lookouts at the walls that we always seem to miss, and the track to the waterfall. Then we made it back to the car just in time for the rain to start! But not before a couple of nice pics: one of an ominous cloud over the Walls:

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And the other of the Walls and Mt Cloudmaker: a great perspective on the first part of the K2K walk we did a few weeks ago:

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