Friday, March 27, 2015

Toolbrunup Peak and Bluff Knoll, Stirling Range National Park - January 2010

On our road trip home from Western Australia a few years ago we made our way back to Melbourne via the scenic route. One place I'd been wanting to visit for a long time was the Stirling Range National Park about 330 kilometres to the south west of Perth, with only one day to spare I decided to do two walks to get a bit of a taster of the range. My walks of choice were Toolbrunup Peak and the well known Bluff Knoll, being January in Western Australia it was rather warm so I was guaranteed a fair work out. Sam, having the brains in the relationship, decided to stay in the big smoke of Albany for the day instead of climbing mountains in the heat.
I've just finished climbing up the scree onto the main ridge.
With the forecast in the 'bloody warm' range I made one wise decision and that was to head off early in the morning, even so it was still pretty warm when I pulled up in the dusty car park that marked the trail head for Toolrunup Peak. The walk up Toolrunup Peak actually starts off fairly easy however when I got to a long section of scree the easy walking finished, from here it was up, up, and up. The route was marked by stakes on the sections that crossed bare rock, I climbed until I got onto the main ridge that runs east, west  and from there I easily scrambled to the top. The summit was furnished by some nice flat rock slabs that provided a great spot to dry out my sweat soaked shirt while I took in the extensive view.
The final scramble up Toolbrunup Peak.
From the summit of Toolbrunup Peak.
The descent from Toolrunup Peak required care, especially on the loose scree slope, but I made reasonable time and emerged at the car park less than an hour after leaving the summit. From here I headed over to the Bluff Knoll car park munching on a bit of lunch on the way. After parking the car in the almost empty car park I set of towards the summit. By now it was early afternoon and the asphalt car park was blisteringly hot, the walking track itself is also asphalt for a while so I was happy when I got into a section of trees which provided some shade and a bit of respite from the heat.
On top of Toolbrunup Peak with Bluff Knoll in the distance behind me.
The view to the north from Toolrunup Peak.
Heading over to Bluff Knoll, that's Toolbrunup Peak on the top right side of the shot.
The climb was well graded but relentless, I first tracked under the cliffs protecting the summit before rising through a break in the cliffs and climbing onto the broad summit ridge, it was now that the days effort caught up with me and I started to cramp in the Quadriceps, now cramps are never pleasant and with my thighs being the size of a decent tree trunk it was an eye watering experience. After numerous stretches, vigorous rubbing and more liquid I once again resumed my walk to the summit, only to get about 100 metres before cramp hit again, shit! The ironic thing was that I could almost see the summit and I could tell that this bit of the route was actually the easiest of the whole climb. After more rubbing and stretching I headed off again and after quite a few more stops to iron out my spasming muscles I eventually got to the summit, I definitely didn't set any speed records on my climb.
The start of the track up to Bluff Knoll is asphalt.
This was about where I started to cramp up.
Looking towards the west from Bluff Knoll, Toolbrunup Peak in the distance.
Looking along the range towards Ellen Peak, this is the route of the Stirling Ridge Walk.
The view from the 1073 metre summit of Bluff Knoll is extensive as you would expect, my eyes were drawn to the east and the craggy ridge line, this is the route of the famous (well in some circles) Stirling Ridge Walk. I would be back sooner than I thought to do that one and I have done a post about it here. The Stirling Ranges are smack bang in the middle of pancake flat wheat country which only accentuates the ruggedness of the mountains, the cliff lines dropping dramatically to the wheat fields and salt pans. With my leg muscles slowly recovering I started back down towards the car, happy to have all the climbing for the day out of the way but conscious that I only had a few hundred millilitres of water left. Obviously I made it down in one piece and was reunited with Sam that night in Albany, but the Stirling Ranges had left their mark on me and I know that I'm going to spend many days in the future exploring them on foot.
Looking back down towards the Car Park from the summit of Bluff Knoll.
The route of the ridge walk is just visible in a couple of spots.
Ellen Peak.
It was a hot day, notice the salt stains on my shoulder.
The Dirt.
The first walk I did was the Toolrunup Peak walk, at 4 kilometres with 600 metres climbing its a relatively grunty walk. The next walk I did was the Bluff Knoll walk and at 6.2 kilometres and 634 metres climbing its an easier walk, but still no walk in the park. If you have masochistic tendencies like me and want to do them both on the same day it'll make for a hard day, especially if you cop temperatures pushing into the 40 C range as I did. The Toolrunup walk requires some easy scrambling near the top, the Bluff Knoll walk is just a solid climb on a good track. Both walks are in the Stirling Range National Park. I used the notes out of Lonely Planet's Walking in Australia, 4th Edition.






There are plenty of small salt lakes on the flat agricultural land surrounding the Stirling Ranges.

Time to head back down to the little green car.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Kepler Track, Fiordland, New Zealand - December 2014

Once again its time for a Readers Digest version of a tramp that I've written up on my Crazy Guy Journals. This time its the Kepler Track, I did this walk in December last year shortly before Sam came over to meet me. This was the third tramp back to back after walking The North West Circuit and The Hump Ridge and by the time I'd finished The Kepler I was ready for a bit of rest and relaxation. Being one of New Zealand's Great Walks I'd booked my spot in the huts six months previously, so after arriving in Te Anau from Tuatapere all I had to do was to lob at the DOC visitor centre and pick up my hut tickets. That done I checked into my hotel for the night, making use of their free wifi to call Sam and let her know that I was still alive, after that I kicked back in my spa and soaked my tired muscles.
Lake Te Anau.
20 kilometres                    Luxmore Hut
Yeah I know its not twenty kilometres from the start of the walk to Luxmore Hut but the kilometres figure includes a fairly lengthy afternoon ramble around the hills behind the hut, including an ascent of Mt Luxmore. Anyway I'm getting ahead of myself a bit, first off, after parking the car I had a bit of a climb ahead of me to get to the tops, almost 900 metres of climbing actually. The climb up to Luxmore Hut was surprisingly easy however and by late morning I'd broken out of the Beech Forest and was traversing the alpine grassland towards the huge hut. Once I'd reserved my bunk and had a little lunch I figured that it was time to go exploring seeing that the day was stunning.
I've just broken out of the Beech Forest on my climb to Luxmore Hut.
Luxmore Hut.

Luxmore Cave.
So first up I took off to check out Luxmore Caves, a cool grotto on what was by Fiordland standards a hot day. After exploring the cave as far as I could without crawling I returned to the daylight, now I figured that I'd head across country to intercept the track up to Mt Luxmore. Mt Luxmore is a very short side trip off my day two route but with no guarantee of tomorrows weather and today's weather being sublime I figured that I may as well climb it today. The view from the top was extensive with Lake Te Anau visible below and Lake Manapouri to be glimpsed to the south. Returning to Luxmore Hut in the late afternoon I found the hut full, I was surrounded by a group of girls from Timaru and as it turned out, I'd spend the next four nights with these great teenagers.
Climbing up the Kepler towards Mt Luxmore.



Looking down to Lake Te Anau from Mt Luxmore.

Lake Manapouri from Mt Luxmore.
Heading back down to Luxmore Hut in the late afternoon.
17 kilometres                      Iris Burn Hut                               37 kilometres total.
Day two on the Kepler was one out of the box, cobalt blue skies and a light breeze greeted me for what was the best part of a days ridge walking. My limited vocabulary can't do justice to today's tramp, with extensive views, and in a lot of cases 360 degree views it was another one of those days that I just try and sear into my memory. With my polariser set on nuclear and my memory card melting down I slowly made my way across to Hanging Valley Shelter. Once at Hanging Valley Shelter I stopped for a drink and a bite to eat, from here the Kepler changes direction and descends another ridge down to the Iris Burn.
Early morning day 2, Luxmore Hut.
Today was all views on The Kepler.

My last view of Lake Te Anau.
The Kepler following the ridge crest.
The ridge down to Iris Burn is even more acute than the route across the tops and I savoured every view. Eventually, after one last lookout the Kepler starts to zig zag down the side of the ridge and drops into the Beech Forest on its long descent down to Iris Burn Hut. The descent is punctuated by a stop at a perfectly placed bench seat which gave me extensive views over the Iris Burn Valley and also made me realise that I still had a while to go before I got to the river. Arriving at Iris Burn Hut I went through my usual routine, grabbed a bunk and had a late lunch. After digesting my salami and cheese my thoughts turned to a swim, first up I went and checked out the Iris Burn near the hut, finding a crystal clear water hole I stripped off and went for a skinny dip, I may have had colder swims but I really can't remember when! After thawing in the sun for awhile I wondered up to Iris Burn Falls in my hiking havaianas, stripping down to my shorts I figured that I'd attempt to swim to the base of the falls, we'll at least this time I got half a dozen strokes in before retreating to dry land, it was slightly warmer than near the hut but still bloody cold. Once again that night I passed my time reading and curing the ill's of the world with my friends from Timaru.




The descent ridge down to Iris Burn.
Lake Manapouri on the way down to Iris Burn, I'll be there tomorrow.
Time for a break on the long descent to Iris Burn.
Iris Burn Hut.
The swimming hole near the hut was probably the coldest I'd ever skinny dipped in!
Iris Burn Falls, the swimming here was marginally warmer.
16 kilometres                   Moturau Hut                                   53 kilometre total.
Day three on the Kepler and the weather was still stunning, blue skies and sun, in fact sunburn was more of a problem than anything else, well except for maybe the sandflies. Todays walk was a forest walk, I basically followed the Iris Burn downstream until it emptied in Lake Manapouri, on the way the tramp was enlivened by crossing a large open section called the Big Slip where a massive landslide had wiped out all the large trees allowing extensive views up and down the valley. After crossing numerous tributaries of the Iris Burn I eventually saw Lake Manapouri appear through the trees and, after a short side trip I popped out on the shore of the lake on a snow white sandy beach that wouldn't of been out of place on a tropical island. From here it was a short tramp above the shore of Lake Manapouri to Moturau Hut.
Looking back up the Iris Burn valley from The Big Slip.
A friendly Robin on the track.
Today was primarily a forest tramp, but what a forest!
Lake Manapouri from the beach in front of Moturau Hut.
Moturau Hut.
After the usual routine at the hut I headed down to the beach on the shore of Lake Manapouri where I spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and laying in the sun reading, it wasn't the heat that forced me back into the water though it was the ferocious sandflies, as I dried in the sun between swims they attacked, the only solution was to stay wet or smother myself in toxic waste, other wise known as 'bushmans' insect repellent. Returning to the hut I was drafted by the warden to help her fix the plumbing as the hut had no water, not actually being a plumber I was happy when the join I put in the pipe didn't leak and the hut once again had water. The warden was happy too, rewarding me with some 'minties' for my effort. After having dinner with the Timaru girls for the last time I headed down to the lake shore for one last swim to wash of any insect repellent and at the same time witnessed my best sunset yet on this trip to New Zealand.
Sunset over Lake Manapouri, it doesn't get much better!



Last sunset shot, this time taken from Moturau Hut.
16 kilometres                    Lake Te Anau Control Gates     69 kilometres total.
Once again blue skies and sun greeted me for my last day on The Kepler. Today was once again primarily a forest walk, first up around the shores of Lake Manapouri then north to Lake Te Anau along the huge Waiau River. The first objective after leaving was Amoeboid Mire, a large swampy area that The Kepler skirts around mostly, a short duck boarded side trip led out into the mire. From the lookout at the end of the side trip I was greeted with perfect reflections in the still water, with the mist slowly lifting and a duck floating on the water it was an evocative scene.
Another day of superb forest tramping.
Amoeboid Mire.


Returning to my pack I put my head down and ticked off the kilometres back to the car, stopping here and there to take in the views over the Waiau River or of the magnificent forest I was none the less back at the Lake Te Anua Control Gates before lunch time. Kicking off my boots for the last time for awhile I headed into Te Anau to grab some lunch before pointing the car towards Queenstown where I'd enjoy a few days rest before Sam turned up and we headed out on the Milford Track. After checking into my hotel and having a shower I wondered down to Fergburger to refill my body with saturated fat and once again bumped into my mates, the Timaru girls who had stopped off for a feed on their journey home,
I'm hopeless at macro shots.
The Waiau River that links Lake Te Anau with Lake Manapouri.
The Dirt.
I tramped 69 kilometres on The Kepler Track including side trips, the tramp is fairly easy except for two things.The first issue is the need to ascend almost 900 metres on day 1, while the track is very well graded you still have to climb it. The second is the exposed country the trail crosses for the majority of day two, I had the right gear and had perfect weather but if the weather turned this section of track could get very serious very quickly. The huts on The Kepler are huge,with running water, flushing toilets, mattresses, gas rings, and more, they are very well equipped, take very light weight sleeping bag in summer though as I found them very hot a stuffy in the admittedly unusually warm weather. You need to book a spot on The Kepler through DOC, and you need to book early!
Finally if you want to check out a lot more photos and some more waffle this is the link to my Crazy Guy Journal.

The Lake Te Anau Control Gates have just come into view, my Kepler adventure is almost over.