Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mt Warrigal, NSW, Australia


2015 April: One day climb to Mt Warrigal in the Wild Dog Mtns of Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
                   Via Carlon Creek Track and Black Horse Ridge

Prolog

A last minute cancellation to climb Mt Namadgi in ACT with Saf meant the need to find an off-the-cuff replacement with no time to do a proper research. I decided on Mt Warrigal in the Wild Dog Mountains of the Blue Mountains, reasoning that it should be similar to climbing the nearby Mt Mouin and Blackhorse Mountain which are straight forward to climb.

( Photos and a write up on the Mt Mouin and Blackhorse Mountain trip are in my blog: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/mouin-blackhorse-nsw-australia.html ... it was via Bellbird Ridge and Faithful Hound Ridge.)


5 Wild Dog Mountains

By the way, 10 months later, in 2016-02, I climbed the 5 Wild Dog Mountains (Mt Mouin, Blackhorse Mtn, Mt Warrigal, Mt Merrimerrigal & Mt Dingo) all in a day. Photos and a write up on the trip are in my blog: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/5-wild-dog-mts-blue-mts-nsw-australia.html


Mt Warrigal Cliffs

I side tracked.  Back to this trip ... For navigation, I only had a GPS sans paper maps.  By the time Saf and I reached the base of Mt Warrigal, to our chagrin, we found the mountain was surrounded on all sides by unscalable cliffs. After some searching around, Saf, with his good pair of eyes, found a breach on the west side of the cliffs which allowed us to climb up to the summit.

In retrospect, it was good that we didn't carry a map ... made us feel like explorers discovering new routes !

After the climb, I searched the web and located a sketch map, Photo #20. It seems to show that a way to climb Mt Warrigal is to walk on the east side of its cliff base and perhaps climb up to its summit from nearer the southern tip. In any case, we are going to claim that we are the first to climb up the summit via the west side !  Is there anyone wishing to dispute our claim?

Post script: 16 months later, I climb up the Mt Warrigal cliffs from the east side. Photos and trip report are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/mt-warrigal-nsw-australia.html


Mt Warrigal

•  970 meters in elevation

•  Highest peak in the Wild Dog Mountains of the Blue Mountains National Park

•  It is in a chain of peaks along a cliff top (in sequence, starting from north-east):
    - 945 meters  Mt Mouin east peak
    - 930 meters  Mt Mouin west peak
    - 865 meters  Blackhorse Mountain
    - 970 meters  Mt Warrigal - today's climb
    - 905 meters  Mt Merrimerrigal
    - 935 meters  Mt Dingo
    - 830 meters  Little Dingo Hill


Maps

•  1:100,000  Katoomba 8930
•  1:50,000  Blue Mountains South by Spatial Visions Innovation, 1st edition
•  1:25,000  Jenolan 8930-3N
•  Scroll forward to Photo #20 - a very useful sketch map

But I didn't have them with me on the trip.


GPS tracklog files & Route

The GPX tracklog file of our walk can be downloaded from:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B877-h5SCJaSZWVabndkal80b2M/view?usp=sharing

In summary:
•  Start at Dunphys Camping Area (near Green Gully).
•  Descend on Carlon Creek Track.
•  Cross Breakfast Creek.
•  Go along Black Horse Ridge
•  Pass Kennel Flat to Blackhorse Gap.
•  Head west to eastern tip of Mt Warrigal cliff base.
•  Walk along the base of the cliff in counter-clockwise direction.
•  Climb up cliff on west side of Mt Warrigal.
•  Head for the summit.
•  Return trip is to retrace the steps back to Kennel Flat at top of Black Horse Ridge.
•  Follow foot trail eastward.
•  Walk on Medlow Gap Northwest Trail.
•  Turn westward to walk on Bellbird Ridge Fire Trail back to Dunphys Camping Area.

The KML tracklog file to reach the Dunphys Camping Area from Bleakheath is in:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B877-h5SCJaSd3M4bzIzTVg0dDA/view?usp=sharing


Timeline & Distance

09:28   0.0 km  Start at Dunphys Camping Area
10:19   3.2 km  Cross Breakfast Creek
10:22   3.3 km  At a flat clearing just above where we crossed Breakfast Creek

Pick off leeches

10:30   3.3 km  Start walking
11:10   4.3 km  At a lookout on Black Horse Ridge

Morning tea

11:22   4.4 km  Start walking
12:17   7.2 km  At base of cliff at eastern tip of Mt Warrigal

12:26   7.2 km  Head towards west, walk on base of cliff on north side of Mt Warrigal
12:40   7.5 km  Turn around
12:48   7.7 km  Back at base of cliff at eastern tip of Mt Warrigal

13:04   7.7 km  Head towards west again to walk on base of cliff on north side of Mt Warrigal
13:47   8.5 km  Climb up cliff on west side of Mt Warrigal
13:58   8.7 km  At Mt Warrigal summit

14:16   8.8 km  Leave summit
14:26   9.0 km  At cliff on west side of Mt Warrigal (same spot as at at 13:47)

Climb down cliff

14:30   9.0 km  Leave cliff on west side of Mt Warrigal
14:53   9.9 km  At base of cliff at eastern tip of Mt Warrigal
15:16  10.7 km  Stop for lunch

Lunch

15:38  10.7 km  Start walking
16:03  12.4 km  At junction of foot track to Kennel Flat & firetrail
16:10  13.0 km  At junction of firetrail & Medlow Gap Northwest Firetrail
17:25  19.9 km  Finish at Dunphys Camping Area

==============================================

Total:  7 hrs 57 mins
        19.9 km  Distance is from Google Earth
        22.3 km  from my Garmin GPS


Pictures

1)  We park our car here at Dunphys Camping Area (near Green Gully).



2)  Narrow Neck Plateau overlooks Dunphys Camping Area.
No - we are not going there. In fact, we'll be going in the opposite direction ... to Mt Warrigal.
(In the photo, Black Billy Head is at the left tip of the cliff.)



3)  From Dunphys Camping Area, first head roughly west. You'll quickly come to this stepping ladder to cross a fence. The turquoise sign on the right side of the pic says "Carlon Creek Track" ... that is where we are going.



4)  I am walking on the Carlon Creek Track.
It is not a pleasant trail ... leeches and stinging nettles are abound. And if I have a choice again, I won't be walking here in the morning ... because the morning dew on the lush vegetation thoroughly wetted my shoes inside and out. For the rest of day I have wet feet ... yuk ... highly uncomfortable.
(Photograph courtesy of Saf)



5)  This is Breakfast Creek, near the junction with Carlon Creek. We'll cross the creek here to walk along the top of Black Horse Ridge towards Mt Warrigal.



6)  The earlier part of Black Horse Ridge is steep. There is a track - like the one in this pic, but it is not marked on a map.
(Photograph courtesy of Saf)



7)  Going over a field of quartz rocks.



8)  Not far after the previous pic was taken, we come to a cliff which we need to get over. Not to worry, there is trail to climb over it   :-)



9)  Once we climb over the cliff, we are presented with this panoramic view of the Narrow Neck Plateau.
- The blue arrows point to areas on the Narrow Neck. From left to right: Black Billy Head & Carlon Head
- The red arrows point to (from left to right): Bellbird Point & Lyrebird Point

( I have been to Bellbird Point and bushbashed down the Bellbird Ridge to Breakfast Creek, then to Mt Mouin. Photos and a write up on that trip are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/mouin-blackhorse-nsw-australia.html )


10)  More importantly is this view from the cliff top towards Mt Warrigal which we are going to climb.
From left to right, the arrows point to:
- Mt Mouin east peak (hidden by the tree branches)
- Mt Mouin west peak
- Blackhorse Mountain
- Mt Warrigal, 970m, highest peak along the ridge
- Mt Merrimerrigal (its top is covered by clouds)
(Mt Dingo is bit to the right of Mt Merrimerrigal. But today, it is completely inside the clouds and can't be seen.)

I have been to Mt Mouin & Blackhorse Mountain. Photos and trip report are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/mouin-blackhorse-nsw-australia.html

A year later, in 2016-02, I climbed the 5 Wild Dog Mountains (Mt Mouin, Blackhorse Mtn, Mt Warrigal, Mt Merrimerrigal & Mt Dingo) all in a day. Photos and a write up on the trip are in my blog: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/5-wild-dog-mts-blue-mts-nsw-australia.html


After climbing up the cliff of Photo #8, the Black Horse Ridge becomes gentler. I take a breather and look around at the plants.

11)  Charles Bowden, with his encyclopaedic knowledge on plants, advises that this tree is Angophora costata (Smooth-barked Apple or Sydney Red Gum), It is a common woodland and forest tree of eastern Australia and grows primarily on sandstone soils, usually on headlands, plateaus or other elevated areas.



12)  This tree seems to be the same species as the one in the previous photo. It has big burs on its trunk.


13)  A bleeding gum tree



14)  At the top of Black Horse Ridge is Blackhorse Gap where we come to this 3-way junction marked by a small cairn.
- To the south is to Black Horse Ridge.
- To the east is to Blackhorse Mountain.
- To the west is to Mt Warrigal ... this is where we are going.



15)  We think that Mt Warrigal is just in front, easy-peasy ...



16)  ... Instead, when we reach the eastern tip of Mt Warrigal, we are met by cliffs.
Unbeknownst to me, Mt Warrigal is surrounded on all sides by unclimbable cliffs. I only find out about it later ... see the sketch map in Photo #20.
To find a way up the cliff, we decide to go around the cliff base anti-clockwise.



17)  Note the vertical cliff on one side and the steep drop on the other side ... It is like this all the way. Mt Warrigal is not for you if you are scared of height.



18)  We find a cairn ... looks like someone had passed through here too. It gives us confidence to proceed further along the cliff.



19)  It is good to have Saf around. He has sharp eyes and finds this spot on the west side of Mt Warrigal where we can climb up the cliff !
On the photo on the left side, I have drawn a red vertical bar to indicate where my body is.

By the way, a year later, in 2016-02, I am here at exactly the same spot. It is part of the trip to climb the 5 Wild Dog Mountains (Mt Mouin, Blackhorse Mtn, Mt Warrigal, Mt Merrimerrigal & Mt Dingo) all in a day. Photos and a write up on the trip are in my blog: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/5-wild-dog-mts-blue-mts-nsw-australia.html


20)  After the climb, I search the web and find this sketch map:
- The red lines are cliffs.
- The black dots are trails (some are indistinct and not well formed). So, according to this map, perhaps we should have walked on the east side of the cliff base and climb Mt Warrigal from its southern tip.
- I draw the green arrows to indicate our route. The last arrow shows the spot where we climbed up the cliff.
At the time, I am not aware of this map. My only navigational aid is a GPS which does not have the trails nor the cliffs marked.
Question: Has any one climbed up Mt Warrigal from the west like us? If not, I am laying the claim that Saf and I are the first people to climb up Mt Warrigal this way.



21)  Immediately after climbing up the cliff, Saf ties a handkerchief around a branch (upper photo). I tie another handkerchief a bit further up (bottom photo). This is to help us to locate the same spot where we can climb down the cliff later on.



22)  Some more scrubbashing and the Mt Warrigal summit is in sight.
In the middle of the pic, you can just make out Saf heading towards it.



23)  Hurray! This is it ... cairn at the summit, 970 m.

There are a plenty of grass trees around the summit ... same case as at Mt Mouin summit. Come to think about it now, I notice that if the ground is level, there are plenty of grass trees; but on a slope, there aren't that many. Is this your experience too?


24)  Photo time   :-)   I am holding a selfie stick.



25)  The view from the summit is not good - too many trees. The flat-top plateau on the right half of the pic is the Narrow Neck Plateau.


We really should spend sometime now to explore around. But the limited views due to the trees dampen our enthusiasm on sightseeing. And besides we are happy that we are able to climb up the cliff and reach the summit that we decide to call it mission accomplished and go home.

Post script: We should have walked along the top all the way to the southern tip, a distance of 600 meters. There is a rock platform jutting out from the tip with a tremendous view of the Blue Mountains scenery. I did just that 16 months later in 2016-08. Photos and trip report are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/mt-warrigal-nsw-australia.html


26)  Retracing our steps along the base of the cliff ... just have to make sure we don't slip down the steep slope   :-)



27)  Finally we are down to a flat area known as Kennel Flat and can follow a trail out.
This flower by the side of the trail is a Banksia.  Charles Bowden advises that it is Banksia spinulosa (Hairpin Banksia).



28)  We pass by this termite mound. It is large, much taller than me.


29)  This morning, we walked along Carlon Creek. Now, on the return leg, we walk along Medlow Gap Northwest Trail (a fire trail) back to our car at Dunphys Camping Area.



30)  Driving out of Dunphys Camping Area, we pass Carlons Farm and encounter these cute alpacas.



Post Script

After I found the sketch map in Photo #20, I kicked myself for not being aware of it much earlier. But upon further reflection, it was fortunate that we climbed Mt Warrigal without it ... made us like Columbus sailing into the unknown. Whilst we didn't find any new land, we may indeed have found a new route to climb up the cliffs !


Other trips to the Wild Dog Mountains

2016-08  Climb Mt Warrigal via Lyrebird Point and Faithful Hound Ridge; return via Medlow Gap Northwest Firetrail.
- Ascent point up the Mt Warrigal escarpment:  East side of the mountain.
- Photos and an account of the climb are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/mt-warrigal-nsw-australia.html

2016-02  Climbed the 5 Wild Dog Mountains of Mouin, Blackhorse, Warrigal, Merrimerrigal & Dingo, via Medlow Gap Northwest Firetrail; return was also via Medlow Gap Northwest Firetrail.
- Photos and an account of the climb are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/5-wild-dog-mts-blue-mts-nsw-australia.html

2015-02  Climbed Mt Mouin & Blackhorse Mountain via Bellbird Ridge and Faithful Hound Ridge; return via Cattle Dog Ridge.
- Photos and an account of the climb are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/mouin-blackhorse-nsw-australia.html

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