Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mt Gulaga, NSW south coast, Australia

2018 May:  Day walk to Mt Gulaga (Dromedary), as well as the highest peak in Gulaga National Park
2018 Apr:  To Mt Gulaga only


On a number of occasions, I have been asked by non-hikers whether I have climbed Mt Gulaga (formerly known as Mt Dromedary) in Gulaga National Park, NSW south coast ... as if this is the only worthwhile mountain to be climbed in Australia.

Well, I can report that I've climbed it 3 times now.
- 1st time: 33 years ago with Phyllis in March 1985 ... from the north to the 797-meter Mt Gulaga
- 2nd time: 2018 April, with CB, NC, HT, FM, HK ... from the east, also to Mt Gulaga
- 3rd time: 11 days later in 2018 May ... from the east to Mt Gulaga, as well as the unnamed 806-meter highest peak in Gulaga National Park

This report is on the 2nd and 3rd climbing trip.

797-meter Mt Gulaga  &  806-meter highest peak

The maps label the secondary peak in Gulaga National Park, 797 meters, as Mt Gulaga (Mt Dromedary).

However, the highest peak in the National Park is an 806-meter unnamed peak to the north-west of Mt Gulaga, about 1.5 km as the crow flies.  Why is the highest peak not named?  Weird !!!

Now that I have climbed both peaks, I can report there is no view from either of them ... too many trees at both summits obscuring all views down to the country below.

There is a well maintained track to Mt Gulaga. Most people will hike to there and that's it. To go to the other peak requires unpleasant bushbashing with no particular reward except to brag about bagging the highest peak in the Gulaga National Park ... only suitable for people like me  :-)

It reminds me of Mt Sonder in the Northern Territories of Australia. The National Parks authorities erected a large cairn at a secondary peak with these words engraved on the cairn:
"Mt Sonder (Rwetyepme) at 1380 metres above sea level is the 4th highest mountain in the Northern Territory."
Like in Gulaga, most people would walk to this secondary peak and go no further.

The highest peak is about 800 meters (as the crow flies) to the north-east.

It maybe because the terrain to the highest peak involves steep scrambles and hence National Parks is not keen on people venturing further from the cairn. But perhaps more importantly, the aborigines regard Mt Sonder as a sacred site and they are not keen for ordinary folks to climb it. And hence the cairn was erected at the secondary peak to fool people into believing they have reached the summit of Mt Sonder !

In the case of Mt Gulaga, there used to be a track called Saunders Trail which went all the way to the 806-meter highest peak. The track no longer exists now ... overgrown with scrubs.

Could it be the National Parks authorities are too cash strapped to maintain the track? Or is the highest peak a sacred site to the Aborigines, like Mt Sonder?

Topographic Map

1:25,000 scale map: 8925-3N  Central Tilba

Bellow is the relevant part of Gulaga National Park in the 1:25,000 scaled map:

GPS tracklog files & Route

The GPX files can be downloaded from:
- 2018 May: To Mt Gulaga & 806-meter highest peak in Gulaga National Park

- 2018 Apr: To Mt Gulaga only ... Hhmmm ... Plus a bit beyond it.

Below is the 2018-May tracklog superimposed on the above 1:25,000 scaled map.
The 2018-Apr tracklog is almost identical ... except it ends at the 1st brown arrow from the left. 
- Brown circle on upper-left corner: 806-meter peak, highest in Gulaga National Park
- Brown dot: A bunch of boulders of cultural significance to the Yuin aborigines living in the area
- The 5 brown arrows point to, from left to right:
       1. Grid Ref 325 782 ... This is as far west as we are willing to go in the 2018-April trip.
       2. 4-wheel drivable dirt road ends here; after which a foot track leads to Mt Gulaga (Mt Dromedary).
       3. Rest area with bench and toilet
       4. Locked gate to prevent cars from driving into the national park
       5. Lower-right corner ... small carpark by the side of Pams store on Corkhill Drive, Tilba Tilba

The corresponding satellite image is:

Summary of the walk:
- Start at a small carpark by the side of Pams store on Corkhill Drive, Tilba Tilba.
- To Mt Gulaga summit, 797 meters
- Descend Mt Gulaga north-west slope and bushbash towards an 806-meter peak ... highest in Gulaga National Park.
- 2018 Apr: Halfway between Mt Gulaga & highest peak, stop for lunch then turn back.
- 2018 May: Keep going to the summit of highest peak; then turn back.
- 2018 Apr: Visit a bunch of boulders ... brown dot in the topographic map above.
- Back to carpark.

Timeline & Distance

2018 May       2018 April     Comment
=============  =============  =======
06:32  0.0 km  08:43  0.0 km  Start walking from carpark next to Pams Store
07:05  1.55km  09:09  1.4 km  At a locked gate on the way to Mt Gulaga

07:06  1.55km  09:11  1.4 km  Resume walking
07:55  4.7 km  10:13  4.55km  At a rest area with toilet facility

               Morning Tea

07:57  4.75km  10:41  4.95km  Resume walking
08:14  5.9 km  11:02  6.1 km  4-wheel-drivable dirt road ends here.
                              Turn north to walk on a foot track to Mt Gulaga summit.
08:31  6.4 km  11:21  6.6 km  At the summit of Mt Gulaga

Morning Tea #1

08:48  6.55km  11:34  6.7 km  Descend Mt Gulaga by bushbashing NW towards 806-meter peak.

09:28  7.45km  12:12  7.55km  At lunch spot of 2018-Apr trip

               Lunch. 2018 Apr: This is as far NW of Mt Gulaga as we are willing to go.

09:31  7.5 km  -      -       2018 May: Resume walking
10:38  8.75km  -      -       2018 May: At summit of 806-meter peak

Morning Tea #2

11:14  9.1 km  -      -       2018 May: Descend summit
12:48 10.5 km  -      -       2018 May: Back at the lunch spot of 2018-Apr trip

12:49 10.5 km  12:43  7.9 km  Head for carpark
13:19 11.25km  13:06  8.55km  Meet up with the foot track to the summit of Mt Gulaga
13:24 11.45km  13:10  8.75km  At junction of foot track and dirt road
                              Same spot as at 2018 May 08:14
                              Same spot as at 2018 Apr 11:02

               2018 Apr: CB investigates condition of the remnants of the road going west

-     -        13:13  8.8 km  Resume walking
-     -        13:19  9.1 km  Go off-road

               2018 Apr: Explore some boulders 50 meters south of the road.

-     -        13:29  9.25km  Back at the road

13:40 12.55km  13:45 10:05km  At rest area
                              Same spot as at 2018 May 07:55
                              Same spot as at 2018 Apr 10:13

Lunch          Rest

13:56 12.75km  13:49 10.15km  Resume walking
14:42 15.9 km  14:59 13.25km  At locked gate
15:11 17.35km  15:23 14.75km  Back at carpark


8 hrs 39 mins  6 hrs 40 mins
17.35 km       14.75 km       Distance from Google Earth
21.0 km        Not recorded   Distance from Garmin GPS

Pictures - Tilba Tilba

1)  Cars can be parked in a small carpark next to Pams Store on Corkhill Drive, Tilba Tilba.
- The car in the middle of the pic is mine. (2018 May)

2)  The start of the walk is along a laneway between Pams Store and the carpark.
- Upper pic: Pams Store ... Left to right: HT, HK  (Photographer: NC)
- Lower pic: At the front of the Pams Store is this garden bed ... WOW, Pams Store was established since 1870 !

3)  This is the laneway mentioned in the previous pic.
- Left red oval: The carpark is behind the shrubs there.
- Right red oval: Pams store
- Yellow arrows: Our first few steps

To Gulaga National Park

4)  On the way to Mt Gulaga (formerly Mt Dromedary) ~~~
- Private farmland on both sides
- The 2 red arrows from left to right:
       • Mt Gulaga, 797 meters
       • Unnamed 806-meter highest peak in Gulaga National Park

5)  Small white flower by the side of the path ~~~
CB identifies this as Hemlock. It is a weed of disturbed areas, often occurring near stockyards and along roadsides and riverbanks. It is also highly toxic to livestock and humans,

6)  This shrub has blue flowers. If you know its name, please let me know.

7)  The path to Mt Gulaga ~~~
- Upper pic:
       • Yellow arrow: Direction of walk to Mt Gulaga
       • Red oval: Displayed in detail in the lower pic
       • Half red circle: More on this tree in photo #8
- Lower pic: This pic is the red oval of the upper pic ... Why are there vertical grooves on this rock face? What is their purpose?

8)  If you know the name of this tree, please let me know.
A number of them grow along the path, for example, the one in the half red circle in photo #7.

9)  Very close to where photo #7 was taken, there is a rock platform where you get a good view of the Tilba country side.
- A nice house ... This is the last house we'll pass on the way to Mt Gulaga.
- Continuation to the right of this pic is photo #10.

10)  (Continuation to the right of photo #9 ... To enlarge the image, click on it.)
Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba country side:
- The mountain in the middle is Little Dromedary Mountain.
- Red oval: Tilba Tilba ... The route to Mt Gulaga starts from there.
- Photo #11 zooms into parts of this pic.

11)  Zooming into Little Dromedary Mountain and Tilba Tilba of the previous pic ~~~
- Upper pic: Little Dromedary Mountain ... I would love to climb it one day.
- Lower pic: Tilba Tilba:
       • Red dot: Carpark
       • Blue arrows: The path to here

12)  Lantana ... They grow along the path to Mt Gulaga.

Entering Gulaga National Park

13)  Locked gate at the entrance to Gulaga National Park

To Mt Gulaga

14)  Tree ferns and Eucalypts along the path to Mt Gulaga (Photographer: CB)
- Is the large tree on the left Eucalyptus maidenii (Maidens Gum)?  Please let me know.
- For most of the way, the path is a 4-wheel drivable dirt road like here and the previous pic. But the locked gate in the previous pic prevents any car from getting in.

15)  Not long after entering the National Park, there are one or two glimpses to the coast. The view here is as good as you can get. Further up the mountain, there won't be any view at all ... The trees block any view to anywhere  :-(
- Red arrow: Bermagui
- The lake in the middle of the pic is Wallaga Lake.

16)  It could be the same as the plant in photo #15, ie Senecio linearifolius (Native Fireweed Groundsel).
(It doesn't look like Senecio madagascariensis (Introduced Fireweed) which normally have 13 petals per flower.  If it is, then it is a highly invasive and opportunistic weed native to SE Africa.)

17)  CB identifies this as Senecio linearifolius (Native Fireweed Groundsel)

18)  Someone had too much time with nothing to do and built these gravity defying cairns by the side of the road.

19)  Boulders along the path to Mt Gulaga ~~~
- Yellow arrows in the 2 pics below: Direction of walk to Mt Gulaga
- Upper pic: CB is in front; behind him are hikers from another group.
- Lower pic: Someone had sliced off part of this boulder, then put it at the back ... amazing effort !

20)  Rest area ... We have morning tea here in 2018 April.
- Upper pic:
       • Left to right: HT, NC, CB
       • Yellow arrows: Track to Mt Gulaga summit
       • Red oval: Toilet ... Refer to photo #21.
- Lower pic: Left to right: CB, HK, HT, NC, FM

21)  Toilet ... red oval in photo #20
- Did money run out to build the 2nd cubicle ?

22)  Still on a 4-wheel drivable dirt road towards the summit of Mt Gulaga ~~~
- Yellow arrow: Direction of walk to the summit
- 2 Soft Tree Ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) have fallen down, but keep growing like caterpillars.

23)  Around this altitude, plenty of tree ferns, although some are dead, like the one nearest to the camera. Why? Lack of water?

24)  This is the end of the 4-wheel drivable dirt road. From now on, it is walking on a foot track to the summit of Mt Gulaga.
Remnant of the continuation of the dirt road going west is clearly discernible from here. (In this pic, it is towards the left, behind the "Rainforest Walk" sign.)

In the 2018-April return leg, CB follows the road to investigate its condition. He reports back that the road soon peters out ... overgrown with scrub.

Foot track To Mt Gulaga summit

25)  This part of the walk is more interesting than walking on the dirt road earlier on ... Now you really feel you are in a rainforest ... see photos #26 to #33.
- Left to right: FM, NC, HK

26)  An interesting tree trunk of Eucalyptus fastigata (Brown Barrel) - like an elephant's foot !

27)  Passing this large boulder ... viewed from 2 different angles.

28)  Rainforest scene ~~~
- The boulders in the 2 pics below are of the same boulder.

29)  An interesting tree trunk of Eucryphia moorei (Pinkwood) ~~~
Another Pinkwood is in photo #31.

30)  A fallen Soft Tree Ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) growing like a giant caterpillar ... more about this type of tree fern in photo #44

31)  This handsome Eucryphia moorei (Pinkwood) only grows in south-eastern NSW and no where else.

32)  Eucryphia moorei (Pinkwood) ... same tree as the previous pic ~~~
- The 2 pics below are photographed from opposite sides of the tree.

33)  This rectangular loop is interesting. I'm not sure whether it is alive or dead. It doesn't seem dead. As it is very close to the tree in the background, which is the Eucryphia moorei of the previous pic, I wonder whether it is part of that tree?

34)  Very close to the summit of Mt Gulaga ~~~
What is the story of these concrete blocks? Why were they abandoned here?

Mt Gulaga summit

35)  This is it, the summit of Mt Gulaga, 797 meters.
- Red oval: The sign says, "WELCOME TO SUMMIT".
- Upper pic: 2018 May ... Me
- Lower pic: 2018 Apr ... (Photographer: NC)
       • Back row: CB, me
       • Front row: HT, FM, HK, NC

36)  There is this rock at the summit:
- Upper pic, red oval: A metal plate
- Lower pic: Carved into the metal plate are the words:
       • Mt Dromedary Geology
       • Stop 5
       • Fine grained Syneite
          This rock was host to the gold found near the summit.
          There is no gold left now.
       • Geology Department
          Australian National University

33 years ago at Mt Gulaga summit

37)  I didn't think I had any pictures from my 1985-March trip to Mt Gulaga. It was 33 years ago! But after digging around a pile of old photos, I found a few !
Here was Phyllis signing a visitors' log book.

38)  Ours is the last entry in the log book:
The 4 red arrows from left to right:
       - 10/3/85
       - Paul Phyllis
       - North  (ie from north side of Mt Gulaga)
       - No four wheel drive, so walked, very steep climb, but fantastic view  (See photo #39.)
The comment "fantastic view" is interesting, because now, there is no view from the summit ... too many tree around  :-(

39)  33 years ago, from the summit, one can see clearly the entire south coast of NSW:
- Upper pic: Towards east at Tilba Tilba lake
- Lower pic: Now, there is absolutely no view ... too many trees have since grown around the summit. However Google Earth assumes there is no tree. And so, this GE view is towards the same direction. Apart from some minor changes, by and large the scene has stayed the same for 33 years !

Bushbash down the north-west slope of Mt Gulaga

40)  Then, it is descending Mt Gulaga summit by bushbashing down its north-west slope.

Towards highest peak in Gulaga Nat Pk (unnamed 806-meter peak)

41)  Now at the the saddle between Mt Gulaga and the highest peak north-west of Mt Gulaga ~~~
I like this type open forest scene. You don't need to concentrate on bushbashing. Instead, you can enjoy some of the interesting plants and listen to the birds chirping.

42)  Vines

43)  Tangled vines

44)  These are Dicksonia antarctica (Soft Tree Fern). Usually they grow upright. But in Dicksonia Forest Ravine in NSW Blue Mountains, many of these Dicksonia antarcticas fell down, then kept growing. The resulting plant is like a caterpillar ... See this link:
thus earning the ferns there the nickname of caterpillar ferns.

I always thought one can find the caterpillar ferns only in Dicksonia Forest Ravine. And so, it is a surprise to find them growing here as well !

If the ferns fell due to old age and sickness, they wouldn't have kept growing like a caterpillar. And if they were healthy, what caused so many of them to fall over? I don't know.

45)  Do the nodules belong to a vine ?

46)  What are these trees that like to grow in a clump? Are they Doryphora sassafras (commonly known simply as Sassafras)?

47)  The 2 pics below are of the same boulder, photographed from opposite directions ... One side is covered in epiphytic ferns, the other side not  :-)

Lunch (2018-April trip)

48)  In the 2018-April trip, at a small clearing at Grid Ref 325 782, we decide to go no further on the ground that there may not be any view at the 806-meter highest peak. But first, we have lunch.
- Upper pic, left to right: NC, HT
- Lower pic: (Photographer: CB)
       • Left to right: FM, HK, me (in the sunlit spot), HT
       • Red circle: Same grass-like plant as the one in the middle of photo #49.

49)  At where FM and HK are sitting, when they look straight ahead, this is the scene they see.
- The grass-like plant at the middle of the pic is the same as the one in the red circle of the previous pic.

50)  Behind where I'm sitting (lower pic of photo #48) is another caterpillar-like Dicksonia antarctica (Soft Tree Fern).

In the 2018-April trip, this lunch spot is as far north-west as we go. After lunch, we turn around and head back to the carpark.

2018-May trip - Bushbash to highest peak in Gulaga Nat Pk

In the 2018-May trip, I bushbash onward, towards the highest peak, an unnamed 806-meter peak.

There used to be a track called Saunders Trail which went all the way to there. The track no longer exists now ... overgrown with scrub ...

51)  ... In most places, the scrub is thick, not pleasant to bash through.

52)  By the way, the plant in the previous pic is a Correa reflexa. It has many of this small pink flower.
From wikipedia: Correa reflexa, commonly known as Common Correa or Native Fuchsia, is a shrub which is endemic to Australia.

53)  As I said, it is thick scrub most of the way. But once in a while, I come upon these rare but delightful scenes.

2018 May trip - At highest peak in Gulaga Nat Pk

Finally, I am at the highest peak in Gulaga National Park - unnamed, 806 meters high.

Why is the highest peak unnamed, whereas the secondary peak, 796 meters, is named as Mt Gulaga ???  Can someone please explain.

54)  Top of the boulder on the right is the highest point. Unfortunately it is too tall to be climbed  :-(

55)  Same boulder as the one on the right of previous pic ... viewed from another angle ~~~
- Red oval: A slit ... See photo #56.

56)  The same boulder as in the previous pic ~~~
- Red oval: The slit here is just wide enough for a person to squeeze through.

57)  As the boulder at the highest point cannot be climbed, so I climb up this small rock instead  :-)   ... just a few steps away.
- Use the log on the left side of the pic to help me up ... follow the yellow arrows.

58)  Another view of the rock in the previous pic ~~~
- To climb up the rock, use the log to help you up.

59)  From the top of the rock of the previous pic, looking at the unclimbable boulder in photos #54 to #56

Unfortunately there is no view at the summit of the highest peak ... too many trees blocking any view down to the country below.

Return leg - near saddle between the highest peak and Mt Gulaga

The return leg to the carpark is bushbashing through thick scrubs again ...

60)  ... But around the saddle between the highest peak and Mt Gulaga, the forest opens up.
The tree in this pic is interesting ... Branches shoot up from the fallen trunk.

61)  Wonder what tree is this? Is it Doryphora sassafras (commonly known as Sassafras)?

62)  Love this type of open forest, so much easier to walk on.

Boulders of cultural significance to the Aborigines

In the 2018-April trip, while walking on the 4-wheel drive road back to the car, we detour off-track for about 50 meters to a group of boulders which are of cultural significance to the Yuin Aborigines living in this area.

I've marked this place as a brown dot in the 2nd topographic map near the beginning of this report.

63)  The tall boulders in both pics below are of the same boulder. It is too tall and too steep to be climbed.

64)  FM seen through the boulders (Photographer: HT)

65)  FM having fun ... climbing up a small boulder  :-)

Return to carpark

66)  On the 4-wheel-drive road back the the carpark ~~~
- Passing this large boulder which is the same one as photo #19
- Left to right: HT, FM, HK

67)  Tilba Tilba village is at the centre of the 2 pics below
- Blue arrows: The way back to the carpark

68)  In both pics below, the village of Tilba Tilba is just in front ~~~
- Upper pic:
       • Left to right: HT, NC, CB, HK, FM
       • The hill on the left is Little Dromedary Mountain


The rainforest scenery at the saddle between Mt Gulaga and the unnamed 806-meter highest peak of Gulaga National Park is especially beautiful. If you have off-track bushwalking ability, take a walk around there.

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