Larapinta Trail: Serpentine Gorge to Standley Chasm

Day 9: 1st July …… continuing on

With temperatures hovering in the mid 20s hiking conditions were very pleasant as we meandered along the track to Ellery Creek. Everyone was in high spirits as at the end of the day was a food drop. In our box we stashed a few treats to enjoy apart from the food supplies for the next section, the fresh fruit survived and was delicious.

The walk wasn’t particularity difficult but a constant scramble up, around, over and down dolomite rock which was razor sharp to touch. On reaching  Trig Point the swarm of day hikers suggested  Ellery Creek was just down the track. As we passed through the dry sandy creek bed many vehicles and caravans of all shapes and sizes came into view, Ellery Creek was buzzing with people.

Packs off and straight to the storage cupboard to collect our food box then find a shady spot to sit and enjoy the treats. It doesn’t take much to please a hiker who has been on the track for a few days indulging on dehydrated food. We set up camp then mingled with other hikers who were walking in the opposite direction to us, always good to hear a report on the upcoming track conditions.

Wandering down to the creek we discovered still and stagnant waters due to minimal rainfall with numerous dead fish floating in the water, needless to say we didn’t go in for a dip. As the day slipped into evening we sat around the camp fire enjoying the company of other hikers and tourists.

Day 10: 2nd July ………no rest day for us

What was scheduled for a rest day didn’t eventuate. After a solid nights sleep and sleep in we pondered what our day would involve. With nothing much to entertain us apart from resting up we decided to pack up camp and surge forward to Rocky Gully.

Only one significant climb up, over and down a saddle then the track undulated gradually over arid rocky terrain. Despite the lower temperature the sun rays were intense as there was only occasional shade from spindly scrubby vegetation. With the ghost gums in the dry river beds throwing shade this made an ideal spot for a lunch break.

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As a result of our much later start to the day we arrived at Rocky Gully camp around 5pm to find the campsite was full. Hikers arriving after us ended up having to refill water bottles and push on a bit further down the track.

As it happened a large group had been dropped off close to the campsite in the afternoon so we were lucky to snag a spot. After our camp jobs it was straight into our cosy sleeping quarters.

Day 11: 3rd July ……….the track gets busy

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A hot day of around 28c, rocks and no shade was expected. Ghost Gum Flats made for a great breather under the shady gum giving much needed relief from the pounding sun rays. As we continued on manure on the track suggested horses were roaming in this area but we didn’t sight any horses.

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Hugh Gorge campsite appeared and after a rock hopping day with minimal shade it was a welcome relief. With 12 hikers heading off to Hugh Junction we decided to set up camp at the campsite and chill for the afternoon. Being a trail head, road access made it possible for day hikers to wander in and enjoy the gorge.

Day 12: 4th July ………..a dry creek bed camp

The track grape vine had alerted us minimal water was in the waterhole at Fringe Lilly so we loaded up with two days of water. Water certainly isn’t the lightest to carry but with using drink bottles secured to the chest belts helped distribute the load. With boots laced up and backpack slung over the back it was straight into the Gorge. Our eyes feasted on magnificent rock formations as we dawdled through the gorge.

Amongst this beauty came some significant rock climbing as in sections the water level was rather deep. A few times it was off with the packs and hurling them to the top of the boulder  followed by us scrambling up and over the rock face, all in a days hike.

Emerging out of the gorge  we realised how sheltered from the elements we where. Now in full sun we made our way up and over Rocky Saddle.

From Rocky Saddle we enjoyed great views looking back over the track from our mornings walk and equally great views looking forward. The decent was very steep and extremely narrow with many rocks on the track to manoeuvre around and over. With a large group hiking in the opposite direction we perched on a rock to let them pass, good excuse for a breather and take in the views.

Arriving at Fringe Lilly we were greeted with a beautiful sandy creek bed with huge rock formations the creek bed. One has to be mindful chunks of rocks don’t fall from a great height from the main rock face, mmmm you don’t want to think about the possible outcome.

Thirteen happy campers from both directions pulled up at Fringe Lilly and we shared the bush camp with 5 maintenance crew workers who were on a 6 week stint undertaking track up grading. Along with the Larapinta Rangers and Friends of the Larapinta the track is extremely well maintained.

A pleasant stroll down to the waterhole we discovered there was enough water for a few more weeks but with the recent minimal rain the water was stagnant, water purification by what ever means was necessary.

Being in a creek bed the temperature was significantly cooler. Chatting to another couple they had been cold every night on the track and forced to wear every piece of clothing they had to bed as their sleeping bags weren’t up to the Larapinta climate. Unlike us who were very cosy and warm.

Day 13: 5th July ………a day of rocks and boulders, again!!!

Birthday Waterhole was our destination and we were prepared for a day of challenges. On departing Fringe Lilly it was straight into the zig zag climb up to the Razorback. The maintenance crew were already hard at it, no sleep in for them. Windy Saddle was well deserving of its name but as for the views, well there are no words. There are some places you just have to be in to experience and appreciate the grandeur and beauty of natural creation.

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If I thought we had been challenged in previous days then today awaken me to a real challenge. At times the track was cut into the side of the mountain while other times we walked along the spine of the razorback regardless one slip and rolling to the bottom  with an unfavourable outcome was a real possibility.

Unscathed we made it down only to be confronted with a vertical collection of huge  boulders that formed Rocky Talus.  For a moment I stood in disbelief that this was actually the track. After scouting around looking for an obvious path I reluctantly was convinced by Ian it was straight down over these boulders into Spencer Gorge.

Careful navigation around and over the boulders was required until reaching Spencer Gorge which was flat but still rock scrambling.

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Regardless of the physical and mental challenge it was a spectacular walk, or more to the point scramble.

Once out of the shady gorge we made our way along the exposed track to Birthday Waterhole.

Being a trail head campsite Birthday Waterhole was buzzing with hikers. Many large groups had arrived to walk a section and others had arrived from Standley Chasm. We decided to pull up and set up camp rather than continue onto Stuarts Pass as quite a few hikers were heading there.

The afternoon was filled in chatting to others and a walk down to the waterhole before collapsing onto the thermarest for a well earned sleep.

Day 14: 6th July ……….taking it easy

Waking up late we decided to enjoy an easier day as boy did we give our legs a workout yesterday. By the time we rolled out of the tent most people had left. Eventually boots were on, backpacks clipped up and with additional water we set off with not really knowing where we would pull up.

Passing through Stuarts Pass we continued on, zig zagging along the climb to Brinkley Bluff. The maintenance crew had obviously been at work along this section as well. Stopping at the first saddle we enjoyed lunch and the view of the looming Brinkley Bluff above. Other hikers passed by and we enjoyed watching them disappear into the distance climbing the path to the Bluff.  With lunch enjoyed it was time to get back on the track ourselves but instead we paused for a moment and decided to set the tent up and spend the night perched on the saddle.

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What had captivated us was the beauty, serenity, peace and stillness as we both realised this was the first time it was just us and nature. We were captivated by the setting sun slipping behind Brinkley Bluff, a magic moment.

Day 15: July 7th ……….a hot shower and a good feed not far away

Up at the crack of dawn had us on the track before the sun appeared. Dipping into Rocky Cleft before starting the ascent to Brinkley Bluff which wasn’t too challenging and certainly made easier by the recent track upgrade. On reaching the summit the first thing we noticed was just how cold and windy it was.

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Hikers who had camped up on the Bluff said it had been a freezing night and the wind had blown a gale. After enjoying the views and photos taken we headed off leaving others to try and pack up their tents that were being whipped around by the wind.

Walking along the ridge we enjoyed spectacular views of distant mountain ridges. Descending from the ridge the wind rate dropped and the warmth of the sun had us peeling off coat, gloves and beanie. Day hikers who had departed from Standely Chasm were out in force, enthusiastically informing us Standley Chasm was just up and over Reveal Saddle and through another dry stony creek bed, didn’t  they realise just how many saddles we had ascended and descended not to mention the dry rocky creek beds we had trudged through!!!!!

Standley Chasm  was in full swing with tourists, day visitors and tour buses drifting  in and out all day. The place was certainly buzzing which we weren’t quite ready for,  we wanted to return to the tranquillity of the bush.

On collection of our food box we headed over to the hikers area to set up camp. The hot shower was amazing as the water cascaded over my grubby tired body, the birdbath along the track certainly didn’t compare. With washing done resupplies sorted it was off to the cafe where we enjoyed a hearty serve of fresh salad and lasagne before heading off to explore the chasm.

Day 15 & 16 ………taking care of business

With mobile service available we had received a message that required us to pull off the track for a few days and head back into Alice Springs to sort some stuff out before continuing on.

Until next yarn, happy hiking

sign off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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