Thursday, 7 January 2010

Jagungal and back again

2009 somehow whittled to a close, and it's now 2010, and I'm already back at work, having had a week off over Xmas/new year.

Having ticked a few interesting mountains in 08 (Fuji and Grossglockner), the 09 peak list was looking somewhat spartan. Jan 1 09 started well enough with The Castle, in the Buddawangs - a spectacular day walk with some scary scrambling near the top. But nothing since. I wanted to book-end the year with another peak I'd been meaning to tick for a while, Mt Jagungal, in the northern part of the hard-to-spell Kosciuszko National Park.

With route description in hand Anita and I fronted for what turned out to be a more torrid adventure than we'd planned, in part because we assumed that the walk would not be too difficult (with much fire trail on the menu) so we eschewed the more sensible high-ankle boots and gaiters for more "normal" approach shoes), and partly because I suppose we are just getting old and soft. The heat might have also had something to do with it, making the 15 km trudge into O'Keefes Hut on the first day pretty arduous, especially the climb out of the Tumut river valley. Shade is a commodity still scarce on the alpine plains, with the area still recovering from the fires which devastated the park back in 2003. I suppose it will take another 20 years before the numerous seedling snowgums, now approx head-height, approach the size of their ghostly forebares. The damage was already done - packs too heavy = sore hips and shoulders, Anita already with bad blisters. But we did have 2 litres of wine which was gladly shared with some of the other walkers parked at the hut - less to carry out, and my head was throbbing from dehydration anyway.

We decided to convert what was initially intended to be a 3 day walk into a 2 day walk, given that the scenery was looking to be fairly monotonous and we had already exhausted a fairly limited bird-list (although the Flame Robins were both stunning and abundant) - we were hoping to make more time for some dry country birding on the way back.

On day 2 we upped early and donned packs, skirted the 5.5 km around the northern face of the mountain, then left the packs and made the ascent (approx 3.5 km each way). Great views on top, although the weather looked to be turning (as forecast), so we didn't dilly dally. An option of returning via the Tumut was abandoned after a km of trudging. Without good shoes and gaiters we were really unprepared for the boggy uneven tussocky terrain, and the tiger snakes we were expecting (Anita almost trod on a corker the previous day - we both screamed like girls). So we hacked our way back to the road and tackled another 15 km trudge via a different route to gain the car, but not before getting thoroughly soaked by a spectacular storm that finally caught up with us over the last 3 km. What a day - having covered close to 30 km, climbed Jagungal (2060 m from the plain at ~ 1500m), and both accumulated blisters on both feet - I felt like I'd just finished another 24!

New years eve was spent not too far away camped at the relatively luxurious Yarangobilly river where we somehow got the tent up, consumed dinner, and were well asleep by 10 pm. We both felt much better the following day, recuperating in the thermal pools and caves of the Yarangobilly gorge. We then aimed for a relatively new national park east of Gundagai but, finding access impossible, instead ended up lobbing into a bend of the Tumut river (Brungle Bridge Reserve), where we were gobsmacked to discover that some friends of Anita's, whom she had seen only a week before in Qld, had just arrived by canoe (part of a 5 day trip down the Tumut) and were planning to spend the night - so we joined them. Great birding, both in the afternoon and next morning. We coffee'd at Gundagai, then continued back to Sydney via backroads wherever possible, and picked up a few interesting inland species along the way (including Black Falcons, which are a bit of a rarity). Alas, it was all over too soon, and we were back in Sydney with the specter of another working year looming. But we did enjoy catching up with BT over brunch, fresh back from a stint in the US of A.

The Tumut at its smallest, and lower down

A drenching is on its way

The Wall of Jubblies, and Jabba the Hut, Yarangobilly

The Tumut, complete with Roberta and Will from Qld (and a platypus, spied from the nearby bridge in the afternoon).

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