Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

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Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby rodb2013 » Sun 22 May, 2016 10:53 am

I'm Melbourne based and old hiking friend Brisbane based. Last two hikes have been in Tasmania (around and up Cathedral Mtn, Mt Anne Circuit) and we thought we would try something half way out of Sydney. After a bit of research we decided on Kanangra Walls area and roughed out a circuit comprising: Out across the top of the Walls to Cloudmaker, Ti Willa Plateau, Campagnoni Pass, Kowmung River and up Bullhead Ridge, Gingra Trail, etc. We didn't know what it would be like along the Kowmung and didn't want to miss the part along the tops so decided to go clockwise while noting that most reports have parties going the other way.

Day 1:

The track out of to Cloudmaker is fairly easy to follow, however, with full packs for 4-5 days with about 23kg including water it was hard work up the last stretch over the knolls. We left the car park at 9:30am and topped out on Cloudmaker at 3:30pm (6 hours) with a break at Gabes Gap. This stretch measures 10.2km off the topo so a slow average speed of 1.7km/h. The only issue we had on this section is that we followed a false track around Mt Berry on the east side when we should have gone straight over the top.

We were planning on camping on Ti Willa Plateau and finding water in Ti Willa Creek and were under time pressure to find water in the daylight. No single defined track after Cloudmaker as fairly open bush. Being so close to Sydney we thought that the whole way would be on well trodden paths. TWP was not what we expected. We thought it was going to have large open sections of sandstone with captured water puddles like the top of the walls. Not so. Its all bush and heath with a few bits of rock. Also, we found that there are many small cliffs and gullies running off on the west side towards TWC.

We didn't know where the 100 Man Cave was, other than it was above TWC so just heading along the TWP looking for tracks or cairns. Didn't find any and as it was getting dark decided to drop our packs and head down to TWC. We grabbed the empty water bladders, headlights, water purifier and stuff sacks to garry the bladders in also marked our packs with a waypoint and hung a stuff sack in a tree. We headed west towards TWC and came to a cliff line and figured that it was above 100MC so headed to the south until we could get below the cliff. 100MC would have been a good spot to camp as three reasonably level small tent platforms but we had to keep on our water search.

There is a dry creek below 100MC that runs down the fall line to TWC. This is shown on the topo which can be used to locate 100MC. We followed the path down the dry creek until we hit TWC. Not a sign of dampness anywhere. TWC was also completely dry. Not a dribble or dampness anywhere. Almost completely dark now but with no option we headed down TWC. Its fairly steep and mostly down climbing and not something we wanted to come back up carrying water. Down and down we went. TWC was later described to us by a local as "that sierra hole". After a while I stepped and there was a splash underfoot. Found three small detritus filled puddles captured in an angled rock band on the edge of the creek. We managed to pump out 4L of "Ti Willa" each which was dark brown in colour and didn't smell very good but that was the best we were going to get. The GPS showed our packs were almost directly above us with 80m of elevation. After scrambling up a loose scree slope and climbing through a couple of small cliff lines we found our packs and headed off in the dark looking for a camp but were too tired to find anywhere decent. The water was gross and we found when we boiled it it foamed up with a head like Guinness, and the water was only a little clearer than Guinness. I had 600ml of clean water left so saved that for direct drinking and used the Ti Willa for soup, freeze dried rehydration and a white chocolate drink, that turned milk chocolate in colour. My friend boiled up 2L for the next day and as my only bottle had clean water in it decided to spread the 600ml out until reaching the Kowmung the next day.

Day 2:

We were on the way at 7:30am both relieved to have got through the night without stomach cramps. Tip for TWP is that there is not a defined track so don't look for one. Stick to the ridges and go from top to top, even though the up and down will take a bit of effort. We found so as we were off a ridge the going was slow and the going was good on ridges. When you get to Ti Willa Too Hill you need to leave that ridge and gain the ridge to Ti Willa Hill. We stuck to the ridge and tops until we hit the Campagnoni Pass cliff line. We had an old GPS track from open street and skirted to the north looking for the way down and found a spike clearly visible which drops down to a wide lower ledge where we could see the chain. Good to know we were in the right place. It was a bit after 10am now (2.5 hours). There was no sign of any traffic having been through there for a while with heavy fallen leaf cover and also fallen trees down the chain line. The first chain section goes easily enough and then there is a lower spike section with about 4-5 spikes. Down climbing to the first spike is a bit tricky and it is a bit bent downwards which doesn't help. Spikes seemed to be better for coming up than going down.

I'd drunk about 200ml overnight and another 200ml to the top of the pass over period of about 12 hours and had the last 200ml to get me to the Kowmung. We were heading for the ridge that met Gingra Creek so contoured and drop to the south east making sure we didn't go down the wrong spur. We were happy that we were going down and not trying to come up this ridge as it was fairly loose with some vegetation. All my water was gone about one third the way down. Eventually we dropped into Gingra Creek and also found it bone dry. By this point I was fairly dehydrated and started imagining that the Kowmung might also be dry. Thankfully it was easy walking along the dry Gingra Creek but no sign of any dampness even in the deep holes. It's about 1km to the Kowmung and thankfully when I got there it was flowing low but beautifully. A few mouthfuls and then a few cups unfiltered. It was now about 1pm, about 6.5 hours from camp. Neither of us had urinated since the day before so drank and ate until we did, which took about 1.5 hours.

While we were sitting there three horses with two people went by heading upstream. They initially didn't notice us but when they crossed the river they stopped and there was some banging (later found out one of the horses had dropped a shoe). We first thought they were a commercial operation and then with the banging doing a bit of prospecting. They waved and we waved back. We thought there would be lots of other hikers but so far had only seen two people heading back from Cloudmaker and now these two people on horses.

It was about 22km along the river to get to Bullhead Ridge so figured we would do one third today and two thirds tomorrow. Our plan was to walk in the river when we needed to and not waste time trying to avoid it and keep our boots dry. We picked up the horse tracks and found that they had done a great job in clearing a trail and made good time along the river. After all the time on the dry ridges was great to be on such a beautiful river. While there are many great camping spots on the river, the one at Sandy Creek was great but too early for us as we had a 7-8km distance target. We had just crossed the river for about the umpteenth time when we ran into the guys on horses heading back. We thank them for the great trail they had cleared. Turns out they were NPS doing feral pig eradication and had been working on the track for the last few months. Interesting they said that there has not been many hikers along the river for about 8 years.

We camped where we ran into them which was just a bit upstream from where the Fourth Top Ridge comes down.

Day 3:

Overnight we had discussed how far to go along the river. Roots Ridge was about another 7km from where we were. I figured 14km along the river was enough and was keen to spend half a day enjoying being there and resting up for the big elevation gain. There is a really nice spot on the south bank below Mt Hughes. We made good time along the track cleared by the horse guys which crossed the river many times. We reached Roots Ridge at about 12:30pm and there was a fire ring, a pile of wood and a flat area to camp just north of the start of Roots so we set up camp there drying the boots and other gear to lighten the load for Roots. We located the start of Roots which is just south of the small creek.

Day 4:

The river is at about 210m here and the junction with Gingra Trail at 810m, and then the walls at about 1050m. We'd eaten almost all the food we had the afternoon and night before to lighten the load and carried 3L of water each for the day. This ended up being too much and 2L would have been fine. Packs were a lot lighter, probably around the 15kg mark and we were rested and fitter. We started at 8:30am. Roots Ridge was great with an easy to follow track and lots of convenient bench seats and look out spots. We were worried it was going to be like the ridge to Campagnoni. We reached Gingra junction at 11am (2.5h) and passed one hiker on Gingra Trail going down via Brumby Ridge. We were on Murrarang Top at 1:30pm after a stop at Coal Seam Cave below which is pretty interesting and back at the car at 2:30m (6hrs).

Thoughts:

We thought the Kowmung is great place to hike and could easily spend 4-5 nights down there enjoying it. Going out to Cloudmaker with full packs was hard work and no water on TWP a problem. The best part was the Kowmung so recommend planning a route that gives you some good time on the river. We hiked about 14km along the river and it was all great. Although, I don't think the horse guys have cut a trail further upstream than Roots Ridge. The river would be hard going if you had to bash through vegetation all the way. We'll probably go back going down Roots then travel upstream to see more of the river. Surprised that it is not more popular.
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Re: Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby DaveNoble » Sun 22 May, 2016 6:06 pm

Good trip report, and you did a good introduction to the Blue Mts. You have found that there are not always tracks and not always water. When did you do the walk? Many people avoid the Kowmung over summer (say from mid October to Easter) - too hot, but great swimming spots in the river. But it has also been very dry lately in the Blue Mts. Long dry periods are not uncommon. Droughts where the Kowmung stops flowing happen every ten years or so. Probably will happen more so now with climate change. Creek like Gingra Creek often stop flowing near the junction with the Kowmung. If you walk upstream you would be sure to find pools and probably some flow. These creeks often flow under the cobbles. You would have been able to get water from Ti Willa Ck. The 100 man cave has always been hard to find, and Ti Willa has always been a bit scrubby.

In the Blue Mts it is standard practice to walk down creeks rather than up them - as a lot of them have vegetation on their banks (river gums - Tristania sp) that point downstream due to floods, so it is much easier to walk downstream rather than up. This does not apply to the Kowmung so much. Its banks can become choked with weeds at the end of summer, then they die away and become open and grassy after winter.

The Kowmung is a popular place for bushwalkers to visit - but that does not mean you will always see other parties. You often do at Easter and long weekends. Some campsites may have 3 or 4 parties camping there.

And 23 kg!!! I just got back from 12 days in Tasmania - and I don't think my pack would have been that heavy with a lot of camera gear, a winter tent and warm clothes etc. In the bluies you should be able to get away with much lighter. You don't need a tent or stove, light footwear - not boots (e.g. think of the river crossings).

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Re: Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby Xplora » Mon 23 May, 2016 5:13 am

I ran into NPWS guys on horses many many years ago along the Cox's and they were headed up to the mouth of the Kowmung doing pig control. I thought it a bit ironic (possibly hypocritical) that Parks kicked the horses out of that area and then use them to get themselves into these places. I suppose it is a matter of lessening the impact and these guys need the pack horse to get all the gear in. I wonder if they were the same guys still at it. Good experience and nice report.
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Re: Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby rodb2013 » Tue 24 May, 2016 2:11 pm

Thanks for the replies.

The hike was 13-16 May 2016. Weather was generally lows of 5-9 and highs of 15-18 and either sunny or sunny/cloudy. There were also some very strong wind blasts each afternoon.

Re heavy pack, had the standard winter and wet weather load per say Mt Anne, Tas, which wasn't necessary. Also had 3kg of food, 3kg of water, 0.5kg of gas and we each had our own tent. I'm about 97kg in weight so pack still less than 25% of body weight. We aim for 20%, but comfort seems more important the older we get (few year past 50 now).

Re horses, yes, pondered the environmental aspect but saw the damage that the pigs are going to the river and think it is great they are in there.
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Re: Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby puredingo » Wed 01 Jun, 2016 9:22 am

Dave, do you not bother with a tent even without cave camping, is that due to holding a lot of faith in the weather forcast?
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Re: Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby DaveNoble » Wed 01 Jun, 2016 5:24 pm

puredingo wrote:Dave, do you not bother with a tent even without cave camping, is that due to holding a lot of faith in the weather forcast?


No - I use a fly or tarp. Much lighter than a tent.

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Re: Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby puredingo » Wed 01 Jun, 2016 8:16 pm

Of course! I didn't even think of those options. If the weather can be trusted I'll sometimes take a common blue tarp and roll up like a sausage roll.

You rarely ever see people just sleeping out under the stars which, in the right season, can be done quite comfortably.
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Re: Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby ribuck » Thu 02 Jun, 2016 4:08 am

puredingo wrote:You rarely ever see people just sleeping out under the stars which, in the right season, can be done quite comfortably.

I do that quite often. I sleep on top of my bivvy bag, so that I can crawl inside if it starts to rain.

Also, sleeping under a rock overhang ("camping in a cave") is common in NSW and offers the best of both worlds - you can see stars, and you are protected from the rain.
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Re: Kanangra Walls - Cloudmaker - Campagnoni - Kowmung

Postby Hughmac » Fri 03 Jun, 2016 9:18 pm

My pack typically runs to 22 or 23kg inc 4L of water, but I'm 100kg, and happy to do the extra work for extra comfort - a former colleague accused me of glamping. Always carry a tent now, but don't always use it. Running out of water is always my biggest fear when walking (hence the 4L). You can go a long way without food, but you can't go far without water.
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