Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag appr

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Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag appr

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 9:44 pm

I had a week up there mid August and it appears that the Larapinta is popular for walkers.
However, with only a week to spare and relying on a hire vehicle for transport, I planned a trip to pick the eyes out of few spots.
I was sad to miss the Hugh Gorge section, but I suspect a serious 4 wheel drive needs to be used for quick access, and I would prefer not to do it solo.

So this is a photo report of some of what I managed to fit in.
Note that there are a number of great photo reports from those doing the whole track
- see http://bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=14733 and http://bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=14504 and http://bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=49&t=14605
So I will be posting some less "usual" shots with a few touristy ones thrown in.

Day 1 was a warm up on Mt Gillen - the 950m mountain that looks out over Alice Springs.
It appears that it is a regular exercise track for some of the locals. There are great views from the top and it is a 350m climb in 5.7km return distance.
The only "interesting" bit is a vertical scramble near the top - but nothing technical.
However I had read about a rescue off this route when a girl broke a bone. The track is rough underfoot and getting her down was a tough exercise.
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View west from Mt Gillen


Day 2 was a quiet day around Alice before heading up to Stanley Chasm for the night.
I was there in good time to explore a bit and watch the sun setting from the nearby lookout hill.
At the Chasm, there is a chain and warning sign at the top end. It had not been there in 2007 when we had explored up to the upper chasm.
I believe the Larapinta Trail used to work its way all the way up this section, but it now bypasses the chasms with a very steep track up and down and up and down the side.
_IGP8644.jpg
Late afternoon light from lookout hill at Stanley Chasm


Day 3 was a morning trip to Gastrolobium Saddle. I took the opportunity near Ankgale Junction to descend down towards Stanley Chasm and it was well worth it.
Its only a short distance down the creek bed to a constricted canyon that you can negotiate until it ends looking into the upper chasm.
This is on top of a chock stone about 4m above the chasm floor. There is a gap next to the chockstone where you can descend with care,
but I had been in this chasm in 2007 and I was happy to have a stop at the constrictions above it this time round.
Still, if I am right - negotiating this was once part of the Larapinta Trail.

_IGP8689.jpg
Top constriction at Stanley Chasm
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 9:49 pm

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Entrance to top constriction at Stanley Chasm


Having spent more time than I planned there, I got to Gastrolobium Saddle and began to work up the ridge leading SE.
I had hoped to follow this all the way to the tops, but what appears as a ridge on the maps is often a very serrated and airy line of rocky outcrops.
After some time soaking up the views a short distance up on this ridge, I descended back to the saddle and thought about the much easier climb to the NW peaks.
But I was running short of time - so I quickly gave that up and headed back to Stanley Chasm for lunch.
Gastrolobum.jpg
Ridgeline above Gastrolobum Saddle


_IGP8741.jpg
Incredibly craggy vertical sides along the trail at Stanley Chasm
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 9:53 pm

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Looking down into the actual Stanley Chasm from just off the trail


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More of the Incredibly craggy vertical sides along the trail at Stanley Chasm


After lunch it was throw on my 25kg of pack and camera gear and off to spend the night at Brinkley Bluff.
This was my toughest walk of the trip, and I really should have [and could have] lightened the load. 6kg was water, but I was happy to have a bit extra for this section.
There are 2 options starting at Stanley Chasm, and I took the shorter route that immediately climbs over the saddle before getting to the main creek.
It was a steady walk along the creek and then climbing up to the Bridle Path Lookout.
Views here were terrific as the edge drops away and various cliff faces appear. Then an amazing sidle around to Reveal Saddle.
All the slopes are so steep here that you feel somewhat exposed. At Reveal Saddle you get the first sight of Brinkley Bluff.
I had felt that most of the climbing was over, but it turned out that the remaining track to Brinkley Bluff is the harder section - both in its rockiness and the up and down nature of the ridgeline.
My time was average, but that was mostly down to taking so much time out taking photos as the afternoon sun was lighting up the surrounding peaks.
The arrival at the Bluff was just before sunset and I was going to be staying on my own in my Tarpent Moment. It was secured with rocks only.

_IGP8804.jpg
View from Reveal Saddle
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 9:57 pm

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Beginning the long ascent ridge to Brinkley Bluff


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Afternoon light past the slopes of Brinkley to the ranges around Hugh Gorge


_IGP8883.jpg
Sunlit range to the south
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:00 pm

_IGP8919.jpg
Sunset over the West Macdonnells


Being almost the full moon, I was able to get some nice shots of moonlit mountains with a starry sky.
However, a strong wind soon sprung up and it was a restless night between tent flapping and and some aches and pains.
Of course, the reason for such high camping spots are the sunsets and sunrises, so it was up early enjoying the views. But the wind was constant and bitterly cold.
_IGP8928.jpg
The Moment by moonlight


_IGP8929.jpg
View towards Alice Springs over a moonlit range
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:06 pm

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Sunrise from Brinkley Bluff


_IGP8979.jpg
Stuarts Pass from Brinkley Bluff


Day 4 was the return journey to Stanley Chasm and it was quite enjoyable retracing my steps at a different time of day.

The management at Stanley Chasm are trying to improve the facilities, and as I had stayed there one night I was able to use a shower here.
Very nice and unexpected. So it was a relaxing afternoon finished by the drive to Ellery Creek Big Hole to camp that night.
As others have noted - lots of gray nomads and tourists are on the main road. I was hailed down by a French couple who complained that their hire car was almost out of fuel.
Together, we hailed down a small tourist bus heading the other way, and the driver was going to chase the hire company in Alice and get some help back out to them.
The French couple were advised to stay with the car until help arrived.
Had I known more, I would have taken them to the Ellery Creek campsite to wait, and perhaps even used the emergency phone on it's entrance road!
But the next we heard of them was when a recovery truck came to the campsite just after dark. He had found the car, but no sign of the couple!!
After ringing around on his sat phone, the issue was raised with the Police to initiate a search.
What had I done??

Day 5 dawned with nagging thoughts, but there was not much I could do apart from continue on. So an early drive to Serpentine Gorge and a mornings walk to Counts Point and back.
About 15km and 620m climbing. The morning views across the top of Serpentine Gorge were great, and the walk was hard under foot but very enjoyable.
Met a party of about 7 near the top.
The view that opens up at the top is somewhat surprising - since the walk is along the top of the ridge for many kms. But the extra step up and the views ahead are worth the short last climb.

_IGP9148.jpg
Zoom in on Mt Sonder from Counts Point


The long walk back was broken up by an attempt to capture some birds working the steep drop offs to the north. The constant bird activity and the different bird types were a highlight of the trip.
An Alice Springs local informed me that NT is second only to SA for its number of bird varieties.
Lunch was had exploring Serpentine Gorge and its lookout.
My original plan had been to spend a bit longer here to find a way through to explore down to the distant constriction.
But the slopes on either side were very steep or cliffs, so any progress would have meant going through the waterhole with gear.
I had brought a Lilo, but my revised schedule did not allow time to attempt anything here.
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:11 pm

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One of the small birds patrolling the cliff face below the Counts Point track hunting for insects.


_IGP9227.jpg
Close up of the highly constricted second gorge at Serpentine Gorge


The drive to Redbank Gorge meant I could stop in at Glen Helen - where the French couple had been heading.
It was a relief to hear they had turned up, but I am still not clear on the ins and outs. I think someone had taken them back to Alice that day and they had gotten another car.
But I had been hailed down just near Glen Helen as well - this time to transport 2 guys who had been in a car accident [a blown tyre I think? The car was well off the road in the scrub].
The rangers were administering first aid to a girl from the car at Glen Helen and an ambulance from Alice eventually took over.
That night was a quick checkout of Redbank Gorge.
_IGP9260.jpg
Redbank Gorge - of course!
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:15 pm

Day 6 was a pre-dawn start to climb Mt Sonder. I was not into too early a start, so the sun rose when I was at the ridgeline lookout.
It was a climb complicated by the risen sun being almost directly in line with the track and a very stiff and freezing head wind.
But I got to the top and had breakfast enjoying the grandeur. Went to make a phone call to find my phone must have accidently turned on and was now dead.
[There had also been coverage at Brinkley Bluff and along the Counts Point ridgeline]
The top of Mt Sonder is very precipitous. There are rock buttresses that jut out into the vast drop off which is the face of the mountain,
and the main peak is much more vertical looking when you are able to see it first hand.
[I felt that photos on this trip rarely did justice to what I was seeing.]
I had read up on a way to scramble across to the main peak along some rocky knife edges - but being very windy and on my own, I was happy to just be there and look.
It was curious however, that the obviously higher main peak [1380m] is not even mentioned or pointed to on the cairn on the south peak - with its arrows to other surrounding features.

I had donned thermals for the walk up, but I had quickly removed them due to the climbing. However, after some time in the freezing wind up top, I had to dress right up again in order to come down.
On the way back I passed a party of 10 climbing the mountain. They were in a tour group, but they were also going to freeze in that wind.

_IGP9326.jpg
Moon above the ranges from the Mt Sonder track


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Gosse Bluff from Mt Sonder. The aborigines knew this formed from an object from the sky. Maybe they observed it happening?


_IGP9356.jpg
The amazing Haasts Bluff far to the west
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:19 pm

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The very vertical main peak of Mt Sonder from the cairn on the south peak were the track ends.


_IGP9371.jpg
Zoom in on Counts Point from Mt Sonder


_IGP9375.jpg
Wider view of the back of Sonder - near where you would need to seriously scramble to go further.
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:23 pm

After lunch I was geeing myself up for my first ever use of a Lilo to do some exploring. Someone warned me to be sure that others were there when I went up.
By the number of cars, there were lots of people, but as I proceeded down to Redbank Gorge, all of them were coming back.
So I got to the gorge to find I was on my own.
I had schemed about how I might get a camera up there, but given the situation, I thought I would do a quick trip without it to see what it was like.
My impression had been that the deep water was only a short section and that much of it could then be waded.
Yep - the water was definitely freezing - even on a Lilo. The first deep section was only short, and then it was a scramble over sunlit rocks and a small waterfall.
Then another deep pool. Had trouble mounting the Lilo and was sort of hanging off the side of it on this section.
Out again and now another long deep pool. Now mounted more stably I entered a third section which was completely overhung.
Darker, with sheer rock all around, it narrowed to a point where the Lilo was scraping both sides as I glided through.
But as it then widened out I could see a chock stone above me and could see no way of climbing out and up around it.
So it was turn the Lilo around and head back out.
I had gone a little way into the gorge - but there is a km of this narrow cleft, and I had not seen much of this.
I did not see the rangers again in order to ask them how to get around the obstacle.
There were probably shallow rocks to stand on at that point but I could not see them in the dark water and I was not going to try again.
I got back and decided that would do - time to dry everything out.
A group of 3 rock climbers from Sydney then turned up and proceeded to get some photos into the gorge from high up one side.
That gave me the idea of doing the same just after they had gone.
_IGP9415.jpg
Redbank again


_IGP9419.jpg
View further in from a high spot on the cliffs


That afternoon I drove to Ormiston Gorge. I had discovered Bowmans Gap on an Alice Springs bushwalking club report.
The parks recommendation is to camp out there, but the constant warnings about the dingoes had spooked me. So I had decided to sleep in the car and just do it as a day walk.
I stayed in the bus parking area for the night, and there was a Larapinta walker there who had injured his arm.
I caught up with him on a few occassions over the next day. He noted a dingo crossing the car park - and later that night another crossed through right next to me.
I was sort of glad I was not solo that night out near a water hole. [Being on a peak should be much safer]

So Day 7 started with careful observance of the sun rising on the cliffs of Ormiston. Initially, the amount of cliff face in shadow made me think I would start by going out via the Pound Lookout.
But a few 100m down the road, the view back was awesome, so I turned around and traversed the gorge instead. A good decision - and well worth anyone doing this if they are up there.
Ormiston Gorge by morning light was magic.
_IGP9547.JPG
Morning in Ormiston Gorge
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:25 pm

_IGP9560.jpg
progressing down the gorge


_IGP9564.jpg
about half way


_IGP9583.jpg
Looking back
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:29 pm

After slow progress through the gorge due to soaking it in and the odd photo, it was out into the pound proper.
At the last crossing of Ormiston Creek you leave the track and follow the creek to Bowmans Gap.
I had been warned about lots of sand walking, but initially it was a boulder field, and overall, while there is lots of sand, there are also a number of boulder breaks.
There was also water at a number of places along the creek bed. A delightful walk.
While I followed human tracks at a lot of points, a bit more disturbing were the dingo highways that I often found myself following.
A bit like straight line paths through the sand from waterhole to waterhole.
The dingo tracks had left a marked lane of depression in the sand beds, which seemed to me to indicate they were pretty active.

_IGP9605.jpg
The sandy bed of Ormiston Creek - there are human boot tracks but note the distinctive close knit line of dingo tracks


_IGP9624.jpg
A waterhole near Bowmans Gap


_IGP9631.jpg
The main Bowmans Gap waterhole - some big fish in here.
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:34 pm

My interest in Bowmans Gap had been to explore a side feature that had been called "Waterfall Valley"
The main waterhole had some small fish in it as I skirted its edge, but I overshot the entrance to Waterfall Valley, and on the return past this main waterhole I noticed some much bigger fish were now moving through the shallows.
Intriguing for a desert location.

Following the creek up Waterfall Valley was straightforward, and it was not long before the growing cliff face on the left was met by a steep slope on the right forming a pronounced V shape.
This was the beginning of a sequence of pools that climbed up with the valley.
It is a rather awesome spot - as you are conscious of the smooth steep slope on the right. Any blocks crumbling off the cliffs higher up would not stop until they slammed into the V at the bottom.
The pools began to get awkward to negotiate - forcing me to negotiate the steep sloping rock using small cracks for foot and hand holds.
The last pool I got to left me short of the view I wanted, so I climbed using handholds along a cracked edge running up the slope.
This ended on an area of scree and native pine. But being very careful, I was able to move to its far edge and gain the view into the main waterfall at the end of the valley.
This was a junction of 3 main cliff faces, with a fourth higher up and out of view. There were 2 main drops you could make out - which would be amazing to see when flowing.
But I suspect getting there in the wet would be a tad difficult. [I did notice at Glen Helen that the chopper flights can get a view of this when it is flowing]
It was a very cautious sidle across the upper screes to work my way down to the safety of the bottom gully again. A long way from any help if I got in strife.

_IGP9656.jpg
Entering the upper V


_IGP9661.jpg
The last pool I had to climb up past


_IGP9676.jpg
Looking back along the valley
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:38 pm

After lunch in this remote spot, it was a pleasant walk back to the pound track. Clean all the very gritty sand out of the boots again, and then off to complete the walk via the lookout.
Fly density had varied across the various walks, but they were bad on this warm afternoon. I was particularly annoyed that a few of them were March Flies with their nasty bites.

The trip ended staying in the Stockmans Quarters at Glen Helen - to enjoy a shower and the restaurant facilities.
Glen Helen Gorge is also very attractive - particularly in the morning light.
I was the only one at the nearby Sonder Lookout for sunrise.

_IGP9806.jpg
The tourist shot of sunrise on Mt Sonder


_IGP9828.jpg
Glen Helen in the morning


_IGP9834.jpg
The family at the waterhole
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Wed 11 Sep, 2013 10:40 pm

A quick stop in to check out Ellery Creek Big Hole and then it was back to Alice for the flight home.
_IGP9853.jpg
Ellery Creek Big Hole


Serpentine Tops.jpg
Out of order.. but this is a panorama looking across Serpentine Gorge


Not exactly the Larapinta Trail - but still about 90kms of walking over 6+ full days in the West Macdonnells.

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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby Lizzy » Thu 12 Sep, 2013 6:36 am

Wow- awesome trip & photos as usual :)
Looks like a good alternate way to do it. Will have to get up that way one day....
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby forest » Thu 12 Sep, 2013 11:18 am

Thanks eggs. Great report and pictures.
It truely is a wonderful area to explore and very ineteresting.
Good to see some great places off the LT.

I did meet one guy out there in June (at Serpintine Chalet Dam and he was very "odd") that had apparently camped in upper Ormiston Gorge the night before then following the valley or a ridge offtrack up to the LT where it meets the main ridge up to Gilles Lookout. I haven't had a chance to consult a map and see just where/how he did this. He did comment about some pretty active dingo's that night in the gorge, along with a whole array of birdlife that kept him awake without earplugs all night.
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby icefest » Fri 13 Sep, 2013 10:50 am

A couple of years back I did the same thing, swim up redbank gorge. I used a wetsuit and a bodyboard.
eggs wrote:But as it then widened out I could see a chock stone above me and could see no way of climbing out and up around it.

You can chimney up underneath that stone and then climb up through a small gap on the right hand side of it.
After that section the gorge gets even narrower (bodyboards get stuck and have to be turned). I'm not sure what time you did it but the swim is fantastic when the sun shines in during noon.

There were a couple of creepy dead fish and a random (expired) wallaby too.
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby icefest » Fri 13 Sep, 2013 10:59 am

This is the blighted rock I'm taking about:
Image
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby eggs » Fri 13 Sep, 2013 11:13 am

Great shot - that's the exact spot.
What camera did you use?
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby stepbystep » Fri 13 Sep, 2013 11:14 am

Great stuff eggs. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby icefest » Fri 13 Sep, 2013 12:03 pm

eggs wrote:Great shot - that's the exact spot.
What camera did you use?

Not mine, I just found it on the net. (Google images: "Redbank gorge" + "swim")
This is the blog it's from: http://bobbieandbill.blogspot.com.au/20 ... chive.html
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby Nuts » Fri 13 Sep, 2013 12:38 pm

Nice holiday there eggs, great pics, nice compositions. Looks like an equally rewarding, low stress way to explore.
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby north-north-west » Sun 03 Nov, 2013 2:07 pm

But as it then widened out I could see a chock stone above me and could see no way of climbing out and up around it.

Two options, depending on height of yourself and the water.
If you're tall enough and/or the water is high enough (it was my first time through about ten years ago), you can go straight up the face, although finding the handholds is not easy.
With more normal water levels (like this year), under the rock, chimney up and then sideways through a triangular hole at the top. Fatties need not apply.
There's also a waterfall further up (when the water's high enough). A longer drop, with a permanent rope (which will need to be replaced soon) to get you through.

Last time I went in from the beach. This time I walked around on the western side over the ridges and into the gorge from the northern end, paddled through and back up, then continued walking around on the eastern side to meet the track from Rwetyepme. A wonderful day. I must get the MP4 files off the laptop and see if I can get a bit of video footage on here. Bought that GoPro just for this.

It's an incredible place in there. The really narrow bit is no more than shoulder width, with the water carved walls almost meeting overhead in places, and from rock so highly polished it looks like dark purple glass. There is nothing better anywhere in this country, it's just stunning.
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby icefest » Sun 03 Nov, 2013 2:58 pm

north-north-west wrote:With more normal water levels (like this year), under the rock, chimney up and then sideways through a triangular hole at the top. Fatties need not apply.
I must get the MP4 files off the laptop and see if I can get a bit of video footage on here. Bought that GoPro just for this.


That's the way I got up, then the second person stuck their arms up and was lifted up by me.

It would be incredible if you could upload that video. It'll be at least another couple of years until I get to do that again and the video will be great for withdrawals.
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful.
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Lagarostrobos franklinii
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby north-north-west » Sun 03 Nov, 2013 3:10 pm

icefest wrote:It would be incredible if you could upload that video.

It won't be very good. It was the first time I used the thing. Makeshift headband mount. But it will give people a bit of an idea of the place.

Although that may not be a good idea. I don't want every man Jack crawling through there . . .

ps: Thank you. Finally got me motivated to get the videos out and look at them. Had the wrong settings on the GoPro at first so couldn't view them on the laptop, and even Quick Time doesn't show the footage properly, but now I have VLC (Danke Ollie) and have spent the last 45 minutes re-doing Redbank, rotting wallabies, mummyfied frogs and all. :D
Gee, it's a wonderful place.
Now I just need to work out how to edit the video. Any suggestions . . . ?
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Lagarostrobos franklinii
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Re: Flitting about the West Macdonnells - or the sample bag

Postby wildlight » Wed 15 Jan, 2014 12:26 pm

north-north-west wrote:
Fatties need not apply.


Well, I'll just have to lose some weight…

The problem is, I lose it, then I find more!

Cheers

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