SUNDAY 3 MAY CAMP BLACKMAN
It went without saying that it was another freezing night.
We tried hard to get going at a reasonable hour. Drove to the Pincham Carpark and managed to be on the walk track – Pincham Trail – by 10.30, which was pretty good for us, these days.
The first 3kms or so was lovely walking, alongside Spirey Creek, crossing it several times on bridges. There were still a few small waterholes in the creek, the focus of a variety of birds. However, in the interest of weight reduction, we didn’t have binoculars or bird books with us. Just little first aid kit, lunch, and lots of water.
Took a side track detour UP to Spirey View – a lookout. It was only 140 metres each way, and well worth the effort for the views to the Grand High Tops. However, it just emphasized how much further we had to climb!
The day was partly overcast. The drifting cloud may have affected our photo quality somewhat, but made the walk a bit cooler, which was good.
The lovely walking then soon ended and we started the serious ascent up the Spirey Ramp, a superbly constructed wide paved footpath. The high quality of the paving was rather incongruous in a bush setting, but great to walk on. I remembered that part of this was being built when we were here in ’97. It must have cost a heap.
The Ramp became steeper as we got close to the Breadknife. Then we came to a really long flight of steel stairs, which were really hard work. My calf muscles were doing their usual cramping as the gradient got steeper, so I let John forge on, while I could take as many recovery stops as I needed – and there were a lot of them.
The steps ended near the base of the Breadknife – an incredible feature – a tall, impossibly narrow wall of rock. It is a dyke formation – created when molten lava forced its way into a long narrow crack in the rocks beneath the surface of the parent volcano. Over time – lots of time – it cooled and became solid, the surrounding softer rock eroded, leaving the dyke standing above the land. It is some 600 metres long and over 100 metres high above the ground here.
The track along the base of the Breadknife was narrow and rocky, but still climbing.
I came to a sign that read Lugh’s Throne 150 metres. This was the top of the Grand High Tops and our lunch stop. It may have been that far as the resident currawongs flew, but felt much longer by my feet, and included some parts where I had to crawl up big boulders.
By now, I was telling myself, very sincerely, that it was time I started acting my 63 years and stopped doing things like this!
This section of track was really nasty. You saw a saddle through the trees – it looked like the top, but when you staggered onto it there was yet another saddle a bit further on – and then another. Always up. Finally, the ridge was reached – but you must go up along it to reach the Throne.
John was there half an hour before me, a feat which pleased him no end. I was just happy to get there at all, three and a half hours after setting out.
We sat on the Throne – Lugh was the Gaelic Sun God; lots of the Warrumbungle features have Gaelic names. Ate our sandwiches, looking down along the Breadknife, not that far away but now below us – a measure of the steep climb of the last pitch. Lughs Throne is 960metres above sea level. Belougery Spire was close to one side and the flats of the campground distant.
Two hopeful currawongs kept us company – they had befriended John well before I got there.
We were the only people up there and, in fact, we had only met one other walker after leaving the Spirey Lookout. This may have been due to our late start, but it was certainly not a walk tackled by the casual stroller! However, the views were worth the effort – I think?
What goes up must come down again, and preferably before dark. With some reluctance, we dragged the weary bodies upright again, and continued on.
The 600 metre track down to Dagda Gap was steep, narrow and stony. There we parted from the Circuit track, turning onto the Dagda Shortcut along the back of The Breadknife and around its northern end, to meet back up with the main track to meet the staircase section again. The walk around the base of The Breadknife was nice and gentle.
Just when we were enjoying the walking, the top section of the Spirey Ramp was so steeply downhill that it was painful. One had to actually lean back all the time – human braking – which was really hard on hips and knees. It was worse for John than me.
After that, the walk back along the creek was mostly level, but a slog, because we were so tired.
Reached Truck at 4.30pm, so the 12.9km walk took us 6 hours. According to the gradient map provided in the walks book, we climbed (and then descended) some 360 metres in about 2.5kms, from the Spirey View track to Lughs Throne. Doesn’t sound much, put like that, but it was classified as “very steep” walking. I concur!
It was wonderful to collapse onto the soft seats of Truck, for the drive back to camp.
Figuring that we had energy for one slight burst of activity, gathered up the necessities then DROVE up to the showers! No way could I have walked there.
The water was, miraculously, really hot, and lovely on all the tired bits. I had it as hot as I could stand it and there were clouds of steam. Then a 5cm long frog startled me by squeezing up out of the drain hole in my shower. It hopped over to where the metal shower floor was cooler and sat looking reproachfully at me. I hoped his black colour was the way he started out and not the result of being nearly cooked.
Happy hour by the campfire again. Tonight, I even had a couple of beers, in the interests of rehydration after the walk, of course.
I needed an easy tea to make, so we had baked beans and tinned spaghetti on toast.
Our clearing had not been too crowded during our time here. Generally there had been three or four other rigs in the large area. Most people only seemed to stay two nights, which I did not think was enough time to do justice to the area, even without doing the big walks. Tonight, a whizz-bang had arrived, but set up a good distance away from us.
We felt weary, but not too bad. I expected to be stiff tomorrow as it was a while since we had done such a hard walk. But the very real sense of achievement over rode any physical discomfort. John was really pleased with how he managed the walk, since there was a lurking doubt in his mind whether he would be able to do it, at all. Even his hip was not hurting too much.
Early to bed, this night.