Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

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Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 6:26 pm

Hi all,

I finally went and did this walk end to end, East to West. I'll pop up some images and some thoughts in this post. It's a really excellent foot journey with what I'd consider really appropriate infrastructure for a walk of this type.

I loved the country up there, the track itself has some really clever routing, but alas, some very poor routing. I really hope the Larapinta will be modified over time to truly make it a world class wilderness walk. The possibilities up there are completely mind blowing.

Day 1.

Telegraph Station to Wallaby Gap.
Lots of weeds, crosses a rail line, goes under a hwy , a 4WD track, planes in the sky, infrastructure of Alice Springs in view. No real feel of wildness, but, a good leg to get things moving. Plus, Euro Ridge is an absolutely fantastic way to end the day after a fairly mundane start...a few pics...more to come...
Attachments
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Soon after the start
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Euro Ridge
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Wedgies
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Things are getting interesting...Euro Ridge
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Wallaby Gap
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 6:27 pm

Day 2 and a bit more....

Scorpion pool. Started feeling good here. Landscape became playful. Still, all the grasses were weeds. Rocks and mountains.

Day 3. Stuff ...

Exciting. Bond Gap, Spring Gap. Stories.

Bond Gap felt private, intimate, more 'authentic'. Spring Gap, devastatingly beautiful. The trees. The memories. Wow...sad, sad, sad....but so fortunate to bear witness to such a place. Feral animals have trashed what would have, for thousands of generations been a haven.

#*&%$#! #grrrr #cleanwater

Tomorrow, Jay Ck through to Standly. Yeah, but, nah. Beautiful ridge camp between Spring Gap and Jay Ck...
Attachments
042A0060.jpg
Above Scorpion Pool
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Bond Gap
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Charlie and Kel. Bond Gap. Lovely. x
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Spring Gap
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Spirit circle. High camp 1.
Last edited by stepbystep on Tue 22 Aug, 2017 9:00 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 6:27 pm

Jay Creek was just a water stop, the feral animal damage is disheartening in the river bed. Fish hole was pretty...my pack was way too heavy and I struggled a bit between Jay Ck and Standley. A food drop and a re-pack at Standley would be most welcome.

The country leading into Standley is stunning and I really enjoyed the route the track designers chose for this section. It gave feelings of remote and wild walking, of course, arriving at Standley changes all that. A cafe, showers, tourists etc extinguish any feelings of wilderness. This would be a continuing theme for the whole Larapinta....every time you start to feel you are getting away from it all, engaging with the country in a way I'm accustomed to while walking, that feeling is interrupted.
Attachments
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Fish Hole
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A high pass approaching Standley
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A very cool canyon/gully. Delightful walking.
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Adventurous walking
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Gastrolobium Saddle
Last edited by stepbystep on Tue 22 Aug, 2017 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 6:27 pm

Brinkley Bluff

The climb up Brinkley is super easy, a gentle grade the whole way...once some elevation is gained the views are stupendous.
Some images from the climb and the summit area...a wonderful mountain that our group had to ourselves.
Attachments
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The climb...super easy...
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Caterpillar Dreaming
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Summit cairn
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Dawn, and the path westward
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The wild, wild wind
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 6:28 pm

After Brinkley, the dreaded descent to Stuart's Pass was far easier than imagined. A nicely benched switchback track all the way down.
Met norts and hobes from this forum at 4/5 Junction. Our party slept in the riverbed on the way to Birthday Waterhole. I saw dingoes, heard owls, wandered about under a gazzillion stars and watched the sun rise, alone from a lovely ridge top, just off the track...
So many roses, just a couple of thorns. The 4WD access to Birthday Waterhole, and the damage to Birthday Waterhole from ferals again I think.

Some more pictures...
Attachments
042A0790.jpg
Descending off Brinkley
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A lady elephant tree near 4/5 Junction
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Ghost and Gum.
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Pre. Dawn.
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Good morning. Great morning.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 6:28 pm

Spencer Gorge through to Hugh Gorge

A favourite day on the trail. My partner and I split from the group and spent all day meandering through Spencer Gorge, up Paisley Bluff, Razorback Ridge and up Linear Valley to Hugh Gorge Junction, a brilliant campsite, completing the Hugh Gorge section the next morning. Loved the whole area, enjoyed the track route and loved the side trips to Fringe Lily Creek waterhole and Hugh Gorge waterhole. Only weird distraction, a large group of daywalkers coming in the opposite direction, they were totally fine, it's just weird to be a week into a walk and bumping in to daywalkers puffing and blowing under their light loads...

Some pictures...
Attachments
042A0915.jpg
Spencer Gorge - I wish I knew it's real name...
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Starting to descend Razorback Ridge
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Late light in Linear Valley
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Hugh Gorge Waterhole - Drinkable with treatment
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Traversing waterholes in Hugh Gorge
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 6:28 pm

Saying goodbye to the Chewings Range and moving on to the Heavitree Range. A food drop(and a dip) at Ellery Creek 'Big Hole' On to Serpentine Gorge. Interesting country....highlights being, my company, the swim at Big Hole, the bananas in my food drop, the beautiful small things I found on the first high section of the Heavitree Range.

Observations - Heaps of "poo flowers" at Ghost Gum Flat campsite. LIFT your game walkers, that's the easiest digging on the track, pathetic effort, no excuses...grrrr....there's a day and a half of flat, relatively uninteresting walking joining the ranges...I enjoyed it, but others don't....Ellery Creek is a circus of tourists...It'd be great if the trail hit the Big Hole on it's northern side rather than the carpark, with camping on that northern side.

From Ellery to Ormiston we were joined on the trail by St Kevins school, a group of 15 students and teachers...the trail can support this type of group, but, this lot were very poorly led. They took prime campsites in the main area despite group camping options at Serpentine Gorge and Serpentine Chalet Dam. They were starting walking at 5am, so woke all campers with their toileting. We made sure we skipped Waterfall Gorge camp as they were staying there. Waterfall Gorge was another place I noted shocking toileting practices...I do wonder what this group did...hopefully a poo tube as there is no infrastructure there...

Some pictures...
Attachments
042A1056.jpg
Ghost Gum Flat
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Goodnight to the Chewings Range, from 'Mt Peta' <3
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Walk on....approaching the Heavitree Range
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Textures and layers and colours. Connecting...
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Serpentine Gorge Lookout - Note daywalker infrastructure.
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Serpentine Gorge
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Climbing onto the Heavitree
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Little things on the tops
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Heavitree local
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More little things on the tops
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 6:29 pm

The Ridgeline traverse to Counts Point was a total delight. Counts Point lookout is epic. Serpentine Chalet Dam, interesting, but also a bit spooky. I took a dip there, freaky...St Kevins kids very annoying, their teachers/guides more-so...Inarlanga Pass was wonderful, really enjoy these gorges/gaps/passes connecting trail sections. A high camp at the lookout above Waterfall Gorge, utterly stunning...views to Rwetyepme (Mt Sonder), brilliant, Mt Giles views even better, a really good cpl days walking...

Some more pictures...
Attachments
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Counts Point beauty.
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Textures
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Colours of the desert...
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Termite mounds
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Inarlanga Pass
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Inarlanga Pass
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Wonderful walking with the Heavitree all around
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Climbing up to Lookout camp
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Desert views. Divine.
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Arriving up top. So, so nice...
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby ribuck » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 10:38 pm

That looks like a well-laden pack, Dan. Any idea how many kilograms?
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Mon 21 Aug, 2017 10:42 pm

ribuck wrote:That looks like a well-laden pack, Dan. Any idea how many kilograms?


Charlie's pack was pretty small. 20-odd kg...mine was 3o-odd this day, wasn't happy(or smart) early on. I fixed things at Standley....
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Tue 22 Aug, 2017 8:58 am

Not heaps more images as I lost all my pics from the last Cpl of days....whoops...

Getting into Ormiston is weird...once again, a welcome food drop, a burger and an iced coffee from the kiosk, a bbq dinner, a hot shower, lots of people...a feeling the walk is over, but it's not...I left there feeling very flat, despite the full belly and excellent customer service from Red at the kiosk.

Finke River(Larapinta) was cool, had a lazy lunch, a wade in the river, climbed some trees, had fun, nice...a swim in Davenport Creek...camping on another high point with grandstand views to Rwetyepme that night restorative, a great chance for our group to swap stories, feelings before our journey terminates the next day...really enjoyed the final day to Redbank, touching, listening, smelling, tasting, truly seeing the place. Paying close attention. Filled with pride for the achievements of our group. Madly in love with my partner. A very special journey for us. For me the walk finished here, and I was truly content as I shut my eyes, laying in that final river bed.

Next day we climbed the mountain in the dark with daypacks, 2 busloads of tourists did that too...great to look back and see the distant lump of Brinkley Bluff, climbed so many days before...I think I saw 50-70 people on Rwetyepme that day, lots of tissues, wrappers, mobile phones, whinging....meh...I finished the Larapinta the evening before, I'll hold onto that!

Conclusions

I'd love to see the track NOT arrive at the tourist hubs of Standley, Ellery Creek and Ormiston Gorge. Re-routing to Giles, around Ormiston Pound, approaching Ellery from the north, a traverse of Sonder from the NE on the final day would be ace....I hope there is scope for change as the trail evolves. It's a wonderful walk that carefully avoids true wilderness immersion. I'll go back regardless, I need to get some decent photos :)
Attachments
042A1502-Pano.jpg
Giles. Epic.
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Rwetyepme
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The moon had arrived 14 days in
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Yummy
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Paying attention
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The Finke - Larapinta
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Wonderful old souls in the river bed
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Desert Rose
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Davenport dip. living it large...
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby cajun » Tue 22 Aug, 2017 9:17 am

Next time I open this thread it will be with a cup of coffee so I can sit and marvel at your wonderful photography.

Just Wow.
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby ChrisJHC » Tue 22 Aug, 2017 3:11 pm

Agree with Cajun - great photos!

What gear were you using?
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Tue 22 Aug, 2017 5:57 pm

ChrisJHC wrote:Agree with Cajun - great photos!

What gear were you using?


Thanks gents. Assuming you mean camera gear, I shoot on a Canon 5D mk IV. Most shots are made using a 16-35 f2.8 III. I also carried a 100mm f2.8 macro. I used that lens for the 'Caterpillar Dreaming' shot, it's a panorama of 6 shots @ 100mm.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby mikethepike » Tue 19 Sep, 2017 12:21 pm

stepbystep wrote:Assuming you mean camera gear, I shoot on a Canon 5D mk IV. Most shots are made using a 16-35 f2.8 III. I also carried a 100mm f2.8 macro. I used that lens for the 'Caterpillar Dreaming' shot, it's a panorama of 6 shots @ 100mm.

Yes they are fantastic photos and make me wonder if it's better these days just to stick to the phone camera or use a good SLR camera and forget anything in between. I also did the trail last month (west to east) and while I have a Panasonic Lumix camera and it takes very good photos, they are not close to the quality of what we see here. Ggrrr.' But then there's the extra weight to carry of course. Thanks for posting them Dan!
stepbystep wrote: It's a wonderful walk that carefully avoids true wilderness immersion.

I agree that the track gives little feeling of true wilderness but I think that may be the wrong term - it's the Arrente homeland afterall - although I know what you mean. Perhaps 'isolation' is a better term and the track gave me no real feeling of isolation at all and that I think is due to the linear formation of the ranges. Even were you to 'get lost', the landscape is so simply laid out and easy to read that you couldn't really get lost in it and for this reason, it's a very comfortable landscape to be in. And of course the brilliant track is impossible to lose. The track being parallel to the main road and sometimes not that far from it is another factor in this. But then again, one observer's 'middle of nowhere' can be another's 'middle of everywhere'.
stepbystep wrote:Re-routing to Giles, around Ormiston Pound, approaching Ellery from the north, a traverse of Sonder from the NE on the final day would be ace....I hope there is scope for change as the trail evolves.

I think that the track will probably always stay much as it is as for the average walker, it's probably long enough already. As you may know, it was originally planned to continue the track NW past Redbanks to the Razorback and end at Mt Zeil but the aboriginal owners were not happy with this. (The NT Gov't pays an annual rental to the owners for on-going use of the Track). I plan to go back next year to walk that area plus Mt Giles and Gosse Bluff, spending 2-3 days in each. Mt Giles is a bit challenging because it lies directly north of the Larapinta Track where the latter has a long distance between water points making a 2-3 day circuit walk out from and back to Ormiston Gorge the more likely route.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby mikethepike » Tue 19 Sep, 2017 1:11 pm

Just while I'm on the topic, I can't leave it without saying that I think the Larapinta Track is a great credit to the NT Government. The quality of the track (385 mm wide +/- 5 mm - my estimate only - and never a deviation outside of these limits or so it would seem), stone stairways and even two little dry stone bridges! Surely the signature work of the builders of Tassie's Three Capes Track I thought when I saw them. And sure enough as I later found out from a Ranger, they are! The 2 bridges - neither really necessary or a steel crossing would suffice but they just couldn't resist it! And the technology and design behind the Track's water tanks (with the Alice Springs office able to remotely read their water content thanks to a bit of wizardry) and toilets is as high a standard as it can get, especially considering the arid environment. All the more reason that it is disturbing to read:
stepbystep wrote:Observations - Heaps of "poo flowers" at Ghost Gum Flat campsite. LIFT your game walkers, that's the easiest digging on the track, pathetic effort, no excuses...grrrr.
I add my own Grrr to that!

A very good walk with a well supported and continuously maintained track and there are no track fees!

My only disappointments with the track was that I saw very little wildlife while on the walk. Birds of prey and reptiles in particular were rarely to be seen despite the warm days. The other was the huge expanses of Buffel Grass which takes over everything and which wasn't in the area when I was last there 30 years ago nor perhaps even 10 years ago when I walked the western 4 days of the Track. Though its full cost to biodiversity is still to be calculated, this grass surely will end up being one of the country's greatest ever environmental disasters. It makes me wonder if my two disappointments aren't in some way related.

To end on a bright note, if you go to Alice to do the Track, make sure you keep a full day spare to go to the Desert Park, an hours walk from the centre of town. It is a truly amazing place where you will get to learn so much about plants and birds in particular. Booking into a 90 minute guided walk with one of the gardener/botanists is also highly recommended. And then there's its birds of prey stage show. Simply stunning!
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby Eremophila » Tue 19 Sep, 2017 1:36 pm

I too was pleasantly surprised to find that the track has remained single-file width in spite of the walker numbers. Although in many parts you simply couldn't widen the track without moving the odd rock or two... and yes, the stone bridges were a sight to behold!

The buffel grass has definitely taken over, I converted from one to two trekking poles for this trip and on many occasions had to lift & carry them like ski poles, as they were getting caught in the ever-encroaching grass. I don't recall that from earlier trips.

I'd be interested to know why there's a CCTV on the water tank at Rocky Bar Gap. Vehicle-based visitors perhaps? The maintenance track didn't look that well-used.

The remote monitoring of water tank levels takes away the worry that you'll find an empty tank. Possibly related to liability issues, but I found it rather reassuring.

Unfortunately on this occasion I became quite ill with an infection which saw me shivering uncontrollably in temps of 30C, and with a heart rate of 110-120bpm during the night which was a little unnerving. That combined with the rising temps, the upcoming week's forecast being all over 30C, meant we only walked half of the trail and I still haven't done Sections 4, 5 and 6!!! For logistical reasons we walked Alice to Standley and then from Mt Sonder/Redbank back to Ormiston. So there will be another trip for sure.

Didn't get back to the Desert Park this time which was a bit lazy of me. I'd be interested to see how the place has evolved and yes, it's well worth a visit (avoiding the bus groups). They do a yearly pass for locals and I used to know a few folk who would simply take a book and wander round till they found a quiet seat, on the odd weekend.

Oh and great pics Dan!
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby north-north-west » Tue 19 Sep, 2017 3:05 pm

mikethepike wrote:I plan to go back next year to walk that area plus Mt Giles and Gosse Bluff, spending 2-3 days in each. Mt Giles is a bit challenging because it lies directly north of the Larapinta Track where the latter has a long distance between water points making a 2-3 day circuit walk out from and back to Ormiston Gorge the more likely route.

Given that a good three quarters of the inside of Tnorala (including the ridgetops) is off-limits, plus there's no camping permitted inside, exactly how are you planning on doing this? Is it actually possible to get permission for such a walk?
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby north-north-west » Tue 19 Sep, 2017 3:09 pm

stepbystep wrote:I'd love to see the track NOT arrive at the tourist hubs of Standley, Ellery Creek and Ormiston Gorge. Re-routing to Giles, around Ormiston Pound, approaching Ellery from the north, a traverse of Sonder from the NE on the final day would be ace....I hope there is scope for change as the trail evolves. It's a wonderful walk that carefully avoids true wilderness immersion. I'll go back regardless, I need to get some decent photos :)

Agree wholeheartedly on that. It is possible to walk most of that, just not on the track. A lot of open country that would be easy walking. And a lot of ridgetops that would be less so.
Probably not the best trip for the unexperienced.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby eggs » Tue 19 Sep, 2017 4:22 pm

Love your photos Dan

I cannot remember where, but I have read an account of an extended walk through the Chewings Range - in parts off the Larapinta.
From my vague memory - I believe it was a really tough walk and may have involved ropes in various parts.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby mikethepike » Tue 19 Sep, 2017 11:38 pm

north-north-west wrote: mikethepike wrote:
I plan to go back next year to walk that area plus Mt Giles and Gosse Bluff, spending 2-3 days in each. Mt Giles is a bit challenging because it lies directly north of the Larapinta Track where the latter has a long distance between water points making a 2-3 day circuit walk out from and back to Ormiston Gorge the more likely route.


Given that a good three quarters of the inside of Tnorala (including the ridgetops) is off-limits, plus there's no camping permitted inside, exactly how are you planning on doing this? Is it actually possible to get permission for such a walk?

Yes it is at least sometimes possible as I have details of a recent walk out NW from Redbanks to Zeil earlier this year by a small party from NSW and they had to get permission. I don't believe that there is any problem with Mt Giles but am not sure about Gosse Bluff. I will be investigating all this early next year or better, a good walking contact in AS will do it for me and I will be happy to pass on what I find out when the time comes. In the meantime, and like nnw, I would be very interested to read of anyone else's recent experiences of walking in this region away from the Larapinta Trail.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby Mark F » Wed 20 Sep, 2017 5:30 pm

A wonderful report and even better photos! I did bits of the Larapinta this year. Had to pull out at Standley (E-W) with a recurrence of a strange thigh muscle issue that I am still trying to sort out. Went back to AS, picked up the car and did a series of day walks to ease the disappointment plus a nice loop out into the East McDonalds. I agree with the incongruity of the track entering tourist zones. Much better if the track bypassed the road heads and connected by a short access track to pick up food drops etc.

@nnw @mikethepike Regarding off-route information you may like to contact vernicosa through pm who did a few off route options in July/August.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby north-north-west » Thu 21 Sep, 2017 6:51 pm

mikethepike wrote:
north-north-west wrote:['quote="mikethepike"]
I plan to go back next year to walk that area plus Mt Giles and Gosse Bluff, spending 2-3 days in each. Mt Giles is a bit challenging because it lies directly north of the Larapinta Track where the latter has a long distance between water points making a 2-3 day circuit walk out from and back to Ormiston Gorge the more likely route.

Given that a good three quarters of the inside of Tnorala (including the ridgetops) is off-limits, plus there's no camping permitted inside, exactly how are you planning on doing this? Is it actually possible to get permission for such a walk?

Yes it is at least sometimes possible as I have details of a recent walk out NW from Redbanks to Zeil earlier this year by a small party from NSW and they had to get permission. I don't believe that there is any problem with Mt Giles but am not sure about Gosse Bluff. I will be investigating all this early next year or better, a good walking contact in AS will do it for me and I will be happy to pass on what I find out when the time comes. In the meantime, and like nnw, I would be very interested to read of anyone else's recent experiences of walking in this region away from the Larapinta Trail.[/quote]

I wasn't actually concerned about Zeil or Giles (Giles is a free-for-all, Zeil requires permission but with the right contacts that isn't hard), but specifically about Tnorala.
Last edited by north-north-west on Fri 22 Sep, 2017 6:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Larapinta Trail - Pics and thoughts

Postby stepbystep » Fri 22 Sep, 2017 11:58 am

Thanks for the feedback re piccies :)

What struck me up there was the immense potential for a network of walking trails, with the Larapinta being the centrepiece, developed by, and with the guidance of the local Aboriginal people.
I hope my post didn't come across as critical of the track, it's *&%$#! brilliant and I can't wait to go back. I just think it could be even better!
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