Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

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Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby Zapruda » Tue 23 Jun, 2020 11:31 am

Hey brains trust,

I plan to on starting the Larapinta on the 5th of August E to W and then returning to Alice along the track again and also part of the Chewings Range.

I'm wondering what sleep system I should pack. My options are:

1. -7c bag and Xtherm.
2. 0c quilt and Xlite.

I can supplement both of these setups with a down jacket. I sleep neither warm nor cold, i'm pretty average and find the ratings on both bags accurate.

Also, what is the dew like out there? I assume the valleys will be somewhat wet in the morning and ridges generally fine.

Thanks!
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby north-north-west » Tue 23 Jun, 2020 12:57 pm

The Centre can be freezingly cold at night. I've had 2l bottles of water frozen solid inside tent or car. During last year's visit however, it was mostly a heatwave and I changed out the APII for a WM Highlite which was quite comfortable.
So, it's variable. You want to be able to cope with temps well below zero, but still be comfy at 10C or more overnight. I don't recall issues with dew. Plenty of people sleep with just bug nets or less unless it's raining.

I don't know if you're into campfires, but they're verboten on the Larapinta and some other parts of Tjoritja except at the big vehicle campsites. You are also supposed to get a permit for off-track walking such as the Chewings, which I assume you are already aware of. Apologies for the nagging, but the number of people who ignore these things is increasing.
Last edited by north-north-west on Tue 23 Jun, 2020 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby ribuck » Tue 23 Jun, 2020 6:28 pm

In August it might already be quite warm, or alternatively you might experience a lingering cold spell. Are you planning any high camps? If so, your -7 bag will mean that you can comfortably camp high even during a cold spell. Otherwise, your 0c quilt should be OK. Even at low camps in August, the overnight temp can dip a few degrees below zero, in which case you will want your down jacket. For me, my Xlite was enough for the May and August trips that I did last year, and for my May 2018 trip.

I've rarely experienced any condensation. It's nice to pack everything away nice and dry. The only exception was the 2 nights following a heavy storm last May, when the ground was still wet. Significant rain is possible though unlikely in August.

Which part of the Chewings Range are you planning to do? A high camp atop Mt Giles is stunning. Be aware that high camps are sometimes really really windy. On the Larapinta, I only know of one high camp with shelter from the wind - it's an unofficial site known as Hermits Hideaway, at the 17km marker between Serpentine Chalet Dam and Ormiston Gorge. I checked it out last August, and the trees survived the early-2019 bushfires.
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby ribuck » Tue 23 Jun, 2020 6:38 pm

As NNW pointed out, campfires are no longer permitted on the Larapinta. There are some campsites close to the Larapinta where fires are permitted under certain conditions as described on the following page:
https://nt.gov.au/leisure/parks-reserve ... nformation

Also, at Standley Chasm there are two camping areas, but most walkers stay in the grassy area. If the campsite at the ceremonial fire pit is not booked by a group you can request to camp there and can buy firewood at the cafe (well you could in 2018 anyway).
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby Zapruda » Wed 24 Jun, 2020 8:10 am

I was hoping either of you would chime in. Thanks to both of you, that info is very helpful. I might meet in the middle and bring the WM Ultralight -7c and Xlite. I knew it could get below freezing but was holding out hope for above 0c temps. Im already sick of the cold this season here in the alps...

NNW - Thanks for the reminder about the permit, and normally I'm too lazy for a fire at the end of the day anyway. Thanks.

Ribuck - I'm glad to hear about the lack of dew, one of my pet peeves here in the mountains. It's a horrible way to start the day. As for the route along the Chewings range, I am hoping to leave the track at Ormiston Gorge and head for Mt Giles and then meet back up with the track at either Ellery Creek or Hugh Gorge. Im still trying to get some info together. I have seen and saved your trip reports for info. Any suggestions or advice?

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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby muddy99 » Sun 28 Jun, 2020 4:59 pm

We did the Chewies west to east two years ago in Jul/Aug. We basically reversed John Chapman’s route by starting at Ormiston Gorge and ascending the West Wall at Bowmans Gap see http://www.john.chapman.name/nt-chew.html for route and water points (which were mostly spot on, the only one that was dry was the one at the base on the north side of the low point in the range.

We carried 5l water each along the Wall and bivved before Giles, before the corner: marginal spot but excellent sunset views. Descended Giles the next day then stuck to JC’s route to Hugh Gorge via Portals. One night (back on the southern side of the range) the weather looked about to storm so we headed into the closest gorge and found some camping caves (ie overhangs). It didn’t actually rain but was very windy. Most days we prob carried 3l of water.

We used quilts from Michael Lee who advertises on this forum. Mine was a -2 overstuffed so closer to -6. My friends was the warmer one also overstuffed to prob -10. Paired with terrarosagear sleeping sack (we bivved, no tents). My friend had a non-breathable bivy bag that ended up with ice on the inside from condensation freezing. There was no dew. Consider a tyvek groundsheet or extra cheap foamy to protect any inflatable mat, the ground is seriously sharp.

There was a permit process & fee for any off-track campsites (but none for approved camps on the larapinta). I think we also had to supply a Topo marked up where we intended to camp, though half the time we prob camped elsewhere along the same route. I might be able to find the original emails, feel free to PM me if you’d like more info.

Pack plenty of rehydration tablets!

Might see you out there in August :)
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby ribuck » Sun 28 Jun, 2020 8:16 pm

Zapruda wrote:I am hoping to leave the track at Ormiston Gorge and head for Mt Giles and then meet back up with the track at either Ellery Creek or Hugh Gorge ... Any suggestions or advice?

Well ... how many days are you wanting to spend away from the Larapinta? How many days food are you prepared to carry? Do you prefer dramatic campsites on top of the range, requiring a water carry, or will you camp at the springs at the base of the mountain?

Ormiston Gorge to Hugh Gorge would be the better route, but it's logistically harder because you need to carry food to see you through to Standley Chasm (or arrange a 4WD food drop at Hugh Gorge). If you rejoin the Larapinta at Ellery Creek Big Hole then you can collect a food drop, but going across the plain from the Chewings Range to Big Hole is relatively uninteresting, then you immediately traverse the plain again from Ellery Creek to Hugh Gorge!

If Mt Giles is your main interest, you can do Ormiston Gorge -> Mt Giles -> walk due south to meet the Larapinta near Giles Lookout. An interesting side-trip is to head to Bowmans Gap from Ormiston Gorge (making sure you visit the Canyon of the Thirteen Pools).

If you want to do the parts of the Chewings Range that are skipped by the Larapinta, a nice 6-day itinerary would be Ormiston Gorge -> Mt Giles -> Giles Yard Springs -> Portals Gorge -> Ellery Fish Hole -> Mulga Creek -> Hugh Gorge. With a 7th day you can do the high route to Portals Gorge described by John Chapman at the link posted by muddy99. If you already camped atop Brinkley Bluff on your way out, you can visit the summit west of Hugh Gorge as a side-trip, then camp at the macrozamia amphitheatre north-ish from Hugh Gorge.

Also, how many days are you going to take on the Larapinta? That might give us an idea of how quickly you would do the off-Larapinta sections.
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby Zapruda » Mon 29 Jun, 2020 8:53 am

Muddy - Thanks for all that info, its hugely appreciated. The Chapman link is great. I was planning on taking some tvyek and sleeping in the open most nights. Its one of my favorite ways to camp. I love my Terra Rosa Tyvek sack as well btw, great piece of kit.

Ribuck - Ill have 20 walking days total to play up there. I think Ill be able to comfortably walk from Alice to Mt Sonder along the track in 7 or 8 days. That will give me plenty of time on the way back to enjoy the Chewings range and the rest of the track back to Alice. I don't mind carrying 7-10 days of food and will have my car to do some food drops along the Larapinta. I'm very comfortable walking off track and route finding.

The 6 day itinerary from Ormiston to Hugh Gorge you suggested sounds great. How dire is the water situation along that route? It seems to follow a pretty logical route where water is the focus.
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby muddy99 » Mon 29 Jun, 2020 10:43 am

Well we found water at all the points Chappo lists except at the bottom of the low point in the range after crossing to the north. But we didn’t find it anywhere else at all. Some of the water was pretty skanky and just large puddles so we zapped it with a steripen And hit it with tablets. At the start (Bowmans Gap) we boiled it but that’s a waste of fuel. Which we actually ran out of a day before Hugh. Thankfully the sun heats up a covered cooking pot really well if left for a few hours.

Wherever we found water, we loaded up, so we could be more flexible where we camped. We did:

Day 1 - Bowmans Gap (Ormiston Pound)...a short day as we’d flown into Alice at midday
Day 2 - high camp on the southern end of the north-south wall west of Giles. Carried water all day. If you were moving quick there’s better bivvy options on Giles and the saddle just to the west.
Day 3 - dry creek between Giles and Giles Yard Springs..water from gorge just west of Giles descent spur
Day 4 - dry creek on north side of range between the low point crossing and Portals. Water from Giles Spring Yard
Day 5 - short walk to Portals Canyon where water was plentiful.spent the day exploring. Camp at canyon.
Day 6 - dry gorge on south side of range, water from Fish Hole.
Day 7 - Bulldog Gorge. Water there and at Mulga.
Day 8 - very short walk to Hugh where we’d arranged a pickup...had a whole day to explore the upper gorge.

There’s a rough pad (frequented by horses) and cairned by stones in tree forks that connects some of the southern Chewings gorges between Ellery Creek and Bulldog which makes the going easier and lessens the time from Chappo’s notes. At some point closer to Hugh the pad turns south and is best left.

You’ll prob make better speed, We (well, me) was slow at the start but we made better mileage after Portals. If we’d had more time would’ve loved to have done the 45 degrees canyon trip.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby Zapruda » Mon 29 Jun, 2020 11:09 am

Incredibly helpful Muddy. Thanks for taking the time to write it out.

What are you doing out there in August?
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby ribuck » Mon 29 Jun, 2020 9:12 pm

Zapruda wrote:The 6 day itinerary from Ormiston to Hugh Gorge you suggested sounds great. How dire is the water situation along that route? It seems to follow a pretty logical route where water is the focus.

Water is going to be critical this year. The Ormiston Gorge rainfall record shows that 2019 was the driest year on record, and 2020 so far has also been extremely dry. In many places the waterholes will be dry, and you will need to depend on the spring-fed gorges, where water has percolated through the range for some years and is briefly forced to the surface by a layer of impermeable rock before it drains back into the plains.

Ellery Fish Hole was dry last year, but I can give you co-ordinates for Milton Park Gorge which is an hour away and is spring-fed. I doubt you will find water between there and Mulga Creek this year, even though Chapman mentions some, but it's only a day's walk anyway.

I spent 45 days off-track in the Chewings Range during 2019, carrying up to 9 days of food at a time. I generally started each day with 3 litres of water. I made up the first litre with electrolytes, which makes a huge difference in dry country. I carried extra water to high camps (the N-S Range, Mt Giles, and above Portals Gorge), but except for the N-S Range it's not necessary to carry that water for the full day. I really liked camping at the springs: for the water supply, greenery, wildlife, less-rocky sleeping spots, and sunlight playing on the rock walls.

It's clear now that the 6-day itinerary from Ormiston to Hugh Gorge will be conservative for you, but it's really determined by the choice of campsites. I think you will have spare energy at the end of each day for side-trips, or to extend the day's walk to camp elsewhere if an expected water source turns out to be dry. If you're into photography there's plenty of scope to spend time climbing knolls or exploring gorges. If you want something more physical, Muddy's route to Mt Giles via Bowmans Gap, Red Walls and the N-S Ridge would do the job nicely for the price of an extra day. Other dramatic high routes are the skyline ridge west of Giles Yard Springs (doesn't add a day, but makes the day more energetic), and crossing the range via Diagonal Gorge instead of the Low Point (best to add a day, although it can also be done without an extra day).
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby muddy99 » Tue 30 Jun, 2020 10:08 am

Zapruda wrote:What are you doing out there in August?


Prob just some short exploratories around Hugh (maybe locating the macrozamia amphitheatre) then over for a look at Mt Razorback. My friend wants to solo the Larapinta then catch up for Razorback at the end.

Ribuck is there much to recommend along the northern side of the range between Hugh and Stuart Pass? Thinking of a possible circuit from Birthday Waterhole? Also good to know that water levels are even lower than previous years.
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby Zapruda » Tue 30 Jun, 2020 10:37 am

ribuck wrote:
Zapruda wrote:The 6 day itinerary from Ormiston to Hugh Gorge you suggested sounds great. How dire is the water situation along that route? It seems to follow a pretty logical route where water is the focus.

Water is going to be critical this year. The Ormiston Gorge rainfall record shows that 2019 was the driest year on record, and 2020 so far has also been extremely dry. In many places the waterholes will be dry, and you will need to depend on the spring-fed gorges, where water has percolated through the range for some years and is briefly forced to the surface by a layer of impermeable rock before it drains back into the plains.

Ellery Fish Hole was dry last year, but I can give you co-ordinates for Milton Park Gorge which is an hour away and is spring-fed. I doubt you will find water between there and Mulga Creek this year, even though Chapman mentions some, but it's only a day's walk anyway.

I spent 45 days off-track in the Chewings Range during 2019, carrying up to 9 days of food at a time. I generally started each day with 3 litres of water. I made up the first litre with electrolytes, which makes a huge difference in dry country. I carried extra water to high camps (the N-S Range, Mt Giles, and above Portals Gorge), but except for the N-S Range it's not necessary to carry that water for the full day. I really liked camping at the springs: for the water supply, greenery, wildlife, less-rocky sleeping spots, and sunlight playing on the rock walls.

It's clear now that the 6-day itinerary from Ormiston to Hugh Gorge will be conservative for you, but it's really determined by the choice of campsites. I think you will have spare energy at the end of each day for side-trips, or to extend the day's walk to camp elsewhere if an expected water source turns out to be dry. If you're into photography there's plenty of scope to spend time climbing knolls or exploring gorges. If you want something more physical, Muddy's route to Mt Giles via Bowmans Gap, Red Walls and the N-S Ridge would do the job nicely for the price of an extra day. Other dramatic high routes are the skyline ridge west of Giles Yard Springs (doesn't add a day, but makes the day more energetic), and crossing the range via Diagonal Gorge instead of the Low Point (best to add a day, although it can also be done without an extra day).


Thanks Ribuck. Ill digest all this helpful info and get back to you with some questions.
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby north-north-west » Tue 30 Jun, 2020 3:58 pm

muddy99 wrote:Prob just some short exploratories around Hugh (maybe locating the macrozamia amphitheatre) then over for a look at Mt Razorback. My friend wants to solo the Larapinta then catch up for Razorback at the end.


Are there any access issues with that beast? Really want to do it (and Zeil, of course) but been put off because I can't find clear info about how to get at it. So far, my best option seems to be getting out the back of Redbank and hoofing it cross-country from there.
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Re: Larapinta / Chewings Range - August

Postby ribuck » Fri 03 Jul, 2020 8:14 am

muddy99 wrote:Ribuck is there much to recommend along the northern side of the range between Hugh and Stuart Pass?

Sorry muddy99, I I haven't travelled along the northern side of the range between Hugh and Stuart Pass.

north-north-west wrote:Are there any access issues [with Razorback]? Really want to do it (and Zeil, of course) but been put off because I can't find clear info about how to get at it.

Here's someone's very detailed trip report to Razorback, including a recorded route from Redbank:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com/2012/07/razorback-nt-australia.html

Regarding Mt Zeil, I was chatting to Zack from Larapinta Trail Trek Support last year, and he said that you can't currently get permits to approach Mt Zeil from the south (for cultural reasons), but permission can be gained to access it from the north via private property (which needs a 4WD).
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