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Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Thu 27 Nov, 2014 11:57 pm

Time to post a trip report.

In July this year 4 of us did a winter trip to another section of the Heysen Trail.
Previously we had gone from Horrocks Pass over Mt Brown through to Woolshed Flat in Pichi Richi Pass in 3 days.
This trip was to continue the path north.
It was a mix of styles with 2 nights B&B followed by 3 days on track.
In each case we had 2 cars positioned each end to allow for through walking.

The first morning 3 of us travelled to the short walk up the Devils Peak - which stands guard over the middle of Pichi Richi pass.
It was a great warm up on a very overcast day.
The surrounding peaks were under cloud, but the Devils Peak was lower than the cloud base and we had views all round.
But getting to them took a few nerves. The final approach is up a very steep slab of quartzite and this was combined with a very stiff wind.
After picking up our 4th member, we parked just south of Quorn and walked along the Heysen Trail to Woolshed Flat.
It rained on and off, but the area was a lush green and we enjoyed the birds and the old steam train for which the pass is famous.
After following parallel to the road for a while, the track crosses over and follows the railway line. Sometimes it was so close that it was easier walking along the line.
But the highlight came at the end when the track climbs up the western slopes and traverses to the ridgeline giving views in all directions before dropping steeply down to Woolshed Flat.

View south from Devil's Peak

Lone tree on the incline


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The train passed us at a nice spot - but for the driving rain..

Devil's Peak from the ridge above Woolshed Flat

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:01 am

Day 2 saw us position 1 car at the Dutchman's Stern car park and drive on to Buckaringa Gorge. And so the main trek began.
The Gorge has a dramatic eastern wall and vertical blades of rock in its gap so typical of this part of the Flinders Ranges.
It is currently not open to the public, but Heysen Trail walkers are allowed to pass through.
The colours of the grasses, saltbush and spinifex with native pines and the bare rocks in the sun were delightful as we passed through and began a slow ascent up a creek bed.
We soon came to waterholes and pools, which was reassuring, though we were carrying a lot of water to be on the safe side.
We had had a very wet start of the year beginning with some big rains in Feb and carrying into good rains in winter. So water would not have been a problem on any part.
The creek sides narrow in and it got rockier as we ascended, but at one last rock cascade the top section widened right out into a broader valley.
From here the track leaves the creek and winds its way over some slopes to a saddle before turning to ascend the main backbone of the range.
This very up and down ridgeline has a 4WD road which the Heysen trail follows and it goes right over the main peak of Mt Arden at 844m high.
we did see a few 4WDs in the distance, but we did not meet anyone else during the entire trip.

The Dutchman's Stern by morning light

In Buckaringa Gorge

Great colours on the other side

Ascending the creek

Pools on the way

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:05 am

Big butt

A lovely day for a walk

Leaving the creek to ascend to the ridge line

Our goal - Mt Arden lies ahead

But first we have to get to the ridge line

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:11 am

We had almost perfect day for traversing this ridgeline. It was sunny but not hot and the views go forever. This is big sky country with vast flats to the east and west.
To the north lay Mt Aleck and the Elder Range and Wilpena Pound. The only disappointment was that there was sufficient haze in the air to obscure those distant peaks.
But to the south, it was clear all the way past the Dutchmans Stern to Mt Brown and even Mt Remarkable around 70km away.
The 4WD roads over Mt Arden also service the numerous radio antennas for special services at its top. One hut had a rainwater tank as well that could prove useful.

There are amazing yackas along this ridge

Like a Dr Suess forest of Truffula trees

Looking East

North East

South are the Dutchmans Stern, Mt Brown and Mt Remarkable

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:16 am

Looking North from the top

Closer view of the Elder Range with Wilpena Pound behind

The day was getting on so it was time to shoulder packs and leave the roads to head down the southern spur.
It sidles for a while before heading steeply down to the valley.
All was remarkably green and nicely grassed. We made our way past a 4WD camp ground complete with table and BBQ, before finally arriving at Arden South campsite.
Here we put up tents on the grassy flat by the dry creek bed. A small shelter with rainwater tanks is just up the slope.
It is very nice to be able to camp with a small campfire, and we enjoyed this setting under a full moon and cloud.

Following the ridge south from Mt Arden

We will camp in the valley. Dutchman's Stern is still 2 days away.

In the valley - and how green it was.

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:21 am

The perfect day 2 gave way to drizzly rain for day 3. This day began in mist, and it stayed with us a fair way down the valley.
A great contrast in the mood of the walk as ghostly shapes loomed up and everything had the lush colours that come with being very wet.
This valley also soon began to show up pools of water leading to flows and small waterfalls as it got narrower and rockier.
Towards the bottom, the weather was clearing and it gets even more dramatic with cliff lines appearing and great rocky lines of strata at various angles.
There are also 2 major waterfalls, the first of which is bypassed by a steep gravelly slope on its right which was poorly marked at the top.
It took us a while to find the proper route back down again and we went back upstream for a closer look. The old route went straight up the face of the dry falls, but it was considered risky enough to warrant the new bypass.

The trail then follows the creek around some dramatic cliff faces with the creek in one place running hard up against a broken rock wall that might be 150m high.
It then avoids another waterfall - though we arrived at its top because we missed the exit sign from the creek bed.
Some of us did take time further along to wander back up that creek to see it from the bottom.

Old giants in the mist

Rocky creek bed

The bypassed falls

Cliffs closing in

We followed the creek under this massive wall

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:24 am

Absolutely stunning shots there, eggs! You've got me really eager to get back up to the Flinders next winter now. :D

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:26 am

Thanks whitefang - more to come...

But now the Heysen Trail crosses Depot Creek and runs parallel with it till it exits the range onto a series of large alluvial fans running along the western side of the range.

I had thought the walking along here would be easy, but some long sections of this part are made up of large gibbers that are quite hard on the feet and ankles.
Eyre Depot is another small shelter with a rainwater tank shortly along the fans. It has 2 areas cleared of gibbers to enable some tents to be set up, but we pressed on from there.
Heading further south we walked to a nice spot next to a large outflow creek, and after setting up the tents on a platform just above the creek, cooked up some tea in the creek bed.
It was a wonderful night with the full moon and starry sky above. Some long exposures had a surreal feel under the moonlight.

Depot Creek

Eyre Depot

To the west are vast plains with tent hills


A perfect evening
Last edited by eggs on Fri 28 Nov, 2014 10:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:32 am

The creek by Moonlight

The range by moonlight

Next day we again woke up to mist. This time further out on the plains below the alluvial fans and on the tops above us.
We walked in the gap of this cloud sandwich up and over more of the alluvial fans.
When the Heysen Trail eventual leaves the fence lines and heads up hill, we were engulfed in cloud again.
It climbs steeply up and becomes a road that reaches a high saddle before descending steeply down again to Dry South Creek at the NW corner of Dutchman's Stern Conservation Park.
The weather was starting to improve as we headed up the creek, but when my wife spotted a most unusual snail, we took a break to watch it slowly emerge and slide on its way.

Traversing the alluvial fans

Waiting for the snail to emerge

A tree - or perhaps a giant troll?

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:37 am

The lower part of the creek was delightful walking. We again saw some of the ancient gums that inhabit the stream beds of the Flinders Ranges.
But further up, the winter growth was much thicker and moist so one had to tread more carefully. And the sides came in again resulting in a few waterfalls to be negotiated.
Lunch was had at the top where the creek meets the road that runs along the western face of the Dutchman's Stern.
The tops were still in cloud, but the walk back along the base of the range gave great views along the valleys radiating through the foothills down to the plains.
Back at the car again, we decided to check out the Heysen Trail walkers hut.
It lies beyond a number of buildings that are for hire from National Parks, and is part of some old shearing sheds.
A rare sunbeam was aimed on our destination ahead.
It is quite spacious with a few bare wooden bunk areas, but does have electricity.
Someone had even left a microwave oven.
Maybe another time to stay there - and explore up onto the ridge tops of the Dutchmans Stern.

A small fall

Loved the mix of colours with rock and lichen and trees and greens


Spotlight on the end of the trail

Heysen Trail walkers hut at the Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 12:44 am

Having enjoyed ourselves on the Heysen Trail, I thought I would encourage some young people in the great outdors.
So the next week saw 3 adults taking 9 young people to Mambray Creek where we did some car camping and climbed Mt Cavan and explored Alligator Gorge.
It was a nice start, and we will ramp up our activities over the years ahead.

Black Range from the Climb to Mt Cavan

View over Spencer Gulf

Entrance to the Narrows, Alligator Gorge

In the Narrows

In the upper gorge

A good flow on the Terraces, Alligator Gorge

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Fri 28 Nov, 2014 2:42 pm

Eggs, thanks for the inspiration. (Well, you and CW Bonython, actually. You are in good company!) The photographs are a delight and the short descriptions very useful. I also like the fact that you've titled all the shots; too many people omit that information on their trip reports. (I shouldn't complain as I don't even write trip reports!) It's great to know that some young'uns are being treated to these vistas.

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Sat 29 Nov, 2014 11:15 am

It's great to hike through there when there is water around. As always, superb photos.
This has been posted to the Friends of the Heysen Trail Facebook page, linking back here. We think people will love to see the photos. ... 8014918362
Last edited by jez_au on Sat 29 Nov, 2014 12:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Sat 29 Nov, 2014 11:44 am

A pleasure jez. Glad you have linked to it.
But it was only 4 days on the Heysen Trail :)
The first day B&B was simply driving up there.

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Wed 04 Feb, 2015 1:20 am


Mambray Creek is local for me... can't 'do' enough!

Winter in SA just has to be experienced to be believed! No wind, little rain (comparatively), great walking temps!....
The Flinders Ranges, Heysen Trail ..... North and South! Kangaroo Island, Adelaide Hills....

SA has the best walking April - Sept!

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Wed 04 Feb, 2015 10:13 am

Cheers eggs, brings back some great memories walking both areas.
Argadells is the 4wd property to the north of Mt Arden, some nice tracks and camping in there too.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Sat 28 Mar, 2015 8:39 am

Late reply here, but fantastic photos and trip report. This area is definitely on my to-do list now. Thanks for posting.

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Sat 28 Mar, 2015 9:14 am

Not sure how I missed this one. Great shots - gave me itchy feet :-)

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Wed 25 May, 2016 12:31 pm

Gah, why haven't I traversed this sort of country yet? Must. Do. It.

Re: Heysen Trail over Mt Arden plus Mambray Creek

Sun 07 May, 2017 10:57 pm

Amazing pics eggs. I really appreciate the effort you put in to this thread. Thank you.
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