Date: 5 March 2011
Walkers: Kurt, Tom, Mary, Myself
Now that Summer is finished, the heat is easing up (supposedly) and bush camping at Lamington NP is re-opened we thought it was about time to get out for an overnight walk again. This would be Kurt’s friend Mary’s first bushwalk so we decided to make it a completely on-track walk leaving from O’Reillys, walking the Albert River Circuit anti-clockwise, camping at Bithongabel and returning via the Tooloona Creek circuit or taking the shorter way back along the border track depending on how we felt.
The weather leading up to the weekend wasn’t looking too promising with rain for most of the week. The forecast for the weekend indicated that the rain would ease on Saturday and probably clear up on Sunday. We also decided to call the ranger on Friday afternoon to see what the weather was like up on the plateau. Taking all this into account and checking the forecast one more time on Saturday morning we decided to go ahead with the walk. Tom and I arrived later than we had planned at around 9:40AM to see Kurt and Mary waiting for us. So we quickly geared up and headed off.
This was going to be a great opportunity for Tom and I to test some new gear. I was using my 36L Golite Peak which Tom had kindly retrofitted some hip belts from another pack on the car ride there in the morning. Tom was using his new BackPacking Light Absaroka Pack and it was the first time out using the Tarptent Scarp 2 tent. Combined with various other bits and by scrutinising our gear list Tom and I’s total pack weights came in at 10KG and 8KG respectively.
As we set off along the border track there was a very fine misting of rain which was mostly blocked out by the thick rainforest canopy. After following the well trodden path for roughly 5KM we arrived at the first track junction for the Albert River Circuit. This lead us up and eventually over the ridge to the East before decending down the gully to the edge of Black Canyon where the Albert river runs. The rain had picked up during this time and each time we crossed a creek or came out from under the canopy it was heavy enough to warrant getting out our wet weather gear. For myself this was an opportunity to test out a new Golite Poncho Tarp.
By the time we got to the first waterfall along the Albert River it was time to stop for lunch. This was a reasonably stressful stop with no where dry to sit and no 2 seconds passing by without a leech reaching some section of unprotected skin. The falls however, had plenty of water and made for a good photo opportunity.
For the next couple of kilometres the track criss-crossed the river which, despite the amount of water, was negotiated without too many hassles. Eventually the track climbs up the other side of the gully towards Echo Point. As we approached Echo Point from the camp site it became abundantly clear that there wasn’t going to be much of a view; which was confirmed upon arrival. On top of the cloud and rain we were exposed to the very strong Southerly wind, so we took a few photos and kept moving.
The next section of the track skirts along the top of the cliffs before heading back up towards the border track. By this stage the rain had most definitely set in and was not letting up. The poncho was working better that I had hoped. It was keeping my top half nice and dry while also providing plenty of ventilation to minimise discomfort from sweating. The bottom half wasn’t kept as dry as it could have been though and the loose nature of the item meant that I was collecting leaches around my arms and neck.
By 4PM we had once again rejoined the border track and the decision was made to call it a day and head back the last 5KM to the cars. The campsite was going to be exposed to similar windy conditions as Echo Point and the rain wasn’t looking like it would let up, so basically we chickened out. By the time we arrived back at the cars we were all fairly glad that we had made that decision. We pulled off the remaining leaches, got changed into whatever dry clothes we had, cranked the car heaters and headed for home.
As usual, the walking at O’reillys was beautiful despite the conditions and we were still glad we made the effort. We covered just under 21KM with overnight packs and it was great to get back out after the Summer break.