Simpson Desert track conditions.

Submitted: Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 15:43
ThreadID: 103213 Views:3108 Replies:4 FollowUps:22
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Hi all
Just having a read of the Olsen blog re Simpson Desert trip where the condition of the dunes is reported to be in a bad way. It says that there are at least 4 tracks over the dunes. Now I have not done this trip but was wondering if this is the way it always is during the season. Is this not damaging to the dunes and could this bring the ire of the Parks people resulting in closure or at least restrictions to travel. There seems to be a lot written about track closures in various locations. Could this happen in the Simpson Desert or not. Maybe I am completely off track (pardon the pun) in my thinking.

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Reply By: prado 01 - Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 16:05

Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 16:05
Yeh I read that as well and was surprised by the comment regarding how challenging it was. We were out there the other week and found it similar to our other trips with the usual ruts and holes etc. The odd dune had more than one track but nothing unfamiliar. We backed down a couple of times simply due to trying to walk up the dune too slow.
As far as the Parks mob getting the willies it may just be the final nail in the coffin for camper trailers if these are what are making it rougher.
Instead of fluffy comments advising people not to take trailers someone needs to bite the bullet and make a decision.
If this happens and the ruts and holes continue then it would be interesting what their next move would be.
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Follow Up By: Shaker - Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 16:17

Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 16:17
They soon cover over after a bit of wind, at the beginning of the season the tracks are hard to find.
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Follow Up By: The Explorer - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 21:35

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 21:35
....apart from the dead vegetation which doesn't grow back "after a bit of wind". No big deal driving over bare sand but new tracks for no reason across vegetation is not generally a good thing.

I sent one final shout after him to stick to the track, to which he replied “All right,” That was the last ever seen of Gibson - E Giles 23 April 1874

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Reply By: Member - Howard (ACT) - Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 17:01

Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 17:01
dont know what its like further into the desert but I drove from big red out to eyre creek for lunch on monday while waiting for the John Williamson concert and it was only when I got stuck on little red on way home I realised that I had driven out and "almost" back in H2.
its a bugger going from permanent 4wd 80 series to a part time jobby.

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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 17:56

Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 17:56

The John Williamson concert was pretty good, is a bit cold!

The organizers were a bit dis-organized though!

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Reply By: Ozrover - Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 17:50

Friday, Jul 12, 2013 at 17:50

I've been across the Simpson Desert three times so far this season travelling most of the tracks out there as well as doing one recovery partway along the French line.

The western faces of the dunes are quite badly scalloped as well as having quite large holes where people have been bogged, when people can't get over a challenging section of track they tend to make their own tracks which then turns into a new track, if that makes sense?

Last summer was quite mild & the Desert didn't recover from last years damage, so a lot of the current damage is accumulative, but is mostly due to people not lowering their tyre pressures enough (with or without trailers).

DEWNR are constantly monitoring the conditions in the Simpson Desert & at some point will make a decision regarding trailers.

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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 10:27

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 10:27
Regarding trailers..... it will be interesting.

Had an email from the secretary of 4WDSA having a dummy spit of the damaged caused by inconsiderate people towing trailers at Walkers Crossing.

It made my blood boil a bit...... IMO there are two types of people who cause damage, inexperienced 4x4ers with no trailers and inexperienced 4x4ers who tow trailers.

We have towed our Ultimate over the deserts more than once without damage or difficulty, there was a group of 10 other vehicles (no trailers) behind us who were having all sorts of difficulties getting over...... constant dribble on the UHF about snatching and double snatching.

As for driving off the track, we have done it in areas where it was to difficult to drive over the original track safely and with out causing damage to the original track.

Running real GPS mapping it is surprising who much the track moves within a few years.
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Follow Up By: Iza B - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 16:36

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 16:36
Having just been through the creek at Walkers Crossing, I am at a loss as to how towing a trailer could do any damage. Once the bridge is open, no one will have to go through the creek at all.

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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 18:30

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 18:30
I think that we all agree that it isn't the experienced, well equipped 4wder (with or without trailer) that causes the track damage.

As was mentioned in a previous post, I have towed both broken down/abandoned trailers out of the Desert as well as car trailers into & out of the Desert recovering broken down vehicles & I doubt that I would have done any damage to the tracks.

The problem is getting the inexperienced drivers who continually resist the idea of letting their tyre pressures down, to do so.

I couldn't guess at the amount of times I've asked people what tyre pressures they are running & the answer being "Oh, I've dropped them to 22-25psi" those are the tyre pressures that I run on normal gravel/dirt/rocky road!

My "normal" tyre pressures for the Desert are around the 17-18psi HOT mark, when recovering a broken down vehicle I will drop them to around 14-15psi HOT!

The problem with government authorities like DEWNR is that they will only take into account the worse case scenario, that is the people who will not be taught, & the easiest thing for them to do will be to ban trailers in the Simpson Desert.

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Follow Up By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 21:31

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 21:31
Agree Jeff. Every year now for many years I have a similar almost identical scenario unfold at Big Red. I'll give you a typical example. I arrive at Big Red with 7 or 8 vehicles, having done the 1100 or so dunes with no problems. We arrive late in the afternoon to find as many as 10 vehicles having a go at Big Red (Not the most difficult dune in the desert but tough enough when dry". Most are getting stuck at 3/4 mark, some change to high range and take a 500m run-up and still get stuck. I ask if we can have a go while they have a think about it. So off we go, and all vehicles make it first go. I then ask them to all come back down to give their passengers or second drivers a go. Typically someone will come up to me and ask me "what is the secret?"

I say "drop the tyre pressures, to which they reply "I already have" I look at their tyres and say "yep looks like about 27 psi in those" to which they reply "yeah, gee how did you know that? " I dropped them from my normal 40 psi" So I have let them down" I say "try 18 psi", they reply "no way!" I say well mine have been at 18 psi for about 500 kilometres." They reply " I am not dropping them that low, to which I reply, "Well I guess you'll be camping here tonight"

"There must be some other secret" they say.

"What like a special driving technique or something" I ask. I'll show you how much the driver is involved, ": I say.

I jump in my car, put it in Low Range First gear (not optimum gear) and set the hand throttle to 1700 rpm and let out the clutch., then jump out and shut the door. I then climb on to the sidestep and steer through the open window. When I get to the top I shut it down and get back in. Now I am aware of the risks of this, and would not recommend anyone attempt to duplicate this, but I've found it the only way to convince some people.
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Follow Up By: cookie1 - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 22:18

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 22:18
I have literally just got back from the Simpson

The Western faces are bad but not any different to the other crossings that I have done but we went from East to West on this occassion and this was a lot better.

I overheard a conversation from an office worker in Birdsville who was saying that the Queensland side is expected to ban trailers from next year.

The funniest thing is that I came across a few people stuck and I looked at their tyres suggested dropping to 18psi and their reply was that they already were - well I guess they were running 14 ply tyres :-) as they were not bagging out at all and the footprint width was small. The cars that were stuck were not towing but one person was stuck for about an hour.

We ran 18psi H4 all the way and never had any issues - we did engage 4 low when crossing the lake just to be safe


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Follow Up By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 22:51

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 22:51
Misty was going West to East, and I guess it depends on which track she was talking about versus which track you were on. WAA or French Line. Although I spoke of pressures, I always use a footprint method- too hard to explain in my already long previous post so just mentioned the typical pressures.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 08:52

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 08:52
People need to learn when to stop putting their foot down, when you become stuck there is no use trying to dig your way up a dune..... or do they think if they keep their boot in it when they do become stuck they will get themselves unstuck.

Then you get the others who will find a small mud hole and turn it into a BIG mud hole for the fun of it.

The thing that bugs me about trailers is people who have an on highway trailer that they use once and awhile overloaded to the hill trying to take it off road.... and they wonder why it fails.

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Follow Up By: Member - Oldbaz. NSW. - Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 08:52

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 08:52
I towed my caravan from Innamincka to Birdsville a few weeks ago via Walkers Crossing. It was a slow trip but not difficult. I did not
engage 4wd or lower tyre pressure. At no point did I see any signs
relating to towing restrictions or indeed any damage attributable to
towing. I have not done the Simpson, but to draw a parallel with the
Walkers Crossing route would seem illogical......oldbaz.
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Follow Up By: Ozrover - Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 10:18

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 10:18
Good point olcoolone,

When people do get stuck, usually near the top of a dune, they try to power their way out, digging great big holes (lots of them out there).

They need to have the experience (common sense) to resist the urge to just stamp on it, & reverse back down & lower their tyre pressures, try another gear or take an alternate rout if one is available.

The last week I've been away & Dave has had to repair quite a few trailers, welding stub axles, replacing wheel bearings etc...

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Follow Up By: rumpig - Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 10:58

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 10:58
i too towed an offroad camper trailer through Walkers Crossing Track 2 weeks ago, the track was in fantastic condition and it was better then driving on most sealed roads around Central Qld at the moment IMHO. our tyres were deflated on vehicle and camper though, which we always do once we hit the dirt and gravel roads. there was a small section of bulldust holes just past the oil and gas fields as we headed for Birdsville, but you can't blame trailers for that IMHO.
as for Big Red...we went out to watch the sunset off of that dune one afternoon. i reduced my tyre pressures to 10psi rears and 8 psi fronts and drove straight up and over the main lefthand climb on my first attempt (there was a very much less used steeper climb to the left of this main one i will mention, looked like it had been added recently IMHO. it was not there on our last visit back in 2010, and looking at old pics neither was the climb i did either), it's easy when your reduce your tyre pressures as already mentioned above..

BIG RED 2010

BIG RED 2013

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Follow Up By: rumpig - Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 11:01

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 11:01
it may be hard to see in these pics above for some.... 2010 had 2 main tracks over Big Red, 2013 has 3 main tracks and also a faint one to the left of the 3 also
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Follow Up By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 17:58

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 17:58
The left hand tracks on big red started as decent tracks
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Follow Up By: rumpig - Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 21:31

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 21:31
2010 and this year also the track to the right has been the easiest to go up and over, i've heard many people refer to it as the chicken track for those who can't over the ones on the left. the tracks to the left were much steeper to climb, the less used one to the left of what i took was much steeper at the very top again. luckily for us, ourselves and the 2 vehicles with us were the only ones out there at the time, so no worrying about other people coming down towards us whilst we went up. the tracks may have started out that way as you've mentioned, i'll take your word for it as i don't know myself, but they don't seem to be used that way these days.
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Follow Up By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 07:07

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 07:07
Unfortunately I too have heard people describe the original track- the one to the right of the tree as the chicken track. In fact the chicken track goes much further right and is not particularly visible from the bottom. I have attached a photo that makes it quite clear. You can see the original track with it's straight alignment and the traditional kink to the north at the top encountered on almost all Simpson dunes due to the northward progression of the mobile sand at the top of each dune. The less used track to the south is the original chicken track.

Big red seems to attract lots of experts, some of whom have told me I did not succeed at crossing Big Red as I took what they considered to be the Chicken track. It happens because they know there is a chicken track but have not bothered to look for it and assume the original easier track must be it. I show them the chicken track by driving it. I first started ascending the descent track to the north in 2005. Up until then it was little used, and the bottom section was terribly rough. Another type of Big red expert believes he can ascend it with tyres at 28 psi :-)
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Follow Up By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 07:10

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 07:10
Ooops I posted the wrong version of that photo. Here is one with labels.
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Follow Up By: rumpig - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 08:49

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 08:49
interesting to read, cheers for posting that info up.
lastnight i was looking at an aerial photograph i took 2 weeks ago of Big Red (we did a flight out of Birdsville whilst there), and noticed some of the old tracks you don't really notice from the ground like what's shown in that bottom pic you posted. i've never noticed that track you labelled as the original chicken track on my visits out there, but looking at my photo i took from the plane you can see it's still there. if i knew to look for it, i'd likely notice whilst being there i'd guess, buti didn't know of that original chicken track myself until you posted that up.
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Follow Up By: cookie1 - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 13:32

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 13:32
It amazes me how people think they get a gold star or some other medal for doing it at 28psi, or without engaging 4wd or selecting a better gear but hit it hard & fast.

Slow & steady wins the race and does the least amount of damage to the tracks and dunes

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Reply By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 21:14

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 21:14
Hi All,

I can't comment too much as I was not there, but Misty told me that she was quite surprised at the state of the dunes, and she did say many had 4 tracks over them. She also commented on the number of trailers and even a quad bike towing a 4WD! She has done several trips before with me so she knows the desert pretty well. She was very busy between trips, and we had no chance to talk in depth, in fact I said we will chat later when we are both at Batton Hill. She preaches my line with deflation, and even if at 18 psi or similar, she knows that a further 3 psi can make the difference- if necessary, so I have no reason to question her comment. But I was not there. I've now done the crossing 21 times and onlt once felt that the conditions were difficult. That year I assisted three vehicles pulling trailers- some of them were about to turn around and go back. I do not know where the worst conditions were but she did say west of Peoppel so possibly in the WAA, which is the main route for us, but it could also have been on the French line from Lindsay junction to Lake Peoppel. I'll know on the 17th. As Jeff said, deflate deflate deflate, and at the risk of upsetting some- don't tow trailers.
AnswerID: 514755

Follow Up By: Olsen's 4WD Tours and Training - Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 21:54

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 21:54
I've been watching her SPOT track closely. She just did QAA and K1 yesterday and today with an 11am start from Birdsville so that part of the desert is pretty good for sure. She is presently camped in the Gidgea , north of Kilpatha Well, about 50 or so k NNW of Peoppel Corner and about 8 k west of the NT/QLD border.

If all goes well, I will be leaving Townsville on Tuesday morning at 3:30 am to go to Batton Hill- a two day trip. I'll meet Misty there. I'll be around about Batton Hill and Lake Caroline for a few days before heading off to Erldunda.
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Follow Up By: Sandman - Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 20:43

Sunday, Jul 14, 2013 at 20:43
Must say reading this thread does NOT motivate me to get out into the Simpson. When I first moved to Alice I got myself seriously bogged with minimal recovery gear, that was a bugger of a job digging the car out of a hot sand creek bed with only my hands...

4 years later I have no hesitation in letting the tyres down to 10-12psi when needed. Some of these folks buy compressors that have such a poor duty cycle they'd have a thermo-nuclear meltdown if they tried to pump a tyre up from 10psi :-) Must say on one hot day in the Finke river running 12psi I still dropped to the floor pan, maxtrax did get me out very easily...

With the right gear popping a tyre off the rim due to low pressure is just no biggie, relatively easily fixed..

As most have said "when asked what is your secret, let the bloody tyres down like you've never let them down before !"


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