Crossing the Simpson Desert

Submitted: Sunday, Jul 20, 2014 at 19:25
ThreadID: 108813 Views:3253 Replies:5 FollowUps:8
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Hi community,

I was planning to cross the Simpson Desert East to West during August. Now from what I understand the French Line is the shortest but hardest route. The alternative being WAA Line or Rigg Road.

But I always heard that the biggest (and hardest) dunes are the ones furthest east. Thus once you have the chance to go onto WAA Line or Rigg Road... isn't the worst already over. Meaning that if you have come this far you probably won't have major problems anymore?

I was also told that the road on the western side of the Simpson are very bad gravel roads with lot of punctures. Can anyone tell me something about that?

Cheers

Philipp

PS: Where would you recommend to look for travel companions (other 4WD) so that I won't have to cross alone? Are there other forums that this one around?
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Jul 20, 2014 at 22:40

Sunday, Jul 20, 2014 at 22:40
Hi Philipp,

You are right, the French Line is the shortest route.
You are also correct that the more difficult dunes are to the East, so by the time you get to the WAA Line the worst (or maybe best) is over.

The track from Dalhousie to Mt Dare on the Western side is rock strewn but driven sensibly will not puncture your tires.

As for travelling companions, you may be able to form a relationship with other 4WD's at Birdsville or early in the trip. However, you will hardly be alone as there will be plenty of others driving across during August, including myself.

There are other forums but they tend to deal with specifics such as vehicle matters or caravans. No other forum has the diversity of subjects (and opinions, lol) than this one. Try Googling "touring forums".
Cheers
Allan

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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, Jul 20, 2014 at 22:46

Sunday, Jul 20, 2014 at 22:46
Hi Phil

Please do not believe everything that you hear.

Yes the dunes are bigger in the east, but if you know what you are doing, are prepared to drop your tyre pressures down to a safe 14 psi, the trip is not hard at all, and in fact is my preferred crossing of the Simpson, taking the French Line all the way from the junction of the K1 Line. You will have crossed the largest dunes on the QAA Line section anyway, with the dunes getting smaller in size the further west you travel.

As for the next false facts about lots of punctures on the western side, if this is the case this tells me two important things....

Firstly they have their tyres over inflated

Secondly travelling way too fast.


Cheers



Stephen




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Follow Up By: Mikee5 - Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 13:29

Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 13:29
Hi Stephen,
I run tubed 235/85 16s (10 ply Cooper STs) on split rims.
Do you think 14 is still workable for this type of tyre/rim setup?
I have never gone below 18 before due to fears of tyre creep and pulling valve stems.
Thank you for your valued input.
Mike.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 14:45

Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 14:45
Hi Mike

I have to be honest now, but I have never had anything to do with split rims on four wheel drives, so I hope that someone with experience can answer that question for you.

The aim of a lower tyre pressure, is to give a longer foot print in the sand, making for greater traction. You must also remember that you will only be travelling slow, and approaching the dune in most likely second gear and just slowly driving up the dune face. Every vehicle will have its own perfect gearing and torque, but the aim is to go slow, but not to bog down, just keeping the power on to get up up without digging into the dune and cutting up. In this manner, you are keeping wheel spin to an absolute minimum, thus you should not damage the tune inside your tyre.

It will now be interesting to hear from someone that runs split rims.



Cheers



Stephen
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 16:51

Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 16:51
Mike, I have run both tubeless and split rims on the Troopy. Bridgestone tyres at the moment but Cooper ST's in the past.

The issue of low tyre pressure for sand or mud is the same for each rim type. The intention is to increase the tyre footprint and this is directly proportional to tyre pressure. In general it is safe to reduce to 15psi with appropriate speed reduction and care in regard to lateral forces due to cornering and severe road camber. Around this pressure there will still be sufficient tyre/rim grip to resist tyre creep provided that you do nothing stupid with the throttle or brakes and sufficient to maintain a bead seal. Below 15psi you should perhaps drive even more carefully but in an emergency it is possible to go down to 10psi for a short recovery.

Tyre creep is a lesser likelihood. The greater risk is bead leakage/sand entry with tubeless and tube excretion with tubed splits, but neither of these are likely above 10 psi if driven carefully and at the appropriate speed.

You are likely to need to change your tyre pressure from time to time and therefore need to carry a good quality and capacity air compressor and be prepared to spend the time adjusting tyre pressures.

I generally run at 18psi all round when crossing the Simpson but did need to lower to 15psi to crest one dune at the end of a hot day when the sand was very soft.

A Ranger at Dalhousie told me that he runs at 15psi at all times.

Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Mikee5 - Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 17:41

Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 17:41
Thanks to both Stephen and Allan. Sound advice. I am looking forward to my first crossing coming up soon.
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Reply By: Member - Boobook - Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 06:46

Monday, Jul 21, 2014 at 06:46
On *average* the dunes do get easier as you head west but there are some quite challenging ones on the WAA line, less so on the Rig rd which has many clay capped dunes. The French line's biggest problem is that it so heavily used it is chopped up more than the others. If you are having trouble let the tyres down a few more PSI which can make the world of difference. One good thing about going W-E is you get a training course as you go along and the dunes get more challenging.


The roads on the west can be quite corregated, other than that they are ok.
AnswerID: 536354

Reply By: Member - Duncan W (WA) - Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 at 13:57

Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 at 13:57
Just back from crossing the Simpson west to east. Did French Line to Colson Junction & then down to the WAA Line to Knolls Track and back up to the French Line, Poepple Corner and then out via the QAA Line to Big Red.

Being just after the school holidays the French Line track was pretty much cut up. Camper trailers and high tyre pressures doing the damage. The western side of the dunes were like climbing an escalator that had been turned off. The steps or whoopsy-dos as we called them where painful causing us to stop at the base of most dunes and go back to 1st High and crawl up. Had to back down a couple and start again where I stayed in 2nd gear or was travelling too slow. In the main with our pressures we had no problems. We travelled in the main at about 20Km per hour and getting up to 3rd gear happed only for short spurts due to the continual whoopsie-dos.

Those travelling from the east generally had a long shallower gradient to climb but if the sand is soft the whoopsie -dos will make life interesting, so tyre pressures will need to be a lot lower than what we used.

The tracks running parallel to the dunes are a diddle and a pleasure to drive and even allowed 4th gear.

Oddly enough we found the dunes in the station on the east side of the Simpson NP softer and steeper, one in particular caused me to lower my tyre pressures right down. And we only saw camels on the station and none what so ever in the Simpson.

Ah Big Red, took 4 attempts with tyre pressures down to 10 front and 12 back and 4000 revs by the time I hit the top in 1st High. If that had failed I would have stated to play with low range.

Loved the crossing and had some fantastic camps. we only needed to use our own fire wood at one camp due to a lack of suitable coal building timber.

Fuel used between Coober Pedy & Birdsville (801km) was 150 L for my 1999 75 Series Troopy.

Cheers

Dunc
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Follow Up By: Member - Duncan W (WA) - Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 at 14:06

Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 at 14:06
The road from Coober Pedy to Oodnadatta is a fantastic 110km/hr dirt Rd. From Oodnadata to Hamilton Stn is also pretty good but more windy. From Hamiltin Stn to Pedirka Ruin the track was narrower, corrugated, stony, and a bit rutted. From the ruins to Dalhousie Ruins the track is corrugated but not bad really, and the occasional stony bit. Dalhousie to Punie Bore was more corrugated and with some patches nearly as bad as the famous ABH horror-gations found around Emu.

All in all the tracks/roads are good to reasonable and to call them tyre damaging would be wrong. Those getting damage are either driving blind, distracted, going too fast and have rock hard tyres.

We've just got back from a 7038 Km trip and not even a chip or slice on any tyres.

Cheers

Dunc.
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Reply By: Dr Hook - Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 at 16:17

Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 at 16:17
G'day PGU.
Just got back 2 hours ago!:
Eastbound travellers in School Hols, (towing campers??) have cut up the western approaches on dunes on the QAA and French Lines but approach from the East is very easy. You won't have any trouble.
We went down K1 and Rig Roads - you can land a light aircraft on parts of the Rig Road (just graded to bring in another Rig). Still in excellent condition.
Take Bloods Creek section of track from Dalhousieto Mt Dare, as the direct route from Dalhousie is badly chopped up. (BLoods Creek track to the windmill and then into Mt Dare is only 14kms longer but excellent condition all the way)
We then went back to Oodnadatta via Eringa Waterholes and Mt Hamilton. Passed the grader on the way: the road is better than most freeways from the north of Hamilton Station down to Borefield track (which is also in excellent condition). Only occasional patches of dust where we had to increase distance between vehicles.

As the lady who served me a beer in William Creek said:" The only "4WD" thing about the Oodnadatta Track these days is all the bloody 4WD's on it!"

Perfect weather and bugger-all traffic now School Holidays is finished.
9 whoopies and 2 bikes, 19 blokes, 3,500kms and only 4 tyres (rocky patches on the Birdsville track) and no "yikes": a great trip!

(I have softer-wall Bridgestone Desert Duellers, and on 18 psi still managed to take 2 rocks through the side-walls (we weren't travelling fast ; nor were we overloaded) whilst the mates on other tyres, at 25+psi had no trouble with traction or rocks.)

Cheers and have a great time;
Dr Hook.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 at 17:25

Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 at 17:25
Whoopies??? Haven't heard that in a while Doc.
Did you work for Santos?
Cheers
Allan

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Follow Up By: Dr Hook - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 16:39

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 16:39
Allan:
Nah: its an old Army term my Dad taught me, as a kid. (He was in the 9th Division Cavalry, then later reformed as a Commando Regiment, in WWII.)
Definition of "Whoopie": what the kids in the back yell out, when you go over a big sand dune.

Dr Hook (or just plain "Hook")
Cheers
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 18:19

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 18:19
Much the same at Moomba too. It became a pseudonym for the vehicle....... "Where did you park your Whoopee?"
Cheers
Allan

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