Rudall River - Darlsen Pinnacle at last (and some serious quad exploration along the way)

Tuesday, Jun 22, 2010 at 00:00


Tuesday 22nd June, 2010
Darlsen Pinnacle
Rudall River National Park

I was up early and got the bulk of the packing done. The top up of the quad cooling system appears to have gone well. The plan was for John and I to scout a route for the vehicles to cover the remaining 7 or so kilometres to the pinnacle. Thus around eight bells I left Outback Al in charge of the dishes,
and headed off with John on the quads. Picking up the remnants of the track I had spied yesterday, we followed it south west to a horrendous river crossing. Crossing, we worked our way along the eastern side of the valley, hard up against the range till we could go no further. Vehicle travel would have been near impossible past this point. Lowering ourselves gingerly down the steep sides of the creek, we pushed on over to the western side of the valley where the going seemed somewhat easier. At this point the valley begins to narrow and veers more to the south west towards the pinnacle. It is still wide but the view of the dome beneath which we were camped, is cut of by the encroaching hills. The positive is that the Pinnacle becomes visible in all its glory and the excitement mounts.

We wound our way along the foothills and rises of the western edge of the valley, crossing the main creek and searching for a route down the south western flank of the Pinnacle. What a way to introduce Jay-dub to one of my favourite places. It was indeed an amazing site. Performing a complete circuit of the butte, we decided that a traverse to the northern side of the pinnacle would be best approach for the vehicles. On the way out we checked the nearby gorge to find the principle waterhole devoid of water. It took us another good hour to scout a route back along the western side of the valley. There were a lot more creek crossings along this route but they were of lesser consequence than those to the east. It was certainly a mixed bag of country on the way home. Sand, steep sided creeks, occasional thick scrub. rocky foothills and open spinifex plains.

It was 10.30 a.m. when we got back and briefed the group. Swapping the quad for the truck, we headed off at 10.45. The tuck truck was out front as I was leading using the Garmin for Navigation having way-pointed many of the crossing points. All the roving about John and I had done looking for suitable crossing places made the going on the Garmin very confusing at times. The end result was getting John out on the quad searching for the wheel tracks we had left on our return journey. The journey was challenging but posed no real difficulty. We were cautious in our approaches and had to scout alternative crossing points in some places. Thick scrub had to be negotiated with just as much care as areas of burnt growth lest a tyre suffer damage. Scotty got stopped once or twice on steep creek banks but a bit of shovel work and spinifex under his wheels had him moving in moments. We had several very rocky stretches but some great sections through the gibber and spinifex covered foothills. We reached the western side of the pinnacle after 2 hours of travel having covered the 7 kilometres in good time.

One last obstacle remained in our path, which was by far the biggest creek of the days travel. It was the principal creek running along the western side of the pinnacle right at the base of the talus slope. It was a very rocky approach along the eastern bank to a point where you could dropdown into the sandy bottom. The opposite bank was again steep but had plenty of deep runnels running lengthways along it. It was all hands on deck to fill or at least soften the depth of these holes with rocks and brush. Out front I cautiously negotiated the rocky bank before easing the truck into the creek and powering up the other side, ploughing a track forward. Everyone else followed successfully, low range 1st having provided all the power they needed. From here is was only a short drive around the eastern side of the pinnacle to the better camping sites. We picked a lone gum to be the communal shade tree and set up camp around it in the lee of the rugged valley walls, the pinnacle to our west. I’ve noticed a bit of an issue with the airbags which will warrant further investigation.

3.00 p.m. saw me itching for a quad excursion so John (with MJ tucked on the back), Scott and I headed south along the gorge to push through to the main gap and scout a possible route out into the next valley. It was a rocky climb through the narrows at the southern end of the gorge climbing to a saddle and then down again into an ever widening valley before finally arriving, an hour later at the floor of the main gorge we’d seen from camel valley heights 2 years previously. A magic view in the fading light and one we took from a quartz covered rise on the valleys northern edge. All the familiar landmarks I recalled from 2008 were there but as the sun was dropping fast, we turned and headed back to camp. We fixed a puncture in the front tyre on the way home and made it back just before 5:00 p.m. in time to enjoy the setting sun around the campfire. Managed to get Brax and Vik on the sat phone later in the evening.

Chicken Korma for dinner with a bottle of NZ sav blanc. We all exhausted so it was off to bed at 8.45 p.m.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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