Rudall River - A day of Exploration and Discovery (Hidden Valley, Pyramid Point & Valley of Caverns)

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 00:00

Mick O

Saturday 19th June, 2010
Desert Queen Baths, Rudall River

This is why I love this place. I’ve had a day of chores, some quading and walking and made some great new discoveries along the way. It was a windy night with the awning flapping about. I had a load of washing to do, 20 days worth in fact so that was the first order of the day. I used Scott’s gas heater to warm up a couple of buckets of water. Figuring that a bucket just wasn’t going to cut it in terms of quantity, one of the plastic storage tubs became the impromptu wash trough. Trees were at an absolute premium for a clothes line but I managed to find a couple to string a couple of lines between. It looked quite impressive to see nearly 3 weeks of jocks and socks stretched out. A good hour or two’s work.

Being chores day, I also got stuck into a bit of a stock take and rearrangement of the contents of the ute, particularly the food. I wasn’t alone in that area with Michael J inspecting the contents of the mobile supermarket. By the time this was all squared away it was lunch time. I had decided to take the quad out after lunch exploring to the west . There is a valley only a couple of kilometres short of the DQB that has an incredible number of caverns and I had been meaning to explore it for some years now. With the undergrowth still recovering from the 07-08 fires, it seemed the appropriate time so off I headed.

It was only 1.4 kilometres back west along the track to a creek crossing. The caverns were visible to the south. From there it was 700 metres along the creek and around the edge of the preceding low hills to a point that I could proceed no further on four wheels. Leaving the quad in the shade of a eucalypt, I climbed around the boulder choked creek and started upwards.

This oval shaped catchment falls onto a plain area, that is actually the floor of Cavern Valley and is elevated above the surrounding plain of the Broadhurst Valley. While predominantly flat and possible 300m x 100 metres in size, this area runs roughly east-west and is surrounded by red jagged ridges on all sides. These ridges form a low spot on the north eastern end where the water drains out into the Broadhurst valley. The water then drops through a boulder chocked creek and drops in to the main creek which flows out into the Broadhurst Valley proper. It’s hard to describe and hopefully the photos will give more of an indication than my verbal one. To the east, the high walls of the surrounding hills fold around ( 22°27'23.17"S 122°15'0.26"E ).

The walk up the western end of the plateau provided a gradual rise up a gully, the obvious path of water from the heights. It gradually became steeper as you progressed towards the top. Again there were a few sizeable caverns up here that while probably a bit small for comfortable human habitation, no doubt provided adequate shelter for local wildlife. Some great photo opportunities at the very least and the view out across the dry, arid expanse was more than worth the climb. To the south, a great number of caverns existed on the steep upper reaches of the ridge. In many cases it appeared as if slabs of sandstone had dropped out leaving overhangs. In others, the softer substrate had been eroded by wind and water. In either case it left an impressive array of caverns and caves of various sizes.

Walking down the northern ridge I crossed the plateau again and made my way to the eastern end. Here vast slabs of sandstone jutted vertically from the ground like giant knives and fins. It was an amazing geological phenomena. It appeared as if the sedimentary layers had been turned vertically by some upheaval long ago in the geological history of the area. The thin layers jutted out at various angles from vertical through to almost horizontal. I’ve not been able to identify a name for the formation but I’m sure the morphology of the area would provide some clue. It made for very careful footwork though on the climb up let me assure you.

I had decided to examine one of the largest caverns. This was situated about half way up the southern ridge at the eastern end of the plateau. Climbing into its welcome shade, I found that it had been formed as the chalky substrate and a loose conglomerate had been eroded out from underneath a harder layer of sandstone. There was evidence of animals having used the cave but nothing to indicate past human habitation. I’d imagine its location and the scarceness of a ready water supply would make it an undesirable shelter. It did provide good views though and a place to rest a while out of the heat of the early afternoon before heading back down to the quad.

After some more tidying up in the afternoon, Gaby and I took the quads out to explore east along the Broadhurst Range. Two years previously we had located the remains of a track that had been uncovered by the fire that headed this way. I had also heard rumours of a cave with aboriginal art somewhere east of DQB so we thought we would try and add some substance to that rumour.

The ground closest to the Broadhurst Range is crisscrossed by streams and gullies forcing you to search for easier going out towards the centre of the valley. Most of the valley floor here had suffered as a result of the fire but there were still very large clumps of original flora remaining. Within three kilometres of camp we spotted a group of camels slowly mooching their way east. A large bull with 4 cows in tow. We followed them a long for a while and then found the first significant opening into the range. It was more of a rocky gulley that led up into a circular shaped region where the wall of the range had subsided in the distant past. As the slabs of rock had sheered away and tumbled into the valley, it had left a large expanse of rock in the form of a wall. Feeling that this would provide an excellent site for a gallery, we decided to check it out. This involved riding the quads as far in as we could and then completing the last and steepest sections on foot. The sheer rock face was some 30 metres in height and there were a series of caverns at it’s base formed by the wind eroding the chalky substrate. One could easily detect how the winds of time were excavating this little gorge, successive layers of the cliff face tumbling away as they were undermined. The chalky nature of the underlying rock (and easiest to get to) meant that it would not support an art site though. Despite a good search we failed to locate any sign of art or petroglyphs.

On the walk back to the quads, the high vantage point brought some massive sand dunes into focus to our north. These would otherwise have been hidden from view by a low, scalloped range on the other side of the valley. From our elevated position here we could clearly see what appeared to be a monstrous dune, visible through a rift where the ridge had eroded away, leaving a gap of several hundred metres. It was simply to interesting to be ignored so Gabster and I headed north across the valley floor to investigate. Negotiating the various copses of thick scrub, we crossed the Rooney Creek and climbed onto the stony rises on the other side and entered the gap. On mounting the first sand hill, we were greeted by the amazing site of another two giant dunes to the north between us and the rocky Miles Ridge. It was an remarkable site and one I likened to staring across ocean waves of ever increasing height. The farthest dune appeared to be not much lower than the Miles Ridge itself. The three dunes ran roughly east west and seemed to converge at the western end. Gab and I headed across the intercostal and up the second dune, well I did anyway. Gaby had a couple of shots at it before finding a less steep route (ha ha and all captured on video). We then followed the ridge top west, the quads leaving ribbons of track in the pristine sand.

Like the tines of a ancient trident the three ridges converged to a single point, almost meeting the walls of theMiles Ridge. Here the sand hills were at their highest and seemed almost as high as the surrounding ridges. The sand all but choked the narrow pinch between the main ridge or northern wall of the valley and the scalloped ridge to its south. These two parallel ridges formed a second, hidden valley that you could not detect from the main Broadhurst Valley. From the top of the Sandhill, we got a magnificent view right along this hidden valley as it stretched away to the west. Immediately below our eyrie, the ridge jutted forward, its point forming a pyramid like pinnacle. To the left (south) ran the hidden valley and to the right, a shorter gorge also ran into the Miles Ridge, also in a westerly direction. The third sand hill ran off to the east parallelling the rocky wall of the ridge. We were just amazed with everything that lay before us. Given the time of the day though, we decided to head back and let the crew know of our discoveries with a view to mounting a proper expedition tomorrow. Reluctantly we slid our way down the dune front and then back out through the gap into the Broadhurst Valley and made our way the 3 odd kilometres back to the DQB campsite collecting a bit of firewood on the way.

In accordance with Rudall etiquette, we adjourned to 3 Goannas Pool for the evening ritual of Horses-Doovers and a refreshing beverage. Another magic day in the wilds of Western Australia that’s for sure. Dinner was was a crappy attempt at stir fry noodles for Al and I as the Canadians had a better offer and dined with MJ on FreyBentos pie and vegies. Thankfully he served them brussell sprouts so that will teach them to be dinner tarts.

''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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