Karlamilyi (Rudall River) - To Darlsen Pinnacle from the South - An ATV (Quadbike) Adventure!

Thursday, Jul 05, 2012 at 00:00

Mick O

Thursday 5th July, 2012


Todays mission was to scout a possible route to Darlsen Pinnacle from the south. What in the hell were we thinking? It was a beautiful morning with the moon setting above the small hill to the west. The topknot pigeons and galahs were in for water early. There had been an intermittent screech or two during the night from an unidentified bird/animal. A jaffle for brekky and then a few chores and preparation of the quads for todays expedition and we were off.


I’d given john a GPS point for the mouth of the wide gorge to the south east of Darlsen. This is the gorge we explored last year that contains the shark fin and from which you can access Camel Valley. From our camp at Tjarra Pool we were to head on a bearing of 308 degrees for 10.5 kilometres, scouting a route that a larger vehicle could use. Straight away we found ourselves veering more to the north to avoid a large range of rocky hills. It was rugged country and thick with old growth spinifex. It didn't take long to reinforce my previous observation that the quartzite areas are the easiest to travel. They are largely devoid of the jagged sandstone schist that could play merry havoc with the quad tyres.

There were many creeks to be negotiated, some with banks that were sheer and several metres high. Our bearing took us straight towards a range of hills with rocky prominences jutting out so we decided to steer more northerly towards the south eastern ramparts of the Throssell Range. This sheer wall stood spectacularly in shades of mauve green and brown with the rising sun behind it. Along the base of these ramparts ran a creek and it was along this water course that we found ourselves travelling. I tried several times to veer back to the west but was forced back down in to the valley due to the harsh, rocky conditions. We found ourselves nestled closely to the base of the northern ramparts following the creeks in a semi circular fashion around to the south west. It would have been possible to negotiate with a vehicle but it would not have been a trip for the feint of heart. (If you were worried about pin striping the Prado and T-van, well this would not have been the drive for you).





Eventually I spotted a shallow valley running up through the low hills, the southern wall of our valley forming the background seen through the gap. All notions of vehicular access went out the window as we negotiated the narrow confines towards the top of the valley. At one point, I felt a knock to the back of my leg above the ankle and thought I had got hung up on a stick. Glancing down to my left that certainly appeared to be the case so I kicked out to dislodge it. It was then that I realised that the “stick” was actually stuck to my strides by two fangs and a set of teeth! The offending wriggle-stick dropped off even before the shock of realisation sank in. From the colouration I’d suggest a Woma or Black Headed Python but as I really only got a glimpse of the body I couldn’t be sure. Wisely, I always wear high cut GP style boots out here. That plus the thick canvas work strides ensured that there was never any real danger given the area of the lower leg in which the snake struck.



Winding and often forcing our way through overgrown creek beds we finally emerged from the hills and into the wide valley about one kilometre west of the gorge used to access camel valley. We had arrived at our waypoint in a more round-about way than intended and I don’t think we would have made the journey in any type of vehicle short of following a D9 bulldozer. This is the joy of an ATV for exploring the remote country.


Once inside the wide floor of the valley, it was a matter of relying on memory to identify landmarks and the access point for the valley containing Darlsen Pinnacle. Any mistake here could see us enter the labyrinth of gorges and narrow clefts running off into the Throssells meaning a lot of hardship for little gain. Recognised an area, we rode across some low hills and were rewarded with the familiar sight of a narrow, twisting valley heading away to the north....we were in the pipe! It goes to show how low impact the quads in even these delicate arid environments as there were few signs of our passing through the area only two years ago, despite having used the track frequently while exploring the area. With a few false starts here and there but we eventually negotiated our way to the high pass. Again our memories of the conditions did not match the on ground reality. The rocky climb would have taken serious earth works to get a vehicle through. The camels had made it easy for us though as we followed a well worn camel pad between the valleys.


Negotiating the high pass we descended down the stony slopes, through a few more creeks and gulley’s to be rewarded with our first glimpse of Darlsen. It lifted the spirits and made us impatient to get there. As the gully became a gap and finally a wide floored valley, we negotiated the last of the many creeks and arrived at our camp site of 2010. A glint of silver drew my attention immediately and about 60 metres away we found our original note jar...how odd. In 2010 we had left a note etched in thin aluminium inside a jar. The contents were further protected from perishing by wrapping reflective aluminium foil around the inside. The lid was then wrapped solidly with gaffer tape. It seems that the scent from the freshly washed pasta sauce jar must have been to alluring to a local dingo. It was apparent that an animal has removed the jar from underneath the cairn of loose rocks and chewed off the gaffer tape trying to get to the contents. Frustrated he left it out in the open, the sun and weather of the past two years, getting rid of any last trace of food odour.



] Boiling the billy we had lunch under the tree. Our outbound journey of 20 odd km had taken nearly three hours. A few photos and the investigation of our campsites revealed little trace of our passing. The vehicle tracks to the north could be barely discerned but other than that, the rudimentary pile of rocks under the tree was all that remained to mark our passing.

At 12:30 p.m. we began the return trek and once in the main valley, decided to avoid the hills or earlier route and head out onto the plains to the south. While greater in distance, it took us out onto the vast quartzite plains and low hills so characteristic of the southern reaches of the park. There were plenty of hills to be negotiated but all went well, finally dropping into the Watrara Creek just three kilometres west of Tjarra Pool. Our explorations located another good sized but shallow waterhole as well as giving me a chance to use the winch on the quad for the first time as somewhat embarrassingly, I managed to ramp it out on a hummock of sand in the creek bed. We stopped to pick up a bit if firewood on the way back and arrived back to find three young couples in their vehicles making a decision on staying. They opted to head off despite invitations to stay. I cooked up simple fare for dinner as I’m not feeling 100%. The skin irritation has intensified around the neck and body and that with the lack of sleep from last night has left me feeling poorly. A glass of red by the fire on a very still evening and I took my leave of my companions at 7:00 p.m. and hit the sack. In have hit the rash with metho to see what that does. It stings to high heaven but stops the itching for a while at least.



''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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