After a 3.5 hour drive, including 20km of slow slippery four-wheel driving down Emu Creek Road with it’s seven creek crossings, I parked the ute, slung my pack on my shoulders and set off to find the Lincoln Bomber and camp at Mt Superbus South Peak. The title of this post should alert you to the fact that I didn’t quite succeed in that mission. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a fantastic weekend of mountain exploration.
I couldn’t drive the whole way to the end of Emu Creek Road due to some deep crossings. That just meant I could start my walk by listening to the water gurgle its way downstream through the rocks. I also had to negotiate a few creek crossings.
The instructions I had for the hike (written in 1991 but still used by many walkers) said to follow Emu Creek Road until I reached a fork. It said the left side would head downhill and to take the right side. I reached a fork in the road. The left side went downhill. So I followed the right side a couple of hundred metres until it ended.
The route instructions said that there should be an old logging track leaving the end of the road. I didn’t see any real tracks but put it down to the instructions being over 20 years old. There’s been some very wet seasons here in southern Queensland over the past few years and that would naturally lead to a lot of regrowth. That was my first mistake. The second mistake was that I didn’t listen to my brain when I saw that the ground didn’t match the map. It rose too steeply. The Steamers’ Prow was directly opposite me. There were cliffs high up to my left. None of that should have been there.
But still I pressed on. I know it’s because I am still insecure in my own navigation skills so I rely on other peoples’ advice (including the old route instructions). I need to stop doing this. But that’s just a lesson I’ll learn in time. At least I’m not over-confident.
So I climbed and climbed. I hiked directly uphill like I would have if I were in the right place. It was too steep to be right, but still I climbed. I climbed for about an hour until I reached the base of a rock face. It wasn’t quite a cliff but just a big pile of really big rocks. I starting to scramble up them but then looked down and saw that I was exposed. I’m not that good with heights of exposure so decided to call it quits. Then I looked at the map and realised that I was totally in the wrong place – I was exactly where the map said there were ‘rock faces’. So I stared to descend.
The benefit of being in the wrong place was that I had fantastic views of The Steamers. This iconic group of outcrops are rarely due to the difficulties in accessing them and there are no marked tracks to visit them. But, from my vantage point up on the unnamed mountain, I could enjoy their magnificence to my heart’s content.
I made my way back down the mountain to the end of the road where I had started. On my way down, I found a creek line that was amazing. It didn’t turn out in my photo but the creek line was about 20m wide and up to 5m deep. It was like a massive wall of water had once forced its way down the mountain. I suspect it happened during the 2011 floods, which is consistent with the level of regrowth. There were huge trees that had fallen over and there was grass high up in the trees that remained. It was truly epic and would have been scary at the time.
Back at the end of the road, I tried again. This time I turned more to my left to head up a spur. Again I ended up under the cliffs but this time they were proper cliffs, not rock faces. At this point I admitted my initial mistake and located myself on the map. Trouble was, it was a long way across to where I wanted to be and I didn’t want to descend and climb again. The 16kg pack was starting to get really heavy. Besides, I still didn’t know that my starting point was wrong – I just thought I was walking off too far to the right.
I started to contour around the mountain, hoping to find a way to get to the area I was meant to be walking. Along the way, there was a deep gully I had to cross. It was quite sketchy and the only way out of the other side was up a slippery watercourse. The rocks and scrub underfoot was precipitous, and the angle was almost vertical. I was grateful that I threw a length of Telecom rope into my pack at the last minute because I could take off my pack, scramble up and then haul the heavy load up behind me.
I kept contouring my way around the mountain. It took hours and still I didn’t get anywhere near where I was meant to be. The ground steep and sketchy but the views were amazing all day. While I wasn’t where I wanted to be, I was never lost because I could see the Steamers and knew that all I had to do was scramble back down the mountain to reach the road. See, I’ve only this year started to really get into map and compass navigation so I am trying to practice in places with defined boundaries so that I always have an escape.
At about 2pm, I passed a small flat space on the side of the mountain. It was perfect for camping. So I took note of where it was and took a photo of the tree line at that place in case I needed to come back to it (which I did). I continued on my trek around the mountain. After about 20 minutes I came to a big rock field. It was eerie: the rocks were not covered in moss and there were huge crevasses between some of them. The field was probably 50m wide and it was quite a challenge to cross it. Once across, I could see that I was still not even close to getting past the steep cliff-topped section of the track and it was getting close to 3pm.
I decided to err on the side of caution and return to the campsite I’d seen. It was a huge confidence boost when I found it easily amongst the trees and rocks. I set up camp in the afternoon sun and settled back with the book I’m reading: Pemulwuy.
Then it was time for food. I carry all my meals in labelled clip lock bags. I have to say that I am not a fan of the new zippers that Glad have put on their bags so this is definitely not an advertisement for that brand.
First was coconut curry soup: coconut milk powder, vermicelli, freeze dried peas, dried Chinese mushrooms, dried fried shallots, ginger powder, stock cube, garlic granules and curry powder. Just add water, boil and eat.
After reading a few more chapters of my book, I made my main meal, ginger noodles: dried egg noodles, freeze dried vegetables from the Backcountry range, stock cube, ginger powder and soy sauce. Just add some water, boil and eat. It would have been better with some beef jerkey in it so I might add that for my Great North Walk hike.
Finally, just before retiring to the warmth of my tent, I mad some hot chocolate custard. This is my mum’s recipe and one of my top five favourite foods: 1/2tbs cocoa, 1tbs cornflour, 1 1/2tbs sugar, powdered milk and 300ml hot water. Mix well, bring to boil and allow to thicken.
It was a bit cold last night up in my mountain camp. Not snowing cold but still cold by my soft subtropical standards. I ended up in my thermal long johns and top, trousers, socks, t-shirt, 100 weight fleece, Goretex jacket, buff and beanie. Suffice to say, I didn’t stay out in the cold for long – my bed called me so I curled up in my sleeping bag and settled in with my book as the moon rose.
I slept fairly well despite being on a slight incline. I did have some strange experiences of the mountain rumbling under me. I think perhaps the rocks in the rock field aren’t as stable as they seem and that some might have fallen during the night. Who knows. I did have something large bump into me too – perhaps a wallaby or something. But other than that, I slept well listening to the wind in the trees.
I woke early, read a bit, watched the sky turn orange over The Steamers and cooked up a gourmet breakfast porridge: oats, mixed dried fruit, sugar, cinnamon, ground almonds and powdered milk. Add water, bring to boil and eat while hot.
Then I set off up the mountain to explore my location and get a better feel for the place. I left my tent and pack at camp, and scrambled up to the base of the cliffs. I followed them around until I came almost to the end. I saw a blue tag in a spot where it was probably possible to scramble to the top of the plateau and I did start. But then I realised that I’d have to find a way down, so I decided no to continue. I really am not that good with heights when I’m alone (I can do it when I follow someone though).
I had a ball of a time. Especially because mornings in the mountains are just so spectacular. The air is clear, the views are always magnificent and the contrast between the cool shadows and warm sun is delightful.
But it isn’t just the big views that I love so much. It’s also the simple things: the soft flowers growing in the cliff face.
And a patch of paper daisies growing up high on a ledge. So high that this photo was the closest I could get with my 5xoptical zoom on my camera.
I went back to camp and packed my gear before setting off down the mountain. Overnight I worked out exactly where I was and where I’d taken the wrong track. So I set off to where the road I should have taken was. I took a route that led me to a nice open spur that made the going easy.
Then, almost by magic, I found a well-trod track up the mountain. I followed it for quite a way until I reached a small campsite that had obviously been used. Some grot had left their toilet paper lying around the campsite instead of burying it or packing it out. From the campsite, the track disappeared but I knew that it must make it’s way up along the cliff line because I saw a tag up there in the morning. I tried to find my way up there, but with the weight of my pack it was just too sketchy and I didn’t want to end up like the guy in 127 Hours so I tracked back down. Besides, I knew that I didn’t have to climb the cliffs to get to Mt Superbus and the Lincoln Bomber.
I retraced my steps and followed the track back down the spur until it reached a clearing near Cryptocarya Creek. Here I saw the obvious old forestry trail and another trail heading up along Cryptocarya Creek past a National Parks sign. This trail is very well walked and actually matches the map (not like my attempts yesterday to make the land match the map).
The track took me into the rainforest. This was more of what I was expecting from the topography that I was meant to be traveling through and also from other reports of the track. Unmaintained rainforest tracks can be tough to follow, especially after a few good years of rain. It’s surprisingly challenging to lift tired legs over vines without tripping (fortunately I managed) and to squat down under fallen trees with a heavy pack. But that’s nothing compared to the effects of stinging nettle. I’m going to start walking with gloves in the rainforest in future because the stinging nettle isn’t much fun.
The track through the rainforest was muddy. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid the mud so I just traipsed straight through it.
I followed the trail for about 40 minutes before turning around and heading back. I could have kept going but the walk to the Bomber is a long hard full day and it was already 11pm when I turned around. With a 3.5 hour drive home after the hike, I decided to stick with my turn around time so that I could get home on time to clean up and have dinner with my partner.
I set off on Saturday morning to do a recce of the Lincoln Bomber hike that we’re taking our Scout troop on. I didn’t quite make it to the Bomber but I did find the track and also found an easy-to-make wrong turn. Not to mention the fantastic campsite and views.
And just to finish this post. Here’s a short 15 second video clip that I took so that you could hear the bell birds ringing through the valley.
Total: 10 hours strenuous hiking over two days with 16kg pack. Distance unknown but probably about 15km.