Larapinta Trail Day 6 – Hugh Gorge to Brinkley Bluff

We are blasted awake by Turtle’s alarm that she forgot to turn off. Not a big deal as we were due to wake up in 20ish minutes anyway, but the noise made me jump a mile.
I get all our things from the mouse-proof cupboard, make coffee and sit up drinking it snuggled in my sleeping bag. Luxury!
We are getting a slightly later start today as we have to navigate through a tricky canyon and headlamp is not going to cut it.
Packed and out, we stumble along in the dark into the river bed in the canyon. Within 20 minutes we are questioning our navigation! It’s very overgrown, lots of flood debris and downed trees, plus boulders and rocks to scramble over. We find what we think is a path and are rewarded with a blue triangle sign up ahead after a few minutes.
As the light grows, it trickles through the canyon lighting up the bright orange walls that surround us. There are a few pools of water in this canyon- the first we’ve hiked past in a while. The light is magnificent, the walls are mind blowing, the words are so completely inadequate. We have an amazing time doing some rock climbing and hopping up and down boulders. We see a rock in the shape of a camel that Turtle tries to call a dingo. Definitely a camel. I decide the canyon is too amazing for silence and it needs an epic classical music soundtrack to walk through! I turn up my phone as loud as it will go but it does a dismal job. Next time I’ll bring a boom box. Boom box for Mozart baby.

Early light in Hugh gorge

The canyon is all over too quickly and the trail continues into a mostly sandy bottom gully. We climb up and over a saddle, then down down down a valley until we are at the foot of our big climb.
It’s just stunning today. There are jagged peaks above me and I try to guess which is the one we’ll be summiting, but this trail always surprises!
It’s one of those perfect climbs where it is a mix of legs and hands and climbing and hiking. It switchbacks up and the sun climbs with me, getting hot so I take a few moments as the trail curves briefly around the other side of the hill into the shade to sit and nibble some dried fruit.

Top of the Razorback


Yew! I’m at the top of a wicked razorback! Steep drop-offs either side, big wind. Just the right amount of “ooooh dear”.  I hike along the top with the beautiful views for a while then bump into some very fresh looking people. They are hiking the opposite direction and will be camping where we were last night. I’m very confused as to how they managed to be so clean. Then I remember that there are LOT of drop off points along the Larapinta, and not everyone attracts dirt like white on rice (like I do). Oh well. I tell myself that looking feral makes me look more hard core, and move my stinky feet up  up up the wicked climb. It’s all loose rock and tiny steps. Any more wind, or any rain and it would be a dangerous spot! So. Much. Fun. 
Climbing down is sketchy, loose rock, steep slopes to step on without much foothold. Bloody gorgeous.

I climb down into the canyon jumping off giant boulders and hopping from big rock to big rock, guding myself down with my hands and scooching along my butt. I reach one giant boulder with a 2m-ish drop the other side. I’m just about to throw my poles down to the ground and jump down after them when I spy I lovely long stick in the sand. A moving stick. A snakey stick.
“Sorry mate. I’ll let you go first.” Mr Snake slides towards me and under the giant boulder. I find another path to go down, and take my time from then on as I don’t want to accidentally jump on any of his friends! Go to sleep snakes, it’s winter time!

Although ‘winter’ doesn’t really apply out here. It’s a hot hot day and I love the little patches of cool shade in between the hot sun. The traditional European concept of 4 seasons was not created with central Australia in mind. Here in the land of the Arrernte people there are 5 seasons and it is currently Alhwerrpa (roughly June – August).

I make it to the Section 3/4 Junction campsite. There is a shelter, water tanks and drop toilet. I fill my water, have a big drink, eat some food and the rinse my bandana with the tank water. I lie down on the platform with my shoes off, the lovely cool bandana covering my eyes and have a glorious nap. I wake and take my time going through my pack and reorganising my food and things. Turtle arrives and after a brief break we start the hike out to Brinkley Bluff with all our water containers full. Brinkley is supposed to be one of the best campsites on the trail. We will get there late, but it’s so nice to hike out in the low sun. It’s still hot and we are sweating bullets climbing, but it is beautiful.
After Stuart flat and up the first hill is when the real climbing starts. Giant stair climbing meets box jumps! It’s a thigh burner for sure. We are hugging the side of the mountain on a skinny switch backing trail. The light is fading fast round us and everything is glowing. With every step the view gets better. We take out our headlamps as the light is not good enough to see, and as we reach the top of the bluff we are treated to the last little glow of deep colour on the horizon, mixed with the first stars.

There are so many people! It takes a while to find a little spot to sleep. I carve out a place and set up my little tarp in case of wind. I can still peek out and see the stars so I am happy! Right at the monument on top, I manage to get some signal and check in with my dog sitter and am treated to a few photos which makes my heart happy. I would love my little fluffy guys to be hanging out with me out here! I send some emails as bats swoop swoop swoop above me. The moon is out and it is bright!  I haven’t done the best job setting up the tarp, but don’t want to re-do the stakes as everyone is already asleep around me and I don’t want to make too much noise. I fear I will regret this.

Today has been amazing! Absolute favourite day. Let’s do it again tomorrow!
Goodnight bats!