Sunday, 5 October 2014

PORTO RIDGE

After years of walking and running between Cowan and Brooklyn, I recently looked up at the ridge behind the old Brooklyn dam and began thinking "I wonder if...  From that point I began noticing what might be possible signs that others had climbed up there.  This is where every broken twig becomes a sign that there is a way up.  Surely that means someone has climbed up (usually a wrong assumption though and just wishful thinking).

Of course in this day and age you can also bang a couple of search words into Google and "presto" - you soon discover that others have had the same thought and apparently been doing it for years.  A big thanks to all those who post photos and trip reports. 



Time to dig out the maps and get busy.

I set out from Parsley Bay (Brooklyn) on a nicely humid and toasty day.  The final days of holidays, and nothing better than a nice bit of exploring to round things off. Up the enormous concrete ramp from Brooklyn to the GNW, then time to start scouting for signs of where others may have gone off trail through the bush to Porto Ridge.

A bit of tape tied to a tree ?  Could that be it ? That didn't look too promising.  A nice side trail led me to a nice sandstone shelf and nice views, but dropped me way below the ridge, and no amount of scouting brought any further trail.  So a backtrack to the GNW.
the nice little clear side trail on the left is NOT the right way.  Just some nice views.  Time to backtrack.
No amount of searching brought results.  A lovely bird song had me fascinated, so I stopped and stood whistling back to my birdy friend, and took some photos.  At which point I looked down and saw a good sized rock cairn at my feet, next to a faint but clear trail winding off into the bush.  Thank you little birdy.
My little birdy friend
A nice cairn and a trail.  What more could you ask for (how did I miss it ?)
Off I set.  All rather closed in, but very clear and definite. 

some nice scrambly bits as well
I reached the ridge, and had a view of Peak Hill.  Apparently I was going to be over there soon.
Peak Hill away in the distance
However, reports of snake sightings had me travelling slowly and carefully.  It was such delightfully snakey weather, so I was in no hurry.   Lots of foot stomping.


A few places along the way large sandstone shelves required scouting around to see where the track resumed, but nothing too hard.  One section went west to views over the dam and over the river so another backtrack was required, but then it was on the Peak Hill.
Brooklyn Dam
Peak Hill.  One of those places I have seen for years with absolutely no idea it even had a name, that there was a track, and it was climbable.  I was very curious as to whether the track would go over or around it.  As I plodded along, it soon became clear that the track went straight up to the top.
Peak Hill.  Just follow the cairns
Peak Hill.  Nearly there
A bit of scrambling and mountain goat work, and I was on the summit with 360 degree views.
climbing Peak Hill
climbing Peak Hill
view from Peak Hill over Broken Bay

view from Peak Hill to Mt Wondabyne.  I was there three weeks ago, but that is another blog for another day (A Pacer's Tale - Part 3. Posted soon).
After taking in the sights, I began scouting for a track down the other side.  It was here that things became interesting.  Either I completely missed something, or there is no real track down to Sandy Bay.  I suspect the track out may be walked as a return trip more often than as a trip down to Sandy Bay.  Even getting off the top was a trick and I eventually improvised with a  bit of rock scrambling off the top.  From what I could gather, I needed to slide along the western/ left hand side of the spur to reach the creek leading to Sandy Bay.  However incredibly dense bush and a cliff line made this difficult.  
looking back up at the cliff line
 As I descended, I crossed back and forth across the spur in hopes of striking a track, but I found nothing.  An occasional rock cairn suggested I was doing something right, but absolutely no clearly discernible path.  Just random cairns bearing absolutely no relationship to anything I could see.  Just a reminder that at some point someone else as silly as me had passed this way (which was no great comfort at all).  Reaching a small cliff line, a bit more stunt work and scrambling got me down, but everything was covered in deep leaf litter and my snake alert meter was fully engaged.
I need to get down there somehow
Eventually I hit the small creek.  A dry waterfall was an immediate hurdle, but a bit of bush bashing around to the right dropped me past it, and then it was a simple bit of rock hopping (about 1/2 a km) down to Sandy Bay.
looking down the creek

Sandy Bay emerging through the trees

Sandy Bay with not a foot print in sight
The tide was out, so I had a crack at walking back along the shoreline.  However, land soon ran out, and I was forced to scramble on my hands and knees like a drunk goanna up to find where a trail (I hoped) would head back to Brooklyn.  There was indeed a trail (which next time I will sensibly start at Sandy Bay) and it meandered along to Dead Horse Bay and finally on to emerge at Parsley Bay (Brooklyn) next to the toilet block.  8km, 1 litre of water, a muesli bar and 4.5 hours later, mission accomplished.
 
I tried the shore line but no luck
Parsley Bay.  The track ends just to the right of the cave.  Someone has even painted Dead Horse Bay which I had never noticed before.

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