TR: Townsend Spur

Discussion in 'Backcountry' started by Craig D., Jan 10, 2011.

  1. Craig D.

    Craig D. Active Member

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    Went for a bit of a stroll after New Year to burn off some Christmas cheer, and knock over one of Australia's longest vertical descents. We set off from Dead Horse Gap around 5pm on the 1st, and wandered up to the Ramsheads for a look around.

    [​IMG]

    We pushed on a little further and set up camp. Awoke in the morning to strong winds and rain, which (as always) sounds much worse inside the tent than it really is. Soon the rain eased off and the wind dried the tents out nicely. I was quite impressed that my companion's little One Planet Gunyah tent had stayed upright throughout the night, despite the predicted winds of up to 75km/h.

    [​IMG]

    After packing up we set off along the rest of the Ramsheads towards Mt K, stopping in at Cootapatamba and the Rawsons Pass bunker enroute. We were fortunate enough to reach the summit before the tourists started streaming along the boardwalk, however this left us with a fair bit of time to fill in. So we walked along the walking track for a km or two before dropping down to Lake Albina for a leisurely lunch, and a brief foray down to the outlet to check out the start of Lady Northcote's Canyon.

    [​IMG]

    Returning to the packs, it was time for a bit of a climb up to Townsend for a look around. As usual, there was plenty to see up there, including something which seemed strangely out of place…

    [​IMG]

    Headed across to Alice Rawson, then descended down some delightful rocky bluffs to our campsite near the saddle 1km north of the peak. Gathered some water from the nearby creek, and killed some time by going out to the old SMA trig station to the north. From here we could inspect our route for the following day, which didn't look too bad from the top.

    [​IMG]

    Satisfied, we returned to cook dinner and admire the sunset from our wildflower-carpeted campsite.

    [​IMG]

    The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed, admired the view some more and packed up to go. Before leaving I made sure we were both carrying sufficient water for the day, and a little to spare. Last time I walked in this sort of country we were forced to spend a night partway up Watsons Crags with no water, which was not a pleasant experience. We set off at 8am.

    Beyond the trig station we were entering new territory, and the ruggedness of the country immediately became apparent. There was rock-scrambling down bluffs and good amounts of scrub to bash through, some of which pre-dated the 2003 fires. In some places the rocks and scrub combined to create some interesting obstacles. In general the going was slow, and it took us a solid hour to travel from the trig to our turning point, 1km to the west.

    [ [​IMG]

    Near this point the main spine of the spur ends, making it necessary to head north to pick up a secondary spur that would ultimately take us down to the Geehi River. We had to fight through scrub every step of the way, ranging from snowgum regrowth at the top to wattles at the bottom, and a good smattering of blackberries here and there just to add to the unpleasantness. The only item of note we encountered during the descent was this little nest. Does anyone know what sort of bird may have used it?

    [​IMG]

    The dense regrowth made navigation an issue; despite the narrowness of the spur it was hard to tell where the crest was, and we seemed to spend quite a bit of time off on the edge. The previous day I discovered that my poor old compass had lost all its vital fluid, making it virtually useless, and my ancient GPS wasn't up to the task of providing directions because of our slow speed. We had to resort to using the electronic compass function on my companion's altimeter watch, which wasn't a patch on even the most basic bushwalking compass.

    We stopped for lunch at 12:30pm, at around the 900m altitude. It was starting to get warm, so we had a brief siesta before setting off again at 2pm. The last 2.5km down to the river were some of the worst, and it wasn't until 5pm that we spotted moving water. Initially I had hoped for some open river flats along the banks, but this was not to be; we had to drop down a 10m embankment to reach the water's edge.

    [​IMG]

    Here we rested, and I went exploring for a campsite. After a bit of a search it became apparent that the only place to camp was a large rock in the centre of the river. I returned to share the good news with my walking partner, who had recovered sufficiently to suggest we continue up to the Geehi Dam road for the night. Though the concept of spending the night in the middle of the river appealed to me, the thought of reaching some form of civilisation was all too tempting. So at 6:15pm we waded the river (waist deep and quite fast flowing), then set off up the side of the hill. Partway up there was a great view of the potential campsite we had rejected.

    [​IMG]

    Fortunately the vegetation on the northern side of the Geehi was less dense than that which we had come through, but it still took us until 7:30 to climb the 200m to the road. After a short break we decided that the temptation of the cars at Geehi were too much, so we set off along the road. There were some beautiful views enroute, including one of the lower part of the spur down which we had descended.

    [​IMG]

    The rest of the trip was uneventful; we drop packs at the locked gate beside the Alpine Way, walked most of the way to Geehi before being picked up, and ultimately ate a belated dinner with the support crew by torchlight.

    Overall it was a great trip, but not one to be undertaken lightly.
     
    #1 Craig D., Jan 10, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 11, 2013
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  2. Majikthise

    Majikthise Sage
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    My recollections of townsend spur is semi controlled falling through skin ripping scrub.... and we were only going as far as the big scree slope into lower LNC. well done!
    now there is the long up and down spur of the camels hump to consider for your next masochistic urge.
     
  3. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Part of the Furniture
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  4. Bogong

    Bogong Addicted Member
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    Epic day Craig, well done. [​IMG]

    Every report I read of people going down routes like Townsend Spur, Little Bogong or the East Ridge of Feathertop reads like this.

    Occasionally I'm tempted to do them, but reports like that remind me why I should stick to less painful routes.
     
    #4 Bogong, Jan 11, 2011
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  5. DJM

    DJM Dedicated Member
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    Nice one! big effort.
     
  6. Snow Blowey

    Snow Blowey Part of the Furniture
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    Great effort Craig. I take it you got back up to Olsens Lookout or nearby?
     
  7. Graeme

    Graeme Just Registered
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    "Went for a bit of a stroll... LOL"
     
  8. GS

    GS Addicted Member
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    [​IMG]

    Makes me feel very lazy! Top effort, well done.

    The nest looks similar to one we have in our front yard built by some Willie Wagtails. Currently has 3 young-uns in it.
     
    #8 GS, Jan 11, 2011
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  9. Graeme

    Graeme Just Registered
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    Eastern Spinebill nest looks a bit similar too
     
  10. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Addicted Member
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    Well done CD. Done a little scrub bashing up there and it is a bitch.Now like Bogong i avoid it as i am older and weaker (Wiser-Bogong).

    You must have been pleased to get to Geehi River.

    I have been down Lady Northcotes Canyon which is tedious in water out water and along banks to Opera House and apart from falling over little waterfall and landing on feet in rocky pool had good time but this would have been easier than Townsend Spur.

    Think i have been down LNC from Opera House to junction of Geehi and again this was not too bad.

    Other way is via SMA tunnel thro Watsons Crags to Siren Song:but with high water and risk of thunderstorms be careful and ask others before attempting tunnel.

    Tunnel under low water is a winner its quick and cool and can see a little pin point of light most of way.

     
  11. VSG

    VSG Pool Room
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    Very good work, Craig D.

    Townsend Spur.. is that anything like the Hannels route?
     
  12. VSG

    VSG Pool Room
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    [​IMG]
     
    #12 VSG, Jan 11, 2011
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  13. SPG

    SPG Active Member

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    Solid work.
     
  14. telecrag

    telecrag Part of the Furniture
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    Nice one mate. But you went the wrong way, its a climb.
     
  15. VSG

    VSG Pool Room
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    Yep. Going downhill is a PITA. [​IMG]
     
    #15 VSG, Jan 11, 2011
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  16. Craig D.

    Craig D. Active Member

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    Thanks guys. The route we covered is the light pink one on VSG's map. From the river we headed straight up the side to the Olsens Road; somehow we ended up on the eastern side of the little Y-shaped creek just upstream of the Kosciuszko Creek junction, which added another 100m of vertical to the climb and some extra distance on the road.

    telecrrag, you'll be happy to know that I don't feel 100% satisfied with the walk. Starting at DHG is cheating somewhat; we really should have done Hannels on the way up. But time constraints meant we couldn't do it.

    <rant> NPWS really need to reopen the road to Geehi Dam. It prevents access to a whole bunch of decent hard walking country. </rant>

    Is that the one heading along the western side of the Swampy Plain River? Have had my eye on it for a while. If the regrowth isn't too bad it would be a great walk.
     
    #16 Craig D., Jan 12, 2011
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  17. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Addicted Member
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    CD. Is the gate closed at Olsens Lookout the whole year now or are there special reasons(landslips,excessive water still etc.) for its closure. Have walked from Geehi Dam in winter after skiing down from Schlink Pass to Olsens Lookout and its a long way.

    And your right, from Geehi Dam area there is good access afforded to routes on both sides of Valley.

    Havenot been up there for few years now.

    And i am told that "Goat Track" around Watsons Crag is non existent now. [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    #17 Ubiquitous Steve, Jan 12, 2011
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  18. Craig D.

    Craig D. Active Member

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    It's even worse than that Steve, it's closed at the Alpine Way. Apparently there is slope instability so they've closed the road 'until further notice' whilst they carry out investigations and (presumably) rectify any issues.

    A mate and I went up Watsons Crags about 2 years ago and didn't see any trace of the Goat Track.

    How shallow does the water get in the SMA tunnel? It's probably the easiest access to that part of the world these days.
     
  19. VSG

    VSG Pool Room
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    #19 VSG, Jan 12, 2011
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  20. DJM

    DJM Dedicated Member
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    Tough country down there... DM and I tried to follow an old track in 08 from near the lookout down to the river and ran out of time due to heavy regrowth.

    Craig, what can you tell me about the Geehi from the dam down to the Flats on the Alpine way? Or even just from the Crags area down?

    I'll understand if you wont part with the info. [​IMG]

    DM fighting her way through regrowth...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    #20 DJM, Jan 12, 2011
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  21. Craig D.

    Craig D. Active Member

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    Wow, I'm glad we didn't bother with that track when we did the Crags. We basically dived off the lookout platform and plumeted straight down to the Geehi, 400m vertically in 500m horizontally [​IMG]

    The river has a bouldery bed and the valley has steep sides. Up at the base of the Crags there was heaps of blackberries on the banks; it wasn't as bad where we crossed it last week, but they were still there. The river would need another 30-50cm of water to make it raftable I would think; anything less than that and it would be slow going with not much paddling. The issue is that at higher levels all possible campsites would probably be washed out.

    A couple of guys from our bushwalking club liloed the river from Olsens down about 15 years ago. They did it as a two day trip in summer; apparently it was slow going.

    I'll dig out some photos of the Crags trip when my wireless internet connection decides to work.
     
    #21 Craig D., Jan 12, 2011
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  22. Majikthise

    Majikthise Sage
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    that is the one craig... I reckon it could offer some sensational vistas. water would be a concern
     
  23. Craig D.

    Craig D. Active Member

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    Indeed. The only place to collect water looks to be the headwaters of the creek in the deep saddle. I guess you'd walk along the spur until you run out, then drop down to the Alpine Way. Probably easier said than done!

    Here's some photos of Watsons Crags, we did this walk in March 2009.

    View across the Geehi to the Crags partway down from Olsens Lookout

    [​IMG]

    Geehi River. Note the blackberries.

    [​IMG]

    A clearer section partway up. Geehi River down below, Olsens is somewhere in the upper right corner.

    [​IMG]

    Some sections were rocky with minimal vegetation; these were our favourite bits, because it was easy going and there were great views.

    [​IMG]

    View up Lady Northcotes Canyon.

    [​IMG]

    Another rocky section. Some of the trees seemed to grow out of solid rock.

    [​IMG]

    Our campsite for the night was behind this rock. We saw this location on the way up and jokingly remarked that it would be a great place to camp, as it was literally the only place we had seen since leaving the river that you could camp/sleep on without rolling off the edge. An hour or so later we hit the snowgum regrowth and knew that we wouldn't be finding anywhere else to spend the night, so we descended back down.

    [​IMG]

    Here's the tent. We had to remove a bit of scrub to fit it in.

    [​IMG]

    The following day we had to deal with the snowgum regrowth. Eventually we fought our way through it, and I remember being almost overjoyed at the sight of the first blade of snowgrass. Here's a view off the side; Watsons Creek is the first little gully, and the larger one behind it is the Geehi. The road can be seen on the other side of the valley.

    [​IMG]

    The photos make everything look much less steeper than it actually is.
     
    #23 Craig D., Jan 12, 2011
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  24. Ubiquitous Steve

    Ubiquitous Steve Addicted Member
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    Photos are really nice.Pity regrowth is such a bitch.

    First visit up Tunnel from Siren Song.I came over from Olsens Lookout and remember it was hard and was pleased to see a trig on a prominent ridge on other side after Geehi and then hit road shortly after.
    I was lucky that a SMA vehicle came along and they were heading up to end of tunnel and they miraculously gave me ride.
    They drove diesel with great gutso but bottomed on a few boulders a couple times and we had bow wave over windscreen!!Tunnel had a small turn around area just at end for the turn around.
    I got half hour to belt round to Opera House i had to run.Tunnel sthn end is borded up with horizontal
    boards but has ladder to get out and in.Track exists on other side to Opera House and little weir upstream on LN Canyon.
    So my first experince was very easy as got ride back.Later i went back on foot.

    I first walked around Goat Track to Opera house(very first trip into area) on my introductory exploration as i was a bit apprehensive of the **tunnel**thro Watsons Crags.
    And Goat track was a doosey.First time spent night out because couldnot get back in time.Bivvied in Opera House had fire and had comfortable night without any gear.
    Then returned the same route next day.Got lost couple times but track slow going in out of gullies anyway.Wasnot that bad many years ago just long.
    Next visit came to do tunnel but SMA guys made it easy for me.

    Then finally 3rd time to Opera house came in from Siren Song over little concrete causeway for 4x4 entrance and with two torches(back up Matches and candle also)i pushed myself with apprehension into tunnel which is up to mid calf level/cold water and once you start you ganna take about an hour.Water cold so socks boots/woollen trousers,beenie gloves to keep max warmth i started out by myself.
    Now after a short time you round a little corner of tunnell and can see a tiny spot of light ahead.Some boulders in tunnell so need boots.Once in water its wet till you get to ladder at other end.Roomy with lots head room.I hate water i hate caves but Tunnel really was fun!!Go in on 30deg day and its really so cool all way to Opera House no sweating around old Goat Track which now is non existent.
    Dont go byself.Dont go till you have spoken to others or if any possibility of thunderstorms at all.
    Signs i recall prohibit unauthorized use too.But its much fun.
    Now as for lilo drifting i really not sure but suppose it could work on way down.
    Not sure if Opera House still there.Its a real buzz in that little gulley system.6 star rating of all my trips!! [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    #24 Ubiquitous Steve, Jan 20, 2011
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  25. VSG

    VSG Pool Room
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    Experienced bush walkers know that pic shows v steep climbing... heading downhill would be a beech, too! [​IMG]
     
    #25 VSG, Jan 20, 2011
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  26. skifree

    skifree Part of the Furniture
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    Love that pic looking up the Canyon. A trip of hard work by the looks. Nice work.