Monday 23 November 2009

Climbing The Castle, and the bug apocalypse in Morton national park

Last weekend we made an assault on The Castle in Morton national park, one of the best walks in Australia, and our final preparation for the overland track. It can be done as a day walk if you start early, but we wanted some practice carrying a full pack, so turned it into an overnighter.

We took the Western Distributor to Yadboro on a fairly rough dirt road. I've taken a 2wd (Hyundai Excel!) down that road before, but I wouldn't recommend it. We were in a serious off-road machine and averaged 50-60 km/h, making the trip in about an hour from the sealed turn-off. One of the long gully road signs is down, a map is a good idea.

When we arrived at Yadboro, we opened our doors into an insect apocalypse. I have never seen so many flying things in one place before - we were instantly covered in thousands of small flying bugs. Thank god they didn't bite. All efforts were focused on getting the tent up as soon as possible and then killing the hundreds of bugs that snuck in as we dived through the door. The bugs hitting the tent sounded like rain. I took a photo the next morning of some that were still hanging around.

The campsite was actually really pretty, with fantastic views to the escarpment. I'd recommend staying at this main campsite rather than the small one at the start of the walk to the Castle.

The next day we walked from Yadboro over the Castle saddle to our campsite at Cooyoyo Creek. The approach to the Castle from Kalianna ridge has been significantly improved by a track diversion around the right of the escarpment, cutting out a sketchy rope-assisted scramble.
I had forgotten how scrubby this walk was, and how awkward some of the sections are with a full overnight pack. Here's a short, nausea-inducing video of some scrub-battling.


The traverse around the base of the Castle is particularly awkward, with lots of high steps over tree roots and squeezing between eucalypts. The whole walk is relentlessly uphill. Em put in an amazing effort, and despite wanting to turn around multiple times, stuck it out and made it to the campsite.

Cooyoyo is a nice little campsite of little clearings hidden in amongst trees at the edge of the escarpment, with a great view from a rock slab. It has a pit toilet and good water. My only complaint is that it is a steep 500m downhill from the saddle - a stretch we covered 4 times over the two days.

After setting up the tents, we grabbed some water and headed up the Castle. There is a fair bit of rock scrambling, a natural rock tunnel, and rope-assisted climbing to deal with, but all well worth it for the amazing views. In the photo Byangee walls are in the foreground, Pigeonhouse in the background, with the Castle on the right. The path is fairly well marked with arrows hacked into rocks. After the tunnel turn right and after the large overhang look for 5 arrows pointing upwards.

The next day we walked out to Yadboro, which was much quicker than the walk up. We were glad to get out fairly early since it was perfect bushfire weather - stinking hot and really windy.

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