February 21, 2005

Moonlight Ridge Trip - 3 Days

Marian Harradine

21st February 05

The start of the walk is past Lune River towards Ida Bay, turn right at South Lune Road and drive for about 4km till you come to a road junction. Turn left and drive a little way to the end of the road to a car parking area and a registration hut.
We left home at 7.20 am, our backpacks each weighing 13.5 kilos, which included a 1.25 litre bottle of water inside the top of each. We arrived at start of the walk at 9.05. There was a lyer bird to welcome us and another one in nearby bush in full song mimicing an array of birds.
We were intending to walk up to Moonlight Creek ( 8km ) and camp there for two nights and do a day walk tomorrow to Pigsty Ponds (6km) and Mt La Perouse.
We got on our way at 9.27, the track starting up behind the registration hut. It was a wide track that used to be a railway line and pleasant walking. Just before we crossed Mystery Creek on stones, at 9.44, the track narrowed and a few minutes later we were at a quarry. The Mystery Creek Cave is along a track to the left of the quarry. The track up to Moonlight Ridge and the Southern Ranges goes to the right of the quarry and soon starts climbing up behind the quarry, continuing on up through rainforest interspersed with very tall eucalypts and well worked over by scratching lyer birds. We climbed steadily for about 40 minutes when the track curved around the top of a ridge. We continued down a little and then along a more level area, still in bush and somewhat muddy in places for about 20 minutes before again climbing steadily for another 40 minutes through more rainforest.
By then it was 11.30 and we came to a nice little camp site, sheltered by tall ti-tree, except there was no water nearby that we could see. Soon we were climbing again through tall ti-tree and came to the top of a ridge where the scrub was lower and more open and after 15 minutes more climbing we could see views towards Southport to the east. Soon after that we came into lower scrub and cutting grass and button grass and some muddy spots and only slightly climbing.
At 12.30, three hours from the start we passed a few small tarns on our left with lovely reflections. This was the first possible drinking water we saw since Mystery Creek at the start of the walk. We noticed that a mist was rolling in up ahead of us in the direction we were heading. From then on the track was quite muddy and regularly covered with water as well.
We took our time as we had plenty of that and stopped for lunch at 1.15 for half an hour. The track got worse for the next 20 minutes before reaching Moonlight Creek which we did at 2.05. So actual walking time, without hurrying, was 4 hours and 10 minutes from the car park.
There was a sign there saying track work was in progress and asking us to stay on the marked track. There were new wooden stakes with orange markers there but no sign of any track work except a few upright boards which were intended to direct the water off the track, but which did not succeed too well in that.
We found a nice little spot just big enough for our tent, near a quiet part of the creek, and set up camp. There were a couple of other sites but one looked a bit bumpy and not very level and the other quite soggy. By now the mist had come down and cut visiblily to about 20 or 30 meters. It was very mild though and quite pleasant and so peaceful there.
We felt like a bit of activity later in the afternoon so we followed the track up further, in the mist, to see where we were going to go tomorrow and found that some track work had indeed been done especially when we came closer to Hill 1 about 20 minutes up the track and found some wooden steps and a few short lengths of boards to walk on and some good steps made out of rock further up. We walked up the hill and noticed the track skirted the western edges of the large plateau on top of Hill 1, no mud, but quite squelchy in parts, and clearly marked.
We returned to camp, cooked our meal and had an early night after a refreshing bucket wash in the warmth of the evening sun, the mist having suddenly lifted at about 6.30 and Hill 1 now visible. We were in our sleeping bags soon after 7pm, What a luxury, looking out and enjoying the evening from our litle Bike'nHike tent, out of reach of the mosquitos.

Monday 22nd February

After a starry clear night, morning started clear too and we were on our way in sunshine with our day packs at 7.38.
We were intending to walk to Pigsty Ponds and then go up Mt La Perouse where we hoped we would get some good views in all directions and photos.
By 8.20, when we were up Hill 1, walking around the edge of the open plateau we were enjoying fleeting views of Wellington Range in the far distance, Adamson's Peak, Hartz Peak and Mt. Snowy, Mt Bobs, Mt Picton, Crest Ridge and Mt Hopetoun and of course Federation Peak and nearby Mt Alexandra with Precipitous Bluff in the distance behind Mt Wylly and Mt Victoria Cross and also the top nob of Pindars Peak. It was only fleeting though as the mist or cloud was rolling up from the lower areas and soon we were walking in mist again. We were descending Hill 1 by 8.32 and found about 300 meters of boardwalk on the saddle between Hill 1 and Hill 2, Table Top Ridge.
We sidled around the muddy track along the scrubby northern slopes of Hill 2 and by 9 am were on the saddle between Hill 2 and Hill 3. This was partly boarded and partly a fan out area. We sidled over the north western side the open rocky top of Hill 3 and got to the saddle between Hill 3 and Hill 4 by 9.25. We were crossing over the flat rocky plateau that was the top of Hill 4 at 9.30. The easy open cairned route continued down a little before climbing over another lower hill when it starts descending to Pigsty Ponds, which we could see from Hill 4 as well as the Reservoir Lakes, which look like reservoirs, hence their name.
We reached Pigsty Ponds at 10.10. It looked quite pristine, a lovely area with Maxwell Ridge towering above it. This was our first place for drinking water since leaving Moonlight Creek. At 10.25, after filling our bottles in a small stream we followed the obvious track on the other side of the stream which soon climbed up a large rocky cairned hill. Ten minutes later we saw a large arrow made of stones, pointing to Mt La Perouse and deviated from the main track in a south easterly direction, following either track or cairns, depending on whether we were on rock or scrub. It soon starts climbing up after going down a little, and thirty minutes from the arrow, we had a rest on top of a ridge which would have had good views but the only views we saw was the lower part of Maxwell Ridge and Pigsty Ponds.
We continued on and at 11.30 we came to the huge square cairn on top of the large plateau that is the top of Mt La Perouse. The mist gave no visibility past 30 meters unfortunately. I walked for a further 5 minutes to the southern other end of the plateau where there were steep cliffs and a bit of misty vegetation below, but no South Cape views. I needed the compass to help me find my way back to the cairn. The walk up to Mt La Perouse was so easy we thought that in the Peak Bagging count it would probably be only worth 2 points, but on our return home were very surprised to see it was worth 4 points. We have worked a lot harder on other peaks for less than that! Mt Olympus is worth only 3 points for example.
We had lunch and wandered about, hoping for the cloud to lift, before deciding to leave at 12.50. Ten minutes after leaving the skies suddenly cleared above us and we got some views, spectacular ones of Pindars Peak, quite close to the south west, but also of the hills we had crossed over this morning and The Hippo, and The Cockscombe and Maxwell Ridge also Precipitous Bluff in the distance behind Mt Wylly and Mt Victoria Cross.
We stopped for a while hoping it would clear more for some good photos, but it closed in again so we continued on at about 1.25. We reached Pigsty Ponds at 2.15 and sat in the sun on the edge of one of the larger ponds for a while before leaving at 2.30 to return to Moonlight Creek. We arrived back there at 5.15. In spite of the mist it had been a very pleasant day, no rain and no wind. Apparently Moonlight Ridge can be quite exposed on a windy day. The mist was starting to become a very light drizzle as we got back to camp.
We found two Victorians, who had set up a tent on the soggy camp site, who were on the first night of a ten night trip, including an ascent of Precipitous Bluff and going back via the South Coast Track.
We cooked our tea and had a bucket wash before enjoying another early night in the tent. I decided to get up early the next morning if the clouds had cleared to go up Hill 1 for some photos.

Tuesday 23rd February

The day dawned clear so I got up and went up Hill 1 at about 6.20 am. It was worth the trip up, as the views were good, with the peaks clear and mist still in the valleys below. I took a plethora of pictures and just enjoyed the lovely cushion plants and other vegetation and rocks. It was peaceful and scenic and mild and I didn't want to leave.
Eventually I made my return, I met the two Victorians on my way down the hill. They had got off to an early start and were hoping to get to Ooze Lake, climbing Mt La Perouse on the way so that they could have a day up their sleeve in case of bad weather. I reckon they would have done that easily. We had a bit of a chat and I took a photo of them with their camera, and was back at the camp by 8am.
Everything was very damp after the drizzle last night. The mist soon came across again too. We packed up and eventually left for home at 10am. As we got close to the little tarns the mist lifted and we could see Mt La Perouse in the distance. It took us just as long to walk back as we did coming up as we had to be careful going down hill. We got back to the quarry at 2.40, having had a lunch stop plus a look at a few caves we did not notice going up.
At the quarry we decided to check out the Mystery Creek Cave which was a five minute walk and very worthwhile. Very interesting area. The water from the creek disappears up stream and suddenly appears inside the entrance to the cave which seems to be up hill. The cave is very large and has lots of marked routes in it to follow for the keen cavers. Warning signs are there to stress the danger of flash flooding in the cave.
We were back at the car park soon after and on our way home, stopping for a feed of blackberries just down the road. A very relaxing and enjoyable trip.

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