Beginners' Navigation Weekend

20-21 May 2006


All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2008. Not to be used for any purpose without permission.


Trip Report

TRIP: SUBW Navigation Weekend, 20-21 May 2006

Saturday only:

Christine Lin
David Carmichael
Diane Chammas
Nazzih Chammas
Elodie Beujean
Helen Smith
Imke Zenker
Ksenija Spasic
Luisa Van
Mark Assad

Saturday and Sunday:

Ann Yong
Ausra Radzeviciute
Isabel Walter
James Bevan
Kate Lord
Kateryna Chemerys
Marcelle Gannon
Meghan Hay
Milton Micallef
Peter Anderson
Rachel Melrose
Susan Lucas
Tom Gleeson
Ashley Burke

It was a cast of some 25 people that gathered at Bell station on a cool and damp Saturday morning. The prospect of rain was no obstacle, and the weekend's activities began with an introductory talk by yours truly on the principles of map reading and navigation. Complete with whiteboard and printed handouts, Bell station car park resembled a classroom except that there were no walls and no roof. This later deficiency became apparent when it began to rain. But Bell station had a roof and at least one wall so we migrated onto the railway platform to continue the lesson under cover. The ever watchful eye of Bell station's CCTV camera looked on in its mechanical dispassion, and we even had a call from Cityrail over the loudspeaker asking us what we were doing.

Almost everyone was attentive while I drew contours on the whiteboard, showed topographic maps of various parts of the world and talked about spurs, ridges and watercourses. The only inattentive students were James and David who were kicking a ball around in the car park....

Then it was off into the bush for an hour or so of walking to 994. Known to many bushwalkers as the "centre of the universe", 994 offers 360 degree views of the surrounding Wollangambe wilderness, scarred only by the sand mine to the west and some non native trees on the skyline to the south. It was a working lunch on top of the windswept rocky summit of 994 as the whiteboard came out again and the group learned about using the compass and map to identify surrounding landmarks, and the principles of using compass bearings to navigate from one landmark to the next. Everyone practised with their compasses and maps, and by the end of it we had identified Mount Wilson, Tomah South, and some other nearby features.

Now it was time for the practical phase of the trip - the rest of the weekend would be spent walking and navigating instead of watching me scrawling on a whiteboard. Unfortunately the day trippers had to leave us and these headed back to Bell with David at the helm.

Armed with his compass and freshly honed skills, James promptly blundered down the wrong ridge off 994 with Kate and Peter in tow, and unbeknownst to the rest of us, ended up on the Wollangambe some several bends downstream from where they were meant to be.

So with the remaining group reduced to 12 in number, I led the way down to the Wollangambe down the correct ridge, expecting find the other 3 waiting for us when we got to the river. It wasn't to be, and our hollering and bellowing was answered only by echoes. The group was moving slowly and the sun was getting low. We crossed the river and began the climb up the other side. Higher up, the ridge levelled out onto a region of low heath dotted with a grotesquery of weathered stone sculptures. By now the sky was vast and clear with a low sun laying long shadows among the stone sentinels. Here we would camp. There was more bellowing and cooeeing, and these appeals were sometimes replied to by the lost party, but from where we couldn't tell. I went back down to the river in search of our missing three companions but to no avail.

Tents were up and a fire was made, the sun went down. In the final twilight the wind dropped and all was quiet. This was one last chance to make contact with the missing three before nightfall. Time for a chook call. This screeching sound pierced the still evening and echoed around, but after this seismic event subsided, silence returned. As it happened they had heard the sound, they were more than a kilometre downstream, encamped in a small but accommodating camp cave near the riverside.

We had a pleasant evening out in the open by the camp fire, and topographic maps of Switzerland and the Himalayas came out for study, as the contours on these sheets are amazing.

Early the next morning brought mist which clung to the valleys and presented the stone sentinels in a mystical translucence. Amid this the efforts to reunite with the missing 3 began again in earnest. They had made their way back to 994 from which their cooees seemed deceptively close. Finally we made eye contact and after lots more shouting and running around they finally arrived at our camp site. They had had some excellent navigation practise and had found themselves a good camp site.

In the end it was decided that Kate, Marcelle and Susan would head directly back to Bell while the rest of us would continue with the navigation practise on a walk to Gooches Crater. We set off up the ridge and reached the Dumbano Fire trail, where compasses came out and bearings were taken.
Everyone who wanted to took a turn at the lead as we made our way on several bearings towards the crater. When we arrived at this special place we took time to absorb the beautiful views and the magical rock formations surrounding this unique feature. Then it was into a massive camp cave for lunch.

The last leg of the walk was to navigate back to Bell, and this required several more bearings and more opportunities for the beginners to practise their new found skills.

We arrived back at the cars about an hour before dark and a few minutes later Marcelle, Kate and Susan joined us after their leisurely walk back via 994.

All up it was a highly successful weekend. It seemed like everyone learned a lot, it was a great group of enthusiastic people that were great to have along.

Ashley Burke


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All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2008. Not to be used for any purpose without permission.