Beginners' Navigation Weekend

23-24 May 2009


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


Trip Report

TRIP: Beginners Navigation Weekend, 23-24 May 2009


Michelle Anderson
Sasha Anderson
Annie Beaudin
Iris Bleach
Ashley Burke
Annie Côte
April Crawford-Smith
Mike Gray
Pete Harvey
Scotty Henderson
Co Tin La
Mariebelle Malo
Stacy Miller
Rahul Mohod
Mila Moutinho
Lok Kin Ng
Joh Peterson
Mark Wong


Despite the cold, wet and windy weather there was a good turnout and this was a very successful navigation weekend, especially because no one got lost, not even the experienced ones!

By 9am on Saturday morning just about everyone had gathered at Bell station, huddling in the rain organising last minute gear and carrying out the ritual of introduction to all the new people. It didn't take us long to agree on a plan for the day walk to somewhere dry and sheltered and then get a roaring fire going.

The route we took was known, but there remained the small matter of river crossings and how high the rivers had risen in the recent rain. The first small stream that we crossed after about half an hour of walking, normally a trickle, was a fast flowing stream several metres wide. What this would mean for the Wollangambe only time would tell.

We walked passed point 994, a prominent rock outcrop from which 360 degree views of mist and rain could be beheld. Normally this is the perfect place to practise map and compass skills but not today. We kept going to the Wollangambe which was very fast flowing and waist deep, only a minor obstacle. One by one everyone forged through the churning water and then climbed up to a sheltered rock overhang for lunch. With everyone across the river and out of the rain and wind a roaring fire was built, the jaffle irons came out, tea did the rounds and the maps and compasses came out for the first time. We were no longer on a track so the beginners would need to use the map and compass to navigate from the lunch spot to the camp site. And there was good incentive to navigate accurately the camp site promised to be another sheltered cavern where everyone could get out of the rain and wind. So in the shelter of the lunch spot I ran through the principles with the beginners, preparation for going out into the rain and putting it into practise.

After lunch the rain had eased and the landscape was strikingly beautiful with rock pools on all the pagodas and mist cloaking the ridges, the winding gorges looking deep, green and mystical. The weather held enough for maps to be held open while walking and the beginners took turns leading, aiming for a road intersection at the top of a ridge. Sure enough, by mid afternoon we'd reached a fire trail and using the map and compass the beginners confirmed our location. This allowed new bearings to be set for the camp site, just as another downpour of rain set in.

We reached our campsite by around 4pm and all around it were fast flowing fresh streams, including one at the back of the cavern that we sheltered in. We laid in a good supply of firewood, got a warm fire going and everyone gathered around and began drying things out. The mysterious ritual, only seen on beginners trips, of shoes and socks being dried or melted by the fire was witnessed to some bemusement by the more experienced members. Lots of great food was prepared, with flavours and aromas from different parts of the world, all in this remote shelter in the Wollangambe Wilderness. Later in the evening stars could be seen, a sign that better weather may be in store for tomorrow.

Next morning after breakfast we gathered around the fire to plan the day's walk. The beginners worked out a route to Gooches Crater and then, after crossing a soggy swamp, the beginners took turns to lead the way. The scenery this morning was lovely, at times there was even a hint of sunshine coming through and there were only a few sprinkles of rain. Visibility was good with the cloud and mist clearing the tops of the peaks. We reached Gooches Crater in time for elevenses. This amazing feature is an area of swampy grassland completely surrounded by cliff, forming a crater. Delicate rock formations, caves and pagodas surround this area. The wet rocks and grass accentuated the colours. Annie provided a free physio consultation for a sore knee a problem solved by some well positioned tape.

We walked southwards, climbed to a high point from which we could see point 994, and the beginners practised taking bearings of it to work out our current position. Then it was on to the Wollangambe, which we crossed easily, and then had lunch in an open rocky area. The sun came out and we were able to enjoy a relaxing lunch in the open.

Finally it was a steady climb back up to Bell by following a ridge, and from pagodas atop this ridge splendid views of the surrounding countryside were seen. We got back to the cars at about 3:30pm and by 4 we had parted company for our different destinations.

A very successful navigation weekend with a great group of people. Welcome to all the new members.

Pete has posted some photos here:

Ashley Burke


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All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2009. Not to be used for any purpose without permission.