Beginners' Navigation Weekend

4-5 May 2013


All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2013. Not to be used for any purpose without permission.


Trip Report

In memory of Pete Harvey

I returned home from this navigation weekend to the shocking news that bushwalker and former club president Pete Harvey had died, aged in his early 30s. Pete attended this navigation weekend in 2007 and again in 2009. And he replied to the trip report of the 2012 navigation weekend to say how pleased he was that the trip had become such a popular one on the SUBW calendar. Besides his interest and involvement in the annual navigation weekend, Pete did countless other SUBW trips to places far and wide, many of which were very adventurous and exploratory. He was quiet, gentle, unassuming, modest, laid back, humorous and competent. He was always a pleasure to have along on any trip. SUBW collectively grieves the loss of a very dear member.


Bec Binnie
Ben Tu
Carla Brazell
Connie Cong
David Moir
Din Anh Nhi Tran (Song)
Ian McCarthy
Izabela Spaleniak
Jeremie Rossy
Kristian Sturmberg
Laurelle Pentanu
Leah Cave
Lilian Donoso
Lluisa Murray
Mischa Vickas
Nicola Talbot
Nicola Asquith
Prab Naththarampatha
Raiza Argel
Ross Davey
Ashley Burke

Trip Report

The massive turnout for this year’s navigation weekend leaves no doubt that this is one of the most popular trips on the SUBW calendar. Nearly 40 people submitted an application so unfortunately many missed out as 20 should really be the upper limit for what is practicable and responsible in this area. This year’s turnout of 21 was just one shy of the record of 22 set in 2011.

For the benefit of those who are not morning people, I decided to split the group into “Friday night” starters and “Saturday morning” starters. Those who couldn’t face the idea of getting up at some ungodly hour of Saturday morning to make a 7am rendezvous could take a more leisurely and civilized approach of heading up on Friday evening. The downside of that was that these people would need to spend the night camped in a gravel car park with the clatter of the occasional goods trains to disturb their sleep. But at least they would get there.

And so it was that about half of us turned up on a cool and breezy Friday evening and fumbled around with club tents for some time at Bell station car park before finally settling in. On Saturday morning the stove worked overtime in the back of my car making cups of tea while we waited for the Saturday morning people to arrive. Eventually the company had finally assembled and although the morning was cool, it promised to be a beautiful clear day.

Many had not seen a topographic map before and some had not even been camping in Australia before so we sat down for a map reading session before we headed off. Everyone learned about grid references, the three different norths, contour lines, and how to orientate the map, and more importantly when you need to orientate the map, which is almost never.

So armed with that knowledge we began the walk north into the wilderness and thankfully away from the railway line. At the spot height 994 there were panoramic views of the surrounding area. It was time for an early lunch on top, although the actual summit proved a bit too windy for any useful map work. So after a bite of lunch we gathered just below the summit of 994 on its sunny and sheltered northern side to learn about bearings. That way the group understood where we were heading next and how to set the compass to point in the direction that we were going to walk.

We continued on our bearings, crossed the Wollangambe River and struggled up the steep climb on the other side. The Wollangambe river had changed dramatically due to flash floods a couple of months ago. Once we were finally out of the gorge we scrambled up some pagodas for superb views and set our compasses once more.

The scrub became dense and the landscape less obvious and yet we were able to navigate to an intersection of two fire trails with pinpoint accuracy. By now everyone was looking forward to getting to the campsite and getting out of the scrub, which has thickened up a lot over the last couple of years. But we had a bit more scrub to go, down a broad spur in the golden light of the afternoon sun. Just as the sun was about to set we arrived at a magical sandstone labyrinth with a swampy grass crater in the middle. This idyllic place had water nearby and a gigantic cavern that offered plenty of accommodation for the whole party.

Once we were finally settled in for the evening things got going nicely. Tents were up, billies were boiled, marshmallows were produced and other little specialities were offered. Iza and Kristian presented goats’ cheese crackers and later some of Iza’s amazing chocolate cake. But that wasn’t all. Iza also managed to produce delicately flavoured Polish liqueur vodka in a metal hip flask. But that wasn’t all either. Ben plonked a massive hunk of lamb wrapped in foil into the fire, and plonked an entire full bladder of wine beside it and declared that everyone should help themselves – which they did – eventually. And the lamb and wine were delicious. Nor is this the first time that succulent lamb has been eaten in this camp cave. Back in the late 1980s we carried an entire sheep down here and roasted it on a spit …

We stayed up late and there was storytelling and all had a great time.

Sunday morning came and another fine day loomed. We slowly packed up and headed southwards. When we got to a fine view we spent some time with compasses working out our location. Here we learned about resections. Using 994 and Gooches Crater we were able to work out our exact position by doing a 2 point resection. Then we set new bearings back to the Wollangambe.

We crossed the Wollangambe and climbed high onto a ridge and had lunch on top of a rocky top with amazing views. The last of Iza’s chocolate cake disappeared. From here it was another hour or so walking back to Bell, where we arrived at mid-afternoon.

There were many farewell handshakes and hugs and then we made our way back to Sydney. Another great navigation weekend and many new friends made.

Ashley Burke


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All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2013. Not to be used for any purpose without permission.