On 13 January a small but energetic group of five, Andrew Egan, John Hutton, Frank Baker, Neroli O’Neil and leader Peter Davis left Cooma in two cars to travel some 30 kilometres north of Cooma on the Shannons Flat Road. One car was left at a private property one km south of Alum Creek on the open ridge west of the road. The group backtracked by vehicle to the intersection of Shannons Flat and Jones’ Plain roads and started walking on a compass bearing of 205oM as the day started to warm up. A 2.5 km walk across Patrick Fraser’s ‘Wathonga’ (picture below), whom we met searching on horseback for weeds, lead us to an old ruin site defined by a copse of elms, an old chimney site, but best of all, with an ancient mulberry tree groaning with ripe fruit.
This landmark was the indicator for one of the few routes into the Murrumbidgee gorge in this area. A long steep decent with morning tea half way down brought us to the apparently close (but actually not so close) river.
We then commenced our northwards journey upstream with an planned river distance of 10 kms. This was just the place to be on a very hot day as much of the journey was best achieved by walking in the water. Navigation with a GPS enabled us to locate a shortcut across a bend in the river as we struggled either in the water through mud or rocks, or along the banks through dense tea tree or dog bush with the occasional sand bank. The picture below shows the shortcut bend with a cliff that we avoided on the right. We cut across about half way along the bend. We were working hard but only making less than 2 kms per hour progress in the tough going. After a picturesque lunch stop a relaxed red bellied black snake was found sunning itself on a grassy bend. We stepped around him as he slithered off.
By 5 pm it was clear that we wouldn’t make the car by our nominated SAR time (search notification time) of 7 pm so we replanned and exited the gorge to the west onto clear country by scaling a substantial scree covered ridge. This was made interesting by a cliff on the north side and feral goats leading the way. I’m sure they thought we were the only silly goats in the area. The open country enabled phone contact to reassure interested parties and also an increase in the rate of travel to 4 plus kilometres/hr. We then descended back into the gorge opposite were our vehicle was located. Yet another water crossing led us to the final climb out of the gorge which was much less daunting than the climb into the gorge that morning. Peter brought his prepositioned vehicle back along the clear ridge to meet the rest of the party who were showing signs of wear and tear by now.
Short cut bend
The walk was graded as hard but maybe we need an extra category above this. There was no track and much of the walk involved stomping through the water. One section required a swim around a cliff. This was fine for whoever was in front in clear water but whoever followed was now in muddy water and unable to see the rocks or how deep the water was. The scenery was stunning and it was amazing to think that such stunning wilderness exists so close to Cooma. The final photo shows Frank on the final river crossing. It had been a long day but well worth the effort.