On Friday, the 24th May, my sister Dorothy, Susie Nelson and I
set off from Gilgandra in the car about 3 p.m. I found a great
deal of amusement in all the "comforts" the girls wanted to take
along, but definitely put my foot down at a mattress. With my
little pyramid tent where would we have been with a huge
mattress, as well as my sleeping bag and their two eiderdowns,
two cushions and four big blankets? By the time we'd picked up
Sue the back of the car looked like a Mandelberg delivery waggon.
Sue had been obliged to get her mother to pack her stuff, and
Mrs. Nelson had made sure we would not starve. Dorothy had
catered very amply for us, and I'd told Sue to bring as her
share bread, butter, chops and cake. She turned up with—
1 leg lamb, 2 Ibs. chops, 1 large tin jam, 6 apples, 6
oranges, 6 pears, 6 bananas, sugar, bread, 2 Ibs. fruit
cake, 8 eggs, coffee and butter. Also a very large
supply of fireworks in honour of Empire Day.
The 45-mile drive through Tooraweenah was rather hilarious, as
both the girls were speed hogs of the worst kind.
Dusk was closing in as we reached Buchanan's homestead, nestling
amongst the quaint spires and hills of the Warrumbungle Ranges.
Young Digger Buchanan, aged twelve, rode his pony ahead for the
next three miles to guide us to the spot he'd chosen for our
camp, and a tortuous track it proved for the car. Major
Buchanan, who had also come along on horseback, and his son,
were rather surprised when my tent went up in a jiffy. They'd
cut six tent poles at least
twelve feet long and four inches thick, having expected
something like the usual rabbiter's big abode. It was a pleasant
cleared spot near a spring, with trees and mountains
surrounding, which the dying sun was now tingeing purple and
pink. Though the grass looked rather dry, there were lots of
lovely green Kurrajong trees, and most of the mountains were
well tree-clad. Those that were not were peculiar mounds of
Dry wood abounded, and we soon had a hot meal ready, followed by
a hot wash in my spare water bucket and a luxurious laze by our
blazing fire. It was a glorious starlit night, but my tent
proved plenty big enough for the three of us, in spite of the
aforementioned bedding, plus a leather top coat and an old and
voluminous tent fly.
We were up about 7 a.m. Our objective for the day was the Spire,
a queer, conical peak which we had sighted from the homestead,
its height being just under 3,000 feet, and we'd heard it had a
trig, on top.
I was able to lend Dorothy khaki shorts, but Sue couldn't get
into mine, so she set off in her scout shirt and pleated skirt.
The latter soon proved too hot, and thinking we'd never see a
soul all day I persuaded her to put it in my pack and walk in
her powder-blue bloomers. We followed the creek bed which
skirted round the base of the Bluff Mountain, and found both
rough and good going. One patch of burnt stuff was very dirty,
and we were all looking quite a sight when about 11 a.m. we came
upon two men hacking down Kurrajong branches for the stock, as
this is often done when rain has been scarce and the grass is
not good. The younger of the men was just up from Sydney for a
holiday and some experience, and they both seemed quite tickled
to see us. We discovered that the rocky-looking mountain which
we had been struggling to reach through the burnt patch,
thinking it might be the Spire, was called Scabby Mountain. They
gave us good directions as to the best way to tackle the Spire,
which now could be seen some distance ahead, and also where to
find water. They were anxious to provide horses for us for the
next day to go further afield, but we were obliged to refuse
this kind offer.
The sight of our objective now looming ahead lent wings to our
feet. We were unable to find the hidden spring they'd told us
of, but we did discover the windmill and tank where we had our
lunch and I hid my pack in the dry creek bed. During lunch we
were able to gaze up at the towering rocky top of the Spire.
Dot and Sue became very wobbly at the knees as soon as they
started again, so by degrees we hung everything we could
decently discard on tree stumps en route. By this I had on khaki
shirt, very brief pair of milanese scanties and scout belt, from
which dangled compass, two cameras and map. I believe my back
view presented something like Tarzan of the Apes. The final rise
was very hard going as there had been a landslide; dangerously
loose dirt and rocks on a steep slope are not the best of
climbing aids. The girls struggled bravely on with the help of
staves which I could not induce them to discard for the less
elegant but more reliable method of hands and knees. I urged
them on with the promise of glorious views, but at last they
fell and groaned that they were done for and could go no
further. I was obliged to leave them to suck lollies and recover
while I endeavoured to get further up. However, I also had to
stop after a while on account of the sheerness of the rock cone.
I felt I could have gone higher, but was afraid that in the
descent I might fall many hundreds of feet and break my neck.
However, I was above the tree line, and it was certainly a
thrill to be way up above everyone else. My only disappointment
was in not being able to reach the trig., but since the
landslide no one has been right up.
It was a glorious day, clear and sunny, with banks of beautiful
clouds, and I could see in every direction except due north,
which was obscured by the rock Spire behind me. Away to the
right were Split Rock and Needle Mountains, Scabby Mountain and
many others, and a wonderful view of the plains stretching away
towards Coona-barabran and the horizon. It reminded me very much
of the extensive view from the top of Mount Mouin in the
Megalong, only here the mountains were backed by rolling plain
I coo-eed to the girls below me and then followed a wild
scramble down to them. They were quite happy and much revived,
but the wind was getting very chilly, so on we went in our
downward tumble. We were able to pick out a less difficult path
by following an old water course instead of the landslide. On
the loose patches I found the best way was to squat on my
haunches and glissade down, much to the detriment of the skin on
Back to the windmill again—after collecting our garments from
various tree stumps. I thought that instead of returning as we'd
come, it would be better to follow the old creek bed, as
instructed by our axemen friends. We did this, and found it much
easier going, as we were able to follow horse tracks most of the
way. All we met on this homeward track were some friendly and
inquisitive horses and some beautiful mountain lowries with
their gorgeous coats of bright blue and red. We reached the
homestead at dusk. Digger and the new Jackeroo were tickled pink
when we asked them to our camp for tea. The girls found the
three miles back to our camp about the last straw, but the lads
kept up plenty of chatter and so diverted their thoughts from
weary limbs to jokes and laughter. We had done sixteen miles
that day together with climbing, which was not so bad for new
Oh! what a meal we had that night—piles of chops, mashed spuds
and a huge billy of fresh fruit salad and cream, toast and
coffee! Then fire crackers. The boys were a bit timid of them at
first, and sent the first huge rocket straight into our faces,
causing a wild scatter.
We slept like tops that night, but Dot and Sue were too stiff to
go further afield next morning, so I set off alone for Bluff
Mountain, which loomed ahead of our camp.
The distance was much further than anticipated. There were many
hills to traverse until I discovered that bv keeping low and
following dry creek beds they led me to my objective. It took me
from 10.10 a.m. until 12 noon to reach the mountain. On the way
I had a great time whistling birds. There were lots of honey
eaters, a very tiny little bird smaller than a robin with an
orange-yellow breast, and many beautiful mountain lowries, as
well as others I did not know. I also startled a small band of
kangaroos, and I don't know who got the biggest fright. They
went off like the wind.
At the Bluff I struck another landslide, though a different type
and much older. On the Spire there had been loose earth and
small rocks; here there were piles of giant boulders, mostly
squarish lumps bigger than myself. I clambered in haste as I'd
promised to return by 1 p.m. to meet the big picnic crowd—Dad,
and a lot of Sue's relatives and Buchanan's.
I found it rather thrilling going up, but felt a bit uneasy
about going on my Pat, especially when I got up higher to
the more parts. I scrambled on in great haste until I came to
the choice between a rock face and a very new little landfall.
They both looked risky, so I decided to rest content with the
glorious view I
already had. I appeared to be only a couple of hundred feet from
the top, and I would have liked to have had' the whole afternoon
to spare. I heard later that a Dr. Docker and his daughter had
been on top; also a party of Blue Mountain walkers called "The
Cragsmen," including a Dr. Hart and a Mr. White.
I secured a few snaps of the gorgeous view and could see clearly
the haze of our camp fire across the hills.
I descended in my usual sliding fashion—tumbling, rolling,
sliding and falling, losing my lovely apple and chocolate, the
only fodder I'd brought, and just as I was about to enjoy it. My
compass proved invaluable in getting back speedily, and I was
just in time for the arrival of the three car loads of Sue's
jolly relatives with food, laughter and brightness.
An hilarious drive back to Gilgandra ended the happy week-end
and I now look forward to the time when I can spend, not a mere
few days, but weeks and weeks .exploring the fascinating Warrumbungle
Ranges, which are so utterly different from anything near