On Saturday 22 December Trevor, Michael and I did one of the longer walks available in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve: the Camel Back Trail out to Camels Hump and then on towards the Pierce Trig.
Michael arrived shortly before 8am. We had decided to get away early as the forecast was for a hot day and we were hoping to beat some of the heat.
The first stop was Brothers Oven to get some breakfast for Michael (an egg and bacon roll) and coffees all round. This was takeaway so we were quickly back on the road and heading out towards Tharwa and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. We were early enough to miss most of the cyclists and only came across three on the narrow, winding road between Tharwa and entrance to Tidbinbilla.
A stop at the visitor centre to get Trevor's car added to my park entrance pass as I had not been able to determine how it could be done online. This provided a last toilet stop, too.
It took us a little longer than it should have to reach the carpark at the start of the walk as we did the complete circuit of the ring road as there is no specific signage for the Camel Back Trail from the ring road and you need to be aware that you need to take Mountain Creek Road to reach the start of the trail. One the second circuit we picked it up and finally reached the carpark.
What a lot of wildlife there was this morning. Yes, I know that it is a nature reserve however there were animals wandering across the road with complete abandon. The 35 kph speed was certainly justified.
At the start of the trail is a log book and we duly signed in and noted that there was another pair of walkers on their way to Camels Hump. That accounted for the vehicle in the carpark.
Our starting elevation was 908m.
The first bit of the trail, some 200m, took us along a path that had logs placed at regular intervals to prevent erosion. We were soon at the Camel Back Fire Trail and the long, hard slog up the trail. According to my stats we climbed 182m in that first kilometre and somehow managed to lose 7m. Yes, there was the odd dip as well as the upwards slog.
I spotted a snake on this section. It took a couple of goes to alert Michael to the presence of the reptile which was slithering across the trail just ahead of where we were. We stopped and let him go and he disappeared into some rocks in the bank at the edge of the trail. Michael thought that the snake was about a metre long. I won't argue with that. I certainly was not going to stop a red belly black to measure him!
The trail leveled out in the second kilometer with only 47m gained. The third kilometer was a little more up and down with a gain of 22m but a loss of 44m. The fourth kilometer saw us slog up a further 114m with enough down bits to add up to a loss of 21m. Yes, at times it was a bit like a roller coaster. The fifth km had a rise of 105m and a loss of 14m. By this stage we had gained some 470m with a loss of 86m - a net gain in elevation of 384m. The final bit of the trail up to the Camel Back sign just below Camels Hump was another fairly step climb as we trudged up to 1343m a further gain of some 51m only there were ups and downs in this section, too.
Michael had spotted the other walkers who had left ahead of us as they descended Camels Hump as we approached the Camel Back sign. There could have been hundreds of people on the trail however the trees and other shrubbery along the trail effectively blocks out the trail except for the stretch you are currently on.
At this point, at the Camel Back sign, my run stats seem to have gone a bit haywire as the climb up to Camels Hump, some 78m above, seems to be missing. Michael and I did the ascent of Camels Hump which proved to be quite steep with no formal track but a whole range of possible tracks which were generally rough and required quite a deal of scrambling on the way up and a great deal of care on the descent. Fortunately there were quite a few small trees crowding our route as they provided handgrips and helped to steady us, particularly on the way down.
Trevor had been trailing behind Michael and me. We kept him in view, his white hat making him easy to pick up against the greens and browns, and took advantage of stops in shaded spots so that we were never too far ahead of him. He climbed slower than we did but his speed was pretty consistent as he plodded up the trail. He left Trevor down below when we did the ascent of Camels Hump. This allowed me to leave my pack behind and we too everything out of Michael's except the bare essentials: emergency kit, water and map.
Back down from the hump we headed on towards Pierce Trig, some 2km further on. About 500m before the Trig we came to a fire trail that headed sharply down hill. We shopped at this junction for lunch. The cup of tea was most welcome even if the water was not freshly boiled but from the thermos.
We eyed off the trail that would take us on to pierce Trig and it, too, seemed to be heading down and we decided to turn around because every down section would require us to climb that same section on the return.
The ups and down on the return were a little surprising. We had not recognised just how much down bits there had been on the way out. These became up sections on the way back. The elevation gains and losses by km on the return were:
1: 35m and 31m
2: 49m and 44m
3: 28m and 76m - the first real dint in the elevation that we had gained on the way out
4: 29m and 119m
5: 34m and 120m
6: 44m and 50m
7: 0m and 95m
8 (actually only .6km): 0m and 68m
There were some seriously step section on the return where we had to be careful of our footing as the surface on the trail was quite loose.
I was flagging on the way back and it was not until I got home that I realised that I had not drunk nearly enough water. This was my first outing with the water bladder and I had no idea how much I had consumed until I took the bladder out of the pack and discovered that I had only drunk about 1/2l plus a small cup of tea while out on the trail ... more than 5 hours all up in quite hot conditions. Definitely not enough. I had been conscious of not over hydrating and went the other way. Oops. I need to be aware of this the next time I'm out hiking.
Trevor had done well. While he was slower than Michael and I on the outward part of teh hike he did maintain his pace and he was never too far in our rear. He maintained a good pace on the return journey. Overall he was really pleased with how well he had gone.
It had been a hot day with the temperature nudging up into the mid 30s. The heat reflected up from the surface of the trail added to temperature. Patches of shade along the trail provided welcome relief as did the breeze when it came.
All in all, this had been a tough but enjoyable outing.