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Wild Magazine: An Epic Walk Through the Chewings Range

Wild Magazine
Wild magazine March-April 2010

Those following this blog may have read my short piece on the three week, 250km walk we did across the Chewings Range in the Northern Territory last winter (chewings-range-traverse). The current edition of Wild magazine, March-April 2010,  (wild.com.au)  includes a six-page feature I wrote on this same trip. The cover image is a shot I took above 45 Degree Gorge. Michael Hampton and I were checking out this cave (which directly overlooks the gorge) with the view to using it as a bivy cave in the future. Great spot. The images in this feature help convey something of the rugged nature of what is arguably one of the most serious and remote long-distance walks in Australia. The Chewings Range stretches 180km west from Alice Springs and is composed of many of the highest and most spectacular mountains within the semi-arid West MacDonnell National Park. The first seven days of the range follows the famous Larapinta Trail but leaves it at Hugh Gorge. The next two weeks are devoid of walking trails and sections of the Chewings Range are not covered by any detailed maps. Instead, we relied on our GPS and the experience we have built up from previous remote walks in the area. Despite a fairly dry year we had no real problems finding drinking water (although a number of waterholes and springs had been badly fouled by cattle).

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Chewings Range Traverse

Karen and I recently spent 18 days and 250km walking across the Chewings Range in the Northern Territory. Two old friends, Stuart Imer and Michael Hampton, joined us for what turned out to be one of the best long distance walks we have ever done. We started out of Alice Springs and followed the first seven days of the Larapinta Trail to Hugh Gorge. The next nine days were spent off-trail, weaving our way among the incredible gorges and mountains that stretched across the Chewings. We rejoined the Larapinta Trail at Ormiston Gorge and walked the final couple of days along to our finish at Redbank Gorge. It was an amazing experience. There are no worthwhile maps to the more remote sections of the Chewings and so we relied heavily on our Garmin GPS. Only a few of the gorges are named and there is no information as to the whereabouts of reliable drinking water. Karen and I have managed to notch up a fair few kilometres over the years walking in the Western MacDonnell’s (which is where the Chewings Range resides) and have become quite good at searching out water in the most unlikely of places. Here is a valuable tip for anyone considering an off-trail walk in Central Australia. Watch out for finches. These delicate little birds don’t venture far from water and as soon as you spot one, you can be sure that water is very close by.

A southerly storm across the Chewings Range
A southerly storm across the Chewings Range