Redbank Gorge and Mt Sonder

Our camp for the next two nights was on a ridgetop near Redbank Gorge.    This lies near the western edge of the MacDonnell Ranges at the foot of Mt Sonder and Redbank Gorge which are both well worth the effort to explore.

Redbank Gorge cuts through the mountain range as a narrow chasm of similar dimensions to the slot canyons in the blue mountains, but without any greenery and with quartzite walls instead of sandstone.   The gorge has several pools with very cold water and although there were some hardy folk swimming up the gorge we opted for the comfort of wetsuits and an air mattress

There were a few floating toys left lying around by previous visitors and Maddy initially tried to use these but it turned out later that it was easier for the two of us to share our air mattress.

redbank gorge
There is a large permanent waterhole at the exit of Redbank Gorge (or entrance if you think of it in terms of the direction we were about to explore)
entering redbank gorge
About to enter the Gorge
redbank looking out
Looking back out from the mouth of the gorge

From left to right: looking back out from the end of the second pool;  exiting the third pool.

Continuing up the long narrow 4th pool.

redbank deep pool
A wider section on the 4th pool – it just kept going.   The water in this 4th pool was quite clear so I dived down with my mask and snorkel.   It was probably about 7m deep at the deepest point I could find.   There were quite a few fish swimming around, but unfortunately my cheap underwater camera batteries died at this point.
black footed rock wallaby 2
Black footed rock wallaby at the end of Redbank Gorge
black footed rock wallaby joey
Black footed rock wallaby with joey

After exploring the gorge we returned to our campsite about 2km from the gorge where we realised that we had selected exactly the same spot that we had chosen on our visit here 9 years ago.  Only this time we had a bit more comfort.   On the last trip we used a bug dome tent and slept on air mattresses on top of the table on the left and our shower was a simple bag hanging from the tree that can be seen behind the caravan.

redbank gorge camp
Camping in comfort in 2019

Camping rugged in 2010.   Note the solar shower hanging from the same tree

The following morning we set out early to climb Mt Sonder which is a 16km round trip walk with a height gain of about 600m.   Mt Sonder is the 4th highest mountain in the MacDonnell Ranges, but is the highest that can be reached as an easy day trip.   The 3 highest peaks, while not needing any crampons of ice axes, require either 2 to 3 day walks or in the case of the highest peak – Mt Zeil, special permission to go there.

mt sonder summit sign
The start of summit day – equipped with helmet, snow goggles, alpine boots and in my hand: the all important net to cover your face in case you encounter a fly blizzard.
ripplestone on the trail
Interesting ripple formations on the 650 million year old quartzite.
heading up mt sonder
Roughly half way up.   The peak in the distance is Mt Zeil, the highest peak in the MacDonnell Ranges
mt sonder 2
Continuing up the ridge to Mt Sonder.    It was a rather overcast day and eventually it actually rained.    While we had occasional drops falling on us most of the way back down, fortunately the hard rain held off until we stepped back into the caravan – almost to the second.   It then came down in buckets for a few minutes, but probably no more than 5mm altogether.

After many months, finally a proper termite mound that caught Maddy’s attention.  It had interesting brown spikes on the red base.

on the trail mt sonder
About 1km from the top
mt sonder hike 2
Looking back up at the decent to the west col.
looking back
The view to the west from near the summit looking back over the ridge we had climbed
distant views
The track up Mt Sonder is very well built and easy to walk.   So no scratchy bush and spinifex to manage.
summit cairn
Mt Sonder “summit” cairn.   The actual summit is in the background, but the authorities don’t seem to want you to climb there saying it is too dangerous.    It doesn’t look too bad to me.
distant views 2
Views to the south
wraps and tea lunch
Tea and lunch on the summit.
more distant views
Views to the east towards Mt Giles (the 3rd highest peak in the MacDonnells) and Ormiston Pound.
looking back to the start
Looking back down the west ridge. The walk starts at the carpark shelter which appears as the white dot that can be seen to the left of the darker mound in the middle.
moody sky
Rain storms started appearing all around as we decended
Apart from the usual clouds of flies and this yellow roach, we saw almost no other wildlife on the walk.
philips plant
Seed pods on what appears to be a mallee growing on Mt Sonder
mt sonder after rain
After returning to the caravan we enjoyed a cosy cup of tea while the rain pelted down.  Mt Sonder itself disappeared in the mist, so we were glad we timed the climb when we did.
crested bellbird
The rain brought out a few birds.  I got this reasonable photo of a crested bell bird that issues a strident series of whistles – at first quite attractive, but after a while it got a bit monotonous.

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