After many months of camping in luxury it was time to see if I still had it in me to do a tough overnight backpack trip. Mt Giles in the Western MacDonnell Ranges seemed like a good opportunity. This 30km round trip takes you into an interesting remote valley then up the 3rd highest peak in the range.
National Park map of the Mt Giles walk. Starting from the visitor centre on the left, it took about 6.5 hours to reach the base of the climb (where it says “suggested camping”), then nearly 3 hours to get to the top up the steep south ridge.
Leaving at sunrise and equipped with tent, sleeping bag, food, satellite phone for emergencies and 10 litres of water, I set off back up the first 3km of Ormiston Pound walk that we had done about a week ago. Mt Sonder can be seen behind with the peak we climbed a week earlier in the centre of the photo.
About an hour into the walk I spotted this dusky grasswren – still all fluffed up and getting ready for the day.
On entering Ormiston Pound one leaves the track and heads east directly towards Mt Giles over spinifex plains. Gaiters are a necessity to minimise the number of painful spikes although they do still come through occasionally.
The upper Ormiston Valley with Mt Giles on the left. The actual summit is the peak just sticking out behind the false summit ridge. To get there one traverses around the south of the peak before heading directly up a rocky ridge.
1st lunch stop in the river bed after about 4 hours walking. I left 1.5 litres of water in the bottle in the fork of the tree on the left to pick up on the way back. Having also drunk about another litre and eaten some food, my pack was already much more pleasant to carry.
Traversing the south flank of Mt Giles, looking back over the spinifex plains of Orminston Pound with Mt Sonder in the distance. This area had burnt in the January fires, which gave it a moonscape appearance, but it did make the walking much easier.
A ravine on the south side of Mt Giles. After watching a bower bird fly into the ravine with great purpose I thought it might be worth following it to see if I could find some water.
Sure enough, I found a lovely string of spring fed pools. This one in the sun was just deep enough for a refreshing dip. A nice unexpected diversion. As always, pity about the flies.
Climbing the south ridge up to the summit. It’s about 30 degrees so a lot steeper than it appears in this photo. Although only about 2km, it took me nearly 3 hours including a stop for 2nd lunch.
Maddy would have appreciated this
Looking east and south from the summit. I arrived there nine and a half hours after setting off. Fortunately there was a nice cleared spot to camp so I had a very comfortable night.
Another dusky grasswren – right on top of Mt Giles! I also spotted some variegated fairy wrens
Camping on summits when the weather is good is breathtaking. Mt Sonder on the left, with the Sun setting behind the Razorback and Mt Zeil on the right.
Getting the trusty MSR ready to cook dinner.
Night time shots from the summit. Clockwise from main: Orion and the crescent moon in the fading light; the lights of Hermannsburg about 30km to the south; Scorpius, Jupiter and the Milky Way taken at about 2am.
Sunrise panorama with the shadow of Mt Giles
The welcome warm glow of the sun looking north. It did get rather chilly in the early hours.
A 120 deg panorama view west and north over Ormiston Pound
After leaving the summit at about 8am, I retraced my steps back to the start. A bit of a slog without the novelty that came with the walk up. However with a much lighter pack, downhill grade and better experience of how to negotiate spinifex country, I got back to the start of the walk after just 7 hours and with about half a litre of water to spare. I was a bit surprised that I went through almost 10 litres, even with reasonably cool weather.
A final look at the upper south flank of Mt Giles from the road while heading back to Alice Springs. Most of the mountain is hidden behind the ridge in the foreground so only about the top quarter of the climb is visible.