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Northbrook Gorge

“You have to swim through the gorge to complete the hike,” Eric explained.

Northbrook Gorge sounded like a fun experience. But how would I get through it without getting my hiking gear soaked?

This was a point-to-point adventure.  We parked one vehicle at the end-point, then started our hike at Mount Glorious,  following Lawton Road through thick rainforest.

Huge strangler figs, and tall thin piccabeen palms towered above us. We’ve ridden our bikes through here numerous times and love this ancient forest.

As we followed the road down past Northbrook Mountain, the trees thinned out offering good views of the valley into which we were heading.  It was a long way down.

Eventually we left the main track and followed a faint foot track through the eucalypts.  Eric had done this walk ten years ago, and we were relying on his memory.

Eventually we came to what Ron called “The Hump”, a rocky outcrop promising more good views.

We scrambled up over granite boulders and bungwall ferns.  This was hard work.  We’d only been walking an hour and my shirt was drenched with sweat.

At the top of “The Hump” we rested.  The Northbrook valley spread out below us, a verdant blanket of green.

I hung my wet shirt on a tree in the vain hope it would dry, and enjoyed the cool breeze.

After our break we started our downward scramble towards the creek.

Which way to slide?  I tried sliding down on my backside, then reversing down while facing the ground.  Reversing felt safer, although it was slower.

Eric marched nimbly downwards while we scrambled to keep up.

The forest grew thicker as we descended.

Eventually our downward scramble came to an end and we splashed across Northbrook Creek.

We hopped over boulders and through groves of palm trees.  We haven’t had much heavy rain for a while.  I don’t like getting my boots wet unless I absolutely have to, so it was reasonably easy to pick a dry path over the rocks.

 

Cliff faces loomed ahead – we were near the gorge.

I broke out a large 35 litre dry bag and squeezed my pack and boots in it.  This would keep my stuff dry while I floated through the gorge.

Simon and Eric didn’t bother with this approach.  They just swam through.  They had a waterproof bag inside their pack to store anything that needed to be kept out of the water.  I don’t think they even removed their shoes.

Ron and I put our gear inside the dry bags, sealed them off, then used them as odd-looking flotation devices.

Ahhhh!  The water felt delicious.  In some parts it was too deep to stand.  I floated through clinging to my big orange bag.

There was one problem with this approach – the rocks.  When I emerged from the other side I had to clamber barefoot over jagged rocks, which was uncomfortable.

Next time I’ll wear old shoes and keep them on.  Boots are nice, and great for walking, but it’s annoying when you have to put them off and on all the time.

Eric, Simon and Ron waited patiently for me to catch up.

The next gorge was knee-deep.  We waded through.

Sheer rock faces towered either side of us.  This was impressive.

At the next gorge we encountered a family happily splashing about in the cool water.

I threw my bag over the rocks and into the water, then jumped in after it.

What a refreshing way to hike!

Another scramble over sharp rocks…

… throw the bag in again, jump in after it, rinse and repeat.

 

This was one of the strangest hikes I’ve done.  Swimming wasn’t optional – it was mandatory 🙂

Rather than get out at the end of yet another pool, I soaked for a while and enjoyed the cool water.

The other hikers had walked to the gorge the easy way: ninety minutes of rock-hopping upstream to this point then back again.  Their route was much more appropriate with young children.  Only crazy people would take the route we did.

We soaked a while longer.  It was a steamy day, our clothes were damp.  Any sort of physical activity in this humidity was challenging.

I preferred not to wear my sweat-soaked shirt, but the sun was starting to burn.  I eventually relented and put it back on.

All up I think we had to traverse about five gorges.  I lost count.  The take-away message here is that whenever you do this hike, you will have to swim several times.

In the end I decided to keep my boots on.  It was too time-consuming to remove them before each rock pool.

We passed several dry over-hangs.  I had a quick look for some indigenous rock art but couldn’t find any.

We trudged downstream.  My boots were full of water, so I didn’t bother hopping over rocks any more.  I just picked the smoothest straightest path and splashed through.

After an hour’s walk from the last gorge, we eventually reached the bridge on Northbrook Parkway – we’d made it.

We walked about 8.4 kilometres in about four hours.  During that time we climbed about 500 metres in elevation, but dropped about 950 metres.  I burned about 2,500 kcal.

This is a tough rugged hike which covers a variety of terrain.  Brisk fire-trail marches, tough uphill clambers, gnarly downhill scrambles, rock hopping, swimming and more rock hopping.

Two days later, my legs are still aching.

I’ll rate this one 8.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.  Leave your boots at home and wear some tough old running shoes instead.

Thanks Eric, Simon and Ron for a fun day out!

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