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 Living on the Road :: Articles :: Battleship Spur

It's 8:30am, I walk past tents and vans of all shapes and sizes as I leave the Carnarvon Gorge campground and cross Carnarvon Creek.

Immediately I'm surrounded by an ancient forest of Spotted Gums, Cycads and Cabbage Palms and in the early morning light it's a great experience.

Early morning light in the forest.

One of the 200m high cliffs that form the gorge. Behind them is another 400m climb.

I am thoroughly enjoying myself ,and keeping up a good pace, so in well under two hours I reach Cathedral Cave (about 9.5k).

Looking up in Cathedral Cave.

By this time my feet are getting a bit tender, by so I remove my boots and give my toes a massage. They should be OK.

A hundred yards or so past Cathedral Cave, to the left, enters Boowinda Creek Gorge. Turning up the dry creek bed I encounter a fascinating section of the canyon, with massive vertical sides that, at times, get so close you can almost touch both of them at once.

The narrow gorge of Boowinda Creek.

I consult the track notes given to me by the ranger, they say to look "... on your left for a small cabbage palm on which is fastened a small red and yellow tag", this is the point to climb out of the gorge.

After a while I think I find the point I'm looking for, a small palm and, sure enough, opposite there is a gully that does look climbable but not really an appropriate exit point.

Let's re-consult the notes, "... on your right for a tall cabbage palm", oops. Left, small, right tall, you can see how I would get confused.

Before long I come to a tall palm and an exit gully that, judging by the wear on the rocks, has obviously had many a boot climb it. I tighten my pack's waist belt and start climbing.

The gully is very steep but only takes about ten minutes to climb. At the top however I'm faced with Battleship Ridge, a steep ridge that leads to the base of the spur, three hours of false bluffs, rock climbs, scree slopes, and narrow steep tracks on the side of the spur.

There's nothing for it but to put the legs in low range and plod on.

As I haven't done a serious bushwalk for over four years I was definitely feeling the pace. Several times I nearly decide to give up, and either pitch camp for the night and continue tomorrow, or just plain go back.

I persevere though, just placing one boot in front of the other, sometimes advancing less than a foot with each step but always trying to keep the same cadence regardless of the terrain.

I am trying to conserve water as I can only carry five litres and know this would be one of the limiting factors on the walk. I begin to realise however that my leg muscles are tiring after only a few steps, requiring me to stop and let them recover.

This is a sure sign of the blood thickening due to lack of water, so I increase my intake which fixes the problem. If only my gasping lungs could be fixed so easily.

Two hours after exiting Boowinda Creek I am faced with a ten-metre rock face. Fortunately there are several good hand holds and tree roots, so climbing it is easy, although I do notice an ominous crack from one of the roots as I place my weight on it.

A nice campsite at the top of the ten-metre rock face, just don't roll over in your sleep.

With much relief I realise that the rock face signals that I'm near the the end of the ridge. I can see Battleship Spur from here, it's still way above me which is a little disheartening, but at least I have it in my sights now.

My first view of Battleship Spur, still a fair distance to go and way above me. (Actually photographed on the way down, I was in no mood for photography during the climb)

Before long I've topped the ridge and start contouring around the side of the spur. The track goes vertical again and I groan, but looking up I see a welcome sight, sunlight on the trees. I've been in the shade of the spur for some time and it's now late afternoon so the fact that I can see trees being illuminated by the sun indicates that I'm near the top.

Sure enough I clamber over the edge of the spur and greet the afternoon sun, from here it's a simple 500m walk along the top of the spur to the campsite.

On reaching the campsite I immediately set up my tent and bivy bag, then place items such as stoves and torches in appropriate spots so I'm not left fumbling in the dark. Only then do I go to the edge of the spur, not ten metres away, and admire the view.

The camp site on Battleship Spur.

My "tiny tent".

Looking north to Consuelo Tableland.

The grassy western side of the spur.

Two wedge-tailed eagles (or "Wedgies" as we call them in Australia, and no, it's nothing to do with undies riding up your backside) circle, sometimes at my eye level just off the cliff, and sometimes only metres above me. What beautiful birds.

The eagles leave and I tire of the view, so I settle down to read the entries in the log book that is stored in a plastic container at the base of a cairn.

The log book. I forgot to sign it.

Most of the entries comment on the great view, all the normal superlatives such as great, outstanding, magnificent are used to describe it. Not everyone agrees however.

Half the reason the view is so enjoyable is because of what it costs to get here...Rodney

Rodney's correct, nobody is going to go through that climb, get up here and say "That's a bloody terrible view". It is a good view but, to be objective about it, there are equal views from many carparks in the Blue Mountains.

Other themes recur.

My boyfriend made me do this walk, bloody near killed me...Vicki

...great views. The walk nearly killed me. Thanks Dad...Laur

I can certainly relate to these comments, it nearly killed me as well. And in a similar vein...

Only made it because Cameron and Mick carried my backpack up the steep bits...dragged me up the hardest bits...Karren

And Karren is training for the Annapurna circuit in Nepal. Keep training Karren. Then there was...

No sunscreen. No water. Bloody hungry but here...Rob

Good walk but once is enough...Howard

Many entered their time for the climb. One Dutch fellow said he did it in 1:17 and copped a pasting from several who didn't believe him. I did the climb in 3:00 and was a bit peeved when I saw some times of 2:00 and 2:15 until I realised that they were from 15- and 16-year-olds. Most people seemed to take about 3:30 and I was just thinking that I wasn't doing too bad when I read this entry.

3hrs, hot...towing the caravan was tough, lost my false teeth and catheter...Glen 84, Miguel 79

Three hours and they're 84 and 79 years old! Then to top it off Miguel climbed the spur again because the next day there was another entry from him.

Left my brolly behind so ran up before breakfast ... left the lazy fat bastard back at the campsite with the ranger (I suspect there's something going on there)...Miguel

One assumes that Glen and Miguel are mates. And finally...

Where am I?...Seb

It's an entertaining read, but the sun is getting low so I go looking for photos.

Looking back down Carnarvon Gorge. The pyramind-shaped shadow is Battleship Spur.

Satisfied that I have done what I can with the light, my attention turns to dinner.

Curried Chicken & Noodles, mmmm, but I could do with more water.

I usually eat dehydrated packet meals of some kind and for this trip had packed some Curried Chicken & Noodles. These meals are quite filling and full of carbohydrates but, given my shortage of water, I'm not sure that a curry was the best choice.

Several times while cooking I notice changes in the light and grab my camera.


I spend the rest of the evening just sitting looking at the stars with my hands wrapped around hot cups of soup. It's quite cool but I'm a warm sleeper and I eventually fall asleep on top of the sleeping bag, waking at about 2am and climbing under the covers.


In the morning I'm up bright and early to catch the sunrise. To have such a place to myself is just brilliant and, to my mind, of far more value than the "view".

I strike camp at 8am and head back along the spur. There are fresh pig rootings so I had not been as alone as I had thought overnight.

When I reach the ten-metre rock face I decide that it is too dangerous to climb while wearing my pack, however I always carry a length of rope so I lower the pack and follow it unencumbered.

This made the climb a total non-event and I definitely recommend always walking with about ten metres of good quality 4 or 5mm climbing rope.

Within a couple of hours I am back at the bottom of the gorge and I stop at the Big Bend campsite. I am drenched with sweat but, even though there's is a lovely swimming hole here, it is quite chilly in the shade so I am content to sit on the small beach and rest.

The swimming hole at the Big Bend campsite.

The rest of the walk is uneventful, apart from the pain of tender and cracked feet. Fearing that I may not be able to continue if I rest again I walk the eight kilometres to the Moss Gardens before stopping. It's only another two k's from here, and I figure that I can make that no matter how bad my feet are.

After resting I continue, the last couple of kilometres are just agony, but I eventually reach the ranger station at the campground and put on my best I-do-this-every-day face until I get to the motor home's steps.

In retrospect, while I proved that I can still do an arduous walk, I should not have tackled 28k, with a 600m climb, and a full pack, having not done any walking for over four years.

To sum up the trip I would say it's definitely worth the walk but not for the reasons that most people espouse, ie. the view. It's more a case of being in a great piece of wilderness and having it all to yourself. To sit on a cliff top, miles from anyone with nothing but eagles for company, is just magic.

False bluffs

A false bluff is a piece of land that looks like it is the top of a climb but is in fact just the top of a steep section.

They are usually caused by the different hardnesses in the rock strata wearing in an uneven manner.

For example, when walking up a ridge with a linear incline,

you can see the top and know that's as far as you have to climb. But if the ridge has false bluffs,

each "top" you see only reveals another when you get there.

Now if you have a topographic map you can tell that this is not actually the top of the climb, and if you've done much bushwalking you would have had this problem dozens of times before, but it's still disheartening to constantly have your I've-got-to-the-top hopes dashed.


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