Mount Gingera and Pryors Hut
I have no hesitation in saying that this is one of Australia's truly magnificent walks. On the roof of the ACT with sweeping views across the surrounding mountain tops all the way to Mt Koscioszko, an absolutely classic ACT bushwalk and Namadgi walk. If you only ever do one walk in the ACT, make it this. Mt Gingera can be seen from Canberra and during the winter is snow covered.
Image 1 - The initial view on arrival at the peak of Mt Gingera looking to the west
Walk Rating: Moderate with some hard sections. The walk from the locked gate to Mt Gingera and back is 15.3 kilometres. The first 2 to 3 kilometres are downhill (meaning its 2 to 3 kilomteres uphill on the return journey). The road undulates but nothing too steep. Once you get to the actual walking track to Mt Gingera, this gets reasonably steep in parts and there are a lot of steps. Don't forget to take a break and look behind you occassionally, as there are spectacular views.
Directions: Drive to the Cotter and after travelling across the Cotter Bridge, continue for about 500 metres until you reach Brindabella Road on your right.
Turn right onto Brindablella Road and travel about 6 kilometres to the end where you come to a T-intersection with Brindabella Road and Uriarra Road (Urriara Road to the right and Brindabella Road to the left). At this intersection turn left and continue on Brindabella Road to Piccadilly Circus, which is about 18 kilometres, of which only the first 8.5 kilometres are sealed. Beyond this, the road is dirt, but well maintained and generally suitable for two wheel drives. However, take note of the weather conditions and don't attempt the trip past Piccadilly Circus if it has been raining.
Once at Piccadilly Circus, there is a three way intersection. Take the Mt Franklin Road to the left and continue on for about another 28 kilometres. Around the 24 kilometre mark, you will travel past the carpark at the bottom of the Mt Franklin walk starting point. Continue on for another 4.5 kilometres and you will come to a locked gate and a small parking area off to the left. This is the start of the walk (Images 2 and 3). There are other alternatives to the walk such as from Corin Dam carpark, along Stockyard Spur, but this walking track is closed until 2016 due to Dam Works so I've only described directions as above for this blog. CAUTION: Be careful on this journey as the dirt road has lots of blind bends and you do occasionally come across vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.
Image 4 - Pryors Hut
The hut is surrounded by a euclaypt forrest so is well shaded and on a hot day is a very pleasant place to stop for a break. If you wanted to walk in this area with children and they weren't up to completing the journey to Mt Gingera and back, a visit to the hut is another option as it is only 5 kilometres from the locked gate.
After a short break at the hut we continued on along the dirt road. On the left was one of the high altitude wetlands, which is home to a good sized population of Corroboree Frogs. The ACT Parks and Conservation Service (Rangers) work very hard to maintain this sensitive eco-system and the strong Corroboree Frog population is a result of their hard work. Please remember that this is a sensitive area so please be careful not to cause damage. This is probably the last 'stronghold' for these frogs as populations in the Kosiusko National Park are continuing to decline for unknown reasons. The wetlands are also a destination for the Latham Snipe (also known as the Japenese Snipe). This is not a native bird but worth mentioning as its traditional breeding grounds are in Japan and during the non-breeding season, it flys to parts of Australia for feeding in the warmer months, including the Namadgi National Park. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a photograph of one of these Snipes (or even see one) so I'll have to leave you to getting images from the website to satisfy your curiosity!
Image 6 - The start of the walking track to the peak of Mt Gingera
After building up a good sweat on the incline, and the many steps enroute (fabricated out of logs and dirt), I reached the top. This is one of those destinations where you just want to stay forever and you really do feel like your on the 'roof' of Australia. Every direction you look, there are views that seem to go on forever.
The top itself has a fascinating mix of gnarled and wind swepped snow gums, granite outcrops and low shrubbery. You really can appreciate the harshness of the winter conditions and the susbequent impact on the immediate landscape (Image 9). This part of the ACT is under snow for much of the winter and is easily recognisable by most Canberrans, as if you glance west to the Brindabella Mountains from Canberra, the snow capped peak stands out amongst all the other high points.
I scaled a nearby boulder (which really seemed to be the actual high point) and looked back down the mountain to the remainder of the group making their way to the peak (Images 9 and 10).
Image 8 - The gnarled Snow Gum next to a granite boulder at the peak
Image 9 - The trek to the peak of Mt Gingera
Image 10 - Look behind you for those beatiful views as you get higher.
Image 12 - The spectacular Flame Robin
The abundant native flowering shrubs - Gorse Bitter Pea (yellow/orange) and Derwent Speedwell (white)
Image 2 - The locked gate and carpark at the start of the walk
Image 3 - Signposted information just past the locked gate providing details of the walks and immediate area
The Walk: This is my favourite part of the ACT and Namadgi National Park. The views are simply breathtaking, and the walk itself offers a broad range of ecosystem experiences from snow gum forrests, ecologically sensitive high altitude wetlands and the magnificence of the sub-alpine region of the ACT.
Our walk was during the height of Spring so we also had the pleasure of experiencing the native flora and wildflowers in full bloom. We were once again (like so many other walks) accompanied by an array of beautiful native birdlife.
After slinging our packs we set off along a very well maintained dirt access road. As mentioned, the first 2 to 3 kilometres were downhill so remember that you will get the same distance on your return journey uphill! Thankfully the incline is not too severe and is more a 'slow burn' than a hard slog up hill.
After walking for just over 5 kilometres we came across Pryors Hut (Images 4 and 5). This is situated about 50 metres off to the right of the dirt raod. This is a very well preserved hut and was built in 1952 as a shelter for those planting and tending alpine plants as part of a project for the National Botanical Gardens. You can see the remains of a small tree aboretum just to the south of the hut.
Image 5 - Pryors Hut
After leaving Pryors Hut, we walked just over a kilometre and arrived at the track to Mt Gingera. It's situated on a really sharp bend on the dirt road and marked by a post with a small rock painted blue positioned on top of the post (Image 6).
Our small group commenced the climb to the peak of Mt Gingera. Although this walk is steep in parts, the surroundings are beautiful and if you take the time to occassionally look behind you, the surrounding views begin to appear as you climb higher (Images 7 and 8).
Image 7 - View to the north east as you are climbing Mt Gingera
Image 8 - One of the views back to the east as you climb Mt Gingera
After all from the group arrived at the peak we stopped for morning tea and continued to take in the views. If you climb to the top of the granite boulders and look to the south, you can see Tantangara Dam and further into the distance, Mt Koscisuko (Images 11 - note zoom lense used ). The day we visited was a beautiful day with bright blue skies and a gentle breeze. It was hard to get going again! A selection of photo's are at the bottom of this blog.
Image 11 - View (south) across Tantagarra Dam and Mt Kosciuszko in the distance.
We finally managed to pull ourselves away from Mt Gingera (with a little sadness) and recommenced the walk back to the cars. Half way back down the track we came across another walker, camera in hand. It turned out to be 'Mr Freeze', a local bushwalking identity, well known for his photography of native flora and fauna (Image 11). After a quick chat, we set off again. Once back down off the mountain, the eucalypt forrests in this particular area has a prolific population of Flame Robins (Image 12). These birds head into the Australian Alps during summer to breed but in the winter time, they head back down to the lower altitudes in more open country. They provide a specatacular red flash of colour in the surrounding bushland.
After continuing to admire the native flowers, which were prolific along the entire route of the walk, we arrived back at our car. The total distance of the walk was 15.3 kilometres. This is an awesome walk and as mentioned, really is a must do for all.
Image 11 - 'Mr Freeze' aka Peter Meusburger
Gnarled Snowgum amongst granite outcrops on the peak of Mt Gingera
One of our group enjoys the top of Mt Gingera
An abundance of fluro coloured beetles could be found on Mt Gingera
The Buttercup wildflower was in abundance. We are lucky enough to have a walking companion orgirnally from Newfoundland and apparently these flowers are also abudant in Newfoundland during the Sprind and Summer.
The well maintained dirt road and our walking group surrounded by the eucalypt forrest and flowering shrubs!
Spotted Mountain Grasshopper - this grasshopper lives through the snows of winter with its own 'anti-freeze', remerging in the warmer weather of spring