Saturday, January 9, 2016

Donkey Mountain (west side), Gardens of Stone NP, NSW, Australia


2016 January: Donkey Mountain (west side), Gardens of Stone National Park, NSW, Australia

Prolog

DH and I climb Donkey Mountain from the west. Just the 2 of us ... in DH's car.

This is my first trip to Donkey Mountain. Today, we only have time to explore its west side. I will be up at this mountain 2 more times:

- 2nd trip: 2 months later, in 2016-03, explore the east side. Photos and trip report trip are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/donkey-mountain-north-east-maze-gardens.html

- 3rd trip: 7 months later, in late 2016-08, also explore the east side. Photos and trip report trip are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/donkey-mountain-north-east-maze-gardens.html
That trip will be led by the great man Geoff Fox, nicknamed King of Donkey Mountain, as he has been up here more than 50 times !!!


Donkey Mountain

If you want to climb a mountain, and spend the rest of the time in a fairyland for big kids, hopping between pagodas, sometimes over deep fissures; or walking through canyons; or just sitting around and marvel at the view of the valleys below, then there is no other mountain than Donkey Mountain.

From the map, it looks as if one can traverse the top of the mountain in no time, as the distance is only about 1 km.  But that 1 km is pack full of intricate topography ... pagodas, canyons, fissures, narrow passages, caves, chambers, ..., that you really need to spend a few days to fully explore the place, and appreciate the wonders of Donkey Mountain. 


Maps

- 1:100,000 scaled 8931 Wallerawang

- 1:25,000 scaled 8931-4S Ben Bullen

- Plus Geoff Fox's sketch maps on Donkey Mountain. You can find the maps in:
•  South-west end: http://i842.photobucket.com/albums/zz349/foxes9/Donkey%20Mt/02%20Donkey%20Mt%20Maps/SWEndDonkeyMtBWMay2012.jpg
•  Middle section: http://i842.photobucket.com/albums/zz349/foxes9/Donkey%20Mt/02%20Donkey%20Mt%20Maps/MiddleSectionDonkeyMtMay2012BW.jpg


Below is the relevant part of the 1:25,000 scaled map


GPS tracklog file & Route

The GPX tracklog file of our walk can be downloaded from:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B877-h5SCJaSaVY0MnBjLWRyVlk/view?usp=sharing


Here is our tracklog (brown colour) superimposed on the 1:25,000 map.


A summary of our route is:
- Start at a small carpark by the side of Wolgan Road ... the only public access point to Donkey Mountain.
- Climb on a faint foot track to saddle point between Donkey Mountain and Mt Wolgan.
- Explore around the ridge top of the west side of Donkey Mountain.
- When we have enough, retrace steps back to the car

By the way, the story goes that Mt Wolgan was actually a hill west-south-west of Donkey Mountain (beyond the left edge of the above map). However, the cartographer placed the label "Mt Molgan" wrongly at the west end of Donkey Mountain  :-)   In this report, I'll stick to the map, ie refer to Mt Wolgan as the west end of Donkey Mountain.


Timeline & Distance

08:44  0.0 km  At small carpark by side of Wolgan Rd ... the only public accessible point to Donkey Mtn
10:02  1.3 km  At saddle point between Donkey Mtn & Mt Wolgan

Explore around

10:16  1.5 km  Leave saddle point
10:36  1.6 km  At lookout 1

Morning Tea and explore around the lookout

11:02  1.7 km  Resume walking
11:08  1.8 km  At lookout 2

11:09  1.8 km  Resume walking
11:47  2.3 km  At lookout 3

11:52  2.3 km  Resume walking
Due to the narrow passage, GPS track & distance recorded around here are not to be trusted.
11:59  2.5 km  At lookout 4

Lunch
 
12:38  2.6 km  Resume walking
13:00  2.9 km  At lookout 5

13:11  3.0 km  Resume walking
13:26  3.2 km  At lookout 6

13:33  3.2 km  Turn around to return to car
13:38  3.3 km  At lookout 7

13:43  3.3 km  Resume returning to car
14:08  3.6 km  At saddle point between Donkey Mtn & Mt Wolgan
14:53  4.8 km  At car by the side of Wolgan Road

==============================================

Total:  6 hrs 9 mins  At leisurely pace
           4.8 km  Distance is from Google Earth
           6.8 km  Distance is from Garmin GPS


Below is a Google Earth view of our tracklog at the top of Donkey Mountain. The numbers 1, 2, 3 ... etc are the lookouts 1, 2, 3 ... (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
And don't trust the tracklog between lookouts 3 & 4. For example, the tracklog in the red circle is just not right ... due to poor satellite reception inside narrow passages.


Pictures - Donkey Mountain

You can't see the mountain in full from the small carpark by the side of Wolgan Road (the only public access point to Donkey Mountain) ... too many trees  :-(

1)  In the 2 photos below, the upper pic is taken about 500 meter to the east of the carpark.
The lower pic is even further east ... toward the entrance of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort.
- The right red arrow points to Mt Wolgan. The rest of the mountain to its left is Donkey Mtn.
- The yellow arrows point to the way we climb up to the saddle point between Donkey Mtn and Mt Wolgan.
- From the saddle point (where the yellow arrows end), we walk as far east as the left red arrow ... well, not very far  :-)
- The blue arrows in both upper & lower pics point to the same cliff. They help you to visualize and line up the two pictures.


Climb Donkey Mountain (west side)

2)  Although Donkey Mountain is in the Gardens of Stone National Park, it is surrounded on all sides by Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort. This is the only access point for the public to the mountain ... at a small carpark by the side of Wolgan Road.
Here is me on the stile crossing the fence.


3)  We are walking on a faint foot track to the south-west side of Donkey Mountain ... actually towards the saddle point between Donkey Mountain and Mt Wolgan.


4)  There are cairns marking the foot track at regular intervals. This one is particular interesting ... it is ricketily balanced and yet managed to stay upright.


5)  Even with all the cairns, we still managed to lose the track and end up facing these tantalizingly climbable and yet unclimbable cliffs ... We veered off too much to the north-east.  Who is leading?  Ssshhh  :-)
The 2 pics here are continuation to the left/right of each other.


6)  After searching around, we find the track again ... not far to go now to the saddle point.


Saddle point between Donkey Mtn & Mt Wolgan

7)  At the saddle point between Donkey Mountain and Mt Wolgan, someone had planted a twig.
The track now goes down the other side of Donkey Mountain, towards Emirates One&Only resort. We turn left (east) instead, intending to explore along the ridge top.


8)  Still at the saddle point where the previous picture was taken ~~~
These 3 pics are cliffs around the saddle point.


9)  Still near the saddle point is this large-ish hole in the cliff ... such a hole always beckons you to reach for the camera :-)
The 2 pics here are of the same hole ... from opposite directions.


Along the ridge top to Lookout 1

10)  We want to get to the top of the ridge, so we are climbing up. DH is the guy in the photo.


11)  At the end of the climb we come to an area surrounded on all sides by cliffs.


12)  This is typical of what we see near the top of Donkey Mountain ... pagoda-like formation.


13)  Climbing again, this time up a narrow passage


14)  Passing by this cliff ...


15)  ... And reaching this lookout ~~~
Once we climb to the top of these rocks, we'll get a nice view down the valley.


16)  This rock is the flat-top rock near the middle of the previous photo.
In the lower pic, Emirates one&Only Resort is at the left side of the pic.


17)  I'm at the top of another nearby rock.


18)  Scenery from around the top of these rocks ~~~ a nearby pagoda-like rock formation


19)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic ~~~
DH is the guy in the upper pic.


20)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic (Click on the pic to enlarge it.) ~~~
Towards east and south is this splendid panorama of the Wolgan Valley (where Wolgan River flows) and Emirates One&Only Resort.
Similar panoramas are in photos #36 and #43.
The 3 red arrows point to, from left to right:
- 1st arrow: I was at the top of this rock in photo #16.
- 2nd arrow: And at the top of this rock in Photo #17.
- 3rd arrow: It points to a lookout on the opposite side of the valley. I was there 4 months ago in September 2015. See photos #6 and #7 in my trip report in: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/deception-nobles-canyon-wollemi-np-nsw.html


21)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic ~~~
The left side of the pic is Wolgan Valley - continuation of the valley of the previous pic.


22)  Zooming onto Emirates One&Only Resort ... See photo #20 for the panoramic view.


23)  One of the many pagoda-like formation at the top of Donkey Mountain


To Lookout 2

24)  Leaving the previous lookout and going to another nearby lookout ~~~
This photo is looking back at where I was.


25)  Moving further away from where I was, and looking back


26)  Going towards the lookout - the red arrow ~~~
The tall pagoda formation is the same as the tall pagoda on the left side of the previous pic.


27)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic


28)  At the lookout pointed to by the red arrows in photo #26; and looking back at DH coming towards me ~~~
The tall pagoda formation on the left side of the pic is the same as the ones in photos #25 and #26.


29)  A splendid panorama at the lookout - this pic is towards the north-west.
- Wolgan Road is along the valley.
- DH's car is parked at where the red arrow points to.  (Click on the pic to enlarge it.)


30)  This is the left side of the previous pic



To Lookout 3

31)  We've left the previous lookout; now climbing up to another lookout ~~~
DH is the guy in the pic


32)  View of the magnificent rock formations at the lookout


33)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic ~~~
Just like photo #29, this view is towards the north-west.
- Wolgan Road runs along the valley.
- In the lower pic, DH's car is parked at where the red arrow points to.


34)  Flower at the lookout ~~~
If you know its name, please let me know.


To Lookout 4

35)  We've left the previous lookout; now climbing up a steep narrow passage to another lookout
- Left pic: looking up the narrow passage
- Right pic: I've reached the top of the passage and looking down at DH climbing up.


36)  Once we've climb up the narrow passage of the previous photo, we are met by this panoramic view towards east and south. The main feature is Wolgan Valley and Emirates One&Only Resort.
- Wolgan River flows along the valley.
- Similar panoramic views are in photos #20 and #43.
- The red arrow points to a lookout on the opposite side of the Wolgan Valley. I was there four months ago in September 2015. See photos #6 and #7 in my trip report in: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/deception-nobles-canyon-wollemi-np-nsw.html


37)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic ~~~
We were at the top of the rocks at the centre of this pic ... well, not the highest rock; the ones further back.
It is interesting to compare the above pic with photo #32 ... we are looking at the same rock formation from different angle.


To Lookout 5

38)  We had hoped to keep climbing up towards the north-east direction.  But it turns out to be too difficult ... well, difficult for DH and I who are not rock climbers   :-)
So we take a rest, have lunch at the lookout, then climb back down to find another way forward.


39)  We find this narrow slot.


40)  Me in the same narrow slot as in the previous pic ~~~
But the slot leads to a steep drop at the other end.  So we retreat back out of it.


41)  We climb to another pagoda lookout ~~~
- Unlike other lookouts that we have climbed so far, this one has a 360 panoramic view.
- But the tall pagoda in this pic is not climbable  :-)
- Note the deep fissure of the photo on the right: You'll find plenty of these fissures along the ridge top of Donkey Mountain.


42)  A closer look at the pagoda of the previous pic ~~~
This pagoda is just south of a label marked as "Emirates View 2" in Geoff Fox's sketch map on the Middle section of Donkey Mountain. Where I'm now standing is directly due west of the pagoda.


43)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic (towards east and south) and looking down at Wolgan Valley and Emirates One&Only Resort ~~~
- Wolgan River flows along the valley.
- Similar panoramic views are in photos #20 and #36.
- The red arrow points to a lookout on the opposite side of the Wolgan Valley. I was there four months ago in September 2015. See photos #6 and #7 in my trip report in: http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/deception-nobles-canyon-wollemi-np-nsw.html


44)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic and toward the west ~~~
Of the 2 large rock formations in the middle of the photo, we were at the top of the one on the left.


45)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic and towards the north-west ~~~
This pic is similar to photos #29 and #33.
- Wolgan Road runs along the valley.
- DH's car is parked at where the red arrow points to.


46)  Leucochrysum graminifolium (Pagoda Rock Daisy) ~~~
They only grow in this part of the world ... they grow on tiny depressions and cracks on the rocks of the pagodas; and no where else. It is amazing that they need so very little soil, if any !


To Lookout 6

47)  We've come down from the previous lookout and going further towards the north-east ... passing these rock formations.
The one on the left is the highest point of Donkey Mountain.  Unfortunately, it is not climbable.


48)  Now climbing up to this pile of pagodas, the top of which will give us another superb view of the countryside


49)  While climbing up the pagoda, passing by this hole  :-)


50)  We reach the top of the pagoda.  This maybe the 2nd highest point of Donkey Mountain.


51)  From the top of the pagoda, looking back at the rock column on the left side of photo #47 ~~~
- Where I'm now standing may well be the 2nd highest point of the entire Donkey Mountain.
- The highest point is the top of the rock column in this pic.  From the map, its elevation is around 970 meters.  Unfortunately, the rock stands on its own and is not climbable without climbing gears.
The 180 degree panoramic scenery beyond the left edge of the above pic is towards east and south and looks down at Wolgan Valley and Emirates One&Only Resort. The scene is similar to photos #20, #36 and #43. So I won't repeat them here.


To lookout 7 while returning to car

We have enough of climbing up and down pagodas  :-)  Time to call it a day and return to DH's car ...

52)  ... But on the return trip, we pass by these pagodas and can't resist the urge to climb them.
From the top, there is another fantastic panorama of the valley below (towards the north-west). As the view is similar to photos #29, #33 and #45, it won't be repeated here.


Return to car

53)  No more climbing ... this time, we are really returning to the car  :-)


54)  DH climbing down


55)  DH climbing down


56)  Through this gap


57)  DH through a low overhang


58)  At lower altitudes, like near the carpark, there are plenty of this blue flower.  If you know its name, please let me know.


Post Script

This is my first trip to Donkey Mountain. I will be up at this mountain 2 more times:

- 2nd trip: 2 months later, in 2016-03, explore the east side. Photos and trip report trip are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/donkey-mountain-north-east-maze-gardens.html

- 3rd trip: 7 months later, in late 2016-08, also explore the east side. Photos and trip report trip are in my blog:
http://mntviews.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/donkey-mountain-north-east-maze-gardens.html
That trip will be led by the great man Geoff Fox, nicknamed King of Donkey Mountain, as he has been up here more than 50 times !!!

1 comment:

  1. Nice itinerary. Easy to follow. Looks like a fabulous place. Will try to do it soon.

    ReplyDelete