Larapinta Trail Day 1 – Mt Sonder and Redbank Gorge (Section 12)

A 223km walk along the West MacDonnell Range between Alice Springs and Mt Sonder, the Larapinta Trail is one of the great Australian hikes. It is quintessentially Australian, traversing a rocky red (and surprisingly green) landscape, with spectacular gorges, and camping every night. It is also one of the best set up longer (typically taking 14-16 days) walks as there are three lockers at campsites along the track where food can be left, so you only need to carry food for 3-5 days at a time.

Most people walk the track from Alice Springs in the east to Mt Sonder in the west. For a few reasons I decided to walk it the opposite direction, being dropped off at Redbank Gorge car park (about two hours from Alice Springs).

It was a hot start, over 30C with almost no shade and I was feeling the effects of two and half hours time jet lag from flying in the day before. Thankfully I could walk with a day pack, and leave my gear left at the campsite by the river. Before it got even hotter I headed up to toward Mt Sonder.

The 2.3km section up to the saddle was reasonably steep but worthwhile for great views north to the Stuart Bluff Range and south to the Pacoota Range, with Mt Sonder ahead in the distance.

The views improved as I continued toward the summit, with some impressively pointy termite mounds.

The 1,379m summit of Mt Sonder offered expansive views in all directions over this ancient landscape.

I returned back to Redbank to set up camp, having a moment of near terror in the process as I made my long awaited lunch. I always carry two spoons with me, a spork (spoon / fork combination) and a large plastic spoon for stirring the dehydrated meals. Despite putting my spork in a shoe to protect it it had broken in half before I even left Alice Springs. I then searched in vain for the plastic spoon, only for it to dawn on me that I’d washed it before the trip and not packed it. Two weeks worth of dehydrated meals ahead and no easy way to eat them, not ideal.

Thankfully I had one option remaining, an unused trowel, brought for other purposes, which turned out to be the perfect (if slightly ungainly) eating tool. It’s pointy end was particularly good at getting into the corners of the dehydrated meals. A very kind couple from Sydney who shared the transport out with me later gave me one of their spare sporks which was gratefully received, though I still mainly stuck with the trowel.

After setting up my tent I headed along the short 20 minute walk to Redbank Gorge. This is a wonderful spot, with the late afternoon sun bringing out the red rocks, and the pools of (freezing cold) water offering lovely reflections.

Somehow I kept going after this and headed back up toward Mt Sonder to the saddle where I watched the sun set. A good way end to an exhausting but great first day on the Larapinta. Twelve more days to go!

Author: jontycrane

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