Larapinta Trail Day 8 – Hugh Gorge to Section 4/5 Junction (Section 5)

After a tough day yesterday I regained my hiking mojo on section 5 of the Larapinta Trail, the most technically challenging part of the track so far. It involved lots of rock hopping along gorges and a sketchy ascent and descent along the aptly named Razorback Ridge.

Coldest night so far, slept literally wearing all my clothes, five layers of merino and two down jackets, inside fully zipped up sleeping bag. Waited till the sun emerged before I emerged and started along Hugh Gorge. This involved careful foot placement given the number of rocks around, but was rewarded with sunrise light bringing out the colour in the gorge walls, and some lovely reflections.

From Hugh Gorge Junction I took a side trip to Hugh Gorge Waterhole, which was bliss to walk to without a pack. Along the way were a surprise number of bones, immense walls of red rock, and a waterhole at the end, though it was too windy for reflections.

Returning to the junction I headed up a valley to Rocky Saddle for views in both directions, a warm up for the afternoon.

After lunch at Lily Creek I headed straight up the hillside to Razorback Ridge. This was the sketchiest part of the track to date, narrow in places with high drop offs but rewarded with some of the most wonderful views of the trail.

Coming down was a little tricky, but not as tricky as getting through Spencer Gorge. This was a boulder packed obstacle course requiring concentration, and was tough on the joints, hurting my right knee part way along and testing my already tender left ankle.

Along the way I overtook a group of teenagers from a local school walking section 5, interesting choice given it’s challenges. They set up camp nearby overnight and judging by the evening shouting sounded like they were playing rugby in the dark.

A final push got me to the imaginatively named Section 4/5 Junction, home for the night. Again I set up my tent on the shelter platform, inspiring a pair of ladies from Sydney to do the same on the other side.

I got my final fill of reflections for the day at Birthday Waterhole, 0.9km along a side track from the Section 4/5 Junction. There a guided group of Larapinta walkers were setting up for the evening. They just had to carry day packs, had a guide, swags (mattresses inside canvas bags) to sleep in, and dinner prepared for them by a support crew. Other than not carrying a 24kg pack none of it really appealed, particularly the next morning when I woke at sunrise to find them heading past the campsite.

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