Updated: Oct 2016
Published: Jun 2016

Larapinta 2016

On Razorback Ridge
Here we see Glen, Monika, Steph and Caroline on the ascent of Razorback Ridge on the Larapinta Trail in June 2016.
This image also appears in People

Autumn 2016 was fairly wet in central Australia, so we started the walk thinking that finding water wouldn't be a problem. As it turned out, we were spot-on about that. Our plan was to walk from Ellery Creek to Simpson's Gap - basically a replay of my 2010 walk.

Sunset from Rocky Gully

We'd chosen to do the walk in late June because that's when the daytime temperatures are best for walking, and also because it rarely rains then. After a few days on the trail, we'd arrived at Standley Chasm, and were treated that evening to an electrical storm. Not the worst I'd ever camped in, but unusual for that time of year, and I was pretty glad that we were down in the valley at a campground and not perched on top of Brinkley Bluff where we'd been a few hours earlier.

Feeling like we'd dodged a bullet, we set off the next morning towards Jay Creek. After lunch, the clouds started gathering, and before long we could see and hear a storm racing towards us from the west.

Approaching storm

Fortunately most of it passed by to the south, and we ended up walking in to the Jay Creek campsite along the dry river bed under overcast skies. With night falling and the cloud cover becoming even heavier, we decided to camp in and around  the metal shelter shed at Jay Creek. Once again, our luck had held. We had some slightly damp raingear and everyone was in good spirits.

Jay Creek campsite

And then our luck ran out. A few hours later the rain and hail came down in tropical amounts. In the middle of the night we dragged sodden tents into the shelter shed and waited for the deluge and din of the storm on the metal roof to pass. The dry creek turned into an impassable river. In the darkness we could see the tiny retro-reflective arrow on the opposite bank by torchlight, and we knew just by the sound of the torrent that we weren't getting out that way any time soon.

The next morning we discussed our options. Continuing our walk towards Simpson's Gap wasn't one of them, at least not in the following few days. The map indicated a property called Hamilton Downs about 5km up a track to the north, and mentioned the possible presence of a caretaker, so we figured that was our best bet.

We were relieved to find that the property did indeed have a caretaker (two, in fact), and with our remaining vestiges of luck and the kindness of strangers, we managed to get back to Alice Springs by road a few hours later. The same storm that drenched us at Jay Creek had hammered Alice Springs too. The town was carpeted in eucalyptus leaves and fallen branches, and the Todd River was raging.

All in all we were very lucky - lucky to not have been on the track when the final storm hit, lucky to not have had our tents shredded, lucky to not have camped on top of Brinkley Bluff during an electrical storm and lucky that the Hamilton Downs caretakers were there and so helpful.