We are on the plane back from a magic 27 day Larapinta Trail walk so thought I would do a post to answer all the questions I had before the walk. Probably more I have forgotten so please ask anything to help you have a better trip. It is an absolutely fabulous walk.
Context – I am 54 and my wife is 52. She hasn’t done a multi-day walk for over a decade and was dubious on her fitness but still keen to do it so we planned to go slowly with plenty of rest days available in case the feet/knees needed them. We walked for 20 days as per John Chapman’s book and had 7 side trip/rest days. She handled it no worries and we had an awesome trip. Magic weather and a magic trail. Highly recommended.
Which direction to walk?
We walked East to West which I consider the best direction to walk it in. You walk what is considered some of the least interesting scenery first but we still found it great, not having the rest of the track to yet compare it with and because the surrounds of Alice are still for most visitors new and different to what they are accustomed to. You have some easier days to start with and your body can adjust to walking every day. You have the sun on your back instead of in your face especially if you leave at sunrise which is the best part of the day to avoid the heat and allow time to enjoy the day and have time to solve any problems. You see Mt Sonder the final destination a week or so from the end and walk towards it like a beacon to aim towards. You have a good shower and great food at Ormiston Gorge to recharge for the final push to Mt Sonder. We had a couple of days off there and even ordered take away $10 Frittata and Salad at 4pm when the kiosk closes to eat for dinner at 6pm. People who walk West to East mostly do so because of transport issues of trying to nominate a date for pickup. They figure it is much easier to book a shuttle and be dropped off and then walk to Alice but we had a free lift as soon as we finished. The first couple we asked offered to take us to Glen Helen so we held out for 5 minutes and then the second couple took us to Ormiston Gorge and then the first couple we asked at Ormiston dropped us to our hotel in Alice. If you are walking Mt Sonder for sunrise then it is almost guaranteed you will get a lift that day but have an extra day of food just in case. We just made sure we had a good wash and were clean to get into tourists cars. They loved the trail stories all the way back to Alice.
When to go?
We started on the 30th May. We had about half the nights camping alone and half with others. It gradually got warmer and we were starting earlier each day to avoid the heat and the flies. It was getting much busier and hotter towards the end and reports were that July was going to be very busy. While the nights were forecast to be around 0 degrees it didn’t seem that cold. A down jacket was all that was needed at night, in the tent and to get packed up in the morning, maybe because it is so dry.
How long to take?
We went slowly with 20 days of walking. Splitting section 4,5,6 was really good as 4 & 5 are fairly hard days and doing a water carry was easier than trying to cover the extra ground. Section 6 is 30km of flat going but there isn’t much shade so splitting at Rocky Gully water tank & camp was good. We split section 3 which was a good practice water carry to Millers Flat and meant we were into Standley Chasm in good time for fresh food. We also split section 11 walking to Finke camp an easy 9km arriving before lunch then reading for a few hours before a 4:30pm walk for 4.5km to Davenport creek to reduce the next day and have us up to Hilltop Lookout in the cool. The longer you can allow the better. Having days off was great and we still had a couple of spare days in Alice to catch up on email and settle back into the rat-race.
We paid LTTS for 3 food drops at Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek & Ormiston Gorge. They cost $30 each plus $10 each to be retrieved for 50 litre boxes. They did a great job dropping the boxes to our hotel for filling and emptying. We were able to put clean clothes and full sized towels in each box so we could completely wash everything we were carrying. There is even a free washing machine at Standley Chasm. We packed toiletries to top up our bottles, nail clippers, repair kit, some Gatorade, spare camera battery, new headtorch batteries, new gas, new food etc. We packed a heavier pot and pot holder with some canned food for Ellery Creek to try and have some fresher food and we ate from the kiosks at Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge and had a day off at each food drop to get maximum salad time and washing and re-organising time. Plus we could leave anything we didn’t want like food we hadn’t eaten or anything we found we didn’t really need (sunglasses and a couple of clothing items – including hut boots which kept getting sharp seeds stuck to them). You need to go to the visitors centre and pay a $10 fee and $50 deposit for a key to Ellery Creek and Ormiston gorge food drop sheds. When we dropped our key back they were very happy as they have 140 keys and didn’t have any to loan and had been sending people away. I would phone them once your flight is booked and try and reserve a key but at worst I wouldn’t hesitate to go without a key as walkers tend to gather at the food drops for rest days so someone else will let you in especially with a note from the visitors centre and/or LTTS. You can get more regular food drops which we didn’t investigate but might be worth it especially for a larger group.https://www.larapintatrailtreksupport.com.au/
We walked in solid boots and were happy enough. Lighter boots or trail runners might have been OK too but need good soles as the track is mostly rock and was hard on boots. We hiked in trousers and gaiters but shorts and sock savers would have been OK if you are mindful of sunburn and don’t mind the odd poke from spinifex. Zip offs probably the best as a bit cold until the sun is well up for shorts. We took our gaiters off at lunch time on some hot days. We saw 3 snakes.
We only took one set of walking clothes – shirt, trousers, undies, socks, hat, fingerless sun gloves (from fly fishing shop). Then at sundown would put on long johns under trousers, thermal singlet, fleece and down jacket and beanie. My wife also had fingerless woolen gloves. We would sleep in those warm clothes and then take them off just as ready to start walking in the morning. We each had one spare pair of undies and socks and would wash them every other day and then wash all clothes at each food drop or if in to camp early enough to have them dry. We carried a light rain coat but didn’t use it but apparently it can drizzle for 3 days.
We took an overkill 2 man 4 season Hilleberg Allak tent at 3.3kg which is all we had available for 2 people being from Tassie. I didn’t mind as I was keen for my wife to be comfortable and enjoy the trip. Most people had lighter tents and a few had tarps. There are lots of ants, some mice, dingos, crows which could be an issue with tarps plus some of the hilltop camps are windy. We were happy with our freestanding tent as there were plenty of loose rocks and the ground was hard to try and put pegs in but probably fine. There was no condensation at all with the dry climate and a single skin tent would be fine I reckon. We didn’t see any rain but apparently it can not only drizzle for 3 days but last year was 5 degrees and hail (to the point of looking like it had snowed) one day in June. Even no shelter would be a plan as can sleep in the trailheads shelters and if you had say an InReach system that texted you the weather each morning could plan how far to walk. http://www.alwaysinreach.com.au/
We drank from all the ranger maintained tanks and the bore at Standley Chasm without treating or filtering with no issue. There is a sign on all the tanks saying to boil for 10 minutes. It annoys me in this age of legal eagles that the sign can’t reflect the actual risk like – This water may be contaminated during transport but is generally safe to drink but to be 100% sure then please filter or boil. In my opinion tablets are useless (unless you want to treat the ranger tanks) because any water you find will have lots of bits in it you want to filter out. Same goes for a Steripen. We had a Sawyer Squeeze Mini which at 56 grams $A38 was perfect for any water we found or if you had an emergency and couldn’t make it to the next water tank. We filtered water from Fig Spring near Millers Flat (section 3) as we ran a bit light for our trial water carry. We filtered stagnant water from Fringe Lily Creek (section 5) again running a bit light. We filtered spring water at Hugh Gorge Junction. There is no water at Brinkley Bluff (section 4). There was no water at Waterfall Gorge (section 9). We walked to Finke River camp which is an easy 9km then at 4:30pm walked to Davenport Creek (section 11) to camp to have an early start for the hill climb as it was going to be a 26 degree day. There was water in Davenport Creek but it is also an easy water carry from Finke as flat. We carried 8.3 litres to Millers Flat and then filtered 2 litres in the morning on the way to Standley Chasm. We carried 11.7 litres to Brinkley Bluff which was a litre too much but we weren’t sure how my wife would go being scared of heights. We carried 9.3 litres to Fringe Lily Creek then filtered 2.5 litres there and Hugh Gorge Junction. We carried 10.3 litres to Waterfall Gorge. We carried 9.3 litres to Davenport Creek then filtered some washing up water but would have been OK to drink. Most of the pools of water have fish in them and dead fish depending on how low they are. As the oxygen reduces the fish die so it is nicer to carry water for most places and especially so the later in the season you go. http://www.outdooryou.com.au/
Sawyer Mini $A38 56grams is great for occasional use (like Tassie) but maybe a 2 litre gravity system is better if you want to use it more often as squeezing is a pain to do very often.
Jay Creek had 20 mice that went nuts all over the sleeping platforms at sundown. Probably best to sleep in a tent away from the shelter. Check in the shelter cupboards for mouse droppings and the log books to assess the risk. We hung our food from the shelter rafters and it was fine. I have been told the best way is to thread 2 empty plastic bottles on a cord and hang food between them - the mice/rats walk along the cord then step on the bottle and spin off and I am planning that for my Hinchinbrook Island trip where the native white rats are a problem. Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge the crows are very active. At Standley Chasm they stole a guys plastic bag full of painkillers for his dodgy knees. We saw them steal 2 muesli bars when the person was only 1 meter away and then came back and flew off with the box of the remaining 4 muesli bars. At Ormiston Gorge the crows went right through the camp when everyone was off walking the pound or the ghost gum walk and there were noodles everywhere. They quite like the mesh bags that people have as they can get into them. There were mosquito larva in the tank at Mulga Camp but seemed to not end up in our water bottles if we turned the tap on slowly so they weren’t sucked out. Dingos may steal boots so best in your tent or tied to pack in vestibule. Flies were no issue most of the time but some days when temperature got up at around 1pm they were everywhere and a fly net was handy especially if in camp trying to read the Kindle and they weigh nothing. Good sunhat and sunscreen a must although my wife who has lots of hair was happy with just a sun visor. People were very nice and the food drops and camps/tents we felt were safe. Best not to leave anything outside or on view but the people are all keen walkers or grey nomads/tourists at the food drop sites. My wife is scared of heights and a few times I went back for her pack and/or her. Overall it is very safe. There are a few spots on Razorback Ridge that walking E-W are marked to take you off the top for a couple of stretches but walking W-E they aren’t marked and it is easy to just follow the well used path along the razorback which gets a bit scary a few times. One guy who was walking W-E looked shaken when he was telling us to look carefully for alternative paths. So if you think it looks a bit dangerous then go back 20 meters and check for an alternative path. There are lots of very sharp seeds (especially East end) that get stuck on your pack when you take it off or stuck in your socks and would go straight through the floor of your tent and mattress so be careful. Have a mattress repair kit at least in food drops and carry some duct tape wrapped around a pencil. We always put our pack right on the track and both had a small foam mat to sit on which was invaluable as we spent a lot of time sitting on jagged rocks.
Buy the NPWS maps. The 5th edition is due very soon. Don’t need a GPS or other maps. Small compass and an PLB. The track is very well marked. I bought John Chapman’s book but didn’t carry it as 300 grams. I copied any potential water sources from his book to the NPWS maps plus any notes I scribbled on the maps. Then pack the maps in your food drops as you will need them and leave the ones you don’t need anymore.
What to pack apart from normal?
Blistex was good when my lips cracked up (maybe more from wind than sun?). Resolve Plus was good for my wife who got a heat-rash and used a whole tube. Earplugs are essential for dingos other campers mattresses etc. – the skin coloured foam ones that come in a 6 pack are best. Tea Tree Oil is great for feet and as an antiseptic. Hand Gel. You will be doing a lot of packing up so get things organized in certain places in certain coloured bags. Trekking poles were great if you use them. With a 3 gram tube of super glue and some thickish black cotton you can repair almost anything. Wrap cotton around broken tent pole and then apply glue to cotton. If hip belt buckle breaks then again use cotton and glue to repair. Light cord for clothes line (with safety pins for pegs) or for repairs. 30cm piece of double sided Velcro for repairs. Short piece of light wire for repairs. I took the courtesy sewing kit from my Alice Springs hotel and surprisingly it was used 3 times on the trip to mend peoples ripped pants and for splinters. Small tweezers were good for removing difficult spinifex when it broke off. Wilderness Wash was good for shampoo, washing people and clothes. Hydralyte Sports minerals were great to add to our water for rehydration and it does make a difference. We packed 3 sachets between us per day (could have had 4 or 5 some days). They cost $25 for 12 at Chemist Warehouse. We each had a Kindle and read every day and I loved reading thru hiking books on the AT, PCT, CDT and Te Araroa while we were on our little 20 day trip to get a feel for what a 100 day trip might be like. You can charge at Standley Chasm and at Ormiston Gorge. At Ormiston best was to put in one of the 4 showers during the day when demand is low then snib and lock it in (use a knife to reopen from the outside - test you can open it first)(I also needed a large rubber band from repair kit as charging cord wasn't long enough to reach shelf but there was a hook to hang on). Maybe pack a battery pack or solar charger for Ellery Creek food drop but could also ask a motorhome tourist for a charge. Telstra phone worked at Simpsons Gap in the satellite booster, Brinkley Bluff, Counts Point, ridge above Waterfall Gorge, Mt Sonder & maybe others. Put an obvious rubbish bag for Ellery Creek as there are no bins and your food drop company will need to take your rubbish for you and there are mice so it will need to go back in your food drop box.
What did we eat?
Breakfast – Carman’s Oats – just add boiling water, stir, cover, wait a few minutes
Lunch - Vita Wheat and Cheese – Kraft Dairylea cheese 250g is real cheese and doesn’t need fridge.
Snacks – for me 75g nuts/sunflower/pumpkin seeds, 3 muesli bars (I love the Food for Health fruit free ones 25g each), 1 low-carb protein bar, 1 sesame snaps, 1 small sultanas, 1 miso soup (Ajishima freeze dried miso with fungi -weighs 9 grams from Coles and is also excellent to mix with a regular cup-a-soup or on its own), 1 cup-a-soup, 1 pack of dry Phillippine Mango for each food drop for big climbs, 3 tea bags.
Dinner – 1 freeze dried meal 2 serve. The black Outdoor Gourmet are nicest and the Back Country ones are good. We added 1/3 of a packet of Back County Instant Rice (blue packet) to all 2 serve meals. It makes the meal go a bit further and also some are very flavoursome and it helps dilute a bit. Wait 20 minutes rather than 10 minutes for better flavor and texture. We ate out of the bag with a long handled titanium spoon so as no washing up and not to need to cut the freeze dried packet and then were able to use the sealable bag for rubbish.
At food drops - Standley Chasm the lasagne was good $18, Ormiston Gorge everything was good at $10 and can get a takeaway at 4pm to save for dinner, Ellery Creek we packed corn chips and salsa, can of peas, can of asparagus, liquid veg soup, Indian curry meals, salmon, tuna, etc.
Flights & hotel & supplies?
I booked Launceston to Alice for $279 on special about 4 months out, planning to just pay whatever to get home when I was finished as originally I was planning lots of other side trips. Once the maps arrived and I started spreading gear around my wife retrieved her dusty pack from the cupboard and we booked the rest of the legs at $378 and allowed 28 days. Most people were allowing 17 days but weren’t relaxing eating salad at the kiosks and reading many books. It was good to have a couple of days in Alice at the end and it is really great if you don’t have to rush the trip as it is just a great holiday. It is cheaper to fly back from Uluru but getting there might negate the savings if you have already been there or don’t have the time to go. We stayed at the Chifley which was handy to town and we got a click and collect at Coles (should have got delivered to hotel but no delivery spots once we finalized our order) and we pre-ordered all our freeze dried meals and gas from Lone Dingo who offered 5% discount when pushed. We chose the 440g gas bottles having so many cups of tea and soup but I reckon the 220g size would have been close and there were usually some spare part-used can hanging around in the food drops or someone would boil you some water for your freeze dried meal. At Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge, they take credit cards. Standley Chasm camping is $18.50 per person for the first night including Chasm entry. Ellery Creek is $5 per person camping and you need the right money to put in an envelope. Ormiston Gorge is $10 per person and can put in an envelope or pay at the kiosk.
There are bound to be other things we have forgotten to mention. Just ask here to see if we can help you plan this amazing adventure. We saw all sorts of poor planning from people on the trip and if you can do a lot of thinking at home you will have a fabulous time.
Some photos here:-https://www.facebook.com/andrew.richman ... 6788460315
Last edited by Andrew
on Thu 29 Jun, 2017 11:46 am, edited 16 times in total.