Chewings Range

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Introduction

The Chewings Range is part of the West MacDonnell Range and extends from Alice Springs through to Ormiston Gorge. The Larapinta Trail follows the eastern half of Chewings Range from just north of Alice Springs through to Hugh Gorge. and is an axcellent 8 to 9 day walk. The western half of the range is untracked and is what this web page describes. Note there is always an issue with notes for untracked areas - these notes will be brief and are suitable only for expereinced walkers as they will not be very detailed. Water sources are the key to walks in this area and they will be provided along with rough times between them. You will still need to be able to navigate using poor maps. Most walkers follow the base of the range and explore the gorges and creeks as they are passed. The area tends to be rocky and covered with grasses and animal tracks are sometimes useful. Expect to meet plenty of spinifex, a grass with needle sharp leaves. Waterholes vary greatly in quality, one dead animal can make some water sources undrinkable and conditions can vary greatly from season to season. Some water is fairly salty but still OK to drink and in dry years expect some waterholes to be empty. In 2011 there was plenty of rain and all waterholes were full - the spinifex and other grasses were tall making off-track walking slow in places.

Access

If you dont know how to access this range then you should not be walking here. We strongly suggest to walk the Lrapinta Trail before venturing into this range.

Maps

There are two new maps which cover most of the national park. They are 'West MacDonnell National Park - Map 1'  (western half) and 'West MacDonnell National Park - Map 2'  (eastern half). They are at a 1:100,000 scale, GDA94 and both are needed for the Chewings Range. I have checked coordinates below to match the new maps. When we first walked here there were no detailed topographic maps and we had to make our own  from a variety of sources. They were rough but did the job as off-track navigation is very easy.. You essentially walk using your eyes to pick the best route through the rocks and light scrub rather than blindly follow maps or a GPS.

Information and Track Notes

The notes here are as brief as possible and are designed to be used with the above contour maps. There is more than enough information here, if you require more then I suggest that you do not attempt to walk in this range. Note - some have asked for GPS coodrdinates in lat/long coordinates for the entire route - yes we did use a GPS for spot points but if you are unable to walk without a GPS crumb trail then you should not enter this area, enough said!
From Hugh Gorge, a day trip (5 to 6 hours) to point 1232m, 2km west of Hugh Gorge is worthwhile - this can be climbed following the steep spur west from Hugh Gorge Junction. Alternatively from the camp at the base of Hugh Gorge, head north for 500m then head left (north-west) when the valley divides, follow the creek for 1.5km then turn right to the base of a waterfall. The steep spur on the right (east) can be used to get onto the tops and eventually the summit, there are excellent views to the west of the untracked Chewings Range.

From Hugh Gorge, follow the Larapinta Trail south-west for around 2km out onto the plains then head west, basically avoid the long spurs that run down from the range. Its about 3.5 hours walk through to a waterhole at Bulldog Gorge (GR 175778), then another 1.25 hours to the next waterhole (GR 157780) which we called White Gum Creek. More walking west along the base of the range, 1.5 hours leads to Mulga Gorge, water (GR 139783), another 2 hours, leads to a waterfall in a gully (GR  107794). Continue west passing two more small gorges for 2 hours to a rocky creek on the plain - water (GR 076789) - this waterhole is sometimes dry! Continue along the base of the range for 4 hours to Ellery Creek. From here you can either continue west along the southern base or use Ellery Creek to access the northern side of the range which is what most groups do. Follow the creek bed north through the gap for 30 minutes to where the creek divides, good camping on sand 100m up the right hand stream. If Ellery Creek is dry then water can be collected from Milton Park Gorge (GR 021812), 1 km east (1.5 hours return). Continue by following the left branch of Ellery Creek as it winds through a beautiful gorge. Leave it at (GR 997821) and follow the side creek north-west, keep right when it divides and follow the narrowing valley (water in deep slot) then scramble up on the left and back into the creek at a small waterfall. Continue west-north-west following the base of the range over several saddles passing Red Gorge and several shallow chasms to the base of Portals Canyon (GR 936852), water and good campsite, 5 hours from Ellery Creek junction. Portals is a true slot canyon filled with water, a good daytrip is to scramble up on the left and descend back above the slot and explore the surrounding short canyons. Most groups then continue following the northern base of the range westward to the low gap before Mt Giles, water is often found at GR870845 on the north side, 5 hours from Portals. A 1 hour climb and descent south leads to a rocky creek bed on the southern side of the range.

For very experienced walkers, there is an exciting, difficult alternative. From the base of Portals Canyon, climb up on the left and descend back into the creek above the slot of Portals Canyon. Continue following the creek upstream passing many waterholes (there are some difficult scrambles) to the base of another slot canyon. Collect water for camp, return 200m downstream and climb up on the south side until above the cliff, over a knoll and back to the creek floor, a short sidetrip right leads into the top of the slot canyon. Continue upstream to a waterfall at a creek junction (water sometimes found in a deep hole in the rockface), continue up the left hand creek then climb into the main saddle, an exposed campsite, 5 hours from base of Portals Canyon. Good views at sunset/sunrise from the knoll to the north-west. Next day, head south then south-east following the creek downstream for 2 hours to 45 Degree Canyon (GR 916838). While short, ledges provide a spectacular route through. Almost immediately the creek becomes scrubby, climb steeply up and over a spur on the right to get onto the plains. Continue west along the base of the range to join the other route in the rocky creek bed just below the low point of the range before Mt Giles, 3.5 hours from 45 Degree Canyon.

From the creek south of the low point of the range, continue for 1 hour west over a saddle to the next creek system - Giles Yard Spring, water (GR855833). This is a permanent creek and camping is not allowed. Collect water and follow the creek downstream 15 to 30 minutes to a fence and campsite (GR 851830). Continue by following the creek south-west, head west 2km then follow another creek north-west towards Mt Giles. Pass Giles Spring 2 (GR803831) and go over saddles to Giles Spring 1, 3.5 hours from Giles Yard Spring camp, water and campsite (GR 795829). The sidetrip to Mt Giles up the spur to the east of the spring takes 1.5 hours up and 1 hour down, there is a log book in the summit cairn, of course the view is excellent. There is also water further west at Giles Spring North (GR 783830). Follow the creek south-west crossing into the next creek system to Ormiston Creek (GR 774815). There is plenty of great campsites along the creek, 1.5 hours from Giles Spring 1, and water is often available in the deeper waterholes but is not permanent. The remainder of the walk simply follows Ormiston Creek downstream into Ormiston Pound, about 4.5 hours to the tourist track. Turn left and follow the tourist track over the ridge and down to the road and camping ground, 1 hour. The alternative walk to the right through the gorge is sometimes blocked if there is water in the gorge, it is then a deep cold swim.

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Last updated : September 29th 2017