Special comments on the mountain Kata Tjuta, 1066 meter.
The short version is, this peak may not have an easy way up.
Kata Tjuta (also called Mount Olga), is the highest peak among a group
of about 16 dome shaped peaks located about 30 km west of Uluru.
For mountain interested people, the significant height of 1066 meter
of Kata Tjuta as well as its large rise
(between 500 and 600 meter) above the surronding terrain must generate
some interest in reaching its summit. The Aboriginal people do not want
tourists to climb these peaks, however, observing how this is ignored
by the hundreds (every day) on Uluru, it seemed reasonable to assume
that we could look for a way up.
In preparation for this, we purchased a topographical map (made by the Australian mapping agency), scale 1:100.000 with 20 meter contours. A brief look revealed a rather gentle slope on the south-east side. Further study showed that we could access this side from a hiking trail called Valley of the Winds, by hiking south in a rather obvious valley. Consequently, Pål Jørgen and I set out for the peak by leaving the trail in the identified valley. We continued along a faint trail and soon reached the final slopes of the valley to its crest. At this point I believed that the Kata Tjuta summit was behind the immediate sloping relatively gently up towards the right. We headed up the slope with little difficulty, but near the horizon I discovered to my surprise that there was no further (higher) mountain in the direction we were climbing, a clear view south across the desert confirmed this. We were at only 870 meter, GPS coordinates South 25:18.485, East 130:44.570. There was only one conclusion, the summit of Kata Tjuta was behind us. The higher dome there looked forbidding with a steep wall. How could this be? A closer examination of the map in light of the observed terrain revealed that the Australian map-makers just changed the contour interval from 20 meters to 100 meters above the 700 meter contour. This had escaped our attention when planning the trip. (In all justice, normally one does not change the contour interval just because the terrain gets steeper, this tends to confuse more than enlighten a "normal" map user.)
Well, already here, we should look for a possible route. There was a deep cut further in that might provide us with a route, the chance looked slim, but having invested this much, we better check it out. This cut lead up right next to a steep cliff coming down from the proper summit of Kata Tjuta. Higher up, it provided access to a lower subsidiary platau just south of the summit, after descending slightly on a broad ramp, our last hope was that the ascending slope further onwards would somehow connect with the (gently) descending slope (westward) of the Kata Tjuta rock dome. The single complication here was dense growth of spinifex, a plant that grows where nothing else will (in the Australian desert) full of sharp needles that did their best in tearing up the skin on my legs (I hiked in shorts). In fact, we later learned that this is the most common plant in Australia and that only termites are able to digest it. Anyway, our last hope was quickly killed as this last ramp was climbed. Kata Tjuta sloped steeper and steeper towards the desert plain, our ramp separated from Kata Tjuta by an increasingly deeper cut and there was at least a 30 meter almost vertical smooth rock separating the ramp from the Kata Tjuta upper, more gentle slope. We turned at 970 meter elevation, GPS location: South 25:18.259, East 130:44.149. See pictures below for further details. In conclusion, we did have a good hike all by ourselves and we did settle that this peak cannot easily be climbed without technical means. However, if the Australian map had been like most maps then we would have concluded this back at the hotel and never even attempted the peak.