Updated: Dec 17, 2020
A popular option with many hikers is starting or finishing the Larapinta Trail with a walk up to Mount Sonder (Rwetyepme) for the sunset or sunrise. The 360 views during these times are spectacular.
Sunrise and Sunset Trek Considerations
Sunrise Treks (During Winter) - Plan for an Early Start
You should be on the trail by 4am latest, so for most people this is a 3:30am start.
The aim is to get up to the cairn on Mount Sonder by 6am/630am which will allow you to enjoy the magnificent and changing colours of twilight dawn which precedes a spectacular sunrise.
Sunrise during winter is generally between 6:40am-7:20am
For most this means allocating between 2.5hrs/3hrs to get to the cairn (about 7.8 km uphill one way) in time to enjoy a nice dawn and sunrise up on the summit.
Most people do the trek up Sonder in about 2 or 2.5 hours ( often minus their big packs - see more below about these options).
Be prepared for walking in the dark.
If you start at 4am, expect total darkness for the first hour of your trek and increasing twilight visibility for the rest of the walk. To make the walk easier, carry and use a headlamp or torch. Your depth perception is greatly diminished when walking at night or in twilight conditions, so watch your footing.
A cyalume (glow) stick on top of each person's pack will assist with keeping an eye on the group in the dark if you are worried about separation or stragglers. Green cylumes are most effective and can be seen up to 900m away (unobstructed view).
Sunset Treks ( During Winter) – Plan for a night time descent
Plan to trek off the mountain in near or full darkness
The sunset is spectacular in its own right, but many enjoy the beautiful colours of dusk ( and stages of twilight). If you plan to watch the full show ( sunset and dusk) on Mt Sonder, be prepared to go down the mountain in near night or night time conditions for most of your descent (See example in image below) . Some tips walking at night are explained in the sunrise paragraph.
Sunset during winter occurs generally between 5:50pm-6:20pm
Astronomical twilight ( the last bits of light before dark) occurs generally between 7:15am - 7:40am during winter.
Taking A Full Pack Or Leaving Gear Behind At The Campsite
Option 1: Day or Light Weight Pack Option - Leaving Gear Behind
The most popular option is to take just a day pack (or their main packs with very minimal gear) up to Mt Sonder. Most hikers will set up their tents at the campsite (either at the official campsite with the water tank or somewhere along Redbank Creek. Almost all gear is left behind with the exception of the basics ( water, snacks, safety gear etc) and some extra's such as camera gear.
Safety and Security Considerations - Leaving Gear Behind at the Campsite
The most common question we get asked is whether it is safe to leave gear behind at Redbank Gorge campsite. Bottom line: Yes, it is. We haven't heard of any reports of gear being tampered with or stolen. The day use car park area is a couple hundred of meters away from the Larapinta Trail Campsite, and very few day trippers or tourists venture down to the trail campsite. Theft by hikers from hikers is extremely rare out here.
Some tips for leaving gear behind at the campsite
If you leave your gear behind, it is recommended that you pack or stash it all in your tent. Secure your tent by zipping everything up ( tent doors, vestibules etc) and if required peg it down - it can get windy along Redbank Creek. Your pack inside the tent should be enough to make sure it doesn't get blown away and potentially get damaged ( i.e. picture your tent rolling along spinifex bushes and turning into a $600 pin cushion - it happens.).
DO NOT leave any loose items out in the open or outside your tent. One, it looks messy, amateurish and spoils everyone else's view. Two, the dingoes will take off with it if they are around. Three, the crows will get stuck into it and cause a big mess. Four, it attracts unwanted attention and may tempt people to pinch stuff.
DO NOT leave any rubbish laying around ( inside or out). Secure it in your tent or better still, inside your pack ( which is secured inside your tent). If the dingoes ( or crows especially) get into the rubbish, litter will be spread all over the place. If ants get to it and inside your pack it will take you a long time to get rid of them all.
A common question we get asked is whether dingoes will attempt to rip open the tent or pack to get into rubbish. Bottom line: No for tents. Unless you have some fresh salami sitting inside your tent ( especially along the inside wall of the tent) - it may be just too irresistible to a hungry dingo- but it would be highly unusual for a dingo to forcible try and get into your tent. But maybe for packs: The dingo may give your pack a go but in most instances if it does try, it will attempt to drag or carry your pack away so it can work on your pack uninterrupted and with great delight. If this happens, it is highly likely you will never see your pack again.
Infobit: A single fully grown dingo in the West Macs can quite comfortably drag away a 10-15 kg pack up a hill. We've seen it happen.
Option 2: Stashing Your Pack Along the Trail
If you are reluctant to leave your gear behind in an open public space but still don't want to carry your full pack, you may decide to stash your pack. This basically involves stashing (or caching) the pack in the scrub or vegetation just off the trail and taking only a day pack up for the Sonder trek ( or other side treks). Caching is not for everyone and is generally only used by experienced trekkers and only in very specific circumstances.
Some tips for caching
Remember where you cache your pack: This is easier said than done, especially at night. If you have a GPS ( or GPS app), way point the location. If you don't have a GPS, mark the point along the trail with a subtle sign or indicator so you know where to start heading off into the scrub from the trail. Pace or measure the distance from the 'trail point' to the 'stash point'. If needed, take a compass bearing (with a compass or smartphone) of the direction you will need to follow into the scrub.
Secure Your Pack. Make sure your pack is sitting upright with the harness side of the pack facing toward the tree or trunk. ( This avoids having your harness sticking out and giving the dingoes something to tug or pull on). Choose a solid anchor/tie down point on the back or harness side of your pack. Tie your pack to a tree, ideally using strong chord or abseiling type tube tape. Make sure the pack is tied up tight and is snug between the pack and tree. If you have one, put on the pack cover to remove any opportunities for crows to work on zips or dingoes to tug on any straps.
Write up a Cache Note : It will look something like this: Start Point (Indicator): Trail Signage (Distance marker -3km marked on it). Direction (Bearing): West. Distance: 30m. Location: Base of Cypress Pine
Impacts: Be mindful of your impact on the natural environment when doing anything off track. Try not to remove, break or disturb any vegetation when caching your pack.
Option 3: Taking Your Pack
If you decide to take your pack, it won't be that much harder or different than what you have already done or are about to do. You've got peace of mind all of your kit is vouched for and you minimise any risk of gear loss or not having your gear when you need it.
Generally about 30% of LTTS hikers take their full packs up Mt Sonder.
Final Points About Leaving Gear Behind at the Campsite
If you decide to leave your pack and main gear behind don't forget to take some key items such as sufficient water (about 2-3 lt is what most people take ); some cold weather gear (especially in winter - it can be freezing up there with the winds); breakfast/dinner and/or something to make a nice hot drink with; and importantly a basic first aid kit, PLB and head lamp/torch
AT THE SUMMIT
Sunrise or Sunset at the summit
You can expect ( at least 99% of the time*) to experience an absolutely amazing sunrise or sunset. If you are finishing your trek or your End to End (E2E) you are literally doing so on a high (summit, sunrise/sunset, 360 views etc) - hence going east to west being one of the most popular directions for end to enders.
Some points to consider:
The summit during early mornings in winter can be bitterly cold and windy. Ok, lets just say it can be absolutely freezing.
Sunrise on Mt Sonder is popular with the hiking tour groups. If the groups are up there, expect anywhere from 10-30 people at the summit depending on the time of the year. It can get loud, crowded, boisterous and instagrammy and drives a lot of independent hikers crazy. Its a biggish summit though, so find a quite place away from the crowds
Sunset on Mt Sonder is much quieter and has way less people. The hiking tour groups are well and truly dispersed from Section 12 by mid day or mid morning.
There is a log book at the summit you can sign in
* The other 1% is when Mt Sonder is completely under cloud cover or you have heavy fog, which in both instances, the sunset or sunrise won't be anything too exciting.
Take Away Tips
You should be on the trail by 4am latest in order to catch the sunrise on the summit
Check sunrise times on weather apps
Secure your pack/gear ( from humans and wildlife) if you leave it behind
You will need a headlamp or torch for any night walking
Remember: No camping on Mount Sonder
There is Telstra Mobile reception at the cairn on Mt Sonder.
Pack cold weather kit in winter. The summit can be freezing.
LTTS transfers depart at 11:00am, so aim to be back to the campsite by 1000am
The Western Aranda word for Mount Sonder is: Rwetyepme
The cairn (finish point) on Mount Sonder is not the actual peak.
The official peak of Mt Sonder is approx 1.1km to the north east ( Height 1379m)
Total distance of the trek: 15.7km return
Grade 4: Moderate to Difficult
Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only and is not meant as a recommendation. It is your responsibility to make sure you are properly informed, well prepared and capable of undertaking such a trek or activity. Read our disclaimer here
If you have any recommendations, suggestions or a correction you would like to highlight, email us at info(at)treksupport.com.au