Lying some 70kms to the south of Kununurra in the The Kimberley, Western Australia, Ragged Range remains rarely photographed. Not visible from the main road that leads to the more famous Bungle Bungles, Ragged Range is one of the most spectacular afternoon landscape shoots I’ve had the privilege to photograph.
I first saw the Range back in 2007 while travelling through the Kimberley with my dad. Due to vehicle problems, we left from Kununurra to Broome late in the day and stopped off the road in the late afternoon. With the sun setting crimson red on the range in the distance, I was intrigued as to what this little known place was and how I could get access to it.
It wasn’t for another five years that I would return, driving up and down the main road looking for an access point and asking all the local roadhouses about Ragged Range. None had heard of it, so I took a chance along a dirt road only to find it very hairy to navigate due to recent rain. With the road incredibly slippery and boggy, I got stuck several times before finding my way down the The Range. With it now late afternoon, I climbed a nearby peak, wishing only to be higher up but running out of daylight hours. I photographed from where I was, wishing that I’d had more time however needing to press on to catch a flight out of Broome in the coming days.
I lamented the lost opportunity, hoping for just a few more hours to find the vantage point I needed. Arriving home, I did my research and figured I could get on top of the range to shoot side on to the massive escarpment.
Back 12 months later, I travelled down the same road in the early morning, giving myself plenty of time to explore the route up the escarpment. Setting off with a heavy 30kgs pack laden with camera equipment, a sleeping bag and tent, food and six litres of water to combat the oppressive heat and humidity, I set off across the countryside. Walking across the rocky plains, I was worried about snakes, thinking this would be prime snake country. Watching every foot plant, I prepared myself for any encounter. Reaching the escarpment I climbed my way up the steep slopes, sweat dripping from me and my breath heavy with a cold and cough I just couldn’t shake from the week before. Not being able to see the access point from below, I climbed and climbed only to find out the escarpment had a 8-10m high cliff with no way of climbing higher.
Time to go for Plan B – Make my way back down and try another ‘finger’ – an escarpment further along towards the range. Not ideal being closer but better than nothing. Walking up a dry creek bed with large rocks all around, I stumbled to the next escarpment and upwards towards a smaller cliff wall that I thought I may be able to negotiate. Alas it wasn’t to be as the cliff provided too tall yet again. Time for Plan C – walk to the north and photograph looking south. I hadn’t researched this possibility however I still had time in the day despite already going through half my water.
Reaching the third escarpment I could see access almost all the way to the top and I was hopeful that it would give me the higher vantage point I needed - Although there was always doubt in my mind that my efforts would be thwarted again. I figured if that was to be, I would abandon my trip for now and have to come back another year.
Yet another brutal climb and more energy expended, I made the top after numerous scrambles and slips on the rocky slopes, cutting my hands on the spiky grass I desperately grabbed hold of to get up safely. Reaching the final cliff, I dropped my pack and looked for an access point. Seeing the sun to the north I was hopeful that the cliff was not too high and I would find I way.
A relatively easy climb through the rocks had me at the top and I walked a short distance along the finger to the highest point, looking north and south along the range. The view was better than I expected, giving me not one but two shots with the sun setting to the west.
With the sun setting I shot with multiple cameras over the course of an hour, before the light fading and I set up camp on the escarpment and rested for my journey back down the following day.
Sleeping on the rock with just my sleeping bag (and a 20m drop only a few metres either side of me...lucky I don’t sleep walk), I woke in the early hours of the morning to have the moon shining brightly through the gap in the range. It was a perfect ending to an odyssey that had consumed me for 12 months and a monkey I was glad to have off my back!
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