27 April 2009

Blue Mountains - April 2009 Mt Solitary Traverse

To see a slideshow of these and more photos from my flickr account, please visit my Blue Mountains Photoset on flickr

The Mt Solitary traverse is a classic 2 day walk in the Blue Mountains, often starting at the Golden Stairway on Narrowneck, spending a night on Mt Solitary, and exiting via Kedumba Pass. (Apparently doing it in the opposite direction is easier on knees).
Helen and I wanted to spend an extra night out, and preferably turn it into a circuit to avoid the return transport.

We did this by starting at Furber Steps, which run adjacent to the Katoomba Falls under the Scenic Skyway, and proceeding anticlockwise around the Federal Pass, over the Ruined Castle, and up Koorowall Knife Edge onto Mt Solitary. Next day was descending down to the Kedumba River, walking nearly up to the eastern edge before turning left and walking north west through the Kedumba Valley, over Sublime Point Ridge, and camping at Leura Falls Creek.

Final day was a quick exit almost straight up to the Three Sisters, then following around the Federal Pass to Furber Steps again, and coming back up to the car.

Heading down the Furber Steps (860 of them from the very top), you follow adjacent to the Katoomba Falls, and whilst the drop is only 150 metres, it is very steep on the steps, and - with an 18kg pack on my back - my knee was aching by the time we got to the bottom. Bugger!

The Scenic Skyway hovers above the Falls. When we returned up these steps two days later, the weather was so misty and rainy that the skyway car was rarely visible.

Blue Mountains

One of the few photographable views of the Three Sisters that we had in the three days we were there.
This route has simply amazing views! they said.
... yes, but ... only when you can see them.

By the time we got to the Ruined Castle, the mizzle (misty drizzle) had settled in. It was going to be one of those walks.

Ruined Castle


The water led to some spectacular colours and sheens on the vegetation that we walked through. It also led to a lot of wetness, as we brushed through the underbrush, wiping all loose drops of water off, and onto our jackets and packs, which got wetter and wetter, and heavier and heavier. The Goretex wasn't really helping, and we were nearly as wet inside as out (though much warmer than having no jacket at all). But really, Goretex isn't going to "breathe" when
1. it's 100% humidity outside
2. you've just climbed 250 metres with an 18 kg pack on
is it?

We dropped into the top of Chinaman's and lunched in the camping caves. Only a little water was available in the creek there, and this was after some seriously wet weather only a week ago, I think indicating how dry the previous summer had been. Water on Mt Solitary was still hard to find, even in the rain!

God's Touch

We camped an hour further on, back on the main track. There is an expansive site with lots of tent spaces, and a stunning viewpoint. Sadly, previous campers had left not only unburied human waste and toilet paper near the track, but had also uprooted trees to make fires. Idiocy in its supreme form. Needless to say, any water on this walk should be boiled for 10 minutes, or otherwise purified to keep out crypto and giardia. Nowhere is safe any more, I reckon. However, here's a more uplifting pic of the brief clear sky that we had the following morning.

The trees that we encountered at that campsite were extraordinary!



It is a relatively easy track to follow along Mt Solitary to the eastern end. The promontory at the end where "the book" is is an amazing spot. We had trouble seeing much due to the close weather, but could imagine that there was a stunning view. We then trundled down 600m from the eastern tip of Mt Solitary to the Kedumba River. Just one straight descent, and at times quite steep. And I still had that strained medial ligament. Damn!


The flora down on the floor was wonderful! Orchids, lots of fungi, little flowers, mosses, lichens. Good for rabbits...


The rain the previous week had really enlivened the forest floor (the florest?).
We had to climb 350m before reaching the old track from Kedumba Pass to Leura Falls Creek (which Google calls the Sublime Point Trail).

Jamison River Panorama
It is a very pretty trail for a 4WD track. Used to be the service road for the old sewerage works below Katoomba on Leura Falls Ck. That has all been closed down, being a source of the Sydney water supply and all, and the sewerage directed the opposite direction, into a different valley. I love this panorama of the Jamison Valley. A whole lot of old men sitting around smoking.

It basically kept on drizzling on and off, and when we hit Leura Creek there was still time to keep going all the way back to Katoomba. However, we decided to overnight in the grassy spot next to the creek (taking water from an adjacent water source - never know about those storm water drains...).


It was a pretty spot, though hard to photograph in the poor light.

Despite the suspect water (there are signs up saying don't drink it - not even saying boil it - just don't drink it at all!), there were still critters living in there.


Katoomba Falls mood

The next morning was an easy walk out, despite the 400m climb to below the Three Sisters. When the trail is starting to even out towards the old sewerage works, and you are overwhelmed with the sound of the bellbirds, keep an eye out on your left. There is a small pad that climbs up to Federal Pass in about 10 minutes of light scrub bashing. It continues to climb gently around the end of the Three Sisters, and you are basically sidling below the cliff for about 2km before rejoining the Furber Steps, dreaded destroyer of my right knee two days ago. Weirdly, climbing up the ~150m was much much easier (less wear and tear) than walking down.

Not the most stunning weather for views, but great for mysterious atmosphere. A really beautiful area, all the same, despite the close proximity to humanity. 2 1/2 days well spent.

Katoomba Falls - bw

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.