Three days in the Blue Mountains - Day 3

Day 3

After a wet and blustery night I woke early for what would be a long day, with a 11 hour walk over 16 kilometres. Trying not to wake anybody in nearby tents, I had breakfast and put on my wet weather gear. At 7am I left the park walking through fog that was so thick that it blocked out the rising sun, so much so that I considered turning on the torch. I crossed the road and started my journey by going down the 860 steps that make up the Furber Stairs. In the darkness of the rainforest there was a nice waterfall to the left of the track to stop and look at. It was too wet and dark to get a decent photo of it. Further down the steps there are number of lookouts with views up to the Kedumba falls and in the distance the three sisters Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo trying to peak through the fog. Going down the stairs my hands started to freeze on the cold metal railings, I had to rub them together to keep them warm. At the bottom of the stairs the track meets up with the Federal Pass, which makes its way from the bottom of the Three Sisters in the east. Heading in a westerly direction I soon arrived at the bottom of the scenic railway, scenic cableway, and coal cart and coal mine. Normally packed full of tourist, I had it all to myself. An interactive map of the area is here.

The bottom scenic railway platform. The steepest cable-driven funicular railway in the world.

Passing a number of old mine shafts the track follows the route of the old rail line that was used to haul the coal and shale back up the hill. The area was mined from the 1870's to turn of the century. With the cliffs poking through the fog above me I soon reached the site of the landslide. The massive landslide that occurred in the 1930's was thought to be cause by previous mining and several days of heavy rain. The vegetation in the area is still quite bare compared to the surrounding area, with rainforest on both sides. After some tricky rock hopping and sliding, I was through.

Sorry if this scares you.

Back into the rainforest I walked. The track here is quite flat as it follows the course of what would have been a railway line used for mining. As I am walking a guy comes running by, for his morning run. After quick "Good Morning" he was gone into the mist. He would be first and last human I would see for a while. The rainforest is quite nice through this part. Even thought the arms of my old gortex jacket were leaking a little I was quite warm from the walking. It was 11.3 degrees when I left the tent earlier. I soon scared a poor lyrebird. There were a number of little birds that I had seen by this stage. To my left I passed the intersection of the track that I would take on my return trip.

I then walked another 2.67 kilometre passing a small old brick wall that is now used as a campsite and I then sent a wallaby bouncing off into the bush. I then walked and climbed up the rough track that takes you up to the ruined castle. Almost at the top of the hill that contains the rocks that make up the ruined castle I meet a man that sounded German with a large pack. With a quick G’day he was off. Here there was a good view up to Castle Head and the cliffs of the south west area of the Jamieson valley. 

I soon reached a rocky outcrop. I thought that this was the ruined castle. It wasn't. It was a few hundred metres along the ridgeline. The ruined castle is made up of several large boulders. I wanted to climb it, but with no assistants and with my short legs I decided not to risk it. Maybe next time. On a sunny day there are great views across to the landslide, the Three Sisters and around to Leura. I could only see fog bound cliffs. I then walked, skipped and grabbed onto trees going down a very steep hill. On the very last step of the steep part of the track I slipped and landed hard on my backside. Checking around to see if anyone was laughing I pressed on. The track then heads up and over a small hill with a few campsites on either side.

A part of the Ruined Castle

The track then went up the hill. The track was quite wide as there are many tracks that combine into one big eroded track. Then I meet the Koorowall Knifedge. It is the ridge that takes you up to Mt Solitary. It is a very steep and thin track. There is a large drop on either side in the valleys below. This was the most mentally challenging track I have done. To get me up it I pictured the tourist at Echo Point looking across the valley at me, using their binoculars, cheering me on. There was a spot every now again on rocky ledges to admire the view. After clinging on using tree branches and sandstone I finally reached a flat part of Mt Solitary. Although this wasn’t the true top of the mountain, I was happy that I had reached a mountain that I wanted to climb since I was a young boy.  It took me about half an hour to climb. I had lunch here.  I then started my decent.

The south west of Mt Solitary

 Koorowall Knifedge

Castle Head with the Ruined Castle in the forground

Reaching the bottom of the walk below the hill that contained the ruined castle. I pass several more campsites, some quite large. I was now back on the track that was nice and flat, easy walking through the rainforest. This area was where the search for British backpacker Jamie Neale took place July last year. I found this interesting in such an area.
I then turned off to the Golden Stairs track. This track goes up to the Narrow Neck Plateau. With the metal staircases being in good condition and what was left of timber steps being in terrible condition, it made me wonder if there will be an accident here soon. There are places with large drops without railings and only broken wire to hold onto. I soon passed three young European guys in sandshoes that were totally inappropriate for such a wet muddy track.
Once reaching the top of the stairs and onto the narrow neck the thick fog came in. It had be clear since going up to Mt Solitary. With nothing but fog to look at, I put on the radio and walked back to park via scenic world.

With walking for just over 9 hours I was tired but my legs weren't that sore however. I just had to remove a few leaches. After of four days of exercise I had done it!

If you have an interest in this walk the track notes are here


Three days in the Blue Mountains - Days 1 & 2

Day 1

I arrived at my campsite at Katoomba Falls Caravan Park in the warm afternoon of the 27th February 2010. I quickly put up my tent. By this time I was exhausted and struggling to stay awake. It wasn't from putting up a tent, but from spending the last 2 days helping a friend move house lifting heavy furniture, fridges Et cetera. I had a workmate to meet me shortly who was going to walk with me the next day, so to get myself energised again I decided to go for a short walk.

Without a map I just followed the nearby creek which flowed behind the caravan park. I then crossed the road going into a nice park full of picnickers. Going down some stairs I arrived at the Kedumba cascades. Kedumba is the Aboriginal word 'Kedumba' meaning 'shiny, falling waters' and so they were. Crossing the stream on steping stones the walk soon comes to a nice lookout with views across the Jamison valley and the scenic skyway above. The walk follows the Prince Henry walk which starts at Echo point. I then visited a number of scenic lookouts including the Plateau Lookout and Tunnel Lookout. From these lookouts there are views across the Jamison valley to Mt Solitary, the Three Sisters, the Ruined Castle and Orphan Rock. I then followed the track until it reached Scenicworld. After a look around there I went back to a intersection, then down some metal stairs to small lookout with a great views back across to Kedumba Falls. I then retraced my steps back via the top of Furber Steps which would be the start of my walk on day 3. The walk then finished at the Katoomba Falls Kiosk.

I then met my workmate. After the walk and a pizza I was energised and ready for the next day of walking.

Day 2

After a nights rest we went across the road and did some of the walk mentioned above. We then drove to the Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls. We had a hearty (as in bad for the heart) breakfast there. But this was soon to be burnt off. We followed these track notes. We walked down the hill until we reached a metal staircase and into the valley of waters. We then passed Empress and Lodore Falls. A new layer of sandstone was revealed since the last time I visited these falls last year. The powerful force of water had removed the sandstone when 112ml's of rain had fallen in less than 2 hours on the 6th of February.

The track then comes to the  intersection of Wentworth pass, which is followed for a little while. We then came to the Vera fall track, which we followed. After going through rainforest for a while and scaring a bush turkey, we had to cross valley of waters creek. This proved quite difficult as the only way of crossing was by going over large boulders that were very slippery and covered in moss.  Not long after this we came to an intersection, where we stopped for a break. There was a small track here that we thought went nowhere. So we continued. It turned out that this track did go to Vera Falls! So this is a walk that will have to be revisited sometime.

Heading further down the hill we could hear lots of running water, so we went down a little used track. Here the valley of waters creek and Jamison creek's meet. There is a small waterhole here. My workmate then sent the local wildlife scattering off in all directions by going skinny dipping here.

We then walked up hill on a track that in parts was hard to locate. The Jamison creek was to our left for next kilometre. With a steep walk we reached the Hippocrene Falls. These falls are quite large and have a large waterhole at the bottom of them. Not happy with his prevous efforts, my workmate also went skinny dipping here also.

The track notes have you returning here, instead we headed towards the National Pass. This added another kilometre or so to the walk. Going pass the falls uphill on a rough track my strap on my pack decided to break. Using our bush mechanic skills we repaired it using a piece of string. I then sewed it up when I got back to the tent later that day. We left the intersection of the Wentworth pass to our left and continue on. Then we arrived at the bottom falls, of Wentworth falls. A young family was having their lunch here. Maybe this stopped my workmate from having a third swim? Then we started going up Slack Stairs. The stairs start by climbing a rope, and then are followed by going up a series of metal ladders, some with a cage on the outside. There were great views of the valley while climbing. You wouldn't want to be afraid of heights here.

After reaching the top of the stairs we went to the middle falls, of Wentworth Falls. Then back to conservation hut along the National Pass route. I had walked and blogged about the National Pass last year. Along this section we went pass Empress Falls again. Here we stopped to watch a group abseiling down the falls.

Then it was back up the hill and to the hut and cars. The five hours of walking finally caught up to me, I really struggled to walk up the last 50 or so steps. As I got into my car it started to rain. It got me thinking, what would the weather be like tomorrow and would my body hold out for the 11 hours of walking? You will find out when I blog about it soon.