In early July, I was joined by Sarah and Saul on a week long bushwalk from Mittagong to Katoomba. This is a classic Blue Mountains bushwalking trip. It can be done as a very long and hard daytrip (by runners) or in two days by tiger walkers. However to do it that quickly means walking along a lot for roads. It is far better to take a longer time and spend time appreciating some of the great scenery that is available. I have done this walk (and the reverse) a number of times and it is good to go either via the Blue Breaks or via Kanangra Walls.
This time, we originally intended to go via the Blue Breaks – by traversing the Axehead Range and then climbing onto Lacys Tableland and continuing for a traverse of Bimlow Tableland. However, we encountered a period of very strong winds and a high level route that involved some rock scrambling and exposed campsites did not seem like a good idea. Instead, we went to the Kowmung River at the north end of the Bulga Denis Canyon and then via Gingra Range to Kanangra Walls and Mt Cloudmaker. Then to Splendour Rock and the Wild Dog Mountains, crossing Medlow Gap, followed by the last part – Narrow Neck.
There are various routes into the Nattai Valley. On previous trips I have gone in from the south via a traverse of Russells Needle. This is quite a scenic route. The quickest way into the valley is from Hilltop via the Nattai Road firetrail. This was is very direct, but a more interesting way is to go via Starlights Trail and McArthurs Flat. This is a nice and easy way into the valley and McArthurs Flat makes a very nice and popular campsite. We had lunch there and then farewelled James, Sarah’s partner, and then continued downstream. Mostly this is easy walking on the riverflats following a rough track. The track is marked in places by blue, red or yellow tin tag markers – but bushfires have made many hard to spot. Consequently, it is often easier and faster to ignore looking for markers and make your own way. There are quite a few good places on riverflats where you can camp in this section. It is disturbing however to see lots of damage caused by feral pigs rooting up the ground.
The Nattai is also polluted by sewage from Mittagong. The river always seems a bit murky. It is certainly not as nice to walk along as say the Kowmung River. Despite this, on a previous trip I did see a platypus swimming in the river.
The last part of the Nattai section of the walk involves walking along the Nattai Road firetrail. This passes through old and now overgrown farms at Middle Flat. We followed the road to Vineyard Flat and then climbed up to Beloon Pass. On two previous trips from Katoomba heading south – I had been in parties that had crossed Beloon Pass to the Nattai. On both of those trips I had left the river via various routes towards the Picton area.
Beloon Pass provides a very handy route from the Nattai to the Wollondilly Valley. It is good that there is a bushwalkers corridor that enables access through the strictly controlled Sydney Catchment Area.
We camped on a high top above the Wollondilly River. Next morning we walked along roads (the bushwalkers corridor) to Yerranderie.
On the way to Yerranderie, the wind got stronger and stronger and stronger. We had to sit in the lee of an old building in Yerranderie to shelter from the wind while we had lunch. We scrapped plans to climb Yerranderie Peak and instead went and visited some of the old mines. The “private” village of West Yerranderie has recently been gifted by its owner Val Lhuede to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Val, in her late 80’s, explains on the Yerranderie Website that she is getting too old to be able to manage Yerranderie and the gift to the NPWS seemed like a good way to go. This was very generous of Val. People who have visited Yerranderie know it is a very special place.
Yerranderie is an old mining town. Its heyday was in the period between 1900 and 1927. Then economic conditions made the mines unprofitable. Later, in the 1950’s, the town got cut off by the waters of Lake Burragorang and it became a ghost town. The old buildings and mines are most interesting places to potter around.
Many walkers who make the trek from Mittagong to Katoomba wall via Scotts Main Range. It is a logical connecting route – but it is also a very boring way to go. A hard slog, a road bash. We had to walk a bit of the range to Mt Feld. Then we went via a track along Denis Range to the Kowmung River.
We crossed the icy cold waters of the Kowmung River and spent a lazy afternoon at the bottom of Roots Range. This provided me with the opportunity to spend some time taking photos of the river.
Our route from the Kowmung, was via Roots Range to Gingra Range and then to Kanangra Walls where we had lunch in a sheltered cave on the eastern end of the main plateau. We then walked along the Kilpatrick Causeway to Crafts Walls, Mt Berry, Gabes Gap and Mt High and MIghty to Mt Stormbreaker. There we set up camp. The sheltered campsite that I had remembered was not quite as sheltered as I had hoped. It was very cold and still quite windy. It seemed to be snowing on the other side of the valley. But we did have fine views.
Next day we quickly walked to Mt Cloudmaker, then to Dex Creek and out to Mt Moorilla. On the way we passed an interesting aboriginal art site discovered years ago by Colin Gibson. To be seen were ochre drawings of boomerangs and kangaroos as well as some sharpening grooves. Then it was a fast descend down the open Nurla Morella Ridge to the Coxs River.
At the bottom of Nurla Morella spur, we crossed the Coxs River and then ascended the very steep Howling Dog Ridge to Little Dingo Hill. This ridge is also known to bushwalkers by the name “The Bitch”. As you climb it, its not hard to work out why. It is steep and unrelenting. But it is a fast route to Splendour Rock which was climbed to with the aid of “Thomos Chains”. From an old bushwalkers song –
Its goodbye sloths of Sydney Town
Way out south of Dingo
We’re headin’ out to our trampin’ ground
Down the Bitch from Thomo Chain!
It is always good to experience sunset and sunrise from Splendour Rock. Even when it is cold and windy! The view is magnificent. The Blue Breaks, The Coxs and Kowmung country, The High Gangerangs, the Three Peaks – Cloudmaker, Paralyser and Guouogang, and Kanangra Walls are all visible. We camped our last night of the trip and Splendour Rock and the next day walked via Mobbs Soak and the Glens of Guess to Narrow Neck and Katoomba.
More photos of the walk are online here
Here are some more route suggestions for trips between Yerranderie and Katoomba –
1. Yerranderie – Lacys Gap – Lacys Tableland – Bimlow Tableland – Broken Rock Range (northern section) – Butchers Ck – Mt Cookem – White Dog – Medlow Gap – Narrow Neck
2. Yerranderie – Byrnes Gap – Axehead Range – Green Wattle Creek – Broken Rock Range – Butchers Ck – Mt Cookem – White Dog – Medlow Gap – Narrow Neck
3. Yerranderie – Byrnes Gap – Axehead Range – Butchers Ck – Kowmung River – Low Gangerangs – Spotted Dog – Splendour Rock – Medlow Gap – Narrow Neck
4. Yerranderie – Colong Gap – Mootik Walls – Mt Armour – Church Ck – Kowmung River – Cambage Spire – Kanangra Walls – Mt Cloudmaker – Strongleg Buttress – Yellow Pup – Medlow Gap – Narrow Neck