Orang Utan Pass – Blue Gum Forest Walk – 11 November 2015

I headed up the mountains with Bob. He was keen to visit Orang Utan Pass. This is a pass of historic interest. It goes down into the Grose Valley at Surveyors Creek and near Clarke Head. It was used by Tim Wallace around 1928, when he set up a flying fox into the valley to extract timber. After he found the way down, he then set up a ladder down the waterfall in Surveyors Gully -a  more direct route. The pass was also  used by early bushwalkers – Wally Roots, Harold Chardon and Tom Herbert in 1932.

Bob in the cave on Orang Utan Pass

Bob in the cave on Orang Utan Pass

We parked at the Hat Hill carpark on the road to Perrys Lookdown (Hat Hill Rd). Instead of walking up the track to Hat Hill, we turned the opposite direction to look for a track that goes out to near Clark Head. This track soon passes a historic site – the ruins of an old hermits hut which is quite interesting. The hermit lived in the stone hut well into his 80’s back in the 1920’s.


Soon after the hut ruins, the track joins a fire road and heads towards the cliffs. Part way out, you take a sharp turn onto another trail, and walk past a large hanging swamp and arrive at a great lookout.


Not far past the lookout – we started descending through steep thick scrub into the head of Surveyors Gully. Eventually we reached open rainforest.


But not for long. We had arrived at the cliff line. Here, we followed a narrow ledge to the left. A short way along, to continue on the ledge, you need to negotiate a narrow, very exposed section for a few metres before the ledge widens again. We set up a rope to safeguard this section, but it was of little help as you had to traverse back along the ledge to pull it down.


Once past this dangerous section, we arrived in a nice cave. Here in a small glass jar we found a logbook placed by Sutherland Bushwalkers back in 1990. It didn’t have many entries in it – perhaps one party per year?

Not far past the cave, following the ledge, we arrived at the head of gully. We were not sure if we should try and climb down it or try and continue along the ledge. The gully looked possible, so down we scrambled. Steep, but easy – with lots of bushes to hold onto to. Lower down, things got steeper. We found a way down by climbing through a hole under a large boulder, and then a short tricky move, with rope assist, down to a lower level. From there it was easy to the bottom.

But at the bottom – it was scrubby – with lawyer vine amongst other delights. We traversed around back to the base of the point (Clarke Head), and then down a vague ridge to reach the track from Junction Rock to Blue Gum Forest.


We then walked to Blue Gum Forest for lunch. After lunch, we left our packs and walked in to the forest, before returning and climbing out via Docker Buttress to Perrys Lookdown. From there, it was a short walk back to the car at Hat Hill.

OU-7 OU-8

More photos from the walk are on my website here.

Here is Bob’s GPS trace of the walk (as far as Blue Gum Forest) –

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2 Responses to Orang Utan Pass – Blue Gum Forest Walk – 11 November 2015

  1. chriskoz says:

    Hi David, I went there yesterday. A perfect day (bit chilly & partly cloudy) for this trip as bashing the lawyer vine (especially on the flat section of the descent ridge just before a 620m bump in it) though terrible, it was bearable in cool conditions.
    Only two entries in the logbook between your and mine, so the visitor’s frequency once a year did not change. I noticed a reference to SUBW at your entry, was your trip an official subway trip, though you and Bob only?
    The gully you’ve chosen down to Govet’s Cr Valley is indeed the only route (without rope) the ledge further to the L goes nowhere; at least it is overgrown badly because no one continues there. The key to find ropeless descent down the gully was to find the hole under the boulder you refer to. The boulder is on R (facing out as you go), while straight ahead is a falls lead onto a 6-8m vertical drop with no features. Everybody goes and peeks at this drop (as I did), so the false lead got established.
    But then, there was no “short tricky move, with rope assist” below the boulder. I just traversed back left under that 6-8m false lead drop above and continued descending traverse. It was an easy walk, and that way I avoided at least the initial patch of lawyer vine that looked plentiful further down in the gully. You must have taken different/more difficult option. Anyway, I wanted to emphasise the entire route, though leading through difficult, steep terrain, is completely ropeless, which is an amazing feat by those who established it.
    Sad touch was the rubbish I found at Blue Gum Forrest campsite (tucked in a hole beneath an ol gum), what a disgusting, irresponsible thing by silly campers. I took it out. Also I found an edible vine growing there as a weed I the middle of large gum grove. Silly campers have been walking there, eating grapes and spitting seeds, that started growing. It upsets me, especially as a bush regenerator. Of course I pulled out the silly weed and hope no more will grow. The area is very good, even all grasses are native.
    Cheers, Chris.

  2. chriskoz says:

    Allan Wells, in his walks around Blackheath here:
    describes a different walk approaching the lookout on the picture 3 (walk 14: Wallace country), and mentions the “‘Orangutan Pass’ below Clarke Head”. However, he states: “This pass no longer exists due to a collapse on the cliff face.”. Clearly, Allan is misinformed here, because people like me and you still do complete the pass. So more precisely, Allan should have said: “This pass no longer exists in its original form”. And indeed, having been there, I’m convinced the dangerous section on picture 5, have been created by fairly recent rockslide. Before that event, the ledge must have been nice and wide and safe all the way.

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