Mt Solitary traverse
Mt Solitary is an isolated sandstone plateau easily visible from Echo Point that stands alone in the Jamison Valley below Katoomba. From its far side there are excellent views of Lake Burragorang and the Blue Breaks and Broken Rock Range beyond. The traverse from one side to the other is a worthwhile weekend walk for any walker, while still suitable for less experienced bushwalkers.
The Mt Solitary walk as described below starts at the Golden Stairs car park on Narrow Neck, south of Katoomba and finishes at Queen Victoria Hospital at Wentworth Falls.
The most convenient method of transport is do a car shuffle. Leave one car at Queen Victoria Hospital at Wentworth Falls. Drive the other to Katoomba. Head along Cliff Dr from Scenic World in Katoomba. After passing several lookouts, turn left into Glenraphael Dr, which immediately turns into a dirt road. Follow the road out along Narrow Neck, and after about 2km park at the parking area at the top of the Golden Stairs.
Alternatively, it is a 4km walk from Katoomba Station to the Golden Stairs, and 5km from Queen Victoria Hospital to Wentworth Falls Station on the second day. There are buses from Katoomba station to places closer to the cliff line where it would be a shorter walk on the first day. You should also have mobile reception to ring for a taxi on the second day from Queen Victoria Hospital, or from the top of the hill past the hospital.
From 28 Jun 2000, last checked 30 Jul 2005
Day 1: Golden Stairs to Mt Solitary (10km, 310m ascent)
From the Golden Stairs car park, the Golden Stairs descend steeply and quickly to the Federal Pass walking track below. Turn right at the track junction and head along the track towards the Ruined Castle. The track to the Ruined Castle follows the line of an old shale railway, which used to haul shale from mines out near the Ruined Castle. You can also see coal on the ground at various points from other old mining operations in the area. The track passes into deep rainforest in the shadow of the cliffs, with giant tree ferns and coachwood abounding. After some distance the forest opens out with large eucalypts.
About 2.5km along the trail you reach a junction, with a sign to the right to the Ruined Castle, and another noting that the track is in very poor condition. Head up this track. It climbs quickly up to a saddle, and then left to the top of the ridge, where it continues relatively gently to a large collection of rocky boulders. This is the Ruined Castle, and a good spot to climb up to for morning tea break, or possibly an early lunch.
Continue along the track down the other side of the Ruined Castle ridge to where it rejoins the main track not far from the saddle at Cedar Gap. From there the path heads up, and some easy scrambles are required as you climb Koorowall Knife-edge. Keep to the middle of the ridge as much as possible to avoid false tracks that drop off the sides. About 1.5km of climbing gets you to the first summit, topped by a grove of casuarinas. There is decent camping here, but it is advisable to push on and get a bit more distance under your belt.
After another fifteen minutes or less you drop down into a saddle. This is Chinamans Gully. If you head to the left, there are a number of overhangs that can be used for camping. Unfortunately they have been degraded over the years and there is often rubbish littering the area. Water used to be reliably obtained here, but the recent drought has made this less so. It should probably be filtered due to the number of people camping upstream.
A short track to the south from here leads to a lookout, with views of Lake Burragorang. This is a worthwhile detour with outstanding views. There are two other lookouts marked on the map that are less visited.
It is probably still worth pushing on for another couple of kilometres to camp. The track generally follows the north wall of the mountain, and you cross the summit along the way. Shortly after this, you drop down to a rocky outcrop with excellent views of the walls around Katoomba and Leura. Just back from this are a few good camping spots. Water can also often be found in Singajingawell Creek, which starts in the gully just to the south. Like the water from Chinamans Gully it is less reliable than it used to be.
Day 2: Mt Solitary to Queen Victoria Hospital (10km, 810m ascent)
Next morning, continue along the track to the eastern edge of Mt Solitary. Here you should find the log book, and just to the north is the Col, the descent route off this side. Scramble/slide down the gully and pick up the series of switchbacks that leads down the steepest parts. Note that while the track marked on some of the topo maps heads south-west, the actual track heads east down the obvious wide ridge on the map, eventually reaching the Kedumba River at the sharp bend at AMG554579.
Cross the river at this point and fill up on water if necessary. The Kedumba River used to be quite polluted, but is now much improved. However, it is probably advisable to treat water obtained from it.
From here you have a couple of choices.
The more pleasant option is to head to the obvious ridge that runs north east from this point, eventually meeting the road at about AMG567591. The track along the ridge is excellent and well graded. Turn right and follow the road for 400m to an intersection, at which you should turn left.
The other is to follow the river around to the creek junction at AMG557578. You may need to leave the river a little to avoid small cliffs close to the banks. Head up the ridge to the WSW, and you should quickly pick up an old 4WD track which meets up with the main fire trail marked on the map. Follow this up the hill, through a number of hairpin bends, until you reach the same intersection as above, where you should veer right. This involves much more of a road bash, and is much less pleasant.
Continue along the road for about another 4km to the hospital. If you have not left a car here you can call for a taxi from the hospital, do the 5km walk to Wentworth Falls, or try and hitch a ride.
Time: 5 hrs; Distance: 13km; Fitness: EM; Skill: EM; Ascent: 610m
A slightly more challenging day walk than the Ruined Castle, with views to the south
Time: 8 hrs; Distance: 14km; Fitness: M; Skill: MH; Ascent: 540m
A challenging descent of one of the more difficult passes of Narrow Neck
Time: 2 hrs; Distance: 6km; Fitness: E; Skill: EM; Ascent: 60m
Excellent panoramic views from this easy-to-visit lookout off Narrow Neck Peninsula
Time: 4 hrs; Distance: 8km; Fitness: E; Skill: E; Ascent: 220m
360 degree views from the top of the Ruined Castle, one of the best easy day walks in the Blue Mountains.
Time: 5 hrs; Distance: 11km; Fitness: EM; Skill: M; Ascent: 440m
An interesting trip exploring of one of the old miners' passes of Narrow Neck, with good views of the Megalong Valley
26-27/08/2000 - Mt Solitary: Golden Stairs - Mt Solitary - (C) Singajingawell Creek - Kedumba River - Queen Victoria Hospital (photos)