24/07/2016 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay, Rod Wales, Emily Deck, Sam Palfreyman, Ed Squires, Rasmus Altenkamp, Cathy Hui, Jo Tabley
Parking the cars at the locked gate on Narrow Neck, the icy sou'wester blasted us. The leader was forced to be mercifully short in his briefing as the fully rugged up walkers were quickly turning into ice cubes. The walk along the fire trail confirmed this, as many of the puddles were iced over, and real icicles were hanging off nearby cliffs.
We made good time out to the fire tower, and Rachel navigated us successfully to the turnoff to Walls Pass, and down the gully to where the chains are. Being on the east side of Narrow Neck, this was thankfully out of the breeze, and we had morning tea with good views of Lake Burragorang and the back side of Mt Solitary.
Most of the Narrow Neck passes are on the western side of Narrow Neck. Walls Pass and the Golden Stairs are the two on the eastern side, and though pass is a generous term for Walls Pass. In practice it is a 10m cliff. Supposedly the pass was used by the Wall brothers back in the 1880s, by climbing down wooden ladders. Wilf Hilder rediscovered the pass in 1966 and persuaded the now BWRS to install chains there, making for a steep descent.
The chains were icy cold, and steeper than I remembered, and the cliff somewhat damp and slippery, which made for a challenging descent. All safely at the bottom, we skirted along the halfway ledge to Cedar Head, passing a small waterfall with frozen shrubs from the night before.
While I'd like to try the scrambling route over Cedar Head, I thought it imprudent to try a new route when I hadn't listed it in the program. Instead, we headed down the gully to the south. It took a little while to find the pass down the gully, as we hit various small clifflines. Once down, we skirted under Cedar Head, and around to a pleasant grassy clearing for lunch, in the feeble sun.
The pass I knew of into Cedar Creek lay at the end of a narrow ridge, which we had some difficulty getting on to. As a result, we got to explore the various vegetation types from the ridges to hanging swamps and creeks. Nevertheless, we made the pass eventually, and enjoyed the ambience of Cedar Creek and the big camp cave just downstream from our entry point.
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. "This hill won't climb itself", announced the leader, and off we set for the 400m climb, regrouping at each of the knolls. One walker had a slight leg injury, which hampered them for the climb.
We had afternoon tea at the Ruined Castle, which at four in the afternoon, we thankfully had all to ourselves. Then the mostly easy walk back to the foot of the Golden Stairs, where we split, with some people going to collect the cars at the locked gate and bring them back to the Golden Stairs, and the others waiting for the injured party and accompanier, to assist them.
An excellent day in this part of the Blue Mountains that is so close to areas well trod, but so rarely visited.