Trip Report:

Golden Stairs (Narrow Neck) to Ruined Castle and Mt Solitary.

Sunday May 2 2010.

Walkers: Bruce (leading), Rob, Emil, Lisa, Marta, Michael.

We met together at the shops at North Side Strathfield Station, and waited a bit in case a couple of (eventual) no-shows appeared at the last minute*. While there we were approached by some other walkers who turned out to be participants in a walk organised by another group, “SPAM”, to Faulconbridge. We then headed off to Katoomba and Narrow Neck. On the way we stopped briefly at “Scenic World” (the home of the Scenic Railway) for ice cream and use of their loos. Then it was off down the steep grade of the Golden Stairs.

A clear sky and slight breeze promised a perfect walking day.

At the head of the stairs were signs stating that they were part of the route of two endurance runs, “Wild Endurance” that day and another on 15/16 May, the “NorthFace 100″. At one point on these stairs where there is an old cable hand hold against the cliff, the other side was festooned with abseil ropes formed spider-web like into a barrier to stop ‘Wild Endurance” participants from dropping off the path down the cliff!

We reached the bottom of the Golden Stairs, which are not in good repair, and turned right along the track to Ruined Castle and Mt Solitary, noting the big “X” signs to warn “Wild Endurance” people not to go that way. The track itself is actually a former Shale Oil tramway and thus is on a very gentle down slope as far as the castle. It even has some cuttings along the way to keep it level, so the walking is very easy. Near Ruined castle we noted some Oil Shale rock left over from the old mines. Along the way we also heard the tinkling calls of many Bell Birds.

At the branch track to Ruined Castle the sign “steep path –

experienced walkers only” was noted and we duly set forth along it, scrambling up the crumbling track to the top at Ruined Castle, which is actually a collection of huge boulders, where we stopped for a break. Emil, Lisa and Michael climbed to the very top of the rock there and admired the majestic view of the area. Lisa and Emil enjoyed the novelty of the climb as there is little like it intheir native Denmark. Then it was off down the other side to rejoin the track to Mt

Solitary. Because it was no longer a tramway it has steeper grades and eventually leads to the Koorawal Knife edge which at its end has quite steep climbs up the cliff of Mt Solitary. After reaching the top we came back down a bit to get shade in an overhang, and had lunch, and admired the views, which include Mt Cloudmaker in the distance.

After that it was a return walk along the same track except that we didn’t detour via Ruined castle. Only a few hundred metres from the junction with the Golden Stairs I had the first and only slip of the day at a soak across the track, where I slipped on a small rock and went into the mud.

We commenced the steep ascent of the Golden Stairs, with the state of disrepair causing it to be a challenge at some spots, especially after walking for 6 hours as we had. At the abovementioned spot where the old cable provides a hand rail of sorts against the cliff, we noted that the spider web of abseil ropes to protect the “Wild Experience” participants had gone.

We caught our breath at the lookout near the top of the stairs, and Lisa conjected on the name “Golden” for the stairs. She said that maybe it was because after strenuous effort of the steep climb you start to feel you are in a golden haze (and in fact the late afternoon sun was causing the nearby Landslide, Three Sisters, and other cliff faces to glow a brilliant gold colour).

Then it was back to the cars and then back to Strathfield, with a detour to the Lapstone Hotel at Blaxland for some liquid refreshments. Everyone enjoyed the walk, especially the weather and the wonderful scenery.

Bruce Stafford

*P.S. Thanks to Thi for giving advance notice by SMS that morning of inability to come on the walk.