Party: Lili, Leah, Mischa and Jonno
Leader: Jonno downes
Date: 10/2/2013

An astute observer may notice that while this trip was advertised as being “Megalong / Medlow Bath Tracks”, the title of this report excludes the Megalong, for the reason that we never quite made it down far enough to qualify being in the Megalong.

My objective today was to explore the old tracks at Medlow Bath, to find the established ways in & out of the valley, as preparation for a future long day walk descending Blacks Ladders and ascending to Medlow Bath. I was joined by Lili, Leah and Mischa, who all braved the forecast for a rainy afternoon. In the end the rain held off, although there was more mud and off-track scrambling than they or I had anticipated.

The day started well – along the highway to Bellevue and Delmonte Streets, then along a few old firetrails for a short break at the Three Brothers. Lili, Leah and Mischa scrambled up the middle brother to admire the view, while I pontificated sagely from below.

Then some more easy track walking, to look at the site of the old Flying Fox. We even found the start of the Glen Rosa track, which was quite crowded in by leafy bushes but once you pushed aside the branches, was very distinct on the ground. At least till we got to a creek – I hadn’t advertised this as a muddy off track walk, but the crew all seemed up for it, and so we pressed on regardless, and once over we found another foot pad which dumped us in Maxines Bower, a gloriously mossy, muddy cave sunk deep into the cliff.

There were some very reassuring steps leading up the inside of the cave. I put one foot into the mud instead of on a step and it went down over my ankle. So – stick to the steps!.

I had seen this very spot once from a distance while walking on the firetrails, and imagined it would be fun to explore but assumed it was only accessible by abseiling, in fact there’s no exposure required. So we created some – the steps took us up onto a ledge that circled the back of the cave, except there was a small chunk missing that needed a slightly precarious bum slide to get around. But once we’d all got over, we followed the ledge a bit further out of the cave and around near the nose, before discovering it was a dead end. So back for another bum slide over the dodgy bit, with 4 out of 4 humans and 3 out of 4 bags making the return journey safely.

Then down through a muddy gully, slight pause to recover an errant bag, a scramble around the nose and we hit what looked like a real track again. This led us through a hanging swamp, over a few creeks and finally into a big amphitheatre that I thought was the Colosseum but I realise now is Glen Rosa. I had misinterpreted the various maps I had looked at and didn’t realise the Colosseum is at the base of the cliff, and we were still half way up. The GPS in my phone was adding to the confusion since it was placing us exactly in the spot the Colosseum is marked on the topo, which is true, we were just 100m higher. I spent a bit of time looking for the old stone table which not surprisingly wasn’t there, so we clambered up to a ledge for a nice lunch, after which I tried to follow some track notes I had that talked about following a track next to the creek down from the Colosseum to Megalong Valley road.
There was no sign of a track, only a huge waterfall – so we just followed the track around to the Sunbath, meeting several climbing parties on the way.

At this point my plan was to follow the old Valley Farm track to the valley and then come back the same way. But we took a bit of a wrong turn and ended up following a climbers track that hugged the top cliffline instead of dipping down into the valley. The climbers tracks certainly get a lot of use, so in some cases they are more distinct than the historic walking tracks, but I realised the old walking tracks had distinct (if roughly hewn) stone steps on any slope, whereas the climbers tracks are just eroded. So we backtracked, refound the old track and followed it down down down, via an old metal ladder and through a hole in the rock. At which point Leah pointed out I had missed a T-junction marked with arrows, and we were now on the fork heading to the Colosseum (i.e. not the Valley Farm track)

So – a quick conference, I suggested continuing on to the (real!) Colosseum, trying our luck finding the route down and returning via the Valley Farm Track (which I assumed would be easy to find), and the crew seemed keen enough. The track to the Colosseum was in pretty good condition – a couple of trees on the tracks needing to be climbed over, but very easy to follow and no major exposure. And – there was the stone table. Woohoo! Right spot this time for sure!

But after that, our luck started to run out. There were some steps down from the Colosseum to the creek, so we descended them, crossed over the creek and shortly thereafter picked up a very distinct, albeit unmaintained 2m wide benched track which seemed to be heading down, so I figured this was the old track that would take us all the way to Megalong Valley Road. But after about 200m it disappeared in a big rock slide, and we bush-bashed down a gully for a bit before I did a few mental calculations involving time of day, water levels and the blackness of the clouds and decided we should climb back up to the track, where we could assess whether to call it a day and go up, or keep trying to find a way down to the valley.

At this point, my mental model of where we were takes a huge divergence from the maps of the area, since I thought by bush-bashing up we would hit the Colosseum track again, but in fact we hit a different track – it looked the same at first, but then we came across some big trees fallen on the track that we hadn’t seen before. I tried using my phone GPS with the OpenStreetMaps tracks, it put us right in the middle of the top and bottom arms of the Valley Farm track. I now know we were on the bottom arm, but at the time I wasn’t sure so figured we would just follow it west around the ridge to the hairpin and see if it went up.

Except – shortly thereafter we lost the track again! 2m wide & solidly benched, suddenly into nothing.

Fortunately we were on a fairly open (but steep) ridge, so we just bashed straight up it. To the base of a cliff. With no track in sight. Doh!

But – can it be? Happy Happy Joy Joy! Around the corner, a steep scramble up, and there we are back on the old track, right at the T-Junction with the painted arrows pointing to the Valley and the Colloseum. No need for discussion, it was time to head back up, up, up, past the steel ladder, up, up, up and finally on to Belgravia street, much to my relief.

So while I didn’t quite make my primary objective (learn the routes from the valley up to Medlow Bath), I did have fun, and can make the following observations:

  1. Maxines Bower is very nice, and should get more visitors, ideally some of them carrying garden snips
  2. If you follow the track-notes, instead of relying on your GPS, the track to the Colloseum should be easy to find and is in pretty good condition.
  3. The Valley Farm track is not so easy to follow.
  4. Don’t advertise a walk as being moderate unless you actually know the route
  5. When in doubt, press on regardless.

Thanks Lili, Leah and Mischa for pleasant company and not complaining about any navigational deficiencies 🙂

Some good sites with ‘proper’ track notes for anyone else wanting to explore the places mentioned above are: