Party: Jonno, Tony, (Thomas).
On departing for the Katoomba meeting spot at 7:00am I saw a note from Thomas letting me know he had slept in but was still keen, so I sent him back the plan for the day so he could try to meet up with us at the first campsite. Tony and I then drove out to Kanangra Walls where we parked the car, shouldered packs and by 10:00am were heading back along the road towards Morong Creek Firetrail, then down the Uni Rover Trail in a pleasant misty drizzle.
As we were packing up from lunch at Lost Rock (aptly named for us at least!) I got another call from Thomas, who was now way behind schedule, but still keen to push on so I told him we would wait at the base of Billys Ridge until 10:00am the following morning. I had previously been on the Uni Rover as far as Mt Savage and assumed the obvious foot pad and track markers went all the way to the river – in fact they both dropped out around Mt Lannigan and the final descent of Lannigans Spur was much slower going than I had expected. Unfortunately I had no phone reception by then so couldn’t recalibrate the meetup plan.
Tony and I poked about in the rain and quickly fading light looking for a decent campsite, eventually settling for something flatish and dryish on the Colong side of the river.
By this stage I knew that there was almost no chance of Thomas being able to catch up with us by the agreed 10:00am cutoff, but was glad for the opportunity for a sleep in anyway. At 10:15, after a few blasts on Tony’s impressively loud whistle, we headed up stream 100m to climb the nose of Billy’s Ridge. The ridge was very open, although the heavy rain overnight meant the few bushes we had to push through was more than enough to have us quickly sodden. The first lunch of the day was on Mt Billy. I was hoping for some views of Mt Colong but everything was obscured by mist. Further along the ridge that spiralled up towards Mt Colong we found a cairn that I assumed marked a turnoff for Colong Caves, shortly thereafter some tin marks appeared on trees culminating in an arrow pointing off north – the track thus marked seemed to head steeply downhill, which was intriguing, but we decided to continue on our way to the Colong summit (I have since worked what we saw was part of a marked trail that sidles under Mt Colong from Colong Saddle to Colong Caves)
Somewhere around 359205 we hit a cliff line that made me wish I had brought a handline, however an easy route was soon found up a gully, and once the upper basalt scree was conquered we discovered a gorgeous wooded grassland, with a group of kangaroos grazing in the mist. By 2:30 we were having second lunch at the enormous cairn. I was surprised to find we were the first to sign the logbook in 2015.
The descent of Mt Colong was made a lot more difficult than it should have been by lack of adequate research – I had assumed the line on the topo running from the trig marker through Colong Saddle was running along some kind of navigable route, but Tony and I spent the better part of an hour pushing through thick wet scrub looking for a way through a 20m cliff line before we eventually gave up on that approach and decided to try one of the eastern ridges. The descent around 375211 was a little hairy (for me at least!), and again I was lamenting the lack of handline, but our luck held and we hit the firetrail just on dusk.
Next trick was to find some water which (despite being in swamp, in heavy rain) was still a bit of a mission. Eventually we camped next to the ‘ford’ at 369215, which turned out to be nothing more than a big puddle which had almost drained by morning.
During breakfast, for the first time in the trip, we saw a patch of blue sky. We followed the firetrail round to the Tonalli River and the locked gate that marks the start of the Scotts Main Range firetrail, where Tony wandered downstream in a mostly fruitless quest for water that wasn’t full of orange gunk. Fortunately the owner of the Byrnes Gap property turned up (driving to Easter Sunday mass at Yerranderie) and said we could fill up from his water tanks – very much appreciated!. The road bash was somewhat enlivened when Tony nearly stepped on a sunbathing red belly black. After lunch at the Butchers Creek ford (dry!), as we neared Bulga Ridge, a car (returning from Yerranderie to the CBC huts) pulled up and offered us a lift. Since we were so close to leaving the road anyway we decided to stick to foot power.
There is a cairn at the bend in the road that marks the start of Bulga Ridge, but we couldn’t see much evidence of a track there. After stumbling around in the bush for a bit we came across an arrangement of rocks that looked like it may have been an old bush grave, a little further down hill we eventually found a very faint foot pad which we followed out to Bulga Cone. From there down the steep scree slope all the way to the river there was no evidence of any track, except those made by wombats.
Unfortunately the flat areas at the Christies Creek junction seemed to be full of cobblers pegs, so we ended up camping on the slight slope at the base of Sullen Tor. Since the rain had held off all day, we decided to have a campfire, and Tony made cheesecake which I much enjoyed.
I wanted to get an early start in order to do the very steep ascent to Bullhead Mountain before it got too hot. But as it happened, the cloud and mist had returned, which was a bit of a relief. I huffed and puffed my way up the steep steep slope while Tony nonchalantly chatted away. There were a few moderate scrambles on Sullen Tor, but nothing technical although we decided against the direct ascent of the Cambage Spire cliff in favour of the western gully. First lunch of the day was taken at Bullhead Mountain. Somehow when we eventually joined the Gingra track I found myself heading east (back towards the Kowmung) instead of north to the carpark – I would like to think this was a case of subconscious desire to continue the adventure but really, it was just very poor navigation. Second lunch was taken at Coal Seam Cave, when the rain started up again, keeping us company all the way back to the walls.
The third lunch of the day was taken at the Half Way House in Hampton.