Date: 12/5/2024
Trip leader: Bruce Stafford
Party: Kevin, Lei, Lishan, Luoyujia, Minh Ai, Ryan, Shibo, Mabel (Ting Ting), Tom

Katoomba to Leura via Prince Henry Cliff track. Sunday 12/5/2024.

There were some concerns that this walk might have had to be cancelled because of the long stretch of rainy weather we had, which didn’t look like ending soon. What’s more, delaying the walk until the following weekend (18 &19 May) was not possible beause there would be no trains to the Blue Mountains that weekend. So it was this day or never. A few days before the walk, however, the weather forecast did improve although still predicting a few rain showers. As it turned out on the day, there were a few showers but not lasting too long, and even some sunny breaks. It goes to show that the weather in the Blue Mountains has to be REALLY bad for a walk there to be cancelled.

Anyway, ten members took the chance that the weather would not be too bad, and we all got on the train at various ststions and settled in for the almost 2 hour trip to Katoomba aboard a V set with their comfortable reversible seats. These 1980’s trains are the only electrics allowed beyond Springwood, but will soon be replaced by the “new” (but already 5 years old) “modern dynamic” D sets with the non-reversible seats so unpopular with long distance commuters. (More about that later). Meanwhile Lishan had a message from Mabel (Ting Ting) that she had missed the train due to the erratic Inner West buses, and would be on the following train. I texted Mabel to tell her to just get the bus from Katoomba to Echo Point where we would meet her; it meant that she would miss out on the Katoomba Falls section of the walk.

Passing the Bat colony at Clyde we could see that numerous Ibis (“bin chickens”) have now moved in to their colony!

So far there had not been a drop of rain anywhere, but we arrived at Katoomba Station just as a short rain shower had also arrived with a very fine rain (probably melted snow). I did a “roll call” and noted that three people who had signed up were not accounted for yet, although one (Tom) showed up a bit later, meaning that there were two “no shows”. So I shephered the eight I had to the bus stiop, where we just made it to the next bus departing for Scenic World. We got off at the Katomba Falls Kiosk stop (as did several tourists), and on arrival there got a call from Tom to say he was walking to there. This puzzled me; walking from where? Katoomba Station? he arrived in 8 minutes, and said that Google had told him to get off the bus at the Echo Point Motel and walk from there! Google strikes again! On arrival, Tom asked where the “bathrooms” were, and he looked unhappy when I said there are no bathrooms here, but he was relieved when I said there are toilets across the road.

Katoomba Falls

So with nine of our ten now together, we set off along the Prince Henry Cliff Track to take us at first on a side track to a lookout over Katoomba Falls. The Falls did not disappoint as they were flowing strongly after all this rain (see photos). Then to a brief photostop at Katoomba Cascades (above the Falls, where is spoke to a pair of tourists from Melbourne who said they had just come off the Scenic World “Skytrain”; They confirmed the current price of $54 that Scenic World charges for trips on its three short rides (I will mention this later). They also said that the previous day (Saturday 11/5) was a write-off for views with steady rain and fog, so I had chosen the best day for this walk.

Thene we continued on to Echo Point. Along the way Ryan noted several groups of mushrooms that had sprouted in the steady damp weather, and Shiba noted that the “track” was actually a paved footpath and asked if it was like this all the way; I said, not after the Three Sisters, as he would soon discover. By now the clouds which had obscured much of the view were starting to lift, giving us a better view of Jamison Valley and the Tree Sisters. On arrival at Echo Point we had a short break waiting to catch up with Mabel who had arrived by then.

After the break we set off for the rest of the walk to Leura Cascades and Gordon Falls Reserve at Leura. Not far along we came across a Lyrebird scratching in the leaf litter looking for its lunch. Then Ryan spotted another mushroom which I later found out is called the vermilion grisette which can cause vomiting if ingested, said Ryan ( ). Beware of red-capped mushrooms!

Shortly after we came to a detour where we had to briefly go along Cliff Drive because of a landslide blocking a portion of the Prince Henry Walk here. The detour to the road is via a short but quite slippery steep track. The road bash lasted only 200 metres and then we were back on the track, and then down along a long set of steps, seeing our second Lyrebird along the way,.. Not long after we came to a junction with the “Round Walk” which we took, and then on to Bridal Veil Lookout (the one that’s open) where we had lunch. It also gives a good view over these Falls. I brought out a couple of my home grown bananas, which caused amusement at the small size of my sugar bananas compared with shop-bought Cavendish bananas.

Bridal Veil Falls from the lookout.

After lunch we went down to Leura Cascades, and the recent rain had made the track quite waterlogged in places; sometimes we had to walk through the shallow water on the track.The Cascades were running strongly and made a good sight. After photostops there we continued up to the junction to rejoin the Prince Henry Track. From there we walked to Tarpeian Rock Lookout which was closed for repairs but the track further on to Olympian Lookout was open, which surprised me as until only a couple of weeks ago it had been long closed for repairs after a landslide. It is now paved much of the way with newly cut sandstone blocks which does make walking easier here (but hasn’t eliminated the gradients!). On this stretch of track we had the second short rain shower of the day. Just before reaching Olympian Lookout the track crossed a bridge I have called the “Dangerous Rabbit Bridge“. (The name is actually an amalgam of two scenes in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, but in the movie the dangerous bridge is guarded by Tim The Enchanter, and the Dangerous Rabbit guards a cave). On arrival at Olympian Rock I took one last group photo and also saw a rainbow as the third (and last) rain band headed towards us across Jamison Valley.

Rain is coming! Mt Solitary shrouded in cloud.

So we continued on, needing to take another detour away from the track onto Olymoian Parade at Leura; the detour track was not steep and slippery this time. After a 250 metre road bash we arrived at Gordon Falls Reserve, and a coffee van. A few bought coffees (Mabel bought me one, thanks, Mabel 😇), and as the rain shower had arrived now we all headed for the shelters at Gordon Falls Reserve, which are the ONLY shelters along the entire track after Echo Point, so our timing was lucky. This rain shower was the heaviest and lasted the longest, and eased off after about 15 minutes to a light rain. This was the signal to set off for Leura Station to get the next train due in 35 minutes. We walked through the local streets instead of taking the alternate track through Leura Peace Park and the War Memorial gates, which we would have done if there was no rain. At least we could enjoy the autumn colours ofthe leaves; that will be gone in a couple of weeks.We arrived at Leura Station 10 minutes before the train came.

Autumn leaves

Passing through Werrington (second station after Penrith) we saw a few Kangaroos in the grounds of Western Sydney Uni. We arrived back at Sydney on time (with half getng off at Strathfield including me) and everyone seemed to enjoy the walk despite the rain and cloud. Wet weather does make the Blue Mountains scenery look more dramatic as long as it’s not totally obscured by fog; the photos will speak for themselves. And it was a good experience for newer members learning about bushwalking and its various written and unwritten rules. Nobody was disappointed that they didn’t see any walking bushes.😉. Appropriate wet weather clothes helps a lot; I had wollen socks on, as well as the walking boots Joe Mack kindly gave me at the recent Club AGM, and they worked really well – thanks, Joe! 😇. I recommend woolen socks in both summer and winter as they will still keep your feet warm (or cool) when wet; cotton will not do that.

A Club circular email mentioned trhat some people wanted “harder” more challenging walks. Problem is that many of these are closed at present. For example (from NPWS website) Ruined Castle, Golden Stairs, Solitary Loop and Federal Pass west of Scenic World are closed due to multiple landslides. In the south, At Blackheath, Williams track (Govetts descent) and Rodriguez Pass are closed due to rockfalls and landslides. Pulpit Rock Reserve, lookouts and walking track are closed. The Coast Track to Figure 8 Pool will not reopen until July, making the walk to that place 2 hours longer than usual. The Forest Track to Sublime Point from Coalcliff is now open but the Sublime Point track and ladders to Austinmer are not, so a through walk can’t be done there. So as you can see, several “harder” tracks are not available at present.

Federal pass between the Cooks Crossing (Kedumba River) and the Giant Staircase is closed due to a landslide. This brings me to the comment about Scenic World and its entry fees. The Giant Staircase (below the Three Sisters) is open as is Furbers’ steps, but the Federal Pass track between these two is not. So, to avoid having to climb back up Furbers Steps after reaching their bottom, the alternative is Scenic World’s “Scenic Railway”. Until about 10 years ago or so, the one way fare to the top was about $10; not now though! That one way trip will set you back $54 or more, just like that couple from Melbourne said.

Allow me a final rant. Re the V set trains; as mentioned they will likely be replaced by the end of the year on Blue Mountains trains by the “new” (5 year old) so-called “modern dynamic, state of the art” D sets with their non-reversible seats so disliked by long distance passengers. NSW trains have had reversible seats since 1878, and this change against the wishes of over 80% of travellers is just arrogant, ignorant and stupid. The toilets in these trains will be similar to those in the OSCAR sets in use on the Newcastle and South Coast lines, and an improvement over the V sets, but that’s about all that’s good in these new trains which are a public relations disaster for Transport4NSW. So enjoy the reversible seating arrangements on the OSCAR and V sets while you can.

Also, not happy with the two “No Shows” who have made no contact with me at all.

Cheers, Bruce Stafford.