Monday, October 15, 2012
Mt Solitary (+ Ruined Castle), NSW, Australia
2012 October: Climb Mt Solitary and Ruined Castle, Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
Having lived in Sydney for so long, it always bugs me that I have not climbed Mt Solitary in the Blue Mountains. From afar, it looks like a long flat table top and just inspires you to want to walk the entire length of it.
Today, Ken wants to do some exercise - to prepare for his Nepal climbing trip coming up in 2 months time. In case you haven't noticed it ... 2 months from now is December, smack bang in Nepal's winter. If you think he is mad to want to go there in winter, well, he agrees with you!
Talking about exercise, I regularly run for half-an-hour at night around the streets near my home. It is a quiet neighbourhood, practically no one in the streets even in day time. One night, rounding a corner, I almost bumped into a ghost, or sleep walker. He scared the shit out of me because I didn't expect to bump into any one, let alone someone wearing a white pajama and stood stiff in the middle of the pedestrian path!!! He stared vacantly straight ahead and didn't even take any notice of me when I was almost on top of him. For the next 10 nights or so, he was there at the same corner, stiff like a scarecrow. Then just as mysteriously as he came onto the scene, he was gone. Ever since then, the nightly run is decidedly boring without seeing him.
I side tracked ... Anyway, we decided on a Mt Solitary traverse - Park my car at Scenic World in Katoomba; then take Ken's car pass Wentworth Falls, pass the abandoned Queen Victoria Hospital, and drive a bit further south to a locked gate on Kedumba Valley Rd. There, we park the car, head towards Mt Solitary, climb it, traverse it, then go to Ruined Castle, then to my car at Scenic World.
This is it, Mt Solitary. We'll walk the entire length of it, from left to right. (Picture taken towards the end of our walk near Scenic World)
- 950 meters near the western end (right side of the above photo)
- 919 meters at the centre
One bad point about this mountain is that there is no cairn marking its highest point. And because of the relative flat topology, you'll walk right pass the summit without noticing it :-(
1:25,000 scale topographic maps are:
- 8930-2N Jamison
- 8930-1S Katoomba
Our GPX file can be downloaded from:
Here is a screen print of our GPS route on Google Earth - we hike from south-east to north-west. (Click on image to enlarge it).
2 - Eastern end of Mt Solitary
Small green triangle - middle summit of Mt Solitary
3 - Western end of Mt Solitary
4 - Ruined Castle
Hiking distance and time:
08:33 Start walking from a locked gate on Kedumba Valley Rd (a bit south of the abandoned Queen Victoria Hospital)
11:00 Arrive at eastern top of Mt Solitary
11:54 Arrive at middle summit (small green triangle in the above image)
12:04 Leave middle summit
12:25 Arrive at lunch spot
----- 26 min of lunch
12:51 Leave lunch spot
13:35 Arrive at western end of Mt Solitary
14:08 Arrive at Ruined Castle
14:15 Leave Ruined Castle
16:30 Arrive at Scenic World carpark
- 7 hrs 57min
Prior to crossing the Kedumba River, it is an easy walk along a bush trail. After the crossing, the trail turns into a steep climb to the eastern top of Mt Solitary - just perfect for Ken to get fit.
At the top, there is log book in a steel box somewhere amongst the rocks. We wrote our names in the book - so now my first ascent to Mt Solitary is preserved in history!
Lunch is a short side trip to a ledge where there is a magnificent view of the Jamison Valley. We can make out the township of Katoomba, but it is a bit far away to be seen clearly.
To get down from the western top, there is a series of steep descends. It only takes a few minutes to get down - compared to the hours that took us to climb up on the eastern side earlier in the morning.
At the detour to Ruined Castle, Ken is a bit tired. So he waits for me while I turn into a trail up a small hill, the top of which is called Ruined Castle. You won't find any castles there, only a pile of large boulders. Nonetheless, it is an interesting place. I'm sure many dare devils would come here to do some rock climbing.
Then it is back down from Ruined Castle, return to the main trail to meet up with Ken. In case you are looking at the map, from here, the main trail towards Katoomba is called Federal Pass. On our way to the bottom station of Scenic Railway, the Federal Pass winds through an interesting landslide area ... Geez ... you wouldn't want the landslide to happen to you when you are walking through there!!!
The last leg is a 200-meter steep climb up the Furber Steps to Scenic World where my car was parked. I convince Ken to climb the steps instead of taking the railway ... as he needs to get fit for his Nepal trip.
All up, it is a good 8-hr work out on a nice sunny day. To me, the highlight of this trip is seeing the bright red waratahs growing wild. Their red colour stands out so strikingly against the backdrop of the green bush ... see the following photos # 16 and 17.
1.) In the distance is the eastern top of Mt Solitary.
2.) After crossing the Kedumba River, the trail becomes very steep ... so here, mid way up the slope, we take a breather.
3.) Looking at the eastern top of Mt Solitary - in the pic, it is partly obscured by trees ... we'll be climbing to the top.
4.) Almost at the top ... just a few more steps ...
5.) Made it !
The grey box at my feet is where the log book is stored.
6.) We duly write our names on the log book ... just have to preserve our names for prosperity! :-)
7.) 180 degree panoramic view - typical Blue Mountains scenery
8.) The highest point in the dark hill below is the middle summit of Mt Solitary. We are going to pass over it.
9, 10.) At middle summit - no cairn marking this point
By the way, the middle summit is not the highest point of Mt Solitary. But most maps print a triangle sign here to mark this place as Mt Solitary. Anyway, Ken and I take a few photos now just to say we've been here. (The highest point of Mt Solitary is further toward the north-west.)
11.) A large termite mound
In the northern part of Australia, termite mounds are often red or orange in colour due to the red earth which are rich in iron content. Mt Solitary is a sandstone plateau, hence the termite mounds here have a yellowish appearance.
12.) View towards Ruined Castle which is on the ridge slightly to the left of the centre of this pic - we are going there now.
13.) Zooming onto Ruined Castle which is at the top of a hill almost at the dead centre of this pic
14, 15.) Steep descend down the west side of Mt Solitary
16, 17.) Beautiful red waratahs - This flower is native to the eastern part of Australia. It is more exciting to see them growing wild here than in a garden as the red stands out so much more among the green bush ... don't you think so?
18, 19, 20, 21.) I make a side trip to Ruined Castle, which is a pile of large boulders on top of a small hill - an interesting place for people who like rock climbing.
22.) Looking back at Mt Solitary from Ruined Castle - It is so satisfying to see that we've walked the entire length of it !
23.) On the way to Scenic World is this land slide section. The magnificent cliffs are a hall mark of the Blue Mountains in this area.
24.) We reach the bottom station of Scenic Railway (which belongs to Scenic World) and took this picture of the Three Sisters, the main icon of the Blue Mountains.