Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Castle

I think I have wanted to climb The Castle in the Budawangs for at least 30 years. That was the first time we walked into Monolith Valley and scrambled around the Seven Gods Pinnacles. My Mum, who was about 60 at the time, came with us, and we camped at Cooyoyo Creek. The day we walked out we woke up to thick mist and light rain, and my Mum, who somehow thought we would be "pinned down" by the wet weather, blurted out "Who is going to feed Skip (our dog) her tea?" All these years later, Doug and I still find that statement outrageously funny, which just shows you can grow old, without growing up.

Looking to The Castle and Byangee Walls from Pigeon House

The day before we walked up Pigeon House via the standard track from the south. This short jaunt takes only a couple of hours but offers great views of The Castle, Byangee Mountain and the other peaks clustered around Monolith Valley. We camped at Long Gully and had a dip in the swimming hole on the Yadboro River as it was a hot day.

Pigeon House and Byangee Mountain

Next morning, anticipating a long hot day we got away at 6.20 am and followed the track that runs north along Kalianna Ridge. A long time ago, NSW Parks did some work on this track rerouting the final steep section that gains the base of the first layer of cliffs on The Castle, but the track along the base of The Castle is as eroded as ever. It's amazing that some of the trees hang on, but they do.
The track gradually turns to the east and begins climbing up a series of high wooden steps until, perhaps 100 metres below the pass, a junction is reached with TC (The Castle) scratched into a rock.

Byangee Walls and The Castle

Taking the right hand branch, the steep steps continue and then abruptly end just before a short steep climb leads to a narrow passage between the cliffs of Meakins Pass. Sidling (remove pack first) and crawling through this tunnel, you emerge on the east side of The Castle. There is a tatty rope hanging down that I would not trust - there are a plethora of manky ropes on this route that you should not trust - but hand and foot holds are good so it is not really necessary.

Doug squeezing through the tunnel

The route heads south along the base of the east side of The Castle, but you should drop down a little from the exit to the tunnel to pick up a good track not stay high which we did. The high route works, but involves some awkward scrambling along loose ledges. Both routes soon join and head south until a piece of tattered flagging marks the start of the climb up the second and final cliff band.

Looking down on Meakins Pass from The Castle

There are sporadic bits of flagging, arrows carved into the rock, and a reasonable foot pad to mark the route. Mostly, it is pretty obvious if only by the scuffed off lichen free rock. In places there are fixed ropes, almost all of which are very dodgy and should not be trusted. After some scrambling we emerged on the north spine of the Castle where there is a fantastic view down to the rock gendarmes along Meakins Pass.

Doug floats on droplets of eucalpytus oil

A few last scrambly bits and we emerged onto the summit plateau. Considering this is the Budawangs, the summit is surprisingly open. Flat sandstone slabs separated by scrappy bush. There are foot-pads through the bush and it is relatively easy to walk all over the summit plateau. We walked right down to the south end where the view of Byangee Walls is superb and came back via the western cliff line which offers similarly good views of the walls of Mount Owen.

That view, it's priceless

There are small tarns on the summit so you could have a delightful campsite.

After about an hour, we scrambled back down. There are two sections where a short length of rope for a handline is very helpful, but everything else can be down-climbed. We thought about walking back via Cooyoyo Creek campsite, but by the time we got down to Meakins Pass we were too hot for that and simply crawled back through the tunnel and followed the track down. The swimming hole was extra good that afternoon. Our round trip time was about 8 hours, including an hour wandering about the summit. Coming down is not much, if at all, faster than going up.   

1 comment:

  1. Oh the first time I read this I got confused, thinking about Ruined Castle in the Blue Mountains. Now that was a walk from hell. Me and my 5 children, youngest in a carrier, we found out how Megalong Valley got its name, from the Megalong Tiger leeches that I still see in nightmares. We ended up aborting the mission and high tailing it out up the Golden Staircase.Others have been there and reported no leeches, but this was teeming with them after a week of rain.