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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mt Solitary Thoughts

Busy at work and no time for nights in the bush, so to keep in shape we did a day walk traverse of Mt Solitary, from Katoomba to Wentworth Falls. This is about 18km and perhaps 1800m elevation change. We started at 10.00 going down the Golden Staircase with the Bell Miners ringing in the high trees. There were no Lyrebirds in what is usually a good spot, probably because there were a fair few people on the track. Two hours brought us to the top of the Mountain. The track has been getting more developed in recent years, and despite the nice rock-scramble it now barely feels like a bushwalk. Someone has spray-painted fluorescent pink arrows and dots on the rocks every five or ten metres all the way from the Ruined Castle to Chinaman's Gully. It's just vandalism - who, however incompetent in the bush, needs to see two or three track markings at any one moment? We saw a few cairns sprayed pink - for people who don't what a cairn is? There's rubbish around the campsites, and some people don't even seem to have learnt to bury their s**t. It's pretty sad.

Here's a view of the mountain itself from Katoomba, with a couple of Sisters in the foreground. You can see the route down off the Col to the left of the mountain:

 The walk became much more rewarding after the gaining the top, and the rest of the walk along it was much better. No rubbish, many fewer fire-circles and we only met one other party. Probably the most rewarding way to do Mt Solitary these days would be a loop from the East via the Col and Miners pass. An hour and forty-five minutes brought us to the Col at the east end of the mountain, where we brewed a cup of tea and ate our sandwiches. And enjoyed the spectacular views of the rain coming in over the Jamison valley:
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On the way down after lunch we saw some Glossy Black Cockatoos, with their wonderful scarlet tail-panels. Other than that just the usual birds - Rock Warbler, thornbills, finches, Friarbird. It took another 1.30 for the 600m descent to the Kedumba River, 1.00 back up the firetrail, and 1.30 back up to the 800m line and the carpark on Kedumba Valley Rd, taking almost exactly 8hrs for the walk.
We'd seen a few leeches along the Ruined Castle track, but from the Kedumba river the leeches became a real problem. Not having noticed them yet, I put by boots around my neck in the usual way for the river crossing and got a necklace of leeches for my pains. David was nice enought to remove them using the usual method - lift from the tail with a sharp knife and slide it under the mouth parts, then an iodine swab. But I got an impressively blood-soaked shirt!
The climb back to the firetrail was one of those ones where you had to stop every few metres to flick the leeches off your boots before they reach the socks. They are amazingly robust - you can crush them as hard as you can between thumb and forefinger and they show no apparent harm. They're very hard indeed to scrape off, but yield easily to a flick of the finger - it must be the rapid impact. It did get really tiresome. Roll on a hard winter and the next dry summer! Back at the car we took off boots - and in one case gaiters - and removed the leeches who'd managed to get inside. More knives and iodine. The last one was discovered after dinner that evening, gorged and bloated.

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