The following morning we were up and walking by 7:15, crossed the Clyde river, and began the long uphill grind to gain Kaliana ridge which we followed to the base of the Castle. Those familiar with the route into Monolith valley will be pleased to read that the old conglomerate ridge horrorshow once used to gain the base of the Castles lower cliffs is now circumvented by a well constructed alternative. No drama. As we caught our breath at the first real lookout a host of small birds moved through the bush in front of us, including a fabulous Beautiful Firetail finch – a first for me. A few hours later, after traversing the obstacle course of tangled roots and trunks along the base of the cliffs, we gained the “tunnel” in the tadpole tail of the Castle, and slipped to the other side where the ascent route starts. I have been in close proximity to the Castle a few times before, but somehow had never got around to climbing it, so it was exciting to finally be going for it, although I was a little nervous about what lay ahead given stories of the various degrees of scrambling required.
As it turned out, the ascent was not nearly as hairy as I was anticipating, and we managed the three “fixed” sections without having to use the ropes – which one would not have wanted to use anyway, given their sun-damaged condition. Once on the top we were greeted with fabulous views, heaths full of wildflowers and beetles, and 100s of ponds swarming with tadpoles. Having traversed to the end of the summit plateau and back again (about 40 min each way), we descended to the saddle then back down the way we had come, along the endlessly winding obstacle course to the easy strolling that awaited us on the Kaliana ridge. We ran out of water (it was a hot day) just 45 min before hitting the river, where a bit of a swim refreshed us. Final dip not withstanding, the out and back trip (including all other stops) took us 9 hrs – pretty much what the guide book predicted (8-10).
The following day we packed the car, then nursed it back along the road towards Pigeon House. Thought we might as well bag it too, seeing as we were in the area. About 3 hrs return, and much easier now that A-grade steps have been added where required, and that the ladders have been given an overhaul. Funnily enough, bumped into Ron, Kara and kids on the summit (small world). Next stop, more dirt till just before Milton, and requisite pie at the pie shop, before the relatively short drive north to Jervis Bay and Point Perpendicular. The traffic coming out of Milton was just mental (2 km traffic jam entering the northern side of the town!), which largely forged our resolve not to take the Princes Hwy all the way back to Sydney. Arrived at Point Perp late in the day but I was keen for a climb so we rapped down the fabulous Windjammer Wall, and climbed out a grade 16 corner, “Man Overboard”, which I found surprisingly easy, although it swallowed all the large gear I had. Some of the holds/pockets were actually fossil etchings of shells – amazing stuff. Almost decided to rap in and do another route in fading light but opted instead to see what we could do about accommodation – a very good move, as it turned out. Luckily snagged the last tent site at the Currarong caravan park. The next day returned to Windjammer Wall, rapped in and a launched myself up the classic grade 17 “Grey Mist”, which turned out to be far more committing than I envisaged. I am usually fine at this grade, but with not a bolt to be clipped, protecting the bottom half of the 30m route to my satisfaction proved to be an extremely draining affair. With the first 5 placements all small-medium wires I was starting to have kittens about running out the appropriate pieces for the second half of the climb – with the exit moves constituting the crux. Fortunately a smattering of cam and hex placements revealed themselves to me such that I really enjoyed the latter half of the route, but it took me close to an hour to lead the pitch and by the time I got to the top my nerves were so shot we decided to stroll the grounds of the lighthouse before heading for our evening destination – Bungonia Gorge.
The road from Nowra through Sassafras to Goulburn is now undergoing major roadworks, so soon there should be little dirt to negotiate – really nice driving through the top ½ of Morton National Park. After the mayhem of everywhere associated with the Princes Hwy, Bungonia was a breath of fresh air – only about 5 tents in total in the widely spread camping area – wallaby’s ambling through etc. Really lovely. With the tent up we headed for some slime time in Grill cave, although after about 20 min of descending decided to turn around where serious mud engagement would be required. Still, the 14 C temperature of the cave was a pleasant contrast to the ~ 30 C outside. The next morning we aimed for the “red” track, and descended down to the gorge itself, the main attraction. Again, it was a stinker of a day, but several dips in the river at the bottom helped keep us cool before the mega walk back out via the exit ridge. Reluctantly got back into the students Ferrari for the final 2 hr drive back home, which was remarkably smooth, I’m glad to say. Now confronted with work for another year. Triffic!
Conglomerate viewing platform near the base of the lower walls of the Castle
the impressive upper walls of the Castle come into view
last scramble to the summit
The tadpoles tail
Tadpoles on the tadpole (the Castle resembles a tadpole from the air)
Pigeon House in the distance
a much awaited dip
Windjammer wall, Point Perp
"Man Overboard" is the LH corner. "Grey Mist" takes the middle of the wall.
fossils in the seacliffs
Atop Man Overboard
Anita cleans the last few cams
Looking down Grey Mist
approaching the final moves
The southern face of Bungonia Gorge towers above
Anita's shoes finally give up
First Aid kit to the rescue
Bungonia Gorge from the exit ridge
A local finds shade in the form of a park bench