Carlon Head and Breakfast Creek Walk
Blue Mountains National Park
Megalong Valley NSW
Thank you to John & Lyn Daly and their book Take a Walk in the Blue Mountains.
Saturday, 21 February.
It had been a month since we last headed out. We both had itchy feet.
With the weather cooling this week we decided on the Blue Mountains. Shell had read about the Carlon Head, Narrow Neck, Medlow Gap circuit.
She had real concerns over my difficulty with heights as the planned circuit included several chain assisted climbs. One of which was particularly exposed.
I assured her all would be well and we set out with a spring in our step and a lazy 20km over two days ahead of us.
The trail head is accessed via Dunphys Camp Ground.
Heading south on the M1 it is simply a matter of following the signs to Katoomba and on to Blackheath.
Arriving at Blackheath turn left into Bundarra Street. Cross the rail line and take your immediate left into Station Street.
Turn right onto Shipley Road and finally left onto Megalong Road.
The first part of Megalong Road is a particularly scenic drive.
After several gates the road simply ends at the car park for Dunphys Camp Ground.
We arrived at Dunphys just after 1.00pm.
I will admit to apprehension amongst my excitement as we prepared to start.
There was climbing ahead. Climbing I have no problem with. Heights cause me no small amount of fear. Today I planned on facing that fear.
We took the trail up the hill, climbed the fence and started along the Bellbird Ridge Fire Trail.
Over the fence and ready to start.
The steep start.
The fire trail heads up steeply before it levels out to a relatively straight forward trail.
It was a pleasant walk through open woodlands. Eucalypts and the occasional Banksia.
The day was not hot however the humidity was stifling.
A fog had set in and drenched everything. So thick it was difficult to tell when it rained or whether the fog simply coalesced.
Gear, clothes and hikers were quickly soaked.
Regardless, it was exciting to be on foot with packs shouldered. A great day for hiking and great company to share it with.
Bellbird Ridge Fire Trail
Eventually the trail reaches a T intersection. Our information suggested we turn right toward Medlow Gap for a short period of time before we reach a footpad on the left leading up to the north east.
Despite several passes of the area we are unable to find the trail.
We decided to explore the power line access road which headed immediately off to the left of the Medlow Gap trail.
Soon after we found a sign next to the footpad. This rather foreboding sign marked the start of the trail which would take us to Carlon Head.
The trail to Carlon Head.
There is no trail to Carlon Head.
In the distance at the top of the ridge line through thick fog you occasionally get glimpses of the escarpment.
We made our way up by simply zig zagging the incline.
Hard work made all the more difficult by the thick leaf litter. Quick to slide out from underfoot and slippery due to rain.
Nevertheless a challenging hill is a rewarding climb when complete.
After a brief stop half way up it was quite satisfying to reach the escarpment.
Starting our way up.
Respite with a view shrouded in fog.
The first climb.
On reaching the ridge line we simply followed it north east until we came to the fist set of chains.
I was somewhat daunted by the prospect of the climb.
Eventually I simply grabbed the chain and hauled myself up with no thought of style. Pack and all.
So far so good.
I was elated when I made it to the top.
Soon the adrenalin wore off.
My hands were shaking and a long beaten stutter from my childhood returned as Shell enquired at my well being.
I quickly hauled her bag up before she made quick and easy work of the first climb.
With words of encouragement from Shell we continued north east.
The second climb was relatively easy. More of a scramble than climbing.
From the bottom I could look up and see the last most difficult climb.
My nerves were fraying.
At the top of the second climb I found myself on an exposed ridge and panic started to set in.
With nothing either side of me other than sheer drops I scurried to the base of the next climb and curled into a ball and everything unravelled.
Short exposed ridge line to the third climb.
I spent a few minutes at the base of the climb. My composure gone and Shell calming me down.
Self loathing set in.
I caught glimpses of Shell eyeing off the exposed climb. I knew she could do it with little effort. I knew she wouldn't because I could not.
I do not understand the psychology. What makes one fear these things. I felt ashamed I could not make this last climb.
Views from the base of the last climb.
Finally after much coaxing and kind words by this most amazing woman I pulled myself together and prepared for the climb down.
Our plans would need changing apparently.
I was utterly disgusted with myself.
The final climb. Courtesy of Tom Brennan - (c) http://ozultimate.com/
With some composure restored we climbed back down the way we had just came.
For some reason abseiling down was effortless.
The climb back down.
This fellow greeted us at the base.
We scrambled our way back to the access road.
A slippery task. Had I not been caught up in my own melancholy it may have been quite enjoyable.
By the time we reached the bottom Shell was done with sympathy for my situation and decided a kick in the pants was required.
As is always the case she managed to brighten my mood with a sharp tongue and an expletive ladened lecture on male ego and pride.
She knows me better than I know myself.
Back at the T intersection we decided on heading down to Breakfast Creek to the camp site we intended on staying had we crossed Narrow Neck.
This is an easy walk and Shell set a cracking pace.
The fog thickened and seemed to become rain. It may have simply rained. It was hard to tell.
The campground proved uninspiring.
The rain looked settled in.
Perhaps it was my mood or possibly the weather. Probably both.
Eventually we decided to head back up the trail and detour to Bellbird Point and head for the car.
Our weekend hike was now to be a day trip.
I was not disappointed in the decision.
Narrow neck from the trail.
The trail to Bellbird Point.
Bellbird Trail is an easy walk that finally opens to expansive views.
Mt Mouin and Medlow Gap to the south east.
It was a lovely end to the walk. Sitting on the cliff edge chatting with Shell. Sharing this view with the woman I love forced out the lingering disappointment of Carlon Head.
As we headed back to the car we began to discuss where we might head next.
It had been a long afternoon. We had covered just over 20km and I was looking forward to a shower and some food.
The view from Bellbird Trail.
Probably not the best hike we have done.
With so much to explore in this area we will definitely return.
I am not sure I will ever tackle Carlon Head.
When we returned to Dunphys a group was setting up camp.
When they enquired as to whether we had attempted Carlon Head I was forced to admit my failure.
It did not seem to matter so much.
The group were experienced climbers who were heading to Grand Canyon the next day for some canyoning.
When one of their number admitted that Carlon Head was a very exposed face and he understood my difficulty I felt a bit buoyed. Whether he said it to make me feel better or he meant I am unsure.
As we make our way down to Katoomba and on to Leura for dinner I am happy about two things.
The first is our Anytime Fitness membership. The idea of a hot shower in the nearest town is decadent.
The second is that we are both comfortable with the decision to walk out and not camp overnight.
The rain is now heavy and consistent. Some would consider it a lack of commitment to alter plans simply because wet weather sets in.
There have been occasions, and will be plenty to come, when hiking out is not a choice. I relish these challenges for the most part.
Hiking for us is about enjoyment and sharing time together.
If given the choice between camping in uncomfortable conditions and simply hiking out I will often take the later.
Some might call it soft. So be it.