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Pantoneys Crown Revisited. (9th 10th 11th October 2010)

Map:-

Ben Bullen 1:25000

Party:-

Steve, Dug.

Introduction

Pantoneys Crown from Baal Bone Point Ridge. Pic by dug I have had 2 or 3 goes at getting over Pantoneys Crown, but was balked each time by, thunderstorms, or heavy rain and mist. The highest point around is not always the best place to be with lots of lightening around. Also I am hesitant to scramble up wet rock because it can get slippery and the wet can loosen hand/foot holds in soil. One of the trips is described    [here].

Steve, who was with me on two of the past attempts, made this trip in July with Fran, Lisa and Theo and he is keen to lead me across, from the southern pass through the cliff-lines. Sounded good to me so we made this date available.

The weather forecast doesn't sound so promising with scattered showers forecast for 2 days and rain on the third. Blow it, those weather people rarely get it right, and I have often been walking in this area in fine weather when rain has been forecast :-)

Friday evening.

Steve picked me up after work and we were away driving before 4pm. We did have a slow trip out of Newcastle due to peak-hour. We were also expecting more traffic than usual over the Bylong to Rylstone road, due to the fact the Bathurst V8 races are on this weekend.

We stopped at Sandy Hollow for dinner, which was good, but the staff must have been on grumpy, snarly pills, which is a pity. I've been stopping here for years but never this unfriendly :-(

There was more traffic than usual on the back road to Bathurst, but not too bad really, especially as the whole road has been bituminised now. As we neared Lithgow we ran into patches of drizzly rain.These continued off and on to our camp site beside the road in the Garden Of Stones National Park. We camped on a flat place amongst the trees. I had brought a spare fly and sleeping equipment just for this wet eventuality. So that I won't need to pack up wet gear and take it with me. Rock orchards on intermediary cliff.  Pic by Dug

Saturday.

No rush today and we took our time getting out into the fine drizzle. Besides it's nice to lie snug and warm and listen to the bush awaken around us. The dawn bird chorus is a little muted, but still there to greet us. No road traffic noise and only the occasional distant roar of jet planes high overhead. Steve used his gas stove to prepare his breakfast and hot drink. Cereal and water for me.

Then away bouncing down the fire road to our parking place beside the creek, to start walking. This road is much smoother than when I were last here in 2008.

A scenic drive with glimpses of cliffs in the nearby valleys, through the trees and misty mist. Lots of wallabies bouncing about and they all look sleek and plump with all the good feed about. Down on the flat beside the creek a couple of trees have fallen across the road. The side diversions are quite muddy with deep ruts and puddles in places, luckily we found ways to avoid these so the car didn't get too messed up, by flying mud.

Off waling about 9am, a pleasant temperature, overcast but no rain now. We followed the creek north to a convenient spur that took us gently to the ridge top, which is part of the great dividing range. The dogleg walk out to the "Claw-Hammer" or as some call it the "Anvil", is very scenic and an easy way to go. The ridges in this area are covered in pagodas rock formations, fascinating shape and form, reminiscent of the pagodas and gompas of Ladakh northern India. Light scrub, many beautiful wild flowers, and tall vertical sandstone cliffs line our way. There are deep valleys either side each with high sandstone cliffs along the far side. On the right (east) the valley is covered in the olive eucalypt forest, on the left (west) there is some green farm land with flat green paddocks, between the forest patches. Further ahead the whole landscape is olive/blue Australian forest with tall interestingly shaped hills, valleys and ridges. The sky is clearing so we have patches of blue here and there between the scattered drizzle showers. A fascinating scene we both think.

Further along the ridge we spot a number of groups of lovely rock orchard flowering and budding on a cliff line above a lightly forested ledge. This cliff is only 8 to 10 meters tall but quite flat and vertical, no way down here without a rope. Soon we came to a place where the ridge dropped a little before us and we simply walked round to explore the ridge and admire the rock orchards and other wild flowers from below. There are a couple of overhangs that would serve nicely as camp caves. We are think about camping here on the way back if we can find enough water.

Steve eyeing of the orchids high above.  Pic by Dug The way down just before the Claw-Hammer was a little daunting last time we were here due to my ankle not being quite right. This time we don't use the hand line, to down clime the last bit with the handy leaning logs. A sharper than usual shower persuades us to seek shelter in an overhang in the lower cliff until it it passed. A good opportunity for a snack and drink.

We followed the north east ridge down to the saddle before Pantoneys Crown. Then scramble up to the southwest corner of the Crown, where Steve found the southern pass through the cliff lines. Pleasant walking a bit steep at first on a track, then easy to the saddle. Past here we cannot see a track so simpley head up hill in the right direction. Quite steep rocky slope as we climb to the base of the cliff lines, nice open forest to give us shade and the odd hand hold. At the cliff base we headed north but Steve soon realised he had passed the way up. As we walked a hello from a walker on the cliff top above, showes that this is indeed a popular walk (despite few entries in the logbook on top). Back at the steep slot that lead to the top we met the other walkers. A party of 9 from The Bush Club a Sydney group. One member recognises Steve and I from a canyon trip with David Campbell 5 years ago. Good memory!

When the other party were all down, Steve lead us up. At one steep awkward place he set a rope and I prussiced up 8m or so. The last bit near the top I use the rope as a hand line again. I'm not sure if I would have made it in the past but I defiantly need the rope now. A very steep V gulley of broken rock, made one of the few ways up on this interesting mesa jutting up, tall above the Capertee Valley.

On top we are in beaut sunshine with clear views all around, and some views they are. As I have mentioned before this area is made up of high plateaus dissected by deep river or creek valley. Mostly heavily forested but with some green patches of farm paddocks in the flatter presumably more hospitable areas. The top edges of the plateaus are high vertical, bare sandstone cliffs standing above steep wooded scree/boulder slopes. The cliff faces a split here and there by cracks or steep near vertical gullies, very few of which would seem to offer a pass up or down. I haven't seen many rock climbers in this area despite the invitingly "interesting" cliff faces. I would think probably a combination of a long walk in and often very soft crumbly rock.

At the southern end of the Crown beaut flat rocks, make an excellent viewing platforms. The excavated pools provide evidence that they have been used as such for thousands of years. The pools are all full of dirt and leaf litter now, so they only hold a couple of inches of water. In the past the caring locals would have kept them clean as a drinking source. I did my bit by cleaning them as much as I could easily, hopefully they will be fuller if I ever return.

Just to the north of these rock platforms is a treed saddle that has obviously been used as a camp site, in recent times. It looks a good place provided the rock pools have plenty of water, or perhaps there is another water source that I don't know of. We wandered north across the top of the Crown, a little scrubby in places, a lot rocky in places, but always interesting. At the cairn on the highest point still in bright sunshine, we took in the views and scene before heading off to look for water for tonight. Dug enjoying the sun on Pantoneys Crown, for now.  Pic by Dug

I have been told that there is a water source in a deep gulley on the western side, west of the cairn, as we walked along to here I did say to Steve. "That gulley system looks very green and there are lots of birds calls, which suggests water. It also looks a lot like the area around Windows Canyon and Penrose Gulley Canyon near Glow-worm Tunnel, so it could have canyon structures". We both headed off in different directions searching the nearby likely dips and grooves. I found a place which had been used as a camp by a small party, lots of dry V gulley's that cut to the cliff edge, and eventually a much deeper narrower one with a pool of clear looking water. Steve had a similar story of dry watercourses cutting the cliff edge, when we met up again, but no other water source. A little further on was the camp site that Steve and the others used last time here. So we headed on there and set up camp with a cooking fire. I pitched the sinylon fly against the oncoming drizzle squalls seen in the distance. After a good refreshing cuppa milo, 30 minutes or so before dark we headed off to get water. An interesting little adventure but we collected the required liquid and returned before it was completely dark. (I wasn't all that worried about the dark because I had my brilliant new light to find our way back through the rock formations, although I could tell Steve wasn't convinced.)

A most pleasant evening turning to night enlivened occasionally by a gust of wind that turned our fire into a blast furnace. We had checked the scrub and this was damp and with the cold temperatures unlikely to ignite. Of course we both prepare and devour excellent meals sitting by the fire. Steve selected an excellent spot with a rock near a tree as a seat with backrest. My plain rock seat was not in the same class at all :~) Eventually a drizzle shower arrived and drove us to bed under the fly, no sleeping under the stars tonight (in comfort (no stars any way)).

Sunday.

A good nights sleep and a dull, overcast, drizzly morning ensure that we lazed for a while listening to a nearby Lyre bird going through its repertoire. Steve managed to easily light a fire again in the still warm ashes, to cook his breakfast, so even though we had drizzle it wasn't all that wet. No real hurry today as our plan is; to go down the pass at the northern end of Pantoneys; follow the cliff base south to a water drip Steve used last time; then scramble back up by the Claw Hammer, to camp in the caves we visited yesterday.

Squall approaching Sunday Morning.  Pic by Dug The way down isn't too bad even though I did use the hand line a couple of places. I would have found the other rout more difficult. The increasing drizzle squall encouraged us to seek shelter in the cave at the base of the pass. I had considered this as a possible camping cave in the past but with this south east breeze it was more like a wind tunnel today. We wandered on to the water drip but not much flow today. I only collected a couple of 100 ml in half an hour. Mmmmm. We walked on to the cave that we used last time we were here because Steve couldn't find it last trip. Still no water source, decision time. We can continue to the cave but we will be light on for water, or we can head up to Baal Bone Gap where the Glen Davis water supply pressure reduction station is a sure source.

Ok, to Baal Bone Gap. Head east and south east along the ridge tops, before following a gully down to the road. Pleasant easy walking to the road once were off the steep rocky scree slope. Then slog up the road to the Gap. The occasional drizzle squall isn't much inconvenience although we did shelter in the overhang formed by a boulder for a short while. I always find the walk up this road a bit of a chore, having done it quite a few times over the years, particularly during the 2003 Navshield course setting. But it is very pretty all the way, even spectacular in places. The walk is along a road, beside a dry stream, in a deep V valley. Forested by tall eucalypt and kurajong, peppered with beautiful wild flowers, strange contorted rock formations and rock faces all around, and above all, the ever-present towering cliffs. I suppose my dread of the steep road section and finding it a chore, is only because it is a road?

We found the wind quite cold now, it seems to have more southerly component and is quite gusty. The Gap has a picnic area with tables and flat areas obviously used for camping in the past. There are remnants of a couple of fire sites one quite large, with a fire still going. We used this fire to boil water for drinks and cook dinner. We made good use of the picnic table and chairs. The wind strength and direction is extremely changeable, it can come from anywhere. Positioning the fly requires some thought and eventual rearrangement. Luckily the sky has cleared with no sign of rain now, (but the tree cover and cliffs above us do limit the view of the sky in some directions). Steve decided to sleep under the stars and set up appropriately. Again I had a deliciouse meal, Steve said his dehydrated packed was to! No problem rehydrating tonight with the very excellent water source close by turned into numerous hot drinks.

A while after I retired I could feel rain on my face through the open end of the fly. I plugged up the gap effectivly using my combined rain cape/tarp. The rain was much heavier that at any other time in the past few days, so I wasn't surprised when Steve knocked on the door and moved in. The rest of the night was uneventful, even though we had frequent rain showers.

Monday.

Camp at Baal Bone Gap, fire left by people before we arrived.  Pic by Dug A third dull overcast drizzly morning to laze around listening to the nearby Lyre Birds testing their repertoires, and blending with a much brighter dawn bird chorus. No chance of Steve easily lighting the fire from warm ashes this morning, so the go is to use the gas stove to cook his breakfast (and hope we don't run out of gas). Luckily the drizzle clears up and we pack up reasonably dry before setting off on the hour or so walk back to the car. A pleasant walk still in this open forest with the pagoda rock formations. Lots of wallabies this morning to entertain us.

The drive up the steep section is much easier than Steve expected, giving him much more faith in the capabilities of the CRV on tracks in the wet. Back on the Lithgow Mudgee road we tangle it with the traffic returning from the Bathurst races. Many of the vehicles are towing caravans or trailers, driven by drivers who have been at the races. A stop in Rylstone for an early lunch/brunch is in order, many other vehicles have stopped too. Steve returns to a cafe/coffee shop on the corner where he had good service last time. At $21.50 for a steak and mug of hot chocolate, I don't think I can afford that again, or $13.40 for a toasted sandwich and hot chocolate.

The remainder of the trip was pleasant scenery wise but uneventful. The Jerrys Planes servo served drinks at $3.50 and a snarl, mmmm what are we doing wrong, or are they all listening to the ruddest cafe in Australia TV program? A little rain in the upper Valley but dry on the coast.

Thank you, Steve, a great tip. It is a pleasure to share this experience with you all. Till next time. Dug Floyd October 2010.

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Steve on Claw Hammer ridge. Pic by Dug

Steve surveys the distance from the ridge to the Claw Hammer.

Pantoneys Crown from Claw Hammer Ridge.  Pic by Dug

Dug looks at Pantoneys Crown on a drizzly day in October.

Pass through cliff lines at southern end. Pic by Dug

The top of the pass through the cliff lines southern end Pantoneys Crown.

Nearly dry.  Pic by Dug

The water fall drip is nearly dry today (from a spring on Pantoneys).

Flowers north end Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug.

Flowers at northern end of Pantoneys Crown.

Ridge to the Claw Hammer. Pic by Dug

Ridge nearing Claw Hammer.

Baal Bone ridge. Pic by Dug.

Ridge near the Claw Hammer.

Native Iris on saddle to Pantoneys Crown

Native Iris on saddle to Pantoneys Crown.

Flowers near the camp on Pantoneys Crown.

Flowers everywhere these near the camp on Pantoneys Crown.

Flowers North end Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug

More flowers these near the Northern end of Pantoneys Crown.

Steve shelters for smoko in cave northern end Pantoneys, below cliff line.  Pic by Dug.

Steve sheltering in cave for smoko, northern end Pantoneys.

Ridge east of Pantoneys Crown. Pic by Dug

Ridge to east of Pantoneys Crown on way home.

Rock orchid buds, ridge to Claw Hammer.  Pic by Dug.

Rock Orchid buds, near Claw Hammer.

Squalls approaching.  Pic by Dug.

Squalls approaching from east.

Steve and Dug admire the view.  pic by Dug.

Pantoneys Crown admired by Steve and Dug.

Claw Hammer from saddle to Pantoneys.  Pic by Dug.

The Claw Hammer from the saddle to Pantoneys.

Formation on pagoda Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug.

Strange formations on the pagodas, Pantoneys Crown.

Formation on pagoda Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug.

Close up.

Steve top southern end Pantoneys Crown. Pic by Dug.

Steve southern end Pantoneys Crown.

View from Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug.

View east from top Pantoneys Crown.

Southern end Pantoneys. Pic by Dug

View southeast from southern end Pantoneys Crown.

Views from southern end Pantoneys.  Pic by Dug

View east from southern end Pantoneys Crown.

High point Pantoneys Crown.  pic by Dug.

View from high point Pantoneys Crown.

Steve on top of Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug.

Steve by cairn, on high spot Pantoneys Crown.

Southern end Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug.

View southwest from southern end Pantoneys Crown.

Northern end Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug.

View north from northern end Pantoneys Crown.

Mist from camp Sunday morning.  Pic by Dug.

The mist from camp Sunday morning.

View from Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug

View from Pantoneys Crown north west.

Rock orchid on intermediate cliff.  Pic by Dug.

Rock orchid on intermediate cliff.

Cliff above ledge on ridge to Pantoneys.  Pic by Dug

Cliff above ledge on ridge to Pantoneys Crown.

Cave below northern pass Pantoneys Crown.  Pic by Dug.

Cave below pass northern end Pantoneys Crown.

Claw Hammer from east.  Pic by Dug.

The Claw Hammer from the east, in the mist.

Pantoneys Crown from the east. Pic by Dug.

Pantoneys Crown from exit ridge system to east.

Camp Sunday night.  pic by Dug.

Camp Sunday night, before wind change.

Baal Bone Gap.  Pic by Dug.

Camp Sunday night.

Road back to the car.  Pic by Dug.

Road back to the car.

Sun shine Baal Bone Gap.  Pic by Dug.

Sunshine Baal Bone Gap.

Ridge down to road on way to Baal Bone Gap.  Pic by Dug.

Ridge system to road, east Pantoneys Crown.

Flowers on Ledge. Pic by Dug

Flowers on the ledge just below.

Flowers near our camp site. Pic by Dug

Near our camp site.

Top of pagoda.  Pic by Dug

Top of pagoda rocks.

Pantoneys Crown from high point.  Pic by Dug

Viwes from Pantoneys Crown High point.