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Widden Valley, Preston Pass, Mt Pomany, Bass Crater.

  May 3rd 4th.  

Party: -

Steve R, Ken H, Dug F.

An easy drive up via Sandy Hollow, with most acceptable hamburgers at the roadhouse.  The Tourist Hotel across the road is certainly jumping – a big night in Sandy Hollow.  We camped under trees a few km down the Widden Valley.  Most pleasant night, not too cold, a gentle breeze, clear skies and no moon, the tall valley walls and craggy peaks silhouetted against the black sky.  Foggy morning, the welcoming bird song and were up, have breakfast and away by 7am.  We stop at Pomany stud to speak to the Dave the Manager and then park 1 1/2km down the road, at a spot close enough to the ridge that leads to Preston Pass (510 845), out of everyone’s way and giving a shorter track bash on the return.

We find a convenient farm track across a paddock to save some bures in the socks, but we soon make then up though.  The going up the ridge is ok, we explore a little here and there, trying to find another way through the cliff lines. After all there is only the three of us and we have been round the bush a bit, so exploration is the go.  Eventually the Preston pass is the only sensible way.  We pass a number of rock stacks marking the way, hardly necessary. 

The cliff tops present spectacular views, as we sit for morning tea in the bright sunshine.  The swifts darting about on their hunt, for flying insects carried to the cliff tops by the morning thermals, as the sun warms the air on the cliff face.  We wonder, “What are the poor people are doing now?”

The ridge system over to Cecil Bird hut and Mt Pomany is fairly scrubby and we all soon sport an array of bloodstains.  Mountain holly is much in evidence.  The gum trees are all sprouting new growth after the recent rains but they still show signs of die back during the drought.  A few of rocky cliffs to negotiate on the way, add interest. 

The remains of the hut (478 838) are on the start of the saddle, NW, between the 925m spot hight and Mt Pomany.  There isn’t much of the hut left now, just a couple of crumpled rusty sheets of corrugated iron and some rusting iron implements strung out on a line between two trees. The spring for fresh water is found below a rocky outcrop, about 100m along a distinct pad, going east from the ruins.  The pool at the spring has been vandalized which is a pity as the water is now a bit smelly to drink un-boiled (but still no ill effects so it must be ok). 

We drop our packs and scramble up the two hundred meters to the top of the mountain.  A rounded cleared grass pasture with great views North, West and South.  The Widden Valley to the East can only be seen through the trees.  Normally there are water soaks up here but they are all dry as far as we can see.  To camp on top we would have to lug water, not for us tonight though.

Down again, the immediate surroundings of the hut and spring were not to our liking now, although a favourite camp spot in the past.   We fill up with water and camp on a saddle/ridge200 m further south.  A good camp spot, still not cold, not much wind, a wonderful place to tell tall tails and true, under a dark cloudless sky as we prepare and devour our feast.  Helped along with nibblies of brie and crackers.

A pleasant enough night but the strong southerly gale did arrive as forecast.  We could hear an incredible roar from the mountaintop but only a stiff breeze down here. 

In the morning still windy, a distinct bridal pad along the ridge on the west of Mt Pomany makes navigation and walking easy.  As we stroll along we come across a saddle blanket laying on the track and under it a packsaddle.  Just as if a horse has bucked it off and there it lies.  It looked as if it has been there a few years but it would possibly be worth recovering (if you had pack horses and knew the way in by horse).

At the ridge above Bass Crater we decide to explore a track that goes east around the mountain (wondering if it leads to another way into the crater, but it is probably a stock route to the top of Mt Pomany).  As we explore we head down a ridge with a creek each side, these soon turn into very definite Blue Mountains canyons no way down there (487 822).  The nose of the ridge has that very definite airy feel that comes with tall cliffs below you.  In the end we beat a retreat back to the ridge top pad and retrace our steps.  Not a wasted journey, as I will enquire further to see if these are worthwhile canyons; or if unexplored, come back with ropes and an exploration team. 

We eventually find a way down into the crater further along the ridge at the far end of the crater (477 819).  An interesting beautiful area, well worth coming to, but not really a “recommended way in”. A better, easier way is on ridge from 480 822.  Bass Crater is an excellent example of the typical Blue Mountains “crater” or “hole”.  Basaltic plugs forced there way up through the sandstone during the volcanic era a few million years ago.  The basalt erodes faster than the surrounding sandstone leaving extensive flat-bottomed holes surrounded by tall cliffs.  Usually a very narrow river snakes its way through one point draining the area.  These volcanic rock places have very fertile soil compared with the sandstone soils and usually you have stands of big trees, often Sydney Blue Gum.  Bass Crater is no exception rich grass and tall trees.  Unfortunately, when used for cattle in the past they also have rich stands of stinging nettles, thistles and other introduced plants.  An over-hang at the narrow section where the river flows out, used to have a good selection of saddlery.  The over-hang is still there but the horsy bits have gone.

A great place for a delightful picnic lunch.  Sitting on a comfortable log propped up by a root enjoining the warm autumn sun, windy up there but not down here.  Tall, clean, white, straight trees in a bed of rich green with a back drop of colourful sandstone cliff.

We explore another way out, over the eastern most saddle on the southern wall (494 815).  Easy up to the saddle but the way down somewhat “interesting” and it seems to take forever.  Again I would have to say, “It goes but not recommended”.  However it is a very scenic route, tall cliffs all-around and constantly changing forest types interspersed by the odd flat patch of lush pasture.  We passed numerous clumps of rock orchids (un-eaten by rock wallabies so they must be hard to get to).  Also one group of very pretty flowering rock orchids, small, very fine, cream and gold, of a type I haven’t seen before; past there prime but very beautiful.  This rout would be worthwhile in November when the bigger rock orchids are out. A alternative, easier way out is on saddle 487 811.

This is a very prolific wildlife area with wallabies, wombats, lizards, parrots, bellbirds, lyrebirds, white cockatoos, eagles, falcons and hawks, in constant attendance.  I always love to sit on a high cliff edge and watch the swifts darting about the sky at eye level catching the wind born insects. The scenery ranges from, rugged craggy sandstone hill-tops, very tall sculptured cliffs, pagoda shaped rocks, lush verdant pasture, deep walled in valleys, rolling hills of eucalypt forest, deep rainforest gullies, hanging gardens of ferns or orchids, a place people are meant to be!

I strongly recommend walks in the Widden, for you who haven’t been.  There are many excellent walks without the adventure of this one (there is a relatively easy way to Bass Crater and Mt Pomany).  Thanks Steve and Ken for great company and an excellent exploratory type walk.  Until next time.  © Copyright 2003 Dug Floyd.

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