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Wednesday, 24 September 2014



The Cliff Ledge section of the track
So much has been written about this famous walk, and so many photographs taken, that it almost seems unnecessary to add to them. However, this is my own experience of the Blue Mountains that I am writing about, so I make no further apologies.
My earliest memories of the National Pass go back to a time just after World War 11, possibly before my father began working at Wunderlich’s brick and tile factory in Sydney, which would place it in 1945. The only thing I can actually recall is being carried across the shaky and dangerous bridges at the bottom of the Falls. Goodness knows when the last repairs had been made to them.
Much more recently, my own children did the walk
Roland, Yvonne and Lyndall Paix 1978
at a tender age in 1978. On my recent walk, I encountered numerous seniors, so if you’re getting on in years don’t let your age be the deciding factor. True, there are lots of steps to get down into the valley and return, but just take these slowly and all should be well.
The round walk easily divides into 5 sections and each one has an interesting history of its own.
The best place to find car parking is at the Wentworth Falls Picnic Area, and since your walk is going to take around 4 hours it makes sense to arrive early to be sure of finding a spot. Carry your lunch with you and enjoy it along the track. Make sure you have plenty of water as well,
Empress Falls Valley of the Waters
since drinking from the many streams you will encounter is not  recommended. The alternative car park at the Conservation Hut is often filled up by patrons enjoying the fine food on offer there.
Sylvia Falls Valley of the Waters

I recommend that you take the Short Cut Track from the bottom car park, which is a pleasant walk of 15-20 minutes leading to the Conservation Hut. Historically, there has been a track between these 2 areas for over 100 years, because it made round trips possible.  This is Section 1. (You can use the WildWalks map and information as a guide – download it here.)
Section 2 is the magnificent descent into the Valley of the Waters. If you love the sound and sight of falling water, this place is for you. Take the steps and ladders slowly and savour every moment in this magical place. People like you have been coming here for 120 years and it isn’t difficult to see why.
Section 3 (the first part of the actual National Pass section) begins at the final creek crossing just above Lodore Falls and takes you onto the extraordinary cliff ledge leading around to the bottom of the first drop of Wentworth Falls. Before 1906, it was possible to go further down into the valley and follow up Jamison Creek to the bottom of the second fall, but it was only the completion of the ledge track that allowed easy access to bottom of the first 
fall. All along this section (and up the Grand Stairway) the National Parks and Wild Life Service has installed commemorative plaques and information panels telling of the restoration of the track and the environment through which it passes. These are a valuable addition to your walking experience.
The area immediately below Wentworth Falls is like a magnet which draws lots of people to it, many of whom descend the stairs and return the same way. If you want to find this place peaceful and quiet, then avoid school holidays and weekends.
Materials used during the restoration of the track
Section 4, the stone stairway up the cliff face,  is surely the highlight of the National Pass adventure. Completed in 1908, it made the round trip as we know it possible. You can discover lots about this magnificent feat of engineering in many places, but here are two of the best. The first I will simply call “a very special presentation”, which you may access here and here. The second is the NPWS site which is also excellent.
Den Fenella Falls
Section 5 consists of the track from the creek crossing to the Wentworth Falls picnic area. This route, more or less, has been in use for 150 years.
My own video of this walk may be found here. Unfortunately, my camera battery failed just after I  had passed behind Den Fenella Falls, so this part of the trip is not included. One day I’ll do the trip again (and again, if my body permits me) and there will be a new video to record the event.

All New England and other Geology blogs and videos

Vera and John Paix on the Grand Stairway June 1958