Monolith Valley Walk - NSW
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Susan's Diary

We finally decided to head out to Monolith Valley on the weekend of 15-16 November 2008, after talking about doing it for a number of years. The road in is a little rough, so we had put it off for a while as we didn’t have a suitable car. Having bought reliable “Jeepy” earlier in the year we had no excuses. We headed out on a windy Friday night anyway, with little Jeepy getting knocked about a bit on the road. It was a relief to arrive in Ulladulla at around 9pm.
This walk made up one of a series of walks we embarked on as part of our training for the Western and Eastern Arthurs, including Pantoney’s Crown, the Three Peaks in the Kanangra-Boyd NP (over 2 weekends) and a 5 day adventure in the Blue Mountains, thus there was no backing out, even with a dubious weather forecast.

We had been up to the Castle (near Monolith Valley (MV)) a number of times and it is an amazing area. We had heard great things about MV too. The cliffs and views near the Castle were spectacular. Also there was fun rock scrambling too, with some exposure – great training before Tassie. The plan was to head from Yadboro Flat up to MV using the Castle Track, then through MV before following the base of the cliffs of Mt Cole (the mountain to the West of MV). We would camp in a cave along these cliffs. The following day we were to continue following the cliffs until we reached the “valley” in between Mt Cole and Mt Owen, where we would enter that valley, climb Mt Owen, then return to the start of MV. From there we would retrace our steps to Yadboro Flat.

The poor weather continued on Saturday, and we started the walk in light rain. The climb up to the saddle between the Castle and MV was done with our rain jackets on and off, so we ended up pretty soaked. From the saddle we finally headed into unseen territory (for us) and were very impressed by the greenery leading to MV. The mist around gave everything a very eerie look, however when we finally left the closed in sections of the track to the opening near Shrouded Gods Mountain, we couldn’t see any mountains near us, despite seeing them on the map. In addition, whilst the rain may have stopped, as the track was quite narrow, with plants close on either side, we ended up pretty soaked from touching the plants. We saw a small cave whilst walking in this enclosed environment that provided excellent shelter for lunch.
Not long after lunch we crossed the small creek and the start of MV. The valley was quite spectacular, and mist within the valley added to the scenery. Unfortunately, the valley was reasonably short, so it only took about 15 minutes before we reached the nine gods marking the end of the valley. In the heavy mist we could only see a couple of the gods however. We were well and truly soaked and looking forward to reaching our campsite – a camping cave at the back of Mt Cole – for the night. By 3pm we reached the first cave along the track, and with an acceptable place for our tent, and a previously used fire place, we happily put our packs down for the day.
We got the fire going and spent the next four hours trying to dry our gear, and did a reasonably job too! As it turned out though, the tent spot was a bit slopy, so we kept sliding down our mats during the night, which doesn’t make for a very comfortable night’s sleep! Also the following day, 5 minutes down the track we discovered another cave with a camp fire and flat tent spots. Oh well!

On Sunday the weather was showing some improvement, with some patches of blue sky, however there was largely just the mist and clouds from the day before. We continued around the back of Mt Cole until we reached the junction where we headed in between Mt Cole and Mt Owen. In this section we reached a point where you had to climb a bit of a sloping wall, up onto the side of Mt Own. It wasn’t obvious to us that the track headed up there, so we continued walking along between the mountains searching for the way up, even entering a bit of a cave at the end which proved to be too difficult for us to climb up. We headed back and eventually scouted a way up and across to where we could follow the track again. We then headed back to get our back packs, and climbing up (and across) the steep wall was more difficult with the pack on, particularly given the wet weather. After some scary moments we were finally back on reasonably flat ground, 1.5 hours after arriving at the steep wall.
Not long after this we arrived at the Mt Owen plateau. We dropped our packs and headed off to the summit, at the southern tip of the mountain. There is an awful lot of scrub on the Mt Owen plateau and Luca and I copped some big scratches. A lot of pain later we arrived at the “summit” to find the log book. As the mist was still heavy the goal of the summit was to sign the log book, as we knew there wouldn’t be any views. To our disappointment we discovered there was no pen with the log book, so we wouldn’t be able to sign it. We took a photo of the book instead.
We then returned back to our packs at the northern end of Mt Owen. We had 1.2kms to go until the start of MV, so we have almost completed our loop. There were a few sections of fun scrambling, and beautiful forest within this section, which we made our way through without too much trouble. We were a little wary however, as we had been warned of false leads in the area. We were surprised to find rock cairns along the way, which we found to be very useful.

At one point however, we decided to take a slightly different descent than suggested by the cairn, as our route looked easier, and then the cairns disappeared! We continued on our way a bit further as we expected to find the cairns again, and then continued on a bit more as we thought we were very close to the creek marking the start of MV. After over an hour of searching for the track we decided to put our packs down and scout around without them as they slowed us down. After our scouting revealed nothing we went to put our packs back on, and couldn’t find them. Luca and I panicked a little bit, and then luckily after five minutes I spotted them. What a relief!
Not long after that we decided to just retrace our steps to where we had last seen the track, and 20 minutes later we were back at the last cairn we had seen - and there was a sign scratched into a tree pointing the way to go! We had lost 2 hours with our misadventure. The track turned completely at the point we had gone the wrong way, which had lead to our difficulty refinding it. Also we saw footprints in the section where we weren’t on the track - what a red herring!

Once we were on the track again we arrived at the start of MV in about 10 minutes, and finally had lunch. It was 3:30, which incidentally was past the time I had expected to be back at the car that morning when we set out. We set off again at 4:10, and we were thinking we had about 4 hours of walking to go and that we would finish the walk in the dark. We noted that if one of us was unable to continue walking the only food we had left was parmesan cheese, hommus and hard jubes. Luckily we both had the energy, and we got back to the car at 7:15 which was even before darkness.
Funnily enough, the first time we climbed the Castle, which was over 5 years ago we got lost on the way back to Karianna Ridge, and had to walk back to the car in the dark –de ja vu`. It was then a very tiring drive back to Sydney in Jeepy.

We finally made use of Luca’s Telstra services to look up an Indian restaurant in Nowra that we could pre-order from, then pick up on our way through. We got there a little early, so both went to use the bathroom in the restaurant, and by the time we returned our meal was ready. However a table of 10 had gotten up to pay for their meal, with each member of the table paying separately. It took us 15 minutes to collect our food, which had begun to get cold! Not impressed!
We ended up getting home at 11:40pm - what a day!
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