Hassans Walls

May, 2017

In 2015 we took our friend, Marilynn on a trip west of the Blue Mountains, including a brief stop at Hassans Walls. Although we thought we knew all tourist spots in our area, this had escaped us, and we did enjoy the views it provided of the plains to the west of the mountains, and the rock formations in the area.
We mentioned our visit to Jim Smith, who then produced an old map that he had prepared for the Lithgow Council in the 1990's, with all the usual 'Jim Smith' attributes, of clear indications of elevations, caves, entrances and exits etc. He also had very clear warnings on the map of the potential dangers because of previous mining in the area with the possibility of rock falls.
In October 2016, after visiting the tourist sights, with the wonderful photo opportunities, we tried to explore the area using his map.
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We came across Ken Durie who was looking for wild orchids in the area (he was one of the authors of Native Plants: Hassans Walls Reserve Lithgow). He was able to provide a general indication of where he thought there were steps to the western undercliff pass.
We followed his suggestion, found the route down and walked the pass as far as Hassans Lookout point, but we had not left sufficient time to explore the eastern side of Padley's Undercliff walk. We returned the way we had come, but used the exit, indicated by a 'Jim Smith' square blind marker (Nellies Glen).
It was only in May, 2017 that the weather and our time permitted a further exploration, although we had communicated with a few members of the Upper Blue Mountains Bush Walking Club whom we though may have had an interest in these lost trails.
We were alerted to the book by Keith Painter, "Hassans Walls - Prized and Pillaged", which we were able to purchase at the Lithgow 'i' centre.
It has lots of history but not much about the walk, apart from referencing Jim Smith frequently and recording in an appendix that in the 1990's Jim and Wilf Hilder had rediscovered the undercliff pass.
But in 1992 the track was closed because of rock falls, possibly resulting from mining in the area, although one cannot be sure what the causes may have been.
The book did paint a scary picture about the dangers of entering the area, so it was with considerable caution that we revisited it, using our previous reconnaissance and Jim's map (with all the correct warnings about dangers) as our guide. We took 'Lucinda' our GPS track tracer so that we could identify the entry and exit points and other critical way finders.
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001 (lat=-33.510615 lon=150.147584) Locked Gate

From our previous reconnaissance, we knew where the entry point was for the undercliff pass, using wonderful steps taking one to Hurleys Cave and then heading west toward Lithgow. Initially we did not follow Jim's map, which we should have, so missed the fact that one has to head west before turning off toward the cliffs for the undercliff path.

002 (lat=-33.509995 lon=150.147126) Steps, top of Rutherford's Glen

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003 (lat=-33.510398 lon=150.147069) Hurley's Cave

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004 (lat=-33.510825 lon=150.147062) Junction Padley's Undercliff Pass/Heffernan's Pass

Padley's Undercliff Pass (West)

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The path is overgrown, but clearly distinct, taking one through plenty of 'scallops' into the cliffs.
The Nelly's Glen exit on Jim’s map is still marked by one of his square blind markers, but we continued on, having climbed to the top on a previous visit.

005 (lat=-33.511735 lon=150.148221) Nellie's Glen

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006 (lat=-33.513614 lon=150.149691) Danger Warning Sign

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We had a little difficulty identifying exactly which rock was 'King George's Head', and as a result walked quite far down the ridge toward what we thought was the cave on the most South Western section of the map.

007 (lat=-33.517721 lon=150.151054) King George's Head

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008 (lat=-33.516571 lon=150.151341) Padley's Undercliff Pass (East)

But we then discovered that 'King George's Head' was probably quite a bit higher and we were finally able to establish where to access the eastern section of Padley's Undercliff walk. Although bits were overgrown, with plenty of trees down, the path was clear (there was even one bit of orange tape, obviously marking the track). We were able to obtain a few views of the valley through the trees, looking toward Mount York.
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009 (lat=-33.512921 lon=150.151870) Gannon's Cave

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We finally came to the bits of the track that had been affected by rock falls, but they were not nearly as bad as we had anticipated and clearly others have walked on the track.
At Gannon's Cave (so named on Jim's map), we found a table and two stools, and then the small zig zag taking one over the rock fall, and finally out of the valley via 'Sandford's cave'. A set of stonework steps lead one from the cave, which we followed.

010 (lat=-33.512492 lon=150.151910) Old Danger Sign

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Interestingly, between Gannon's and Sandford's caves we found a very old sign warning of the dangers. It was totally rotten, hidden under growth, and we were lucky to have sighted it and taken photos, including one of the 'Greater Lithgow Council' sticker now dislodged from the original sign.

013 (lat=-33.511254 lon=150.151609) Parker's Grotto

It appeared that there could be annother exit from Sandford's Cave, going more directly to the road. We retraced steps several times to explore and came across interesting roack weathering on the main road toward Brown's Gap. This is Parker's Grotto.
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011 (lat=-33.511934 lon=150.151233) 014 (lat=-33.511960 lon=150.151170) Path, Brown's Gap Road, Hassans Walls Road

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But the best exit is up the stairs ending at the intersection of the three roads (Brown's Gap, Hassans Lookout and the more direct road to Lithgow). As an entry point this is not at all easy to find without knowing that one needs to drop down from the road about 5 m to reach a very indistinct track to the left leading to Sandford's cave and the entry to the Eastern end of Padley's Undercliff Walk.

012 (lat=-33.511793 lon=150.152059) Sandford's Cave

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We have recorded this experience because we thought it would help ensure that history was not lost, but given the indistinct and rotten signs about the dangers, we absolutely advise others not to do this. Perhaps the council should erect newer signs to keep folk out if the dangers are in fact as dire as the old signs imply.
The geology of Hassans Walls is typical of that of the Western Blue Mountains from Lithgow to Wollemi, including exposed coal layers. The ready access to the coal layer led to exploitation of the coal resources under Hassans Walls and the settling of the deplenished seams and removal of supporting pillars has contributed to cracking of the rock walls. This process is completed by weathering, so that rock falls are unpredictable and dangerously frequent. All publications about Hassans Walls include disclaimers concerning this danger - the following one is that used by Jim Smith.
This [document] is for historical purposes only. Apart from the main Hassans Walls lookout and track, all tracks, caves, lookouts and galleries are closed. The area is subject to mine-subsidence leading to rock falls, land slides and sudden appearance of deep cracks. Enter at your own risk. Read all safety warning signs in the reserve. Children need careful supervision. Contact Greater Lithgow City Council for the latest information regarding safety in the reserve.
Painter (2017) documents some of the hazards which have been experienced in the area.

References

  1. Keith Painter, (2017), "Hassans Walls - Prized and Pillaged", Mountain Mist Books.
  2. Suzanne Lollback, Helen Drewe, Robert Coveny and Ken Durie, (2014), "Native Plants: Hassans Walls Reserve Lithgow", ISBN 978-0-646-92309-3.



File translated from TEX by TTH, version 4.08.
On 8 Jun 2017, 12:24.