Na­tional Pass,

Went­worth Falls, NSW

Australian Geographic - - Your Society - STORY AND PHOTO BY CHRISSIE GOLDRICK

THERE’S A MO­MENT along the Na­tional Pass that de­mands you draw your eyes away from those clas­sic rolling Blue Moun­tains vis­tas and have a good look at where you’re stand­ing. You are as high as birds in f light, half­way up a sheer sand­stone es­carp­ment that stretches al­most as far above you as it does down to the val­ley be­low and you’re hik­ing along a path that’s etched into the cliff face, hug­ging ev­ery fur­row along its golden edif ice.

This is a track that def ies logic – a tri­umph of in­ge­nu­ity and courage, hewn from the rock by pick and shovel and an oc­ca­sional stick of dy­na­mite. It’s an en­dur­ing mon­u­ment to a band of blood­y­minded, tweed-clad, f lat-capped bush­walk­ers of old, de­ter­mined to cleave out a walk­ing track no mat­ter how im­prob­a­ble the ter­rain.

Today the pass draws crowds and, for me, is the most breath­tak­ing of the re­gion’s short walks, thrilling at ev­ery twist and turn along its 5.4km length. It takes four and a half hours to com­plete and can be tack­led on a day trip from Syd­ney, par­tic­u­larly as there’s a reg­u­lar train link from Syd­ney to nearby Went­worth Falls.

From the Con­ser­va­tion Hut end you can take in Em­press Look­out on the way down to the evoca­tively named Val­ley of the Wa­ters, from where you join the Na­tional Pass. The de­scent takes you through dry eu­ca­lypt wood­land into a cool, tem­per­ate rain­for­est fed by a suc­ces­sion of beau­ti­ful wa­ter­falls tum­bling off the plateau. The sights and sounds of fall­ing wa­ter mixed with the songs of nu­mer­ous un­seen bird species pro­vide a spell­bind­ing start. Af­ter step­ping across Lodore Falls, you emerge from the for­est where the track f lat­tens out and wraps around the cliff face. For about 3km it fol­lows the clay­stone layer sand­wiched be­tween mas­sive sand­stone blocks. In places, the safety rail is all that’s be­tween you and a ver­tig­i­nous drop – you might want to re­con­sider walk­ing this sec­tion if you suf­fer from ver­tigo.

There’s a heart-stop­ping view from the Slack Stairs in­ter­sec­tion to­wards Mid­dle Went­worth Falls where Jami­son Creek gushes over the cliff high above, then dis­ap­pears over a lower precipice into the in­fin­itely vast Jami­son Val­ley vista. From here to the end, the track gets busier and the climb up the Grand Stair­way can be hard yakka.

Whit­tled and blasted out of the rock, this steep set of stairs zigzags back to the clifftop. It’s a bit of a slog up, but take your time and don’t get so ab­sorbed by the ef­fort that you for­get to turn around oc­ca­sion­ally and en­joy the truly glo­ri­ous view.

Walk­ers tackle the Grand Stair­way on the Na­tional Pass at Went­worth Falls.

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