One more navigation weekend left in autumn 2022
The Red Rocks 2 day hike is a spectacular and adventurous hike along the complex ridgeline that divides the Wolgan Valley and the Capertee Valley in the Wollemi National Park.
On this hike you will practise your navigation skills on a scenic guided hike in a lesser known part of the Greater Blue Mountains.
The "Red Rocks" is the name given to the long escarpment of cliffs that divide the Capertee Valley from the Wolgan Valley on the western edge of the Blue Mountains north of Lithgow, about 3 hours drive from Sydney. These two great valleys form a large part of the upper catchment of the Colo River, the main river draining the rugged wilderness of the southern and central Wollemi National Park and the Gardens of Stone. These cliffs are a rugged range of sandstone, the hinterland of which is a deeply dissected labyrinth of pagodas, ravines, heath and forest.
It is possible, if you know the way and are careful with navigation, to access the Red Rocks from Newnes, an abandoned oil shale mining site in the Wolgan Valley north of Lithgow. In the early 20th century Newnes was a thriving mining village but today it has largely been reclaimed by nature and has become a well known camping area in the Wollemi National Park, with only historic mining ruins remaining as evidence of its former mining history.
From Newnes it is possible to climb steeply into the Red Rocks and spend a weekend walking in what would have to be one of the most diverse, scenic and spectacular walks anywhere. With the spectacular Wolgan Valley to one side, and the vast Capertee Valley to the other, and features such as Pantoneys Crown, Airlie Plateau and other ranges and cliffs complementing the landscape, a walk in the Red Rocks is a feast of spectacular and expansive views.
The Red Rocks Walk is best done in late autumn, winter and early to mid spring. One of the reasons for this is that water needs to be carried as most of the hiking follows the crest of ranges and is therefore far from regular water sources, and the campsites do not have nearby water. Most walkers would commence their Red Rocks walk carrying up to 4 litres of water and would use this water sparingly throughout the 2 day hike, knowing that there are only one or two places on the walk where bottles may be refilled. Another reason for doing this walk in the cooler months is the clarity of the air, position of the sun, and the sheer beauty of the area when shone upon by a sun at a gentle angle in the sky. Sunrises and sunsets in the Red Rocks are special times, and it is in the cooler months when these sunsets and sunrises showcase the area at its best.
On MountainSphere's guided Red Rocks walk, we meet at Newnes camping area on the evening prior to the trip and camp by the cars. The following morning we have breakfast by the cars, pack up tents, fill our water bottles and set off. We climb steeply and head off trail. It is difficult and steep walking at first, but as the day goes on the walking gets easier. Our first huge views come around mid-morning and continue throughout the day. We camp in a quiet and little used patch close to the cliff tops from where we can admire a spectacular winter sunset. The following day we continue the spectacular Red Rocks traverse, then descend steeply down to Newnes. It isn't long after our lunch spot that we arrive back at our cars and that is where the trip concludes.
The Red Rocks as seen from Pantoneys Crown in the Capertee Valley
The Red Rocks trip is a 2 day hike, with one night spent camped en route high on the Wolgan-Capertee divide. The night prior to the hike is spent camped at the Newnes campground after driving independently to Newnes sometime during the day or evening.
Most of the walking is off-trail, with only faint pads or tracks and good navigation and prior knowledge of the area is required to follow the correct route through the complex country.
Here is a day-by-day itinerary for the guided hike:
Clients travel by their own arrangements to the Newnes campground in the Wolgan Valley. Newnes is located in the Wolgan Valley to the north ...
Wild camp high in the Red Rocks
The first day is the most difficult of the two days but the hiking gets gentler, easier and more scenic as the day progresses. To earn thes...
Wild camp high in the Red Rocks
Today we return to Newnes via a different route. We continue along the escarpment of the Red Rocks, enjoying spectacular scenery the whole w...
Being a self-supported bushwalk, idea is that everyone brings their own gear and food for the weekend. Click the button below to review the gear list for this trip.
If you don't have some of the items listed, don't worry, many of the items can be borrowed or rented for a small fee.
At the start of the Red Rocks walk you may wonder what you have let yourself in for, as it begins with a steep and arduous climb through the bush where there is no track or trail, and where you will be carrying a pack laden with full water bottles. But by mid-morning this climb is over and the walk becomes easier and gentler for the rest of the weekend. You earn your panoramic views and high ridges by paying for it early in the hike!
The key difficulties of this walk, therefore, are in the steep climbing early on the first day and in the off-trail wilderness nature of the hiking. Very little of the walk is on a marked path or trail. There are faint pads or tracks left by past groups but most of the walking is through untracked bush in complex rocky landscapes where careful route finding is needed.
The total distance of the walk is a little over 20km, with around 980m of total ascent and descent over the 2 day duration of the hike. You will walk approximately 11km on the first day and around 9km on the second day. You'll note that the distances covered are fairly modest, but the complexity of the terrain makes the going much slower than walking along a path or trail. The first day's walking takes a full day and is rather tiring, though it eases off after that first tough climb in the morning. Once the first day's walking is completed, the pace eases off considerably and there is plenty of time to rest, relax at camp, enjoy the sunset, and get ready at an unhurried pace the following morning. The second day is much more laid back. You will gorge yourself on views and your camera will be clicking and you will want to stop frequently at the many vantage points along the route. The walking is still complex, with lots of small ups and downs and some challenging rocky sections. You'll descent chutes, clamber through defiles, climb up and over complex rock outcrops, and you'll push past occasional patches of scrub. In a few places you may need to remove your pack and where we work together to pass packs over some tricky sections. But the pace through this complex country will be relaxed. There are a few sections of steep and exposed ground, and if you don't have a head for heights, you may prefer to take a less exposed route through some sections. By lunch time on the second day we have descended off the Red Rocks and have reached open river flats surrounded by cliffs. We'll have lunch here before a short and easy afternoon stroll back to Newnes.
In conclusion, you need to consider the following when assessing in your own mind the level of difficulty of the walk:
There is no requirement to use or attach to ropes, although a safety hand line will be carried by the leader as a group safety item.
Please check the photos of the route and the detailed distance and elevation charts provided to you in your information pack when deciding if this trip is suitable for you
This 2 day hike is open to anyone that has completed a previous MountainSphere trip such as the navigation training weekend and who did not find that trip too arduous. It is recommended that you come on a navigation weekend first so that you gain the background navigational skills which you can then apply and practise on this trip. If you have not yet participated on a navigation training weekend or other MountainSphere trip then you have the following options:
Because this walk is slightly more difficult and is in a more remote and more inaccessible location, the entry criteria are a little more stringent than on the navigation weekend. Please don't hesitate to contact me to discuss.
Take a look at the below detailed trip report written by valued client Katrina Hemingway, who attended the Red Rocks trip on 4-6 June 2021. This trip report provides an insight into the trip from the perspective of a client visiting this area for the first time, stepping a little outside her comfort zone to take on the challenge, and reaping the rewards and achievements of her off-trail wilderness adventure.
The size of the group will be capped at 8 clients and the trip will not proceed unless a minimum number of 5 clients sign up.
The cost does not include;