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Track Notes - Kanangra Walls, Seymour Top, First Ascent Pass & Headless Rider Point

Date:  27/6/2010

Maps:  LPI Kanangra 89303S and Dunphy's Gangerang map

Route:  Kanangra Walls, The Defile,  Seymour Top, follow the rim rock above the eastern cliffs south along Seymour Top to locate the old Horse Track Pass & Plaque, on to Headless Rider Point & then follow the rim rock along the western cliffs back to the track just above the ramp up from The Defile.  Distance: 7 kilometres.  Ascent: about 650m.

Gear:  Daypack, Gaiters, Camera, PLB, Maps, Compass, GPS (set to WGS84), 2 litres water.

Party:    Peter Medbury

Notes:

This walk was an attempt to locate an old Plaque & an inscription on a piece of sandstone hidden for years in the thick heath of Seymour Top at Kanangra Walls.

The plaque, which was installed in 1934, commemorates the first recorded ascent onto Kanangra Tops by a white-man.  In 1864, Thomas Seymour, a stockman from the Burragorang Valley, and while hunting for stray cattle, located a pass up a water course and along a ledge that was suitable for a stock horse.  I'd read about the plaque in Jim Barretts's book: Kanangra Walls - Discovery & History.

I've often marvelled at the people who opened up the bush, whether as explorers, miners or stockmen.  When I go into the bush I have modern equipment, maps, navigational aids, beacons to call for help, mobile phones. So very different from the gear that Thomas Seymour would have carried.

So I wanted to find the Pass, the Plaque & sit where he'd sat on Headless Rider Point & 'viewed one of the greatest sites of his life'.

I'd been on Seymour Top 4 years ago & found the heath incredibly thick, very tall & almost impassable. On that occassion I'd climbed the slot on the western side of Seymour Top to see the view from Headless Rider Point.  This time I planned to try the more conventional approach of following the rim rock along the eastern cliff line of Seymour Top from Kanangra out to Headless Rider Point.  I would look for the pass first & once it was located  I would start searching for the Plaque.

When I arrived at Kanangra it was 1° Celcius, the puddles were still frozen  & the sun was out - a great day for walking.

The first stop was Echo Head.  Kanangra Falls was a curtain of white, swollen by the recent rains.  The view down Kanangra Gorge was superb - the air was crystal clear. After taking  a few photos I was back on the track heading down the path under Mount Kanangra to the ramp up onto Seymour Top.

The ramp up onto Seymour Top was built by the army in 1942 as an emergency cattle route in case of invasion.  Prior to that, access had been  via ladders & before that Aboriginals climbed to Seymour Top using a notched tree trunk.

At the top of the ramp a track heads north east across Seymour Top, Kanangra Neck, Maxwell Top & Brennan Top, ending at the Gordon Smith Lookout.  I followed the track out to Kanangra Top, taking in the spectacular views of Kananagra Gorge & the surrounding precipices.

From Kanagra Neck I was able to see  Seymour Top's eastern cliff line.  At the far end there was a spot where the treeline seems to broach the cliffs, probably the location of the Pass.  After lots more photos I started south along Seymour Top following the cliff line.

Initially the bare rock made it easy going.  After a short distance though, the low heath was replaced by a taller, tougher plant community - banksia, isopogons, she-oaks; so thick you couldn't see through it & far taller than me.

Heath has to be negotiated carefully.  You have to take your time & work through it or your clothes will be shredded, your pack will be torn & your arms & legs will be bleeding.  Gradually I made my way out, staying close to the rim rock so I wouldn't miss the Plaque.  Where ever possible I used the isolated patches of bare rock to ease my journey.

An hour later I was still pushing through the heath & starting to wonder if I'd ever be able to locate the Plaque in the thick vegetation.  The most recent reference to the Plaque I'd seen was from 1993.  Was it even there still?  I was also starting to feel pretty tired - heath is tough.

I noticed that the edge of the cliff had started to change.  It was more broken with large boulders & several levels in some places.  Finally I saw what I was looking for - what looked like a ledge heading down to the south.  I followed it for a bit to be sure.  It looked like it was a goer so I returned to the start of the ledge & started casting about for the Plaque.

It only took about 5 minutes for me to locate it.  The Plaque stood at the northern edge of a large bare piece of rock, facing the south.  Just near its base I could just make out 'YEAR 1868' inscribed in the rock.  I had found it.

If I'd just pushed out looking for the Plaque I'd never have found it.  It was much further away from the cliffs than I'd been walking.

I stood there for a few minutes contemplating Thomas Seymour & his contemporaries & their achievements.

I took photos of the site & its surroundings - thick heath in all directions - & then it was time to follow the Horse Track Pass down through the cliff line.

The ledge was easy to walk along.  After about 200 metres the route headed down a dry watercourse & in a few minutes I was below the cliff line on the old stock track. For a walker the Pass is easy but I wouldn't like to ride a horse over it.  Retracing my path I was soon back on Seymour Top.

After another quick look at the Plaque I continued south to the Headless Rider Point, a mere 400 metres away.  There was the chair shaped rock that Thomas Seymour sat in & viewed what he said was 'one of the greatest sites of his life'.  He was right.  It is a fantastic scene.

I headed west to the other side of the point where the views are just as spectacular, including the incredible Isolated Rock, rising out of the forest like a submarine conning tower.

Soon I was looking down the slot I'd climbed with my son 4 years earlier.  I wasn't going to try descending it.

There are large areas of bare rock along the western edge of Seymour Top, an ideal place for a late lunch.  I sat there enjoying the views, listening to the lyrebirds that hadn't stopped performing all day.  Fortunately the breeze was only slight because the day was still very, very cold.

After a relaxing lunch I continued north along the rim rock towards the ramp off Seymour Top.

There were several ephemeral streams to cross, probably above the Dance Floor Cave & the old water tank.

The further north I went the thicker the heath became. After another tough 10 minutes I was back on the track, at the top of the ramp & shortly after, back at the car.   

The temperature when I got back to the car was still 1° Celcius, a cold day indeed.

I was pretty pleased with what I had achieved.  I had found the Plaque despite the thick heath & found Seymour's Horse Track Pass.  With the day rapidly getting colder I was able to put on warm clothes, get in a car with a heater & after a couple of hours relax in my warm home.  What a difference to the life led by the intrepid people who first explored this fantastic country.   

   


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