Exploring the Monolith Valley area in the Budawangs to hopefully catch some great images of a rarely photographed gem.
BUDAWANGS SUNRISE OVER MT NIBELUNG FROM MT OWEN
SHROUDED GODS MOUNTAIN
“Aaagh,” I hear Burg call out as he loses his footing off the ledge and falls 4 metres, landing backpack first in the scrub with a thump. “You ok?” Matty calls out. “My leg’s caught” Burg responds. He is hanging upside down by his foot, but his back is on the ground.
It’s almost pitch dark by now, the three of us are attempting to summit Shrouded Gods Mountain of the Budawang Range in the hinterlands of the NSW south coast. We have already made a few unsuccessful attempts to find a negotiable path to the top of the mostly sheer cliffs.
Matty is down below and reaches Burg, freeing his foot and untangling him. From where I’m standing on the same ledge it looks serious. Burg grimaces, “I’m ok”. So I keep going, attempting to sidle the same ledge with over 25kg on my back and very limited foot or hand holds. I feel myself losing grip and vainly try to clutch at a twig.
Next thing I know I’m down in the scrub next to Burg.
Thankfully I’m ok too and with our tail between our legs, we are now considering backtracking about an hour to find somewhere to camp for the night. As the three of us are photographers, this will defeat the whole purpose of our trip. We know that the top of Shrouded Gods Mountain in the Budawangs is going to give us an epic sunrise shot of Monolith Valley with The Castle and Pigeon House Mountain in the distance.
Now with head torches on we devise a plan to belay packs up the ledge that we had slipped on. This works and Burg leads the way further up the cliff face in the dark. There is a loud crack as a tree branch snaps and Matty and I hear the inevitable thump of another fall. “Burg are you ok”? …a tense pause. “Yes, I think I’ve found the way”.
Inland from Ulladulla, near the upper reaches of the Clyde River, lies a region of pristine wilderness, The Budawangs. This is an area of deep gorges, flat-topped mountain islands protected by rocky ramparts and untouched forests and creeks. The landscape has a “Lost World” quality[i].
I love The Budawangs. It is right up there with some of the most challenging walks in Australia, the possibilities are endless and it’s a landscape photographer’s dream.
We do eventually pitch camp on top of Shrouded Gods Mountain. Matty is so keen for a sunrise shot that he wakes us up about an hour before dawn the next morning! Setting up on the edge of the cliff we wait for light, being careful not to accidentally take a 100 metre step in the wrong direction. The sunrise then gradually reveals what lies before us (pictured above).
The next day we head back down the same route and then negotiate some of the prehistoric rain forested canyons in the valley below to eventually summit Mt Owen about 6 hours later, setting up camp in a magical spot on the plateau. After a good night’s sleep we wake to an amazing sunrise over Monolith Valley looking down on canyons and gorges (pictured at the top of this blog).
The journey back takes us through another prehistoric canyon, and we climb down ancient roots, mossy boulders and magical streams drinking “sweet water”, as Matty calls it – then out through Monolith Valley and eventually back to the car for a well-earned swim in the Yadboro River.
We are completely shattered physically but our souls are singing.
This is my second time in The Wangs and after a week of aches and pains I’m already planning my next trip.
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