Mt Dawson with Owen (Wollemi NP)

Written by The Minstler


I was sorry to learn that Andrew’s trip was cancelled but Felix was keen to have an adventure nonetheless, so we pressed on regardless.

I’d arranged all my gear the night before and was already at work with my hiking pack. Some discussions were had in the group email about organising an alternative trip, but it was still up in the air by the time I boarded the two car Endeavour express train towards Lithgow to meet Felix.

The train was comfortable at first but soon grew too warm for my liking, making me a bit restless. I took to pressing my arms and cheeks into the cool window in an effort to relieve the stuffiness. I was in the quiet carriage. The button operated electric door between the carriages seemed to have a mind of its own, mercifully allowing only a select number people to enter the peaceful space. I looked on with glee as some unsavoury-looking characters tried and failed to gain access, finally relenting and retreating to the ‘noisy’ carriage.

I dozed off for only about 10 minutes, but otherwise kept myself occupied listening to an audio book rendition of Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood, read by Kate Winslet.

Down through the zigzag tunnels we shot, each tunnel marked by a quick toot of the train’s toy-like horn, finally pulling into Lithgow station at around 8:30 PM.

I’d arranged to meet Felix at the station and having walked out without seeing any sign of him, began to send a message. I had somehow typed «I have Yarriambiack l» when suddenly I was jumped from behind, quickly turning to be greeted by the familiar grinning face of my dear friend.

Felix had been shopping with his mum and the three of us set off in the Felix-mobile back to their homely property in Wallerawang.

We settled around the kitchen table with Felix’s mum and dad, discussing and enjoying the flavours of dry roasted nuts, over mugs of lemon ginger tea and glasses of red wine.

Felix also took this time to construct a mighty toasted dinner wrap of cherry tomatoes, carrot, cheese, ground black pepper, and probably some other things I’ve forgotten. We spent some time looking over possible trip options with the aid of a wonderful sketch map.

Constance Gorge was looking to be a viable alternative option due to its more sheltered nature, comparred to the original Mt Dawson plan. With some rough ideas in mind but nothing set in stone we turned in for the night.

Day 1 – ‘Snow’ Saturday

I awoke to the sound of scuttling rollers as Felix drew the blind across the exterior sliding glass door, revealing a picturesque view worthy of a postcard. Soft flakes of fluffy white drifted from the pallid overcast sky, settling across the brightening landscape. Felix had kindly topped up our mugs of lemon ginger tea and brought them out to start the morning in style.

We looked out over the paddocks as the two horses that live at their property made their way across the snowy ground, seemingly with a purpose unbeknownst to us. A small group of kangaroos warily hopped a safe distance ahead of them.

We watched for a time, the horses munching heartily upon nature’s offerings as they worked their way closer towards the fence-line nearest us. One of the horses seemed rather interested in the hind undercarriage of the other, poking his nose in some curious places while the other stood obediently still with a look of resigned indifference. 

Horse Munching Video

A quick check of the forecast gave hopes of two mostly clear days, if not a little windy and overcast. Therefore we decided to stick with the original plan of climbing Mt Dawson, spurred on by the thoughts of perhaps seeing a snow speckled view from the top. We only felt a little sad that it was now too late to organise any other people from the original Mt Dawson group to join us, given how long it would take to make it all the way out to Lithgow in time.

With no particular urgency we ate a breakfast of toast, in my case accompanied by the overnight oats and chia seeds I’d prepared before bed. I watched with amusement as Felix attempted to rouse Jimmy (his dad) and convince him (unsuccessfully) to join our adventure. Jimmy seemed to think we were slightly mad as we loaded our packs and set off once again in the trusty Felix-mobile.

The drive out to Newnes was most pleasant. The car heater warmed our toes as we cruised along the snow lined roads, listening to an episode of No Such Thing As A Fish (my favourite podcast). The light cover of snow gave way to a familiar array of greens as we snaked lower into the Wolgan valley. By now there was no more white to behold, however the joyful yellow bursts of wattle was a fine consolation.

We parked the car next to a large puddle, hoiked our packs onto our backs and set off up the dirt road at roughly 10 AM. Not too far along we found a curious contraption made of pvc pipe. It seemed to contain some kind of animal bait, but with no obvious way to actually trap an animal or allow it to get the bait. After closer inspection and some deliberation, Felix turned around with a yelp of discovery and pointed towards the animal camera strapped to a post on the opposing side of the track. I’m sure the owner will enjoy a hearty chuckle as he reviews the captured footage.

We soon left the dirt road and entered fields of bracken, continuing our journey up the banks of Little Capertee Creek. By now the day was settling in splendidly, soft overcast lighting accented by occasional chips of striking blue sky, the temperature slightly brisk – perfect weather for an adventure.

Still, with our steady upward progress it was not long before we warmed up and had to stop for clothing alterations. Felix shed one of two jackets and one of his two pairs of pants while I, wearing only a shirt and zip-off pants, zipped off the legs of my pants.

The gentle climb up Little Capertee Creek offered such notable features as Nature’s Pitch – a fallen two-pronged tree in the shape of a tuning fork, and Sourdough Rock – a rock resembling a partially sliced loaf of bread.

Sourdough Rock  

 The naturally rocky area revealed little caves along the way, some small and fit only for a quick reprieve, and others large enough to potentially camp in. We noted various animal tracks in some of them.

Occasional bursts of sunlight broke through to highlight the natural beauty of the surrounding sandstone.

Up and up we went, the views expanding as we climbed higher out of the creek. We chose to take the right-hand fork toward a feature marked on the map as ‘POD’ which in a wave of memory, Felix remembered was the Pagoda of Death. Close to the top we stopped for a quick snack under a small overhang with a nice view.

Refuelled and refreshed we set off again and soon reached the cliff-line, pausing to behold the expanse of Capertee Valley stretching out below us and Pantoneys Crown in the distance.

With some reassurance from Felix that the first bit is the hardest, I scrambled up after him onto the Pagoda of Death. How glad I am to have Felix egging me on! The views from the top were even better, and we proceeded to pick our way joyously across the neighbouring pagodas, taking our time and basking in the fruits of our efforts.

Our progress along the cliff tops was accompanied by a cacophony of roaring atmospheric pressures. As exposed as we were atop the cliffs, curiously we could feel almost no windy sensations. It was only when we tentatively approached the very edge that we suddenly experienced the full bearing force of the howling winds.

With this discovery we had unlocked the full potential of our own personal green-energy air conditioning. We could traipse along at our leisure, sheltered from the wind by the low angle it was hitting the cliff, and when we felt like cooling off, need only wander nearer the edge to receive a blast of fresh mountain air.


Enjoying the natural phenomenon of the anti-gravity chamber.

Even at our leisurely pace we were making excellent time, and Mt Dawson loomed ever closer. We decided to drop down again and begin looking for a camp cave. Notable features as we delved lower were:

A perfectly sized sandstone tunnel to climb down

A long forgotten tea cup

Crazy Xanthorrhoea, and

A fun little climb down through the rock when our path ended

It was at the bottom of this last little climb where we serendipitously happened upon a most suitable camp cave, which I call ‘Explosion Cave’ (aka ‘C4’, aka ‘Car Camp Camp Cave’).

It was stocked with plenty of dry firewood, featured a neat fire circle, and offered an array of potential sleeping spaces. This however, is not the more well-known Mt Dawson camp cave.

It was an easy decision to make this our home away from home, and a more substantial lunch was enjoyed in celebration. Still being so early in the day (around 2:30 PM) we left our packs and took a couple of kumquats with us, off to explore the pagodas along the nearby cliff-line, looking onto Capertee Valley. One pagoda we climbed onto was shaped like an ice cube, which in hindsight I could have named ‘Pagoda on the Rocks’. It had some happy little trees growing atop it.

Pagoda on the Rocks at the far left

Happy little trees

Back at Explosion Cave we luxuriated in a relaxing afternoon of fire, food, and fun facts (more Fish podcasts). We took our pick of sleeping spaces and prepared our beds in the dying light of evening. I was growing weary watching the flames of our fire dwindle to glowing embers, and soon after, we opted to retire early for some individual writing and audio book listening before bed. I must admit, I was so tired that I went almost straight to sleep instead.

Day 2 – ‘Mt Dawson’ Sunday

The night was gusty and I was glad to be safe and warm in my sleeping bag. I awoke in the early light to the call of a single bird, it’s lonely cries travelling through the cool morning air to touch upon my heart. Being in no rush I kindled the fire, a hot cup of lemon ginger tea brewing in my thoughts. With the delicious tea soon brought into reality we ate breakfast, topped off with my last two kumquats and some orange provided by Felix.

We packed up our bedding, stowed our food and set off towards Mt Dawson, leaving behind some ‘thank you’ kindling for the next occupants of Explosion Cave.

We quickly dropped into the left fork of Little Capertee Creek (our planned exit track) and dumped our packs to climb Mt Dawson unhindered by excess weight.

On a trip several years ago we had come down a small slot canyon in this area, and having no knowledge of a canyon being there we’d named it ‘Secret Canyon’. Felix wanted to find this canyon again and climb up it, a venture which I was happy to support. With his legendary skills of navigation, Felix had us there in no time. The bottom of the canyon was easily recognisable by a prominent hole in the rock which marks its final drop down.

Secret Canyon

Hole in the rock

A funny picture of Felix and I at the same hole in the rock, taken on the trip years ago

It took some encouragement from Felix to get me comfortable with climbing up, as there was significantly more water than when we’d been here previously. A few well-placed rocks gave us a wobbly but sufficient platform with which to get up into the hole. Once up, we found yet another large pool of water which required the making of more stepping stones and the use of a large stick to cross.

Felix stepped nimbly across and proceeded to guide me to do the same. I was feeling quite uncertain and needed some more encouragement to get me going. I was very nearly across onto the sand when I lost my nerve and plunged my foot into the refreshing canyon water. I made rather a fuss, which in hindsight I’m quite embarrassed of, but Felix’s good nature is truly infectious and I was soon feeling good again. The hardest part was over and we could now climb up quite easily using several well-placed fallen trees to reach the top.

Mt Dawson was getting very close now. After a bit more scrambling we reached a high point and were at the base of a large rock formation: We had found the classic Mt Dawson camp cave. It brought back more memories of the trip from years ago and we spent some looking around. I was delighted to see the giant tree nearby, still alive and displaying tufts of epicormic growth. 

Giant tree near Mt Dawson camp cave

Now it was finally time to summit Mt Dawson. The wind swept across the high ground, my spirits lifting with every moment as we scrambled up the pagodas. I always feel so happy climbing around on pagodas. The sky was brilliant blue with many fluffy cumulus drifting lazily across.

Here we split up for a time, choosing our own favourite pagodas from which to best enjoy the magnificent view.

The views from atop Mt Dawson are truly stunning.

Mission accomplished. I was feeling elated as we picked our way back down towards the creek where we’d left our packs. Earlier that day Felix had been counting the number of prongs on the little white flowers which grow on Xanthorrhoea. Ever since learning that they had 6 prongs, I’d been keenly checking every Xanthorrhoea we came across in hopes of discovering a deviation. It was during our descent that I finally came across a Xanthorrhoea with the coveted 7 prong flower.

7 prongs!

Once we met up with the left-hand fork of Little Capertee Creek it was not hard to relocate our packs – I remembered the place like it was yesterday (or rather, earlier that morning) and we carried on our journey down the creek.

The walk back was pleasant if not mostly uneventful. I did, however, manage to sink the entirety of my left foot into the creek where the water was cleverly disguised as solid-looking sand. Thereby wetting my second pair of dry socks! As I was leading at the time, Felix was able to bask in epicaricacy as he hopped safely over onto the solid bank. Once again, I’m embarrassed to admit that I made quite a fuss (sorry Felix, I vow to never again complain about ruining my new shoes!) 

Not much further along, we once again entered the sweeping fields of bracken, and soon after, reached the dirt track marking the final stretch of our walk.

After another quick wave at the animal-cam we rounded the last corner, where the ever-reliable Felix-mobile was awaiting our return.

A rainbow over Lithgow marked an exclamation point at the end of a lovely weekend adventure, as Felix dropped me off in town to catch a train before heading back home himself.

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