Yadboro to The Castle

View Budawangs, Castle in a new window.
Note: indicated routes are approximate. Use official topographic maps for navigation.

This may be the most popular walk in the whole park, and it certainly is spectacular. It's a bit of a slog though — the top of The Castle is more than 700m higher than Yadboro River — and you'll definitely need a head for heights and good rock scrambling abilities near the top. If you're freaked out by heights, this is not a walk for you as some of the bits near the top are quite exposed.

There are several places near the top of the ascent where ropes have been installed by previous visitors, but they are not part of any official infrastructure. Use them at your own risk. I recommend bringing your own 5m length of rope, especially if you're taking a full walking pack up there.

It's possible to do the trip in one long day, but be warned that the track along the base of the cliff is slower than you might expect, and the final ascent can take a long time, especially if you have a large party. Keep an eye on the clock and if you use up half your walking hours before reaching the top, turn around.

Once you leave the Yadboro River, there's basically no running water on this trip unless you detour to Cooyoyo Creek after reaching the saddle, and even that may not be running during a dry period. Cooyoyo Creek also has a toilet block.

You can break the walk down into 4 stages:

  • Up Kaliana Ridge from the Long Gully carpark to the base of The Castle.
    You have to cross the Yadboro River just after leaving the carpark, but it's very shallow at that point and you may even be able to get across without taking your boots off. The ridge track is easy walking, but uphill pretty much all the way. At the southern end of The Castle there are some steps and a steep slope with metal chains that lead to the base of the cliff.
  • The track along the base of the cliff on the western side.
    This is undulating, and eroded in parts with lots of exposed tree roots. Not particularly difficult, but a little slow.
  • The walk up to the saddle between The Castle and Mt Nibelung.
    There is a turnoff to the right on this section that will take you a little more directly to The Castle through a tunnel in the "tail", but the tunnel is a tight squeeze and I doubt it saves much time.
  • The final, very steep ascent up the north-eastern flank of The Castle "tail" through Meakins Pass.
    This is more of a climb than a walk.

Once on top you will have some spectacular views, weather permitting.

Camping on top is a bit challenging. For starters, it's all rock and heath, and you will not be able to get tent pegs in anywhere. There are some usable flat sections of rock here and there, but they tend to have protruding sharp bits that may puncture your sleeping mat if you're not careful. There is no reliable water, but after rain there may be water in rockpools. It's also very exposed, and can get extremely windy, and if something blows away it may blow right off the edge. Consider making a toilet stop at Cooyoyo Creek before climbing up, as the topsoil on the Castle is so thin I doubt you could dig an acceptable hole anywhere.

The images for this walk are from at least three separate trips. The earliest date from 1993 when I went on my first dedicated landscape photography trip organised through PhotoAccess.

Note: The map above is just a rough guide. The marked locations and route may be highly inaccurate. If you want to do this walk, get hold of the proper topographic maps and use them to plan your walk in conjunction with a reputable guide book.

Lunch break on the cliff track

Looking south along the western side of the Castle towards Kaliana Ridge and the Yadboro River. This outcrop, located towards the end of the cliff-base section of the track,  makes a great lunch spot on the way up. From this point the track starts to leave the cliff face and climbs to the saddle between Mt Nibelung and the Castle.

Ropes
Previous visitors have installed ropes at a few of the trickier parts of the ascent. Use these at your own risk. They're not part of any official track infrastructure or maintenance program. If you have full walking packs you'll find it useful to bring your own 5m length of pack hauling rope.
On top

Looking north west from the northern end of the Castle.

The central feature on the horizon is Mt Nibelung. The upper and lower cliff faces of Mt Owen are visible to the left of that. The rock outcrop leading from the lower right towards Mt Nibelung is the Castle "tail", and between those is the saddle that the walking track climbs to from the left. On the other side of the saddle, Cooyoyo Creek can be seen at the extreme right of the panorama.

Rockpools

There is no permanent or running water on top of The Castle. However, during wetter periods there are often shallow rockpools in places which could be used for drinking after treatment.

This image is fairly typical of the terrain on top, and there are no great campsites..

View towards Pigeon House (Didthul)

The view from the southern end of The Castle. You can see Byangee Walls in the middle, leading towards the Clyde River and Pigeon House (or Didthul) on the horizon.

Pigeon House from The Castle

Taken with an old medium-format twin lens reflex camera (Mamiya C330). Not exactly a landscape photography camera, but the square format actually suits this scene. The views from the top the The Castle are absolutely spectacular, but you need a bit of a head for heights and good rock scrambling skills to get there.

Leaving the saddle
Looking at The Castle cliff face in the morning on the way back to Yadboro.
Castle cliff face

The vertical rock slab looks very much like a volcanic feature, but this is all sandstone and conglomerate, so I guess it's another one of those weird erosion features you get in the Budawangs.

In bloom

A shrub in bloom beside the track.

Swirly

If you've done this walk you may be familiar with the spot along the western cliff where a tiny shower of water drips off the side of The Castle. Here we're looking up and spinning around, and you can see the trails of the falling drops spiralling out from the centre.