Compagnoni Pass Hike (NSW)

Photo by Tom Brennan

Highlights:

  • Spectacular scenery – rivers and mountains
  • An impressive camp cave
  • A challenging and rewarding walk

The Kanangra Boyd National Park is a large expanse of wild and rugged wilderness on the southern side of the Blue Mountains in NSW. The area is not as readily accessible as other destinations in the surrounding region. It is unspoilt and often possible to walk for days without seeing another group. This was the case on a recent adventure when our party of 4 embarked on a challenging 3 day hike incorporating the Kowmung River, Compagnoni Pass and Mt Cloudmaker.

We headed from Sydney on a Tuesday evening to enable an early start, but our plans were thrown into disarray when a thick blanket of snow was encountered on the road leading up to Jenolan Caves. Our vehicle was turned around by the SES prior to the descent into the caves, and we tried the alternate access through Oberon. Driving at a slow and steady pace, we eventually made it to the Kanangra Walls road turnoff where we made an impromptu camp on the road side as the snow continued to fall.

The following morning we tentatively crept down the dirt road still covered in snow. After removing a few fallen trees from our path, we thankfully arrived at the trackhead without incident. Fog blanketed Kanangra gorge and a light drizzle fell as we walked out along Kanangra Walls and down through Coal Seam Cave to the Gingra Range track. This track is one of the more gentle ways to descend to the Kowmung River, as most other ridge lines plunge rapidly and steeply downwards. We covered the 19km to the river at a steady pace, with a few frustrating unplanned diversions when the faint track was lost. Camp was at a pleasant clearing where Gingra Creek meets the Kowmung.

The second day involved a thigh burning 800m vertical climb up Ti Willa Spur. There is no defined track present, however the country is largely open and easily negotiated, until the final 50m vertical. Unpleasant bush bashing through thick scrub is required to reach the cliff line. From here, Compagnoni Pass is the way up to the top, with a chain and a few metal spikes hammered into the rock to aid the climb. A few km of comparatively flat walking along Ti Willa Plateau leads to 100 Man Cave – a stunning overhang which provides shelter for both camp and a fire. This is a true luxury after walking in damp conditions for a few days.

Well-worn tracks were present for the entirety of the third day, making navigation simple. The track took us up and over Mt Cloudmaker, along the knife edge line of Rip, Rack Roar and Rumble, Mt Stormbreaker, Mt Berry and eventually back up to Kanangra Walls. Luckily, the fog gradually lifted as we descended Stormbreaker, revealing the spectacular views in all directions– a photographers paradise.

Essential Gear Required

  • Backpack and camping gear
  • Warm clothes
  • EPIRB (recommended)

How to get there

Kanangra Walls can be accessed either by a down and up through Jenolan caves, or coming in through Oberon. The trackhead here is the starting point for many possible adventures. Nearby Boyd River campground is a good option to stay in the area, with basic facilities available.

For more inspiration check out Tom Brennan’s write up and photos from the trip.

Activities

  • Bushwalking
  • Camping
  • Photography

Skill Level

Intermediate – Advanced (Challenging elevations and some off track walking)

Distance Covered

Approximately 45km over 3 days