I’d decided to take the mountain bike. This would be its first trip away and I planned to use it. My main goal was Hanging Rock, a dazzling precipice somewhere in the Blue Mountains that I’d seen pictures of but never really chased. Then someone posted a dawn shot on Facebook and I was truly hooked this time. I queried as to how to get to the place and received a reply. Now it was written in ink.
There’s a trail by the name of Burramoko, off the end of Ridgeway Road, which leads you to Baltzer Lookout. From here you can get shots of Hanging Rock. I determined that I would try for a dawn rendezvous but that’s not always as easy as it seems.
After setting up at Coolah I’d been nearly a week in the wilderness and loving every minute of it but Hanging Rock would make the trip truly worthwhile. It kept dragging me further ahead of schedule than I’d originally intended until I arrived a full day early and decided to try for a sunset ride just to check everything out.
The lady at the National Parks office at Blackheath had been very helpful, plying me with maps and relevant information to the point where I wasn’t sure which one to consult next but it was photocopied mud map that was the key so I sought out Ridgewell Road and travelled to the first locked gate. It was here, I had been informed, that you could park your vehicle but, when I arrived, I was so glad it was late and a week day because your odds of getting a park would be zero on weekends and holidays. There’s a sum total of about 6 spots and only two where a motorhome would fit. I was lucky.
The map said it was 1 ½ kms to the second locked gate and then a further 4 kms to Baltzer. I was so glad I’d brought the bike. I set out without glasses because the light was getting poorer by the minute and regretted it soon after when clusters of insects smacked me in the face and a couple got under my eyelids. It was a real roller coaster ride with erosion humps everywhere making the downhills a bit thrilling but the real excitement was further on.
I reached Baltzer and parked the bike; you have to walk the last 200 metres. It’s only then that you get a sense of just how epic this spot is. There are no fences, just vertiginous drops into the abyss of Grose Valley. Your sense of balance becomes instantly heightened; the slightest breeze becomes cause for alarm as the ridge narrows to its ultimate conclusion. I couldn’t see Hanging Rock initially and looked in vain for the tell-tale overhang before finally figuring that photographing that iconic view involved going left down a trail that I had no wish to try now the sun had actually vanished from sight; so I retired from the scene and pencilled in the morrow.
As ever, wanting to get up without an alarm means little sleep will be had and only about four hours maximum was had in fits and starts before 5.30 arrived and it was suddenly panic stations because I knew I wanted the right light, nothing’s quite like the golden hour. Spurred on by the raucous cry of a lone currawong I frantically got my riding gear on and headed out. Flecked between the woodland vegetation a brilliant smoky red sun indicated its presence, tormenting me with colours I knew would be gone by the time I reached the lookout.
However, it was the bush track I had to concentrate on, especially the sandy bits and the erratic downhills. I made good time and worked out that after leaving the bike I had to drop off left of Baltzer to get the shot that every other snapper worthy of the name already had. But my, how steep was the track! In a word, “very”. I hesitated here and there because there was only a rutted trail beside the canyon wall, one slip and you could appear in the obituary columns next week.
The sought after scene came into play at last as I neared the bottom and passed three bolts to which rock climbers could fix their gear. I knew already why I didn’t go rock climbing, this merely served to confirm that view.
Being close to Hanging Rock makes you even more in awe of how geology works. This protrusion, that will one day collapse (never with me on it!), is epic in scale and deliverance and, once you’re there, it’s easy to understand why people come here despite the safety hazards. Somehow the other distant cliffs pale into insignificance beside this wonder of abstract art. It took me some time before I decided to leave but I was secure in the knowledge that I had, at last, viewed and recorded this iconic platform.
The road back was almost lost in reflection except that the wildflowers had been kissed by old sol at shallow angles and their colours shone brilliantly. It’s not always that planned days work out as you’d hoped, but this had exceeded my expectations.