Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

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Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Tue 12 Jan, 2016 9:53 pm

I'm wondering if anyone here has been on the Jungle Circuit (to get an idea of the frequency of visits)?

For those that don't know the Jungle Circuit is the 'P' shaped inclusion that branches off William's Track. The start of it is just before the base of Govett's Leap.

I went there first on 18/12/15 and reached the junction of the loop. I went back on 10/01/16 and completed the entire length clockwise. It took me 3hrs 20mins but there was plenty of backtracking as I wanted to understand the route properly. I reckon it would take 2-2.5hrs if I was to do it again.

I found it much more difficult than the Lindeman Pass as the track is quite rough and overgrown and I would say that even though it must have originally been developed into a tourist track it is in a greater decayed state than Lindeman.

However it is still a nice walk and the highlights for me were:
-base of Horseshoe Falls (like Govett's Leap but more intimate)
-seeing the numerous stone stairs (especially the many stairs that complete the climb from the Popes Glen Creek crossing)
-other obvious features of a once established walk (metal barriers, sections of board walk with 1 washed downstream, 2 signs at the fork of the loop)
-a track pressing towards ruin like alluded to in the Lindeman Pass book when Jim Smith mentions various tracks likely destined to oblivion
-the views of Pulpit Rock and surrounds
-and the actual 'jungle' itself

Does anyone know when and why the maintenance of the track ceased? There is evidence of where a chainsaw must have been used long ago and other slight signs of clearing. I looked for info on the net and there are just a few references made to the actual walk with not much else mentioned. I also found someone's seemingly recent photos of an outing there. Perhaps it's mentioned in a book somewhere?

Attached is a photo of where the track crosses Popes Glen Creek and there is a link below to a panorama on wikicommons taken at the base of Horseshoe Falls.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File ... ntains.jpg
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DSC01588-lr.jpg
The crossing point of Popes Glen Creek.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby north-north-west » Wed 13 Jan, 2016 7:01 pm

sharpstones wrote:Does anyone know ... why the maintenance of the track ceased?

I'd bet every cent I have and then some on it being that classic bugbear of 'budgetary constraints'.
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby DaveNoble » Wed 13 Jan, 2016 9:09 pm

Interesting. I have never visited the Jungle Track to the base of Horseshoe Falls, although I know about it and have seen where it turns off, and it has been on my list of walks to do for a log while now. Micheal Keats in one of the volumes in his Grose Valley series also describes the walk - accompanied by NPWS personnel. I seem to recall he says the track is no longer maintained because the route is unstable.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Thu 14 Jan, 2016 12:59 pm

Unstable in what sense? Most of it seems fine and needs only a good clearing. Strictly speaking of the track itself (not tree falls etc) the worst parts are right at the start. The track has eroded so far and the ferns cover it so much that in some of those early sections you are forced to walk right on the edge of the pad. But even if you slip you won't go anywhere. There is however one place (also early on) where there is a bit of a wet enclave and I remember looking down the tiny gully thinking that you wouldn't want to stumble here.

Maybe it was these sections that were problematic early on and thus it contributed to final conclusion that it was too much effort to do something about it as was suggested in NNWs comment.

In contrast:
-first photo is half way to the loop junction
-second photo is just before Horseshoe Falls
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DSC01547-lr.jpg
Track half way to loop junction.
DSC01567-lr.jpg
Track just before Horseshoe Falls
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby robertoman » Sat 16 Jan, 2016 11:11 am

What a great looking/ sounding stretch. Another one to add to the list. I have been along here quite a few times and never knew it existed. I just went and had a flick through a Jim Smith book and he does have it on one of his maps. He mentions it was closed after 1982 fires.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby DaveNoble » Sat 16 Jan, 2016 2:01 pm

sharpstones wrote:Unstable in what sense? Most of it seems fine and needs only a good clearing.


According to Michael Keats and Brian Fox - "The track has been closed for over 5 years following a geotechnical report identifying major instability in the shale beds that underlie the cliffs" (The Upper Grose Valley, Bushwalkers Business, p 240)
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Sat 16 Jan, 2016 8:48 pm

geotechnical report identifying major instability in the shale beds that underlie the cliffs"


Sounds like the cliffs are ready to fall... is that to mean that there is a likelihood of large rocks falling? I think I would be more fearful though of the hanging gardens of Blackheath falling in a large clump on me.

Being more sensible...

I went through my photos again and this photo was taken 10mins after passing Horseshoe Falls. I remember the track coming near to the rocks/cliffs and I took this photo purely because of the rock formation but at the time I did not notice the seams penetrating the main body of rock. You can clearly see what I think must be the shale seams which have eroded back into the main body of stone.
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DSC01581-lr.jpg
Rock formation past Horseshoe Falls.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby tom_brennan » Sun 17 Jan, 2016 5:54 pm

It's hard to imagine it's any more unstable than many other parts of the Blue Mountains. Landslips have closed the Govetts Leap and Rodridguez Pass tracks quite a few times in the past 15 years.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Wed 20 Jan, 2016 9:10 pm

It's hard to imagine it's any more unstable than many other parts of the Blue Mountains. Landslips have closed the Govetts Leap and Rodridguez Pass tracks quite a few times in the past 15 years.


Absolutely, like that large landslide along Greaves Creek near Point Pilcher. I remember after walking around the affected area I headed upstream to where the track once went and there was a massive rock leaning against another rock on top of where the track once went and you could see the stairs underneath the rock.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Sun 24 Jan, 2016 8:03 pm

To give a bit of an outline of the track I've uploaded extra photos - the captions will explain it all:

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The track close to the start.
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About half way to the loop junction the track veers right heading downhill and soon comes to a small rocky outcrop with a metal barrier (visible in this photo).
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From the small outcrop the track immediately descends a set of stairs which are easy to negotiate despite the steepness portrayed in this photo.
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The track at times is a little more open.
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DSC01548-lr.jpg
Generally the track is overgrown. Note the small stone step in the foreground.
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I tended to take photos where you could actually see something like the pad in this shot.
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A sign at the junction of the loop. It takes about 20mins to get here from the start.
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On the track towards Horseshoe Falls.
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A link to a panorama of the forest near Horseshoe Falls can be found below at wikicommons.
The original file is 50mb but you can click a smaller preview.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Forest_near_Horseshoe_Falls_Blackheath.jpg

DSC01568-lr.jpg
At times the track is pleasantly open but there are a few obstacles like this tree fall.
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At this point I've come to the base of Horseshoe Falls. A link to a panoroma can be found in the first post.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Sun 24 Jan, 2016 8:42 pm

continued...

After Horseshoe Falls:

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There are numerous stone stairs dispersed throughout the Jungle Circuit like this fine example.
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DSC01584-lr.jpg
After passing Horseshoe Falls the walking begins quite clear but becomes thick before eventually descending to Popes Glen Creek. From the previous photo of the stairs to the crossing of Popes Glen Creek I found the walking the most difficult. And thanks BL for answering my original question.
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An alternative view of the creek crossing as seen from my photo in the first post. Note the section of boardwalk that came down from somewhere.
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Just past the creek.
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The track remains more open from Popes Glen Creek onwards but at times it is indistinct.
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You soon start the climb back up to the loop junction.
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DSC01592-lr.jpg
At this point I got tired of taking photos of stairs and pushed on. The track becomes thicker and despite the portrayal of the photos the conditions towards the end of the loop involved indistinct sections and wrestling through vegetation.
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DSC01593-lr.jpg
Almost 2.5 hrs later the loop is closed. Taking into account my slow progress I think if someone was to make a clean run they probably would do the actual loop in 1.75 hrs or less.
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DSC01599-lr.jpg
On the way back to "civilisation" (still on the Jungle Circuit) I met this friendly reptile in the middle of the path. I think it's a Common Scaly-foot (open to correction).
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby DaveNoble » Tue 16 Feb, 2016 9:13 pm

I went out that way today - along the old track and completed the circuit. In places the track was quite indistinct and I could only follow it by looking out for bits of orange tape tied to some trees. The old stone steps are still in good order in some places. I don't know if the taped route follows the old track - because I missed the old bridge at the lower creek crossing.

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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Thu 25 Feb, 2016 11:07 pm

So you didn't cross the creek on top of a small waterfall? Did you go clockwise or counter-clockwise?

In which areas do you think that the taped route does not follow the old track?
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby TobyLey » Fri 26 Feb, 2016 3:55 pm

I did this walk on Wednesday, can't believe I never knew it was there, I must have passed those old steps at the start at least ten times and never noticed them. It's marked on the third edition topo maps too, and I'm glad that tape was there, it was the only way I managed to stay on the old track in some places.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Sat 30 Jul, 2016 9:10 pm

A bit of an update.

I went out on Friday 29/07/16 to do the walk again. I had an RDO and going back to the Jungle Circuit was still on my imaginary list of places to visit so off I went.

Focussing on time-frames this round I was curious to see how I would fair after the 1st attempt. I completed the loop this time in about 1.5 hrs; the whole of the Jungle Track took about 2hrs 20mins with breaks included; and "car-to-car" (with the track in its current state) can be managed within 3 hrs - so about 50 mins less than my first attempt.

I decided to do the loop anti-clockwise on this occasion and right from the beginning I noticed a few aspects that may be of help to the next person; though I realise that anyone doing this will be experienced enough to see things through nonetheless.

Before reaching the loop junction there are 2 things I became more aware of. The place that I mentioned where you veer downhill when you are about 10 mins (half-way to the loop junction) into the walk it is more or less a switch-back that you come too. If you push on straight instead of turning right I think you can actually spot the track below - ie. turn back. Evidently when the track was built the builders in order to lose that elevation made use of the cleft in the rocks just below "look-out" with the metal barrier and hence you see the stairs descending (see photo 1541).

Another aspect is the place where you come to the "wet enclave" where there is a tiny waterfall. This is also before the loop junction. Anyone will be able to spot the way if they pause long enough but it can be a bit confusing. What you want to avoid is walking downstream any further along the tiny watercourse. The way through is towards a tree fern with an obvious route that you should be able to spot a couple metres away and it is directly across and perhaps slightly up from the point that you arrive at.

As for the marked route following the original route; I would say that for the most part it does follow the original track. I did notice about 6 places where it may be diverging from the original track and they are all within the loop section. Going down the hill (East) from the loop junction I can see how it appears that what has been flagged does not follow the original - but even though it looks sketchy the evidence of the stairs (at times almost invisible) always confirms you are on the right track. They also seem to be a bit harder to see going down hill rather than up. There are a couple of cairns within that stretch of descent before the track straightens and flattens out which indicates your soon arrival at the creek crossing. This time round it was that area that was the hardest for me to navigate as it meanders down the hill with its sparse indicators at times. There is also once place when you are descending that it is absolutely impossible to follow the original track as you can actually see the stone stairs descending into impenetrable brambles. Perhaps there are another 2-3 places where I was uncertain it was the original alignment but since the bush opens up soon after departing from the signs at the junction its up to you whether you go left or right around that tree or rock and what always mattered to me was finding whatever scrap of evidence of the track.

Apart from that there is perhaps another 2 places where I was uncertain that the tape follows the original but again it was in an open section in the stretch before Horseshoe (travelling anti-clockwise). Finally if you are travelling anti-clockwise; at the point the creek (lower Popes Glen Creek crossing) comes into view you want to continue your traverse to the left instead of heading straight for the creek. You will soon come across the sections of boardwalk and the waterfall will come into view. The railing still seems to be very stable albeit until you reach the side where the tree has fallen upon it. On the flipside - travelling clockwise it is possible to miss the final switchback of your descent - your creek crossing should be at the top of the small waterfall near the edge. I believe the original raised walkway that would have been alongside the railing was destroyed in heavy waters.

Thanks to the person who cleared some of the branches at one of the tree falls. It made it easier this time (Photo 1568).
Last edited by sharpstones on Sat 30 Jul, 2016 10:13 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Sat 30 Jul, 2016 9:49 pm

One of the photos from my 2nd visit - see the previous post for the write-up.

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A carved arrow I didn't notice last time at the base of Horseshoe Falls (photo exaggerates size).
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby jonnosan » Sun 08 Jan, 2017 4:23 pm

Thanks for the tipoff. After a year of dilly dallying I finally went to check it out for myself today.
I went counter clockwise, i.e. took the lower track when I first came to the loop junction. The navigation was very easy, looks like some fairies have paid a visit or two and removed a heap of lawyer vine. The only time I had any difficulty was when I got to the lower crossing of Popes Glen creek. I followed a faint pad downwards (to base of the waterfall) since prior to that the track had been so well marked I quickly realised my mistake and backtracked to find the fenced crossing over the top of the waterfall. The only time I felt at all unsafe was about halfway between the start of the track and the loop (i.e. in a section you cross both ways) where the track goes through a soggy hanging swamp section, across what looks like sodden topsoil on the top of a 2-3m terrace. It's all ferns and mud, I can imagine it all slipping off and exposing bedrock, at which point traversing that section will probably slightly harder but also safe. I just wouldn't want to be on there at the moment it slips.
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Re: Jungle Circuit - Blackheath

Postby sharpstones » Mon 14 Aug, 2017 10:54 pm

Someone definitely has been doing some work out there as the obstacles are fewer in number. Thanks to those individual/s; I couldn't help noticing the effort that has been made and I think the foot traffic has also made a difference.

Time-wise it took even less (even when walking with someone else for the first time this round); <2.5hrs Govett's Leap l/o and back; so less than 2hrs can be figured to walk the actual track. Again coming down the hill (turning right) at the loop junction there were only two instances were I had to back track and reitterate where I was going but much of the time I didn't have to pay attention (partly due to it being my third time).

And hence it is quite different from how I first remember it, so some my intitial comments don't really apply anymore. Nevertheless it is still a worthwhile walk if you have the time to swing by and if you feel comfortable following faint foot-pads at times and tramping through some wet/muddy sections.
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