Aerial view of the whole route. Note that the GPS tends to bounce around when close to cliffs, so it’s often impossible to tell which ledge the route is actually on.
Distant Ledge Photos
Between the two gates on Megalong Road there are clear views to the East of Black Billy Head. These shots show the North and South Heads of Black Billy Head and the ledge between them, and also the continuation that reach the point at the far right. They show how exposed and impossible it looks from afar.
North and South heads of Black Billy Head. The ascent to reach the halfway ledge is at the North Head.
And further South the ledge continues along the red band of Mount York Claystone to the last visible vegetation.
Getting to the start
After parking at the bottom of the hairpins in the green valley where Carlons Farm used to stand, there’s a rough 4WD trail leading steeply up a short hill, then down to the creek. After crossing the creek and continuing to the crest, left the trail and head steeply up to the ridge. The ridge becomes rocky and soon leads to the Powerline Maintenance fire trail, following it easily North soon reaches the lower slopes of BBH. Then slog steeply up the ridge to get the the first of the scrambles.
There are a couple of route option to get up Black Billy Head. They all require strong scrambling ability, or a climber to drop a tape.
The first is easy, the second is a small climb is two sections.
Then traversing South across this exposed 50cm ledge with a big step down, immediately followed by a big step up to reach a cosy level area above the 8m drop.
From this cosy area it’s a small climb/scramble helped by a couple of well located anchors. At the top there’s a steep loose walk up to some pleasant caves.
Traversing South for 50m finds the easy narrow ascent slot that leads to the plateau, which was ignored on this occasion.
The other route up BBH has a steep smooth face to contend with. The small ledges aren’t especially level and would be slippery when wet…
…followed immediately by a slot with a couple of ancient chipped holds in the face. This requires a bit more climbing confidence on the slightly reachy holds. It is also hard to locate from the top as the recesses are invisible.
The alternative day out that avoids any scrambing is to walk down Narrowneck fire trail, cross Fools Paradise and descend one of the easy gullies to reach the half way ledge.
Or for a bigger day approach from Diamond Head or the Mitchells Creek Pass via the Rice Terrace and then ignore the BBH passes up and down to continue at the same level.
After reaching the ledge, the first obstacle is a few meters South of the bottom of the slot to the plateau. It’s a simple looking piece of rock to overcome, but it’s above a dropoff with little in the way of stable handholds.
Once past it, the red ledge curves away to the next minor head around 200m distant.
After starting off easy and wide, the ledge becomes a little more jumbled. However, no exposure so far.
Looking back to the Northern Head of BBH with the rock obstacle not quite visible behind the pair of trees.
Continuing along the ledge had a bit of a dropoff with only minor exposure.
Reaching the first corner offers views as far as Kanangra. Unfortunately, the weather was showery with occasional sunny spells, so amazing panoramas were not the order of the day.
I fully expected the ledge to end shortly after this head.
Looking North West back at the first corner at the incoming weather. Later I would be glad of the overhangs as each shower came in from the West.
The ledge appeared to continue for at least another 400m as vegetation was visible, possibly all the way to the southern tip of Black Billy Head.
The ledge was narrow, loose and steeply angled for much of the way. It was also above large drops. However, there was a faint animal pad, with a couple of sightings of recent small droppings.
The red ledge continued above the green level almost all the way to the Southern end of BBH. This resulted in continuous excellent views to the West.
The ledge was often crumbly, so soft steps to keep any erosion to a minimum.
Multiple bands of red Mount York Claystone characterised much of this trip.
Some sections had no solid rock, just crumbled claystone… more soft steps. After the moderate showers some of the exposed rock turned to slightly soft and sticky clay.
The ledge usually followed the lower band, but less frequently the highest was navigable.
After passing the South end of BBH the ledge turned Eastwards. From here onwards there were more than a dozen drips cascading off the plateau. Some were well out of reach due to the overhangs, some would have been caused by the recent rains and others by the current showers. However, three or four appeared to be permanent. This tiny waterfall was 2.3m above the ledge.
Tantilisingly close to being an exit to the plateau, it appeared to be a doable ascent beyond the overhang. There were a couple of reasonable sized boulders laying around, but not enough to build a big enough cairn to usefully stand on. A quick search for fallen and ideally forked trees resulted in nothing. This will be a priority on the next trip.
Below this small watercourse was a larger vegetated area, a brief explore revealed impassible clifflines below, although the talus was certainly close.
Close to the waterfall there was a large nest of twigs at head height. It was occupied, probably by a lyrebird chick.
Continuing found an old cairn adjacent to a level area large enough for a dozen sleeping pads. The treetops on the talus slopes below seemed close, so another cursory exploration revealed only a few of meters of verticalness to overcome to reach the talus. Traveling alone with only 20m of tape dictated that it would be best left for another trip.
The ledges remained steep, loose and narrow above the treed ledge.
The day was cool and at times more than just blustery. However, this Highland Copperhead found time to enjoy some brief periods of sunshine.
Continued precipitousness with views of Carlon Head, and Mount Derbet and Blackhorse Mountain behind.
Looking back, the red ledge recently traversed is visible.
In some sections the overhang was low enough to enforce a bit of crawling.
Rounding a further corner, still with the expectation that all good things will come to an end.
It became clear that the red ledge was starting to get thinner before disappearing round a corner into a gully.
It was equally clear that it was impossible not to investigate further along this topmost band of Claystone.
But this good thing did come to extreme thinness. The five layers of claystone beyond had little or no erosion, just impossible blankness.
Except for the bottom one. From the vantage point at the end of the ledge, a small section of overhang in the centre of the frame perched above 80m of almost vertical sandstone was visible. How to get to it and beyond it was not immediately apparent.
Regardless, retracing steps along the thinness was the immediate concern. It should be noted that this bit of ledge is entirely optional, it’s narrow, loose, soft and crumbly, steeply inclined towards the extreme exposure and also shows signs of instability.
The ledge had a long fissure parallel with the face at one point, another section was above an overhang that appeared to be deeper that the ledge itself and it also had a couple of inclined boulders that had to be negotiated on the less favorable side.
It should probably never be attempted again.
While backtracking, there were better views of the route to get to the small section of overhang.
And also beyond it.
After backtracking, there was an easy albeit crumbly descent to the vegetation ledge that would hopefully give access to the bottom layer of claystone and subsequently the small overhung section.
The bottom red layer started off with minor pushing through vegetation, but the bottom red ledge soon reappeared. It avoided the gully and after a careful couple of meters of descent it was another crawl around this low corner. The boulders and steepeness seen from above were soon passed and it was back to red ledge again.
For nearly all the trip there were excellent views to the West. This gave a bit of warning of the next shower approaching.
Looking South, Carlons Head and the fire tower are a permanent feature.
It should also be noted that there are a couple of places where the talus seemed to reach the ledge - worthy of investigation.
The orphan block just right of centre is where the ledge did finally end.
The ledge continued along the bottommost claystone layer.
Looking back at a couple of the minor heads passed with the southern tip of BBH behind them.
Closer to the Orphan Block, one of the gullys had a wet slot that looked like it reached the plateau. It seemed possible to ascend the bottom section with difficulty, but even the foolhardy wouldn’t consider chimneying the remaining 20m past the chockstones.
Deep caves either side of the base gave shelter and a lunchspot as the next rain band blew strongly in.
Continuing South-West while skirting around the gully, the descent to the talus again looked tantilisingly close. The treetops below easily reached the ledge. Fifteen steep meters of exploration down the watercourse that originated in the slot found that it slipped over a minor cliffline to the talus. Another ‘not quite there yet’ moment.
Looking back from this same spot, the route along the red band closest to the vegetated ledge can be seen. The easy descent from the ledge to nowhere is at the far left.
Carlons Head with Rip, Rack, Roar and Rumble just visible through the light rain.
And West to the Wild Dog Mountains.
A few of the ledges were perfect - almost level, wide enough, stunning geological features and not too much feeling of exposure.
Soon enough the bottom ledge became more vegetated. It coincided with an easy ascent back to the top red ledge.
Rock Orchids nestled in the dry and shaded cracks.
Eventually this Orphan Block was reached, just after the tilted slab. It marked the end of a couple of kilometers of excellent ledge walking.
About 50cm of the Block itself rests against the cliff. That’s enough for a step across provided it’s not too windy. To the South is a big dropoff, to the West it’s not quite vertical and there is a small possibility of an adventurous tape assisted descent for 6-7m to a ledge. From there the talus is a further 7-10m, but a viable route below that point remains a mystery.
The return trip was uneventful, although a bit of a race against the incoming weather.
At one point on the outward trip the top ledge terminated a few meters above the wide treed ledge. The closest easy descent to the vegetation needed a short 5m tape from a convenient forked tree. On returning to ascend with it a couple of hours later, there was an obvious (though invisible from the top) route back up. So tape wasn’t really required for any of the traverse.
One of the objectives of the trip was to see if there was any possibility of getting either up to the plateau or back down to the talus. From a distance there looks to be a few strong talus possibilities, but none to get to the plateau.
After exploring whenever the talus seemed close, there didn’t seem to be any easy viable options. Exploring from below may be more revealing. Returning with a longer tape or rope and harness may be a better option.
Regarding a route up to the plateau, the 2.3m waterfall is a definite possibility. The remainder of the creek above seemed straightforward from below, and also the south-east face had plenty of ledges. A forked branch propped might afford access. There was nothing suitable aroud, maybe more likelihood of throwing some down from above.
Comparing it to other ledges
Harmils Ledge, the Rice Terrace and the Undocumented ledge are also all on the West side of Narrowneck. The Black Billy Ledge is longer than any of them with the possible exception of the Rice Terrace.
It also has the expansive unobstructed views of the Undocumented Pass.
It has more exposed sections than any of the others. They are probably as equally exposed as the Undocumented Ledge, but Rice Terrace does have a few ‘interesting’ steps close the BBH.
There is rarely any vegetation to battle through, unlike Harmils or Rice Terrace.
It is just as accessible from the plateau as the others, but it needs strong scrambling ability to get there from below.
650m of ascent.
Once on the ledge, there are few route-finding and navigational challenges. There are no fallback alternatives and every section is reversible.
All of the party should be comfortable with exposure and be especially sure footed, particularly when traversing the multitude of steep, narrow and loose ledges.
A single pole or stout stick is particularly handy to provide a modicum of extra stability on the ledges to test footings.
Some sections require crawling, so good knees and some flexibility are preferred.
This west facing ledge should not be considered on a wet or windy day, there are potentially slippery sections and places where wind gusts could impact adversely.
And finally, the BBH ascent & descent both require good scrambling skills and for most a 10m tape.