One of the most distinctive mountains on the south coast, Pigeon House Mountain was first described by Captain Cook in 1770 as he sailed past as “a remarkable peaked hill which resembled a square dovehouse with a dome on top and for that reason I called it Pigeon House”. For many thousands of years before this, the mountain was called Didthul, an Aboriginal word which means “woman’s breast”. Seen from a distance (the view below is of Byangee Walls and Pigeon House Mountain / Didthul from The Castle, the mountain has a distinctive breast-like shape with a nipple.
There’s a steep but good bushwalking track to the summit of Pigeon House Mountain / Didthul, which I’m climbing with my son late in the day so we can watch the sun set from the top. The well-marked track starts near a large carpark, which has some information on the walk and a toilet. This is a popular walk and the carpark is often overflowing in peak periods – but we’re the only car here as we set off around 6pm.
The Pigeon House Mountain / Didthul bushwalking track consistes of four fairly distinct sections…
The First Climb
The track climbs fairly steeply from the carpark, as it zig-zags up a number of switchbacks along the ridge through black ash and silvertop ash. (The original trail went more directly up the ridge.) Although there’s lot of green re-growth, you can still see the results of the huge 2019/2020 bushfires that burnt large parts of the couth coast forests.
After about a kilometre the track gets a bit rockier and rougher, as it ascends more steeply. Some easy scrambling is required over the larger boulders.
The end of this first section is marked by a large rock platform just off the track. From here there are sweeping views to the east over Morton National Park and the Budawangs. There’s also the first clear view of Pigeon House Mountain / Didthul ahead of us.
The Flat Section
A bit like being in the eye of a storm, the next section is almost completely flat and provides a nice reprieve from the initial climb. The vegetation is quite different, with much more ground cover, including heath, wattles and hakeas.
The Second Climb
Eventually the track starts to ascend again, as it gets close to the base of the “nipple”. It starts quite gradually but gets increasingly steep, climbing up a never-ending series of timber steps. (This section can get muddy after rain, and we needed a bit of careful footwork to avoid getting wet feet.)
The steps end at the base of a set of metal stairs – this last section is an almost vertical “climb” up a series of ladders or staircases.
The metal walkway continues around the base of the rocky Didthul peak.
There’s a nice to the west over the mountains and valleys of the Yadboro State Forest and Budawangs.
The ladders go up a narrow gap in the sheer cliff face of the summit rock. It’s quite an engineering feat, with the multiple ladders and steel platforms providing safe access to the summit.
At the top of the ladders, a steel walkway continues along the eastern side of the summit plateau.
There’s a great view to the west through the gap in the cliffs, where we’ve just come up. (You can still see some of the steel anchor points used to secure the original ladders to the rock face.)
A flat area of rock near the top of the last staircase provides a great vantage point, with sweeping views in most directions.
It’s a great spot to see the almost perfectly symmetrical shadow of Didthul, which points to what I think is Conjola Beach, between Florance Head and Mount Kingiman.
It’s now only a very short distance up to the summit platform; the very last set of steel steps between two boulders are the original ones installed decades ago (the original steel ladders bolted to the cliffs were replaced by the current stairs in 2019). There used to be a trig station on the summit, which is now hidden underneath the large steel and timber platform.
It feels a bit wrong to have such a highly engineered platform at the end of a bushwalk; I much preferred the more natural, rocky summit area. But, you can’t complain about the stunning views from the top.
There’s an almost 360-degree view, which includes the major peaks of the Budawangs and Morton National Park.
To the north-west is Byangee Mountain (or Byangee Walls), with The Castle just behind it. To the right of Byangee Walls is Mount Taiteraing, with its distinctive triple-layered peak.
We stay on the summit admiring the view, and watchng the sun set, as it gradually dips below the Wog Wog mountain range.
We’ve got head torches so there’s no rush to get back down, but we’re keen to tackle the ladder/staircases while there’s still some natural light. Soon after the sun drops out of sight, we head back down the trail.
By the time we reach the informal lookout, just before the last section of the walking track, there’s just a faint red glow on the horizon.
It’s taken us about an hour to get to the top of Pigeon House Mountain (Didthul), and the same time to get back down again – plus an hour on the summit. The distance as measured by my GPS is 7.6km return; a little longer than the official distance of 5km. If you’re reasonably fit you could do this walk in two hours, but you;ll want to allow some tie to explore the summit area.
Getting to Pigeon House Mountain / Didthul
The Pigeon House Mountain / Didthul carpark is about 30min from the Princes Highway on the south coast, with the nearest major town being Ulladulla (which is is about three hours south of Sydney). You can take either Monkey Mountain Road or Wheelbarrow Road off the Princes Highway; both of them take you to Clyde Ridge Road and Yadboro Road. Once you leave the Princes Highway the roads are mostly unsealed. In dry weather they are suitable for any car, although look out for large potholes. If it has been raining an AWD or 4WD vehicle is recommended, as parts of the road can get very muddy and slippery.