I’m been looking forward to this Blue Mountains bushwalk led by Bob Selbreight, which plans to tackle the somewhat challenging Lindeman Pass and Copeland Pass below Leura. I’m looking to it slightly less when the weather forecast promises up to 10mm of rain… but Bob assures me the walk is proceeding regardless of the weather.
Leura Cascades to Amphitheatre Track – getting to the Lindeman Pass
True to the forecast, it’s overcast and drizzling lightly as our group of eight bushwalkers sets off from Leura station, entering the bush at Leura Park.
We descend towards Leura Cascades, crossing Leura Falls Creek via the Chelmsford Bridge.
Joining the Amphitheatre Track, there’s a nice view of Bridal Veil Falls from the top, and then again from the bottom of the waterfall.
We continue along the Amphitheatre Track, which follows the bottom of the valley near Leura Falls Creek (the trail passes the informal trail down to the the “Leura Secret Pool”, which is no longer much of a secret!).
We then ascend gently up along the base of the cliffs.
We soon reach the junction with the Federal Pass, where our plan comes slightly unstuck… from here we should be about 200m from the start of the Lindeman Track. But the track that we need is closed, due to maintenance. It’s not supposed to be closed; according to the NPWS Web site, the track is due to to be closed the following day. But there’s people onsite doing work, and they tell us that the bridge across Linda Creek has already been removed, and the track we’d planned to take is most definitely closed.
A detour along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk and Dardenelles Pass
All is not lost, as there is another route was can take.. but it means a rather hefty 5km detour. Having no choice, we head up the Federal Pass / Fern Bower Track, past Lila Falls.
The trail ascends through Fern Bower, a section of the track characterised by tall trees (Sassafras and Coachwoods) that provide shade for ferns and mosses that thrive on the forest floor.
The Federal Pass / Fern Bower Track meets the Prince Henry Cliff Walk at the top, which follows the top of the cliff and would offer spectacular views… on a clear day!
The Prince Henry Cliff Walk meets the Giant Stairway below Echo Point; usually a busy track, with the overcast weather there’s not a single person around today. We descend past the deserted Lady Game Lookout and the Honeymoon Bridge Lookout.
The Grand Staircase continues to descend steeply down the cliff face; it drops about 300m into the Jamison Valley with over 800 steps. Approved in 1916 by the local council, construction soon stopped due to the cost of cutting steps into the sheer cliff face, and it wasn’t until 1932 that the project was re-commenced and the track completed.
At the bottom of the cliff face, the Grand Staircase meets the Dardanelles Pass, which takes us along the base of the cliffs into Leura Forest.
Where the Dardanelles Pass meets the Federal Pass there’s a small picnic shelter, and we stop for a short morning tea break. Although it feels like we’re deep in the wilderness, a shelter shed was constructed here in 1893 with bush picnic tables and seats, and in 1897 Leura Forest was also known as Lady Carrington’s Dining Hall. It became a popular rest spot following the opening of the Federal Pass in November 1900.
It’s only short break, and we’re soon on our way again through the tall forest to reach the bottom of the Fern Bower Track.
Lindeman Pass Track – “The Forgotten Pass”
We’ve finally reached the Lindeman Pass Track, which is just below Linda Falls. A sign warns we’re entering a remote area, with an “unmarked route” where “tracks are rough and hard to find”. Initially, the track is pretty distinct as it follows the base of the cliffs.
One of the historic passes of the Blue Mountains, Lindeman Pass has a fascinating history… The trail was conceived by Charles Lindeman, a member of both the Katoomba and Blue Mountains councils, with the intent of linking the walking tracks of Katoomba with those of Wentworth Falls. Unlike many other routes that follow the bottom of valleys, the walking track would skirt the top of the tallus slope through the Jamison valley, providing unobstructed and unique views of the valley:
Lindeman Pass traverses the ledge formed by erosion of a belt of shale immediately ABOVE the talus. Thus it commands a superb view of the Jamieson and Burragorang Valleys, with Mount Solitary in the foreground, and King’s Tableland and the Narrow Neck as the Eastern and Western limits of vision, respectively.Exploiting the Lindeman Pass, The Blue Mountain Echo, 7 Jan 1927
The Lindeman Pass track was completed by 1910… except for the last hundred metres at the base of Leura Falls. A few years after the completion of the track (except for that last 100m), Alderman Dash moved that the track be completed – but the motion was defeated.
Lindeman Pass has been in existence for the last three or four years, but owing to failure to connect with the much-frequented Leura Falls it is as yet unknown, and unused by the great crowd of touring visitors. A few pounds spent at the foot of Linda Glen in making a path under the second fall at Leura to connect with the Lindeman Pass, would throw open a four mile track of exceptional beauty. It seems strange that the Reserves Committee of the Council has not moved in this direction…
…The chief merit of the Lindeman Pass lies in the fact that it has been cut right at the foot of the perpendicular cliffs, thus keeping above the Valley forests and maintaining a clear view ofthe gorgeous vistas of the lowlands. For scenic beauty and wealth of vegetation it is far and away superior to the Federal Pass. Council is constantly theorizing about opening up new places of interest, yet Lindeman Pass, one of the most magnificent Mountain walks, has been begging for two years for an open door.Lindeman Pass, The Blue Mountain Echo, 5 Sep 1913
A few different reasons have been suggested as to why this last, short section of the track was not completed:
- Council rivalries (between Katoomba and Wentworth Falls councils) over who would fund it
- Anti-german sentiment during WWI v c(Lindeman was removed from his position on Katoomba Council by special legislation passed in the NSW parliament)
- Objections from local Katoomba business owners, who feared they would lose customers (if they arrived in Katoomba and walked to Wentworth Falls).
Whatever the reason, the neglected or “forgotten” track gradually fell into disrepair, as it became overgrown and impacted by land slides and trees falling down.
While numerous vantage points lend themselves to exploitation, possibly no “sight” possesses greater claim to attention than the Lindeman Pass. To most persons this track is but an empty name. They have a vague idea that it lies somewhere in the Jamieson Valley; but few, indeed, could explain that it commences at the Valley of Waters, Wentworth Falls, and runs within a stone’s throw of the second Leura Fall, below the Amphitheatre on, the Federal Pass.
It was about 1910 that Lindeman Pass was opened to traffic, mainly through the efforts of the gentleman after whom it was named. The work was the joint effort of the Trustee of the Wentworth Falls and Gordon Falls Reserves. But it ended at the boundary of Katoomba Municipality, and for some reason the Council refused to complete the few chains in its area, which were necessary to connect it with the Federal Pass.
In August, 1913, Ald. C. L. Dash moved in Council that the section be formed. His resolution was defeated, and the magnificent pass remained a dead-end. Somewhat naturally, it lost its popularity, as few persons care to traverse many miles of mountain track, only to about-face at its conclusion, and wearily retrace their steps.Exploiting the Lindeman Pass, The Blue Mountain Echo, 7 Jan 1927
It would, perhaps, be completely overgrown and forgotten today if not for the advocacy of Frank Walford in the 1920s and 1930s, and then some track reconstruction by Jim Smith and Wilf Hilder in the 1970s and 80s. From the base of Linda Falls to the base of the spectacular Leura Falls, the track is fairly distinct – no doubt as many bushwalkers go as far as the waterfall.
There’s no obvious track from the base of the falls: the route crosses the creek just below a small cascade…
…and then continues up the slope to the cliff line, where the track is obvious again.
There’s not much of the famed views, due to the mist and persistent light rain. The track is fairly easy to follow, with a few fallen trees and the need for some scrambling a reminder that it’s not a maintained trail.
The trail passes along the base of Microstrobos Falls.
Soon after waterfall, the trail “passes BEHIND Gordon Falls, the traveller having the unique experience of viewing the gully through a veil of falling water.“
We stop just past this veil of water near Gordon Falls for lunch, enjoying a bit of shelter at the bse of the tall cliffs. From here a scramble down along Gordon Creek is needed to get a view of entire waterfall.
We soon push on, with the Lindeman Track following the base of the cliffs and passing a couple of smaller waterfalls.
We eventually reach the Copeland Pass – the Lindeman Pass continues another 4km or so to reach the Roberts Pass (which connects to the Vera Falls Track that takes you to Wentworth Falls). But for us, this is where we exit.
The historic Copeland Pass named after William Raeburn Copeland, who found a way up to Sublime Point in 1893. This was about fifteen years before the Lindeman Pass route was established, although it’s likely that Copeland found a route along the base of the cliffs after from descending into the valley at Leura Falls. The pass was “rediscovered” in the 1930s and used extensively by Frank Walford (who co-founded the Katoomba Chamber of Commerce in 1922 and was a keen bushwalker and climber) in the 1940s.
In 1893, Mr Copeland, now associated with the Progress Association, ventured out to the foot of the cliffs at Sublime Point and succeeded in scaling that rather forbidding acclivity. This performance has not been repeated during the 20 years that have elapsed since then. Such exploits are, however, very useful because such places as have been trodden by the foot of man may be made so that the ordinary person may traverse them.Lindeman Pass, The Blue Mountain Echo, 5 Sep 1913
The junction of the Lindeman Pass and Copeland Pass is not signposted, but may be marked with a cairn of rocks and ribbons. There are three routes up to Sublime Point – we’re taking the route up the “nose”, which is considered the easiest ascent or descent of the pass – but is still a somewhat tricky route! It starts as a fairly steep route, which threads through a few large boulders.
The fun soon starts, as we scramble up a narrow cleft between two rocks, with the help of a fixed rope.
A large rock overhang provides a good spot for a quick break – it would normally frame a great view over the Jamison Valley, but today the cliffs on the other side of the valley are mostly obscured by cloud.
Continuing up Copeland Pass, there’s a bit more relatively easy scrambling and few passages through the rocks.
As we get closer to the top of Copeland Pass, there’s another couple of vertical scrambles, both with fixed ropes.
The last scramble takes us to the end of the ascent, and a small rock platform, which would offer spectacular views on a clear day.
The Copeland Pass track continues a little further, but it’s any easy walk up to the paved trail to Sublime Point.
The deserted Sublime Point Lookout marks the end of the Copeland Pass.
Back to Leura via the Grand Cliff Top Track and Pool of Siloam
From here we make our way back to Leura station: although not the most direct route, we avoid the roads by taking an unnamed track that traverses the Sublime Point Nature Reserve, and then the Grand Cliff Top Track which passes the Golf Links Lookout.
From the Golf Links Lookout, the track joins the Pool of Siloam, which drops down to the beautiful Pool of Siloam, and then back up to the Gordon Falls Reserve Picnic Area.
The last section of the walk follows the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, which passes Elysian Rock Lookout and Olympian Rock, and Buttenshaw Bridge which spans a deep and narrow gorge between these two lookouts.
The entire loop walk (starting and finishing at Leura Station) has taken just over seven hours, covering 19.8km – it would have been about 15km without the detour resulting from the closure of the Lila Falls Track.
Getting to the Lindeman Pass and Copeland Pass
This loop walk can be done by public transport (starting and finishing at Leura Station), or if travelling by car I’d start and finish near Leura Cascades. Copeland Pass is very steep, so doing the loop anti-clockwise – ascending Copeland Pass rather then descneding it – is a bit easier.
- The Blue Mountain Echo, 5 Sep 1913 – Lindeman Pass
- The Blue Mountain Echo, 7 Jan 1927 – Exploiting the Lindeman Pass
- The Katoomba Daily, 6 May 1937 – Lacerations and Leeches! Highly exaggerated says hiking party
- The Jamison Project – Lindeman Pass
- The Jamison Project – Copeland Pass
The Lindeman Pass to Copeland Pass route is about half of the entire Lindeman Pass Trail, which continues past the Gladstone Pass (which goes up to the Fairmont Resort & Spa) to join the Roberts Pass.