After the Bushfires – Blue Mountains, Australia.

Narrowneck plateau in Katoomba after the bushfires

In late late 2019-2020, you probably heard and saw dramatic and devastating footage of the bushfires that ravaged Australia. I posted images and footage in this blog post here about these bushfires in my local area of Katoomba, Blue Mountains, Australia. After the fires had gone through I was interested to see the impact on the local landscapes in my area. After the bushfires many of national park areas that were burnt remain closed due to the risk of falling trees etc. I was very interested in hiking out to Mount Solitary, however this trail is still closed at time of writing.

narrowneck plateau, Katoomba

Altered lands

Aftermath of the Katoomba bushfires

Life still remains…

Mount Solitary panoramic view from Narrowneck plateau in Katoomba

Panoramic view looking past Ruined Castle (small outcrop in middle) to Mount Solitary (left) and Lake Burragorang just visible in the rear. Castle Head jutting out from Narrowneck on the right.

Ruined Castle, Katoomba

Looking down to Ruined Castle, where these bushfires originated in 2019. Allot of what is pictured here was burnt in the bushfires.

Lightbleed- Ben Pearse 2020- Web Size 2048

New growth catching the light

I decided on documenting one of my favourite areas, Narrowneck plateau in Katoomba. This area was impacted by the ruined castle bushfire in early December 2019. As I wandered through different areas of narrowneck plateau, it became apparent that certain areas were going to take some time to regenerate compared to others. In the gully of diamond creek, the unmistakable vibrant green regrowth stood out against the dull magenta and black of the surrounding burnt landscape. I couldn’t help but be drawn into this area due to the alarming contrast of colours on display. As diamond creek carves it’s way through the valley, it brought a lifeline, in the form of water, enabling new life to regenerate and grow.

Resilient Lands- Ben Pearse 2020 (2)

Resilient Lands- Narrowneck plateau- March 2020

Narrowneck plateau in Katoomba after the bushfires

Return to Green- Diamond creek pathway

 

Blue Mountains fire regrowth

Narrowneck plateau, Katoomba, Blue Mountains.

After the bushfires 2020

Green returns to the landscape

Over the next few months I would see more regrowth appear across the burnt fireground. In the steep gullies and the tops of ridgelines where the fires burnt very hot and intense, it will take additional time for the regeneration to gather momentum. The flora and fauna that grow, dwell and cling to the sandstone formation that is Narrowneck plateau are resilient and should thrive once again in the years to come.

Lizard emerges after the bushfires

Wildlife returns

Regrowth after the bushfires, Blue Mountains

New buds emerge…

New growth

New growth after the fires

Green returns- Ben Pearse 2020 copy

View from Narrowneck into megalong valley

Kangaroo tails emerge after bushfires in Blue Mountains 2020

Emergence- Kangaroo tails (Xanthorrhoea) catching the last light of the day…

Looking west over megalong valley on sunset

Looking west from Narrowneck plateau over megalong valley on sunset

New Life- web 2048

Regeneration- New growth returns after the fires…

Thanks for looking,

Cheers Ben

Visit Ben’s website here- Ben Pearse Photography

 

Blue Mountains Snowfall-August-2019

It’s always nice to wake up to snow covering the ground in my hometown of Katoomba, Blue Mountains, Australia. Over the last decade I’ve tried to capture a snowfall that has settled on the iconic three sisters in Katoomba. I’ve only seen an old postcard of snow that has properly settled on these sandstone ladies from the 1970’s. I thought this time I might be in luck as the snow really starting coming down on sunrise, however it just wasn’t quite enough. So the quest continues, perhaps 2020 will be the year I get the photo I’m seeking…

Snowfall in the Blue Mountains

Snow on the Mountains

Snowfall in the Blue Mountains- Three Sisters

Sunrise and Snow

Snowfall over Three sisters- August 2019

Snowfall over Three sisters- August 2019

Ben Pearse Photography

Blue Mountains Snowfall- Ben Pearse 2019

Visit Ben’s Website here: Ben Pearse Photography

Bushfires in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia, 2019- 2020- New Blog!

In late November 2019 the Blue Mountains in NSW Australia would see the start of a  unprecedented bushfire season that would destroy approximately 80% of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. Drought conditions across Australia in the leadup to the fire season left the soil with very little moisture which helped fuel hundreds of bushfires across the nation. By the end of the fire season, 34 people would tragically lose their lives and over 46 million acres (186,000 square kilometres) of land would be burnt. Hundreds of millions of mammals, reptiles and birds would perish during the fires…

I first took note of a very small bushfire that was burning around the Ruined Castle on 27th November 2019 in the jamison valley in Katoomba, NSW. Over the course of the next few days this fire would spread onto the Narrowneck plateau and eventually into the megalong valley. Most of the images I captured are from the Ruined Castle bushfire.

Ruined Castle Bushfire- Ben Pearse 2019

The Beginning-Ruined Castle Bushfire- November 27th 2019

Fire Season- Ben Pearse 2019- web 2048

Small puff of smoke near ruined castle

Begrimed- Ben Pearse 2019

Begrimed- Ben Pearse 2019

Thick dust laden smoke starts to choke the air on sunset in Katoomba. The setting sun takes on an eerie feeling, a forewarning perhaps of troubling times to come…

Sunfire- web 2048

Eerie sunsets

On December 1st, 2019, the Ruined Castle bushfire flares up and races up the sheer sandstone cliffs on the Narrowneck plateau in Katoomba. Despite a strong prevailing breeze against it, the fire raged effortlessly up and down the sheer vertical walls and pushed closer towards the township of Katoomba. Precision water bombing from the RFS helicopter slowed the fire spread before nightfall. RFS ground crews worked throughout the night to control the blaze along the narrowneck plateau.

Narrowneck plateau fire- web 2048

Fire rages on the narrowneck plateau cliffline

Plateau on Fire- Ben Pearse 2019- web 2048

Fire engulfs the treeline on narrowneck plateau

Narrowneck Fire- Ruined Castle Bushfire 2019- web 2048

Thick plumes of smoke choke the air

Raging- Ben Pearse 2019- Web Size 2048

Fire climbs up and down the sheer sandstone walls in minutes

Ruined Castle 1- Web Size

Dry conditions fuel the fires- December 1st 2019

At night concerned local residents would view the Ruined castle bushfire from Echo point lookout. At night you could clearly see the location of the fire as the flames would become visible in the darker conditions.

 

Ruined Castle fire- Ben Pearse 2019- web 2048

Night view of the ruined castle fire from echo point lookout

Fireline- Ruined Castle Bushfire 2019-web 2048

Line of fire in the jamison valley, Katoomba, Blue Mountains, Australia

fire watchers web size

Echo point providing a great viewing platform for the ruined castle bushfire

Jamison valley fire- Web 2048

A wall of flames at night in the jamison valley, Blue Mountains.

Jamison fire- Ruined Castle Bushfire- web 2048

Nightfire- Katoomba, Blue Mountains, Australia- December 3rd-2019.

Jamison valley- Ruined Castle Bushire 2019- web 2048

Fire burns up into Pitts Amphitheatre, Katoomba, NSW.

Mount Solitary at night- web 2048

Fire burns a path onto Mount Solitary. In the background the Kowmung river fire rages. This fire would go on to join with the the Green Wattle creek fire.

Flaring up- Ruined Castle bushfire 2019 web 2048

Ruined Castle fire flares up in gusty dry conditions- December 10th 2019. Planes and helicopters water bomb from above and bring the fire back under control.

Castle Fire- Ben Pearse 2019 - web 2048

Fire returns and burns in behind the iconic Ruined Castle sandstone formations. This was near the point where the fire originated 2 weeks ago.

Twilight glow- Ben Pearse 2019- web 2048

A small flareup on narrowneck plateau as misty conditions permeate the night…

A backburn that was implemented to stop the spread of the massive Gospers Mountains fire, broke containment lines and entered the grose valley. The grose valley fire produced a huge pyrocumulus fire cloud that dominated the skyline…The Gospers Mountains fire was unstoppable and burnt over 1.2 million acres, becoming the largest forest fire in Australian history.

Pyrocumulus Cloud- Ben Pearse 2019

Pyrocumulus Cloud- Grose valley fire 2019

Gospers Breath- Ben Pearse 2019

Gospers Breath- Grose valley fire 2019

Note: I would like to personally thank all the incredible and tireless work that the Emergency workers do across Australia each fire season. Thankyou!

Cheers for looking, Ben.

View Ben’s Website here: Ben Pearse Photography

 

 

 

 

Mount Solitary walk- Blue Mountains

Looking back- Ben Pearse 2016

Looking back on Katoomba from Mt Solitary ridge

Situated in the world heritage listed Blue Mountains, Australia lies the majestic Mount Solitary. At 950 metres above sea level Mount Solitary demands attention amongst it’s nearest landscapes rivals such as the iconic three sisters located nearby. The local indigenous people called the mountain Korowal meaning “the strong one”. Mount Solitary is located in the jamison valley and is most easily accessed via the mountain township of Katoomba.

Over the years Mount Solitary has been a sought after destination for many experienced walkers, hikers, runners and overnight campers as they seek the majestic and breathtaking views the mountain offers up as you labour up it’s steep eucalyptus lined ridges. From it’s summit you are offered a stunning view from melville’s lookout near chinaman’s gap that takes in lake burragorang and the wild dog mountains.

In recent times the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) have installed pit toilets, shelter and rainwater tanks for the increased traffic flow to Ruined Castle ,which you pass along the way enroute to Mount Solitary. Though the rain tanks may supply water year round, yet it’s vital you carry a good supply of water as it may not be available in the dry periods atop Mount Solitary. Overnight campers can stay in chinaman’s gap or nearby areas with suitable tents and sleeping equipment.

Below is a series of pictures taken by Ben Pearse who is a commercial photographer living and working in Katoomba, Blue Mountains, Australia. These images document the popular walking route from the Golden Stairs to atop Mount Solitary. The distance from the beginning of the Golden stairs to the Chinaman’s Gap is approximately 7.7km. (please read additional notes below images on hiking severity)

I hope these images help others enjoy this beautiful section of the Blue Mountains, Australia.

cheers Ben

All images are copyright to Ben Pearse Photography 2016

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Golden stairs to Mount Solitary

three sisters view

three sisters view

Golden stairs decent- april 2016- 2048

Golden stair pathway

angophora trees

Angophora trees

Signs to Solitary- april 2016- 2048

Signposts to Mt Solitary at base of Golden Stairs

Entering the forest- april 2016- 2048

Entering the forest

Dappled light- 2048

Dappled forest light

Forest views- april 2016

Forest views

Forest greens- april 2016- 2048

Forest greens

Sunshine in greenery- april 2016

Sunshine and greens

Sun through the trees- april 2016- 2048

Sunshine through the trees

Trees amongst the ferns- april 2016- 2048

Trees amongst the ferns

cliff lined views- april 2016- 2048

Cliff lined views

Track between ferns- 2048

Track through the ferns

Forest in sunlight- april 2016- 2048

Forest in sunlight

Sea of ferns- 2048

Sea of ferns

Under a fern canopy- april 2016- 2048

Under a fern canopy

Lush forests- april 2016- 2048

Lush forests

Bush toilets- april 2016- 2048

Bush toilets

Turnoff to ruined castle- 2048

Turnoff to Ruined Castle

Warning signs to heed- april 2016

Warning signs to take note

Camping site- 2048

Campsites and rest spots

Water and shelter stop- 2048

Water and shelter

Rain tanks and shelter- april 2016- 2048

Rain tanks and shelter

Last pit toilet- april 2048

Last pit toilet stop

Rainwater tanks- april 2016- 2048

Rain tanks can provide water if it’s available

Raintank- april 2016- 2048

One of two rain tanks available

Beautiful angophora trees- 2048

Beautiful angophora trees

The uphill climb begins- april 2016- 2048

The uphill climb begins

Ruined castle views- april 2016- 2048

Ruined Castle views

Angophora forest- april 2016- 2048

Angophora forest

Sunlight over angophora- april 2016- 2048

Sunlight over Angophora tree

Angophora canopy- 2048

Angophora canopy

The track steepens- april 2016- 2048

The path gets steeper

First steep scrample

First steep scramble

Looking to Kings Tablands

Looking to Kings Tablelands

Katoomba cliffline views

Katoomba cliffline views

The chimney climb

The chimney climb

The second knoll climb looms above

The second knoll climb looms above

Looking back across the jamison valley to Katoomba

Looking back across the jamison valley to Katoomba

Looking back panoramic views

Looking back panoramic views

Narrowneck plateau views

Narrowneck plateau views

Summit views...still a way to go.

Summit views…still a way to go

Finding shady spot on the climb

Finding a shady spot on the climb

Summit glory

Summit glory

Chinamans gap- Mount Solitary

Chinaman’s gap- Mount Solitary

Chinaman's gap eucalyptus trees

Chinaman’s gap eucalyptus trees

Chinamans Cave- Mount Solitary

Chinaman’s Cave- Mount Solitary

 

Chinaman's gap in the mist

Chinaman’s gap in the mist

Morning light

Morning light

Melville's lookout- Mount Solitary

Melville’s lookout- Mount Solitary

Zooming in on Lake Burragorang

Zooming in on Lake Burragorang

View over Lake Burragorang

View over Lake Burragorang

Panoramic view from Melville's lookout

Panoramic view from Melville’s lookout

Rain over Lake Burragorang

Rain over Lake Burragorang

Tales around the campfire

Tales around the campfire…

Katoomba panoramic view

Katoomba panoramic view- Mount Solitary on the left. The hike starts from right, underneath narrowneck plateau, and continues left past and below ruined castle and finally up the steep visible ridgeline onto Mount Solitary.

 

Thanks for looking, cheers Ben

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Note: The hike to Mount Solitary is not suitable for inexperienced hikers and campers. The long steep ridge path through sections of sandstone boulders can prove exhaustive and dangerous for those whose fitness is not at a suitable level.

Note: The author takes no responsibility for any incorrect information in this blog post. All person/s who are undertaking a walk/hike or camping trip to Mount Solitary should research/contact NPWS and other local government agencies and/or official sites prior to leaving to ensure their own safety. Please stay safe and monitor bushfire warnings when hiking and camping and be sure to take out your rubbish with you so other can enjoy these areas too.