Route: Passes Of Narrow Neck

Submitted by JNewman on Sun, 11/14/2021 - 06:29pm
New South Wales, AU
50 km
Vertical Gain
3,800 m

Jason Trimmer (Note - Minimum 50K / 3,800M vertical)


Narrow Neck is an ancient plateau in the Blue Mountains, characterised by sandstone cliffs towering above the valleys below. It narrows to a few metres wide in places. Although the cliffs look impenetrable from afar, there is a maze of ledges, chutes and scrambles which can be navigated to crest the cliffs. Most if not all of these routes were pioneered by Gundungurra, Dharug and possibly Darkinjung people. They were later inherited or (re)discovered by miners and bushwalkers. This fascinating history is documented in two books, Narrow Neck and the Birth of Katoomba by Jim Barrett, and The Passes of Narrow Neck by Keats and Fox.

This route is only for experienced scramblers who understand the risks, and who have rehearsed every metre in advance. Only two of these passes are maintained by National Parks - any other ropes, spikes, chains or ladders you encounter could snap. You need to be competent with your own ropes / harness. Understand how your judgement and reflexes are affected by fatigue before attempting this.

The Route
The challenge is to complete each pass, in any sequence you choose, then return to your start point.
It's not necessary to descend as far as the valley floor after each pass, just to clear all significant hurdles through the cliff line.
Here are the passes included in the challenge, listed clockwise starting at North, with a brief description of each crux:

  1. Dog Face Gully / Landslide Gully (8m chimney climb)
  2. Golden Stairs
  3. Walls Pass (10m of chains on a cliff)
  4. Wallaby Track
  5. Tarro's Ladder (spikes up a cliff, maintained by National Parks)
  6. Dunphy's Pass
  7. Harmil Ledge (short climb between the ledge and the talus)
  8. Manson's Ladders / Carlon Head (multiple exposed cliffs in succession with spikes and chains)
  9. Black Billy Head (short abseil or exposed climb - harness)
  10. Coachwood Pass / Mitchell's Creek Pass (tree with spikes in it)
  11. Rock Pile Pass (three steep scrambles, two of which can be slippery)*
  12. Redledge pass
  13. Diamond Head pass (a series of short steep scrambles, unsafe unless navigation is spot on)
  14. Dixon's Ladders (abandoned ladders - abseil)

Rennie's Tunnel is excluded from the list because it could cave in.
*Disregard the description in Keats/Fox's book, they made a navigation error, and abseiled in an area too dangerous to scramble.

GPS Track
Passes.kml2.11 KB


John Newman, Keith Jebb Multi-sport 16h 40m 46s


User Picture
Profile picture for user JNewman

If anyone is considering the route:
Here's a GPX with two adjustments to our line - that should knock off an hour or two.
A friend asked me a few questions about the route, which I've answered in a google doc here.
I also talked about the route with Buzz on the podcast.