Berowra Waters Scramble

Fog over the Hawkesbury River. Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.

Last summer, my cousins and I planned a camping trip to Mt Kosciuszko, as we do every few summers.  Lightning storms were forecasted and the trip had to be relocated as one of our friends had a metal plate in his arm.  We decided to change our camping location to Wolgan Valley, closer to home and near the Glow Worm Tunnel Walk.  Twenty four hours before the trip, bushfires erupted in that area of the Blue Mountains.  Running out of options and time, texting alternative tracks close to midnight, we settled on the Berowra to Cowan section of the  Great North Walk, the section frequented by Seven Summit enthusiasts and ultra marathon runners.

Thanks for introducing me to the Great North Walk Mario!

I thought that the boulders along the Berowra Waters section of the walk were the perfect free rock climbing playground for my five year old daughter so I shortened the route from my initial trip with my cousins, making the walk as kid and parent friendly as possible.  By autumn, me, my daughter, and my friend Mia, set off on our inaugural Girls Only Berowra Waters Scramble. Our itinerary for our weekender  was simple:

Day 1:

  • Lunch at Berowra Waters Fish Cafe
  • Catch the ferry and walk 3.2 km up to Ridge Top Camp Ground
  • Set up camp, have dinner, sleep

Day 2:

  • Breakfast at the campsite
  • Walk back down 3.2 km to Berowra Waters
  • Lunch at A Chef Secrets
  • Catch the ferry and drive home

Cafe start and cafe finish. Almost glamping, but not quite as we carried our own tent, food, water, Jetboil, and Uno cards. That’s all the essentials right?

Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
After lunch, we caught the ferry then walked to the end of Kirkpatrick Way. Keeping the water to our left, we followed a flat dirt track to the track entrance marked by some steep metal steps.

“This is the worst day of my life,” Miss 5 complained with each step up. I had the same thoughts filled with expletives which I kept to myself.

Mia, with two out of the seven “Summits” and plenty more summits not on the list under her belt, led the way with ease, patience, and modesty as only a genuine mountaineer bestfriend can.

Runners made themselves known to our trio, soft ploddings on the ground carried by even puffs, getting louder and louder, culminating to friendly breathless hellos and encouragement for my daughter as they neared then disappeared. We were in no hurry as we still had a good five hours of the autumn sun ahead of us.

“I don’t want to wee or poo on the ground. I already went at the cafe.”; “Are there other people at the campsite? What if it’s just us?”; and “When are we going to play Uno? You promised!!!” went on loop until…

Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
The steps finally led to boulders and my daughter was ecstatic. Her litany of reasons why this was the worst day of her life was replaced by “This is the best day ever.”

Section of the Great North Track, Berowra Waters
Short break for drinks and Uno at Berowra Waters view point.

The short yet drastically steep ascent was painful, but we were rewarded with instant views of the Hawkesbury River and the satisfying knowledge that we covered a lot of ground in just a few steep steps and boulder-hugging scrambles. Mia and I kept going, slow and steady, catching up on life updates and pondering existential questions that have moved us since we last caught up a few months prior. Long breaks between boulder after boulder, we encouraged and challenged Miss 5, mindful that we were opening new possibilities to our brave yet inexperienced 5-year-old.

Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
“This is easy peasy,” she said before getting boosted from below and pulled up from the top.

Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
“I don’t think you’ll fit,” Miss 5 gravely assessed when it was my turn.

Section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
There were gentle undulations just before and right after Roland’s bench. Perfect places to catch breath and to calm down screaming legs.

We arrived at the campsite at 3 pm, pleasantly surprised with our speed and at a loss on what to do  with the remaining three hours of daylight. With only cup noodles and marshmallows to prepare, we settled on gathering firewood for our campfire then setting up our tent.

Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
“I don’t have the instructions,” I announced and was met with Mia’s “These days tents are intuitive to build. Green pole goes to green part, black pole to black then you work it out from there.”

Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
Intuitive indeed and built in 10 minutes. Thank you to the Morins for lending us your Lansan Ultralight Kathmandu tent!

At 4 pm, light softening to afternoon yellow, repeated clicks on the Jetboil yielded no flame.  The firewood and kindling set up for maximum oxygen penetration sat neatly stacked, lacking the matches or a lighter to start the fire! As I questioned Mia about Jetboil fuel levels, suggested the travesty of having dry noodles and uncooked marshmallows for dinner, and contemplated accosting passing walkers for a lighter, Mia refused to give up. She worked out, with Google, that slight adjustments needed to be made to the igniter. A few minutes of face-twisting metal bending and we welcomed whooshing Jetboil flames. Another few more minutes and the Jetboil flames were replicated on our campfire.

Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
Mia tended the fire.

Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
Miss 5 was in charge of making hot chocolate.

Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
I readied our sleeping gear in the tent and scouted for suitable spots for nocturnal wees.

That night, Mia and I continued catching up, while Miss 5 slept, oblivious to our musings. As we talked, orange light glowed outside of our tent – embers reignited to slowly burn and crackle for a few more hours.   After all talk seized, I lay content taking stock of almost two decades of friendship with Mia marked by new endeavors, adventures, and dilemmas dissected, analysed, supported, debated, celebrated, or commiserated in phone calls, texts, and long catch-ups.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Miss 5 declared bright-eyed the next day which was followed by Mia’s recounting of her dreams from the previous night. I tossed and turned, cold and sleepless, the whole night, but I snored apparently so I must have been asleep like Miss 5.

Ridge Top Campground, Great North Walk.
A quick breakfast of oats and camp was packed up quicker than it was set up.

As we retraced our steps back down to Berowra Waters, the steep scrambling from  the day before turned to vertical drops. As a parent, I held my breath a few times ready to hold on to Miss 5’s hands or any available body part as she descended. But I couldn’t and I didn’t, knowing first hand how empowering it is to find your own footholds and committing to your own line, in life, and in rock climbing. Mia was also conveniently leading, sharing my parenting style, and ready to catch and cushion any falls of which there was only one – at a flat section with loose gravel.

This is a hard track for adults and for kids alike, but with preparation and patience, it is worth the weekend scramble. I thought to bring Miss  5 back in summer to immerse her in cicada song, but we ended up coming back two months later in winter when work camping plans fell through. Minus Mia who was baking in the warmth of Singapore, this time Miss 5 and I made sure to pack not one, but two boxes of matches.

Berowra Waters view point, section of the Great North Walk, Berowra Waters.
Thanks Auntie Mia, you rock!

Want to give this track a try? Check out the the Berowra Waters to Cowan track notes prepared by Wildwalks by clicking here. We followed the track notes from The Fish Cafe to Ridge Top Campground.


6.4 km return




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