The Karens - Significant Shoalhaven Peaks

by Karen Davis

Recently (pre Xmas 2022) I read an article entitled "The Abelists" in the latest edition of Wild magazine. The article was about some bushwalkers who had completed climbing the 158 highest mountains in Tasmania. These mountains are known as the Abels and were named in honour of Dutch explorer Abel Tasman by the guy who put the list together - Bill Wilkinson.

To qualify as an Abel the mountain needs to be 1,100m or more above sea level and have a drop of at least 150m on all sides before higher ground is reached, regardless of extent.

This article got me thinking about listing the significant mountains in the Shoalhaven (for a bit of fun over the festive season), and giving this list of mountains a name, and promoting the list as a challenge for bushwalkers.

Many will know that lists like these exist for the Scottish mountains - the Munros - and the peaks in the Lake District of England - the Wainwrights.

The Munros are named after Sir Hugh Munro, 4th Baronet (1856–1919), who charted and produced the first list of such hills in 1891. Munros are defined as a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000ft (914.4m) that are named in the Scottish Mountaineering Club's official list of Munros. There are 282 Munros and you are a Munro bagger if you climb these. The Munros list is somewhat arbitrary, as there are other peaks over 3,000 feet in Scotland that are not included on the list because they are lower than "nearby" Munros. There is no official definition of "nearby".

The 214 peaks (fells) in the Lake District of England are known as the Wainwrights after the fell-walker, accountant and author Alfred Wainwright. Wainwright wrote a seven volume series of books called the "Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells", and the Wainwrights are those peaks included in the guide.

So, now for the Shoalhaven. I have studied our topographic maps, had long and involved discussions with my husband Brett, and applied great thought to the best definition of a Shoalhaven summit. It was not an easy task to choose between the many mountains, hills, spot-heights, knobs, and high points in the Shoalhaven. The exercise also makes you realise how big the Shoalhaven is and how remote some of these unheard of summits are.

The highest mountain in the Shoalhaven is Mount Budawang at 1,138m. The lowest named mountain is Mount Jervis on the Beecroft Peninsula near Cararma Inlet which rises to the grand height of a little over 20 metres! And there is an unnamed plateau topped by Sassafras Trig that rises to 822 metres. So, should Mt Jervis be included because it has a name, and Sassafras Trig be rejected because it doesn't have a name?

A height limit, or height above its surrounds, excludes some well-known and interesting points. An 800 metre limit eliminates Pigeon House; a 700 metre limit excludes Mt Bushwalker; and even a 300 metre limit would see Durras Mountain absent from the list.

In the end I have decided to do away with limits, rules and definitions - all of which are somewhat arbitrary in themselves - and to make my list totally arbitrary, consisting of high points that I consider are features of the Shoalhaven, and which make interesting walk destinations. Once I started listing the interesting summits I realised I was going to have around 100, so I decided I would make that the cut-off. It also seemed appropriate as the Council initiated and produced a brochure for the "100 Beaches Challenge".

For the name of these feature summits Brett and I brainstormed and rejected names like the "Evans" (an early Shoalhaven explorer that is also the name of two life members of the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers), the "Yuins" (Aboriginal Country name), the "Summits" (boring), the "Wangs" (short for Budawangs but potentially controversial), the "Billys" (after Currockbilly) - and many more - but in the end my decision was based on historical precedent. The Munros are named after Hugh Munro, and the Wainwrights are named after Alfred Wainwright, and if I called them the "Davises" then people might think they were named after Brett, so I am going to name them after myself - the "Karens" - because I can!

Here is my list of the Shoalhaven "Karens" - the Karens. If anyone thinks I have missed a significant summit, or disagrees with any I have selected, I am open to discussion so I can produce the definitive list which will appear on our club’s website with a grid reference or similar for ease of locating them.

Click here to download a KML file of the Karens - the Karens KML file. This file can be opened in Google Earth to show the locations of all 100 peaks.