This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010
Click here to go to race homepage
by Ross Yates
The Blue Labyrinth run on Saturday 1st Dec, 2001 was my inaugural FatAss run. I arrived at Woodford just before 7am wondering whether I was actually up to it or not, but after chatting with Lawrence and Kevin, I relaxed because of the casual atmosphere. Kevin took a photo and fired his starter's pistol and we all set off. I chatted with Lawrence for a while but felt the urge to pee and that was the last I saw of any runners except David. I ran on until I came to Murphys Glen and wandered around there for a while searching several tracks, hitting deadends and asking campers if they'd seen any runners. I approached one tent and a bevy of sultry Scandinavian female sleepyheads emerged. I was very tempted to stay and have tea with them.
But, I was suddenly reminded of my mission and traced my steps back up a very steep hill to the turn off to Bedford Creek. (I wasted at least half an hour during the Murphys Glen diversion). I ran down to Bedford Creek and was reminded of the long steep hills that abound in the Blue Mountains. I decided to turn left (correct) and ran on, passing a neat little collection of lined up beer bottles and one plastic container.
I ran on, and because I had never been on this track I kept wandering whether it was the correct track, because I had already got lost once. I looked at the sun and decided that it must be correct, anyway. And as I ran on and on, it was getting too late to turn back. The Anderson fire trail is a lovely trail to run, but the sun was beating down and I don't like running under the hot sun for too long, so I walked, ran, walked. I occasionally looked behind me because I knew David Pettit would be overtaking me on his MTB soon.
After 3 hours or so I came to a T junction and thought this must be Kings Tableland Road, but I couldn't find the water dump and saw some arrows heading round to the left, so instinct took hold and I headed off to where the arrows pointed. After a few hundred metres and feeling a bit uneasy, I heard the voice of Salvation and Mr Pettit caught me up on his bike and assured me I was headed in the right direction. We talked for a while then he rode off and left me to a boring slog up to QVH.
I arrived there about 11.20am and sat down on Sunset Rock overlooking the Jamieson Valley to eat my cut lunch and soy cake. A group of babbling tourists invaded my tranquility and proceeded to photograph each other against the backdrop of Mount Solitary. I told them that if they waited a few hours they could photograph me at a distance on the top of the same mountain.
I set off again and topped up my water bottles at the locked gate, read a note for Bill who had preceded me and made a conscious decision to complete the run to Katoomba. At that point I could easily have walked to Wentworth Falls and caught the train back home to Katoomba, but having come this far I decided it was time to test my endurance. I also actually almost gave up when I got lost down in Murphys Glen. That was demoralizing…except for the Scandinavians, of course. Was this my second test???? I'd never run/walked this far in my whole life.
So, on I ran down into the Jamieson valley keeping a close watch on my knees which don't like steep hard descents. At the bottom, just before plunging into the single bush track descent to Jamieson creek, I arranged some sticks in the form of K + L and some arrows, just in case Kevin and Lawrence didn't know the way! I don't know if they noticed them, they were probably too tired. It was also round about here that Bill turned right to Leura forest and David turned left to Blackheath.
I made as much noise as I could stumbling down that track because I didn't want to surprise any tiger snakes. At the creek I met some more backpackers who were romping in the water…and did I want to join them? Yes – because I was so, so hot. Next came my biggest challenge.
I believe it took me two hours to ascend the east face of Mount Solitary. It was hot, steep and I drank a lot of water. I was on my hands and knees in places and feeling like an old man, driving myself up for a hundred strides and then lying down to gain some strength. It was a killer! And I vowed never to do anything so silly again. One thing I learned – fly repellant is important on Mt Solitary. One obnoxious little fly bugger harassed me all the way up to the top of Solitary. I told him that his home was down by the creek and he'd never find his way back again, but he kept on buzzing around. I hope his ears popped.
On top of Mt Solitary is always beautiful with such wonderful views. I traversed its roller coaster prickly length and became engaged in several discussions with more backpackers about water, purity and the whereabouts of good camping spots. One set of troopers told me they had seen a couple of runners about 45 minutes before (this was about 3.30pm). I guessed they would be Kevin and Lawrence.
I reached the end of Solitary and saw my home and destination in sight, but I was hurting. Everything was aching and I had long since stopped running. The knife-edge at the west end of Solitary always gives you a good upper body workout. And in a sense gives your legs a rest, though it didn't really feel that way. My water was running out but I rationed it carefully and strode out on to the Federal Pass and met more groups of clean, unweary, healthy fully equipped eager backpackers. And (I thought to myself) Mt Solitary isn't going to be very solitary tonight. It'll be more like a tribal get together up there tonight.
I drank my last drop of water at the bottom of the Golden Staircase and wished that I were a camel. From then on (I knew I'd missed the last Scenic Railway train) all I could think of was cold water, coke and ice cream. All three of those items were waiting for me at the top of Thurber Steps. The stretch of forest under the shade of Narrowneck is cool and dark often from mid afternoon, so I didn't get too warm as I walked toward the turning on to the landslide.
At the landslide, the radiant heat of the afternoon sun blasted my aching body and sapped more moisture and I could feel my parched lips wrapping themselves around an icy, icy ice cream. Drama over and I reached the bottom of the Thurber steps. My ascent here was slow, but a doddle compared to the torture of Solitary. I was so slow, I even let a tourist casually overtake me, an unbelievable event! At the top of Thurber I clocked 6.35pm. Adjust 30 minutes for my initial Glen diversion, gives 6.05pm, exactly 11 hours. I couldn't believe it, I'd done it.