Back to Katoomba to Mittagong
Separate accounts of Katoomba-Mittagong-21st June 2008
Run Report Jan Herman
Jan's photos are here.
Thanks everyone for a great outing, especially Innes for putting it on, Andrew for another load of choc coffee beans, and John and Steve for offering support. Special thanks to Paul - your kind offering of Coke in the middle of the firetrail lifted my body and spirit Sunday morning - what a nice surprise!
Congratulations to Paul and Matt on their great run a few weeks back, and what an awesome run by Phil. Saw your 6:41pm entry in the Beloon Pass book and thought you'd have a cracker of a run. Had a bit of a chuckle to be called Carmen, though.
For me the usual long and lonely day at the office. Glorious early morning views from Narrowneck, deafening Bellbirds on the way down to the Coxs, apart from the biting wind a magnificent winter morning. New fancy waterboard signs everywhere. Picked up the ridge to Cookem, was about a third of the way up when I heard voices from the other sidee of the valley. Thought they were the MTBers and gave them a cooee, got one back and went back to work. Great views back to the Wild Dogs and Narrowneck and to Grizzled Dog Ridge, the one onto which I mistakenly took Paul Every in the mist during our 2005 M2K epic. Picked up Cedar Road, could for the life of me see only one set of footprints. At New Yards people told me one runner had been through. Wonderful sunny morning along Scotts Main Range, nice views to the Blue Breaks and to the Cloudmaker massif. Wind still fierce. Past the water holes, finally Mt Feld. Night fell as I passed Butchers Creek. At the Byrnes Gap house, two trucks approached, John and the Yerranderie caretaker. They were picking up MTBers "40 km back". Only Phil ahead of me, Innes and Terry must have gotten lost going up Cookem. 5km on Yerranderie, with Steve mending a beautiful fire. Had a short stop and a bit of John's nice chicken stew. Steve made me a cuppa (thanks mate!), large selection of drop bags, but mine was missing. Bummer, had been looking forward to my beer. A bit more seriously, had not that much food left because the plan was to rely on the drop bag stuff for the second half. Left at 6:30pm. Very happy with my progress.
Down Sheepwalk Drive, towards the Wollondilly and the Nattai Walls. Great views in the light of a generous moon. Never saw the Wollondilly flowing that well, last time we didn't even get our feet wet, this time they were sodden and cold. On to another shiny Waterboard sign to Beloon Pass, turned onto the old farm road, took the right fork, up to the bend, crossed the gully. This should be the ridge. Could just see the pass way above. Followed the ridge for a bit, saw the terrain rise to the right. Went there, across a minor gully, onto a better defined ridge. Was now slightly to the right of the pass. Had been down from the pass twice but never up from the river, couldn't remember whether the ridge was slightly north or south of the pass. Pushed east on the ridge, it became very steep and overgrown. No more views of the pass, too steep, quite dark. Was rock clambering now. Wouldn't want to go down from here. Looked across the very deep gully to the ridge to the north. Was almost certain by now I was on the wrong one. Only way was up, though. More dense growth on insanely steep slopes. At least something to grab. Picked my way very slowly and carefully, if I dropped here I'd be in the sh##s. Eventually hit the cliffs. Still no views of the pass. Started to traverse north. Hairy affair. More dense vegetation, cliffs everywhere. Finally, saw the other ridge ahead and the pass above. Where would I be without the moon. Still more pulling up on tufts of grass and bits of rock. Finally, step features. Felt like the autobahn. Made the pass at half past midnight, greatly relieved. Wind funneling through the pass. Quick entry in the book, thought I knew the way from here down to Vineyard Flat pretty well. Was in for a bit of a shock. Everything massively overgrown. Fallen trees. Vines everywhere. Couldn't see where I was stepping. Reminded me of a Lake Macquarie Rogaine years ago. Took ages to get to the creek bed and the waterfall. Some kind soul had cut a few spots. Then blue markers appeared, looked quite new. Whoever placed them will go to bushwalker's heaven. Going still very slow. Eventually got to Vineyard Flat. Shins completely shredded by now. Through the river for the first time. Nattai Firetrail very overgrown. Three more crossings, the last one near Middle Flat quite deep because of fallen trees damming the river. Finally hit the slopes out of the valley, enjoyed the uphill but started to get quite sleepy. Thought of Phil and wondered whether he had finished by now. Arrived at the gate listening to the Holland-Russia Euro broadcast. Dawn came, and then there was water, Coke and chips neatly lined up in the middle of the fire trail. "Hang in there! Gift from Anklestrapper" said the labels. What a legend! Took some Coke, went on to Wattle Ridge. Another nice sunny morning. Familiar landmarks now. Shooting range. Power lines. Hilltop. Feet now quite sore. The wretched narrow road between Hilltop and Colo Vale. Heaps of traffic. What high petrol prices? Left and to the freeway. Not far now. New developments on the outskirts of Mittagong, more retail dens for people to buy stuff they probably don't need. Garden Centres, Bunnings. The golf course. The caravan park where I had stayed with Lawrence before our desperate scramble down the Nattai River valley in 2004's Freeze Dried Ass and with Paul before the 2005 M2K. Finally, Mittagong station. 3 minutes past noon. What a slow second half... Just as the train approached, two of the MTBers showed up. Apparently, Innes and Terry were riding their bikes to Mittagong after spending the night at Yerranderie, and yes, they lost their way around Mt Cookem. The two ran off to get tickets, but I didn't see them again. Into the train, onto a seat. Eyes closed. Nice.
A magnificent course, although a bit tedious at the end. Those who unfortunately missed out this time might be interested in the long-planned Southern Blue Mountain Traverse aka M2K2K which I'm tentatively scheduling for either the last weekend of September ot the first weekend of October. Mittagong - Beloon Pass - Yerranderie - Mt Feld - Kowmung River - Kanangra Walls - Mt Cloudmaker - Coxs River - Mt Yellow Dog - Narrowneck - Katoomba. All the fun of K2M/M2K without Scotts Main Range but with some extra entertainment along the Kanangra-to-Katoomba course. Lots of shorter options.
Some photos are here.
Thanks everyone for a great weekend. Let's do this again sometime.
Run Report Phil Whitten
Katoomba - to - Mittagong
I have wanted to do this trip for more than 10 years - although it was not until this year that I would have considered trying to run it.
The seed was sown by Terry, who placed the idea on Coolrunning. However, as the weekend approached, family and work commitments looked like they had killed the chance to run, which was a relief - as that meant I had a good reason not to go and did not have to think seriously about it. That all started to change on the Sunday prior to last weekend. I was driving home with some mates from the Paddy Pallin Rogaine, and one of them was starting to apply some positive pressure. He knew that I wanted to try this run, and had offered to drive me to Katoomba on Saturday morning - thanks a lot Pawel!! Then, on Wednesday, my boss phoned me and suggested that the work that had been scheduled for Saturday could be done on Thursday night - long day Friday (he had imposed a new deadline for other reasons). All of a sudden I was free - well I still had to work on Sunday afternoon but it appeared feasible.
Saturday was an early start, we arrived in Katooma at 6:40. It was great to meet Terry, Innes, Jan, Beaver and a couple of the mountain bikers. I was disappointed that Milov could not make it - as he was the only one of the proposed runners that I have previously met. It was intimidating meeting Jan - he has a mountain goat build, with an intensity in his eyes like Andrew Kromar.
We all set off at 7, but none of us except Jan knew the way through Katoomba. I ran ahead as I was cold and not warming up. I met Pawel on the dirt road leading out to Narrowneck, and we ran out to the end together - stopping several times to apply chafing cream. At the end of Narrowneck I showed Pawel the many peaks, highlighting Yerranderrie peak which was a bloody long way away, and only the half way point for this run. After a break enjoying the views, I was a bit surprised to be alone, but thought I would trot off and let the others catch me - I know that long runs I have previously tried I have died in the arse, and so thought it was inevitable that I would be joined soon.
Down the ladders and past Medlow gap - I had a surreal and very special moment on the fire trail - ahead of me was what I think was a Dingo - certainly not a fox, and had the same shape and color as the dingos I have scene in Central Australia - the only puzzling feature was that it appeared more hairy than other dingoes I have scene. I slowed to a walk and watched this wild dog for a couple of minutes - the dog took a while to realize that I was present before it darted off into the forest. What better way to enter the Wild Dog Mountains?
The road down to the Cox's was very pretty - there was a chorus from the lyre birds and a scattering of Blue gums - a sort of place that bushwalkers don't often see as their routes tend to follow ridges. The walk up Mt. Cookem has fantastic views - it is a good place to slow down and take it all in. Back on firetrail, I ran out of water about 20 minutes prior to New Yards - however the weather was perfect for running, and dehydration was not a huge concern with the cool temperature. I had a 25 minute break at New Yards, chatted to a fellow fixing an electrical circuit whom offered a cup of tea. I declined and set off on the slog to Yerranderie.
The slog from New Yards to Yerranderie was for me the most mentally draining part of the run. The fire trail is hard packed, wide and never ending. On top of this there are not a lot of views. Just before Byrnes gap, I filled up with water from the huts - this water had a strong tenon taste that took a few mouth fulls to get used too.
Arriving at Yerranderie is strange - you keep think that you are almost there, and then when you do arrive it is a surprise. It was awesome to have John drive into Yerranderie. Having such support gives you the confidence to try these runs - it is good to know that there is an option to bail if necessary. I ate too much at Yerranderie, and after filling up my water again I headed off towards Balloon Pass. Whenever I tried to run, my stomach complained loudly, so I walked for the first 45 minutes out of Yerranderie in an effort to settle my stomach. The next section of the run was awesome - fantastic running. From Yerranderie to the Wollondilly river is a long down hill stretch that ends up going through abandoned farms. This means lots of easy running with lots of wild life and grand vistas. There were emus, wombats and loads of kangaroos. The wild cattle were bellowing as the sun was setting. And the cliffs lines were glowing - Bonum Pic looked awesome.
I crossed the river, pulled out my head torch and headed off to Balloon Pass. I stopped once or twice to check my map, and pulled out my compass at the sign indicating Balloon Pass. I searched about and found the old fire trail that Anklestrapper had told me about - and headed up hill. At the first point where the scrub cleared I headed South across the major gully (which had large pools of water in it) an onto the next ridge which I followed up to the pass. There is no track on this ridge, and patches of unpleasant scrub - but generally the going is fast. The last section of the climb is steep, not something that you would want to do in the rain, and yours hands are constantly touching the ground. I was very relieved and happy to find the pass without any major problems - it was 6:30 pm - I signed the log book and left a hello message for the others - I must have been tired because I think that wrote Carmen instead of Jan.
It was only then that the harsh reality hit me - getting up Balloon Pass is the easy bit - getting down is tough. I wandered into the bush three times from the logbook - three times because the first two I did not believe what I saw - the route down is a scrub bash down a creek. Thankfully, somebody has recently cleared some of the bushes in places - but it is a nervous decent. In two places there are waterfalls that are easily negotiated but a surprise when you come across them. This is the sort of route where you could easily loose 6 hours or more if you make a mistake. After the creek junction, blue markers nailed to trees certainly help with the traversing decent into the valley, but the route is easily lost and backtracking was often necessary. I certainly felt a little vulnerable and stupid on this stretch - it would be sensible to carry a sleeping bag in this sort of terrain in winter. Anklestrapper later agreed that coming down Balloon Pass is a lot harder than going up it.
The Natai River was pleasant enough, I lost the overgrown trail at the last river crossing, but a scrub bash heading due East from the River found it quickly enough. The firetrail leading up to Wattle Ridge and the carpark for Starlights trail was trying. There is a lot of sand, and many loud aggravated wombats willing to scream out at you. My wife was waiting at the carpark, she was not very happy with me trying this run - actually she thinks it is just stupid - more than silly even - before the run she insisted that I take our Epirb, and pack an extra set of thermals. I had a long break, more than happy with my time, and ate a huge bowl of Maggi Noodles. Anklestrapper had arrived just after me, and so it was great to chat.
With reluctance, I left their company and headed off to Mittagong. This last part of the run is unnecessary. Running through Hilltop, Colo Vale, Willow Vale and finally Mittagong. Between 30 minutes and an hour after leaving my wife I had a major swell of tiredness. I wanted to have a quick sleep (I had a total of 7 hours sleep on the two nights prior to the run due to work) but it was too cold. I found myself having microsleeps as I walked along the road. Maybe it was the noodles, but about an hour after leaving the carpark I woke back up and started to run again towards Mittagong. Where the road leaves Hilltop there is a sign that says "Mittagong 12 km" - this sign is just wrong - my maps suggest about 15 km - which is a huge difference when this is the furtherest that you have ever run. I had a chat to the local Police officer, whom had pulled over to have a chat after slowly driving past on three separate occasions. I also acquired a cheer squad - some hoons in a dual cab ute whom followed and passed me over a 40 minute stretch, yelling and sounding their horns each time they met me.
Finally I reached Mittagong Train station - I was to tired to be excited, and was happy to go home.
My splits were:
New Yards 4 hr 21 min Yerranderrie 7 hr 53 min Wollondilly River 10 hr 24 min Nattai River 12 hr 33 min Starlight's carpark 16 hr 2 min Mittagong Train Station 19 hr 52 min
After my experience with Balloon Pass, I think it would be reasonable to carry a GPS, or run with someone experienced in bush navigation. In its current state you could get into a lot of trouble on that route. The other route heading to Wombeyan caves road past Bonum Pic is probably much nicer for a run, and means that there is one less large climb and probably a lot quicker.
Run Report Innes
Started form Katoomba at 07:00 and making good progress along along narrowneck with Terry and Andrew, Pipi had already gone ahead and we soon left Jan behind. The morning was perfect , 12 degrees and blue skies and felt wonderful to be running once again in the bush. Tarros seemed far easier than I remembered and we were soon past medlow gap and heading down to the river at a very relaxed pace. Finding good company and enjoying a good yarn as you run sure makes the K's go by quickly but can also be dangerous and we obviously went cruising past the large "MOUNT COOKEM" sign as we discussed the virtues of various Ultras.
Andrew turned back just before the river which Terry and I reached in 3 hrs. we couldn;t find the spot we were supposed to cross and with massive overconfidence decided to cross, push up the ridge and head left to the trail. I looked across and Terry was in water up to his chest which I though rather odd, but the weather was nice so we soon soon pushing up the other wide. It was slow going with no trail but not to fierce and we crsted the top in about 30-40 mins. We continued on fo a while and started feeling a little concerned until we spotted a couple of hikers in the middle of no-where on no trail who saved ours arses.
"wheres the scotts main range trail please mate"
He led us across to a little lookout and pointed off into the distance -
"thats it over there"
We headed down a ridge which turned almost comical in its steepness until we had to literally lay flat on out backs and slide down certain parts of it @!!! This was perfect training for the Barkley but neither of us would be ever doing that crazy Ultra. we covered 5 k in the next 5 hrs. we hit the Kowmung river eventually and waded upstream for an age trying to find a ridge that would get us up onto Scotts main range. We finally found one and its was the steepest thing I have ever gone up in a race (or training run for that matter). We ended up literally climbing it with hands and feet and it was starting to take a toll...
Finally we stumbled from the bush and hit the firetrail on Scotts main range, I kissed it like the Pope hitting a foreign runway and we both started to run. It felt magical to be moving again and we covered 10 k's in an hr and were feeling pretty good about life once again but both a bit pissed off that we had lost so many hrs in a long run like this. It was dark a couple hrs before we hit Yerranderie and by the time we arrived we were both pretty quiet and didn;t have much left in the tank so decided to spend the night and see our options the next day. John and his son in law Steve are the best support crew in Australia, big call but I have no doubt thats correct. The fire was raging, the stew and curry was amazing and carrying on was simple not an option.
The MTB riders eventually all got back ok, but it was obvious that 2 of them were not going to be contiuing the next day which gave me and Terry a great opportunity to cycle out the next day. A few beers later and we hit the hay. We hheaded out the next morning at 7:30 and affter a breakfast of Sausage, bacon and beans we headed off. I have never MTB'ed before and was amazed by how hard I found it on that terrain but it was a great day although once again tougher that I imagined. Views all day were stunning and I was glad to be able to see this part of the run in daylight.
It was a hard day in the saddle on some pretty rough terrain but it was also a great social day riding with various people. Terry seemed to be suited to MTB riding and was constantly up the front and waiting for others to arrive. We hit the Caves rd at 3:30 and covered the last 30 k's in an hr and 15 mins which felt great.
A brilliant weekend, I still have to conquer K2M as a run but have no regrets at all after a brilliant weekend and have pulled up amazingly well this morning. Thanks to Terry for the great company.
Thanks to John and Steve for the brilliant reception and support.
well done to Jan for a great 29 hrs walk ( how fast can this man walk???) And lastly congrats to Pipi for a sensational run, you have really set the bar with this.
Run Report Terry
Definately the best Fatass i have done so far.
Thanks to Innes for the organisation and the running/mountain biking partner. Thanks to John for the crewing, that stew really hit the spot.
Congratulations Pipi, great run and great report. And Jan another tough run under the belt, awesome stuff.
On saurday it took Innes and i 12 hours to reach Yerranderie. That included 5km in 4 hours of scrub bashing up and down mountains rougher and steeper than hellgate just to get back on the trail. Call me crazy but i actually enjoyed every bit of it. After being told of our actual position by some bushwalkers and then pointed in the general direction at no point were we in any kind of danger. Shuffeling into Yerranderie at 7pm ish, Innes and i had pretty much made our mind up not to continue on due to fatigue and get a lift with John and Steve into Mittagong on sunday morning. A copout i know but still a tough run. When a couple of mountain bikes were being threatened to be turned into scap by two guys that had a tough day Innes and I thought we would rescue the bikes and finish our journey to Mittagong. Although i enjoyed the riding it was tough and turned into a long day, 10 hours from Yerranderie -Mittagong. And finally a 10km ride from the train station to home.
Thanks to all the mountain bikers for finishing off a great weekend.
ps- if anyone wants to run this again i will be at the start better prepared.
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