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Fat Ass Special : Kanangra To Katoomba

Fat Ass Special
Kanangra To Katoomba

On Saturday 29th November 2003, David Lancaster gathered a group of 10 adventure-seekers to complete the Kanagra to Katoomba endurance event. There wasn't a lot of running due to the rough terrain. It is approx 60km and everyone made it home again.

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Towards Katoomba along Narrow Neck and is of course the last 10 - 15 kms of our journey depending on where you finished.

Looking towards Warragamba

Mt Debert. The valleys indicate just how much elevation we have gained to this point having crossed Mt Debert before climbing to this point.

Steve Jackson doing roll call. Thanks for driving us, Steve!

Start at Kanangra Walls.

The route ahead as seen from Kanangra Walls: Mts High & Mighty and Stormbreaker, the Rip, Rack, Roar, and Rumble knolls, and Mt Cloudmaker.

Running through the scrub on the rock platforms of Kanangra Walls.

Dave giving directions with Kanangra Falls in full flow.

Marginally runnable tracks through the scrub coming down from the Kanangra Walls plateau. Kanangra Falls thundering into the valley thanks to recent rain.

Early days somewhere before Mt High & Mighty.

Climbing somewhere near Gabes Gap.

Rest stop on Mt Cloudmaker. 2.5 hours for <10 km...

Welcome cooldown at Dexs Creek.

Peter and Dave back in Katoomba.

Peter, Paul, and Jan in Katoomba.

Report by Phil Murphy

"It should take about 7-8 hrs to do" these were the sentiments from both Sean Greenhill and Jan Herrmann in the days prior to the run. So I figured should be back in time for the neighbours Xmas party shouldn't I?

We set off for Kanangra at 6:35am (9 of us in all) huddled up in our hire mini bus graciously driven by Stephen Jackson. After lots of chin wagging along the way we arrived at Kanangra at 8:20ish. A quick photo and farewell to Stephen, we set off along the Kanangra Tops, staying together as a group for the first few km. The views back towards Kanangra Walls and Thurat Spires along the way were superb. With the waterfalls in full flow after the recent rain, this was a great way to start the day.

The track to Mount Berry along Kilpatrick Causeway was quite rocky which made for slow going. I remember Sean mentioning that the track was obviously forged by smaller bush walkers to which Paul Every replied "shut up Sean, the track's just fine". ;-) Making our way down Gabes Gap and up Mount High and Mighty was a good workout, looking back at one point to appreciate where we'd come from. Mount Stormbreaker next and again we were running as much as we could but truthfully a lot of this track was just not that runable. We figured the second half was where we would get a stride happening and make up time. Rip, Rack, Roar and Rumble before we head up Mount Cloudmaker, you gotta just love the names that were given to these mountains. Signed the book at the top of Mt. Cloudmaker and stopped to get some food in.

We then headed down Mt Cloudmaker to Dex's Creek, which was beautiful, flowing and clean; time to refill our water bottles. Luckily for Jan, Fulvio noticed a leech taking a drink stop on his neck. After some refreshments we made our way toward Mt Moorilla Maloo and then on to Mt Strongleg. The going was quite good here with a fair bit of decent running. We kind of lost the trail down to the Cox's River coming off Strongleg but managed to come out right at the river crossing! Great that we were in the right spot but we had missed Kanangra creek and hence our water refill. Still it was beautiful here at the crossing so once on the other side and after cleaning out our shoes and socks we got some more food in. Paul had the right idea and did a nudey bathe to refresh. The water was nice and cool and it was warming up. I was a little concerned about water at this stage as the next water was not until Mobbs Swamp, which was at least 2-2.5 hrs away and even that was not guaranteed to be flowing. I wasn't that keen on drinking from the Cox's River so decided to make do with what I had left. Fulvio was desperately low on fluids and decided he could not go further on just half a litre, so he filled his bladder with Cox's finest.

The next leg up the Yellow Dog Mountain was by far the hardest part of the run for me. This was harder than Pluvi in 6 foot and just went on forever it seemed. Paul and Peter quickly made off up the switchbacks ahead of Fulvio, James and I. We were struggling up this bastard of a mountain and all I wanted to do was stop and lie down. It took us around 90 minutes to get to the top. Water was very low now and I had these grand illusions of there being a wonderfully clean and flowing creek at Mobb's Swamp. It was at this point that I started to question why the bloody hell I was giving up my Saturday for this? I guess dehydration had a lot to do with the shitty feeling up there. Eventually we arrived at Mobbs Swamp to find, to my disappointment, there was only a small rock pool there. Stagnant and with little fellas swimming in it, still it was water and I couldn't get it into me fast enough. I took some purification tablets along with me not thinking I would need them but was grateful I did. Fulvio and I refilled here and James decided to rest up and recover. He was suffering from the heat and lack of water too.

So Fulvio and I made good progress along MT Warrigal and Back Horse Mountain running a lot of the way. We came to the four wheel drive track and continued along Medlow Gap to the foot of Mt Debert. The track heads straight up here towards Taros Ladder and Narrowneck. I was feeling a whole lot better here and started to pick up the pace going up Mt Debert. Running along Little Cedar Gap was lovely with the shade of the trees. When I got to Taros ladder I looked for Fulvio but he was away back. At the top of Taros the views were truly awesome. The vista out over both Jamison and Megalong Valleys was breathtaking. I was uplifted by this and stopped here for a bit just to take it in.

The climb up Narrowneck was not as bad as I thought it would be and once on top the running on the fire trail was good. The sun was going down over the Megalong valley casting long shadows over the peaks and troughs. A cool breeze every now and again was so refreshing. After the low I felt on Yellow Dog I was reminded why we do this. Feeling like the end was nigh I found good legs along Narrowneck and ran most of it except for a few hills. I was low on water by now, Narrowneck does seem to go on forever and remembered the water tap not far from sealed road that Jan had pointed out to me on the Blue Labyrinth run. A few km out from Katoomba I passed Paul, he was struggling after running out of water and food. I couldn't help as I didn't have any left myself, apparently Peter who had by now finished, was going to drive back down Narrowneck with some food and water supplies. I didn't see him though??

Finally made it to the water tap and must have gulped down a litre right there and then. Ran up Katoomba street into town and up to the station getting there in 10hrs50mins, had a quick look around to see if Peter was about and then went straight to the Isobar for a milkshake and pasta. I didn't hang around for long and headed back to Sydney almost falling asleep at the wheel! I ended up not making it to the party, instead showered and went straight to bed.

Lessons learnt.

Stop at all available creeks in future even if it means backtracking. Bring some fly repellent next time in the bush. The flies at the Cox's were brutal all the way up Yellow Dog Mt.

Thanks to David Lancaster for organising this awesome run and to Stephen Jackson for giving up his morning getting us all out there.

Report by Paul Every

The Kanangra to Katoomba run was the brainchild of Dave Lancaster (Sydney Striders) and Sean Greenhill (Strider and FatAss stalwart). The 50km route traverses true wilderness and includes some massive climbs and correspondingly magnificent views. Usually considered a 3 day hike, the K2K was undertaken with the FatAss credo of "No Fees. No Awards. No Aid. No Wimps". The only concession was $30 to pay for the hire of a minibus for Steve Jackson to drop the 9 runners at Kanangra.

The fun started at about 8:40am. A clear day following recent rains made for ideal conditions with the few drinkable creeks en route promising to be flowing. Soon we were looking back to Kanangra Falls plunging several hundred metres to the valley below. Later this summer I hope to be heading out to the Falls for some of the best white-water abseiling the mountains have on offer.

Within a few kms we too were dropping into the valley before commencing the ascent of Stormbreaker via the sandstone grandeur of Craft's Wall. The following ridge top trail was rough, strewn with fallen trees and frequently dissolving into a route of least resistance across craggy rocks. Continuing over a series of false peaks imaginatively named Rip, Rack, Roar and Rumble we eventually reached the summit of Cloudmaker. 8km in 2:25 gives some indication of the difficulty of the terrain. We refuelled and signed the logbook, recording our time for the 3 runners who had fallen off the pace. I quipped to Peter that we now only had a marathon to go, although first 8km had taken longer than his marathon PB.

The long descent of Cloudmaker brought us to Dex's Creek and an opportunity to refill our dwindling water supplies. Jan, feeling nauseous, and realising he was soon to drop out of the lead group, gave me his car key to enable Peter and me access to our gear when we reached Katoomba. After a brief stop we pushed on toward our climb and traverse of the Strongleg Range. Once again the high trail was rough and often unrunnable, before becoming totally indiscernible on the decent to the Kanangra Creek /Cox's River junction. The steep ground would continually crumble underfoot during the half hour descent, which was often a barely controlled slide down the fragile and friable slope. Our navigation brought us to the half marathon point at Cox's directly opposite our proposed ascent of Yellow Pup. The drawback was that we missed the drinkable water of Kanangra Creek about 500metres upstream. I guessed I had a sufficient supply to enable me to reach Mobb's Soak a couple of hours on. Fulvio had little choice and drank a bellyful of the Cox's finest. I guess he is still alive. We waded through the knee deep river before settling on the northern bank to refuel, take photos and remove the accumulations of soil in our shoes from the slide down Strongleg. The short break was an opportunity to strip off for a quick dip and soak before our long climb of Yellow Pup in the afternoon heat.

The ascent was approached at a casual pace and with 29km remaining I was anxious to start the push for home. I broke into a run on the gentler gradients and began to slowly draw away from the other guys. Peter was chatting at the end of the queue, but I pushed on knowing he would join me as soon as I broke away. After one hour of climbing I followed Peter to the top of Yellow Pup, where we scoffed some food and consulted the topo map to assess the distance along the ridge to Mobb's Soak. A few kms before our proposed watering hole we met three bushwalkers, who advised us not to hold out much hope for water at Mobb's. Sure enough we arrived at Mobb's to discover little more than a stagnant pool of mosquito wrigglers. Our water rationing immediately moved from 'judicious' to 'miserly'. The compensation was that we reached an increasingly runnable trail, which soon opened out to the firetrails leading to Medlow Gap.

With new renewed enthusiasm we headed toward the base of Narrowneck Plateau, it's western face aglow in afternoon sunshine. The climb to the end of the plateau signalled the last of the challenging terrain, however it was on approach over Mt Debert that I really started to feel pinch. While climbing the steep, rough and eroded track I began to suffer from the combined effects of fatigue and dehydration. My body shivered and a profuse cold sweat burned as it ran into my eyes. I stopped periodically to wipe the sweat from my face and control the urge to throw up. I staggered to the summit of Debert where Peter waited dutifully, with obvious concern for my welfare. I was convinced we had taken a wrong turn, and should have stayed on the firetrail longer. Peter was adamant we were on course and jogged on nimbly while I followed in a feeble shuffle. Soon the trail rose again toward the outcrop at the end of Narrowneck, and with the climb my condition again quickly deteriorated. I struggled to maintain a balance as my feet stumbled and my head spun in a slow arrhythmic pattern. I didn't feel well. There was some a sense of relief when we sighted Taros Ladder, a series of metal hoops and spikes hammered into the sandstone cliff face. By the time I reached the bottom, Peter had already disappeared over the top. He shouted down from 20 metres above that he had found a couple of mandarins in his bag and we'd have a rest at the top of the Ladder. I grunted a reply as I stood with one hand on the first iron hoop, steadied myself and waited to control the dizziness. I climbed with a slow and deliberate precision, careful to individually assess each hand or foot placement. Nearing the top I glanced downward. With thoughts of impalement on a metal protruding metal bar being the only alternative to hitting the ground with a dusty thud, falling was not an attractive option. The ugly thought sharpened the senses and I broached the top to see Peter casually reclined on the outcrop with mandarins peeled. I flopped beside him and we soaked in the magnificence of the panorama. From the distant Warragamba Dam, the Jamison and Megalong Valleys either side of us, and south west towards Kanangra Walls where we could see the landmarks of our route. Mt Debert below us still looked intimidatingly steep. The ridgeline running out to Yellow Pup, then the valley hiding the cold delights of the Cox's River. Beyond it Strongleg range arced toward the imposing Cloudmaker. Our day was stretched out before us. I said to Peter "I feel like total crap but there is nowhere I would rather be."

Too soon we departed, the track climbing to the end of the firetrail that runs the length of Narrowneck Plateau. We arrived at the firetrail at 5pm, still 16km from Katoomba Station. I sat down and we decanted half of my remaining water into Peter's dry bottle. It was once again time for the ceremonial 'passing of the car key'. Then Peter disappeared, promising to drive back to meet me at the locked gate about 10 km further on.

I walked along the fire trail, catching a last glimpse of Peter as he bounded over a distant hill. Little did I know he too would soon to be suffering, drinking from puddles that showed signs of water flow. By 6pm my water had run out, but I had managed to resume running on most of the flats and the downhills. I plodded on, often looking over my shoulder, certain I had heard one of the guys catching me. 'Hearing voices' eventually became hallucinations, when glancing over my shoulder I would 'see' a figure in my vision's periphery only to have them disappear. Before long I reached the gate and since neither Peter or my imaginary friends were there I persevered onward. On the final climb to the sealed road I was finally caught by Phil, whose purposeful stride I was unable to match.

Hitting the road with 3km remaining I walked and shuffled toward Katoomba, pondering Peter's whereabouts. I reached an intersection, unsure of both the direction to the train station and the direction from which Peter might come. After careful consideration I made a made a firm decision: to collapse on the grass at the side of the road. Movement of any kind was not welcome. I was, however, soon to feel the cool of the approaching sunset, and still yet to find water, I recognised the need to keep moving. Taking the more obvious route I soon found a tap and drank what water that my stomach would allow. Not long after I was in the main street of Katoomba, counting down the shop numbers as the street lights flickered on. It was about 8pm when I staggered into a milk bar near the railway station. I leaned heavily on the freezer to select an ice-cream, and eventually solved the complex conundrum of how to open a fridge door to grab some apple juice. I wobbled and swayed toward the shopkeeper mumbling incoherently. I imagine he was making a mental list of all the things he didn't want me to do on his shop counter. It would have included 'vomit', 'pass out' and 'die'. On leaving the shop my relief even exceeded that of the shopkeeper, when I saw Peter pull up.

With fluids, food and a sit down I began to feel a contented satisfaction. We drove down to the Narrowneck Firetrail to meet Jan at the locked gate. He was as happy to see us, as he was to pull a beer out of the boot of his car.

I fell into a deep slumber before we had reached Leura. Fortunately I wasn't driving. A bit of rest and I would be ready for a couple of ocean swims at Coogee the next day.

no fees, no awards, no aid, no wimps
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