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.