Monday, September 20, 2010

Another 3 Peaks Trip Report

(click on picture above to see 2 of the 3 peaks)

Why you would enjoy trudging along Narrow Neck ridge late on a cold Saturday night, alone, and after already running, walking and bashing through 80 of the toughest kilometers you could imagine, and being continually drawn back to do so many times, may be a tough question for some? - myself included. This trip report will try and answer this question.

Shogun, a man often attracted to the nemesis of something Wild and challenging, and I had been talking about doing a 3 Peaks/ or Katoomba to Mittagong (or both at once) walk for about 2 years. Finally last weekend we actually turned words and bravado into preparation and action and arrived at Narrow Neck (NN) to attempt a 3 Peaks trip. We were looking to set the record of course.

We set off shortly after 4:30am from the official starting point (see Ashley Burkes 3 Peaks page) and headed off to the Coxs. It was a blisteringly cold and windy pre dawn first hour as we arrived at the end of the NN F.T just as the first glow of the sun was coming over the horizon, faintly lighting up the Burragorang Valley to our East. Appearing ominously in front of us beyond the Wild Dog Mtns we could see the shape of the peaks we planned to climb. It was shogun who asked, is that cloud off in the distance or the Mtns we plan to climb??

We made great time to the Cox’s jogging all the way down past Medlow gap, Mobbs swamp and finally down Yellow Pup ridge. After a quick refill of the water bladders we headed up Quoagang. At this point we were feeling great, hitting the summit after a 2hr 10min climb, including a few pics of an aggressive looking monster black snake.

We were quickly on top of the Gouagang cairn and then off down the South buttress to Whalania Ck. The rock formations down the South ridge are magnificent and splendid, if only we had more than a few moments to enjoy such a great place.

Soon after starting our rapid descent down this tricky spur it was decided we would take differing paths. Shogun, after assuring me he had taken several modules in Wilderness studies in High School - and that he was in fact a professional map maker, decided he would push on down to Whalania Ck back to the Cox’s River and then home.

I thought to myself, of all the god forsaken places to be left alone on your first 3 Peaks trip, this would have to be at the bottom of my bucket list. I had ideas that the Creek back to the Coxs could take a full day to cover the 8kms, and that Shogun would be out here alone over night – and that I had some part in getting him into this situation…...

These thoughts were put aside as I pushed on with the comfort of “No, he told me he did Wilderness studies, he’ll be OK” and “of course he can read maps, it’s what he does for a living”, along with “he is a very tough self sufficient bloke, don’t be his mother”.

Next was the aptly named Mt Paralyser. In total going up Paralyser, signing the book, getting down Paralyser took 2hrs and 3mins. From Kanangra Ck to the cairn on Cloudmaker, via Storm breaker took a further 85mins. Halfway up to Mt Cloudmaker I narrowly missed placing my foot on a healthy looking adult Brown snake. Were there any small snakes out here, or were they all giants? As a reflex I jumped away from the snake, so did the snake from me, and we both went on our way - with a good shot of adrenalin carrying me for the next few minutes or so.

Upon staring the jog/ walk from Cloudmaker to Dex Creek, shortly after 4pm, I bumped into a solo female camper, Heidi who had just lost the track in a fashion similar to the BMMC trip in June. By 5:45pm I was down crossing the Coxs once more, glad to have had light coming down Mt Strongleg.

At this point I reflected. I had had a dream run, every peak had been ticked, no mistakes with navigation, no tracks lost. To go any faster you would have to be in real top shape (which admittedly I am not at the moment) and I estimated that even at 100% fitness you may, at the very best, save only 30-45mins on the accumulated time so far.

From the Coxs it took me approx 5hrs 45mins to get back to the car on the Neck, compared to 3hrs 15min for the run on the way in. Albeit, I slowed a bit, I walked a bit; I even took at few extra small rest stops. But hey I was buggered, I had just done the 3 peaks return from the Coxs in under 10 hrs, plus ran 28kms to the River before I started. Not to mention the run home was all UP HILL, not downhill!. So I stopped beating myself up for positive splitting by approx 2.5hrs for the return from the Coxs.

As I was climbing up Yellow Pup in the fading light I glanced up Whalania Creek and thought of Shogun, who I was sure would be lying up somewhere around a fire cursing my name in his good mannered way. I also thought how tomorrow is going to be when I have to come back out here for him, not to mention the awkward phone call to Mrs Shogun! Would I now have to look after his 7 or 8 off spring?

All up it took 19hrs and 5 mins to finish, being one of the top 5 hardest days of my life. (mind you 3 of my top 5 feature the 3 Peaks). Arriving back at the car shortly before 11:40pm

The real surprise, and to my great delight was that Shogun’s car was gone when I got back to my car. He had finished about 10 to 30 mins in front of me. Legend! He had gotten himself down Guoagang, along Whalania Ck and found his way back onto the track from memory. Travelling along creeks can be slow work but he could read a map after all, and those Wilderness lessons did pay off. I never doubted him for a second (of course), but theory and practice can be different things, however Shogun had nailed it like a true Bear Grylls. What’s more, I could now sleep in the following day. Happy days

While I haven’t actually answered my opening question, to me, its adventures like this that keep you in touch with a raw reality about who you are - and what you are capable of doing when you need to. And when set in rugged, remote, beautiful and potentially hostile surrounds, combined with the quiet whisperings of nature they draw out a strange rejuvenating and relaxing energy. Particularly for work on Monday when someone asks ‘what you did on the weekend?’, and you say ‘oh I went for a bush walk on Saturday and mowed the lawn Sunday – just a quiet one”.

I think it was better put by Mallory or Irvine who said in the 1920s (just before they reached the summit of Mt Everest on their ill fated trip) when asked why they climb? one of them said something like:

“To those who don’t understand, it can never be explained”.


shogun said...

Thanks for the experience. I never thought I would say this but I'll be back! Just don't tell my body...

Sleep Train said...

Cheers Shogun, it was a great day, as I was walking back along NN I was saying 'well this is the last time I will ever be doing this". ... i was kidding myself wasnt I?

Spud said...

Awesome stuff guys, woould love to join you in any future attempts!?

shogun said...

Oh yes... there will be another attempt!!

Brick said...

I am with spud would love to join you guy's but I might be a bit slow for you all.
Great report ST.

Dr Phil said...

And you didn't even ask me! It would have been nice to laugh at you and tell you to look somewhere else for a gullible trail companion.
Great work. I am utterly dissapointed that I was not in a position to accompany you both. Alas, it has been a glimmer of an idea since the BMMC trip, so perhaps one day I will do it.

AC said...

the blog is back... I love that sh!t!

Alastair McDowell said...

Well done man! Do you consider your run the record or do you believe Fantini’s prodigious 18:22 in 1966 when he was just 20. That blows my mind. I did the three peaks yesterday in 20 hrs 56 mins which I think is the second fastest behind yours.