School holidays arrive, and it's time to head way out west (where the rain does fall, and sometimes it even snows) and get back to the Blue Mountains again. A trip from one of my many bushwalking books from Mt Victoria to Leura had caught my eye, but I tweaked it to run from Leura to Blackheath so as to capture a large chunk of the Hounslow Classic course.
The plan was drive to Leura and park, run off along Mt Hay fire trail, trot across to Blackheath, catch train to Leura, then off to Wentforth Falls for Mountain High Pies (of course). My goal was also to finish in good shape and not crawl on hands and knees to the train station. Easier said than done.
Weather reports suggested perfect weather, and that was the case. Blue skies and sun, which took care of lot of decision making. Jumping out of the car at Leura I did chuck an a fleece top in the pack (which turned out to be an awesome decision).
The trip out along Mt Hay Rd is 10km of fire trail. There were plenty of tyre tracks suggesting I wasn't alone, and a few family 4WD went past. I kept reminding myself that I was in no hurry, and stopped frequently to look at glimpses of emerging valley views and play with the camera.
|Mt Hat Rd|
|Mt Hay Rd|
|My Hay Rd looking back to Flat Top|
Of course on the map the track is a nice flat line, but in the real world there are actual ups and downs and winding turns, and these eventually led to a car park and the start of the rocky single trail to The Pinnacles and Lockley's Pylon (named after J.G. Lockley, a journalist who supported conservation efforts to save the Blue Gum Forest from logging in the 1930s).
|heading to The Pinnacles|
|views from The Pinnacles|
|winding alongside The Pinnacles|
|looking back to The Pinnacles|
The Pinnacles are interesting eroded sandstone formations, and I could have spent longer wandering around and doing some scrambling, but the best part was the way that Grose Valley views were unfolding. Until recently I have been reticent about exploring this part of the world because it is so BIG. Deep valleys, long climbs and extremes of weather demand respect. As I passed The Pinnacles and ran towards Lockley's Pylon, it became increasingly apparent just how big as extensive valleys with enormous cliff walls seemed to stretch on forever. Last time up here Dave Cannings had spoke about a walk from Blue Gum Forest down the Grose Valley to Richmond, a walk I had read about previously (see trip report). It sounds like a mad adventure (*sound of wife sighing*).
Lockley's Pylon was great, and I took the time to climb it, wander around, have a bite to eat, and play with the camera. Possibly I may not enjoy it as much on race day (make that “highly likely”), so today I took my time to soak it all in.
|heading towards Lockley's|
|view from top of Lockley's down the Grose Valley|
|from Lockley's across to Docker Head (Perry's Lookdown is at the top)|
Again, a line on a map does not always match reality on the ground. Leaving Lockley's Pylon and heading to the track down off Du Faur Head was far more scrambly and hard to find than I had expected. In a few places where it looked like the track was heading down, all I could think was “I am not going down there !”. After a good deal of back and forth and head scratching I did find two arrows carved into the rock. Even with this clear sign, I was still a bit nervous. I had a good drink of “Harden the F*%# Up” (a recognised hydration product for wuss bags like me), reorganised my pack, and started down.
|track off Lockley's to Du Faur Head|
|follow the arrows|
It was a bit steep at first (think escape from Mordor), but not nearly as bad as it had first looked. It was also nice being out of the strong cold winds up above. On the way down I met a great bloke with a pack, gaiters, and masses of bloody scratches all over his legs. Not a reassuring sight, but it seems he accumulated them yesterday going off trail in the Jamison Valley between the Ruined Castle and Scenic Railway. I suspect he was having a crack at locating the old cable way more info here, yet another adventure for another day (insert sound of wife sighing again). We didn't talk long as we both had places to be, and we went our separate ways.
The wander down was lovely, but kept eyes peeled for snakes as I wandered through long open sections of trail where red bellied snakies just love to stretch out and have a bake (and I speak from experience). The faster runners in October might be in for a few surprises. I worked up a trot in places, but backed off when I hit sections where my feet were obscured by growth. I had my compression bandage, but absolutely no intention of seeing how well it worked.
|looking upstream on Govett's Creek|
I hate wet shoes. At the bottom I was faced with the choice of scouting a creek crossing, or removing shoes and socks. Oh wait. What about that big tree fallen across the creek. That looks incredibly dangerous, so why not give that a go. I steeled myself, and began shuffling across. It was clear that other fellow morons had done the same as the surface was nicely worn. Halfway across logic kicked in, but too late now. I reached the other side, looked back and thought “well that was stupid”.
|the log challenge|
Now I faced the climb up to Perry's Lookdown. I had last been up this way about thirty years ago. I remembered the climb being steep, but it was way beyond what I recalled. It was pure slog. However, I do love a good climb, and it didn't disappoint. What did surprise me was how many times I thought “that must be the top”, but...no. Eventually I did hit the top, and came across a group of about eight. There was a smell of marijuana in the air, and young bodies climbing over the safety fence. My goal had been to get to the top and be able to get myself running, and this was made much easier by wanting to avoid becoming involved in a body recovery operation. Time to push on to Pulpit Rock (the young'uns later drove past me and gave me thumbs up out the windows, so clearly no one had plummeted to their death).
|please make it end|
Once I got the legs ticking over, it was just good old fashioned head down stuff. In recent readings (actually a podcast ), I had come across the blazingly simple concept that if you are going to be some kind of endurance athlete, and go signing up for crazy events, then you need to “do the work”. Entering an event is a commitment to not only fork over a wad of cash and turn up at the start line, but to also get out of bed and “do the work” in the months leading up to it. The “4.30am Rule” it was called (or in my case, the “alarm at 6am, sleep in until 6.30, two cups of coffee and leave late” rule). I liked the idea of “do the work”. Doesn't mean that training needs to be a continual horrible suffer fest (if it is then what is the point), but some days it just needs to be done (and if you are building to a peak, then some days are probably going to be a horrible suffer fest); but once it's done, you are free to enjoy race day a whole lot more. I had mumbled it to myself all thew way up the climb, and I kept mumbling it as I worked my way towards Pulpit Rock. Do the work, do the work. If you are going to cover 75km in October in under 17 hours Rob, do the work.
From Pulpit Rock the fire trail became single trail, with lots of mud and water. I caught up with a group of walkers talking about “the burn” of walking as they casually ambled along. There was no real way around them, so I casually ambled along behind them feeling no burn whatsoever, just frustration. At that point the Karma Fairy of judgement sprinkled her magic dust and placed my foot on a slippery muddy rock and my body dropped suddenly to the ground in an excruciatingly painful one legged squat way past where it can comfortably go, and I grabbed the orange barrier tape to stop myself sliding over the edge. I'm not sure what horrible noise I made (a gut shot pig perhaps), but one of the walkers ahead turned quickly and asked if I was OK. Yeah, fine. Serves me right Karma Fairy.
Being a solo trip, I had cut the kept the water weight down, and by now I had run dry. At Govett's Leap I had a big drink, which left me feeling a little bloaty. It was also more than a little chilly. Technically the track went back into the bush for the next few km, but I was worried about the cold catching me out. I have done the hypothermia thing and it is not fun. I would be in shade and not running fast enough to keep warm, so I just set out along the main road in the lovely afternoon sun. It was nice to peek into peoples lovely gardens instead of whizzing past in a car.
I had been pushing to catch the 3.02pm train (so I could get to Mountain High Pies before 4pm and buy pies of course! ). I knew it wasn't going to happen, but tried anyway. Eventually I missed the train by minutes, so I took the chance to strip off and dry in the sun for a while. Then I popped on my fleece top (so glad now that I had lugged it around all day), closed my eyes, and enjoyed that wonderful feeling of not having to move. A training goal today was to finish and be able to keep going, which is exactly what happened. If I really really had to, I could have got up and dragged myself all the way back to Leura; but bugger me if it didn't feel so good to not have to do that, instead just sit and snooze in the sun and wait for a nice warm train.
A good day.