Saturday, 25 February 2017

Narrowneck - Mobbs - Dunphys (or "Its too darn hot")


The things that we do.  The things that we learn.  Maybe I should buy a set of Dr Seuss walking guides.  They could serve me well.

Oh the places you'll go !

My plan was to walk out from Katoomba, along Narrowneck.  This is a journey I have undertaken many a time as a walk, training run, and as part of The North Face 100.  Familiar territory.  As part of a long term goal to walk the Kanangra to Katoomba (K2K), my plan was to extend it out to the Wild Dog Mountains, to the Cox's River via Mobb's Soak, Mt Yellow Dog, and camp by the Cox's River at Konangaroo Clearing and do a bit of recce work.  A big day out, but doable.  Then a pleasant day river walking along the Cox, up Ironmonger Ridge, and camp at Dunphy's Camp Site (a place I love).  Then day 3, a leisurely stroll along the Megalong Valley and out via Nellie's Glen.
Narrowneck - let the journey begin

The heat had been fairly relentless up to this point, but weather reports suggested something cooler for a couple of days, which influenced my thinking.  A lovely relaxing train ride, and I began rereading 1984 - just a brilliant work.  Last walk I had grabbed "Diamonds Are Forever" which I soon realised had been the same book as I took the previous walk.  At 10.30 I set out under clear blue skies from Katoomba. It wasn't overly hot, and the Mountains were turning on one of those special days.  The air smelled amazing, and the skies were perfect blue.  As I started along Narrowneck, Boar's Head Rock looked particularly Boarish.
Boar's Head Rock

most boarish

As time passed, the day got hotter, and hotter...and hotter.  I am pretty good in the heat, but that is based on slowing my pace, rest breaks and keeping the fluids up.  I can go for hours this way.  Which was fine except that I was falling behind schedule and rapidly using up my (usually more than enough) 2L of water.  I had chucked some hydralyte sachets into my bottles and these were life savers.  I stopped at the fire tower to nibble on my trail mix.  This mix included stale indian nut mix, stale Twisties, some old rice crackers, and fresh corn chips. nommy nommy nom nom.

I descended Taro's Ladders, as usual lamenting that they were designed for taller folk, not Hobbits like me.  I thought I must be gushing sweat, but it was a simply a small shower which did nothing to reduce the heat but did kick the humidity up another notch.  Awesome.  A lovely bit of afternoon scrambling and strolling across Debert's and down to Medlow Gap.  A lovely new sign proclaimed 20km to Katoomba.  This left me with about 10km to the Cox's River.  Not normally a problem, but with water running low, and venturing into new lands (for me), I had a little rethink of my plans.  I decided to see if water was available at Mobb's Soak (supposedly always reliable).  This was 4km along the way.  If so, I would camp there and head down to the Cox tomorrow.
across to Mt Mouin and the Wild Dogs

The turn off to Mobbs is nicely sign posted (as part of the K2K walk), but the walk along to Mobbs was less defined than I had expected.  Easy enough to follow, but slower than anticipated - especially given that every leaf curl spider within cooee had set across the track.  I was clearing as best I could, but I still ended up having to pick them from my hat and glasses and off my hairy legs.  I was like a walking mini eco system.

By the time I reached Mobbs it was about 4pm.  I spent an hour scrambling up and down gullies and along creek beds, but no water (but I did find "the cave" which I had read about).  At best a few small black swampy pools teeming with insect life, and I did not have the equipment to filter and treat.  Decision time.

Pushing on, I ran the risk of running out of water and finishing up with a possible descent from Mt Yellow Dog in the dark.  I had read enough track notes to suggest this was slippery enough in the day time.  I carry a PLB which I have never had reason to use, I I didn't plan on doing it today.  Girding my loins, I sipped down half my 500mls and began retracing my steps.  At least I had already cleared the spiders which sped things up considerably.

Back at Medlow Gap I finished off the last of my water, then hoped that Breakfast Creek (another 2km away) was still flowing.  I was massively dehydrated by now.

As usual Breakfast Creek had a lovely flow.  Smaller than I had ever seen, but cool and clear.  I ripped my pack apart, dug out my milk powder and Milo, and enjoyed a lovely 500mL chocky milk.  Followed by another one.  Then I drank 500mL water.  As I walked I downed another 500mL.  2L and I was still thirsty.   Last time I had been at Dunphy's, the water tank was busted, so I was carrying 3L of water just in case.  I couldn't decide whether I would be more glad to see the water tank fixed, or whether it would be better to find it still busted and not a waste of effort to drag along with an extra 3kg of water on my back.

By now the sun was nearly gone, but it was still hot.  I limped into Dunphy's just before 8.30, and slumped myself down.  10 hours and 38km.  A few car campers were there (and lots of kangaroos), and I heard questions about "how did he get here?"  A voice was explaining that I had walked in.  It was a tour operator who had set up camp for two lovely ladies after a camping adventure, and was about to drive off.  Did I want a bottle of cold water and some ice before he left ?  Oh Yeah !

I had the 500ml bottle of deliciously cold water, then sat adding water to my cup of ice and drinking it down.  I had drunk over 3L in under 2 hours and still going strong.  I had added a sachet of Tailwind "Green Tea" to my water, and the glucose and caffeine was blowing my mind.  I sat watching stars appear overhead.  After putting up my tent, all thoughts of eating disappeared.  I just sat sipping water and crunching on my ice.  Eventually I collapsed onto my ever trusty $5 yoga mat, read for a while, then crashed.

In retrospect I needed an extra hour of sunlight, another 1L of water, and a day less hot than the surface of the sun.  But that's why we do recce walks.  Might as well make small bite size mistakes.

I woke several times in the night.  The entire camp ground was lit by the moon, and I could see and hear kangaroos munching and coughing all around me.  Quite magical.  

Eventually the moon light became sunlight, but I was in no hurry to get up.  Not hungry.  Not needing to pee yet.  Knackered.   I had a nice lie in until 7.30, then got up to brew a coffee, then another....why not make it three.  The water tank had been repaired and there was plenty of water after all.  Eventually I needed a pee.  Don't know where all those fluids had gone though.

As I sipped away, and the sun gradually cleared the trees, I heard what sounded like a koala....interesting.  The first rays of the sun arrived and said "it's going to be another hot one".

Eventually I decided to eatI had gone to so much time and effort to organise my food, I had to at least try.  Tired of 2 minute noodles every time I camp, this time I had cous cous and beans.  This had necessitated much driving the lovely Cait crazy with endless cooking questions ("no darling, cous cous and quinoa are different").  I had also been experimenting with soaking beans, and had been running endless kitchen trials.  For weeks our kitchen has had little (failed) experiments of beans in numerous small containers, which the lovely Cait has patiently endured.  Eventually I had just soaked my beans, cooked the shit out of them, and froze them.  Now I wasn't even hungry, but I ate anyway because I knew I still had a big hot day ahead of me. 

All packed up, 2L of water and about 20km to go.  I had considered a day walk to the Cox, another night camping, then heading out tomorrow, but I was trashed.  The camp ground chatter had included mutterings about storms coming through, so I was headed home.

The heat began kicking in again, so I took it super easy.  The initial walking was shady and flat, then the steep climb began and the shade disappeared.  Eventually I reached the intersection with the Six Foot Track, then end was nigh, and I could smell the barnAt Megalong Creek I grabbed water to sterilise, and kept on keeping on.  It was now a head down slog and I was treating it as a training exercise.  I still took time to stop and soak in the sights though.  Instinct kicked in along the way, and I stopped knowing a snake was nearby.  About 1.5m of tiger or brown snake was on the side of the road, happily keeping an eye on me.  I moved back watching carefully, but the moment I looked away it was gone.  Obviously camera shy.  

I began hearing giant rumbles of thunder, and clouds began massing.  Over Katoomba way it looked like they were copping a hammering, but I still had blazing sun and rising humidity.  I passed a large group of walkers who looked like they were about to have a very memorable Six Foot Track adventure.  

At the base of Nellie's Glen the rain finally arrived, and things began to cool a little.  I was already dripping with sweat, so rain was no problem.  It was a long climb, but no one was going to carry me, so it was just plod plod plod to the top.  I downed the last of my water (2.5L for the morning and still thirsty), and headed off to Katoomba.  The heaven's opened up and I got soaked.  At Katoomba station I drank myself stupid and watched as a storm of apocalyptic proportions ripped all around.  Walls of cloud swirling and tumbling, lightning leaping across the sky,  water lashing down.  What a shame I wasn't setting up camp for the night.

Safely ensconced on my train, I looked across the valleys to where I could see sheets of rain as far as the eye could see.  The trip home was delayed because of lightning strikes.  What a shame I was heading home.

As I finally boarded my train at Strathfield, the two ladies from Dunphy's were sitting across from me.  Small world.  How did I get back to Katoomba ? You walked ! Oh my !  

On that small note of being a hero, my adventure ended.  Time for a beer.  


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