Three Peaks

11-12 Sep 2004


All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2008. Not to be used for any purpose without permission.


Trip Report

TRIP: Three Peaks, 11-12 Sep 2004


Jo Boyd
Rob Hynes
Ashley Burke


Jo's home at Wentworth Falls served as base camp for our 3 peaks attempt and it was here that we attended to our last minute packing, trying to ensure that we would be carrying only what we needed, no more, no less. Snow to 900m was forecast for Saturday night. We even used the kitchen scales to weigh Jo's two rain coats, and after scientifically determining that one was 30 grams lighter than the other, Jo then proceeded to pack both of them - by accident. Afterwards we tried to snatch an hour's sleep. This was impossible of course, our minds being far too focused on the challenge which lay so soon before us. At 11pm we shouldered light packs and slipped the house. The three peaks was on.

Parking the car in suburban Katoomba we walked down the hill, past the scenic railway and to the start of the Narrow Neck road. There we recorded an 11:30pm clock on time and set off in earnest.

There is something about bashing the neck at night. The rhythm of our footfalls, the chilly wind that always comes across from the west, the shadows of the bushes, the stars, and finally, the stirring expanse of the Wild Dog Mountains dimly made out from Clear Hill, and the cold, cold spikes of Tarro's ladders. There was no moon.

The night dragged on and so did we, marching past Medlow Gap and then on to Mobbs Soak for a short break, on again to Mt Yellow Dog. The night became a burden and we longed for daylight. Would it ever come? We reached the Coxs River, crossed it, gathered water, and kept going. The long climb of Cloudmaker via Strongleg began. As we climbed something changed. The darkness was no longer quite as viscous as it had been. There were fewer stars. There was more light to the east. The first birds began to sing. The clouds turned blood red. The day burst forth upon us and we could pack our torches away at last. A cold breakfast on Mt Strongleg and then on to Cloudmaker, the first of the three peaks. We reached the logbook at 8am.

Then it was down, down, down to the cheerful waters of Kanangra Creek and the long haul up Paralyser, the second of the three peaks. It was a sapping climb and we were all wilting by the time we got there at 11:50am. We had been walking for over 12 hours. Here we had a much needed one hour break to ingest some food and browse the logbook. Clouds scudded by, something was happening to the weather.

We began the huge descent into Whalania Creek and the formidable bulk of Guouogang dominated the view ahead of us. The weather was deteriorating rapidly with rising wind, falling temperatures and the imminent onset of rain - or worse. Bearing the brunt of this onslaught was the exposed Nooroo Buttress, which was our intended ascent route onto Guouogang. We held brief counsel there on the side of Paralyser and decided to change our route. Instead of Nooroo Ridge we would take the next ridge east, which was actually sheltered from the wind by Nooroo itself, and would take us onto the adjacent peak of Bullagowar from which a side trip to Guouogang could be attempted.

We were very glad that we made this decision. By the time we had crossed Whalania Creek and begun our ascent, the weather had deteriorated further. The venomous storm hurled granules of ice down Whalania gorge and it was savagely cold. We reached Bullagowar, knackered, at 4pm. Since this peak lay to the east of Guouogang we could complete our ascent of the third and last peak in relative shelter. We ground our way slowly upwards, the top just never seemed to want to arrive. At last only a band of scrub stood between us and our goal. We pushed our way through and at last reached the cairn and logbook. We hastily made our entries, for this was no place to be idle. Squalls of sleet flew around us, we were exhausted, and needed to get down to a sheltered spot to camp before dark. So with the logbook formalities completed, we headed back down to our packs on top of Mt Bullagowar.

Even here was no place to camp. An icy wind roared through the trees and racing clouds flung rain and sleet across from the west. So it was down, down, down to more sheltered altitudes and a flat section of ridge above the Coxs River. At last, at 6:30pm we stopped. It was already dark again and we had been walking for 19 hours. Enough was enough. Here it was raining steadily, but we didn't care. We were out of the wind, we had a fire going, and sleep was but minutes away. We enjoyed hot food and were relieved to be resting at last.

By 5:30am the next morning we had quit the camp and set our sights for home. We had breakfast on the Coxs River as the morning light caught the surrounding peaks. The day began cold but clear. Some of our strength had returned after the much needed rest and we climbed steadily up to Mt Yellow Dog and then struck out along the Wild Dogs track back to Medlow Gap and the Narrow Neck. Then the familiar slog on tired feet to cross the 3 peaks "finishing line" at 12:15pm, and recorded a time of 36 hours 45 minutes for the event. For each of us this is a personal best time. We returned to Jo's house well satisfied with our achievement and glad to put our feet up at last. Actually, we did so little that afternoon we began to feel like a pack of lazy bludgers! Bring on the PBT!

Ashley Burke


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All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2008. Not to be used for any purpose without permission.