Three Peaks

15-16 Nov 2008


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


Trip Report

TRIP: Three Peaks, 15-16 Nov 2008


Ashley Burke


This year I broke with tradition by opting to start out on Saturday morning rather than the traditional Friday night Narrow Neck bash. As it turned out, starting the trip on a Saturday morning made the Three Peaks much more bearable with less sleep deprivation. But there's a catch - you need to climb Cloudmaker and continue on to the summit of Paralyser before dark in order to avoid off-track walking at night.

Setting out along the narrow neck in broad daylight made a pleasant change from the lonely night walking that is customary for the start of a Three Peaks trip. I made good time, reaching the Coxs river by lunch time, five hours after leaving Katoomba. Already my knees and the balls of my feet were wondering what had hit them. But this was only just the beginning. After lunch it was time to tackle Strongleg Buttress, the route up Cloudmaker. It was a very warm and humid afternoon and I was soaked in sweat by the time I reached the top of Mt Strongleg. Further on, Dex Creek had one or two pools of cool clear water and these were very welcome because by the time I got there my water bottles were empty. Then it was up to the first peak, Cloumaker, at 4:10pm to sign the logbook.

It would be dark by 8pm and I needed to get to the top of Paralyser by then so it was off to Roar Knoll and then down to Kanangra Creek. This is one of the less enjoyable descents on the Three Peaks route, too frequently I found myself tripping over sticks or losing my balance on the rocky ground, nothing particularly difficult or arduous, just irritating after more than 8 hours of fast and hard walking. Working my way around onto the correct ridge it was with some relief that I finally got down to the less uneven lower slopes and the very welcome water break on Kanangra Creek itself.

After a short break I filled my water bottles and started up Paralyser, carrying enough water for a rehydrating cup of tea and dinner when I got to the summit. The shadows began to lengthen as I climbed and the clouds which clung to the Gangerang range to the south glowed pink, beyond Mount Stormbreaker was a sea of mist. Right on 8pm I finally reached the summit, just before dark and very ready for a cup of tea and dinner by the fireside.

It rapidly turned cooler and comfortable there on the summit of Paralyser and with my tiny campfire I enjoyed tea, chocolate, dinner, followed by more chocolate. My aching bones would suffer no more movement than the effort needed to crawl from the fireside into my sleeping bag. There I read the logbook, signed it, and fell asleep. Only the mozzies could wake me, and they did, several times.

At 5am the eastern horizon was pale and the blackness of night was seeping away to an incipid grey. It was time to get moving. I packed up and was off at 5:30, destination Whalania Creek for breakfast. Stiff and sore at first, things improved as I warmed up and the day grey brighter. It is a steep descent into Whalania Creek but for some reason I find it easier than the descent off Cloudmaker. After breakfast by the cheerful brook of Whalania Creek it was time for the biggest and most spectacular single ascent of the entire Three Peaks - the climb of Nooroo Ridge. Studded with quartzite outcrops this ridge snakes its way up the south side of Guouogang, there are great views back into Davies Canyon and also into Nooroo Gully directly below. After a toilsome 2 hours climbing this spectacular ridge I was happily ensconsed at the summit of Guouogang enjoying the last of my chocolate while reading the logbook.

With all three peaks in the bag it was now just a matter of the long walk back to Katoomba. Down to Bullagowar at first, then down, down, down all the way to the Coxs River, then up Yellow Dog Ridge for a quick lunch on top of Mt Yellow Dog. There on top of Mt Yellow Dog I met another group on their way from Kanangra to Katoomba. I had passed them the day before not far from Dex Creek where I had been heading in the opposite direction to them on my way to Cloudmaker. They were rather surprised therefore to see me a second time coming from the opposite direction and overtaking them, and this was before they learned that I had done the Three Peaks in the meantime.

All my food was gone and it was more than 4 hours solid walking still to go so I set off along the track to Medlow Gap, up Mt Derbert and onto the Narrow Neck once more. My feet were sore, blistered and hurting, my energy levels were waning and it was all I could do to struggle back to Katoomba as the weather began to deteriorate. As the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped and the first squalls of rain began harrying me during the last hour or so of walking I finally reached the finishing point at 6:20pm, recording an overall Three Peaks time of 34 hours 40 minutes.

Three Peaks number 14 in the bag.

Ashley Burke


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