Three Peaks

1-2 Dec 2012


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


Trip Report

TRIP: Three Peaks, 1-2 Dec 2012


Izabela Spaleniak

Ashley Burke


My friend Iza was the inspiration for my 15th Three Peaks. Just three weeks earlier she had completed the route in just under 50 hours with some friends of hers, and was keen to have another try for a sub 48 hour - and therefore officially recognized - Three Peaks trip. It had been four years since my last Three Peaks trip and I was well overdue to pay homage to the southern Blue Mountains once more. I was also keen to see how I went this time, given that I have taken up trail running in the last couple of years. How would this trip compare to trail runs that I had done recently such as the North Face 100 and the Great North Walk 100km? Well there was only one way to find out.

We decided on a programme whereby we would start late on the Friday night and walk continuously, and see where we ended up by dark on Saturday. So, after parking the car in suburban Katoomba we trudged the ritualistic route down Cliff Drive and Glen Raphael Drive and then clocked on to our Three Peaks trip at the Climbers' car park at 10:30pm. It was a warm still night and soon we were hot and thirsty. We stopped at the end of the Narrow Neck for water and a snack, and again at Mobbs Soak. About 6 hours into our trip we finally arrived at the Coxs River that had a surprisingly average amount of water flowing. The water was tepid and not very inviting but we were forced to fill our empty water bottles here and drink deeply. It was a delicate river crossing in our tender bare feet. Our torchlight picked up a bright yellow frog by the river.

As expected, dawn arrived during our ascent of Strongleg Butress. A Three Peaks dawn begins when the night is no longer silent, but subdued slightly by the distant chorus of early morning birds. Next, the blackness of the night begins to seep away, easing the stress on the eyes and lessening the contrast between the world within our torch beams and the world beyond. Next, the torches can be turned off, just when the eyes begin to perceive colour again, with the greens of grass and leaves, and the earthy brown of the ground and tree trunks. The eastern horizon glows bright and the stars begin to fade. A psychological boost happens when there is full daylight, walking isn't as tiring on the eyes, and the first weak rays of sunshine touch the tops of the highest ridges. By then you are past the top of Strongleg with a breakfast snack inside you. It then seems to take forever to reach Cloudmaker, with endless rises and knolls, I'd forgotten some of them. At Dex Creek there was one small pool of cool still water, and we stopped for a rest here before pushing onto Cloudmaker, our first peak, reaching it at 8:15am. We met a pair of walkers just before the summit of Cloudmaker - one of their party had been evacuated by helicopter the day before due to heat exhaustion!

Surprisingly, by the time we reached Cloudmaker a cool breeze had sprung up and the humid still night had actually given way to a fresh and cool dawn. It was therefore pleasant cool walking along the tops until we descended into Kanangra gorge, where it was again warm and still. Kanangra Creek was therefore very welcome when we arrived there at about 10:30am. We rested here, drank and ate something and then tackled Paralyser.

There is nothing about Paralyser except a relentless uphill climb and this is the only time on the whole trip where Iza and I became separated by more than a minute or so. We both climbed at our own pace and by the time we reached the top, the coolness that we had felt on top of Cloudmaker was a distant memory. Here it was very warm, though not too hot. I rested and dozed at the Paralyser logbook for a while, until I heard a "whoop" from Iza who was by now only a few hundred metres away. After a few more "whoops" being exchanged to get her bearings, Iza emerged from the bush at the Paralyser summit and collapsed right there, grateful to be at the top at last. It didn't take Iza long to recover, a bit of a rest and some food and electolyte was all she needed. Guouogang beckoned and time was getting on.

It was a long, hot, slow descent off Paralyser down the very steep and loose slope that leads to the base of Nooroo Ridge. At last we reached the bottom! Then the grind up Guouogang! It was slow and we took many rests. Iza had done this only three weeks earlier, it was amazing that she managed it at all! It seemed to take forever but Nooroo Ridge is a spectacular route and just after sunset we reached the summit cairn! Fortunately I knew the best way around the worst of the scrub on the summit of Guouogang. After signing the logbook on our third and last peak we moved a short distance away from the summit to spend the night.

We were carrying no matches or billy, and no sleeping bag, just bivvy bags and warm clothes. So there was no hot food, no cup of tea, none of the usual camping comforts. But the ground was soft and we were so tired we could sleep anywhere. So after some snacks to eat it was straight to sleep, with the alarm set for a ridiculously early hour.

The alarm went off when it was still dark and we packed up and left. I was not carrying any maps, just a compass. Finding the ridge off Guouogang was difficult in the complete dark so we waited for first light so we could see where we were going. Then it was down to Bullagowar. Then on and on we went until at last we reached the Coxs River. Here there was a deep pool to cross and I was shocked to see huge carp swimming lazily around in there. And along the banks lay a carpet of wandering jew. A weed infested and feral fish infested river. Iza pointed out that the carp are traditional Christmas Eve dinners throughout Eastern Europe.

We toiled up Yellow Dog Ridge and finally reached Mt Yellow Dog for a well earned rest. My food had run out but Iza came to the rescue with a variety of snacks, and then we set off for Katoomba. At Mobbs Soak we met the same two walkers that we had seen near Cloudmaker, then at the end of the Narrow Neck we had one last rest and finished off our remaining food. Then it was just a Narrow Neck bash back to Katoomba, and we crossed the finishing line in just under 42 hours.

Back at the car Iza produced her delicious home made ginger cake. Cake never tasted so good. Well done Iza on her first successful Three Peaks.

Ashley Burke


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All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2012. Not to be used for any purpose without permission.