Katoomba to Kanangra to Katoomba
1st Solo and Unsupported FKT Attempt
98km & 4780m+ Elevation
Completed in 21hrs:12min:11sec
After setting the 1st Supported time on the Katoomba to Kanangra Rtn FKT two years ago with Ewan Horsburgh setting a time of 18hr:54mins, I had been wanting to go back and re-attempt the out and back run along the trail, but give it a go this time as an unsupported and solo run, just for a different challenge.
With the trail being closed for most of 2020 due to the extensive bushfires that went through the area, it work out to be the perfect option to run the FKT with the trail finally open only a few weeks earlier. But this was to create one very challenging attempt. Whilst I was hoping to try to go for a quicker time on this attempt, my overall time ended up being longer than I anticipated, but certainly reflected the conditions of the day and also the trail.
The day ended up being about 35 degs by the afternoon and soon found just how challenging the track was going to be with a good 2/3rds of the trail almost being non existent or very overgrown due to the little traffic that had been on it for a good year. This in the end, running it as a solo run with no support over the 21hrs made this probably one of my most hardest and challenging runs I’ve done to date.
I had decided to start the run at just after Midnight, to allow me to run the harder sections and the return in the daylight. I was able to do the 1st half to the Kanangra gate in exactly 10hrs and after swapping over my 2nd bag of nutrition that I was carrying and refilling the fluids from the water tank that was there, I headed back out onto the trail and into the heat of the day making it back to the Waterboard (climbers) carpark on Narrowneck, which is the official start/finish for the Rtn attempt at 9:29pm where my wife Penny was waiting for me to make the time official. The return ended up being 11:12hrs long.
There was so much about this run that was challenging, from starting at midnight with a completely foggy run along Narrowneck and then climbing down Tarro’s ladders in the dark. The challenge then started with running around the Wild Dog Mountains down to the Cox’s river on a trail that had a fair bit of undergrowth which made it hard to see the trail underfoot using the headtorch. After arriving at the Cox’s river at 4am, I had my first ever night time river crossing.
With a top up of fluids from Kanangra creek, the real adventure started with the climb back out and up Stromleg ridge on a trail that didn’t exist and undergrowth that was almost impenetrable. This was reflective of my 26-30min/km pace heading up the mountain. From this point to Dex’s creek (the next water top up) and then Mt Cloudmaker (signing the bushwalkers book) was pretty much running along an imaginary trail and using the GPX for direction, which was quite slow going. Reaching the Kanangra gate at 10am was a welcoming site, with half completed and all that was left was to turn around and do it all again. Sounded easy, but I knew better.
The best part though of the return run was that there would be no more cobwebs to contend with, being I had removed them all on the run out. I knew the run back was going to be difficult with the temperature rising, the rough trail and the extra time on my own.
By the time I made it back to Dex’s creek the temp was now up to 35degs and there was still about 37km to go and also the very hard no-trail middle section back to the cox’s river, which also included another pass on Mt stomleg and the impenetrable undergrowth. Once back over the cox’s the trail became a lot more obvious especially in the daylight this time which made for a little bit of easier running even though I was certainly feeling it by now. Was great to make it back onto Narrowneck before dark and I got to finish off the run with a spectacular setting sun and evening.
to make the run an official unsupported attempt, my water came from 3 sources being Kanangra creek twice, Dex creek twice and the water tank at the halfway turnaround at Kanangra walls. Also was able to put 2 entries in the Bushwalker’s book located on top of Mt Cloudmaker with the times of each pass and expected finish.