In some email correspondence with a friend I mentioned that I intended to walk the Six Foot Track. He did his research, then responded that I must be “seriously fit”.
Seriously fit? Me? Never, don’t think I have ever attained that status in my life. Seriously daft, yes; seriously tenacious, yes. Feeling the need for some soul-searching, I decided to walk the track solo, and did it over three days and two nights: Tuesday 19-Thursday 21 April.
Despite my inherent lack of fitness, and an over-heavy pack (all camping supplies were required), I completed the track with a smile on my face. It took 47km of pure hardship and gruel (I had started in Katoomba, rather than at the Explorers Tree). Luckily the sun shone, the moon glowed, the shooting star shot, the snake snuck away, the fellow track walkers were fine folk and I ended it all with an overstay at Jenolan Caves House and a venture into two of the many amazing caves there. I bused it back to Katoomba and drove down the mountains as the skyscape turned beautiful reds, then headed due east on the M4 straight into the rise of the full moon … a wonderful adventure!
The track starts with a steep descent into Nellies Glen, a damp and downward section through dripping rainforest between the sandstone cliffs of the escarpment. Continuing along dirt roads, this is not a get-away-from-it-all type of walk. I passed the occasional car, day trippers, horse trekkers, a vineyard and a number of privately owned properties with open paddocks. The dampness was quickly left behind and, with dry weather, I walked along dusty trails and tracks. The rainforest becomes dry gum forests, with sections of granite boulders.
Crossing the Coxs River via the Bowtells swing bridge, I held tightly to my focus, listening to my breathing, not wishing to risk an overbalance against the sides of the bridge. Reaching the campsite at the end of Day One was a joy. Toilets, picnic tables, a water tank, metal bench for unpacking my backpack and the river for reviving my weary feet.
Despite walking alone, I never felt scared or concerned. I knew there were other groups along the track, I was never far from civilisation, the track is highly accessible and I carried suitable safety gear (whistle, phone, first aid kit, locator beacon). The three other groups and I became campsite buddies, wandering around to each other’s areas, chatting over cups of tea about the experiences of the day.
Day Two is notorious: 20km with much of it up and up and up along dirt road, very little let-up in the up-ness of the track. I took it one step at a time, lied to Harry in a phone message (“All going well”), had plenty of breaks (though getting the pack onto my back after each stop became harder and harder), swore profusely at the up sections, and thanked the track marker effusively and at great length when only 5km was left for the day. I was last into the campsite that afternoon.
Day Three was 10km, a lot of it downhill but with one steep up-hill that must have had the steepest gradient of the track. The scenery was lovely: open forest, tall trees and a steep-sided valley down into the Jenolan Caves area. I earned cheers from my trackmates when I joined them at the bistro – Six Foot Track finished!
My intent to soul-search was lost in the effort of taking each step forward; my focus turned to sole-searching as I gazed at the footprints left in the dust. Spotting a spider imprint on one, I later found out that I was following the footsteps of a fellow hiker; it cheered me no end to realise I had literally been walking in his footsteps; a warm, open and friendly man, his trail had pulled me onwards to the day’s end.
TRACK NOTES: there was water in both the Coxs River and Black Range campsite water tanks. A new toilet has been installed at the Alum Creek campsite. Mobile phone coverage is very patchy along with track.
DAY ONE: Bathurst Street, Katoomba to Coxs River Campsite
- 17.7km (6 hours, 30 minutes)
- Ascent 430m
- Descent 1210m
DAY TWO: Coxs River Campsite to Black Range Campsite
- 20km (8 hours)
- Ascent 1310m
- Descent 400m
DAY THREE: Black Range Campsite to Jenolan Caves
- 10km (3 hours, 20 minutes)
- Ascent 330m
- Descent 720m
- Ascent 2,070m
- Descent 2,330m
- 17 hours, 50 minutes
- Highest point 1212m
- Lowest point 273m