Anti clockwise from Maxwell Tops, via Gingra Range descending to the Kowmung, followed by a 600m ascent to the Pass and then along the top of Ti Willa Plateau, and North to Mt Cloudmaker, and finally past Rip, Rack, Roar and Rumble, High ‘n’ Might, Mt Berry to Crafts Walls and back to the car park.
Satellite view of route to Compagnoni Pass
- Leave Car Park at 7AM
- Cottage Rock by 7:45
- 4th Top by 9AM
- Kowmung by 10AM
- 650m ascent to base of Compangnoni Pass by 11:30AM
- Ascend 150m to Ti Willa hill by 12:00
- Traverse Ti Willa plateau by 12:45
- Further 250m of ascent to Mt Cloudmaker by 13:30
- Gabes Gap 14:45
- Return to Car Park 16:00
Approx 1500m of ascent
- Leave Car Park at 7:15AM
- Cottage Rock by 8:05
- 4th Top by 9:30AM - due to numerous of fallen trees to negotiate and more ascent/descent than expected, plus occasional pauses for mavigation
- Kowmung by 11:45AM - due to a serious nav error (I headed East off 6th top, instead of NE which resulted on an extra 200m of ascent that cost 45 minutes)
- 650m ascent to base of Compangnoni Pass by 13:30AM - I hit it smack on
- Ascend 150m to Ti Willa hill by 14:00 - as expected
- Traverse Ti Willa plateau by 15:00 - completely trackless after the fires
- Further 250m of ascent to Mt Cloudmaker by 15:30 - followed faint track up to Cloudmaker - only 2 hours behind schedule
- Gabes Gap - watch battery died shortly after Mt Cloudmaker
- Return to Car Park 19:53 - I got to Krafts Walls by last light and used head torch thereafter.
Approx 43km - 32km to Mt Cloudmaker and an estimated 11km after death of watch battery.
Approx 2000m of ascent - 1425m up until Mt Cloudmaker and an estimated 500m from there to the car park.
Coal Seam Cave is about 100m long, sleeps 50+, has a drip-fed barrel of water, and is around 60 minutes walk from the car park.
Cottage Rock is a 200m side trip (& 25m ascent) from the Gingra Range Walking track.
It’s only 15 minutes from the Coal Seam Cave, and after a step up from the Southern end…
… there are good views in most directions from the top. This is the misty valleys of the Kowmung River looking towards Yerranderie.
This could be anywhere along the Gingra Range - it’s all pretty bland with rolling hills and very little lower storey vegetation… until around forth top where the weeds are thriving all the way down the the Kowmung. This range isn’t especially runnable as it’s strewn with small rocks, and currently with fallen trees from the December fires. There’s a little evidence of feral pig damage, and a few wombat markers.
The Kowmung River is 20m wide just before the ford. From here, head steeply up Stockyard Spur to the top, then head Westwards down to the saddle before the grind up to the foot of the Pass.
Not especially difficult to find - it’s on the East facing cliffline, very close to the nose. There are two sections with spikes - an easy lower section with no exposure. And visible directly above follows a very slightly more exposed upper section with spikes and a chain.
Ti Willa plateau was easy going - the fires had left it fairly bare of undergrowth, and unfortunately devoid of track as well. It was a matter of heading SW until the ridge up to Cloudmaker got close enough with no intervening gullys. I was expecting signs of a track or even a cairn to lead me off the plateau to the ridge, but it was not to be. According to Open Maps I was on the trail at exactly the right point to descend, but no track could be seen. It seems that I overshot the turn northwards to get off the plateau by 50m and shortly afterwards crossed the alleged track at right angles, before picking it up on the slopes of Cloudmaker where is was faint but visible.
Gangerang Ridge from the slopes of Mt Cloudmaker. In the distance are Kanangra Walls, and the middle distance the two prominant cliffs are Krafts Walls. It’s 10+km along this ridge. It looks benign, but the trees hide its’ rocky and precipitous nature for much of the first three kilometers. My shoe failure caused me to take a lot of extra care for this section.
Looking back up Rip Ridge - Rack, Roar and Rumble as well as CloudMaker are all pretty similar from a terrain point of view, albeit slightly less photogenic. I was more cautious from this point onwards, tired legs, risks of leg and ankle damage with damaged shoes. I’ve walked this ridge many times and was prepared with a lightweight walking pole - it helped tremendously.
Gabes Gap between Mount High and Mighty and Mount Berry is the low point of the ridge - 150m of steepish descent and an immediate 150m of ascent. Not an issue on fresh legs, but heading back to the car park brings an additional meaning to the phrase low point.
I took and ate 3 Winners Gels, 4 shortbread biscuits, four squares of Clif Bar Bloks, two honey sandwiches, 8 scoops of Tailwind (in 4L of water, 2L of which was collected from Gingra Creek).
I still had a couple of squares of Clif bar left, and eating the last shortbread wasn’t really necessary.
I ran out of water about an hour from the end (some would say perfect timing). I ran out of daylight at the Eastern end of Krafts Walls about 2 hours from the end. I was certain there would be a good track to follow for the remainder - I was wrong - the December fires had erased about half of the track, both on Kilpatrick Causeway and also Brennan Top.
La Sportiva Fail
At about the 25km mark, I noticed that both my La Sportivas had a long identical rip between the sole and the inside of the instep - it had a fourfold effect -
- collecting grit & small twigs inside the shoe
- it made me extremely wary about the sole completely detatching from the upper, especially on the rocky bits of Gangerang Ridge, so my progress was slower
- the occasional rock and fire sharpened tree spike pentrated the gap a couple of times
- and they failed to support my (by then) weary feet
There’s plenty of tread left on them - they haven’t really been used that much. I have about 8 pairs of running shoes - none have ever failed like this. The tread is first thing that goes, occasionally the toe starts to peel away from the upper (after catching on a lot of steps), and finally the upper wears out on both sides of the biggest toe joint. It looks like a La Sportiva design or materials fault. It’s a pity, because they are my preferred rough trail shoe due to their hard sole.
Fortunately, the sole didn’t detach any further - I was 15km from any semblance of civilisation with a very rocky ridge to follow - otherwise the outcome could have been sub-optimal.
The supplier in Katoomba was happy to replace them with the Lycan 2.
I’d like to have visited Hundred Man Cave just off Ti Willa Top, and maybe filled up with water, but due to the lack of visible track or cairns and shortness of time it was an easy decision to give it a miss this time. Also the NSW topo doesn’t show the track or cave, but Open Maps does. Of course, I had both paper and PDFs of the NSW Topo with me, but no Open Maps. Thousand Man cave would also be a good side trip - both are marked on Open Maps.
While running, I tripped over numerous small sticks, which caused them to lift and whip into the back of the opposite lower calf. This was a disincentive to run the rougher bits - and much of the Gingra Range (while I still had the energy and terrain to run) fell into this category.