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Day 9: Kowmung House to Lake Birrel
We set the alarm again this morning as we wanted to get away early. The plan was to have a long lunch break on the Cox's and hopefully thereby rejuvenating us for the stiff climb out of the Cox's in the afternoon. Not sure it's going to work, but it's a plan .
We were up at 6:30 AM and away by 7:15 AM! We wandered up past the chapel (I was hoping for a nice sunrise through the windows, which didn't happen) and then we were on our way.
The track continues yesterday's descent for a couple of kilometers before starting the slow climb up to Mt Cookem. The signage on the locked gate (which is at a different location to where the Track Notes placed it, maybe it's been moved?) was disconcerting: Saying "No Entry" seems both wrong and heavy handed?
Eventually a large intersection with good signage (and lots of "No Entry"'s) leads the track on to Mt Cookem Trail for the last climb up Mt Cookem.
Not long after the junction the Track Notes strongly suggests wandering out to the Kowmung Lookout: which we did. There was no marker or trail, so we just headed off...
Trail to Kowmung not so distinct but waypoint and bush bashing got us there.
Also great views this time along the Kowmung, right back we think to Axehead Mountain and Kowmung Mountain.
Eventually, back on the track, we get somewhere close to the top of Mt Cookem.
After cresting the top of Mt Cookem, which is not easy to pinpoint because Mt Cookem is an elongated structure, the road leads down to a turning circle that is the deadend of the Mt Cookem Trail. It took a little bit of time to decypher the Track Notes' instructions, I also think the grid reference is slightly misplaced. But once we realised that the well defined track was the track to the lookout we raced out to the Lookout and suddenly came upon the exposed rock that is the Lookout. We also took the opportunity have morning tea with one of the most amazing views I've seen.
Absolutely stunning view from top lookout at Mt Cookem over the Cox. We were able to pick out our route down and back up again (somewhat daunting I can tell you). Someone had gone to great effort to mark out the trail for the lookout and I can see why.
After a relaxed morning tea and some wondering about the spur we will have to climb in the afternoon, we head back up to the turning circle and head down past the other cairn to the Cox's River for lunch.
Ridge down to the Cox was arduous on my knees and Perry's ankles. Very glad to reach bottom and Perry navigated us to the cross-over point. Looked quite swift, current wise, but in the end we crossed quite easily with water only just above the knees in the deepest part.
The sign was not evident until across the river.
Big relax on grass: very beneficial. We charged up on chocolate and staminade then rebooted for the big ascent.
After a quiet, relaxed lunch, hot tea... we head up what the Track Notes' describe as the steepest section of the walk... and when you get to the top, there isn't much relief as the service road seems to keep going up.
Despite the steepness, or maybe because of it, the landscape around the track is very beautiful. I'm pretty sure that the plan was a complete success: we climbed the 580 metres like it was the morning!
Many short rest stops and we were up: quite surprised at how we did. Bandanas very beneficial wet and position changed to keep good cooling.
Then the long slug, but with red tailed cockatoos giving good diversion and some very pretty areas of ferns and some views, we did it.
And before we knew it we were approaching Birrel Lake. There was one thing that we needed to suss out, and that was the Kennel Flat Track junction. When we did Katoomba to Kanangra Walls we missed the turn off, so we wanted to check it out properly this time. When we found it it was so obvious it was stunning to think we missed it so completely last time!
Birrel Lake doesn't change (or at least changes very slowly), and it was wonderful to be back.
Well, what can I say but we did it! Pulled into Lake Birrel before 5pm, probably more like 4:30pm. What a walk.
Good to locate true track that we'd missed for the Katoomba to Kanagra Walls walk. Nothing to do with blaze (which was a fungus), but a good sized cairn and obvious track that we missed.
Many leeches at Lake Birrel, but shelter useful.
After a walk without seeing a leech, was somewhat surprised to see my feet covered with leeches when climbing into the tent. I wasn't in the mood for timely delicateness, so simply pulled them off and ripped head from tail (not that I can tell which is which). When Sandi asked if everything was OK from inside the tent, I somewhat shocked her when I turned around and my hands were covered with my own blood!
Odometer: 19.9 km
Walked: 5:20 hr 3.7 km/h
Stopped: 3:49 hr
Overall: 2.2 km/h
Ascent: 1,730 m
Descend: 1,483 m