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Blackheath to Mittagong via Scotts Main Range - MTBing

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Alex, Jill, Tim & Caroline Wardrop

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May 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/9/99
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G'day everyone,
I've already asked about this on MTB-OZ, but I thought I'd see
what the collective wisdom of aus.bushwalking has to say about it. I
know it isn't exactly bushwalking, but I'm hoping you can help anyway.
What I'm looking for is any information from people who have done this
ride - any tips, variations on the route, problems with Water Board
rangers, etc.
I've already received some suggestions about variations on the
route, including starting from Katoomba, riding Narrow Neck and going
down Taros Ladders, as well as a few minor changes near the crossings of
the Coxs River and Wollondilly River.
In his book Sven Klinge says that it's OK for mountain bikers to
use the bushwalking corridors through Water Board land, but someone I've
spoken to says otherwise.
I'm going to try to find out from the Water Board tomorrow, but it
appears that the rangers themselves don't have a clear idea of the rules
from the responses I've seen (one person said that their response varies
from "good on you, tougher than I'd ever try" to demanding ID and
threatening to send warning letters). Does anyone have a clear idea of
the situation?
Anyway, to avoid repeating myself, I've included the description
that I sent to mtb-oz below.
Cheers,
Tim

On day 1 we'll start at Blackheath station. We'll descend into
Megalong Valley and follow Megalong Valley Rd to Packsaddlers. From here
we'll follow a Sydney Water access trail and then drop down the side of
White Dog Ridge to the Coxs River. The next couple of kays follows the
Coxs River, with no real trail to follow, so this will probably involve
a fair bit of pushing around to the base of Mt Cookem. We'll then have
to push/carry the bikes up to the top of Mt Cookem, which rises about
450m in about 1km. From here it should be a fairly easy 10km along the
ridge of Scott's Main Range to New Yards huts. Total distance for this
day is quoted as 62km, but I make it 50km from the maps.
On day 2 we'll continue along Scotts Main Range for about 25km,
before a descent to the Tonalli River, and a steep climb up to the old
silver mining town of Yerranderie. We then continue east, and down a
long hill. We cross first the Jooriland and then the Wollondilly Rivers.
We then ride along an undulating fire trail up the Wollondilly Valley,
before turning off to camp at Fowlers Flat beside the river. The
distance for this day is quoted as 69km.
The final day is reasonably easy. We'll continue up the valley
through private property before heading up the gully of Burnt Flat Creek
and up a very steep climb. From here the rest is fairly cruisy, and
mostly on sealed roads. When we first reach the tar we have the option
of taking a side trip of around 15km return to Burragorang lookout,
before cruising back to Mittagong with a couple of hours of easy riding.
The distance for day 3, including the side trip, is quoted as 58km.

David Noble

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May 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/9/99
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Tim

I have not done the ride yet - but had friends do it towards the end of
last year. They did it in two days from Mittagong to the Megalong Valley.
The member of the party I talked to about the ride strongly favoured this
way - rather than from Katoomba because of the long gradual climb up Scotts
Main Range if you go that way.

I think it should be possible to do the ride in one (very long) day (people
have "walked" it in under 24 hours) - and I'm thinking of attempting this
once we get a bit longer daylight hours - say in September.

Now as for the legal situation - the area is now declared wilderness - so
of course you are not "allowed" to ride into it (no mechanised transport is
allowed past Yerranderie (unless you are a landholder at the Byrnes Gap or
New Yards inholdings). And - remember if you camp at New Yards "huts" then
you are camping on private land. I'm not sure what the legal situation is
if you are pushing your bike whilst walking.

When I was on a walk from Mittagong to Katoomba during the Easter break -
our party saw a party of cyclists on mountain bikes near Yerranderie -
heading towards Mittagong and not long after a ranger came from the
direction they were going - and didn't seem too worried about the riders.

Also - the Wollondilly River is very low at present - we got accross it
with dry feet at Easter. The Coxs has a lot more water.

Dave


--
--------------------------
David Noble
dno...@ozemail.com.au
http://www.ozemail.com.au/~dnoble/

Alex, Jill, Tim & Caroline Wardrop

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May 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/9/99
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David Noble wrote:
> I think it should be possible to do the ride in one (very long) day -

> and I'm thinking of attempting this once we get a bit longer daylight
> hours - say in September.

We were going to do this at the end of September, actually. The thought
of doing it in one day appeals, though I think this time at least we'll
take our time and spread it over 3.

> Now as for the legal situation - the area is now declared wilderness -
> so of course you are not "allowed" to ride into it

Are you sure about this? I have been reliably informed that the
question of whether bikes are allowed into wilderness is left up to the
discretion of the manager of the area, and there is not a blanket ban on
bikes. I was more worried about the legality of riding in parts of the
Sydney Water land.
Cheers,
Tim

Trevor Savage

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May 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/10/99
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We did the burralier ensign two easters ago, we told the water board and
the guy asked us why we were telling him before he finnally said ' yeah why
not, have a good time'. i know that you aren't allowed to camp within the
3km of lake burragorang, so i'm not sure about your campsite on the
wollondilly.
-----------------------------
Savo

tns...@rpi.net.au

Alex, Jill, Tim & Caroline Wardrop <war...@ardotcom.au> wrote in article
<37358C...@ardotcom.au>...

David Noble

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May 10, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/10/99
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"Alex, Jill, Tim & Caroline Wardrop" wrote:

> David Noble wrote:
> > I think it should be possible to do the ride in one (very long) day -
> > and I'm thinking of attempting this once we get a bit longer daylight
> > hours - say in September.
>
> We were going to do this at the end of September, actually. The thought
> of doing it in one day appeals, though I think this time at least we'll
> take our time and spread it over 3.

yes -its nice country - and as for Scotts Main - its much better to ride it
rather than to walk (it can get a bit tedious) - but does feature fine
views of Broken Rock Range. Also - its well worth climbing both Yerranderie
Peak and on the south end of Axehead Mountain for the views (both have
tracks going up them)

>
>
> > Now as for the legal situation - the area is now declared wilderness -
> > so of course you are not "allowed" to ride into it
>
> Are you sure about this? I have been reliably informed that the
> question of whether bikes are allowed into wilderness is left up to the
> discretion of the manager of the area, and there is not a blanket ban on
> bikes. I was more worried about the legality of riding in parts of the
> Sydney Water land.

I'm told there is now a (newish) sign at the Tonalli River (and a barrier)
saying cycling is not permitted north of it. However - I think it is a bit
silly to ban cycling and allow the passage of management vehicles and
letting vehicles of the landholders from the inholdings pass through (I
think up to a maximum of 4 vehicles). However - if Scotts Main road gets
closed and re-vegetated then cycling should of course be banned.

Perhaps some rangers are turning a blind eye to push bikes?

At the Cookem section, you will need to push your bike for most of this
section - so technically you are walking - so perhaps this is OK? (but then
legally you need to use the very steep track that cuts off near the bottom
of White Dog and heads to the Kowmung rather than go to the bottom of the
road at the flying fox.

Have a good trip

Dave Noble

>
> Cheers,
> Tim

Roger Caffin

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May 13, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/13/99
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David Noble <dno...@ozemail.com.au> wrote in article
> At the Cookem section, you will need to push your bike for most of this
> section - so technically you are walking - so perhaps this is OK? (but
then
> legally you need to use the very steep track that cuts off near the
bottom
> of White Dog and heads to the Kowmung rather than go to the bottom of the
> road at the flying fox.

Come on Dave!
Push a bike up Cookem? "Carry with great exertion" would be a far more apt
description! And coming down would be safest with a belay if carrying a
bike.

I carried water for two up there once to camp above the cliffs for the
night. Great views, but oh that hill!

Cheers, with a grin
Roger
--
Roger Caffin (Dr)
Director
Berrilee Consulting Services P/L
5 Charltons Ck Rd
Berrilee NSW 2159
Australia
All the usual disclaimers apply....


Ross Young

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May 17, 1999, 3:00:00 AM5/17/99
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snip....

>> I was more worried about the legality of riding in parts of the
>> Sydney Water land.
>
>I'm told there is now a (newish) sign at the Tonalli River (and a
barrier)
>saying cycling is not permitted north of it. However - I think it is a
bit
>silly to ban cycling and allow the passage of management vehicles and
>letting vehicles of the landholders from the inholdings pass through (I
>think up to a maximum of 4 vehicles). However - if Scotts Main road gets
>closed and re-vegetated then cycling should of course be banned.

>Perhaps some rangers are turning a blind eye to push bikes?

There is also now a similar sign at the end of Narrowneck, at the start of
the foot track down to Taros Ladder. The sign outlines the restrictions
on activities in Wilderness Areas, and includes all wheeled vehicles.
Strictly, I think the argument that pushing the bicycle makes a difference
is not valid. However, I also believe that Waterboard and National Park
employees have better things to worry about, and probably do.

Regards
Ross


park...@gmail.com

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Jan 25, 2015, 4:46:45 PM1/25/15
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Hi, Two friends and I attempted this in reverse last weekend with bikes. We could not find the Mt Cookem trail though. We descended Wild Dog Range, crossed then Cox's river, walked to the Kowmung river junction, crossed the Kowmung, then continued North along the Cox's looking for the track to Mt Cookem. We could not find it, so just walked straight up until it became impossible to carry bikes. Would anyone be able to tell me how far north of the Kowmung/Cox's river junction the Mt Cookem trail starts?

news13

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Jan 26, 2015, 12:05:26 AM1/26/15
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I think that there is no track. You just carried your bikes up the mtn.
It is described in both editions of Jim Smiths Blue Mtns Bicycle Guide.

neale....@gmail.com

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Feb 27, 2016, 2:37:15 PM2/27/16
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> > We could not find the Mt Cookem trail though. We descended Wild Dog
> > Range, crossed then Cox's river, walked to the Kowmung river junction,
> > crossed the Kowmung, then continued North along the Cox's looking for
> > the track to Mt Cookem. We could not find it, so just walked straight up
> > until it became impossible to carry bikes. Would anyone be able to tell
> > me how far north of the Kowmung/Cox's river junction the Mt Cookem trail
> > starts?

According to http://www.coolrunning.com.au/fatass/katoombamittagong/nov2001-lawrence.shtml

It took us 2 hours to drag our bikes along the Coxs River to the base of Mt Cookem, we initially tried the north bank but eventually followed the sth bank around to the junction with the Kowmung river (you can also get clean water from the Kowmung). We had a swim at the pool at the junction & then continued along the sth bank for 500m or so then crossed over again when some rocks blocked the way, then again to come back to find the start of the track up Mt Cookem which is found right at the most northern part of the ridge where it meets the river,a couple of cairns & a white Water Board sign mark it.We then proceeded to literally drag the bikes up the trail, it took us about 1.5 hrs.....

Neale Schelks

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Mar 25, 2016, 7:16:45 PM3/25/16
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see my "draft" route for the crossing > https://www.google.com.au/maps/@-34.1219601,150.1265881,10z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!6m1!1sz8ygLMucHRFc.kXbcGDyQ5ET0

Suggested approach is from the south e.g.
day 1 Mittagong via High Range to Yerranderrie
day 2 Yerranderrie to Kelpie Point on the Cox (surely there must be good swimming here)
day 3 Kelpie Point to Blackheath via Megalong Valley

There should be fire trail/road from High Range to Mount Cookem. Not sure about track down Cookem to the Cox!

othe...@gmail.com

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Apr 22, 2016, 8:12:34 AM4/22/16
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Very keen to do this ride.

park...@gmail.com

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Apr 26, 2016, 6:40:07 AM4/26/16
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Thanks for that. Have you done that Mt Cookem track, or is just presuming the track runs along the ridge? From what I've read, this is correct. The track starts on the apex of the arm on that most northern part of the Cox's.

Re. The track on the other side, It comes out at Kelpie Pt. I don't know of any shortcuts

And...@ontracklife.com.au

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Jul 22, 2018, 10:20:05 PM7/22/18
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Did this ride 20 odd years ago (mid 90's), from Blackheath Station.
We were inspired by the Sven Klinge(?) book.

Some details are blurry now, but others are as if it was yesterday. I did write up a report of this trip back then, but it's long gone now.

The trail from 'Packsaddlers' was increasingly worse as it approached the Cox's. The two of us were taking it easy, but even then the trails were steep and with 3 days provisions, (plus no suspension and old school cantilever brakes), it was a case of GO SLOW.

If you back-tracked about 100-200m(?) up from where the fire road meets the Cox's, there 'was' a hard to see walking trail that left the east side of the fire trail and led along the northern side of the Cox's. Alternatively you could scrub bash down closer to the river bank. Note that ALL of these these descriptions may not be correct some 20+ years later.

We did cross briefly the Coxes, at the Kowmung mouth, just to rinse off and resupply with the fresh water (left packs and bikes on North side of Cox's).

You do need to go along the North side of the Cox's a decent way until you get to the crossing point. At the time this was a shallower section of slippery round rocks in 50cm deep water. If was 'safe' but there was enough flow that we carried the loads in a few portage trips, just to be safe as the rocks were slippery and unstable.

Looking at the google map/satellite, it would seem that we might have crossed somewhere White Dog Ck then wandered around to find the ascent for the ridge.

From memory there was the remains of a small sign at the bottom of where we ascended the ridge. It wasn't a trail per-se at the time and required a combination of bike carry and drag, zig-zagging up the clearest path around boulders. It was a looong slog. Some sections were almost in the category of a (low grade) scramble.

It's sad to hear the allegations that some bikers may have caused damage at times. I can't see how you would even ride down this section. The terrain is so steep that even a walker would also have a tendency to slip and slide descending or climbing.

We carried absolute minimal gear and food (small tarp, esbit stove etc) for a planned two night trip. We also had minimal info back in the day. Lighter bikes and gear options may make this (slightly) easier now-days. We were just two poor engineering students with map/compass and whatever gear we could cobble together to adapt rudimentary hiking gear for a lightweight wilderness bike trip.

Simply having things like GPS and info from the internet would add certainty that could make the trip more efficient. Then again, it also may take from the mystery/adventure that was a big draw card back then. The higher your level of bike fitness, the more fun you will have.

I would love to do this all again, if permission could be gained to do so. It was tough in sections but a stellar ride. I've done a lot of lightweight hiking and camping in the Bluey's, but doing it with bikes did add another dimension. Even if we did just slowly cruise along and enjoy the nature.

If you are fortunate enough to do the ride PLEASE honour the wilderness and practice minimal impact cycling. It's more enjoyable to treat this one as an adventure in which to immerse yourself and not a race.

Good luck.

Matt Caine

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Jul 2, 2022, 6:00:57 AM7/2/22
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Same as above I did this in the late 90's. Following Topo Maps & photo copied notes from Sven's Klinge's book 'Cycling in the Bush" which you can still find. Hint - not a new one.
Left Blackheath in the early morning, it had snowed overnight and was to blow a SW gale for the next 4 days.
Camped by the Cox River the first night, on dusk, after checking where the track went up Mt Cookem. It wasn't had to find, you go downstream from the steep descent to the river and the track follows the prominent ridge, you see on the way down, on the other side of the river. The track to the top is not rideable in either direction. Not really wheelable either, you'll be doing a lot of carrying. It'll take a good part of the day and you be smashed when you get to the top. Bikepacking bags in frame bags weren't available back then but are the way to do it now.
There was a hut that I stayed in a couple of k down the fire trail from the top. (Catholic Bushwalkers?) Look after it if it's still there. There was lots of blown down timber and the firetrail was impassable for 4WD's. You can go down to the Kowmung from the hut, steep.
On to Yerranderie where the caretaker took pity on me, it was cold and still blowing, he gave me a deal on one of the rentals.
Next day to the Wollondilly River and another crossing and camped nearby. This day I met a Ranger a couple of times. Nice enough bloke but apparently I wasn't supposed to be there. It's all water catchment. I was practising 'leave no trace.' You should know that this was before 9/11 and they apparently got much stricter on access.
A tip, take some footwear to cross the rivers in. The rocks are sharp and slippery and the water is COLD.
Next day was south to the Wombeyan Caves Road thence to Mittagong and the train back to Sydney. I literally was blown into Mittagong, never ridden so fast with a full load on!
I really enjoyed the ride, great scenery, lots of widlife (and ferals) hard yakka under those conditions. Can't remember the exact distance but 187km rings a bell.
Last time I was in the area just for a ride down to the Cox River I ran into the Sydney Water guys testing, which they do a lot. Again said I wasn't supposed to be there and apparently they were signposting the access points just hadn't done the one I came in. Yeah right...
The right thing to do would be to contact Sydney Water and ask how you'd go about getting permission to make the traverse. Bushwalkers were allowed.
Did hear of a rider going light and doing it in a day. Risky, I've done rides like that, Quiltys Mountain a memorable one and after a couple of incidents on the way back, ended up riding back to the vehicle with only half the moon for light! Luckily we were both bike mechanics and carried warm gear in case.
Cheers.
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