I’ve wanted to do the Cathedral Ranges for a while now, and finally yesterday I decided to head out there. My plan was to do Sugarloaf and Cathedral Peak, and if I had the time and inclination, I’d do some of the other peaks along the way.
Sugarloaf and Cathedral Peak are not that far away from each other, so it seemed reasonable to me to do them together. I hadn’t decided whether to enter from Sugarloaf, and do an out at back, or enter from Jawbone Creek Track then do one peak, and the other if I felt like it. When I got there, I thought Why not start at Sugarloaf and do an out and back. I can turn back with a loop near the Jawbones if I don’t feel like continuing.
I read up on the Parks Vic notes, as well as my little walking book. There are 2 short ways to get up to Sugarloaf. The Wells Cave track sounded pretty cool, and I’d seen a cool picture of a cavey canyony type thing you have to slide sideways through. It is classified as “hard” with “rock scrambling” and it’s advised not to descend that way, so I figured I’d return via Canyon Track, which is considered easier.
So I got 15 mins up Wells Cave Track before I came to this rock wall:
If you look closely, you can see an orange arrow on a tree up ahead. Yep, that’s the trail. Or the way up. Or something.
I am really no rock climber. And I’m kinda scared of heights. Not being up in a tall building, or a plane, but I’m absolutely terrified of being on an unstable height, or in a situation where I don’t trust myself to hang on. Like a cliff face, for example. I don’t even like to stand on chairs at home. Or a ladder. In fact, I’ve been known to freak out when having to stand on a ladder. It’s not the height. It’s the possibility of falling.
I managed to get onto that ledge about a third of the way up. Then I didn’t know where to go. There was either not much rock to hang onto with my hands, and/or just millimetres for footing. I realised that even if I did make it another step or so higher, if I decided I couldn’t continue, I wouldn’t be able to get down. So I decided to bail then and go up Canyon track. Of course, by this point, standing on a ledge, trying to figure out if I should jump down, slide down on my back, or attempt to climb down the way I got up, my legs were shaking. Not from effort. But from sheer terror.
Somehow I managed to fumble my way down, and ran down the runnable bit of the track to where I started. Then I decided to climb up Canyon Track.
Canyon Track seemed much easier. There were rocks, but so far they were doable.
About 15 minutes into this track, I came across this:
This looked much more achievable than Wells Cave Track. I mean, I could have at least climbed up. There were lots of places to put your hands, but not great places for your feet. Again, I decided that if it got any worse from this point, I probably wouldn’t be able to get down. At least, not without a meltdown.
So I decided to head back down, and drive a few kilometres to Jawbone Creek and head up that way.
By this time it was much later in the day than when I’d normally set off on an adventure. I figured I could do South and North Jawbone, and possibly head along the Razorback to Sugarloaf and attack it from that angle.
Jawbone Creek Track was very pleasant with no “rock scrambling”. It is so easy, that I took my mind off things, and rolled my right ankle. By the way, my right ankle is the one that’s given me grief for the past 2-3 years. This is the first time I’ve ever rolled an ankle and thought hmmm so this is what it feels like for those people that say they roll their ankles badly. I stood still for a few minutes on the other leg, while waiting to regain feeling on my sprained ankle. During those minutes, I thought I should probably just drive home. But after trying to stand on my right leg, and succeeding after a little while, I decided to continue.
When I reached The Farmyard, I saw a lyrebird. That was pretty cool. From there you can follow a short path up to Jawbone South. This route, had what I’d call “rock scrambling” as opposed to “rock climbing”.*
From the top I could see my car, although you can’t make it out in the photo, some fog in the distance (it was really foggy on the drive up with poor visibility) and some bare patches that had been logged. It was quite a nice drive up here, with the exception of large logged areas, and signs warning you of logging trucks.
I sat here for a moment to relax in the sun and decide what to do next. I thought I’d do North Jawbone, so tried to remember how I got to where I was so I could figure out how to get down.
Back at the Farmyard, I suddenly forgot my plans, and headed along the Razorback towards Sugarloaf. I may as well do one of the main peaks I planned, right? It started off pleasant enough, and I was able to run for quite a bit before it turned into “rock scrambling”. Here’s an easy section of the Razorback Trail:
Forward movement became progressively slower. I didn’t mind it so much, but mentally it was quite tiring having to watch your step, and having to pay so much attention where to hold onto things and make sure you are still looking up to follow the orange markers.
I could see Sugarloaf Peak in the distance.
It seemed so close, yet so far. I figured it was another hour away. Then I wouldn’t be able to climb down from there, so I’d have to retrace my steps. I sat down in the afternoon sun and thought to myself Why do I want to climb Sugarloaf? What is the point of this? …… There IS NO POINT! and that was it. I decided to turn back. I wanted to be home before dark. Not only that, I wanted to be back at the car before dark! I didn’t have my head torch with me, as that wasn’t part of the plan. I usually carry my backup light, as part of my usual gear, but there was no way I was going to use it (it’s a backup light for a reason – it’s rubbish).
So I turned around, a failure.
I was quite hungry by now. Although I’d had a muesli bar already, I didn’t want to eat anything while on such uneven ground. My right ankle was still a bit shaky and I knew if I stopped paying attention I’d fall over.
Finally I made it back to pleasant ground and picked up speed and ran for a bit.
Then I came across 4 or 5 lyrebirds! Here’s one that didn’t mind me getting up close:
Once back at the Farmyard, I got out another muesli bar to eat as I ran/walked/shuffled down Jawbone Creek Track and back to the car.
What an epic failure of a day! I couldn’t even climb up a peak that many people of lesser ability that me can do with relative ease. I rolled an ankle, and it’s still sore and a bit swollen. And I ended up with 3 little out and back routes, when I would’ve liked just one or at least a nice loop. It was sooooo slow going with my terrible “rock hopping” skills that it took me nearly 4 hours to cover just over 8km.
Here’s the route. You can see my 2 short starts, then the drive for my 3rd start (switched GPS off, hence straight line), the detour up South Jawbone and the pathetic scramble along the Razorback.
I thought I had some sort of ability in tough terrain, but this place really beat me. I don’t know how, when others have easily done it, even carrying big packs. I guess what I like is some pretty single trail that’s completely runnable, but not so pristine that it looks like it’s well maintained. Is that too much to ask?
So now I have unfinished business with this place I will return at some point. I think next time I’ll do Cathedral Peak, Little Cathedral and Ned’s Peak. Then another time I’ll do Jawbone North (and maybe South again), and Sugarloaf via the Razorback.
* From now on I won’t attempt any walks with “rock scrambling”. I have since learnt that it means rock climbing.