Thursday 7 January 2010

Thursday 7 January 2010 - Morton National Park / Fitzroy Falls / McPhails Trail

This ride is so new, I don't even know what we call it...  Donal, Phil, Helena and Stephe all traipsed down to the Southern Highlands for a look at what had become a bit of a legendary / 'must be done' track through the Morton National Park.  The travelling time was itself a fair indication that we were expecting an epic ride - it must have been at least two hours to get there (including getting lost a couple of times on the way - not to mention a similar problem on the way home!).  In any case, we eventually parked at Glengarry (opposite the entrance to Scot's College's Southern Highlands campus), got our gear together and got going.

Phil had an obsession with photographing gates, and Donal managed to get a couple of other photos:

Given that we had parked underneath what looked like a huuuuge escarpment, we were all reconciled to a long uphill ride and - in any case - had agreed that 'putting money in the bank' up front was a sensible idea so that we would be at peace when it came to 'spending it' later on the descent.  But, it turns out that the first five or so kilometres from our parking spot were in fact *downhill*, and in many cases, quite a long way downhill!  So, when we finally came to the creek crossing that seemed to mark the beginning of the climb, we were long on anticipation, and short on actual climbing...  that didn't stop us making a couple of different attempts at getting across the creek, some more succesful than others.

After a sequence of 'false dawns', where we went up and then down again, we finally arrived at what was unmistakeably the beginning of the real climb up Meryla Pass.  We were all in our granny gears and it was a genuine grind up the first long section.  In the end, the first third or so was a definite grind, the second third was just a very big hill (we took a break at that point), and the final third was more big hill, but not too aggressive.  Probably over a couple of hours or so... but, there's no doubting that the whole thing was very scenic and with the cool mist, it all smelled good too.

Helena was more than happy to keep hill climbing specialist Donal on his toes (his claim to having suffered from excesses over Christmas was clearly intended to limit the shame from being held off by a "young 'un"), and Phil and Stephe cruised up, smelling the roses.

At the top of the climb we were heading for Fitzroy Falls and Phil took a tactical decision to stick to the bitumen, rather than weaving through the national park, on the basis that it would be easier, and we would be less likely to lose our way.  Unfortunately, it turned out that we did some 20kms or so on the bitumen, up hill and down dale, and it's pretty clear that we wouldn't recommend this approach to anyone in future!

We finally arrived in Fitzroy Falls, had a quick drink and snack, and then headed out along the Fitzroy Dam canal to the top of the descent down McPhail's Trail.  There were a few good kilometres in the approach (we passed the 50kms mark on the way there), and then we were on our way down - and it was truly very cool indeed.  Just like in the movies / books / dreams... a really nice single track rolling down the hill.

With a massive hill in the middle (bugger!).

And then some interesting log rollovers from fallen trees (entertaining), followed by more downhill switchbacks (massive fun), and then a hugely steep final descent (scary!).

We were then back at the road, and cruised the last two or so kilometres to the car.

A hoot and a holler, and in all the fun of the descent we forgot the pain of the climb and the silly road based traverse!  Finished off the day with a pie and a drink from the Kangaroo Valley pie shop (which was good: Stephe is very happy to recommend the caramel + banana + malt milkshake, for future reference).

61.8 kilometres, at an average of 11.8km/hr (including all our (numerous) stops).  Probably at least 20km shorter if you skip the road section...  The .kmz file is here, and the full set of photos is here.


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