Jamie Austin, Wade Kinsela and Simon Budden complete silver Duke of Edinburgh award

On Saturday, October 14 we met at Memorial Park at 7.30am, with hiking packs fully stocked, to catch the 8am bus to Lithgow Train Station. At Lithgow station we boarded a train to Katoomba and made our way to Explorer’s Tree, which marks the start of the 46 kilometre Six Foot Track.

Up until this point our spirits were high, but were soon broken with the onset of some typical Blue Mountains wet weather which persisted for pretty much the whole day. A quick stop to put on the wet weather gear and we set off in the drizzle down a steep set of stairs and into Nellies Glen.

Never to miss an opportunity, Mr Phelan made us stop at Ron’s Roost where he taught us the basic first aid principles for handling a snake bite.

After hiking for 4 ½ hours we reached Bowtell’s Swing Bridge which spans the Cox’s River. Once we reached this point we were officially at the lowest point of the Six Foot Track, being 400 metres above sea level. We all had to cross the bridge individually for safety reasons and then we continued the final kilometre to Cox’s River Camping Ground.

We reached the camp ground at around 6.30pm and set up camp down by the river. After setting up our tents it soon became dark so we used head torches and adventured around the camp ground.

Due to there being a total fire ban we could not have a campfire.

Cooking dinner was limited to our small propane fuelled burners. Shortly after we all went to bed.

On Sunday morning, we woke up at around 6.30am and saw that Miss Sherwood (the most organised camper ever to have hiked the Six Foot Track) was all packed up and ready to go, eagerly awaiting the days adventures. We cooked breakfast and tried to dry off our tents, ready for a full day of hiking.

From camp it was straight uphill and it did not stop there. The majority of the day was spent walking up hill except for some small relief when we descended in to Alum Creek Camping Ground for lunch. After lunch we crossed Little River and headed back up along Black Range.

Black Range is the highest point on the Six Foot Track, being 1200m above sea. We were relieved to finally see civilisation marked by a pine plantation and after eight hours of hiking made it to Black Range Camping Ground.

From pure exhaustion Mr Phelan was in his tent and sound asleep before the sun set on another day. We were not ready for bed, so we played a modified game of cricket with a stick and a rock and managed to successful keep both teachers awake.

On Monday morning, we awoke with renewed optimism with the end was in sight. The 9.5km seemed to go very quickly and we soon reached the highway crossing that marked the final descent into to Jenolan Caves. Once we arrived we took some photos at Carlotta Arch and treated ourselves to a hamburger and chips, the first decent food we had in three days.

Not satisfied with the adventure, we decided to complete the Plughole Adventure Tour at Jenolan Caves. We met up with our cave guides Ted and Emma who made us don a helmet, head torch and overalls. Our first task was to abseil down into the entry of the cave, before completing numerous squeezes and crawls through small holes and tunnels.

A favourite moment of ours was watching Mr Phelan getting stuck half way through a small squeeze. Emma the tour guide reckons it was because it was because of his ‘large Chest’, but we reckon if he had of taken it a bit easier on the beef burgers and chips he would have had a better chance of getting through. Mr Phelan, being the extremely humble person he is, has mentioned his ‘large chest’ every day since the hike.

Once out of the cave we thanked Ted and Emma who were amazing guides and told them we would like to go back to complete the other adventure caves in the future. Once we were finished, we met Bruce Austin, our chauffer, who drove us back to Canowindra by 6.30pm.

A huge thank you to Mr Phelan and Miss Sherwood for completing the hike with us and supervising us along the way.

By Jamie Austin, Wade Kinsela and Simon Budden (Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award – Canowindra High School).