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The sign as you reach Bowtells Swing Bridge on the Six Foot Track

Crossing Bowtells Swing Bridge over the Coxs River

The History of Bowtells Swing Bridge on the Six Foot Track.

Many people have walked the 45km historic Six Foot Track and crossed the famous Bowtells Swing Bridge that spans the Coxs River, but very few people perhaps know the history around the suspension bridge and how its name came about.

Crossing Bowtells Swing Bridge on our popular Six Foot Track trek for many is a challenge in itself, perhaps it’s the fear of highest for some, or just the instability of the bridge while crossing it ensures a laser focus and determination getting from point A to point B. The bridge is an alternative route that was built for when the Coxs River is flooded but has now become a feature of the Six Foot Track traverse and is now part of completing the adventure challenge.

Once successfully crossed, there is a sense of achievement, the positive emotion of overcoming our fears. It is at this point that we ask people to reflect on the history of Bowtells Swing Bridge and the ultimate sacrifice and the history behind it.

The offical opening plaque on Bowtells Swing Bridge

Built and named in memory of one of our war heroes

Bowtells Swing Bridge was built by 3 Troop, the ‘Tunnel Rats’ of the 1st Field Squadron of the Royal Australian Engineers based at Holsworth Army Barracks in 1991 and was officially opened on the 23rd April 1992. The bridge is named after a fellow soldier of the builders, Corporal Bob Bowtell, who suffocated and died on the 11th January 1966 in foul air while attempting to clear a tunnel of the Viet Cong (VC) during the Vietnam war. Bob was the first member of the unit killed in the Vietnam War.

Corporal Bob Bowtell was born 25th April 1932 and grew up in the Blue Mountains before joining the Army on the 10 July 1959. Bob served as initially as an infantry rifleman with 3RAR and then 4RAR  before transferring and becoming a combat engineer. On the 2nd July 2016 with the assistance of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia and as part of one of Australia’s largest war repatriations, Bob’s remains, as well as the remains of other Vietnam Veterans in Malaysia and Singapore, were returned to Australia for final burial.

So next time you are crossing Bowtells Swing Bridge over Coxs River, please take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice of not just Bob Bowtell, but of all the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the freedom of our great nation. It’s these sacrifices that allow us the freedom and privilege to enjoy the great outdoors and adventures like the Six Foot Track.

If you would like to learn more about Bob Bowtell and his exemplary service to our nation, you can read it here at the Australian War Memorial.

Photo of Bob Bowtell in Vietnam

Photo used with approval from the Bowtell family

How to cross Bowtells Swing Bridge safely

It’s best to cross Bowtells Swing Bridge with two hands on the top cable guides, so it’s recommended to put walking poles or walking stick in your pack, so both hands are free. The bridge swings less if you take it slowly and move in a slow, steady forward movement. This is more important if carrying a large full pack because you will be more top-heavy. If you have a fear of heights, focus on the other side and try not to look down, and before you know it, you will be on the other side. If your fear of heights is uncontrollable and overwhelming, we suggest that you take the alternative route over the rocks below, but we can assure you, you will feel much better and a sense of achievement for trying and overcoming your emotions.

A view of Bowtells Swing Bridge from a distance

 

 

Hacing some fun on the 6 Foot Track in the Blue Mountains
Crossing the Bowtells Swing Bridge on the 6 Foot Track

STORY BY: Mark Henderson

The weekend I trekked the 6 Foot Track.

The 6 Foot Track is not too far from Sydney in the Blue Mountains, but, often, when we consider the word adventure, we think of far off places; places yet to be explored or discovered. Rarely, do we consider that we, in Australia, live in one of the most beautiful and unique places on the planet and we have access to some amazing adventures.

However, Australia offers many opportunities for adventure. We have oceans, desert, rainforests, and vast landscapes, often untouched by people. Recently, I was privileged to join an adventure, here in our own backyard. The adventure dubbed the 6 Foot Track, runs for 45 kilometres from the Jenolan Caves, through to Katoomba, took place in the historic Blue Mountain’s, located one and a half hours from Sydney CBD, which makes it fairly accessible to anyone interested in tackling it.

Let by experienced guides, Shane Pophfer and Darren Wise of Peak Potential Adventures, the 6 Foot Track Trek took myself and a small group of adventurers along a trail blazed by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson, and William Charles Wentworth in 1813, as part of their journey across the Blue Mountains.

The trail itself was beautiful. There was lush scenery, as we carved our way up the mountains, and down into valleys, travelling from the magnificent Jenolan Caves right through to Katoomba. We saw little rivers and were captivated by the wildlife, with birds, wallabies and even wild cows making their homes in the mountains.

Despite the beauty, 45 kilometres is a tough ol’ slog, even across two days.

Carlotta Arch near Jenolan Caves on the 6 Foot Track in the Blue Mountains

Day 1 – Jenolan Caves to Coxs River

On day one, myself and five other wannabe adventurers arrived at Katoomba to meet our guides and the team. We were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, despite arriving at Katoomba for 6am.

From Katoomba, we drove across to the beginning of the 6 Foot Track at the Jenolan Caves. Arriving at Jenolan, I was in awe of the place. The natural land formations and the way the morning light broke through and lit up inside of the caves was fairly breath-taking, as was the beginning of our hike, albeit in a very different way.

We started on the trek, leaving from Jenolan Caves at around 7:45–8:00 AM on Saturday morning, getting on our way to the 6 Foot Track Eco Lodge overnight rest stop at Coxs River, about 30 kilometres away.

Day one was intriguing. We got to see so much, and everyone chatted away, happy to be out on an adventure.

Like every adventure though, the trek had its challenges. It wasn’t quite a stroll in the park, as, at points along the trail, we were forced to walk up hills, and then down again into valleys. Early on in the piece, it was nice when the downhill sections came up.

They’d give you a chance to catch your breath and to enjoy some of the scenery. However, as the journey continued and the aches and pains began to set in, I started to detest the downhill parts. However, I pushed through, and I’m glad I did.

Trekking towards Black Range Camp ground on the 6 Foot Track

On, that first day, we worked hard, pushing ourselves close to our limits, until at one point, around 20 kilometres into the trek, we came upon what our expedition leaders called Heartbreak Hill.

It was a series of steep hills, that never seemed to have an end. We just walked up, and then up, and then up, and it truly did break your heart.

However, upon reaching the peak of heartbreak hill, the views were glorious, and I was awash with an overwhelming feeling of achievement. It was brilliant.

From Heartbreak Hill, we continued, mostly downhill, until we came to the Six Foot Track Eco Lodge at Coxs River at around 4:00 PM, and I tell you what, the Eco Lodge was certainly a sight for sore eyes.

There are bunk beds with all blankets and pillows provided, and believe me after a 30-kilometre hike through the mountains, a bed is a very welcome sight. There is also a pit toilet, and after having to hold on all day, unless you were some of our team, who were happy to dig a hole while on the trek, a pit toilet (despite the smell) is an absolute luxury.

Near the Eco Lodge, there were a few private pools, and being the nice guy that I am, and being part of a nice team of adventurers, the young couple who run the lodge took us down to a secret spot, and allowed us the opportunity to relax and clean the dirt and pain from the day off. The rocks, made of a naturally occurring granite also trap some of the heat from the sun, so we were able to relax, and take full advantage of a sneaky, naturally occurring hot rock treatment, which was really well received.

After day one, resting at the 6 Foot Track Eco Lodge helped heal and relax the body, bringing me back to life and after a great night sleep, I was ready for day two.

The front view of the 6 Foot Track Eco Lodge

Day 2 – Coxs River to Katoomba

We were up early on day two and hit the trek at around 8:00 AM, with the knowledge that there was only around 15 kilometres left.

About one kilometre or so into day two, we came to our first real challenge of the day, The Bowtells Swing Bridge, which was situated around 15-20metres above the flowing water beneath.

Personally, I’m fine with heights and was keen to tackle the bridge. In fact, it was one of my favourite parts of the trek. It bounced and swung ever so slightly, and for the avid photographers on the team, it made for some great pictures.

However, not everyone was quite as okay with heights as I was, and we had a few worried faces crossing over. For some of the team, the bridge was one of the realest challenges on the 6 Foot Track

From there, we moved on, eventually coming into the beautiful Megalong Valley. Now, if you ever travel to the Blue Mountains, I vigorously recommend acquainting yourself with the Megalong Valley – it is mesmerising. An open valley among mountains, littered with gorgeous fields and open spaces, as well as naturally occurring small creeks and river systems, it is a wonderful place.

As the name might suggest, Megalong, is just that, “mega long” and we trekked through it for quite some time on day two. In fact, after Megalong, we only had a few kilometres until our final destination and Katoomba.

As with many challenges, the hardest part of the journey is right at the end, and the 6 Foot Track trek was no exception.

Walking along the 6 Foot Track towards Alum Creek hill in the Blue Mountains

Darren and Shane had both warned me throughout the journey about “Dummy Spit Hill”, which basically made up the last kilometre of the trek.

The name is a little deceptive, as “Dummy Spit Hill” is not really a hill, but rather a ridiculously steep set of stairs that climbs up the side of a mountain. It was by far the hardest part of the trek.

My legs wanted to give up, and I must have drunk close to three litres of water making my way up that staircase. It was tough.

However, I don’t often get to feel the sort of elation I was thrilled to experience once I reached the top of those stairs, and made my way to the end of the trek.

It was a fantastic feeling.

The 6 Foot Track Trek was definitely a challenge that pushed me. I felt uncomfortable and worn out along the journey, but I also felt excitement and life. It was an awesome adventure and something that I will remember for a long time yet, and it was in my own backyard, which is really just an added bonus.

Next time, you feel as though you need an adventure, but need something close, and attainable, I would highly recommend pushing yourself and tackling the full 6 Foot Track, right here in Australia’s beautiful Blue Mountains.

Walking through Alum Creek on the 6 Foot Track

The Peak Potential Adventures group photo with Megalong Valley and the Blue Mountains in the distance as they trek along the Six Foot Track
Walk across Botwtells swing bridge on the Six Foot Track Blue Mountains Walk

STORY BY: Mark Henderson

One of the best walks in the Blue Mountains.

Peak Potential Adventures invites you to join us on a journey of discovery, as we walk through some of Australia’s most historic and beautiful landscapes in the Blue Mountains on this Six Foot Track walk that only takes a weekend. This trek would be up there as one of the most popular and iconic Blue Mountains walks. On this adventure, you’ll meet so many like-minded people who love adventure and the great outdoors. Because of the support vehicle, you’ll only need to carry a daypack with the rest of your overnight gear carried in the vehicle to your eco lodge accommodation at Coxs River. This adventure is suitable for a large variety of fitness and outdoor experience levels because it’s professionally guided and the support vehicle follows the team most of the way.

Departing monthly, the Six Foot Track trek is one of Peak Potential Adventure’s most achievable, fun, and accessible treks.

The challenge, which takes place in the historic Blue Mountains, located one and a half hours from Sydney CBD, takes adventurers across a trail blazed by Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson, and William Charles Wentworth in 1813, as part of their journey across the Blue Mountains.

Peak Potential Adventure’s expedition leader, Shane Pophfer describes the trek, “We sometimes call it the JENKAT because the trek runs from the Jenolan Caves (JEN) to Katoomba (KAT), and in its entirety, and the track is around 45 kilometres long,” said Shane.

“Although it might not be just as challenging as some of our other adventures, it definitely does test your resolve. It’s also up there as one of the best Blue Mountains walks” he said.

“I like to think of the Six Foot Track Trek as a trial run for some of our bigger adventures like Mt Kilimanjaro, Overland Track or Everest Base Camp as it helps to build confidence, but it is a challenge on its own, and when you complete it, there is a real sense of achievement — it’s rewarding,” Shane said.

In total The Six Foot Track Trek runs for two days over the weekend, with the team leaving the Jenolan Caves at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning.

What to expect on this Blue Mountains walk

“With Peak Potential Adventures, we aim to start the trek leaving from Jenolan Caves at around 7:45–8:00 AM, and on the first day we walk to the eco lodge at Coxs River, with our aim to arrive between 3–3:30 PM, however, it is dependent on the team’s speed, but we like to get in there before 4:00 PM,” Shane said.

“We spend the night at the eco lodge, get the fire going and enjoy some downtime at the eco lodge. It’s usually really good fun, and a great time to just catch up and chat about how the trek is going. We put a good feed on as well.

“The next morning, we aim to leave the eco lodge around 7:30 AM, trekking to our first stop at Megalong Valley which we usually get to around 10-10:30 AM. From there we take the final leg of the journey, aiming to get to Explorers Tree between 12:30-1:30 PM, wrapping up there at Katoomba,” said Shane.

“Right at the end, we have one final challenge on this Blue Mountains walk. We call it “Dummy Spit Hill”. It’s the one part of the trek that really does test your resolve, but I think it’s a really good feature to have right at the end, as it makes people work for it and challenges them – for us, it’s a fantastic finish and you get the finished feeling.”

Unlike other Peak Potential Adventure challenges, Shane believes The Six Foot Track Trek is something that anyone who is willing can tackle.

An adventure for everybody

“One of the best things for people who want to attempt the trek is that we run a support vehicle for just about all of it, so if it does become too challenging, you are able to jump in for part of the journey. This way, we think it opens the trek up to anyone who wants to give it a go,” Shane said.

As part of Peak Potential Adventures Six Foot Track trek, teams are generally limited to 12 to allow for a more personal and enjoyable experience.

“We honestly believe we offer the best program for this trek in Australia,” said Shane. “Clients are always rewarded with great scenery on this Blue Mountains walk because it passes through so many great features and the landscape is always changing,” he said.

“As part of this, we try to make sure the trek manageable for everyone. We keep the numbers limited to 12 as we don’t want to clutter it, and we want to make sure we can be available for everyone.”

Much of the necessary gear will be provided by Peak Potential Adventures, however, it is important to wear comfortable walking shoes or boots, a jumper and warm pants, toiletries, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Morning tea, lunch, and a three-course dinner are provided on Saturday, while breakfast and morning team is provided on Sunday, as well as a variety of snacks throughout the two-day trek.

If you are interested in finding out more or joining Peak Potential Adventures on this historic Blue Mountains walk traversing the Six Foot Track, you can find more information about the trek here

Team photo on the Six Foot Track over looking Megalong Valley on the Blue Mountains walk