Author Archives: rachel

The Pondage (27-28 Oct 2018)

It had been over 6 months since Tom & I had done an overnight bushwalk around Sydney*, so we chose something fairly easy to get back out into the bush.

IMG_3461

Tom pagoda scrambling near Baal Bone Gap

IMG_3463

What do you mean I have to go down there?

IMG_3464

No I don’t want to hold this position while you get your camera out

IMG_3465

Beautiful fern gully

IMG_3468

Where on earth are we? and how do we get around this pagoda?

IMG_3470

2 hours of walking… definitely in need of a snooze

IMG_3472

Beautiful part of the world

IMG_3474

Sunset viewing

IMG_3479

Camp. It was a bit cooler on Sunday

IMG_3480

Impressive cliffs

IMG_3484

Feeling small

IMG_3487

Tom & J in a field of native irises

*I had done K2K in 2 days, but this was the first one we’d done together since April.

Traverse of the gods (29 Sep 2018)

I’d been plumping to do this walk for most of winter but the weather conditions hadn’t come to the party. Finally on our last weekend living in Blackheath we got a reasonable forecast so off we went. We hadn’t managed to get out much in recent weeks so it was nice to be striding out along the Mt Banks firetrail in the sunshine. It wasn’t long before we were at the spot where we needed to descend to the half-way ledge.

IMG_3406

The half-way ledge we’re planning on traversing

IMG_3407

Early days and pretty easy going

IMG_3412

A slightly slopey/loose section… at least for Tom! Apparently he was “careful” (and therefore I wasn’t)

Early on things were pretty obvious. There weren’t too many choices – just keep following the ledge. Generally it was fairly easy going, only one slopey section that made Tom nervous. Then we hit a big gully where there were many options.

IMG_3416

ok, so that’s where we’ve been… now where are we going?

We got to explore many different ledges before finally hitting the logbook (and therefore hopefully the right height!).

IMG_3421

rock formation

Entering the “Devils Throat” and the narrowest ledge of the route to date. We may have done some other narrow ledges unnecessarily while we were trying to find the correct level.

IMG_3425

Finally we’re at the ‘devil’s throat’ at the right level… now it gets narrow

IMG_3427

Lovely views of the Grose Valley

On the other side of the Devils Throat was a narrow ledge. The easiest (?) way across was to sit on your bum and ease yourself over. It was more awkward than it looked but dry for us so no great drama.

IMG_3428

Tricky narrow bulging ledge to get past (is more awkward than it looks)

From there we scrambled up on to the tops for lunch – somewhat later than it might have been had we picked the correct route to start with.

IMG_3430

Yes Tom you need to mantle!

IMG_3432

Well-earned lunch!

From there it was a relatively easy traverse around onto the Mt Banks summit track. A great short day out.

K2K in two days (8-9 Sep 2018)

I have walked the Kanangra to Katoomba route twice before – once as a 3 day trip back in 2007, (& photos) and then last year in 1 day. To complete the set I needed to do it in 2 days. The idea was conceived only a few weeks earlier when Jo & I were doing another SBW trip, and so it ended up on the SBW Spring Program. We had hoped to get enough people to do it in two groups, walking in opposite directions, with a car swap. We got up to 9 at one stage but in the end we had a party of 6, so only one group. Which was fortunate since that meant we all fitted under the shelter shed when we arrived in the rain at the Kanangra Walls car park on Friday night.

IMG_3323

Misty Kanangra Walls car park early on Saturday morning

We were rudely awoken by a fellow SBWer “Kanangra Bill” who was up before the birds (or at least well before my alarm). Nicci & Bill were off even earlier than us. Our group got away at 7:20am. It seemed the bulk of the rain had bucketed down in the early hours and we were hopeful the cloud would lift during the morning.

IMG_3325

Enjoying the views from the plateau

Thick low cloud and wet vegetation made for a fairly quick pace (as there was nothing to look at), countered by needing to take care with the wet surface underfoot. There was no question of stopping for too long as the cold quickly set in.

IMG_3326

We got very excited as we could briefly see something

IMG_3327

Gordon Smith Pass was a little slippery

IMG_3330

Coming into Gabes Gap

Geoff & I had similar motivations for doing the walk. We’d both done K2K in a day in recent years and had loved the ridge walking but wanted to redo it with more time to appreciate the views. The others hadn’t done the full route so were just wanting to experience it for the first time. We’d all been as far as Cloudmaker before so I wasn’t too upset about the cloud since we’d seen those views before. My dreams of having lunch in the sun near Mt Moorilla Maroo taking in rarely seen views was not to be. With the cloud still very low we settled on lunch at Dex Creek. Our spirits were buoyed when we saw glimpses of blue sky in the direction we were heading – the cloud was lifting! We were so cold though that most of the party was packed and ready to go before Jo had even finished eating her lunch.

IMG_3335

Lunch at Dex Creek

Sadly the lifted cloud didn’t last long and we were soon back walking in the midst of it. The navigation between Dex Creek and Mt Amarina was surprisingly straight-forward. The foot pad was pretty clear to follow other than one spot near the Eastern end of the Cloudmaker summit ridge. Possibly everything being wet made it easier to see on the ground.

IMG_3337

Pretending we can see anything

IMG_3341

Atmospheric ridge walking

By the time we got to Mt Strongleg we were no longer walking in mist so we had a break to take in some views. Then it was the steep descent down to Kanangra Creek. Reports from the previous week had said there was no flow in the lower section of the creek. We deliberately aimed off on the spur to the NW at the bottom so we’d hit the creek high up where it was more likely to be flowing.

IMG_3342

Taking a break before descending Strongleg

IMG_3345

The cloud started lifting as we descended

We hadn’t needed to worry – Kanangra Creek was flowing strong and clearly right until the junction with the Coxs River. I was quite surprised, as while there had been a bit of rain in the previous week and a dump the night before, the creek gave no indication it had been dry only a few days earlier.

IMG_3350

The trials of being chased by the bushwalking paparazzi

IMG_3351

Well-equipped camp at Konangaroo Clearing

The other reason I’d wanted to do this route was to camp at Konangaroo Clearing which I hadn’t done before. It’s a very large space but fairly undulating so a few people took a while to find the right spot for their tent.

IMG_3356

Sunday morning at camp

We got away from camp at 8am on Sunday with crossings of Kanangra Creek and Coxs River to immediately challenge us.

IMG_3357

The crystal clear water of Kanangra Creek meets the murky Coxs River

Unusually for me I went for a crossing with shoes on as the Coxs was murky and knee high at the deepest. I’d spent all of the previous day with wet feet so I figured my socks and shoes were already damp. Half the party gamely went for the bare foot option.

IMG_3364

Crossing the Coxs River

1.5 hours later we were all at the top of Mt Yellow Dog happy to see the sun and feel a bit of breeze. The large cairn which had existed there last year was no more.

IMG_3372

Jo on Mt Yellow Dog

From Mt Yellow Dog the route was straight-forward if becoming more painful by the kilometre. A day and a half of wet feet wasn’t doing my feet any good and I was looking forward to lunch and a chance to dry them off.

IMG_3373

“only” 15km to go

We decided we needed some views for lunch since we’d been so deprived the previous day. So we had a late-ish lunch above Tarros Ladders. Everyone handled the ladders well – even the one party member who didn’t like exposure and didn’t realise he had to climb spikes until I mentioned it at morning tea…

IMG_3379

Jo on Tarros Ladders

IMG_3385

Jo & Jon with our route stretching out beyond them

I should have done something with my feet after lunch but didn’t so the Narrow Neck fire trail bash was not the most fun I’d ever had. Final count was a bleeding left heel, blisters under 3 toes and weird blotchy swollen ankles. I was in a much better shape after K2K in a day! Nonetheless we all survived and had a good time despite the weather.

IMG_3389

Geoff, Rachel, Yoon, Jo, Jon, Michael

Tom came down to meet us as due to a traffic snarl in the Harbour Tunnel on Friday night we hadn’t managed to get two cars out to the locked gate. We were happy to get into the packet of chips he produced! Then we reconvened at the pub in Katoomba for a celebratory beverage and some well deserved food. We were an amusing (?) site leaving the pub as we hobbled in our various ways back to the cars. A fun weekend but I think I’ll be doing a bit more training before my next K2K endeavour!

Embracing the wind! (19 Aug 2018)

While we’ve been living in Blackheath it was been very windy a surprising number of weekends. Our general approach has been to try and find walks to do on Eastern facing slopes but none of the things on my to-do list met that criteria. So we bit the bullet and headed off to explore Blackmans Crown.

IMG_3255

Rock Arch

The exploring of the outcrop was definitely made more exciting by the very strong gusts of wind. Having to pause half way through a somewhat delicate move while the next 50km/h blast passed made things a bit nervy.

IMG_3258

Narrow sidling

IMG_3259

Is that the way?

IMG_3261

Almost at the summit

IMG_3264

Tom’s lying down in this shot because it was too dangerous to stand up with the wind gusts!

IMG_3265

Lovely views

IMG_3267

Is he going to fit?

IMG_3268

Or is he stuck?!

IMG_3273

Quick trip to Utah :)

IMG_3276

And now what?

IMG_3280

Then we went looking for a cave in the snow

IMG_3281

Results of several snow showers

IMG_3282

Another snow shower

 

Lower Zambezi – Zambia Part III (5-10 Aug 2018)

After a few days at my school reunion (Part II) we were ready for the next part of our trip. We left Mkushi early on Sunday morning to drive to Kariba. We had a much better trip to Lusaka compared to the way up – a lot less traffic as we were earlier in the day. We had lunch at one of the big malls in Lusaka – they were very impressive – you could have been anywhere in the world!

IMG_3063

Lunch stop in one of the several large malls in Lusaka

Then we still had a few hours drive to the border post at Kariba Dam. The border formalities went relatively smoothly. As we were taking our hire car across the border there was a bit more paperwork. Everything I’d read on the internet had led me to believe we were going to be hit with large ‘taxes’ for taking the car into Zimbabwe but only US$20 poorer we were across – I’m not complaining! We finally got to where we were staying about 5pm – so an 11 hour day of travel. We got to enjoy sunset on the edge of Lake Kariba for a bit but then we needed to sort out our gear as we were starting our canoe safari early the next morning.

The canoe safari ended up being just me, Tom and 3 guides; Norman, KK and Thomas! (Thomas was a trainee, normally it’s just 2 guides to a trip with up to 8 clients). We started off with a shopping trip for any additional beverages we wanted and then we had a few hours drive to Chirundu.

IMG_3069

About to leave Kariba Town

IMG_3070

Looking down the Zambezi escarpment – very hazy due to seasonal burn-off

Just as we were about to start heading down the Zambezi escarpment one of the guides got the driver to pull over. It seemed the bearings on one of the wheels on the trailer had gone. After a bit of chat the driver and guides decided we’d just keep going. We made it to Chirundu safely though the wheel looked a little worse for wear!

IMG_3074

The wheel with the broken bearings in Chirundu

We had lunch on the riverbank while the canoes and gear got sorted out. KK found us some Baobab fruit to sample. They were quite nice.

IMG_3077

Baobab fruit – quite tart but tasty

With the guide to client ratio as it was Tom & I both got to go in a canoe with a guide which made things pretty relaxing as all we needed to do was paddle (sometimes) and they did all the steering. Norman told us he normally tries to split couples up in the canoes otherwise they tend to not enjoy the trip.

IMG_3080

Riverside scenery – luxury lodges and elephants!

IMG_3086

Photographer, baobab, fish eagle (in the tree) = match made in heaven

IMG_3087

Idyllic river paddling

The first day was fairly hard for non-conditioned paddlers like us. We did 4 hours in the canoes without stopping (~25km) so by the time we pulled into our island for the night our bottoms were pretty sore. I was beginning to wonder if I’d got in over my head!

IMG_3090

African sunset – camp night 1

IMG_3092

KK cooks up pork chops on night 1

I was more relaxed when I realised we’d done almost a third of the distance on the first day. Day 2 was another 25km day – but done over 3 stints so more chances to stretch out. We started the day with hot drinks and biscuits.

IMG_3093

Some serious wind shielding for the kettle!

IMG_3103

The hippos were always lurking

IMG_3112

River-level views were pretty good

IMG_3114

Elephant and cattle egret

We had breakfast after a couple of hours of paddling, then lunch a bit later. Hippos were ever present so the guides were always on alert to make sure we took the best route around them. Our lunch spot was down a side channel, and there was a large pod of hippos on the shore next to where we needed to go. Hippos want to be in deep-ish water when feeling threatened so a bit of slapping the paddles on the water got them all moving.

IMG_3117

We’re aiming for the tree on the right… just go to get the hippos out of the way first!

IMG_3118

And they’re off! including all the birds off their backs

As soon as they were in the water we zipped through the side channel entrance that had been full of hippos only moments before. We had lunch and a long break in the heat of the day before our final stint of paddling for the day to camp.

IMG_3132

Sunset – day 2

As we’d done half the paddling in the first two days the third day was fairly relaxed. We followed the pattern of the previous day but drifting more and paddling less.

IMG_3147

Morning tea stop day 3

IMG_3159

Sunset – day 3

The final day was only 8km so we covered that in about an hour. Then there were trailers to load at Mana Pools, more National Parks paperwork and then a long drive back to Kariba.

(If I was planning this trip again, knowing what I know now, I would have looked at a provider on the Zambia side as it would have saved us both driving time and border crossing time and expense. That is in no way meant to reflect poorly on the company we went with – more that we probably could have saved ourself a day or maybe more of driving.)

IMG_3168

And before we know it that’s the end

The drive out of Mana Pools was made unpleasant by the presence of Tsetse Flies which have a fairly painful bite. And similar to the March Flies in Australia they need to be well and truly squished to kill them. We were all pretty glad once we were back on the escarpment without them.

IMG_3169

Lunch stop on our way back to Kariba

Once back in Kariba we had border formalities to go back to Zambia (Siavonga). I thought maybe all these ‘taxes’ were going to come on the way out – but other than a K20 (A$2.70) road toll we got through unscathed.

Our original accommodation provider couldn’t take us so other arrangements had been made on the Southern Belle – a moored houseboat on Lake Kariba. Probably an upgrade from what I’d booked!

IMG_3180

The Southern Belle

For a while it appeared we might have the entire boat to ourselves, but there was another group of 4 guests. Of which 2 turned out to be the parents of one of my school friends who I hadn’t seen since 1994! Such a small world.

IMG_3177

Southern Belle relaxing

IMG_3179

Southern Belle lounge room

From Siavonga it was back to Lusaka. And primarily for the location north of the airport we stayed at a small ‘game park’ just out of town. Having done ‘proper’ safaris in Namibia and Botswana this wasn’t particularly exciting though they did have some gorgeous cheetahs.

IMG_3231

Tom’s found a friend

IMG_3232

Just a yawn right?

IMG_3236

Rachel’s found one too

Of course when we got on the plane there was an article in the in-flight magazine about how these sorts of animal interaction experiences should be avoided due the exploitation of the animals, unhealthy breeding industry which it promoted etc. I’d like to think the story we got told was true – that the cheetahs had been found as orphans – they’d been at the property 6 years. I would’ve been happy just to watch them as we haven’t seen any cheetahs in the wild during our African adventuring, but as evidenced below we got quite a lot of interaction.

And thus ended our Zambian adventure.

Mt Mumpu – The Return – Zambia Part I (30 Jul – 1 Aug 2018)

The last time I was in Zambia was 1996. A lot has changed since then! For one I am 22 years older. Another, I am now an adult. This was one of the more stressful trips I’ve organised – information on the internet isn’t as easy to come by but more importantly my trust that things I had booked would work out was low.

The internet was full of death-inducing dangers of driving in Zambia. There’s not a big car hire industry in Zambia and I had booked with a relatively unknown (at least by internet recommendations) company. We arrived into Lusaka early on our flight from Johannesburg, having left home some 20 hours earlier. Reaching the front of the queue at immigration we were informed we needed to be at the desk next door. So we duly shuffled across, upon reaching the front of that queue we were told we needed to be in the queue next door. What? We’ve just come from there? Turns out there was a little window we’d missed where KAZA visas are issued. Eventually being served from that window, the lady then battled with the password for the special laptop, the printer, the print alignment etc. Forty-five minutes later we both had KAZA visas, and the luggage was only just out so no time really lost. Our car hire man was there, and we were whisked away to a dark, deserted car park (it was 9:30pm by this stage) to collect the car. It was a full 4WD Toyota Prado rather than the ‘medium SUV’ I’d booked. Bonus. It felt like the classic set up for a mugging. I was pulling out my credit card, licence, passport while Tom was being dragged around to inspect the car in the dark.  We survived the dark car park and soon I was driving to our accommodation for the night. That was all pretty straight-forward as well.

The next morning we had breakfast and then headed to East Park Mall to do some shopping. I was impressed by the mall. Unfortunately because it was Sunday most of the shops didn’t open until 10am, so we couldn’t get away until after then. The camping store I’d hoped to get a gas canister from had one sort with the screw (EN417) attachment but it wasn’t quite the type we’re used to. With no choice we hoped it would work. We picked up a local SIM card as well as some groceries and fuelling up the car. Tom took the first leg of the driving which wasn’t much fun as we had to firstly get out of Lusaka and then once on the main road there were numerous trucks going at variable speeds. It made overtaking a much more challenging experience due to the large variety of speeds being done, by the vehicles in front, the vehicles approaching on the other side of the road and the vehicles racing up behind you that were game to overtake multiple cars/trucks at a time. On the plus side the road was in much better condition than I was expecting with very few potholes.

Not finding anywhere suitable to stop for lunch Tom ended up doing over 4 hours straight driving, and lunch was eaten while we were driving. It was with great relief we finally got to my old school friend Nicky’s farm in Mkushi. I last saw Nicky in NZ when we were both 19 and we did a 2 week road trip around the South Island. A lot has changed since then! We had a lovely evening outside around the fire with Nicky & family (husband, 4 kids, 2 fur children) before crashing out. The next morning Nicky’s Mum & Dad & sister popped by – it was great to see them, as they had been wonderful hosts to me for several weeks in the summer of 1996/97.

Next stop was Ndubaluba to get a map for our Mt Mumpu mission. Abe gave us a map and the loan of a water filter, but the most complex thing seemed to be the driving directions! We hoped we had all we needed before hitting the road for Kundalila Falls. Despite suggestions we should pretend to be locals to get the cheaper fees I couldn’t bring myself to outright lie when asked what country we were from. So K150 each later we had our invoice – only 6 times the local rate! We wandered around to the look-out of the falls, then headed down to the bottom. The base of the falls was in the shade and despite being a bit sweaty by the time we got down there was no real temptation to go for a swim. Tom spent a while photo-faffing before we headed back up.

IMG_2955

The photographer at work at Kundalila Falls

At the top the campsite was pumping! We had been warned that there was an Ndubs group there, so it wasn’t hard for me to pick out Mr Thompson (my ex-Geography teacher, now head of the outdoor centre). We had a most enjoyable evening with Mr T, and the Banani school group – including their presentations of Super Supper. It was our coldest night though – was very glad of my warm sleeping bag that I almost hadn’t packed.

IMG_2957

Kundalila Falls

IMG_2961

Views from the Kundalila Falls viewing area

After visiting the view point again in the morning, and with final tips from Mr T on Mumpu we hit the road. We made good time to Mkushi, but then it was a very slow drive out to Changwena Falls. We had a mud map of the route but we weren’t super confident in it. The key direction was to turn right at the Upper Lunsemfwa Primary School sign… we got to a sign, I thought I could make out the lettering so we turned. The road was increasingly sketchy and we were both desperately hoping we were going the right way because it wasn’t going to be much fun having to drive back out with no reward.

IMG_3028

The sign!

Eventually we became confident we were on the right road. We found the other turn-off with the bits of tape on the tree and soon we were at Changwena Falls along with the crowds. We had also been warned that a Duke of Ed Group would be finishing up there, so we weren’t surprised. What we were surprised at was the annoying bitey flies (bees?) that were everywhere, including in your ears and eyes and nose. That made our decision on whether to walk to the base that afternoon pretty easy – anything to get away from the insects! We scored a colour map from Josh, to replace the B&W one we’d been given by Abe, and then we were off.

What we would call a fire trail had been established to a base camp below Mt Mumpu so it was easy walking in the late afternoon.

IMG_2966

The firetrail to the base of Mt Mumpu

We passed a burn-off along the road on our way. Unfortunately one of the last things Mr T had warned us about was the possibility of fires and the danger to the car. While I wasn’t concerned it meant Tom had a sleepless night worrying about it.

IMG_2969

Seasonal burn-off next to the fire trail

After some quick photos of the mountain in the sunset light we got camp sorted. Our gas canister had been a dud as our stove wouldn’t screw into it far enough to release gas, so it had been ditched and we were back to cooking on the fire. It was a super windy night which didn’t help our sleep.

IMG_2975

Camp below Mt Mumpu (if you look carefully you can see the cave)

Tom was so worried about the car and out of control grass fires he wanted to bail straight back to the car. I was having none of it. So shortly after 7:30am we left camp on our way up Mt Mumpu. It looked exactly like the photos from 1994 :)

IMG_2976

On our way to Mt Mumpu

IMG_2977

Starting to get steep

IMG_2983

The mouth of the cave

IMG_2984

A bit of scrambling keeps things interesting

IMG_2988

Bat guano. Mmmm.

IMG_2989

More scrambling in the cave

The section up through the cave was trickier than I was expecting. But then I realised most of my memories from the 1994 trip were just based on the photos and video. There was quite a lot of scrambling, a bit of pack passing and some grunting from Tom as we squeezed through a couple of the smaller holes.

mumpu5

In the cave in 1994

IMG_2994

I can see the light!

IMG_2995

Looking back through the dark section

IMG_2997

Tom emerging from the dark, squeezy section

Once through it wasn’t quite over, we had to find our way out on to the ridge, disturbing some baboons who were quite vocal in their displeasure but soon headed off.

IMG_3000

Taking in the views

There was still a bit of work to be done to get to the summit. We arrived at 9:30am – 2 hours after leaving camp.

IMG_3006

The trig has been pushed over, with a cross in place at the summit now

I was hoping to somehow recreate the summit shot from 1994 but the Trig which had existed then has been pushed over hit by lightning.

mumpu6

The 1994 summit party (I’m in the middle in the red/white striped top)

IMG_3007

The 2018 version – standing on the original trig spot

We enjoyed the views for a while before heading off the other side.

IMG_3008

Tom with views of the Irumi Hills behind

We picked our way down another ridge and found the walking similar to The Kimberley region in Australia. Spinifex-like grass which was slow-going at times, or fast if it had been burnt out.

IMG_3012

Easy walking through some of the burnt out areas

IMG_3014

Enjoying lunch in the shade

Other than deciding to go through a swamp for about 200m at the bottom of the ridge we descended the walking was very pleasant. We picked up the fire trail we’d come in on a bit further along and were back at, a now empty, campsite by 2:30pm.

IMG_3017

Back on the fire trail

We hadn’t actually been down to the Falls when we’d arrived the previous day. I didn’t really remember them, other than in 1994 I knew we’d swum there. They are stunning. Again we could have been in The Kimberley. We had a good wash, though didn’t stay in too long as the water was brisk. Unfortunately the annoying flies found us and eventually I beat a retreat to the tent.

IMG_3021

Enjoying a well-earned swim at Changwena Falls

IMG_3022

Tom ‘posing’…

mumpu1

Some of the 1994 contingent enjoying Changwena Falls

We had a pleasant night around the campfire. I was surprised at the amount of rubbish that has been left around camp – Mr Solomon would have had our heads! I cleaned up most of the toilet paper and foil in the fire, but don’t think I got to everything.

IMG_3026

Camping at Changwena Falls

On the drive out we discovered the back of the sign was very clearly lettered! So if driving out there and in doubt – have a look at the back!

IMG_3027

The back of the sign

A fun trip, though going up the cave was a bit harder than I was expecting – quite impressed by my 14-year old self!

 

See the later part of the trip here: Lower Zambezi

Avoiding the wind! (7-8 July 2018)

With Friday off work I was keen to make use of my three day weekend however I didn’t get any takers for a full three days of activities. On Friday afternoon we hatched a plan with Toni & Smiffy to go out to Red Rocks for the weekend. I was all packed to go and then Tom & I headed into Blackheath about 6pm. Two minutes out of the car to go to the grocery store had me doubting the sense in our plan! The wind was bitterly cold, I think the BOM had the apparent temperature at -5°C and that was only the early evening. I’m not sure how much convincing Toni & Smiffy needed but it didn’t take that long to get agreement via text message to convert plans into day trips.

I’d been wanting to do Orang-Utan Pass for a while but Tom had been resisting my suggestions. It seemed like a good option for the day as it was on the East side of the ridge keeping us out of the 50-60km/h westerly wind. Unfortunately Toni’s gaiters ended up at our house instead of in the car so she bravely forged on with bare legs despite knowing we were likely to encounter a fair bit of lawyer vine. I didn’t take a heap of photos as the bulk of the day was either bush-bashing or else on the Grose Valley track to Perrys Lookdown which we’d walked several times recently.

IMG_2848

Smiffy photographing Tom crossing the crux of the route

IMG_2849

Tom carefully easing his way across the small ledge

IMG_2852

The logbook. A bit more traffic in 2018 compared to previous years (average seemed to be about 1 trip per year since it was placed in 1990)

IMG_2854

There was still plenty of route-finding to come

IMG_2860

Toni at the one spot we used the tape

We were happy to get back to the house and get the fire roaring. Sparkling red, cheese, and later on a delicious chocolate mud cake made for a pleasant evening inside out of the wind.

The next day the incentives for getting moving weren’t high as we could hear the wind buffeting the house. Eventually we settled on Jugglers Canyon since Toni hadn’t done it, and Tom thought it would be out of the wind.

IMG_2867

Toni on abseil

For the record Juggler still gets plenty of wind.

IMG_2870

The snaparazzi!

IMG_2873

Toni abseiling

We took a different route out from our usual one. I was quite surprised to find some handrails!

IMG_2875

Tom handrailing :)

IMG_2877

Toni coming up the handrail section

Since we’d started quite late it was unsurprising that it was well and truly lunchtime by the time we got back to the cars. We had lunch in Katoomba, the enthusiasm for post-lunch activities was limited so we called it a weekend at that. A satisfying one despite the bout of softitis that kept us inside overnight :)

Colliers Causeway (15 July 2018)

With overnight lows forecast of -5°C it wasn’t surprising there was quite a lot of ice about when I walked the Porters Pass – Colliers Causeway – Centennial Glen Creek track!

IMG_2908

Roadside frost

IMG_2924

Centennial Glen Creek

IMG_2928

The Grotto

IMG_2930

Icy winter wonderland

IMG_2931

Ice antlers

IMG_2932

Ice bubbles

IMG_2935

Icicles

 

Dunphys Pass & Tarros Ladders (14 July 2018)

The day dawned cold and still which was a relief compared to the 60km/h winds that lashed the area on the previous weekend. It was so cold that the surface of Megalong Creek at the Old Ford Reserve was sheets of ice when we drove past! The sun was out and provided warming comfort as we did a round of names at Dunphys Campground.

We set off with a steep climb up the Bellbird Ridge Firetrail. It wasn’t long before we reached the spur leading up to Glenraphael Head. A few layers came off and then we were off into the bush. The initial spur is easy off-track walking but once we’d got to the steep section below the cliffline we were thrust into a whole new world of scrub. The scrub combined with loose rocks underfoot slowed our progress but eventually we made our way round to the gully containing our pass. Morning tea was taken in a beautiful, if shady, tree-fern lined gully so that we were fortified for the scrambling to come. Conveniently I don’t have any photos of the scrub bashing leading up to this point so it can’t be proven :)

Not having done the pass before I was not entirely sure what to expect. I’d reviewed some photos from other trips but they didn’t quite line up with what I’d imagined. I scrambled up first with the intention of setting a tape but the rock was so friable I couldn’t find anything to anchor it on. Tom then attempted a body belay but in the end most of the party scrambled up without any assistance and the remainder took the lower ledge route around.

IMG_2884

Tom & Ian looking for somewhere in the crumbly rock to put a sling

IMG_2887

Jo taking the low, but exposed, route

With the tricky bit done we were then treated to lovely views out into the Megalong Valley as we traversed around on half-way ledges. It is only after reviewing the photos back home I realised we didn’t sign the log book! (though Tom tells me he did briefly look for it and didn’t see it)

IMG_2890

Happy campers (well walkers) on the halfway ledge

There was a last section of bush-bashing to come to get out of the final gully and around Glenraphael Swamp to the fire trail. Some wombat-style crawling got us under the banksia on to the tops and then Tom managed to pick up an old pad which made things slightly easier. We had lunch at Clear Hill savouring the magnificent views over Lake Burragorang and beyond.

IMG_2892

Lovely views for lunch

After lunch we descended via Tarros Ladders. Tom went off to explore the Wallaby Track (successfully) so he got to do Tarros Ladders twice. The rest of us enjoyed the bush track over Mt Debert in the mid-afternoon sun.

IMG_2893

On our way to Tarros ladder (not to be confused with the ladder in the photo)

IMG_2895

Tarros Ladder

IMG_2897

More Tarros Ladder

From Medlow Gap we just had a 9km firetrail walk back to the cars which went very quickly, probably due to the number of animated conversations. We got back to the cars at 4:30pm just in time to see the stunning blazes of colour on the cliffs as the sun was on its way to setting.

IMG_2904

View of our route for the day, from the point below the cliffline, around to the first gully, up on to the halfway ledger, around a couple of gullies, up onto Narrow Neck, out to the end and down Tarros

Back in Blackheath half of us enjoyed some hot chips and a beverage at the Gardners Inn. A wonderful winter’s day in the bush with a great group.

Rockpile & Mitchells Pass (1 July 2018)

We got the new financial year off to a good start with a fine adventure off Narrowneck. Probably a bit more excitement and bush-bashing than originally expected. Tom had previously attempted Rockpile Pass and failed, so he was hoping to knock it off this time.

IMG_2815

Enjoying the views on another wonderful winter’s day

Supposedly the hard bit was after the rockpile but we didn’t manage to locate the rockpile to start with and ended up traversing around into the next gully (with plenty of delightful banksia bashing). Once below that set of cliff lines we were soon back around at the rockpile which we’d missed coming down to – very obvious from the bottom!

IMG_2820

The rockpile

IMG_2821

Stanley checking out the route

IMG_2822

Morning tea in the sun

After morning tea we found the rest of the pass (where Tom had got turned around previously). There were some fixed lines in place which made it pretty obvious where to go. Much to the horror of the rest of as the last person in our party was descending there was a noise you never want to hear. We were round the corner out of site (and out of danger of rockfall) so didn’t know what had happened except it sounded bad. The fixed line had completely severed sending Jon flying. Fortunately asides from some bruising and a heavy landing on his ankle he was ok. We still had a second drop to negotiate but we were much more circumspect about using the rope that was there (and is no longer).

IMG_2827

Climbing up a slightly sketchy slab (which we later had to reverse)

IMG_2829

A very exposed shale ledge traverse (which we later had to reverse)

After getting through the pass we followed along the upper cliff line, over a series of obstacles, until we got to a drop we could get past. Oops. So we had to reverse everything we’d done for the last half hour or so. Then we had a decent chunk of off track under the cliff lines, broken by lunch, around to Mitchells Creek.

IMG_2832

Pretty Mitchells Creek

Mitchells Pass is an interesting pass! There are a series of giant spikes in a tree. The spikes are not in particularly convenient positions and the higher you get the more awkward it gets. We all negotiated it with no issues fortunately.

IMG_2835

Scott on Mitchells Pass

IMG_2839

Stanley near the top of the tree

From there we had some quite unpleasant bush bashing up Mitchells Creek. Eventually Alex pioneered a route out of the creek which got us on the tops quite nicely.

IMG_2841

Climbing out of Mitchells Creek

IMG_2842

Almost at the top of the ridge

Once we attained the ridge it was only a couple of hundred metres back to the firetrail. We managed to time our return to the cars right on sunset. An interesting and challenging day out. There was mutterings of needing 10 years for the memory to dull and think of a repeat trip!

1 2 3 7