Author Archives: rachel

Colo Passes 12 & 16 (14-15 Nov 2020)

This trip had been put on the Spring Program with no real plan, other than knowing there were plenty of passes into the Colo which I wanted to explore. Eventually I settled on two new passes (to me) – Pass 12 aka Snakebite Pass and Pass 16 aka Meander Pass. Other than myself and Tom no one else in the group had been into this part of the Colo before. It’s always tricky trying to set expectations for what to expect when a) it’s exploratory and b) people can only process information within their existing frame of reference.

I predicted the Canoe Creek car park would be empty so I was little surprised to find 3 cars there already! Not that I expected to see the occupants since our route was going to be well away from the standard routes in the area. We started off walking out along the ridge to Alidade Hill. A lovely ridge which eventually opened up to give us a good views of where we would exit the Colo on Sunday. I was using a map Tom had acquired from an old club member that had annotations on it. They suggested there was a log book at Alidade Hill (or at least had been in 2002 when the notes were made), but a couple of us had a look and couldn’t find it. Of course, as we were about to set off again, Tom managed to locate it at first glance.

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Some fabulous history!

I was disappointed I didn’t have more time to peruse as it went all the way back to 1972. The first entry was from Bob Buck and G Daley who were responsible for the original Colo Pass naming and map. The logbook only had 3 entries in it since 2012, the last being 2015, so I guess either Alidade Hill doesn’t get many visitors, or no one finds the logbook.

Descending Alidade Hill we were soon on the adjoining spur looking down the steep gully which was (the original) Pass 12.

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Pass 12 is somewhere down that gully on the right

In the context of Colo Passes it ended up being a straight-forward descent – steep, but no particularly technical or exposed sections. The highlight (for Lauren at least) was a hole some of us squeezed through in the gully. Eventually we arrived at the top of, an expected, impassable (dry) waterfall where we had lunch.

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Lunch at the top of an impassable waterfall

It didn’t take long after lunch before we were standing on a delightful (if very glarey) Color River sand bank. I had warned the group it could be a short day if everything went well. Time had been built in for back-tracking if we couldn’t get down the pass. However, as it all went smoothly we arrived at the river shortly before 2pm. A swim was definitely the first item on the agenda.

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Enjoying a well-deserved swim

Once we were refreshed we had a fun time boulder scrambling up Pinchgut Creek to get to a scenic waterfall.

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Lauren enjoying the waterfall ambience

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Tom and the waterfall

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The team enjoying the cooler temperatures

The sun eventually crept over our sandbank allowing us to set up camp and relax. It was a wonderful night for star gazing, no moon light, a clear view of the sky and warm enough to just stretch out on the sand. We spotted many satellites, two shooting stars and a couple of planets. It was almost a shame to retreat into the tent.

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Home for the night

Everyone slept well in the serene surrounds, even if the lyre bird’s wake up call came fairly early in the morning. I was impressed we (almost) got away on time, given how late everyone was to emerge.

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Early morning on the Colo

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Getting wet feet immediately!

The Colo had risen over night – my guess was from the thunderstorms on Friday afternoon. Initially we stuck to the true right bank as the river looked deep, dirty and not particularly attractive to be in. The going was typical river bank – through river gums, over boulders – generally giving you a good work out. Tom eventually got jack of that and decided to run some rapids floating on his pack.

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Beautiful gorge country

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Lauren looking upstream

From there we had a divided party for the rest of the morning, with Tom, Lauren, Paul & Clive mostly in the water and Jo & myself largely on the banks.

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Tom & Lauren (the swimmers) waiting for the rest of us

The swimmers missed out on seeing a diamond python which was not interested in going anywhere, but I’m not bold enough around snakes to have pushed my luck taking photos of it.

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No track here!

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Clive on a sandy section

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The team negotiating a set of rapids

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No better place to be on a day like this

Near the Canoe Creek junction we passed a group huddled in a small shady overhang. Further down we passed a fire place which hadn’t been doused, with copious amounts of foil in it. Fires on the sand hold their heat for an incredibly long time, and this was one was very hot. Several litres of water later we were comfortable it was out properly and it wasn’t long before we were at the junction.

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Clearing foil out of, and putting out properly, another parties campfire

After lunch the party from the overhang arrived. They said there had been several groups camped around the junction the previous night, which I assume is why they had ended up in the spot we’d seen them – a not particularly large or flat sand bank. Turned out one of them was the daughter of one of our club members. We exchanged a few anecdotes about her Dad and his fishing before we headed off to tackle Pass 16.

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Tom hauling packs on Pass 15

Pass 16 starts using the bottom of Pass 15, which Tom had done twice previously. Tom hadn’t remembered any tricky bits in the lower section of Pass 15, but we found ourselves at a spot which required pack passing. This was perhaps a warning of what was to come. I was possibly lulled into a false sense of ease after Pass 12, along with the description of Pass 16 which said “a steep but relatively easy climb. Rope not required”. What we ended up doing didn’t bear too much resemblance to the Pass 16 description!

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Views of the bend

Not too much further on Tom managed to climb a steep slab and put down a tape for the rest of us. By this point the heat was getting to one of the party, so we had a long break in a conveniently located shady cave. It was a warm weekend – the forecast for Richmond was low 30s.

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Jo scrambling up a steep section

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We were over there…

Fortunately from there we were able to stay in a relatively shady gully, with nice rock slabs to scramble up.

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Dunking hats in a convenient pool of water to try and keep cool

With plenty of breaks to ward off heat stroke we eventually made it up to the main ridge, and then followed it North-East. There were increasingly good viewing platforms which gave us a good view over the route we’d taken for the weekend.

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Colo country… (Jo knows what’s really going on in this photo!)

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Big rock platform

Paul had impressed everyone by not only pulling out Chupa Chups the night before, but remembering the flavours that Tom, Lauren & I had favoured on a previous trip! We had a break once we hit the old fire trail for those of us who’d stashed our Chupa Chups to get them out – a welcome treat while we covered the last few kilometres. Unsurprisingly our cars were the only ones left in the car park at 7pm. It was good to get everyone back intact after a fabulous weekend in rough and rugged country.

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Finally back at the cars at 7pm

First 24 Rogaine (7-8 Nov 2020)

Like many things this year the Rogaining calendar has been quite disrupted. I thought I might end the year with no rogaines after leaving it way too late to find a partner for the Lake Macquarie Rogaine. However the wild weather which forced our change of plans last weekend opened up a rogaine opportunity for me. The ACT Championships were meant to run on 30 Oct/1 Nov but were postponed due to high water levels in the surrounding creeks cutting off access to waterdrops. So when Vivien messaged me a couple of hours before the new registration deadline it didn’t take much convincing, particularly when he said his preference was to go back to the hash house to sleep for a bit in the middle of the night.

I’ve previously done a couple of 12 hour rogaines, so it didn’t seem like this would be significantly different – except I’d have to get up the next day and do more! I was mainly worried we’d get the map and find that doing two loops from the hash house wasn’t practical… fortunately a single glance at the map relieved this worry. We didn’t leave ourselves a heap of time for planning, but maybe it’s better not to over think it.

Rogaine Map

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Vivien & I planning

As a covid measure the 24-hour event started an hour before the 8-hour event. Even so there were quite a few of us heading for the same control to start with, but by the time we left our second control we were on our own. Thinking we’d chosen an obvious route I was a little surprised, but not unhappy – much easier when you’re only worrying about your own navigation.

It all went pretty well, in fact we were perhaps both a little disappointed at how easy we found the nav – particularly in the daylight! Things got a bit slower once it got dark – with roads not quite being what was on the map, and spending three times longer than we should have trying to find our last control on the way back to the hash house (but we did get it in the end). Vivien’s navigation as always was excellent. After smashing some cheese toasties and pumpkin soup I dived into bed right on midnight – wondering if the giant blisters on my feet would permit me to walk in the morning.

Given our later than planned arrival back we generously gave ourselves a 6am wake-up time (instead of first light), not that it made much difference the birds woke me before 5:30am. By 6:35am, with blisters taped, we were on the road again for our Southern Loop. This section of the course had a lot more tea-tree which was pretty unpleasant to fight through, but we persevered. Much to my relief we got back about half an hour before the course closure so no need for any running – not sure my left hamstring would have let me even if it had been required.

We came in a respectable 7th overall, and the highest scoring for those who didn’t go for the full 24 hours. Mapping our route when I got home I came up with 43km for our 11.5 hours on Saturday, and 18km for our 5 hours on Sunday. No wonder I was sore at the end of it!

not wet Wild Dogs (30 Oct – 1 Nov 2020)

We piked on plans last weekend due to the forecast. Unfortunately the East Coast Low was hanging about and the forecast for this weekend was just as bad! I didn’t really want to pike two weekends in a row, and this weekend Tom was leading a qualifying walk with the club. After ditching a walk in the Colo River (literally) due to the deluge in the days leading up to it, Tom gave the participants an alternative option in the Wild Dogs. If he got 3 takers we’d go ahead. I think we were both hoping no one was keen. But despite the 8-15mm of rain forecast for Saturday we got 3, giving us a group of 5.

The thunder rumbled menacingly around us as we walked along Ironpot Mountain. We could see the squalls not far off. The jackets went on as we briefly got pelted by hail for about 2 minutes…. and that was really the only precipitation we had to deal with all weekend. Good thing we didn’t pike!

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Rain was all around us

The temperature warmed up, the sun came out.

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But in the end it was a surprisingly hot, sunny day!

Next minute Tom had his gear off and was swimming. Who’d have thought it? (the swimming, not the getting his kit off)

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or should that be moon-y day… :)

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The Coxs had some good flow going on

The section along the Coxs was pretty weedy and somewhat slow going. When we found a good campsite at 3pm there was a fair bit of indecision as to whether to camp, or continue on.

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I think this is a baby capsule, scary to imagine the river at that height!

Another good decision to set up camp and just do an excursion to Merrigal Creek. It was 1km away. About an hour return said Tom. Well, over an hour later we made it to Merrigal Creek having encountered some interesting scrambling along the river bluffs.

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Some fun scrambling on our afternoon excursion

It was 5pm. What are we doing an hour from camp instead of having happy hour!? We took a (somewhat) higher road to avoid the bluffs on the way back. I’m not sure it saved us much time but sometime after 6pm we were back at camp.

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Merrigal Creek – after a fair bit of effort

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Wading through the weeds on our way back to camp

Most of us had a swim to freshen up, and then we settled in for a pleasant evening around the fire. One of the side-effects of a late arrival at camp is that it is easy to get to bushwalkers midnight and beyond.

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Pleasant campsite

Day 2 started with a 580m climb, followed by morning tea at Knights Deck. I had been concerned we’d overheat after the weather the day before – but Sunday was overcast and cool. Perfect for all the hills we had.

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day 2 was all about hills and wild flowers

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The flannel flowers at Knights Deck were incredible

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The remains of the logbook container (new one needed!)

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More views & flannel flowers

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A different pose!

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Only real option for shelter had it been raining

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Funky shapes in nature 1

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Funky shapes in nature 2

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Breakfast Creek

A great weekend out in good company – particularly when we’d all been expecting to be rained on most of Saturday!

A day trip!? (17 Oct 2020)

There have been nineteen weekends since the travel restrictions were lifted at the start of June. I have been on overnight trips fifteen of those weekends with no (full) day walks at all in that time. It was a bit odd to have 5 months between day walks! But with overnight trips planned for five of the next six weekends we decided perhaps a “weekend off” wouldn’t hurt.

Particularly since the forecast for Sunday looked a bit dicey. Another Friday night decision on what to do and a very late attempt to see if anyone wanted to come, but with most likely candidates doing the Lake Macquarie Rogaine, we were just a party of two.

Driving through the mountains since the bushfires in summer it had been interesting to get much better visibility of the cliffs and we had earmarked Mt Haystack as a future trip some months earlier.

I wasn’t sure how we were going to do it as a loop without walking along Bells Line of Road (not recommended!), but when I suggested the option of walking up Mill Creek, Tom seemed to think it would work. I was prepared for a long day given the length of creek we were biting off!

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Looking towards Mt Haystack

It was a foggy, overcast morning as we started, and the vegetation was wet. My shoes and socks soon went the same way, despite us following an old fire trail for the initial section.

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Lomandras – quite pretty when they’re small.

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Negotiating ferns

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Weathered sandstone

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Views over Bowens Creek

The saddle between Mt Haystack and Haystack Ridge was dramatic and required a little bit of route-finding to get across.

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Looking back over the narrow section of Haystack Ridge

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So many cicadas about (or not about in this case)

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Views over Bowens & Zircon Creeks

Tom had brought a rope & harness just in case we had any issues getting down into the creek. They stayed in his bag the whole trip – I was glad he was contrasting the weight of his pack with what it would have been with overnight gear, rather than with mine – otherwise I may have found myself with some more ballast.

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Pretty section in Mill Creek

Mill Creek was typical of creeks in the area, some sections we had to work hard through river gums, boulders etc. Other sections were relatively easy walking along the banks. We’d budgeted for 1km/hour type terrain and our expectations were met.

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Tom contemplating if the water is warm enough for a swim

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Brute strength (and some strong vegetation) allowing us to avoid a deep wade

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Mill Creek

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The way is barred! Not getting up here…

When we finally popped up at the power lines, I had been expecting us to be at the spot where we’d crossed under the power lines in morning. It was clearly not the same spot and I had no idea where we were! For a moment we thought we’d come up the wrong spur, but after some map consultation Tom assured me this was exactly where we were meant to be.

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Are we where we want to be?

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Final ridge bash back to the car

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A little dirty after the exit ridge in particular

It was a 9am – 5:30pm day, one of our longer ones of late, so we were thrilled to find Pie in the Sky was still open. A serving of their excellent apple pies & ice cream, always with a smile, was a great way to end the day.

Somewhere new (10-11 Oct 2020)

I love going to new places and so it was exciting when a walk to an area I’d never heard of appeared on our bushwalking club program. Thanks to Lauren for showing us Mount Royal National Park north of Singleton.

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We started off with an on-track 450m descent.

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Then had a nice wander up Carrow Brook

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Before plunging into some denser vegetation…

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Somewhere through there are Paul and Jo!

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Before we got back onto a relatively flat trail (having regained most of our 450m already!)

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Lots of orchids around! (sarcochilus falcatus)

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Lunch views after a further climb

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And we’re still going up! One of the few sections of the walk which had burnt

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It got a bit interesting

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With expansive views of the surrounds

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Popping out of the forest into an open section

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The very closed in Royal Trig

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Magnificent grass trees – unfortunately a bit scorched

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Now this is what I’m here for!

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Loving the narrow ridge

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And now for some descending

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A pleasant campsite

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Climbing back up for sunset

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some sort of flower

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Sunset from the ridge

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Sunset

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No body home any more

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Pleasant ridge walking

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Lunch (sadly without the views to the East)

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More grass trees

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Firetrail back to the cars

 

Bungleboori canyoning (3-5 Oct 2020)

It’s been a funny year. Normally a long weekend in a bushwalker’s calendar is a holy grail, with plans made months in advance to take advantage of that extra day. But with so many Fridays taken off due to forced Covid leave, I’ve had many long weekend trips since June and so the official long weekend didn’t feel anywhere as critical as usual. So much so that Tom & I had made zero plans by the Wednesday before. Wednesday night we started tossing around ideas, loosely settling on a Ettrema/Jones Creek trip. Thursday morning we get an invite from Kylie to join her & others for some Bungleboori canyoning – which had been one of the discarded ideas – so it didn’t take much further discussion (combined with a hot weather forecast) to revert to that option.

Multi-day canyoning?! How do we do that again? My packing felt rusty, clothes which had been pulled out for bushwalking got tossed aside. The lack of canyoning shorts in my wardrobe was once again an issue. But not long after 6am on Saturday morning we were on our way to Waratah Ridge. Our plan was to do our own thing on the Saturday and meet the Kylie & co at a camp cave on Saturday night.

From the group chat we were aware of wood-fired pizza and neon party activities for those camping on the Friday night. I wondered if they would still be at the car park when we got there at 8:30am. We arrived to a ghost town. Maybe 12 vehicles but not a soul in site.

A last minute decision to walk in using more comfortable shoes meant I was carrying my canyoning shoes in a supermarket green bag hanging off the outside of my pack. Tom took great amusement in the set-up, and I will no doubt regret giving him the chance to photograph it. In the end the shoes came all the way to where we ditched our camping gear and with substantially lighter packs headed off for our first canyon.

Tom had done it once back in 2002, while it was going to be a new one for me. We were interested to see what we’d think – given the number of crap canyons we’ve done in recent years – would it be better than expected?

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Tom on the first abseil of the trip

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Next abseil

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Pretty waterfall

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Awkward start

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Happy now that he’s got over the log!

It was a decent slot with a few abseils, just very short, and it wasn’t that long before we were having lunch on a delightful sandbank in the Bungleboori. The water in the canyon (no more than knee deep) hadn’t been that cold, but 40 minutes of wading up the Bungleboori after lunch turned our feet to ice. Plans for the following day were rapidly being rethought, a canyon with a “few short swims” suddenly seeming like a poor choice.

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Lunch on the Bungleboori

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Nice rock platforms (this was our lunch spot on the 3rd day)

The exit was interesting. A steep loose slope, followed by a narrow traverse to a groove which we needed to force our way up. I decided to try it with my pack, which I eventually succeeded in, but with a lot of grunting. Since I’d done it with my pack I guess Tom felt the pressure to do the same. Even more grunting. From there it was a relatively straightforward meander through the remaining cliffs to the ridge. Previous trips in this area had some of the scratchiest scrub I’ve encountered but the relatively low-intensity burn last summer had done away with most of the mountain holly and devil’s twine which trapped you.

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Awkward squeeze up a groove

Back at our gear we repacked and headed off to the camp cave. As we descended a loose gully, Tom stepped on a rock which rolled under him, leaving him with a heavy landing. His knee wasn’t happy but nothing broken so we pushed onto the camp cave. It wasn’t what I’d imagined – a handful of single sleeping spots and very little flat space for tents in the surrounding area. We set up in the only flat spot we could see and got sorted. Initially we waited for the others before getting into pre-dinner snacks but the sun was on its way down. I was starving, and we gave up and dug in to the cheese & crackers.

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Home for 2 nights

We didn’t know how many had ended up coming with Kylie or what canyon(s) they’d decided to do. So we figured there wasn’t much we could do about them not having arrived. Had we even been talking about the same camp cave to meet at!? We’d held off getting a fire going since there were multiple options for fire places… but as it was now dark we just used the one next to our tent.

It was quite some time later as we were drinking soup that lights appeared on the cliffs opposite. Hmm, they’re not getting down to where we are from there! Some shouted communications were attempted. The lights retreated. But then reappeared a little later. Some more instructions yelled.

The gully to get down wasn’t an easy walk in daylight so negotiating it in the dark for the first time wasn’t going to be pleasant. I would have suggested camping on the ridge at that stage, but since we couldn’t really communicate, we just waited to see if anyone would make it down. Soon the torches appeared in the gully, I wandered around to help them negotiate the final section. Turned out they’d left the carpark at 7am so it had been a very long day.

Soon enough everyone had a spot to sleep and they had the fire going. We came up and joined them in the cave for the evening. The next days plans up in the air; given how tired they were, and on our side Tom’s knee, so we agreed to just work it out in the morning.

The next day we all headed up to the saddle. One of the group decided a 12 hour day was enough fun for the weekend and headed back to the cars, which left 7 of us for the day’s adventure. A stand-off over who was navigating us to the canyon was resolved with Tom & I leading the way. It wasn’t quite the perfect route – a couple of premature drop-offs down scrubby gullies when we could have stayed on the pagodas – but it wasn’t that long before we dropped into the creek just as the canyon was starting.

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Day 2 – views over the Bungleboori

We had morning tea and watched the others wriggle into their wetsuits. Tom & I were feeling somewhat under-dressed in our shorts & t-shirts. Soon enough we were abseiling into the cool recesses of the canyon. With two ropes operating we moved pretty smoothly through the 5 abseils. My only regret being not to remove my shirt before dropping into the only (very short) swim of the day.

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1st abseil of the day

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Nice canyon!

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Crowds at an abseil :)

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Kylie abseiling, while Tom prepares for a swim

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Kylie in the canyon

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Hywaida on the final abseil

Another beautiful Bungleboori sandbank was our lunch spot. The exit didn’t have any particular difficulties and so it wasn’t long before we were retracing our entrance route (minus the scrubby gullies) back to the saddle. The others were heading out that afternoon, while we were staying another night. There was some talk of a run through a nearby canyon before they left, but the somnolence of the hot day sapped enthusiasm. Eventually Tom & I decided to head off and do it (seemed a waste not to) given it would deposit us at the camp cave and meant we didn’t have to walk down the gully again!

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Start of the second canyon for the day – chilly!

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Gorgeous formations!

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First abseil in second canyon

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Canyon formation

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Tom emerging from under the arch

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Second abseil

It took us an hour through the canyon, with a few swims early on – but in the shallow section which had been in the sun. Later potential swims were avoided with some careful bridging, but I was still pretty happy when we got the fire and hot cuppa soon after getting back to camp. It was a pleasant evening and a warmer night (to justify my summer sleeping bag!).

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A very comfortable evening!

Our final day Tom wanted to go down a “canyon” that we expected to be rubbish.

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The best bit of canyon from day 3!?

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Impressive birds nest – just sitting on a boulder in the creek

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Awkward slide

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First abseil

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Gorgeous canyon formation… …oh wait maybe I got my labels mixed up

We’d passed the bottom of it on the first day, and knew there was one surviving tree on the final ledge we would need to abseil off. I was a bit apprehensive – we didn’t know the exact length of the final drop – we thought we had enough rope, but it might involve a bit of creativity to make it down. As expected the canyon was rubbish (maybe 10m of real canyon), and end of the creek was full of fallen trees from the fires. The highlight was the final drop done in two stages.

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Heading into the unknown

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Stopping on rope 60m off the ground for a few photos… as you do

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Anchor maintenance

Eventually on the ledge we’d seen two days earlier Tom & I talked through all of the scenarios – what if the two ropes we had reached, what if only the long rope reached, what whistles were going to mean if we couldn’t communicate verbally etc etc. After all of that, I was probably the most nervous I’d been in years going over the edge! Particularly since Tom was trying to put something to protect the rope under the single strand I was on but it was an overhung start so difficult to get a protector in place.

It was with some relief as I came through the tree canopy I could see that both the long and shorter ropes were on the ground, and that Tom & I were (just) able to communicate by yelling. My relief somewhat dissipated when I got to the ground and found my prusik was locked on the rope, and as I was no longer fully weighting it I couldn’t get it unjammed. After a bit of faffing and some wandering up the slope I eventually managed to release myself. Tom by comparison had a stress free descent knowing the ropes reached – though disappointed as he’d forgotten to take any photos of me abseiling as he was too focussed on trying to get the rope protection in place.

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Tom abseiling the final drop

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Almost at the bottom

A short walk up the ‘Boori got us to the lovely lunch spot we’d discovered on our exit two days earlier. From there we just had to repeat the exit (this time we pack hauled) and walk out.

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Back at that awkward squeeze

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Currently lovely easy walking.. with lots of wild flowers for the intrepid photographer

A bit of breeze made the hot day more bearable and being the last day of the long weekend there wasn’t much advantage in getting out early – it would just mean longer sitting in traffic. It seemed everyone was on the coast based on the numerous traffic updates as we drove home – nothing impacting us so we had a smooth trip home. A great weekend in the bush – some new canyons, some old favourites, some new friends, and lots of mosquito bites!

A half-circumnavigation of Pantoneys (and a traverse of course!) (19-20 Sep 2020)

Originally this trip was planned as a more traditional Baal Bone Gap – Baal Bone Point – Pantoneys Crown – Point Cameron – Baal Bone Gap loop. But a couple of weeks out I realised the access road and some of the walk were through State Forests which were still closed from the summer bushfires. Time for Plan B? Scouring the map I was surprised to see how many different directions Pantoneys Crown could be accessed from. A new route started to form before me, taking in some map features which had caught my attention in the past – Tarpeian Rock and Moffitts Pagodas. The new route had the definite advantage that I didn’t need to worry about the condition of the road, and the associated issues with carpooling and Covid.

We parked a couple of kilometres in on the Moffitt Trail and briefly walked along the fire trail before heading into unknown territory – traversing the Great Dividing Range towards the main Baal Bone Point ridge.

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Fire trail through scorched country to start the day

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Finding our way through the pagoda maze

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A mini-canyon

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Taking in the views

The ridge was a maze of pagodas, but eventually we found our way via a bit of scrambling onto Tarpeian Rock for morning tea. There was some discussion about where the name Tarpeian Rock came from – one of the trip members in googling our intended route had been surprised to turn up a place in Ancient Rome. Perhaps a good thing the googling hadn’t got as far as working out it was the cliff where murderers, traitors, perjurors, and larcenous slaves were flung from to their deaths. I’m not sure what possessed someone to name a rock feature in a remote area of the Blue Mountains after such a historical location!

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Tarpeian Rock

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on the return from Tarpeian Rock

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Impressive cliffs

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Getting off Baal Bone Point

After lunch was where the real fun started – the scramble off Baal Bone Point – I feel like the same logs have been in place for many years to assist with the descent – luckily unburnt. We made short work of the South Pass onto Pantoneys with everyone scrambling up without issue. We hauled packs at the top of the lower section and then squeezed around to the left avoiding the final awkward chimney climbs.

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South pass onto Pantoneys Crown

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South pass onto Pantoneys Crown

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South pass onto Pantoneys Crown

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South pass onto Pantoneys Crown

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South pass onto Pantoneys Crown

After setting up camp most of us went looking for the fabled water source. I had some vague directions, and indications from looking at the aerials, and with the amount of rain there had been in the last few months I figured if we didn’t find water this trip it probably didn’t exist. Tom led us straight into a little canyon which had flowing water and a small pool! This was great news as I think the hot day had caught most of us a little short on the water front. After filling up we squeezed down the canyon to the cliff edge where we took in the views.

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Water on top of Pantoneys

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Tom exploring a ledge in the cliff

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Enjoying a muted sunset

The weather forecast was pretty accurate, we woke to a steady downpour which meant breakfast was a solitary affair as everyone huddled in their shelters. Fortunately about 8am it eased off and we all leapt out and with amazing timing were ready to go right on 8:30am. The views as we traversed Pantoneys were non-existent as we wandered along in the mist.

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View from the tent Sunday morning

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The tidied up fire area

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Summit cairn

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Not so weather proof logbook container

Tom initially wouldn’t believe me when I said we were at the Northern point! I said he was welcome to keep walking if he could find some ground to continue on – fortunately he decided I was probably right and didn’t walk off the edge of a cliff. The top of the North Pass was located without difficulty.

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North pass from Pantoneys Crown

Everything was wet which upped the difficulty level and we used the tape on both the middle and lower scrambles.

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North pass from Pantoneys Crown

The rest of the day we would be in the realm of exploratory adventuring. Following the cliffline of the Western side of the Crown proved relatively straight-forward. The visibility was still low so we couldn’t see anything except the impressive cliff lines looming into the mist above us.

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Traversing the cliffline around the Pantoneys

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Vibrant colours in the wet

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A pretty happy looking party

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Water tension

We descended to the saddle and then had to work out how best to negotiate the myriad spurs and creek lines which would lead us to Coco Creek. I opted for a ‘straight line’ approach rather than trying to contour. As usual 20m contours hide a wealth of lumps and bumps and we were surprised as the rock turned from sandstone to quartzite. It felt like we’d been transported to Kanangra rather than Gardens of Stone. The minor creeks were steep enough that we had to work a bit to get across them, but Coco Creek was the biggest surprise. A rocky narrow quartzite spine led us down just above a roaring waterfall.

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Crossing one of many little creeks on our way to Coco Creek

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Orchids

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Waterfall on Coco Creek

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Start of the climb out of Coco Creek up to Moffitts Pagodas

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Veiled Pantoneys Crown

From Coco Creek we had a couple of steep climbs to get us onto to the Moffitts Pagoda ridge. It was an impressive ridge line, with equally impressive views. The weather cleared as we got near the top and so it was a slow meander along the ridge as every few hundred metres there was another view, different light on Pantoneys and we spent time savouring it all.

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Great ridge walking

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Not done with the squeezing yet

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Recovering scribbly gums

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Pantoneys Crown and Baal Bone Point

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Jo glad we don’t have to walk 2km of firetrail back to the cars

Everyone was very complimentary on my replacement route – I’d like to take the credit but while there’s some skill picking a route on the map, there’s also a lot of luck in how things pan out on the ground. Be assured it’s not every exploratory trip where everything goes pretty much perfectly!

Red Rocks (5-6 Sep 2020)

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Skyline traverse

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A bit more visibility than previous trips

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The entrance

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New season, new fashions!

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View from lunch

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The objective is in view

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Squeezing up a slot to attain the summit

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Views out to Glen Davis from the end

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Happy hour

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I found this tree placement disturbing

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The room

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Getting onto the Pagoda of Death

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Pagoda of Death

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Tom about to get to the top

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Kshitij scrambling

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Delicate arch

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Grass tree

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Paper maps getting a workout

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You go this way, I’ll go that way

 

Ettrema Tops – Solo! (28-30 Aug 2020)

With the Victorian Covid-19 lockdown came more “requests” from my employer to take days off to help the bottom line. Trying to fit in 4 days off in 4 weeks, with no prior notice, and make good use of them is a bit tricky. I ended up booking in a 4 day weekend, but left it a bit late to try and recruit playmates. Tom wasn’t keen on a 3 day trip, but I couldn’t bear the thought of not doing something given it was a beautiful weather forecast. Wednesday night the idea of going solo formed in my mind. The more I thought about it the more I couldn’t see any reason not to. Thursday night I made up a route that avoided any dodgy passes, and with pretty straight forward navigation. Friday 5:30am the alarm went off (much to Tom’s joy).

I pulled into the trackhead at 9am, and probably to our mutual surprise there was another party about to set off. I suspect they were more surprised to see a solo female bushwalker than I was to see a group of 3 men with pretty light packs. We had a chat as I pulled my gear together. They were heading out for 3 days not sure exactly where other than heading for Tilly Anne Gap / Monkey Ropes Creek. They headed off and a few minutes later I passed them on my bike. A final question was posed as I “raced” (hardly) past as to whether I was going to Perryman Falls. “The plan for tomorrow” I yelled back as a rolled down the road.

The ride out to where I planned to leave the bike was uneventful. I’d my first clues that water was going to be no issue before I’d even left the carpark. The section of the track at the start was so boggy I walked the bike through it. There were several sections like this along the road. And plenty of sections I was too much of a wuss to ride. I really didn’t want any punctures so was being pretty cautious. For some reason since I’d last had my bike serviced I couldn’t get my knobbly tyres on my bike and close the brakes, so I was just riding with my slicks.

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There were a few walking sections for the bike

Leaving the bike at 10:15am I had morning tea a short walk away with views over the surrounding areas. I realised I had no idea how to use the self-timer on my camera… fortunately it didn’t take too long to work out. I’ve left the first shot unedited in all it’s crooked glory (rocks as makeshift tripods don’t lend themselves to being flat).

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First attempt with the self-timer….

The main things I can say about the Paul’s Pass Walking Track is it’s relatively flat, fast… and pretty boring. But fortunately that meant I was at Tilly Anne Gap for lunch time. There were fields of native Solanums all in flower. I was glad that Tom had worked out they were native only a few days ago, so I didn’t have to despair at the take over of the weeds!

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So glad I now know these are native!

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Lunch at Tilly Anne Gap

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Sure they are easier to get through than pre-burn, but they make you very dirty

I toyed with the idea of visiting Kameruka Point but decided against it, though in retrospect I should have headed out there as I was at Dog Leg Creek by 2pm. I’d gone down the slab in Pauls Pass before realising this was the tricky bit! Finding Dog Leg Cave directly above the Pass I left my full pack and headed out to Possibility Point.

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Views out to Pinchgut Hill

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Logbook tin at Paul’s Pass

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Logbook at Possibility Point. Sibling to the one in Discovery Cave.

It was only the next day I realised that I dated my entries in the logbooks at the Pass and the Point with the 29th instead of the 28th. As I was reading through the log book entries it occurred to me that the “Geoff”, who lived locally, in the party of 3 I’d seen that morning may well have been Marilyn’s “Ettrema Guru” and placer of the logbook containers.

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Views from Possibility Point

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Grass tree

Having plenty of time I did some tidying in the cave. There was a roll of green tape (the type used for marking routes… though more commonly pink) which had unwound itself, so I re-rolled it and tucked it away so it would hopefully stay under control in future. I then sorted my piles of firewood ready to go for later. I guess there may have been a stash of wood in the cave when the fires came through in summer, as the pack of the cave was full of charcoal and the rock looked like it had been scorched. Or it could have just been a tree falling into the cave.

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Home for the night (Dog Leg Cave)

The cliffs opposite the cave were a lovely happy hour spot. It was a bit windy and quite cool though, and I didn’t have the same persistence as Tom would have to sit and suffer until the sun was completely down.

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Beaut Happy Hour spot.

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Happy Hour light

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Sunset

The forecast had been for Friday to be windy, and it was. The fire had a natural bellows on it all evening and I was glad to be tucked away in the cave which was relatively sheltered. I slept pretty well but as the days are getting longer sleeping in becomes more difficult.

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Morning coffee

Having read Louise’s entry in the logbook at Possibility Point the previous afternoon, combined with the question from the walkers as I rode past them in the morning, an idea had taken hold. It had germinated overnight. I’d already concluded my route for the next 3 days was not going to fill the days, so I had time up my sleeve for add-ons. Having gone up and down the slab of Pauls Pass the afternoon before I knew that was no issue and the rest of the pass didn’t look technical. I’d decided to try and visit Perryman Falls from the bottom. So at 8am (amazing what happens without Tom to slow me down) I shuffled across the slab again, then squeezed down the narrow crevice and the easy scramble below. What a great pass! (for a history of finding it check out this SBW report) No wonder Bill Capon’s party in 1990 had trouble finding it from the bottom. If you didn’t know what you were looking for I don’t think you’d even consider it would go.

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This pass is amazing

Down the Pass I then had a 250m descent to get into Cinch Creek. I was regretting not researching this before the trip, but I figured it was just going to be a steep descent down a spur. The spur was very steep and my route meandered about. After getting to section where it was even steeper, and I was probably not even a 100m into the descent I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and Perryman Falls from the bottom would have to wait.

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Perryman Falls in good flow

Slogging back up the hill I looked up and suddenly was face-to-face (well at 20m) with a koala!! Needless to say I was pretty happy with my decision to abort. I have never seen a koala in the bush in NSW and this was not somewhere I would have expected to see one. We eyed each other off for a few minutes, I took some photos. Then I left it in peace as it was clearly aware of me, but didn’t go anywhere.

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Well, here’s a first for me in NSW!

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I figure I can indulge in two photos – it’s such an unusual sight

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Exposure on Pauls Pass

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Looking down the slab

Back up Pauls Pass and to my main pack, and off on my original intent for the day by 9am. I followed the cliffs around until I could drop into the upper reaches of Cinch Creek.

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How long till it collapses?

Leaving my pack in the middle of the creek (probably the most worry I had on this trip was that I could be able to find my pack each time I left it) I set off to see how far I could get. The creek was quite bouldery and flowing well so it required a bit of effort at times to make my way down. Eventually I got to the top of a fall which I couldn’t get down or around. Sadly this was not Perryman Falls – about 200m upstream of it, so my attempts to reach the bottom and the top both failed. (Sorry Marilyn, this was the same spot you got to)

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The termination point for my explore down Cinch Creek

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Morning tea in Cinch Creek

Going back upstream I climbed out on the true right and largely followed the cliff line back to my pack. This was less effort than climbing back around all the boulders – though I did end up a lot dirtier. After a big drink and a bit of wash in the creek I headed out the other side and on to Pinchgut Hill. It looked like it would be easy walking without the fire as the top was largely rocky. I wanted to check out the top of Pucket Pass for future reference. I didn’t know anything about it. There were a couple of cairns so I assume I found the top of it, there was one slightly awkward scrambly move which I had to do to get out to my lunch spot, but nothing particularly difficult.

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Presumably the way to Pucket Pass

After lunch I retreated off Pinchgut Hill – in my original plan I had intended to camp here, but with the travel being so quick I was severely under planned. Down at the saddle I realised I was quite tired and decided to have a rest in the shade. One of the downsides of being out by my self is I don’t have anyone (Tom) to slow me down, and my breaks had all been pretty short. I enjoyed a nap and watching the birds. The birdlife seemed far more prolific than when I’d been in Ettrema since the fires. I’m not sure if it was just because I was closer to Ettrema Gorge which didn’t seem to have been burnt, or whether the few weeks since I was last here was enough time for life to return.

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Early afternoon nap

I didn’t have a spot in mind to camp, vaguely thinking I’d aim for Tompkins Head, but when I got to the waterfall south of it I knew I’d found my spot for the night. A gorgeous series of cascades and pools, rock slabs for relaxing and a flat area to camp on. The only detraction (and this goes for the whole area at the moment) is you’ve got to be quite careful with where you pitch your shelter as there are numerous burnt off spikes waiting to pierce your groundsheet. It was a nice warm afternoon and the pools were still in sun, so I quickly had a dip while I was still hot enough from walking. I may not have got my Kimberley trip this year but if I imagined it 10°C warmer I could have been there.

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Spa time!

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5 star spot

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Afternoon tea views looking back to Pinchgut Hill & Possibility Point

When I told Tom I was heading out solo, he informed me he was going to go for an easy overnight solo trip. I realised we were going to have some gear contention. It’s not that we don’t have multiples of pretty much everything but there’s the bit of kit you want to take… and the runner-up piece which does the same job but isn’t as good (probably cause it’s twice as heavy). So it was with our lightweight fly – Tom wanted the fly, he’d assumed I was taking the tent. No way was I carrying 2kg of tent with the forecast as nice as it was. Hmm, but I didn’t really want to take the heavy fly. Imagine my delight when I went down to the garage to check out the options and emerged with a Gossimer Gear shelter. Turns out Tom bought it about 10 years ago and only used it once. Weighing in at less than 400g it weighed less than the contentious fly!

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First time using this shelter

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Sunset

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Overly ambitious pile of firewood (the large piece on the fire kept me going all evening!)

The wind picked up as the sunset. I was hoping it would settle down as it got dark, but it didn’t. I was a little surprised because I had (unusually for me) looked at the wind forecast in detail before I’d headed out. Friday was meant to be the windy day. The shelter was rustling away as a I sat around the fire. Hmm, could be a long night with the amount of noise it was making. Tom said the reason he’d only used the shelter once was because of the condensation issues he’d had (he was camped on a sandy river bed). I thought about whether to leave one end of the shelter open but decided it was windy enough and there would be airflow. At some point during the night the wind must have died and when I woke in the middle of the night the sleeping bag and inside of the shelter were pretty wet. I opened the door up to try and dry things out, and with the wind picking up again before dawn my sleeping bag was dry by the time first light arrived. Not wanting to get up, but also wanting to see the sky change colour I took the shelter down and lay in sleeping bag in the open watching sunrise. Of course this did not lend itself to the best photos. I think there were some great shots to be had of Tompkins Head, but I was not motivated enough to leave the warmth of my bed.

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Sunrise from bed

Eventually I had to get up. It was really windy and my little fire to boil my water was fanned into raging flames. It wasn’t a particularly relaxing breakfast given how windy it was, and so with no incentive to sit around I was walking not long after 8am.

It was so windy on Tompkins Head I didn’t feel safe getting close to any of the edges for fear of being blown off. Sadly (ha!) this also meant self-timed photos were largely off the agenda for fear of the camera. I didn’t follow the cliff line very closely due to wind and was quite relieved when the cliff changed direction and I got some relief from the battering. It was the same on Swag Point and particularly vicious as I approached Hamlet Crown.

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First view of Hamlet Crown & the saddle leading to it

I was so over the wind that I almost didn’t bother with Hamlet Crown. But then I reminded myself it was only 10am and this was part of the inspiration for this trip to start with. So off I went. The saddle had looked quite deep when viewed from afar but it wasn’t so bad when doing it. I scrambled up a couple of loose chutes to get to the top and then made my way out to the point for views and morning tea.

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View from Hamlet Crown

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Morning tea hiding behind a rock away from the wind

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Saddle – full of baby gums (?) Might be a nightmare to cross in a couple of years

I found a slightly more stable chute to descend on my way down and it wasn’t long till I was back at my pack. There was a little stream flowing nearby (amazing the the things that are flowing at the moment) so I had a big drink and enjoyed the views. The ridge was very open and the walking was easy so I made good time as I approached Jones Creek. I started looking for a sheltered lunch spot eventually ducking down behind some boulders. My original plan had been to camp near Billys Hill tonight, before heading out tomorrow. The thought of another night out in the wind was not appealing and I was so far ahead of schedule I was going to be able to get out tonight.

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Very easy walking along the ridge towards Jones Creek

I dropped off the ridge to the end of the Jones Creek Walking Track hoping for some stunning views. The wind was potentially the strongest I’d encountered and so I couldn’t get too close to the edge. But from what I could see the views were pleasant but nothing particularly special.

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Views into Jones Creek from the end of Jones Creek Walking Track

So all that was left was the Jones Creek Walking Track back to my bike. I’d been keen to check out this track, which is marked on maps, to see if had any particular merit. Having walked it my conclusion is, not really. It is very flat, but that is about all it has going for it. The track didn’t show up on aerials (unlike Pauls Walking Track which was prominent). However on the ground it was quite obvious. I was curious at how long vehicle tracks leave their mark for. There were numerous sections which has Banksias had grown up through, but now that it was all burnt and with the rain the old vehicle impressions were still highly evident.

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Old road impressions hold their memory for a long time. Those banksias haven’t just sprouted up

There were a lot of recent footprints on the track which was also curious. I think walking out from the trail head on the fire trail and this track would feel like a particular kind of torture to me – my feet were unhappy enough as it was just doing the 4km back to the bike. I bumped into 3 women who looked like they were heading out to camp at the track end. They looked like it had been a long day, and I’m not sure the wind would make it a very pleasant night camping. If it had been a still day I would have been tempted to drop into Jones Creek and find a campsite as I was pretty tired. But just as those thoughts crept in another blast of wind kept me on the march.

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Don’t feel quite so alone on this trail

Fortunately tyres were still inflated and stayed that was as I made good time back to the car, and from there a long drive home. A wonderful first solo trip in the bush.

Angorawa Creek (22-23 Aug 2020)

The forecast on Saturday was for the “coldest day this year”. Snow was expected down to 800m. High winds to go with it. We had a look at the weather forecast – there seemed to be a relatively still, warm patch of weather inland from the central coast. I was plumping for walking in Brisbane Waters, but Tom was having none of it. How about a creek walk in the Colo with a cave to sleep in? He said rather off-handly, but with the tone that I knew meant “there’s no way I’m doing what you’re suggesting”.

So the Colo it was. We started off with a firetrail slog, punctuated by trail bikes, which we were both glad to get to the end of. From there we headed into the bush. Morning tea was on some rocky platforms overlooking the surrounding area – pleasant until the wind started blowing with a bit more ferocity. We were glad to drop down into the creek.

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Morning tea

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Bit of scrambling

About 11:30am a very light rain squall came through, about the same time I spotted a overhang in the cliff line we were following. It didn’t take much convincing to have an early lunch, especially since the cave protected us from both the wind and the rain. That was the only rain we saw for the weekend and it was well gone by the time we set off again.

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Lunch cave out of the rain and wind

There were some beautiful sections of creek, including this lovely spot with a natural arch and a waterfall.

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Natural arch

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Beautiful section of creek

A bit after that Tom was sure we were near our camp cave for the night. He’s always keen to carry a bit of firewood when getting close to camp. I thought this bit was a bit excessive given we were boulder hopping and climbing through river gums… and the cave wasn’t anywhere as close as he thought. He did eventually abandon it a few hundred metres later.

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Tom way to pre-emptively carrying firewood

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I’m not sure what is going on here

Since it was only mid-afternoon we had a cuppa and relaxed – a somewhat unusual occurrence compared to some of the more recent trips!

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Someone with a saw has been here!

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Home for the night

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The kitchen

The next day we had quite an ambitious route – several kilometres of creek. I thought we would probably end up bailing onto the ridge but we walked it all! The creek changed nature a few times, starting with rock slabs and smaller boulders. Then there were some huge boulders and quite physical scrambling to get through them. Following that was a very flat, wide section which alternated between open banks and quick walking, and some slower stuff. Lastly more ferns and undulations as we crossed more small tributaries.

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Saw person strikes elsewhere!

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Nice creek walking on day 2

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Rock formations

It was only afterwards Tom admitted he had some notes which said “the upper creek is hideously slow and you’ll never forgive yourself for the torture” and despite this had suggested walking the whole thing! To be fair for us it wasn’t particularly difficult going, the fire had been through (at fairly low intensity) and there weren’t any bad sections of scrub. That said, there were thousands of lawyer vines shoots coming up and I don’t think it will be too long before it becomes torturous again.

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One of many lawyer vine babies sprouting up to torment you in a few years (some were doing a pretty good job right now)

 

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