Author Archives: rachel

Katherine Gorge (July 2017)

We signed up for a week-long SBW trip going to Kakadu and figured it was a waste to come to the NT for just a week. So what else was there to do? Having just bought packrafts Tom suggested we could packraft Katherine Gorge. We decided to spend 2 days walking along the tracks on the Southern rim, and then 3 days paddling in the gorge. The downside of this plan was that we were going to be carrying heavy packs to start with as we would have all our food plus the packrafts (~3kg including paddle).

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So we set off with around 19kg packs (lots of drinking water as well) from the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre early on the first morning. We got good views of Gorge 1 & 2 from Pat’s Lookout and Jedda’s Rock.

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Tom with Gorge 2 in the background

The first day was hard work, with our heavy packs, and 34°C temperature forecast. We were glad to get to the Lily Ponds for lunch and a swim. After the Lily Ponds we still had a bit of walking to get to Smitt Rock our campsite for the night. The bushwalkers campsite at Smitt Rock is set high above the gorge with excellent views. We were pleased to find the creek next to the campsite running so didn’t have to worry about drinking water. To have a swim we headed down the marked track to the river.

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Tom demonstrates his preferred way of entering water of unknown depth, with Smitt Rock behind him.

After lounging around in the shade by the river for a while we pioneered a different route back up to camp. We climbed a couple of waterfalls in the small creek that was running past the campsite to return more directly.

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Campsite at Smitt Rock

There were plenty of sites at Smitt Rock and we were the only ones there. We choose the site closest to the cliffs which had lovely views for happy hour and sunset. It was the first of four very warm nights – not sure if it was a micro-climate thing near the gorge but it never really cooled down.

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Sunset from Smitt Rock campsite

On our second day we walked from Smitt Rock towards 8th Gorge. The track is marked with arrows the whole way. There is not much of a track on the ground and we spent quite a lot of time looking for the next arrow.

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Arrows mark the route every 50-100m. Not always that easy to spot!

Having morning tea shortly before the junction with the Jawoyn track we met another group of bushwalkers. They had been at 8th Gorge the previous night. We had a brief chat and they mentioned there was a small stagnant pool at 8th Gorge and when quizzed said there was no running water.

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Tom with his heavy pack (the yellow thing is the packraft)

Despite it being a hot day and both of us feeling the effects of the heat and our heavy packs we decided to go on a side-trip to Jawoyn Valley. Glad to ditch the packs we found some of the art sites that were shown on the map, and maybe some that weren’t shown.

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Tom with some of the Jawoyn Valley art

Tom decided we should go ‘off piste’ on the way back rather than follow the trail. We walked down a fairly uninspiring dry creek but were delighted when it turned into a few beautiful waterholes. Only problem we hadn’t brought lunch with us so couldn’t linger for too long!

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Enjoying an unexpected waterhole!

We spotted the toilet at the 8th Gorge campsite far sooner than expected. And then were most surprised to come to a large waterhole which had a waterfall running (ok, maybe trickling) into it. So much for the small stagnant pool and no running water! It just illustrates how different people’s perceptions can be based on their experience.

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Tom filling water bladders from the running waterfall, next to the beautiful waterhole.

About 50m downstream was a waterfall dropping 30m or so down to the river. It was a beautiful spot for happy hour. I’d left dinner rehydrating in a ziplock bag underneath my hat. Unfortunately the crows were smart enough to find it so on return from happy hour some of dinner was spread across our sandy campsite. We salvaged what we could and resolved to be more careful of crows in the future.

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Happy hour spot, looking down 7th & 8th Gorges

The next morning we dumped everything out of the tent. Tom went off to take photos from the happy hour spot and I went off to the toilet. When I returned the crows had been at it again. My small ziplock bag of toiletries had been dispersed across the sand. Beware of the crows!

I was excited to change gears from bushwalking to paddling. While the bushwalking had been good it was very hot and being on the water would (hopefully!) be cooler. Down we went to the gorge and pumped up our packrafts.

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Tom inflating his packraft

It wasn’t far upstream to the 9th Gorge campsite. We tried to put our packs where they’d stay in the shade and then continued upstream. Today was just about exploring upstream from 9th Gorge as far as we could get. We had a few portages but the packrafts are pretty easy to tuck under your arm so they didn’t take long – particularly since we only had small daypacks with us. Eventually we came to a big boulder block up in the gorge. Tom explored up a little way and concluded there wasn’t much point taking the rafts any further. We continued on foot.

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Final stop upstream for the rafts

It was a fun section of river to negotiate on foot. We climbed up to a high point for expansive views. I’m not sure what gorge number we got to – maybe 11 or 12? The remote feeling was somewhat tarnished by the frequent helicopters buzzing around with tourists. They were a constant feature every day – quite intrusive.

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Tom above part of what would be a long portage section

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Looking downstream from the boulder block-up. The rafts have been left on the rocks where the water starts in the foreground.

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Tom paddling back to 9th Gorge

The 9th Gorge campsite is a big sandbank on the river. It gets full sun most of the day and only has one small tree for shade. We got back mid-afternoon and decided to hang out in the shade on the other side of the gorge until the sun had lost a bit of its intensity.

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Tom waiting for the sun to go down a bit

9th Gorge Campsite is the only official campsite that doesn’t have a toilet. I guess that means it doesn’t get too much traffic. Climbing out onto the rim in the morning was a good excuse to get some photos.

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Looking downstream over 9th Gorge campsite. Our tent/Tom’s raft visible middle-left.

It was a full moon the day we started the walk so we got some lovely views with the moon.

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Sunrise from the cliffs about 9th Gorge Campsite

The next day was a short one! We only had to get from 9th Gorge campsite to 6th Gorge campsite. The timings on the official canoeing guide were generous – and on the portages we were a lot faster with our light rafts. We gave ourselves a leisurely start but even so were at the campsite by 11am. If we were planning the trip again I’d either combine our day 3 & 4, or else plan to camp at the canoeists campsite at Smitt Rock on night 4 instead of 6th Gorge.

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Tom not going anywhere fast on some not quite deep enough rapids.

It had been quite breezy on day 3, and the wind got more intense on day 4. After arriving at 6th Gorge Campsite we had a bit of an explore. There was a small waterfall (or spring?) running at the back of the camp (would have a pool earlier in the season) which was good for drinking water. We then climbed up on the cliffs to get some views down the gorge. As the wind was unpleasant we retreated back to the waterfall and lazed about there for the afternoon where it was a bit more sheltered.

The previous 3 nights we’d had the campsites to ourselves but not long after lunch another couple arrived. They had paddled up from Gorge 2 with a large esky – which meant they were well provisioned. Turned out they run a EPIRB and satellite phone hire business and I had hired a sat phone from them 2 years ago. I don’t think the kayaks were designed to include 2 people and an esky! It was quite amusing to see them return the next day – the esky got a seat in the kayak and one of them sat on the back with their legs dangling in the water.

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We tucked ourselves away in the trees at 6th Gorge campsite to try and get out of the wind

Our last day was bigger than we would have liked. As the National Park no longer allows paddling in Gorge 1 (due to potential saltwater crocodiles) canoeists have to get the ferry out. I’d tried to book a ferry but was told as we had our own canoes we would have to walk out from Butterfly Gorge. I didn’t pursue the reason for that so I’m not sure if there was any flexibility in that policy.

We had an early start which was lovely, there was no wind and some long paddling sections. I spotted a freshwater crocodile sunning itself near Smitt Rock. When we arrived at the end of Gorge 3 it was a bit of shock. Having seen almost no one for 3 days it was like we were in Pitt St Mall! All of the paddlers who had come across on the 7am ferry were on their way up the gorge. There must have been 50 kayaks, plus a couple of tour boats (and don’t forget the ever present helicopters). Fortunately they were all on their way up the gorge so once we passed them it was back to relative solitude. We stopped for morning tea at Butterfly Gorge and enjoyed chatting with a few day walkers.

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Tom in a long paddling section in Gorge 3

Then it was the final paddling leg to the start of Gorge 2. After drying off our rafts and deflating them all we had left to do was walk out. The ranger we had got our camping permits from told us about an unmarked route we could take from Gorge 2 up to Pat’s Lookout. I’m not sure we followed the exact route she intended but we found our way up a gully and onto the track. We had lunch at Pat’s Lookout and then it was just a few kilometres walk back to the visitor’s centre. A very enjoyable trip.

Prince Regent NP, The Kimberley (June 2017) – Part II

Continued from Part I

The falls were spectacular and we were relieved to know the hardest 2 days of the trip where out of the way.

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Melissah with views down the gorge

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Grace checking out the falls

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Looking down the falls from the top

Ro had ensured happy hour was good on night 6 with a 2L cask of wine in the food drop. That had been her main concern when the bag had rolled off the boulder – did the wine stay intact? It had, the main complaint seemed to be “where was the second cask?”.

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Happy hour on night 6

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Mike holding court

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Sunset over Garimbu Creek

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Camping above the falls on night 6

Unusually there had been a bit of cloud around on day 6 & 7. This provided a magnificent sunrise on day 7.

The morning of day 7 we had a few things missing. Apparently there’s a quoll out there that likes gingernuts, women’s knickers and steel wool.

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Sunrise on day 7

Mike came up with an excellent plan of doing a one-night trip up the creek and then returning to the top of the falls the following day. This meant we could leave a lot of our food behind and avoid heavy packs for a couple of days. The food bags were re-hung (in a more accessible tree) and we headed upstream.

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Views of Garimbu Creek

With a fairly short day ahead we had a leisurely morning tea with lots of jumping by Mike and Tom at a great waterhole.

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Beautiful morning tea spot

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Some of the many wildflowers that were out

Our camp on night 7 was our most intimate of the trip. It was at a wonderful waterhole, almost the definition of serenity (other than when Tom was jumping in!).

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More jumping at camp on night 7

We explored a bit of the nearby country that afternoon.

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Interesting rock formations nearby

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Wandjina art

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Tom about to destroy the reflections… diving for once instead of jumping!

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Camp on night 7

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Camp on night 7

On day 8 we headed back downstream following a slight different route.

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A tricky section of Garimbu Creek

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Grace does a narrow sidle above Garimbu Creek

We camped in a different spot above the falls on night 8 as the spot we’d chosen on night 6 had been a bit of a wind tunnel. The weather which had been quite cool up until night 6 started to warm up so we had a much more pleasant night second time round.

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Camp above the falls on night 8.

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Tom with the falls in early morning sun

On day 9 we descended below the falls – via a side creek a couple of kilometres downstream. We got some great views of the falls on our way out.

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The full falls

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A very pretty, easy-walking, side creek to get back into Garimbu Creek

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Easy walking in the side creek

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Our wonderful campsite for nights 9 and 10

We did a day trip upstream to below the falls in the afternoon. There was some good rock art along the way.

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Tom & Peter checking our some rock art

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Rock art

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Tom jumping below the falls

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Heading back to camp

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Camp night 9 & 10

On day 10 most of us did a day trip downstream to see how far we could get before we would have to swim. The section below was the only time we got wet until the final canal.

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Grace wading

The final canal where swimming was your only option stopped us. We had morning tea and a swim. Tom swam part way down the canal and then climbed up the wall and did a jump (if you look carefully you can see his silhouette in the photo below).

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Looking down the final packfloat at the end of the gorge. If you look carefully you may be able to see Tom jumping part way down.

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Gorgeous waterhole where we swam on the way down and the way back up

Our final day of walking we exited up the side-creek we’d come down on day 9 and then across into another side-creek which cam back to Garimbu Creek below the canal we’d walked down to on day 10. It wasn’t the most pleasant terrain and the temperature seemed to be up a few degrees on previous days. We were all losing the will to walk by the time we got to camp.

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Final night campsite

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Falls below the final campsite

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Final night campsite came with a spa pool

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Sunrise day 12

Our final day we just walked back upstream 100m or so and waited for the chopper to arrive. We were taken back to Mitchell Plateau airstrip, and then a flight back to Kununurra.

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The chopper found us!

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Waiting for our connecting flight

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Very comfortable flight back to Kununurra

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About to land on Lake Kununurra

Back in Kununurra we had a lovely dinner at The Pumphouse, and later that night (with much help from google) we finally finished the crossword we’d been battling with all trip!

crossword An another excellent Kimberley trip. Many thanks for Mike for leading, particularly after Ro left us prematurely on day 4, and to everyone for their excellent company.

Prince Regent NP, The Kimberley (June 2017) – Part I

Getting to The Kimberley region of Australia is a logistics challenge in itself. For Sydney-siders like us, it generally involves flying to Darwin (having to overnight there due to the flight schedules), flying to Kununurra (maybe having to overnight again) and then some other transport to wherever you’re walking. This year’s trip was in the Prince Regent National Park, west of Mitchell Plateau. Once we finally got to Kununurra the adventure started with a 1.5hr flight from Kununurra to the Mitchell Plateau Airstrip.

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Preparing to depart Kununurra

We got great views of the region on the way.

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Views from the plane

From the Mitchell Plateau Airstrip we were then transported by helicopter into the Roe River, via a food drop on Garimbu Creek. We were planning to be out for 12 days/11 nights with us due to get to the food drop on night 6.

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Arriving on the Roe River and our first camp site

We didn’t have far to walk on the first day! In fact we were camping where the chopper dropped us off, which was nice given our packs were full of 6 days of food.

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The other half of the party arriving

Day 2 we started walking down the Roe River.

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Walking down the Roe River

We didn’t get far before we hit these major falls which were a great spot for morning tea and a swim.

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Tom above the falls

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Tom on our way down. The rest of the party sidled down further round on the true right. Tom & I took a more direct route down (which had a couple of tricky sections).

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Tom getting his first (?) water jump of the trip in.

That afternoon we visited the original “Bradshaw” art works.

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Bradshaw (Gwion Gwion) rock art

And then we settled down to camp on night 2. The weather was a lot cooler than we were expecting and most of us were cold on the first few nights.

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Night 2 campsite. Lots of almost flat rocks!

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Reflections

Day 3 saw us go cross-country to cut off a couple of loops on the Roe. Unfortunately we saw quite a few cows, including some herds. In theory DPAW does some culling but from the numbers we saw it’s not that effective.

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Cross-country walking day 3

Lunch was had at this lovely set of falls.

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Lunch spot day 3

There were lots of pot-holes around. This one fitted Tom in it!

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Tom in a pothole

That afternoon there was generally easy walking down the river.

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Easy rock slab walking down the Roe River

We found some lovely shady overhangs, which unsurprisingly had rock art in them.

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The party checking out the rock art

And we had a delightful spot to camp for night 3.

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Tom in the kitchen at night 3’s campsite.

Day 4 we continued down the Roe River. The rocky slabs gave way to more sandy country. It was fairly easy going but not particularly exciting. Tom & I went on a detour up Wyulda Creek where we found some lovely waterholes and had a swim.

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Tom on Wyulda Creek

Expecting to find the rest of the party at camp we were surprised when they flagged us down only a short distance from the Wyulda Ck/Roe River junction. Unfortunately one of our group had broken her wrist and the decision had been made to activate one of the PLBs. A chopper picked her up within 90 minutes of the PLB being activated. And so then there were 7…

Subsequently we got to our intended camp later than planned. We were a little surprised when the creek we intended to follow cross-country the next day was a very small, dry channel. Tom & I headed up it to see what was going on and found the larger creek (with some water in it) actually joined the Roe 500m downstream rather than what was shown on the map.

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Our depleted party at camp on night 4. Note the salami, cheese, crackers & olives for entrée.

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Night 4 – our only sandy camp. Not sure if it was due to the sand but it was a very cold night, with plenty of dew.

We had groups dinners on the trip. Each evening’s food was allocated to one person to prepare (everyone doing 1.5 nights over the trip). Night 4 was Melissah’s night and we had a delicious laksa, followed by damper which we filled with honey for dessert.

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Peter & Mike concentrating hard on their damper.

Day 5 we left the Roe to start our cross-country route to Garimbu Creek. DPAW had been burning in the park in May and when we encountered those sections the walking was a lot faster.

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Crossing burnt-out country made the going much easier

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Rock art

Where vegetation hadn’t been burnt then things were slower as you normally couldn’t see where you were putting your feet so a lot of concentration was required.

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An unburnt section

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Scrambling down a creek

We’d had an early start on day 5 as we were going across the tops on what could have been a long day. The going was reasonable, but we’d been looking for a campsite for a while with no options coming up. We were pinning our hopes on a permanent waterhole marked on the creek we were descending. When we arrived at the waterhole it wasn’t quite the picturesque camp we were hoping for. Having been walking for over 8 hours we weren’t keen to walk much further. It wasn’t too bad; there was some sand we could flatten out to sleep on and the water was ok if you cleared the scum off the surface….

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Potential camp on night 5

I had a bit more energy left then most of party so I decided to push on another hundred metres. To my joy and amazement what had been an exclusively bouldery/rocky creek, with little surface water, suddenly gave way to large rock slabs with running water and even some waterholes big enough to swim in! Amazing. Everyone was pretty happy.

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Tom at the lower waterhole which was deep enough for some water jumps

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Our amazingly comfortable campsite for night 5

Day 6 we didn’t have much distance to cover but we were expecting difficult terrain. The terrain didn’t disappoint, we spent 5 hours covering 5km (including breaks). The worst of it in ‘tiger country’ where we were going about 0.5km/hour through deep spinifex and boulders. We were pretty happy when we got to Garimbu Creek and our food drop. When the food drop had been hung in the trees at the start of the trip one of the bags had rolled off a boulder and got a couple of tears in it. We were a bit concerned that this may have made it vulnerable to animals, but while there had been some gnawing the animal seemed to have mainly had a penchant for plastic bags. The only food casualty was a twiggy stick (salami).

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Our food drops hanging in the trees as we had left them 6 days earlier.

go to part 2

Russells Needle & Rocky Waterholes Creek (2017-05-13/14)

I wanted to put a trip on our bushwalking club’s program and I was searching for inspiration when I stumbled across Tom’s list of ‘future walks he’d like to do’. Russells Needle was on it and from there I had the seed for my trip planning. I’d read a couple of trip reports about sketchy ascents of Russells Needle but I figured it was an out and back so if things got beyond people’s comfort level they could just stop! Planning a route out Rocky Waterholes Creek seemed the obvious choice to avoid backtracking. I found a few more sketchy trip reports of people trying to go up Rocky Waterholes Creek so it seemed like a great adventurous option. And thus it went on the program – all pretty unknown.

In the two weeks leading up to my trip I received quite a bit of information regarding the ascent of Russells Needle and also exits out of Rocky Waterholes Creek. While it is great to have information suddenly it didn’t seem like so much of an adventure!

Saturday morning arrived and 7 of us set out from the Wattle Ridge Carpark. With another bushwalking group also setting out at the same time we had to use overflow parking spaces. The weather was beautiful for walking and it wasn’t long before we were dropping packs at the track junction with Slott Way and the Ahearn Lookout track. We took the opportunity for a side trip to Ahearn Lookout so everyone could get expansive views of the Nattai Valley, and particularly our target for the day – Russells Needle. Russells Needle is an unusual sandstone spine which sticks out into the Nattai Valley, a knife-edge ridge separated from the main cliffline by a deep saddle.

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Tom & Jo looking out over the Nattai Valley

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Matthew enjoying morning tea

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Tom looking towards Russells Needle and Mt Jellore

Back to our packs we made quick time down Slott Way which was (too?) well marked with pink/yellow tape and blue metal markers on what felt like every second tree.

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Tom & Matthew at a lookout half way down Slott Way

The Nattai is still fairly easy going after the floods which scoured it out in mid-2016. Lunch and our campsite was a large sandy bank on the Nattai not far downstream from Needle Creek. After lunch we set off with day packs to ascend Russells Needle. Prickly bushes (blackthorn?) made the initial slopes unpleasant and of course the group were constantly advising the leader that ‘the ridge over there looks nice and clear’ (they were ignored). Once we’d broken through that we were soon skirting the upper cliff line. It took a while to reach a break in the cliffline, which looked easy, though turned out to be a little less so. The rope was deployed for those that wanted it. This brought us on to the knife-edge ridge.

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Gaining the spine of the ridge to Russells Needle

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Jo on her way up with spectacular views up the valley

Now we were almost at the real deal – we picked our way up the rocky spine until we got just below the summit. Soon the majority of the party were standing on the summit plateau.

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Alan & Tom on the last exposed scramble (later discovered the unexposed route to the right of this section)

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Trying to coax the rest of the party up the final scramble

Some were more comfortable with the considerable exposure – Matthew lounged on the true summit rock for quite some time. After a decent period taking in the views and giving everyone who wanted to the opportunity to get to the true summit we started heading down. It was only then that I discovered the easy (unexposed) route up to the summit rather than the more exposed route we’d taken up the boulder.

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Matthew absolutely fine with the exposure on the true summit!

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Jo & Matthew on the true summit

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Looking down the northern spine of the needle

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Looking back to Tom & Jo from the summit

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Tom on the true summit

On the descent we took the ‘clear ridge’ that everyone wanted to be on during the ascent. I’m pleased to report it was just as full of blackthorn… Back to camp around 4:30pm, after picking up water from Needle Creek, we settled in for a pleasant happy hour and evening around the camp fire.

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Our campsite complete with views of the Needle!

Sunday always had the most unknowns – not least what the weather was going to do. The forecast during the week had oscillated between 0-3mm to 5-10mm almost daily. The most recent forecast was fortunately back to 0-3mm and Sunday dawned clear which was a good sign.

Away from camp at 8:30am we walked down the Nattai a few hundred metres before crossing over to Rocky Waterholes Creek.

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Jo crossing the Nattai

Similar to the Nattai there was significant flooding impact so the going was reasonable – as reasonable as it can be when you’re boulder hopping and scrambling. The creek varied between large boulders which were a full body work out to get around, flatter sections with beautiful pools (though only Matthew was keen to swim!), and some delightful cascades over rocky slabs. The clouds started building but other than a few drops at lunch we were spared, which was fortunate as some sections of the creek were slippery enough without extra moisture from above.

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Relatively easy going in the early stages of Rocky Waterholes Creek

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Mucking around with an unusual rock we found

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Tom & Melinda in a very pretty section of creek

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Near the junction with Iron Creek there was a shale (?) band of rock which made for some interesting colours

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Tom & Glenn near the junction with Iron Creek

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Melinda and Jo making their way up Rocky Waterholes Creek

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Lovely lunch spot – even a cup of tea for those that were keen

Shortly after lunch we hit the side creek at 625986 that we hoped to ascend. Alan had kindly scouted it for us during lunch and was able to confirm we could get up. I’m always a bit concerned about whether Alan’s routes will work for the whole party but he assured me he did it with his “Melinda hat” on. We scrambled up the true-left of the creek around a number of waterfalls and then bashed up from the true right to one of the many fire-trails that exist on the ridges in the area.

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Glenn & Tom making their way up the canyoniferous side creek

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Jo might be a little tired…

Those that were keen headed down the firetrail to the skinny ridge which pokes out into Rocky Waterholes Creek, giving spectacular views of where we’d spent most of the day.

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Alan & Tom enjoying the views over Rocky Waterholes Creek

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Lunch was somewhere down there

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If you look very carefully you might be able to see Tom’s red shirt out on the point of the ridge on the right. An interesting finger which extends out into the creek.

From there it was just an easy walk following firetrails and a track skirting the Wattle Ridge property. We arrived back at the cars at 4:30pm – no sign of an epic! An excellent weekend of adventuring in a lesser visited part of the world.

Canyoning after lots of rain (1-2 April 2017)

Katoomba had 535mm of rain in March 2017, 354mm of that fell in a 10 day period between the 14th and the 24th. Canyoners around NSW had been stuck inside for weeks watching and waiting to see when conditions might be safe to venture out. We had attempted to head out on the 18th but ended up touring the waterfalls of the mountains which were impressively full.

It wasn’t a great time to have just 3 weeks in the Blue Mountains for canyoning! Fortunately the rain finally abated and we were able to show Evan down one of the best canyons in the Blue Mountains, Claustral. Jarrah & Megan joined us for their first visit to Claustral as well. Tom & I had a couple of sleepless nights leading up to Saturday worrying the water might be too high. In the end Tom’s judgement that the water levels would be fine based on his experience of the canyon was right – it was a great day out. It was very dark so my photos didn’t come out particularly well – an easy culling process! Most of the ones below aren’t as sharp as I would like but they are the best of a bad lot.

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Approaching the Black Hole of Calcutta in Claustral

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Jarrah at the bottom of the first abseil

Check out the contrasting water levels from Tom’s last visit in 2014.

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Evan coiling at the bottom of the second abseil

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Evan abseiling the third drop

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Looking back to the Claustral/Ranon junction

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In the main gorge

Jarrah and Megan had to head home, while Tom, Evan & I camped at Mt Wilson on Saturday night. We woke to a grey, cool day. Perfect canyon conditions! Tom unfortunately wasn’t feeling great so decided to sit out Sunday. Evan and I headed to Lower Bowens Creek North Canyon. It’s a great canyon and while the water was up you can avoid abseiling in the main water flow.

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The start of the canyon

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Constriction getting narrower

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Looking back upstream

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Evan on the first abseil

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Looking back at the first drop

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Evan pulling the rope on the second abseil

Contrast the amount of water in the above photo with this photo of me in the same spot on a different trip.

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Swimming in the canyon

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Near the end of the narrows

 

Coorongooba Canyoning (2017-01-26-to-29)

After spending most of the day walking in we started our first canyon at 4pm. Smiffy had done it before but didn’t remember anything other than there being lots of drops. Time to be efficient then!

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Tom bridging after one of the early drops

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Tom about to reach another pool

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Tom on yet another abseil

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Smiffy below a drop as I investigate anchors for the next few drops

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Smiffy abseiling

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Smiffy above another short drop

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Looking back up as Smiffy abseils.

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Tom on the final drop

Normally I like my wilderness canyons to have no evidence of previous parties, but in this case with so many drops, some without obvious anchors I was happy to see anchors/slings in place! We were pretty glad to make camp while it was still light. The rain set in but the temperature never really dropped. It was a hot and uncomfortable night.

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Glad to have a camp cave as the forecast (which is correct) is for rain

On day 2 we climbed up a nearby tributary (with a bit of effort), and then descended another creek. We then pioneered an increasingly sketchy pass which is unlikely to be repeated given there is an easy walk-up ramp nearby. Finally we descended a creek that didn’t deliver any canyon but had a series of nice waterfall abseils.

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Tom ascending a waterfall

 

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Toni making her way up the next drop

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Toni & Smiffy climbing up another waterfall

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Smiffy abseiling in a different creek

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Tom abseiling

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Our afternoon creek had lots of lovely waterfalls but wasn’t really canyon

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Tom getting off-rope

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Another nice waterfall

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We got quite wet on this one

On Day 3 we moved on from our camp cave. Heading upstream we explored a couple of creeks, neither of which delivered much on the canyon front but again had some nice abseils. Finally we climbed out with full packs and headed over the tops, having a high camp above the creek we intended to descend the next day. Our objective was to have an earlier happy hour than the previous two days (not hard since I think the earliest we’d made it to camp was 7:30pm!). Even so we struggled to meet the objective, ending up making camp around the same time… but that was ok as Tom had promised day 4 would be a short day (more on that later).

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Nest morning while packing up camp I nearly stood on this guy! (assume it’s a death adder – it certainly wasn’t going anywhere)

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Thank goodness for Christmas shortbread that we could pack as last minute morning tea! (Thanks J&N&C&J)

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This creek had little more than one abseil. But it was a pretty spectacular abseil!

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Toni & Smiffy checking whether we are going to make it to camp for an early Happy Hour (unlikely!)

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More waterfalls

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Tom above another big drop

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Abseiling the big drop

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Toni on the final abseil while Tom sits on the log she’s abseiling off to keep it in place

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High camp on night 3. It was very warm night, fortunately not too many mosquitoes as I didn’t get into my sleeping bag all night.

Day 4, our final day, was 3km down a creek and then a walk back to the car… I just believed Tom and didn’t look at the map until we’d covered about a kilometre in the creek. I then discovered we still had another 5km to go! Chances of it being a short day. Slim. We made it to the end of the creek at 4pm, with at least 11km still to walk. A big thunderstorm hit which was a bit scary as the lightning was close, and we were pelted by hailstones. Made it to the cars at 7:10pm – earliest finish of the trip! Though of course we still had the long drive back to Sydney. A great weekend, if not particularly relaxing!

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Beautiful pools

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Tom abseiling

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Smiffy coiling the rope below our third abseil

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More beautiful rock formations

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Final abseil

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Tom doing a shoe clean-out just as the rain arrives. Not long later we were in the eye of a massive thunderstorm including mentos-sized hailstones.

 

Thunder Canyon (2017-01-21)

 

Tom led a great trip down Thunder Canyon. Thunder was spectacular, a really nice way to get into Claustral. We had perfect weather for the trip too.

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The party in the upper section of Thunder Canyon

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Jo ‘flying’ towards the main abseil (down the black hole)

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The first abseil in the canyon is pretty nice

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Tom above the second abseil (we used the same rope as the first)

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The canyon takes a 90°C bend in a pretty dark & spectacular section

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Canyon formation!

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Silhouettes in the dark section

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Srini in the canyon

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Lots of ferns everywhere

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Impressive walls

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More impressive constriction dwarfing Jon & Tom

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Sunbeams

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Nearing Claustral

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Tom below one of the downclimbs in Claustral

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Jo attempting (futilely) to avoid swimming in the upper section of Claustral Brook

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Claustral Brook

Blue Mountains Canyoning (2017-01-14)

Tom and I spent the day exploring a creek in the Blue Mountains.

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After quite a lot of creek bashing it finally starts looking like it could get canyon-y.

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Tom in the canyon

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Pretty canyon section

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Tom in the canyon

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It was an attractive canyon

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With interesting rock formations

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And some deep pools for jumps….

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… and slides

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Splash!

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Nice rock formation

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Heart Attack & Surefire (2017-01-7&8)

Normally as Tom’s birthday falls in prime canyoning season we organise a birthday trip but with the various trips we’d done over the prior couple of weeks we were feeling a bit tired. Fortunately Toni & Smiffy suggested the Heart Attack/Surefire double over the weekend so we got out despite our fatigue.

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Tom abseiling in a side creek

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Chris showing his flexibility on the classic abseil into Heart Attack

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Tom in Heart Attack

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The team wading

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Chris on a downclimb while Toni looks on

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Chris on an abseil before he dislodges one of the logs…

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Tom downclimbing

We had taken overnight gear which we stashed while doing Heart Attack. We didn’t have a firm plan on where to camp but the vegetation largely decided for us. This clearing on Deanes Creek firetrail was one of the few places where we could actually set up. It ended up being a relatively long day as the old firetrails leading to/from Heart Attack are very overgrown (plus too many photo faffers!).

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Chris relishing sitting down away from any scrub!

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Tom on the first abseil into Surefire

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Toni on the “hand over hand or 4m abseil”. A pretty tricky one to hand over hand! The abseil was made a lot of easier when I re-rigged the rope off a log above (rather than on) the edge of the drop.

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Tom on our third abseil, with the rest of the party looking on from the bottom

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Tom bridging to stay dry

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Toni on the final abseil. There were a lot more (substantial) logs here compared to 2008.

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Tom contemplating the grandeur of the constriction

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Smiffy on part of the exit

I was really interested in how I found the exit as the only other time I’d done it was in 2008. I had vivid memories of how much I’d disliked the two sets of trees you need to climb up to get out. I was hoping with 9 more years experience under the belt I wouldn’t find it so nerve-racking. The various “climbs” are tricky but I managed them all, with pack-on, so I was pretty pleased. Next time I just need to try and do them without aid (rope/slings)!

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And then a long firetrail bash back to the cars

We enjoyed the exit gully as it was shady and fairly easy going on what was forecast to be a 32C day. The firetrail was also reasonably shady so while the walk out was long it wasn’t particularly oppressive.

A great weekend out in the (overgrown, scrubby) bush.

Popeye Canyon (2017-01-04)

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Tom above the upper section

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Tom avoiding a wade

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Tom in the upper section

 

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After a bit of a creek bash we get to the lower section. Tom between downclimbs

 

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On a downclimb

 

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Canyon

 

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Tom wading

 

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First abseil

 

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Second abseil

 

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Awkward downclimb. I went left instead.

 

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Tom after a tunnel

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In the ‘Boori

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Pre-descent

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Post-descent

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Swimming in the Bungleboori (Dingo Creek)

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Looking up Gateway Canyon

 

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