Author Archives: rachel

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

 

Yarramun Canyoning (2016-12-26 to 31) – Part II

Continued from here

On day 4 we found a pass out of the main creek and had some easy ridge walking to drop in high up in a side creek. We had intermittent canyon for most of the day.

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Sue abseiling under one of many annoying fallen trees

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Smiffy abseiling into a pool

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Toni abseiling

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Toni on another abseil

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Sue taking the direct route

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Tom on (yet another) awkward start

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Smiffy negotiating even more fallen trees on an abseil

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Beautiful rainforest creek

It ended up being a fairly long day and there wasn’t much chat around the fire that night! I had a nap while Tom was cooking dinner. There was much discussion about what to do the next day. After writing off an option for a ‘mammoth day’ we settled on something hopefully a bit easier. So on day 5 we went looking for a pass out of the creek. Our heart rates got up quite high after I dislodged a large boulder while scrambling up a chute. Fortunately it was a wide chute and Sue and Smiffy had plenty of time to get out of the way. The pass eventually went but took quite a bit of exploring. From there we headed across the tops and dropped into another side creek.

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Toni & Smiffy in a narrow bit high up in the side creek

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Tom after descending the log. He failed to pose higher up while in a far more precarious position!

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Smiffy setting the ropes for start of the main canyon section

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Toni on the second abseil in the main canyon section

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Sue on the first abseil in the main canyon section

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Sue at the bottom of the second abseil

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Tom at the bottom of the second abseil

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Tom on the third abseil in the main canyon section

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Would you believe we’re in a canyon? Tom using a handline to get to the final abseil

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The dramatic final abseil

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Tom in the canyon

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Negotiating boulder block-ups in the main creek

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Dinner on the last night – “Japanese surprise”. I got the packet in the picture in my player’s pack at the World Ultimate Championships in 2012. No idea what is in it as all the labelling is in Japanese. But we needed something to mix with the plain beef & vegies that Tom had dehydrated. Oh, and it was best before 2013. Tom was dubious and made me leave it until the last night. As it turns out appeared to be something like tomato sauce. And we didn’t die :)

On our sixth and final day (for me, Tom & Sue anyway) we climbed out of the creek and headed across the tops. Somewhat on our route back we descended a written-up but infrequently done canyon. Followed by what we were now used to – negotiating lots of fallen timber in the creeks! Tom had thought this might be a short day, but we left camp at 7am and I retrieved the car at 6pm…

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Climbing a pass out of the creek

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Easier gradient!

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Tom mid-way into dropping into a deep pool

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There were a lot of yabbies in the creek. This one was lucky not to get trodden on!

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Tom on an awkward abseil (particularly awkward due to the full packs)

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Tom in the canyon

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Emerging from a dark section

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Sue fighting the current going upstream in the main creek we ended up in

We left Toni & Smiffy to camp for New Years Eve, while the rest of us fought our way out a pass. Apparently another party started up shortly after us but we never saw them – so I guess they weren’t moving quicker than us!

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Tom surveying the rugged country we’ve just exited

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The side-effects of 6 days in the bush. Three canyoners and three pairs of shorts of split up the back seam. Mine also lost most of the back right bum but a bit of sewing and some strapping tape repairs largely held for the last three days.

Yarramun Canyoning (2016-12-26 to 31) – Part I

After a year off our ‘traditional’ Boxing Day canyoning trip last year it was good that Tom’s body appeared to be sufficiently healthy for us to get back into it this year. We garnered a bit of interest and so on Boxing Day five of us set off into the Wollemi Wilderness.

 

Tom had already had to do a repack after weighing his pack and deciding 20kg was out of the question – 2kg of gear left on the floor at home – hopefully nothing he would later regret!

 

Our first couple of hours were on familiar territory and we helped direct another party in the direction of Water Dragon – though after we left them Tom did admit he may have sent them in a bit early. Oops. We continued on, the going on the ridges was pretty easy as the regrowth from the fires was still relatively low. We dropped into a tributary of a tributary which was pretty unpleasant – and a bit of a theme for the trip – many creeks having a lot of fallen timber in them from the fires.

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Having a break in a side creek after some scrub bashing. At least the going along the tops was pretty good after fires in recent years.

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Scrambling in the main creek

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Negotiating a log jam

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Tom on a small hand-over-hand

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Sue at the bottom of another hand-over-hand

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Tom in the canyon

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Toni standing out in her new wetsuit

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On the second day we explored a side creek. On our way in I encountered some sawfly larvae.

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The tributary we explored was dark and cold. This was at the end of of a tunnel section – before I had to break the spiderweb and disturb the water!

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Toni exiting a narrow tunnel section

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Sue enjoying the frigid water

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Tom on a small downclimb

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Sue in a slighty eerie dark section (artificially lit)

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We base camped for two nights, Tom and I took the ‘annex’ around the corner from the main camp cave. We did a bit more excavating after the first night to even up the ground!

On the second afternoon the others opted for a bit of R&R while Tom and I headed back into the main creek. We were looking for passes and options for the coming days. Potentially we were going to have to reverse our route so we spent a fair bit of time assessing whether we could get back up everything (or leaving a rope in place as needed).

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Tom descending into the main creek

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Tom negotiating a further downclimb

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Further down the creek we explored a very narrow side creek from the bottom. With a bit of bridging and grunting we got a bit of a way up it.

On day 3 we decided to move camp so with full packs found a pass out onto the tops and headed over the ridge to descend an unknown creek.

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Abseil in our side creek

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Tom on another abseil in the side creek

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Lunch cave in the main creek. Complete with newspaper from 2014 that had (presumably) been left for kindling along with the large pile of firewood. The previous day I found an old torch in another overhang.

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There were lots of flannel flowers out

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After lunch we headed out a somewhat sketchy pass to descend the narrow canyon Tom and I had explored from the bottom on the previous day.

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Smiffy on the first impressive abseil

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Tom on the second narrow abseil

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Toni abseiling, while Tom enjoys the canyon ambience

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Bridging over a narrow section

Then we continued down the main creek. We were hoping to find a camp cave further downstream. The creek was slow going with full packs, and some major boulder block-ups which took some time to work out a way through.

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Toni negotiating a downclimb

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Magnificent gorge

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Tom on top of one of the boulder block-ups. Now where?

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More magnificent gorge

While the gorge was magnificent we were all pretty tired by the time we finally found a camp cave. Even better it wasn’t the camp cave we were looking for but a better one! (no hauling up a tree to get to it!)

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A very nice camp cave, which ended up being home for the 3 nights

Continue the adventure

Macquarie Pass Rivulet (2016-11-20)

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Tom at the top of the first short abseil

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Tom on the second abseil.

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The party behind us abseiling the third abseil.

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Clare on an optional abseil in the one of the bouldery sections

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Tom on a spectacular abseil into a amphitheatre where we had lunch

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The whole creek is pretty accessible…

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Clare abseiling while Tom looks on

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Tom belaying Clare on the next abseil

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Tom decides to take an (optional) slide

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Jumping for the paparazzi

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Another abseil, more photos!

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The party behind us abseiling into the most ‘slotty’ section of the day

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Stanley jumping

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Tom jumping

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The lower section is more horizontal and lovely walking. We spotted an eel in this pool.

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The party behind us scrambling a drop near the end.

 

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