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Participants: Rachel Grindlay, Gill Fowler, Liz Edye, Chris Stephens, Jamie, Caoimhin Ardren
After farewelling James & Andy who were heading back to Sydney today the rest of the party (minus Caoimhin) was ready to go at 9:20am. We set off leaving instructions for Caoimhin with Tom that we would wait at the top of the Pipeline track if he hadn’t caught us on the way up. As expected Caoimhin caught us well before the top, before we had even got to the start of the Pipeline track. After the usual slog to the top we had a brief rest and met Rowan’s party on their way to do Pipeline. We then continued on out towards the Starlight drop in. In fact along the Starlight ridge and very nearly into Starlight. Fortunately after some consultation between Gill and Caoimhin and the map and a short backtrack we were back on the correct ridge and soon dropping down. Tom had said the navigation was easy and we would hit the creek in no time at all. We did reach the creek but wasn’t quite the easy going I was expecting. We got to the top of a 15 - 20 m drop which appeared full of dead trees and unpleasant looking abseil.
Caoimhin had expected some slings but they were not there. A quick scout around about 20m to the right brought a couple of slings and a much more pleasant abseil. A few loose rocks made life for the belayers exciting, but we were soon all down and ready for the next abseil. The second abseil was a tight constriction and was trickier than the abseils we had encountered in the previous day. After ensuring one didn’t get stuck in the narrowing slot there was the challenge of keeping feet dry by bridging across the shallow puddle at the bottom. Unfortunately this constriction quickly opened out into more creek walking. We reached the beginning of the lower section after walking for a while. We scrambled down some large rocks, though Caoimhin did find some slings which would’ve bypassed most of the scrambling. Given how many abseils we encountered after this, I think we were all pretty glad we didn’t bother rigging the abseil up. After all the rock scrambling, when I reached a 3m drop with slings I was almost tempted to scramble it, but decided it was safer to abseil. We all did the short drop, then using the same abseil set up, did another short drop. The canyon had narrowed, but a reasonable amount of light could make its way in, so it felt like a bit of a creek walk.
We then reached an interesting abseil which went around a corner. The start was tricky as the sling was set around a chockstone. Caoimhin went first with much swearing and grunting which made the rest of the party quite nervous. I headed down second and didn’t find things that bad, which hopefully set the others' minds at ease. We all used self-belays (prussiks) for this abseil given the lack of visibility for a bottom belayer. Caoimhin had rigged the next abseil so I set off down that, around another corner to the bottom. These two abseils took a reasonable amount of time due to the aforementioned tricky start. In addition both Chris & Gill managed to get tangled in the rope and had to untangle themselves before continuing to descend.
We then had the final spectacular abseil into the pool of water Tom had promised. Again the start was tricky as the sling was rigged around a low, small chockstone. Caoimhin said last time he had done the canyon the abseil was rigged from a tree about 2m from the edge – it would make for a much easier start. He attempted to set some slings high up the tree with Liz on his shoulders but was unsuccessful. Gill didn’t seem to have too much trouble with the start so we decided to just use it as rigged. There were a few loose rocks which fell randomly. A little concerning was the section of “ground” which started falling under my feet as I stood behind the main chockstone watching Gill abseil. Words of assurance from Gill that the pool wasn’t that deep was good news. I went next and a few loose rocks were a bit dangerous for Gill, who was belaying directly underneath me. After that the belayer moved to the other side of the pool, which had the added advantage of being ankle rather than thigh deep. The water was pretty cool and I wouldn’t have wanted to have stayed in it for very long. The wade across came to my upper thighs. The others made it down with no dramas and the rope pull down was also a success.
Finally lunch time – at 4pm! (except for Jamie who had been snacking the whole way though). We then skirted round under the cliffs, past the exit from Pipeline to meet up with the Pipeline track. The walk back was a bit hairy with the track being very close to the cliff edge for much of the way. Fortunately the storm didn't really break until we were back on the main track, and even so there was very little rain. We made it back to camp around 6pm (though Chris was a bit quicker than the rest of us given his need to get to the toilet!). A good day with some reasonably challenging abseils.