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Participants: Rachel Grindlay, Tom Brennan, Richard Pattison, Andrew Smith
Originally this trip was scheduled for Nov 2011, but a week of heavy rain leading up to the trip (including on the morning we were meant to start) meant we did Dione Dell instead (for pictures of an exciting descent of Dione Dell in high water see Smiffy's photos). Reschedulingto May meant we would have less daylight and lower temperatures, but fortunately the forecast for the weekend was for fine weather, if a little chilly.
Leaving Sydney on Friday night, we made good time to the Kanangra turnoff, stopping for dinner at the Lawson Pub. Conversation at one point turned to Rich's beloved Newcastle United, and the "The goal that defied physics" against Chelsea, according to newspaper headlines. The phrase would continue to be pulled out for the rest of the weekend.
The car thermometer hit a brisk -1C on the Kanangra Road, though the still air made it seem warmer. At one point we came to a complete stop as a Tawny Frogmouth had taken up residence in the middle of the road and was not inclined to move. Tom had to get out of the car and walk up to it before it finally decided to fly off into the darkness.
Our first democratic decision of the trip was to decidewhether tocamp at the King Pin Fire Trail or at Boyd River Campground. Arguments were advanced for each, but as in any good democracy,it was the leader who got what he wanted with a firm statement about camping at the fire trail being "quicker to pack up in the morning"'. As if the leeches had heard us,they quickly welcomed us while we set up our tents.
My alarm went off at 6am, while it was still dark, and Tom & I started packing up. An hour went impossibly quickly (defying physics?) and to Rich's disappointment we were already running 15 minutes late as we set off at 7:15am. The fire trail to Mt Thurat made for quick, easy walking in the crisp morning air, and we picked up 5 minutes on Rich's solo trip from last year. Rich said this would allow two photo stops, for the benefit of inveterate snappers Tom and Smiffy.
With the benefit of Rich and Smiffy's recent Davies Canyon trip, we had no trouble picking up the various footpads through the banksia scrub across the top of Mt Thurat, and we were soon heading down Burra Gunama Ridge.
It was 9:15am as we reached the top of CarraBeanga Falls, with everything falling away in front of us. The whole of the Gangerang Range was laid out across Kanangra Creek, from Crafts Wall down to Gabes Gap, and up the various mountains and knolls to Cloudmaker high on the skyline. Below us, the water tumbled into the abyss, the vast depths of the canyon hidden by the trees. We had a quick morning tea, harnessed & helmeted up, then walked around the first abseil. Not only had we made up our 15 minutes we were now well ahead of Rich2011 - the benefits of knowing where you're going. With three ropes operating, we made quick work of the next 3 abseils, enjoying the late autumn sunshine.
Now it was time for our next democratic decision of the trip. To go down the left or the right of the main falls? To go right would be to go with the known route, precisely documented by Rich on his previous trip. To go left meant possible penduluming, almost certain camping in the creek and the makings of an epic. For some reason the vote went with the right. Where's the sense of adventure!?
The main falls drop over 100m into a vast amphitheatre, one of the highlights of the trip. After crossing the top of the falls, we scrambled down to the startof the main drop. A short abseil to a rocky outcrop is followed by two double rope pitches. Tom got to go first with some vague instructions about finding a small ledge and a large tree off to the right. The ledge is certainly not large, and both Tom and Rich overshot it to a larger ledge and had to scramble above an exposed drop to reach the next anchor. Rich then abseiled the next drop single-strand to make space while Smiffy & I came down the first drop. The walkie-talkies came in handy for communication and soon we were all at the bottom of the main drop. Sheltering behind a boulder from the chill wind that blew off the falls, wehad lunch at the very civilised time of 12:15pm. In the depths of the amphitheatre, the sun had already set for us for the day.
We then continued into the gorge with its series of shorter abseils. Things were going far too well so I attempted to sabotage the trip on the 10th abseil. After watching Rich do a dodgy descent taking the rope far away from the natural line and then scramble down the slippery falls… and then hear Smiffy& Tom abseil into a waist deep pool I naturally decided to re-rig to avoid getting wet. I also managed to deploy the rope under a boulder and through a couple of trees in order to make the pull down impossible. Unfortunately my sabotaging was easily undone by Rich who leapt back up the pitch with the ease of a mountain goat and we lost only 3 or 4 minutes.
The next few abseil points were reached through variously dodgy scrambles along narrow/slippery ledges. Above the last of these, Smiffy dislodged a boulder that he managed to stop after a few seconds of panic. This in turn caused a smaller rock to bounce down a few metres from Rich while he was abseiling. Rich commented on the "large rock" that had fallen - which it was- but Tom told him that was just the small one! Fortunately no one was hurt.
Soon we reached the final abseil in the gorge itself; a 42m descent down a waterfall into a pool of unknown depth. On Rich's previous trip he had carried out some dodgy manoeuvre that none of us were keen to repeat to avoid the pool. Tom volunteered to go first, and we were dismayed to see him appear out of the pool at the bottom looking very 'shiny' with water. Just as he was about to give us the good news on the water depth the batteries in his walkie-talkie went flat. Not that it mattered, since he'd already told us that he was going to describe it as a shallow wade regardless!
I set off next and managed to communicate with him via hand signals from a lower ledge. In the interest of marital harmony, he accurately described it as waist deep, but with a healthy shower from the waterfall. Up until this point I had managed to keep my feet dry, so the water felt pretty damned cold to me. The others, who had been wet previously, assured me it wasn't really that bad.
Rich's pack was not waterproofed, so he'd moved his sleeping bag to the top. Ironically, in the spray from the falls, that was the part that got the wettest! The main gorge complete, we left harnesses on and started boulder-hopping and scrambling down the creek. We did one further abseil (instead of a 4m slide down a rock) before hitting Kanangra Creek and our campsite at 4:40pm. There was still plenty of light left to gather firewood. Amazing -it was the trip that defied physics! Apparently there are no reports on the web (and by extrapolation it has never happened) of descents of CarraBeanga that got to Kanangra Creek on the first day.
Our physics-defying success and SBW-history making (first trip down Carra Beanga at least according to the historical walks register) was celebrated with our customary festival of cheeses and various beverages (port, bourbon & coke or beer depending on your preference).
The next morning we had a leisurely start getting away from camp after 9am. The next 3 or so hours were spent slogging up the Carra Beanga Steeps to Mt Cyclops. The final democratic decision of the trip then needed to be taken. Rich was keen to head to Mt Paralyzer so we could sign the log book. His sell job wouldn't have got him elected after revealing there would be no views and we'd struggle to find the log book. The vote was lost and we headed for the car!
After passing a CMW party who had come up Paralyser that morning, we had lunch looking down into Davies Canyon, before making it back to the car around 3:30pm. As if we had never left, the leeches were there waiting to welcome us. We had dinner at "The Lappo" on our way home after a very enjoyable and pretty much incident free weekend.