Category Archives: Canyoning

Bungleboori canyoning (3-5 Oct 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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Tom on the first abseil of the trip

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Next abseil

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Pretty waterfall

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Awkward start

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Happy now that he’s got over the log!

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

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Lunch on the Bungleboori

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

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

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Awkward squeeze up a groove

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

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Home for 2 nights

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

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

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

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

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

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Day 2 – views over the Bungleboori

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

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1st abseil of the day

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Nice canyon!

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Crowds at an abseil :)

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Kylie abseiling, while Tom prepares for a swim

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Kylie in the canyon

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Hywaida on the final abseil

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

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Start of the second canyon for the day – chilly!

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Gorgeous formations!

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First abseil in second canyon

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Canyon formation

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Tom emerging from under the arch

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Second abseil

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

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A very comfortable evening!

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

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The best bit of canyon from day 3!?

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

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Awkward slide

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First abseil

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

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

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Heading into the unknown

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

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Anchor maintenance

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

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

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Tom abseiling the final drop

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Almost at the bottom

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

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Back at that awkward squeeze

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

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

An old favourite (15-16 Aug 2020)

What are we at now? I think this is weekend 9 from a possible 11 that we have been out overnight since the travel restrictions in NSW were lifted. It’s the first trip where the route was something we had done before. It’s a good option when the weather forecast is looking a little dicey. To be honest the forecast this weekend wasn’t that bad, possible showers during the day on Saturday but ok the rest of the time.

Caoimhin & Ruby were at North Richmond before us (wonders never cease!) but even so we didn’t start walking until after 9:30am. After an hour or so of walking we revised the original plan to take a slightly more direct route to Mt Dawson. This meant we got to do something new after all! The gully we walked up was quite lovely, with lots of overhangs to explore and easy flat walking (if you avoided the peat moss bog!).

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A new way to the tops

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Climbing up a tiny bit of canyon

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The man, the mystery

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Tom on the “Pagoda of Death”

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Someone took the “Pagoda of Death” a bit literally

We elected to get up the Pagoda of Death before lunch since we could see rain squalls sweeping across the Capertee Valley. Surprisingly none of them ever got to us, though the fear of being rained on drove us on through the afternoon. There was still plenty of time to enjoy the views… in between eyeing off which overhang we would be retreating to when the rain hit.

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Pinnacle & Pantoneys

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The party

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“The Tunnel of Love”

As it was we got to camp at 3pm just as the only (very light) shower of the day hit us. Hot drinks and banana bread (late birthday cake for me) made for enjoyable afternoon activities.

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Tom hiding very unobtrusively

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Birthday cake!! (the festival continues)

The fire, and large amount of cloud, made it unappealing to head out to the cliffs for sunset. But Tom hadn’t lugged his camera up here to not take photos! So we headed out for a largely non-existent sunset before beating a retreat  back to the fire.

Despite the forecast there was some rain overnight and we were glad to be in a cave. The next morning there was no sign of rain, but there wasn’t much sky on display either. It seemed colder and more miserable – not how I’d interpreted the forecast.

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Views from Mt Dawson

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Pagoda, Pantoneys … and a bit of leg

After a visit to Mt Dawson to take in the splendid views we headed along various ridges. Not long after morning tea we started dropping into the creek we planned to exit by. There was a lot of water just flowing on the tops, and then we hit a drop which wasn’t down-climbable. We had a brief conversation about whether exiting down the creek was a good idea given the water flow, but I assured everyone we were unlikely to get more than knee deep. Not that I could really remember the creek from previous trips! As birthday girl I got the casting vote and we found a way down in a side creek.

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Yes, this photo looks like it belongs on another trip. The sun did come out…. for this photo!

Even though numerous small tributaries had fed into the creek the water volume didn’t seem any bigger so we continued on. There were quite a lot of fallen trees and shallow pools to manoeuvre around.

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The start of the cursing?

This spot was particularly fun with full packs. There was a convenient small ledge which allowed you to avoid the water, but it required a bit of contorting.

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Tom squeezing

Soon after that I gave up on keeping my feet dry and waded through. Caoimhin & Ruby were keen to keep their shoes dry so proceeded barefoot. Ruby being on the only one in trousers also removed those – no photos allowed!

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What’s so funny? Waiting for the others to negotiate the shallow water

As promised I didn’t get more than knee deep, but as the canyon continued the others eventually conceded defeat and put their shoes on. Of course this was just before the last pool and the canyon opening up :)

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Flowing water aplenty

From there we just had some airy sidling, a steep ridge descent and some road bashing back to the cars. A good weekend out in less than pleasant weather.

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Almost at the end

 

Slots & views (18-19 July 2020)

Another weekend, another multi-night trip. This feels like a bit of a record for us – 6 out of the last 7 weekends being overnight trips (with 4 being 2+ nights)! Shows how deprived we were with no overnight trips before that in 2020 due to bushfires, floods and Covid-19.

With the fear of a second lockdown looming we decided we should get away on Friday. We were leaving things a little fine leaving the car at 4pm, and a bit over an hour of light to ascend an unknown nose and find a campsite. No worries, powered up the hill… well as much as you can when hauling water, abseiling gear and photography gear! Had a perfect happy hour site on a very still night.

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Awesome happy hour spot

It was a pretty good spot for sunrise as well!

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Sunrise from the tent on Saturday

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Sunrise a bit later on

After a lot of time-lapses and other photo faffing we eventually set off the next morning. We headed off to look for water but didn’t find any – all the creeks seemed to be sandy – needed to find one with a rocky base.

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Lovely gully but no water!

After setting up camp with Mel, Rich & Ryan it wasn’t long before Tom, Rich & I were off on a first loop of the day. We found a very small pool of water, which wasn’t ideal, but given the lack of anything else we filled up. Then we were pleasantly surprised by the canyon in the creek.

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Oooooh! a canyon, oooh! and a canyoning friend.

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Tom emerging

Rich left us to go swap with Mel, so Tom & I had a late lunch and then explored another slot which ended up just being a ramp.

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A squeezey drop

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Climbing a pagoda ladder (where were these in the Bylong??)

Tom found us a nice spot to watch sunset and then we settled in for a lovely, still evening around the campfire.

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Sunset on Saturday

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The last of the sun from camp Saturday night

There was a heavy dew, and so when the wind came up in the early hours I was thinking “oh well, at least the tent will be dry”. No such luck, despite the breeze and a bit of sun the tent was still pretty damp when we packed it up. Tom & I had our full packs as we headed off with Rich for some exploring. We even had to put our harnesses on! (and use them a couple of times). The full packs definitely make for much harder work, especially going down fairly narrow canyons.

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Exploring… feels like we’re back in 2013!

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A little squeezy

Rich headed off and we had a late morning tea before heading over the ridge and checking out a couple more slots, before eventually heading back to the cars. A very enjoyable weekend out.

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Nice morning tea spot

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Another jaunty bout of exploration

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Lunch views

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Exit canyon

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Nice to see some things didn’t get burnt

 

Bowens Creek North (1 Dec 2019)

On Saturday night we had a very pleasant evening at Cathedral Reserve with a bunch of new female canyoning friends. Those of us not feeling too worse for wear the next morning (the wear was from the prior day canyons not overindulging… I think!) headed off for Bowens Creek North Canyon. I was teetering on the edge of wussing-out. Mt Wilson was covered in mist, I had a cracking headache, but I decided since I was there I should just do it. The mist eventually lifted, though some smoke lingered from the many fires in the surrounding areas. I was very glad I did as we had a great day out – lovely to do an all-women trip with new friends.

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The way in

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Kylie on the first (optional) abseil

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Trish on the first (compulsory) abseil

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Bec on the first (compulsory) abseil

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Looking down canyon

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Going down the plughole

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The lovely Kylie

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Bags away!

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Monica heading down

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The group at the bottom

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Looking back up canyon

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Beautiful

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More greenery

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Walls of ferns

 

November adventuring (Nov 19)

I’ve been a bit slack on sorting my November photos so they can just go in one post.

First up…
We had hoped to get out for an overnight canyon in Kanangra but given the catastrophic fire danger, and National Parks guidance that the public should keep out of remote areas of the parks we figured that probably wasn’t in the spirit of what they were asking. Instead we visited a canyon Tom had done many years ago, via a new tributary.

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Looking canyon-y

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Whatcha doing down there?

I was getting a bit nervous as this point as there had been a number of sections where Tom had said “hmm, I don’t remember this”. That’s quite out of character for him and I was beginning to wonder if we were in the right creek. And if we were in a different creek did we have enough rope!?

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Hmm. I hope the rope reaches down there!

Fortunately he remembered this point and it became clear once I got to the edge we were going to be ok.

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Can he get across?

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Guess not!

Though apparently last time he managed to get across. Guess ageing isn’t a good thing.

Then in keeping with not being “remote” we had a lovely cliff-top camp only a few minutes from where we were able to leave the car. Though of course everything was very smokey with the Gospers Mountain Fire raging away.

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Wildflowers still out

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Sunset, cheese & biccies, fortified shiraz… What more could you want?

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Room with a view

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Flannel flower

We’d climbed up Portal Lookout many years ago but I couldn’t remember much about the route. I had planned on leading an SBW trip up to it, but after our recce I decided against that idea. Unusually, I (presumably) found this route harder than I had on our earlier trip given I have no real memory of it.

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After this recce I decided not to lead this walk for SBW!

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Well… we’re abseilers sometimes

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On the way back down

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Creek walking

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The cotton fairy has been?

We had a weekend in Victoria to get some fresh air after all the smoke in Sydney. The Otways are one of the wettest parts of Australia so it was nice to see some decent water flowing – not that I’ve chosen to put up any of the photos of the many waterfalls we saw!

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I wonder how old?

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Cheecky lunch companion

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Stunning… if in the wrong continent

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Californian redwoods

Lastly we bashed around in the upper reaches of well-known canyon. This yielded some surprisingly good canyon sections.

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The adventurer emerges

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Canyon ledges

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Canyon

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Getting a bit chilly by this point!

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The adventurer

We exited via another tributary – not knowing if it would go. We climbed about 8 small waterfalls. Our general technique involved me standing on Tom’s knee to get up, then bracing myself so Tom could use my foot as a handhold so he could haul himself up. It was quite fun… as long as we could continue to get up them… which we did.

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Yep, another waterfall to climb up

Unfortunately our choice of route to get back onto the ridge turned out to be less than desirable. It was possibly the worst scrub I’ve had the pleasure of bashing through. I think we took an hour to cover 200m and my legs were streaming with blood from all of the sword grass cuts by the time we got into clearer territory. That part of the day is not one to be repeated!

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Sadly this photo doesn’t display the full brutality of the last hour of bush-bashing (for 200m gained)

All in all a pretty good month, given that many of the National Parks in NSW are closed due to the fires.

Macquarie Pass Canyon (2 Nov 2019)

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Practising different rigging techniques

 

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Tom checking whether he’s going to need to be lowered

 

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After lots of practice we are now on our way down-canyon

 

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Tom’s never one to miss a slide (sadly the photographer missed the slide action shot)

 

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Abseiling

 

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We’ve caught up with the others

 

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Looking down canyon

 

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Final abseil

 

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Tom jumping

 

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Tom sliding

 

First canyons of the season (20 Oct 2019)

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Cool depths of Dalpura Canyon

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A tunnel

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Will the log hold?

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Getting in a bit deeper!

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Yep, it’s fresh

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Tom on the final (optional) abseil

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Morning tea views

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Tea-tree (leptospermum somethingorother)

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Perfect set-up!???

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the unclad bolt

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We just climbed down Tom as a meat anchor in case anyone wanted a rope. Alex seems to be doing fine with it though

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Staying dry

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Onni also has no need for the rope. Or shoes :)

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One of many Waratahs we saw

 

Rejuvenating, while being scratched to pieces, in nature (8-10 June 2019)

With the combination of an injury and work deadlines it had been 6 weeks since I’d been out in the bush and boy did I need to get out. All 3 of us were nursing foot injuries so this was meant to be a chance to get out and enjoy being in the bush without being too strenuous. So of course we started our long weekend loaded up with several litres of water, ropes, harnesses and at the last minute my down jacket also made it’s way into the pack (another 800g I really didn’t need to be carrying).

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Tom and Jonathan above the cloud (and in it at times)

Tom’s SLR soon got some action, to justify the weight, with lots of low lying cloud about.

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Tom and Jonathan with the river of cloud

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Where is everything??

Eventually we made it to the spot we planned to base camp and had lunch. The cloud continued to envelop us from time to time and it wasn’t conducive to sitting around. That said, it was still after 1:30pm when we set off to do our canyon. “How long will it take?” asks Jonathan. “A few hours”. Ok, well we have 3.5 hours till sunset….

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Getting scrambly

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This is meant to be dry canyoning! (As Jonathan bravely abseils into a pool of unknown depth)

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Climbing pagodas

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The cloud still about as the sunsets

We stumbled into camp well after dark, fortunately no one going over a cliff edge in the dark. Despite our 5am wake-up and a solid day of activity we didn’t go to bed till after 10pm. I slept like a log. Tom was up early to photograph sunrise but I enjoyed a sleep in. We knew we had the luxury of more time today, but also a longer canyon. I suggested we should get going and save any relaxing for when we got back to camp (hopefully in the light) later in the day. Even so we weren’t away much before 10am.

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Next morning still plenty of low cloud

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Tom and Jonathan checking out another river of cloud

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Getting slotty

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The man in nature

Despite both Tom & I having done this canyon previously there were many abseils, some awkward, some requiring particular care with rope placement, others needing to be doubled-up, so we didn’t make any speed records getting through the canyon.

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Slightly awkward abseil

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Another awkward abseil

The others started on lunch at 2pm in the feeble sun in the creak bed while I went to look for some water. We’d picked some up the day before but not in a spot we could get to today, I went a long way downstream and didn’t find any. Oh well, we’d have to make the 7L we had back at camp do. I scoffed my lunch on my return and then we were off. Detouring off from the exit I found a couple of pools – not the most attractive looking but definitely good for putting out the fire, and probably fine for drinking if you didn’t mind heavily tannined water.

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Camp

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Bliss. Happy hour, quiz and sunset.

We made it back to camp in the light – but only with half an hour to spare. The sun was already lighting up the cliffs opposite camp with magnificent colours so we settled in for cheese & biccies and Good Weekend Quiz. (For the record a respectable 18/25).

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Sunrise from the comfort of my sleeping bag – some advantages to sleeping under a fly!

Our final day I decided to stay at camp with the Good Weekend while the others went to explore another small creek. Then it was just a matter of retracing our steps back to the car – easier said than done when we were all feeling the impact of a much harder weekend than planned! Relieved to be back at the cars we then had a slow drive home in the long weekend traffic – broken up by apple pie at our usual stop on Bells Line. A great weekend in the bush – though maybe next time we need something a little easier after a 6 week lay off!

 

Koombanda Canyon (10 Mar 2019)

It’s been a while between visits for this canyon – 13.5 years since my only other visit. I wasn’t expecting much, it was really just a way of getting Tom out canyoning after a injury-limiting season. It’s actually quite a nice canyon – though a very short day, we took 4 hours car to car including lunch.

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Looking good

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A bit chilly?

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It is definitely a swim!

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Haven’t seem him looking this happy in months :)

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But has he forgotten how to abseil?

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Nice curves

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More grinning

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Now what?

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Downclimb before another swim

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Just your usual end of the creek.

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Don’t think any vehicles are going to be getting to the end of the road any time soon

 

Wollangambeing Around (2-3 Feb 2019)

We didn’t have any plans for the weekend, and Emmanuelle had suggested an overnight camp. Tom came up with a different route in and out which worked well with the weather – a cool, drizzly Saturday followed by a sunny, warm Sunday. Saturday was spent on the ridges, paying attention to navigating.

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Tom enjoying the views at lunch

We met up with the others, who had all managed to take slightly different routes in, for a fun evening in a cave.

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A welcome fire on a drizzly evening

 

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What are you guys doing here? This is our cave!

After Tom’s previous trip covering this route got his party back to the car at 11pm I was keen for an early start! We had slightly modified the route, plus the 2 of us probably move a bit quicker than his previous party.

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Early start on a clear sunny day

 

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The bush, and everything in it, was saturated

The first half hour or so was a bit miserable pushing through saturated scrub at a very slow pace. But after that we had clearer route before hitting the Wollangambe River.

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Beautiful Wollangambe

Travelling down the Wollangambe was fairly slow initially and where Tom had been talking up a 9 hour day the night before, suddenly it turned into a 10 hour one (still nothing on the 14 hour earlier trip). But then we hit the sandy sections and our pace picked up considerably.

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Tom negotiating a small drop

 

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Tom on the go

 

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Still going

 

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And still going! (or is he?)

In the end we made it back to the cars in just over 8 hours, in time for apple pie at Pie in the Sky on the way home.

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