Author Archives: rachel

Wentworth Creek (9-10 Jan 2021)

Another trip which I’d cajoled out of Tom when I was seeking walks for the Summer Program. We didn’t know anything about the section we were attempting so I guess it wasn’t that surprising when we couldn’t do the trip as planned.

The weather wasn’t ideal for a wet trip, or at least not on Saturday, when it was grey and cool. With the large amount of recent rain there was plenty of flowing water in the creek. Our feet didn’t stay dry for long, and after a couple of swims I think we were all feeling a little chilly.

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Early on in the creek

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Walking through an overhang

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Slow section

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Mark hand-over-hands, while Jo watches on

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Looking pretty canyony

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Tom & Lauren above a waterfall which needs to be abseiled… we don’t have gear.

Having got to a waterfall that we couldn’t safely get down without abseiling gear we reversed upstream and managed to exit via a side creek.

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Lauren reversing up the creek

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Lauren & Jo in a side creek/canyon

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Forcing a pass out

We had lunch on the cliffs above the creek and marvelled that we’d found a way out given how many cliffs there were. Tom gave us a less than 50% chance of finding a way down the next side creek (without using rope). But we went to check it out. Unfortunately his odds were right and were again stymied.

So we picked up water and headed up the nearest ridge. This area hadn’t been burnt and it was a good reminder on what unburnt bush-basing is like…. To our surprise after a fairly unpleasant ascent the ridge opened out to a delightful series of cliffs with enough flat areas for us to have a great camp. Jo made the unfortunate decision to sleep under the stars, but with the cloud clearing there was a lot of dew and her tent went up just before bed (that didn’t save the sleeping bag which had been out though).

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Delightful sunset

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Dusk

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Dawn

Next morning we had a fairly early start and got back to the cars at 10am. Not quite the planned weekend but good company and fun exploring anyway!

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Our camp

A gap in the storms (26-28 Dec 2020)

We had grand plans for a 5-6 day canyoning trip post Christmas. La Niña had other ideas. The forecast between Christmas and New Year alternated between a lot of rain, and a bit of rain, but generally with possible thunderstorms. Having already diced with the weather before Christmas we weren’t overly enthused to take it on in anger again any time soon. Unfortunately the best weather was early on and my visions of lazing around on Boxing Day were dashed as Toni & Smiffy motivated us to get out and join them. At least they had suggested we just meet up in the bush on the evening of the 26th so we didn’t have to get up early on Boxing Day.

Early afternoon we started driving. Part way along Bells Line of Road I had a look at the forecast. “Severe weather warning”. A quick check of the radar showed an intense cell tracking west to east, south of Lithgow. Around Bell we drove into it. Hail and rain smashed down on us. I wondered how much hail you needed to break a windscreen? Most cars were driving at a crawl with their hazard lights on.

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Hail storm on the way

Some cars stopped but the quickest way out of it was to keep driving. By the time we started the descent into Lithgow we could just see the aftermath. Hail all over the road as if it had been snowing. Water pouring off every rock around us. I would not have wanted to be in a canyon constriction. My already weak enthusiasm was being tested.

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Aftermath of the storm – see how much water/hail is on the road!

Fortunately once we were through the cell it was back to a nice enough day. We left the car at 5pm hoping to be at our pre-arranged meeting spot with Toni & Smiffy by 6:30pm. The thunder started rumbling around us, and I was mentally noting there were a lot of overhangs along the edges of the gully we were ascending. The rain held off and held off, and started teeming down when we were fortunately about 50m away from a decent cave.

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A fine place to shelter from another storm!

Tom looks at the map and realises we’re on the wrong side of the gully. After half an hour of dumping the rain stopped and we sauntered all of 5 minutes around the cliffline to find Toni & Smiffy. At which point both parties admit if it hadn’t been for the others we probably would have all been safely tucked up at home!

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Eventually we get to our pre-arranged meeting point with Toni & Smiffy

However, the next day rewards us for being out there. A blue sky with no hint of the unsettled weather.

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Completely different weather the next day

Eventually we make it down into the creek Tom wants to explore. A sling at the top of the first major drop tells us we’re not the first (though we knew that anyway). With three photographers out of four we don’t set any speed records for our descent. Plus with the storm the night before there was a reasonable water flow, and some blocked up sections to clear out.

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A vegetated first abseil

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Foam left from the storm the night before

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Another vegetated abseil

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No vegetation in sight!

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Smiffy checking out what’s below

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Tom descending into the unknown

When Smiffy & I first got to the top of this drop the pool came up over the slings, but with a bit of clearing of debris we dropped the water level in the pool by over a foot.

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Smiffy on the same deep abseil

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It’s still going

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Canyon formation :)

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Smiffy photographing Toni on our final abseil

We were glad to find a nice sunny spot to have lunch in as it had been a relatively wet canyon. However, we had a long way to go to get back to our gear.

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Checking out another canyon

After a couple of kilometres of creek-bashing we tried to force a pass onto the tops. Tom & I had found a pass some years earlier but we couldn’t remember where it was having not brought any notes with us. After a bit of exploring we couldn’t find a way up, so retreated back to the creek having lost half an hour. Several more kilometres of creek-bashing it was to be then. Fortunately, unlike our pre-Christmas trip, this creek did get easier the higher we went and we got back to our gear at 7pm…. still plenty of light, but Tom & I had ditched thoughts of heading back to the car that night. It was a much longer day than any of us had expected.

Despite how tired I was I didn’t sleep well, and we were all woken by an early morning thunderstorm rolling through at first light (5am). By 6am we were up and moving, Tom somewhat bemused since he figured we weren’t going anywhere till the storm had passed.

Once it passed we went our separate ways since our cars were parked in different directions. Tom & I were back at the car just before 9am, and having breakfast at a cafe in Lithgow by 10:30am. It was a hot and sunny day and there was a twinge of guilt at not being out in it – until another severe thunderstorm swept across the state in the late afternoon. La Niña is here for the summer it seems.

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A dry-feet crossing

 

Mostly Type 2 Fun (19-21 Dec 2020)

With more “forced” holidays (me from Christmas shutdown, Tom from having to use his 4 weeks of leave in the calendar year) we had the week before Christmas off. Throwing around ideas Tom suggested exploring some tributaries of Annie Rowan Creek, but he would rather have more than just us. Well, I was trying to get more activities for the Club program so here was a perfect match! Unsurprisingly there wasn’t much interest – finding those special canyoning companions that a) could give up 5 days in the week before Christmas to go bush b) had sufficient exploratory canyoning experience and c) were actually interested were likely a very narrow intersection on a venn diagram! So it was just 3 of us who met at Clarence on a rainy, cool Saturday morning – a day later than originally scheduled, as the Friday forecast had involved 20-40mm of rain, mainly to be delivered via storm cells.

Saturday and Sunday were now forecast for just a few millimetres of rain – just drizzly – and relatively cool. Monday originally had a new trough forecast but then it moved to Tuesday so we were feeling happy we should get 3 relatively good days in, and if it rained Tuesday we would probably just be walking out. I was wondering if we were a little crazy as I shivered while we exchanged pleasantries. Forty-five minutes later we were at the Natural Bridge car park – unsurprisingly the only ones there. The walk in on the Mt Cameron track was very easy going after the fires last summer. And so it wasn’t long before we were leaving the trail and heading off to find our first creek. It didn’t seem like it had taken very long so I was quite surprised when my camera said it was almost 12:30pm as we were finishing our first abseil.

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Tom on our first abseil of the trip

The first creek Tom had been down previously. I was quite impressed by the canyon, Tom definitely hadn’t oversold it.

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Alan surveying an impressive section of canyon

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Tom ready for a swim

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Log slide!

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Alan in the constriction

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Tom in the canyon

We had a very late (3pm) lunch in our intended overhang for the night. The afternoon was spent exploring the nearby creeks. It was a useful afternoon in the sense of answering a bunch of questions (can we get back up if we abseil this waterfall? Is there a pass out here? Does this tributary have any canyon?). Unfortunately the answers to the questions were all “No”. So it was a bit of a disheartening afternoon. I was tired (not that surprising with a 5:30am start), and very glad when we finally headed back to camp. As usual Tom and I had our lengthy procession of courses (cheese & crackers, soup, main, tea)… while Alan had his oat bar dinner in about 5 minutes, probably before we’d even sat down!

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Our little overhang for the night

At least our exploration the afternoon before meant we were efficient the next morning. We quickly made our way into a nearby creek and walked up it further than yesterday to a tributary Tom wanted to have a look at. Getting into it required a swim – which neither Alan or I were game for at 8:45am. You can’t stop the canyon explorer though as he swam away camera in his mouth. He was gone longer than I expected – apparently a nice little section above what we could see.

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Tom braving a swim very early in the morning, exploring up a tributary of a tributary

From there we found a way out of the creek and into a nearby creek system.

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Morning tea views from the ridge

We expected canyon (though we knew nothing beyond that) in the lower section of the creek. Tom had identified via the aerials an upper tributary of interest, so decided we may as well drop in high up and see what was there. It was a surprisingly good section, with a few drops and a bit wet.

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Dropping into our next canyon

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Tom after making this abseil start look very awkward

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Ferny delight

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Tom ledge walking

And the creek between Tom’s upper tributary and the “known” canyon was pleasant. It felt like today was coming together almost the opposite of yesterday afternoon! The lower section didn’t have much rope work but lots of scrambling and water.

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Tom and the ferns

Lower down I was a bit perturbed to see a goanna on a rock in the middle of the canyon. I was going to have to go past it on one side or the other – and I really didn’t want it running up me – especially given I was just wearing shorts and swimmers! Even though it seemed pretty cold it’s beady eyes were watching me as I approached. Being a bit nervous I then tried to rush past it and of course screwed up the next downclimb, sacrificing my elbow skin to the canyon gods. For the record the goanna was still sitting there when we left it.

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Here’s a first for me – goanna in a canyon

Tom’s studying of the DEM data meant we followed a half-way ledge around into the next creek. While it was essentially a means to an end, as a way to get across to our next canyon, it was a nice creek in its own right. My favourite feature was the creek of sand – no water in sight – but the sand made up for it.

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Creek of sand

The original plan for the day had been to drop into another canyon, but given the time and unknown nature of the next canyon we decided to have a high camp and leave it for the next day. It was a speccy spot with fantastic views over the Wolgan. There were ominous clouds in the sky so taking advantage of the reception we checked the forecast. “Hmmm” said Tom. “What?” I said in reply. “30-50mm of rain tomorrow, with potential storms”. Great.

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Top views for happy hour

We had hoped being up high would mean less mosquitoes but it was not to be. The mosquitoes were one of the reasons Tom and I were up for the pre-sunrise light show. Many bush trips are about trade-offs in suffering. Carry a tent – suffer with the weight in your pack the whole time. Carry a fly – suffer when the mosquitoes try to bite your face and any other exposed body parts. Coincidentally it was also the summer solstice. If only we had known just how long a day it was going to be…

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Stunning sunrise

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Stunning sunrise (but you know what they say “red in the morning, shepherds’ warning”)

The sunrise was great, even though Tom didn’t have any of his fancy cameras with him to truly capture it. But by the time we’d boiled the billy you couldn’t see anything. The cloud had rolled in and we were in mist. Everything was damp while we packed up.

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Not much later, same spot as the sunrise shots

Given the forecast we decided the best plan was to cut the trip short a day. This was easier said then done since we were a fair way from the car. The first point of business was the canyon we were camped above.

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Many of these to walk through!

Not long after 8:30am we were dropping into the creek. We had thought this canyon had been reversed but the first major obstacle we came to even Alan agreed there didn’t appear to be any way to climb the waterfall.

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The start of our next canyon

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Tom abseiling

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Mainly down climbs in the upper section of this canyon

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Alan went down the log, but Tom and I opted for the comfort of a rope!

We thought this spectacular cavern was the end of the canyon. Tom even stopping to mark ‘end of canyon’ on his GPS.

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Spectacular cavern, hard to do it justice

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Tom below the cavern

But not long after that we catch up with Alan who’s sitting above a drop into a dark, curved canyon.

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But wait, that’s not the end!?

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Nope! Look down there

I went down first, and then realised there was another small drop. The light Alan had been able to see seemed a long way above me so I wanted to make sure we could actually get through. I was hoping I wasn’t going to have reverse the two ropes I had just come down as I proceeded down stream to check it out. I had an awkward floating disconnect, glad to find I could walk in most of the water sections rather than needing to swim without the buoyancy of my pack which I’d left behind. Eventually I got to a section where it was clear we would be able to get through. A couple of whistles up to the guys for them to proceed. Slightly embarrassingly I found there had been no need for the floating disconnect as only a metre away I would have been able to stand!

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In the depths of the canyon

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Tom swimming

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It keeps going

Finally we think we’ve got to the end. An impressive canyon! It had a taken a bit longer than we’d expected since there was so much of it – so we were glad we hadn’t decided to go for it the night before, as well as a bit apprehensive about the distance still ahead of us for the day. We stopped for an early lunch around 11:15 in an overhang which would be a reasonable camp option. We figured this might be our last time out of the rain for the day.

From there it was definitely type 2 fun for the rest of the (longest) day. We followed the cliff line around for a bit – alternating between relatively easy passage following wombat tracks and fighting our way up and down through scrub. Eventually we dropped down to a ‘grassy’ shelf which was much easier going, before making it across to Annie Rowan Creek. Here we were met with fields of cigesbeckia (as Tom kept telling us). While not particularly scratchy or woody it still proved quite difficult to move through when it was head high. Alternating leads we eventually escaped it and sidled above the creek for a while. I had mentally budgeted 1 km/hour – which meant with 4-5 kms in the creek we were going to be in for a long time, not a good time. Tom said he thought 2km/hour was achievable – I was dubious, with good reason as it turned out. The creek was pleasant enough, but it had been raining since mid-morning so everything was wet and slippery. Tom managed to flick something across his left eye, and couldn’t focus. I smacked my head into a rock overhang and needed a few minutes to compose myself. Alan just kept on going, as Alan does.

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Many hours later, traipsing up our exit creek

By 6:20pm we made it to our exit from the creek. Still 1h 40 of daylight left, but definitely not 1h 40 from the car. Tom called a halt to get water, clean out shoes and find our head torches. Fortunately the pass was straight-forward and once on top we just had to walk ridges until we found the trail we came in on. It wasn’t difficult walking but with more knee high natives (that look like weeds) it wasn’t quick.

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Even more hours later, the remains of the hut on Mt Cameron

After what seemed like hours we founds ourselves on the track. After what seemed like more hours we were back at the saddle where Tom & I had stashed our more comfortable shoes from the walk in. And after what seemed like the most hours ever we finally were back at the cars. At 10:41pm. It was still raining, though had eased off a bit in the last half an hour so fortunately we were able to get changed into warm, dry clothes without getting too wet. By 11pm we were driving out in convoy – fortunately the road held up pretty well given the rain. Once we got back to the main Glow Worm Tunnel road we waved Alan past us. He sped off, and we crawled along – Tom driving, but apparently unable to read the speedo as his vision was still blurry.

I suggested we go via Lithgow so we could get some food – all we’d had since our early lunch was a couple of nut bars and some dried apples. It had been a long time since we’d used the State Gully Mine Road to leave the Newnes Plateau. A left instead of right hand turn when we got to town made the day even longer. Navigation corrected we found ourselves at the 24 hour McDonalds a bit after midnight. The Longest Day was over but we were still a long way from bed.

Walking like a cowboy from chaffing, I also couldn’t stop shaking – I couldn’t tell if it was shivering from the cold, or general body discomfort from lack of food and the efforts of the day. Once I got some food and coffee into me I felt a bit better – which was just as well since there was a 2 hour drive still to go, which I definitely needed to drive given Tom was seeing multiples of any reflective things!

I decided to take the main line rather than Bells Line due to the easier driving – only to find as we made our way to Victoria Pass that the Great Western Highway was closed at Mt Vic and we were going to have to divert to Bells Line anyway. Can this day get any longer? We pulled into the garage at 2:45am, stumbling into bed leaving a car full of wet stuff to be dealt with in the morning. With my various flesh wounds (chafing from swimmers, chafing on my lower back from the pack, chafing on both my hips, both knees cut to pieces from bush bashing) I wasn’t sure sleep was going to come easy despite having been awake for 22 hours.

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Assessing the damage at home – so it seemed the strapping after day 2 did have some impact!

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I’m sure there’s a mindfulness challenge awaiting me here

 

Western Arthurs (A-K) (21-27 Nov 2020)

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Turn around… (bright eyes)

Yet again I felt like pinching myself. Less than 12 hours ago I was in my bed in Sydney, now I was standing on Mt Hesperus surveying the majesty of the Western Arthurs.

The past few days seemed like a dream. It had only been 3 days since we decided we were going to tackle the Western Arthurs (A-K). Trailhead transport booked Wednesday night. Packing list written up at work on Thursday. Fortunately Tom had been dehydrating food in anticipation of some sort of trip for a few days, but even so the last things came off the dehydrator Friday night. And Saturday morning we had taken our first flight in Covid-world, been whisked away from the airport by TWE, allowing us to start walking from the Scotts Peak Dam trackhead shortly before midday.

It’s very easy to be a fair-weather bushwalker in NSW, particularly when you’re just heading out for a weekend. Weather’s looking truly awful? Stay home. Really need to get out? Re-route to a camp cave, half the time the rain doesn’t come anyway. Subsequently Tom & I have done very little camping in the rain over our bushwalking history. I’ve had the Eastern & Western Arthurs on a vague to-do list for some years. But they had always hovered low enough that no action materialised, because the thought of spending a day or two stuck in a tent due to the weather seemed so unpalatable. So little thought had been put towards the area that, the weekend before we headed to Tassie, when on a club trip Lauren mentioned doing “A-K” I had no idea what she was talking about.

Tom had been forced to book in his leave entitlements for the year months ago, which is why we had a random week off in November. We were toying with options for Wollemi traverses when the Tasmanian border re-opened creating another option. Initially I’d looked at Federation Peak (closed), Mt Anne Circuit (closed), Frenchmans Cap (too short)… but then saw the Franklin River and tried to book us on a rafting trip. Minimum numbers were needed for the rafting and Plan B, C & D were rapidly being spun up just in case. Plan E (Western Arthurs) only eventuated after Lauren mentioned it the Sunday before we were meant to leave! I had assumed because Federation Peak was closed the surrounding area was – secretly I was much keener on this idea, so there was little disappointment when on the Wednesday before we officially pulled the pin on rafting due to lack of numbers.

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The start – packs not looking too big

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A sample of the section from the car park through to Junction Creek

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Crossing Junction Creek

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Beautiful weather to start our walk (almost too hot)

And now here we were having slogged the 800m up Alpha Moraine (“A” in the “A-K”) with our fingers-crossed the forecast would hold. It was still an hour or so from Mt Hesperus to our first night’s camp at Lake Cygnus.

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Tom with Lake Pedder in the distance, after we’ve completed the biggest climb of the trip – 800m up Alpha Moraine

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Now we just have lots of ups and downs as we go along the range

Some way out we spotted the silhouette of a person on the ridge line. Interesting. According to the log book there had been twelve starters two days earlier, but none since, so presumably this was someone from one of those groups. Tom’s assessment of photographic equipment as we approached the lone figure pegged him as a serious photographer. As it turned out his collection of 4 lenses, 2 bodies and various other paraphernalia made Tom look like a model of restraint with “only” 3kg of camera gear! It took a bit effort to keep Tom moving, having got caught up in a photographic discussion with Ross. Subsequently it wasn’t until 7:30pm we found ourselves near the shore of Lake Cygnus setting up for the night. I was sure sleep would come easily – after a 5am start, a couple of poor night’s sleep in the lead-up, a 900m climb with a 16kg+ pack – until I returned from the toilet to find a rat investigating my pack.

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Heading down to Lake Cygnus – camp for night 1

My biggest worry coming into the trip was rats eating my pack at Lake Oberon. In the flurry of blog-post reading in the two days we had of planning, rats had featured in a few reports. And now we had one at Lake Cygnus. I scared it off and packed everything away as best I could. I lay there listening for the tell-tale scurry of little feet. Imagination on overdrive, there were a couple of false starts, but then sleep came and I didn’t hear anything until the next morning – where to my great relief my pack still had the same number of holes as the night before.

Day 1: 15.7km, 11:45am – 7:15pm = 7.5 hours including water collection, afternoon tea, photo-faffing etc. Chapman’s estimate: 6-9.5 hours (excluding breaks)
animal count: one native rat, 2 small snakes
packweight: 16kg?

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The toilets at each site were like this. Unscrew the lid, put down the seat, then screw the lid back on when you’re done. Fortunately I never needed to use one when it was pouring with rain.

We thought day 1 would be the most physically challenging day on the trip for us. Give us difficult terrain and short distances over long distance on track any time. Our second day was much shorter and we didn’t hurry to get moving in the morning. Ross headed off back to the car park with his 30kg pack shortly after 7am while we were still eating breakfast. The blue skies we’d started with yesterday had been replaced with a grey version, but overall the conditions were relatively pleasant. We took a side-trip up Mt Hayes for morning tea, and then had an early lunch at Square Lake.

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Views from Mt Hayes

There’d been the odd spot of rain during the morning but it started drizzling which brought an abrupt end to lunch. We powered up the next hill and by the time we got to the top the precipitation had eased off, but it had also put any thoughts of a side trip up Mt Orion out of our minds.

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Lake Ceres & Square Lake behind us we climb up to the Mt Sirius saddle

We oohed and aahed over the classic Mt Oberon view from the saddle before heading down. I had anticipated this section keenly as it was where all the notes said “if you don’t like the approach to Lake Oberon then turn-around”. It was also to be our first encounter with a Chapman “steep” section. Curious to see how things would pan out we walked down the constructed steps wondering what was to come. Steep, it certainly was. Our packs were still relatively heavy having only eaten a day’s food which made things a little more awkward, but there was nothing overly difficult in the descent for us. My main complaint being a wet butt by the time we got down, as I had to sit on a few of the ledges to order to scramble down. Tom as usual hit the right sympathetic notes with his “better a wet butt than a squashed Rachel”.

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The classic view of Lake Oberon

By the time we got to the lake shore the sun was out with blue sky aplenty. I stripped off and threw myself into the lake before I cooled down. The water was chilly away from the shallow foreshore! The campsites at Lake Oberon are tucked away in the bushes – which I’m sure is great in inclement weather but it was a little gloomy on a day like the one we had. We settled down to do a crossword in the sun by the shore before eventually retreating to set up camp.

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Turned into a stunning afternoon at Lake Oberon

Happy hour was again out by the shore with Tom chasing the sunlight up the slope as the sun sunk behind the surrounding hills. During dusk we heard some voices, presumably starting to descend to Lake Oberon. We headed back out to the lake shore for some sunset photos but couldn’t see anyone and no one ever arrived (that we could tell).

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Happy hour on the lakeshore

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Sunset on Mt Pegasus (we climb that first thing the next day)

Day 2: 4.2km + Mt Hayes sidetrip, 8am (?) – 1:45pm = 5.75 hours including morning tea, lunch, photo-faffing. Chapman’s estimate: 3hr10 – 4hr 40 (excluding breaks)

It was a very still night, and the night sky was spectacular. On the downside that meant heavy condensation on the tent, which we spent a lot of time wiping down with the chux the next morning. Even so we were still away by 7am, in perfect weather conditions. My worst fears for the trip hadn’t eventuated – no sign of any rats overnight.

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Still morning with a sea of cloud in the distance

The scrambling on the lower slopes of Pegasus was my least favourite part of the day. It was the start of a mantra I repeated a few times over the next two days; “I am so glad I’m not doing this in the wet!!” We made pretty good time getting up Pegasus. But after we got through the hole at the top, we wasted quite a bit of time finding our way along the ridge to start the descent off. Probably my fault for claiming we were going to be on the 1 hour end of the 1-2 hour Chapman estimate….

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Scrambling on the lower slopes of Mt Pegasus

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The hole near the top of Mt Pegasus. The only place on the trip we passed packs.

The views in this next section were amazing. But off in the periphery I could see the sea of cloud which had been so attractive in our earlier photos rising… and rising… until we were engulfed in it. That wasn’t quite the end of the views for the day, but they were a bit more sporadic depending on height of the cloud.

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Descending off Mt Pegasus

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Looking along the ridge to Mt Capricorn. Somehow we’re going along there.

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Scrambling above Lake Uranus

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More scrambling (and this is why it takes 5-7 hours to cover 4km)

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The cloud has engulfed us, but this traverse still feels airy

We experienced our first (but not last) experience of dirt bank climbing in the next section. I was somewhat horrified at the erosion in some sections and as Chapman says in the notes it seems likely some sections of the route may become impassable in future due to the erosion. It’s a difficult conundrum – by being there we were contributing to the problem – should we not go?

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Our first encounter with eroded dirt banks. There are many more sections like this (mostly dodgier/more eroded).

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Looking over Lakes Ariel & Titania

We arrived at High Moor in the early afternoon. I optimistically assessed the tent platform for its quality as a back rest not realising we’d spend most of our time in the tent to escape the wind. It cleared a little mid-afternoon so we climbed Mt Columba where we got good views of the route ahead. We also attempted to check the weather forecast. Of course, turning on the phone to get the forecast does mean other messages pop up as well. Tom spent a few minutes giving permissions to files needed for our bushwalking club’s Weekly Update to go out. By the time he’d finished that there was a bit more cloud around and the 2 bars of reception were diminished. We didn’t manage to get the 3-hourly rain forecast or, as it turned out, more importantly, the wind forecast. We just saw that the overall rain forecast for the days ahead was still pretty benign – 0-3mm the next day being the worst of it.

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View from Mt Columba of our route for the next day – yep following that narrow ridge line

Day 3: 4.3km, 7am – 1:45pm = 6h45 including morning tea, lunch, much photo-faffing and wasting time route-finding on top of Pegasus. Chapman’s estimate: 5-7 hours (excluding breaks)

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Camp at High Moor, with Dorado Peak in the background

The next morning we got going early again. The cloud was high enough that we could see the ridgeline ahead as we set off along the almost paved path to the start of the Beggary Bumps. The first gully was my least favourite section of the day – a wet steep climb down with a tumble to oblivion if you stuffed up.

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Our first steep gully on day 4

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The bottom of the gully. This was the section I liked least for the day.

By the time we’d been up and down and around and got to the “Tilted Chasm” it seemed comparatively tame. I suspect our canyoning experience helped though, as getting into the top was a fairly standard canyoning scramble.

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The Tilted Chasm felt comparatively easier

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Views over Lake Ganymede

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More scrambling. Let’s be honest on a day which is 3.8km and takes 4-6 hours, there’s an awful lot of scrambling.

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Do not pass the pink tape! (Actual route sidles around on the left)

The slow progress up and down and around continued until I suggested an early lunch in the saddle before Mt Taurus. Mt Taurus and the other surrounding peaks had been in cloud for most of the day, whereas from the saddle we at least had some views. It turned out to be a good call as the rain started just as we finished lunch, and we spent the rest of the day walking in drizzle and cloud. My orientation completely gone – at one stage if felt like we’d gone over Mt Taurus just to come back up to it again – though that’s probably mostly to do with the circuitous route that was needed to get off the peak. Keen to get down and dry I initially baulked at the cleft we needed to descend. But the alternative track seemed to just lead to a lookout (who knows we couldn’t see anything just being in cloud). Tom had a second look at the cleft and concluded it was actually pretty easy to get down – putting me to shame, but I agreed once I actually tried it.

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My life. Waiting for the photographer.

Eventually we could see a lake, and skirted around it through overgrown tracks to find the tent platforms. We stood under the relatively dry shelter of a stand of scorparia optimistically hoping it would stop raining. After a while I decided we had to just bite the bullet and put up the tent in the rain.

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Hanging out under the scoparia at Haven Lake hoping it will stop raining

We got a short break where we wiped down the platform with the Chux so we weren’t pitching on puddles. Soon we were inside and dry. Yay. And that is where we spent most of the next 36 hours.

Day 4: 3.8km, 7:05am – 1:30pm = 6h25 including morning tea, lunch, not so much photo taking. Chapman’s estimate: 4-6 hours (excluding breaks)

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Happy hour… from the comfort of our sleeping bags

The weather wasn’t so bad that we couldn’t have moved on the next day, but as we had baked an extra day into the trip our pick up schedule meant we didn’t need to move. Our knees were happy for a rest day as well! There wasn’t that much rain but the wind gusts were significant. By mid-afternoon we got some blue sky and that with the wind meant we dried everything out. Unfortunately the wind was such that a side trip up Mt Aldebaran was out of the question. Tom was even getting optimistic of some sunset photography, but the clear skies didn’t last and by dinner time we were back in low cloud.

Day 5: 0km (well maybe 1km to walk back to the saddle below Mt Taurus and see the views we missed the day before)

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During a fine break on our day at Haven Lake we actually get to see Mt Taurus

Overnight it rained again and it was drizzling when we woke in the morning. Hoping it would clear we packed up and got moving. As we climbed up into the saddle above Haven Lake we realised how sheltered it had been (even if it didn’t feel it at the time). We were buffeted by the wind, and it was with much relief we dropped onto the other side of the ridge out of the wind. There were a couple more exposed sections of ridge walking where I wondered if it was possible to get blown off, and I was quite surprised when we soon arrived at Lake Sirona. We briefly sheltered in a crevice enjoying the respite from the wind and rain. Should we be out in it? Tom asked if we should take shelter, I figured we were already pretty wet so should just keep moving and stay warm. The wind and rain intensified and the visibility dropped. And just when I was questioning the decision to push on the sky lightened in places and we started being able to see more than a few metres in front of us.

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Leaving Haven Lake in the wind & rain on day 6

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Descending to Lake Sirona in the wind & rain, fortunately having not been blown off the exposed ridgeline

The daunting ridge line of Mt Scorpio popped out of the cloud. The notes had said we needed to climb an exposed, rocky, rib. Not exactly ideal conditions for it. Our trepidation was much worse than what actually needed to be done and we were soon over the rib and staring down Kappa Moraine (“K”) our descent point from the range.

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Mt Scorpio suddenly appears out of the clouds. Which part of the exposed, rocky rib do we need to climb?

Taking advantage of a break in the weather meant morning tea with views over Promontory Lake, Lake Vesta and Lake Juno. Then the rain returned and we slogged down the unprotected Kappa Moraine ridge line.

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In slightly clearer conditions we get views of Promontory Lake, Lake Juno and Lake Vesta

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Descending Kappa Moraine

By the time we turned off for the cross-country shortcut the rain had stopped, and the wind felt like it would dry us out pretty quickly. The cross-country route went fairly smoothly other than briefly getting caught in the scrubby banks of Seven Mile Creek. By lunch the wind had done its job and we were completely dry.

The last few kilometres to Junction Creek were a slog. Though a large tiger snake on the track had me leaping about with energy (briefly)! We were both tired. I had spoken the night before of potentially walking all the way back to the car park but even if it had been pouring with rain I’m not sure I would have had the energy. Fortunately the day had cleared to be quite pleasant and we had a lovely final evening at Junction Creek.

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The day clears so we have a pleasant camp at Junction Creek

Day 6: 14.5km, 7:30am – 3:30pm = 8 hours including very few photos early on, morning tea, lunch. Chapman’s estimate: 6-7.5h (excluding breaks)

Our final day was just retracing our original steps back to the car park. Only 7km, but not the easiest walking. The weather the same glorious still day with blue skies that we’d had on our way in. It would have been lovely to be up on the range!

Day 7: 8.4km, 7:50am – 10:40am = 2h 50 (no breaks) Chapman’s estimate: 2-3.5h (excluding breaks)

Colo Passes 12 & 16 (14-15 Nov 2020)

This trip had been put on the Spring Program with no real plan, other than knowing there were plenty of passes into the Colo which I wanted to explore. Eventually I settled on two new passes (to me) – Pass 12 aka Snakebite Pass and Pass 16 aka Meander Pass. Other than myself and Tom no one else in the group had been into this part of the Colo before. It’s always tricky trying to set expectations for what to expect when a) it’s exploratory and b) people can only process information within their existing frame of reference.

I predicted the Canoe Creek car park would be empty so I was little surprised to find 3 cars there already! Not that I expected to see the occupants since our route was going to be well away from the standard routes in the area. We started off walking out along the ridge to Alidade Hill. A lovely ridge which eventually opened up to give us a good views of where we would exit the Colo on Sunday. I was using a map Tom had acquired from an old club member that had annotations on it. They suggested there was a log book at Alidade Hill (or at least had been in 2002 when the notes were made), but a couple of us had a look and couldn’t find it. Of course, as we were about to set off again, Tom managed to locate it at first glance.

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Some fabulous history!

I was disappointed I didn’t have more time to peruse as it went all the way back to 1972. The first entry was from Bob Buck and G Daley who were responsible for the original Colo Pass naming and map. The logbook only had 3 entries in it since 2012, the last being 2015, so I guess either Alidade Hill doesn’t get many visitors, or no one finds the logbook.

Descending Alidade Hill we were soon on the adjoining spur looking down the steep gully which was (the original) Pass 12.

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Pass 12 is somewhere down that gully on the right

In the context of Colo Passes it ended up being a straight-forward descent – steep, but no particularly technical or exposed sections. The highlight (for Lauren at least) was a hole some of us squeezed through in the gully. Eventually we arrived at the top of, an expected, impassable (dry) waterfall where we had lunch.

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Lunch at the top of an impassable waterfall

It didn’t take long after lunch before we were standing on a delightful (if very glarey) Color River sand bank. I had warned the group it could be a short day if everything went well. Time had been built in for back-tracking if we couldn’t get down the pass. However, as it all went smoothly we arrived at the river shortly before 2pm. A swim was definitely the first item on the agenda.

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Enjoying a well-deserved swim

Once we were refreshed we had a fun time boulder scrambling up Pinchgut Creek to get to a scenic waterfall.

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Lauren enjoying the waterfall ambience

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Tom and the waterfall

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The team enjoying the cooler temperatures

The sun eventually crept over our sandbank allowing us to set up camp and relax. It was a wonderful night for star gazing, no moon light, a clear view of the sky and warm enough to just stretch out on the sand. We spotted many satellites, two shooting stars and a couple of planets. It was almost a shame to retreat into the tent.

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Home for the night

Everyone slept well in the serene surrounds, even if the lyre bird’s wake up call came fairly early in the morning. I was impressed we (almost) got away on time, given how late everyone was to emerge.

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Early morning on the Colo

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Getting wet feet immediately!

The Colo had risen over night – my guess was from the thunderstorms on Friday afternoon. Initially we stuck to the true right bank as the river looked deep, dirty and not particularly attractive to be in. The going was typical river bank – through river gums, over boulders – generally giving you a good work out. Tom eventually got jack of that and decided to run some rapids floating on his pack.

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Beautiful gorge country

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Lauren looking upstream

From there we had a divided party for the rest of the morning, with Tom, Lauren, Paul & Clive mostly in the water and Jo & myself largely on the banks.

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Tom & Lauren (the swimmers) waiting for the rest of us

The swimmers missed out on seeing a diamond python which was not interested in going anywhere, but I’m not bold enough around snakes to have pushed my luck taking photos of it.

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No track here!

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Clive on a sandy section

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The team negotiating a set of rapids

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No better place to be on a day like this

Near the Canoe Creek junction we passed a group huddled in a small shady overhang. Further down we passed a fire place which hadn’t been doused, with copious amounts of foil in it. Fires on the sand hold their heat for an incredibly long time, and this was one was very hot. Several litres of water later we were comfortable it was out properly and it wasn’t long before we were at the junction.

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Clearing foil out of, and putting out properly, another parties campfire

After lunch the party from the overhang arrived. They said there had been several groups camped around the junction the previous night, which I assume is why they had ended up in the spot we’d seen them – a not particularly large or flat sand bank. Turned out one of them was the daughter of one of our club members. We exchanged a few anecdotes about her Dad and his fishing before we headed off to tackle Pass 16.

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Tom hauling packs on Pass 15

Pass 16 starts using the bottom of Pass 15, which Tom had done twice previously. Tom hadn’t remembered any tricky bits in the lower section of Pass 15, but we found ourselves at a spot which required pack passing. This was perhaps a warning of what was to come. I was possibly lulled into a false sense of ease after Pass 12, along with the description of Pass 16 which said “a steep but relatively easy climb. Rope not required”. What we ended up doing didn’t bear too much resemblance to the Pass 16 description!

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Views of the bend

Not too much further on Tom managed to climb a steep slab and put down a tape for the rest of us. By this point the heat was getting to one of the party, so we had a long break in a conveniently located shady cave. It was a warm weekend – the forecast for Richmond was low 30s.

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Jo scrambling up a steep section

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We were over there…

Fortunately from there we were able to stay in a relatively shady gully, with nice rock slabs to scramble up.

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Dunking hats in a convenient pool of water to try and keep cool

With plenty of breaks to ward off heat stroke we eventually made it up to the main ridge, and then followed it North-East. There were increasingly good viewing platforms which gave us a good view over the route we’d taken for the weekend.

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Colo country… (Jo knows what’s really going on in this photo!)

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Big rock platform

Paul had impressed everyone by not only pulling out Chupa Chups the night before, but remembering the flavours that Tom, Lauren & I had favoured on a previous trip! We had a break once we hit the old fire trail for those of us who’d stashed our Chupa Chups to get them out – a welcome treat while we covered the last few kilometres. Unsurprisingly our cars were the only ones left in the car park at 7pm. It was good to get everyone back intact after a fabulous weekend in rough and rugged country.

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Finally back at the cars at 7pm

First 24 Rogaine (7-8 Nov 2020)

Like many things this year the Rogaining calendar has been quite disrupted. I thought I might end the year with no rogaines after leaving it way too late to find a partner for the Lake Macquarie Rogaine. However the wild weather which forced our change of plans last weekend opened up a rogaine opportunity for me. The ACT Championships were meant to run on 30 Oct/1 Nov but were postponed due to high water levels in the surrounding creeks cutting off access to waterdrops. So when Vivien messaged me a couple of hours before the new registration deadline it didn’t take much convincing, particularly when he said his preference was to go back to the hash house to sleep for a bit in the middle of the night.

I’ve previously done a couple of 12 hour rogaines, so it didn’t seem like this would be significantly different – except I’d have to get up the next day and do more! I was mainly worried we’d get the map and find that doing two loops from the hash house wasn’t practical… fortunately a single glance at the map relieved this worry. We didn’t leave ourselves a heap of time for planning, but maybe it’s better not to over think it.

Rogaine Map

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Vivien & I planning

As a covid measure the 24-hour event started an hour before the 8-hour event. Even so there were quite a few of us heading for the same control to start with, but by the time we left our second control we were on our own. Thinking we’d chosen an obvious route I was a little surprised, but not unhappy – much easier when you’re only worrying about your own navigation.

It all went pretty well, in fact we were perhaps both a little disappointed at how easy we found the nav – particularly in the daylight! Things got a bit slower once it got dark – with roads not quite being what was on the map, and spending three times longer than we should have trying to find our last control on the way back to the hash house (but we did get it in the end). Vivien’s navigation as always was excellent. After smashing some cheese toasties and pumpkin soup I dived into bed right on midnight – wondering if the giant blisters on my feet would permit me to walk in the morning.

Given our later than planned arrival back we generously gave ourselves a 6am wake-up time (instead of first light), not that it made much difference the birds woke me before 5:30am. By 6:35am, with blisters taped, we were on the road again for our Southern Loop. This section of the course had a lot more tea-tree which was pretty unpleasant to fight through, but we persevered. Much to my relief we got back about half an hour before the course closure so no need for any running – not sure my left hamstring would have let me even if it had been required.

We came in a respectable 7th overall, and the highest scoring for those who didn’t go for the full 24 hours. Mapping our route when I got home I came up with 43km for our 11.5 hours on Saturday, and 18km for our 5 hours on Sunday. No wonder I was sore at the end of it!

not wet Wild Dogs (30 Oct – 1 Nov 2020)

We piked on plans last weekend due to the forecast. Unfortunately the East Coast Low was hanging about and the forecast for this weekend was just as bad! I didn’t really want to pike two weekends in a row, and this weekend Tom was leading a qualifying walk with the club. After ditching a walk in the Colo River (literally) due to the deluge in the days leading up to it, Tom gave the participants an alternative option in the Wild Dogs. If he got 3 takers we’d go ahead. I think we were both hoping no one was keen. But despite the 8-15mm of rain forecast for Saturday we got 3, giving us a group of 5.

The thunder rumbled menacingly around us as we walked along Ironpot Mountain. We could see the squalls not far off. The jackets went on as we briefly got pelted by hail for about 2 minutes…. and that was really the only precipitation we had to deal with all weekend. Good thing we didn’t pike!

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Rain was all around us

The temperature warmed up, the sun came out.

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But in the end it was a surprisingly hot, sunny day!

Next minute Tom had his gear off and was swimming. Who’d have thought it? (the swimming, not the getting his kit off)

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or should that be moon-y day… :)

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The Coxs had some good flow going on

The section along the Coxs was pretty weedy and somewhat slow going. When we found a good campsite at 3pm there was a fair bit of indecision as to whether to camp, or continue on.

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I think this is a baby capsule, scary to imagine the river at that height!

Another good decision to set up camp and just do an excursion to Merrigal Creek. It was 1km away. About an hour return said Tom. Well, over an hour later we made it to Merrigal Creek having encountered some interesting scrambling along the river bluffs.

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Some fun scrambling on our afternoon excursion

It was 5pm. What are we doing an hour from camp instead of having happy hour!? We took a (somewhat) higher road to avoid the bluffs on the way back. I’m not sure it saved us much time but sometime after 6pm we were back at camp.

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Merrigal Creek – after a fair bit of effort

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Wading through the weeds on our way back to camp

Most of us had a swim to freshen up, and then we settled in for a pleasant evening around the fire. One of the side-effects of a late arrival at camp is that it is easy to get to bushwalkers midnight and beyond.

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Pleasant campsite

Day 2 started with a 580m climb, followed by morning tea at Knights Deck. I had been concerned we’d overheat after the weather the day before – but Sunday was overcast and cool. Perfect for all the hills we had.

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day 2 was all about hills and wild flowers

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The flannel flowers at Knights Deck were incredible

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The remains of the logbook container (new one needed!)

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More views & flannel flowers

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A different pose!

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Only real option for shelter had it been raining

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Funky shapes in nature 1

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Funky shapes in nature 2

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Breakfast Creek

A great weekend out in good company – particularly when we’d all been expecting to be rained on most of Saturday!

A day trip!? (17 Oct 2020)

There have been nineteen weekends since the travel restrictions were lifted at the start of June. I have been on overnight trips fifteen of those weekends with no (full) day walks at all in that time. It was a bit odd to have 5 months between day walks! But with overnight trips planned for five of the next six weekends we decided perhaps a “weekend off” wouldn’t hurt.

Particularly since the forecast for Sunday looked a bit dicey. Another Friday night decision on what to do and a very late attempt to see if anyone wanted to come, but with most likely candidates doing the Lake Macquarie Rogaine, we were just a party of two.

Driving through the mountains since the bushfires in summer it had been interesting to get much better visibility of the cliffs and we had earmarked Mt Haystack as a future trip some months earlier.

I wasn’t sure how we were going to do it as a loop without walking along Bells Line of Road (not recommended!), but when I suggested the option of walking up Mill Creek, Tom seemed to think it would work. I was prepared for a long day given the length of creek we were biting off!

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Looking towards Mt Haystack

It was a foggy, overcast morning as we started, and the vegetation was wet. My shoes and socks soon went the same way, despite us following an old fire trail for the initial section.

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Lomandras – quite pretty when they’re small.

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Negotiating ferns

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Weathered sandstone

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Views over Bowens Creek

The saddle between Mt Haystack and Haystack Ridge was dramatic and required a little bit of route-finding to get across.

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Looking back over the narrow section of Haystack Ridge

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So many cicadas about (or not about in this case)

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Views over Bowens & Zircon Creeks

Tom had brought a rope & harness just in case we had any issues getting down into the creek. They stayed in his bag the whole trip – I was glad he was contrasting the weight of his pack with what it would have been with overnight gear, rather than with mine – otherwise I may have found myself with some more ballast.

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Pretty section in Mill Creek

Mill Creek was typical of creeks in the area, some sections we had to work hard through river gums, boulders etc. Other sections were relatively easy walking along the banks. We’d budgeted for 1km/hour type terrain and our expectations were met.

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Tom contemplating if the water is warm enough for a swim

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Brute strength (and some strong vegetation) allowing us to avoid a deep wade

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Mill Creek

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The way is barred! Not getting up here…

When we finally popped up at the power lines, I had been expecting us to be at the spot where we’d crossed under the power lines in morning. It was clearly not the same spot and I had no idea where we were! For a moment we thought we’d come up the wrong spur, but after some map consultation Tom assured me this was exactly where we were meant to be.

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Are we where we want to be?

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Final ridge bash back to the car

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A little dirty after the exit ridge in particular

It was a 9am – 5:30pm day, one of our longer ones of late, so we were thrilled to find Pie in the Sky was still open. A serving of their excellent apple pies & ice cream, always with a smile, was a great way to end the day.

Somewhere new (10-11 Oct 2020)

I love going to new places and so it was exciting when a walk to an area I’d never heard of appeared on our bushwalking club program. Thanks to Lauren for showing us Mount Royal National Park north of Singleton.

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We started off with an on-track 450m descent.

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Then had a nice wander up Carrow Brook

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Before plunging into some denser vegetation…

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Somewhere through there are Paul and Jo!

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Before we got back onto a relatively flat trail (having regained most of our 450m already!)

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Lots of orchids around! (sarcochilus falcatus)

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Lunch views after a further climb

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And we’re still going up! One of the few sections of the walk which had burnt

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It got a bit interesting

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With expansive views of the surrounds

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Popping out of the forest into an open section

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The very closed in Royal Trig

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Magnificent grass trees – unfortunately a bit scorched

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Now this is what I’m here for!

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Loving the narrow ridge

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And now for some descending

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A pleasant campsite

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Climbing back up for sunset

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some sort of flower

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Sunset from the ridge

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Sunset

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No body home any more

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Pleasant ridge walking

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Lunch (sadly without the views to the East)

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More grass trees

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Firetrail back to the cars

 

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!

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