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Bungleboori Canyoning

22-23 January 2011

Participants: Rachel Brennan, Tom Brennan, James Yorston

The trip had been on the planning board for at least twelve months after inclement weather last season had prevented it going ahead. So we were pretty excited when James gave us some dates to plan canyoning weekends this January. The unpredictable El Nina weather patterns meant we tempered our expectations as to whether (hee hee) we'd be able to go ahead. As the weekend approached the forecast wasn't great (isolated showers/late storms and a bit cooler then we would've liked) but not poor enough to reschedule. A reasonably full-on schedule meant an emphasis on an efficient and fast-moving party, and combined with limited camping options on the Bungleboori we set a party limit of 4-5.

Friday night arrived along with an apologetic (but not entirely unexpected) withdrawal from the 4th in the group leaving just Tom, James and I. Well we were definitely small, and should be efficient and fast-moving given the combined experience.

The alarm went off at 5:20am on Saturday and we drove out the garage at 6:05am just 5 minutes late. Fortunately I turned my phone on just before I went into the bakery in North Richmond so received James' order for a cheese stick and spinach roll. Not long after we rendezvoused with James at Bell and we were off to the Hole-in-the-Wall carpark. The road was in reasonably good nick given the amount of rain in recent weeks.

We left the cars shortly before 9am. After struggling with the road bash the previous weekend I started off in sneakers which I stashed in the bushes at the hole-in-the-wall track turnoff. The first canyon off the rank was Hole-in-the-Wall. There was a fair bit of water flowing through. Tom took his time with photos in the stunning upper section... no, we don't have a big day planned and aren't trying to be 'efficient and fast-moving'. At the first drop I thought "we" decided to hand-over-hand it. Turns out I was going to hand-over-hand then depth check it for the guys, so they could jump. I couldn't touch the bottom even with my arm at full stretch above me, which gave the guys the green light. Fortunately it was a reasonably warm day (against forecast expectations) otherwise I might have been a little peeved at getting completely saturated so they could get an adrenalin buzz. We had heard that the glowworm tunnel section was a bit tricky with the high water, so we got torches out before heading in. We took a bit of time in here as where previously we had squeezed through a narrow gap we now had to climb over and it was a bit awkward.

At the next hand-over-hand, (with fixed rope in place) James took a swing into the waterfall after trying to go under the log instead of over it. Then at the final 2m drop Tom decided that despite the high water he was going to climb down. He took a tumble from half way and bashed up his elbows. After that James & I decided we'd abseil. Tom had predicted we'd be at the Bungleboori by midday, starting a trend for the weekend we were an hour later than his estimates, getting there at 1pm. We cleaned out shoes, changed out of wetsuits and then headed up North-East canyon. We had lunch at the top in a patch of mottled-shade. So much for the 22°C forecast, it was a lovely warm day. After lunch we headed down the track into Banks then fairly efficiently up the other side. Getting down into Nosedive was time-consuming as we had several cliff lines to negotiate. Eventually we made it down and then easily up the other side. Finally we dropped down into Fortitude. We ended up abseiling into the upper reaches of the creek; given the time and effort it would've taken to get into a gully we could walk down. We did find an old sling on a tree near where we went in which suggest we weren't the first to have that problem. James was reluctant to put wetsuits on since he'd read a trip report which gave the impression that Fortitude was pretty dry. That thought didn't last long as we got to a swim just a few metres down the creek. By the time we'd suited up it was 4:15pm - what better time to start a canyon! There was a pleasant upper section of canyon with a few deep wades/swims before the creek opened out for quite some way. We then managed to scramble down around a drop (the first easy abseil mentioned in Jamieson?) before getting to the top of a drop into an impressive looking chamber. I was pretty excited going down this abseil as it looked like an awesome section of canyon. I had strict instructions that I had to take photos of Tom coming down so had to whip out the mini-tripod because the light was so low. It was disappointing to find the canyon opened out immediately. We then had a bit more boulder scrambling before another abseil. The anchor for this was a large sling round a big tree set a couple of metres above the drop. There was dead tree across the top of the drop which made things a bit tricky but with a bit of gardening James cleaned things up. This was a nice abseil into a good section of canyon. From here it was a short walk down to the Bungleboori. James had gone ahead to look for the camp cave Tom had promised. He obviously wasn't too impressed with it as he had walked straight past it and gone looking across the creek!

We had probably been spoilt with the excellent camp cave last weekend and this one was definitely a step down. But once we decided on a living area and a cosy sleeping area it seemed passable. The wood was all a bit damp so it took a while to get the fire going, though James discovered some magic leaves that burnt very well and that got everything else burning. A reasonably efficient meal later we retired to bed before 10pm, hoping that it wasn't going to rain over night given the number of drip marks in the area where we were sleeping!

We had asked Tom what time he wanted to get going in the morning and he said "sometime between 8 and 9". When I woke up at 7:20am I thought we might be pushing it. Tom was at his best dawdling self and it was at 8:58am that we were all finally ready. "On time!" declared Tom. We had debated whether to try and find a pass out from near Fortitude and go across the tops to Crikey or go down stream and use the known pass opposite Froth & Bubble. The incentive of being able to leave gear at the bottom of the pass won out and we set off downstream. Tom had estimated an hour downstream and then an hour up the pass. The section of Bungleboori was magnificent and largely canyon the whole way. There was quite a lot of swimming, where Tom & James mastered a new style - which James attributed his cramping hamstrings too. After an hour & 20 minutes we made it to the junction. We then had to do a repack to abandon the overnight gear we didn't want to take into the canyon. The gully was pretty good going, other than one awkward climb near the bottom.

Tom took up the navigating once we reached the ridge, with map, compass and GPS in hand he was off like a rocket. Through some reasonably thick scrub we eventually arrived at the top of a cliff with canyon below. "Not really near the junction are we?", says James. After walking 50m to our left and descending a gully we reach the junction we'd be aiming for. "Perhaps we were near the junction after all". We bashed our way down the creek, over a lot of fallen trees and thick fern growth. Eventually I called a halt for lunch at 1pm just before the creek started dropping. So perhaps we were not as fast-moving as we'd hoped for...

I also made the controversial suggestion that we put our wetsuits on (for the 4th time in 2 days) to try and save time. The guys were unconvinced but gave in. Having extrapolated out the rest of the day I doubted we were going to get back to the cars before 7:30pm. Tom raced on ahead and a few minutes later we found him photographing the drop into Crikey. We quickly put harnesses on and I abseiled down the straight forward drop. The next abseil was a lesson in "how to waste time while rigging a rope". I had checked the slings and decided they were ok. Then I threaded the rope through and had each coiled side in hand. Somehow I got the strands mixed up and couldn't work out where, so decided it was best to recoil the ropes together to make sure they were evenly split. After recoiling we found there was a knot in the rope, so had to recoil the sides individually to be able to get the knot out. While we were doing this I noticed a quicklink on the slings which I hadn't seen originally. Having read a trip report from Dave Noble's trip in Feb 2010 where he said they'd abseiled the 2nd and 3rd drops off the same belay point we decided for the sake of a good pull down we'd better re-rig through the quicklink. So yet another round of recoiling later we finally had the rope set. I dropped the ropes onto the chockstone a metre or so below and climbed down to that then threw the ropes and abseiled down. There was a reasonable amount of water which made communicating a bit difficult. I checked the top of the next drop there was a severed sling and a tatty rope which could be anchored off. Otherwise we could continue on the same rope around the corner and down another 4m. After much discussion James came down to me, then I abseiled the next drop on the same rope. The rope pulled fairly easily when I tested it so we decided to just use the one belay point. Eventually we were all down and standing in the dark recesses of Crikey.

James was first down the next abseil with its slightly tricky start. I came last and when I was about to abseil discovered my glove was missing. Since I had used it on the previous abseil there wasn't really many places it could be but no sign of it. Fortunately with a wet rope there wasn't too much friction on my braking hand. The next rap was already set and James part way down it by the time I had retrieved and packed up the rope from the 3rd abseil. We were all down quickly and into a long dark tunnel. We spent a bit of time taking photos here - really interesting differences in light depending on whether the sun was behind a cloud or not. (Just as we'd reached the start of the canyon it had clouded over for the first time all weekend). There was a swim before we reached a more open section of canyon. We scrambled down boulders through the creek before two final abseils. We marvelled at the recent rockfall at the end of the canyon before quickly heading up the Bungleboori. We got back to our gear just after 4pm. And after repacking etc were on the move at 4:35pm. Unexpectedly we'd "saved time" on our estimates getting through the canyon and back to the bags about half an hour quicker than predicted. Maybe we were efficient and fast-moving afterall.

There was the rumble of thunder and the odd rain shower on the way out but nothing serious. We obviously weren't moving that quickly as we didn't get back to the junction with the Hole-in-the-Wall track until after 7pm. I changed into my dry shoes and socks which I had stowed there at the beginning of the trip and we chowed down on the last of our snacks. We were surprised to bump into two women heading out on a 3 day trip to do Banks, Nosedive and Fortitude. I tried to convince them to do Crikey instead of Fortitude, unsure if I succeeded. Back at the cars at 8pm. We had late night pizza in Richmond at 10pm, where we bumped into James Bevan who had a late finish to Bell Creek. We got home at almost exactly the same time as we had last week. A habit to break or continue?