Category Archives: Canyoning

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

 

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

 

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